REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS BOOKER T
Although I have been a fan of the WWE for many years, it's only been fairly recently that I started paying a good bit of attention to the action figure line of WWE Superstars from Mattel. I can't really explain why I'd never bought any before, except to say that there were just so many of them that it seemed overwhelming, and honestly, I had other action figure priorities. However, I decided to take a closer look at Mattel's work, and was suitably impressed. As such, I've been rounding up a number of figures from the most basic series of Mattel's WWE figures, the Superstars line, as I've been able.
The Superstars line tends to focus on currently-active wrestlers within the WWE. As such, I was just a little surprised when I discovered a figure of BOOKER T. I've always liked him, and remember him back when he and his brother were part of a tag-team called "Harlem Heat" that dominated the WCW for some time, before Booker started a singles career.
However, while Booker T is currently active in the WWE, he's not really all that active as a wrestler, which is why I was surprised to see him in the Superstars line. Read on for a summarized history of Booker T's career and you'll see what I mean, and then we'll have a look at his action figure.
Booker Tio Huffman, Jr. (born March 1, 1965), better known by his ring name Booker T, is best known for his time in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF/WWE), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), holding 35 major titles between those organizations. He is the most decorated wrestler in WCW history, having held 21 titles in the organization, including a record six WCW World Television Championships, and a record ten WCW World Tag Team Championships as one half of Harlem Heat with his brother, Lash "Stevie Ray" Huffman (he claimed an eleventh reign in the WWF with Test).
Booker is a six-time world champion, having won four WCW World Heavyweight Championships in WCW, and one WCW Championship and one World Heavyweight Championship in the WWF/WWE. He was the winner of the WWE King of the Ring tournament in 2006, the sixteenth WWE Triple Crown Champion and the tenth WWE Grand Slam Champion. Also the eighth WCW Triple Crown Champion, he is the most recent of four men in history to achieve both the WWE and WCW Triple Crown Championships.
Booker was born the youngest of eight children, in Houston's South Park neighborhood. By the time Booker was fourteen, both of his parents had died, and his brother Lash "Stevie Ray" Huffman stepped in to raise him and his siblings. In high school, Booker Huffman was a drum major. He also played touch football and basketball.
Booker Huffman, a single father working at a storage company in Houston, Texas, was looking to make a better life for himself and his son. His brother Lash suggested that he and Booker check out a new wrestling school being opened, run by Ivan Putski, in conjunction with his Western Wrestling Alliance organization. His boss from the storage company loaned him the $3,000 to pay for the wrestling lessons. Booker trained under Scott Casey, who helped teach the newcomer ring psychology and ring generalship.
Eight weeks later, Booker debuted as "G.I. Bro" on Putski's Western Wrestling Alliance Live! program. The character was a tie-in to the raging Gulf War and the WWF's Sgt. Slaughter angle. Even though the WWA met its demise some time later, Booker continued to wrestle on the Texas indy circuit, often with his brother Stevie Ray. They were spotted by Skandor Akbar who hired them to work for the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), where he and Eddie Gilbert were involved. Gilbert teamed Stevie Ray and Booker T together as the Ebony Experience, and they won the GWF Tag Team Championship on July 31, 1992. During their time with GWF, they held the tag title a total of three times. Subsequently, Booker T and Stevie Ray left the GWF to work for World Championship Wrestling.
Booker and his brother signed with WCW after Sid Vicious recommended they sign with the company. In August 1993, they debuted as the tag team Harlem Heat, with Booker renamed Kole and Lash renamed Kane. They became heels and were on Harley Race and Col. Rob Parker's team in the WarGames match at Fall Brawl on September 19 against Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes, and The Shockmaster. They lost the match but were over as heels because of the caliber of faces they wrestled.
In 1994, they acquired the services of Sensational Sherri, as their manager and changed their names back to Booker T and Stevie Ray, at their request. By the end of 1994, they held the WCW Tag Team Championship after defeating Stars and Stripes (The Patriot and Marcus Alexander Bagwell). After dropping the title to The Nasty Boys, Harlem Heat regained the belts on June 24, 1995.
Booker made the transition into singles action and won the WCW World Television Championship from Disco Inferno on the December 29, 1997 episode of Nitro. Booker feuded over the title with Perry Saturn and Rick Martel culminating in a gauntlet match at SuperBrawl VIII.
During spring 1998, Booker began feuding with Chris Benoit. Benoit cost Booker the TV title during a match against Fit Finlay. As a result, Booker and Benoit engaged in a "best-of-seven series" with the winner meeting Finlay for the title. After seven matches and interference from Bret Hart and Stevie Ray, Booker T won the series, and on June 14, regained the Television Championship. He was the first African American to hold the WCW World Television Championship.
Booker was elevated to main event status in 2000. After WCW's Vince Russo grew disgruntled with Hulk Hogan's politics, he fired Hogan during the live broadcast of Bash at the Beach and announced an impromptu match between Jeff Jarrett and Booker for the World Title. Booker won the match, in the process becoming the second ever African American champion in WCW after Ron Simmons.
After WCW was bought by the World Wrestling Federation in March 2001, Booker T made his debut at the King of the Ring pay-per-view in 2001 attacking WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin during his match,. He later turned heel and became a leading member of The Alliance during the Invasion storyline.
On July 26, Booker gave up his WCW United States Title and handed it over to Chris Kanyon. He later lost the WCW World title to Kurt Angle, but he went on to win the title back on the July 30 episode of Raw. Booker kept the title until SummerSlam, when he lost it to The Rock after feuding with him over the similarity in their gimmicks and their identical finishing moves.At the Survivor Series, Booker T was eliminated third by The Rock after a roll-up and eventually The Alliance was defeated, causing them to disband.
On the February 16, 2004 episode of Raw, Booker T and Rob Van Dam defeated Ric Flair and Batista for the World Tag Team Championship. Booker and Van Dam held the titles for a month, even defending the belts at WrestleMania XX. Eight days later on the March 22 episode of Raw, they lost tag team titles to Flair and Batista. He ended up turning on Rob Van Dam, turning heel in the process.
In mid-2004, Booker T set his sights on the United States Championship along with its champion, John Cena. After Cena got on the bad side of General Manager Kurt Angle, he did his best to get the title away from Cena. Cena successfully defended the title at The Great American Bash in a four-way elimination match against Booker, René Duprée, and Rob Van Dam.
On October 21, SmackDown! General Manager Theodore Long placed Booker in a six man tag team match with Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio against John "Bradshaw" Layfield, René Duprée, and Kenzo Suzuki. JBL expected Booker to betray his partners, but instead Booker pinned him, thus turning face again.
In 2006, Booker entered the King of the Ring tournament on SmackDown!, advancing through to the finals due to a bye as his semi-final opponent, Kurt Angle, was unable to wrestle. The finals were held at Judgment Day where Booker defeated Bobby Lashley. Upon winning the King of the Ring tournament, Booker began wrestling as "King Booker" and began acting like he was an actual monarch ruling of "The SmackDown! Kingdom". Booker formed a royal court which included his wife, Queen Sharmell, Sir William Regal, and Sir Finlay, and began including the mannerisms and attire of a stereotypical English-style king as part of the character, all the way down to wearing a crown and cape and speaking in a fake English accent.
In October 2007, Booker T requested his and Sharmell's release from their WWE contracts, which the WWE granted. From 2007-2009, Booker worked for TNA wrestling. On January 30, 2011 Booker T returned to WWE to take part in the Royal Rumble. Booker entered the match at number 21 and was eliminated by Mason Ryan.
At the February 1 taping of SmackDown, Huffman debuted as the show's new color commentator, working beside Josh Mathews and Michael Cole, replacing Matt Striker. He worked as a fan favorite. He was also announced as a coach for the returning Tough Enough competition, and at Elimination Chamber he introduced Trish Stratus as a fellow coach. On the June 6 episode of Raw, Booker wrestled his first match on the brand in four years, gaining a victory against Jack Swagger by count out.
On July 31, it was announced that Booker T was named the new SmackDown General Manager by Vince McMahon. In January 2013, he returned to the commentary desk, serving as color commentator on Saturday Morning Slam. while still serving as SmackDown general manager.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, but he's clearly dressed for the ring, not for the commentary desk and the general manager's office. In other words, he's in his wrestling gear, not a business suit, which is why I was a bit surprised to see him in the Superstars line. Granted, that's not a complaint.
My primary criteria for buying any of these WWE Superstars figures is -- how much do they look like the actual individual? These aren't like characters from a fictional environment. Whatever sort of character they may play in the ring, they're still real people. It's not like buying a figure of Superman or Cobra Commander or whomever, where there's some leeway. These figures need to look like the real people as much as possible.
Based on general observation to date, Mattel's track record is very good. It's not perfect. There's been a few that I've seen that don't quite cut it. But for the most part, Mattel's doing an excellent job, and they certainly did so with Booker T.
The headsculpt is excellent, and one aspect in particular can't have been all that easy. Booker T wears his hair in rather long dreadlocks. These clearly had to be sculpted separately and attached to the head during assembly. This was done with great expertise.
One of my other main criteria for buying any of these WWE Superstars figures is not only likeness, but facial expression. I'm not interested in a figure that has some extreme look on his face. I realize that some of these individuals have notable facial expressions that seem to define their characters, but these aren't expressions that they're going to hold for the duration of a match, or even anywhere else, except briefly as needed. The old axiom that our parents might have used if we spent too much time making a goofy face, "If you don't stop that, your face will freeze like that!" seems appropriate here. Some of these figures have faces frozen in rather extreme expressions.
Booker T has a very slight "extreme" aspect to his face, but it's nothing disagreeable. His eyes are a bit wide. However, Booker T has been known to do this, especially during a match if his opponent manages to push him just a little too far. He's also been known to do this in his role as general manager if someone he's speaking to pushes him a little too far. So it's not as though his mouth is contorted into some bizarre configuration or something. He's just a bit wide-eyed, with an otherwise serious expression that pretty much says, "Oh, no, you did NOT just do that..." and whomever he's up against is about to face his full fury.
Booker T is one of the taller individuals around -- even by the measure of other WWE Superstars -- and since Mattel has done an excellent job of maintaining relative scales in the line, the figure stands about 7-1/8" tall. That puts Booker at the same level as figures like Randy Orton and Sheamus, slightly taller than some such as John Cena and The Miz.
Booker T has been given an appropriately muscular build, although he's not quite as massive as, let's say, Sheamus. He's not as lean as the Randy Orton figure -- who's certainly no weakling in appearance -- but this helps make the point that Mattel has obviously created a wide range of body types to use for these figures. This is something I find especially impressive, since it's become clear that the number of unique parts used to make these figures is much greater than the number of multi-use parts.
I have no problem with parts being used on a regular basis, and in some lines, such as Masters of the Universe and DC Universe, it works very well, and lends a consistency to the figures that I sincerely appreciate. But since the WWE line is based on actual, real-life individuals, I just as sincerely appreciate the fact that Mattel has created a sufficiently wide range of parts to use so that the final result will look as much like the actual person as possible.
Booker T is wearing black trunks, with red and gold flames on the sides, the word "Booker" on the back, and an ornate initial "T" on the front. The flames help to signify Booker's former tag team, Harlem Heat. In fact, he still uses the Harlem Heat entrance music when he comes to the ring, even as General Manager. I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this is one of the longest-use ring entrance music pieces presently in regular use. Even some wrestlers that have been around for a lengthy period of time have changed their music once in a while. Again, this is not a criticism against Booker. It's a good piece, and hey, if it ain't broke, why fix it?
The detail on the trunks has been superbly well done, and I suspect the patterning has been imprinted rather than painted. This is becoming a very common practice for action figure details that are especially intricate or need to be particularly precise. I'd love to know how it's done, really. However, when it's done right, it certainly works, so I can't argue the results.
In the WWE line, not only is it used for clothing decoration, but also tattoos, of which Booker T has several, very ornate ones, one on each shoulder, and a much larger one on his back.
The Booker T figure has black elbow pads and knee pads, and these have been molded separately and attached to the figure during assembly. Fortunately, they're made from a nicely flexible type of plastic, and don't hinder articulation to any significant degree.
Booker T also has distinctive boots. Strapped across the front, where one would normally expect to see laces, are two, gold-colored, metal-like shields, each of which reads "Booker T" in vertically-placed print, in black letters. Nice touch, and it certainly adds to the distinctiveness of the figure.
Booker T is very nicely articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Some might criticize the fact that the figure doesn't have mid-torso articulation, nor do the legs move in an outward direction, but these WWE Superstars figures are the basic line. If you want those additional points of articulation, you need to head into the Elite Collection. These are perfectly fine figures, but they also cost about 1-1/2 times as much as the Superstars Collection. For my money (literally), that's a bit much for that level of articulation difference. I'm entirely content with the Superstars.
So, what's my final word? The WWE is one of the most popular outlets of entertainment around today, and certainly Mattel is doing a superb job with these action figures. Booker T, although not as active in the ring as he used to be, remains a major part of the WWE, as commentator and SmackDown general manager, and every once in a while, someone will rile him enough for him to step back in the ring, and this figure is an excellent representation of Booker T at his in-ring best. I'm certain that any fan of the WWE, and of Booker T, will enjoy this figure.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of BOOKER T definitely has my highest recommendation!