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By Thomas Wheeler

Although Jakks Pacific won't be the license-holder for WWE toys for much longer, they are continuing to produce action figures for the duration of their license, and one particular line, a relative newcomer, has definitely caught my attention and the attention of other fans of a particular scale of figures.

Called the "Build 'N' Brawl" line, these are 1:18 scale action figures of popular WWE Wrestlers. That makes them around 4" in height, and as such just about size compatible with Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Indiana Jones, and increasing numbers of entries in this scale.

For someone like me, who's been a fan of the WWE for some time, but could never really justify the expense of the larger figures -- or, for that matter, really get a decent understanding of all the myriad variations and complexities, Jakks having created a line with enough stuff to make the X-Men Universe seem simple by comparison, these Build 'n' Brawl figures were at once a more affordable, more size-agreeable, and more straightforward way to bring some WWE superstars into my action figure collection. And thus I have done so.

The third series of these figures has just recently been released and it looks to be a pretty good one. The first wrestler I have brought home is also one that has become a personal favorite of mine in the ring -- CM PUNK. And while his WWE career has not been the longest of some, he is still quite a ring veteran. Let's consider the man known as CM Punk.

CM Punk's real name is Phil Brooks. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 26, 1978 and was raised by his mother and father with two younger sisters and a brother.

One of Punk's most notable characteristics is the so-called "straight edge" lifestyle. While watching his father, who was for a long time an alcoholic but eventually quit, and reading that alcoholism may be hereditary, Brooks made a commitment to abstain from alcohol consumption to prevent the possibility from it ever occurring in his life. During high school, Brooks discovered the hardcore punk music genre, most importantly the band Minor Threat who were the cause of the straight edge movement. After learning of the culture and its ideals and realizing it matched his own, he declared himself to be straight edge and started endorsing the philosophies of the movement, which basically emphasizes no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, and no promiscuous sex. This is no gimmick to Punk. He lives it out in real life, and for that alone he should be applauded.

Frequently in the ring, Punk performs the straight edge symbol of crossing his arms in an X formation while having the letter X written on the back of his hands, usually drawn on his wrist tape. He also has the words "Straight Edge" tattooed on his stomach, and letters spelling out "DRUG FREE" on the backs of his fingers when he brings his hands together. apparently the Straight Edge lifestyle has no restrictions against tattoos, and CM Punk is a very decorated individual, and I will be discussing some of his tattoos later.

As to his ring career, Punk's first venture into wrestling was a stint in a backyard wrestling federation called the Lunatic Wrestling Federation with his friends in the mid-late 1990s. He first started using the ring name CM Punk when he was put into a tag team named the Chick Magnets with CM Venom after another performer skipped out on the card. Unlike his friends, Punk genuinely wanted to be a wrestler and saw it as more than simple fun. After leaving the federation, he enrolled as a student at the "Steel Domain" wrestling school in Chicago.

Punk's home promotion for his early career is usually considered to be Independent Wrestling Association: Mid-South. During Punk's time in IWA:Mid-South he had high profile feuds with Colt Cabana and Chris Hero while also rising to the top of the roster winning the IWA Mid-South Light Heavyweight Championship twice and the IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Championship on five separate occasions.

Punk's matches with Cabana led him to being hired by the Ring of Honor promotion. During his time in IWA:Mid-South he would also meet, wrestle against and become a friend of Eddie Guerrero.

Punk joined Ring of Honor (ROH), and at the same time Punk joined the wrestling promotion NWA Total Nonstop Action (TNA). Punk started climbing the ranks of ROH with notable achievements including coming second at the Second Anniversary show during the tournament to crown the first ROH Pure Champion, losing to A.J. Styles in the finals, and winning the ROH Tag Team Championship twice with Colt Cabana as the Second City Saints, both times defeating the Briscoe Brothers to win the championship. Meanwhile in TNA on February 25, 2004 Punk had a physical scuffle with Teddy Hart that was broken up by Sabu outside of a restaurant shortly before a TNA show stemming from an ROH show in which Hart performed three unplanned spots putting several other wrestlers in danger of injury.

In June 2005, Punk accepted a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment, after a try-out match against Val Venis on its Sunday Night HEAT show. Even though he had accepted the deal, Punk went on to defeat Austin Aries to win the ROH World Championship on June 18, 2005.

On August 12, 2005 in Dayton, Ohio, Punk lost the ROH World Championship to James Gibson in a four corner elimination match consisting of himself, Gibson, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels. Gibson countered Punk with a Super Tiger Bomb. His final scheduled match in Ring of Honor took place at Punk: The Final Chapter on August 13, 2005 against long- time friend Colt Cabana in a 2 out of 3 falls match, which he lost. In his last match, he was visibly crying, and was showered with streamers when he posed in the middle of the ring.

Punk was assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling, a WWE developmental territory. On September 26, 2005 in his OVW television debut, Punk suffered a ruptured eardrum and broken nose at the hands of Danny Inferno, after he was hit by an overly stiff right hand. Despite the injury, Punk finished the match and quickly recovered.

On November 9, 2005, Punk became the OVW Television Champion after defeating Ken Doane. On January 4, 2006, Punk lost the OVW Television Championship during a three way dance between himself, Brent Albright, and Doane.

Punk actually made an anonymous appearance in the WWE before his actual debut. At WrestleMania 22 on April 2, 2006, Punk was one of the gangsters who rode a 1930s era car to the ring as part of John Cena's entrance.

On June 24, 2006 Punk made his ECW debut during a house show at the former ECW Arena, defeating Stevie Richards. He made his TV debut on the July 4 episode of ECW, cutting a brief pre-taped promo about his straight edge lifestyle emphasizing the disciplinary aspects of being drug and alcohol free. Punk made his TV wrestling debut on August 1, 2006 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, defeating Justin Credible. CM Punk established himself in ECW by going undefeated for an extended period of time. Punk's undefeated streak eventually came to an end after six months at the hands of Hardcore Holly.

Due to the drafting of ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley to Raw in the 2007 draft, the ECW World Championship was declared vacant and a mini-tournament was announced to declare a new champion between Punk, Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von and the recently drafted-to-ECW Chris Benoit. Punk defeated Marcus Cor Von on the June 19 edition of ECW. By doing so CM Punk was meant to face Chris Benoit at Vengeance for the vacant ECW World Championship, however Benoit was hastily replaced by Johnny Nitro when Benoit no-showed the event due to what was described on-air as "personal reasons", which ultimately were the tragic deaths of Benoit and his wife and son.

Nitro subsequently defeated Punk at the Vengeance Pay-Per-View for the vacant championship. At the September 1, 2007 (aired September 4) ECW taping in Cincinnati, Ohio, in a "last chance" title match, Punk defeated John Morrison, the former Johnny Nitro, for the ECW Championship. Punk then went on to have successful title defenses against the likes of Elijah Burke, Big Daddy V and The Miz. On the November 6, 2007 edition of ECW, Punk retained the ECW Championship in a match against John Morrison following The Miz's interference. Punk eventually lost the championship to Chavo Guerrero.

At WrestleMania XXIV, Punk won the "Money in the Bank" ladder match, after fending-off Chris Jericho, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, John Morrison, Mr. Kennedy and Carlito. This entitled CM Punk to challenge any champion for their title any time he saw fit in the coming year.

On the June 23, 2008 edition of Raw, CM Punk was drafted to the Raw brand during the 2008 WWE Draft. The following week, Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and won the World Heavyweight Championship from Edge, after Edge had been beaten down by Batista. Punk successfully defended his newly won championship against JBL later on in the show. Most recently as of this writing, at The Great American Bash 2008, Punk faced Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship which led into a double disqualification after Kane interfered. He recently lost the belt in a "Championship Scramble" match in which, ironically, he was not even directly involved, thanks to outside interference before the match.

Despite being 6 ft. 1, and weighing around 220 pounds, Punk often doesn't appear to be the biggest guy in the ring. This is probably because he tends to be put up against competition that is considerably larger. Punk is still generally able to hold his own against them. One of Punk's more notable outside-the-ring appearances was during a special all-night episode of the hit Sci-Fi series "Ghost Hunters", a popular program in which a team of investigators head to a haunted location and use scientific equipment to try to debunk the haunting.

As to the figure -- it's a more than capable likeness of Punk. The Build 'n' Brawl line uses standardized body parts whenever possible, with a distinctive head, of course. There are several "male body" sizes available, and Punk appears to have been given a sort of mid-range one, which is appropriate for him. The figure is wearing removable rubbery knee-pads, which don't hinder the articulation too much, and is shown wearing yellow trunks, a color that hasn't turned up too often in the line thus far, and yellow boots.

CM Punk has a large number and considerable variety of tattoos, mostly on his arms, as well as the aforementioned "Straight Edge" tattoo on his torso and the "DRUG FREE' on his fingers. However, two of his largest tattoos, which are on his shoulders, are distinctly missing. This is not because it would have been impossible to print them from a technological standpoint. Jakks has done this before, although the placement of the shoulder rotation joint can cause some problems. Edge's star tattoo splits rather oddly.

The problem, if it can be called that, is that the tattoo on CM Punk's left shoulder is the Pepsi logo. Punk had this done when his friends were getting tattoos of beer logos. Since Punk didn't drink, he got a Pepsi logo.

The tattoo on his right shoulder presents a potentially even greater problem from a toy standpoint. It's the COBRA logo from G.I. Joe. If one considers that Punk was born in 1978, he would've been just about the right age to have enjoyed G.I. Joe as in his youth.

Larger figures of CM Punk have gotten around the legal problems of using either the Pepsi or Cobra logos by printing red shapes, either a circle for the Pepsi logo or a shape that sort of looks like the outline of the Cobra emblem, on the shoulders. Apparently for the smaller figure Jakks decided to just leave them off entirely.

Reportedly, Punk also has a tattoo of Storm Shadow's Arashikage Ninja Clan symbol on his lower right arm, but since this is covered by athletic tape, it wasn't a factor.

The figure is very well articulated, poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, lower arm swivel, hands, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. However, and this IS a complaint, because it's becoming all too prevalent, these Build 'n' Brawl figures are becoming downright notorious for having no shortage of loose articulation points. Look, Jakks, it can't be THAT hard to put these things together properly. Are the body molds wearing out this quickly? I'm getting a little tired of buying figures that will barely stand up because their legs are so loosely articulated they can't support their own near non-existent weight, or that are incapable of holding their own arms up. It's really getting ridiculous. Unfortunately, Punk is no exception to this. If anything, he may be the worst example of loose articulation points that I have yet seen. Arms, torso, legs -- ALL were very adversely affected here. Don't ask what it took to get this figure to hold a couple of decent poses and stand up long enough to be photographed for this review. I hope they're not all this bad.

The other problem is that the one articulation point that DOES tend to be hard to move is the ankles, and more often than not these figures tend to be packaged with their feet pointed down. I'm scared of breaking the feet off trying to move them up a bit so they'll stand on their own, and Punk was especially difficult since his boots were covered with a fairly thick coating of yellow paint. The ankle assembly is fairly complex, too, since it allows the foot to move from side to side as well as up and down. And as small as it is, it's got to be a little on the fragile side.

I'm not saying these are bad figures. The DESIGN is superb, and I'm sincerely pleased to see WWE figures in a size (and price) that I find agreeable. The detail is good, the facial likenesses have generally been excellent, and the painted detailing has been superb -- no easy trick when you consider how intricate the eyes have to be as small as they are, and then you throw in the intricate tattoo designs and sometimes the complex patterns on the ring wear. Jakks does all of these things superbly well, really. But when the figure itself seems capable of little more than flopping around on the floor, that's a problem that should -- well -- should not have been allowed to occur in the first place, really.

Now, regarding the "Build" aspect of "Build 'n' Brawl". The first two assortments of this line came with components with which to assemble a wrestling ring. The completed ring was a bit small, but the design in and of itself wasn't too bad. There were four pieces to make the ring mat, a fifth figure came with four ring posts, and the sixth figure in the assortment came with the ropes.

But, how many rings do you need? The third assortment comes with components with which to construct a steel cage to surround the ring. Conventionally known as a "Steel Cage Match", these are held occasionally when a couple of wrestlers have maintained an increasing grudge for so long that it's time to take it to the next level, or when two wrestlers have experienced so much outside interference that it's the only way for them to have a straight match. Generally speaking, the cage consists of four walls that are lowered from the ceiling, one of which has a door. The steel cage assembly that is provided in this assortment also comes with roof components. It is unusual for a steel cage to have a roof, since it's generally more dramatic for the wrestler to escape the cage (one of the traditional ways of winning the match) by climbing over the top than simply walking through the door. A roof is usually reserved for the even more vicious "Hell in a Cell" Cage match.

CM Punk comes with one of the cage walls. It is presented in four sections, which are fairly easy to assemble. The cage wall is designed to look like a chain-link fence, as much as anything, with a support framework around it. The only weird part is, if all of the other walls are like this one, there's no doors. And since this thing comes with a roof, I guess the only way to win is to beat your opponent senseless and then have someone raise the cage.

So, what's my final word here? I wish that Jakks would tighten these figures' articulation. That's a major point of annoyance with me on these, and it's happened too often. On the other hand, as long as I've watched pro wrestling, and resisted collecting the larger figures because I had neither the money to collect even a portion of the increasingly vast collection, nor the space in which to display it, these "Build 'n' Brawl" figures are a VERY nice way of bringing in some reasonably sized, reasonably priced wrestlers from a reasonably sized collection. And for that, I am grateful.

So, with the disclaimer that these figures, including CM Punk, do have an unfortunate tendency to be inexcusably loose in a fair portion of their articulation, I still find myself definitely recommending the WWE BUILD 'N' BRAWL collection, and since this particular guy happens to be one of my personal favorites these days, CM PUNK most assuredly gets my enthusiastic recommendation!