It seems like almost everybody wants in on the 3-3/4"-4" scale these days. Granted, G.I. Joe and Star Wars never left it. But in recent times, they've been joined by Indiana Jones, DC Universe Infinite Heroes, a forthcoming Marvel line, and even the WWE. Not bad company to be in, I'll grant.
Despite being a longtime fan of the WWE, I never really got into collecting Jakks Pacific's larger-scale WWE figures. Although certainly well made, they were too expensive, took up too much display space, and the line overall was honestly too complicated to follow. It seemed that every conceivable theme or Pay-Per-View resulted in a new set of figures. It was just impossible. I contented myself with watching the real-life wrestlers on television.
However, with the advent of the "Build 'N' Brawl" line, Jakks Pacific has essentially created an entirely new line of WWE figures from scratch, in a more agreeable size -- certainly one I have extensive experience with -- and a more agreeable price.
I would like to spend this review taking a look at two of the more impressive individuals currently active in the WWE -- MATT HARDY and JEFF HARDY! Although they are sold separately, they are real-life brothers. Let's start with Matt.
Here is some background on this popular WWE superstar: Interestingly enough, Matt Hardy is his real name. He was born in September of 1974.
Before his World Wrestling Federation debut with his brother Jeff, Matt was trained by former wrestler Dory Funk, Jr. Hardy, along Jeff and friends, started their own federation, the TWF (Trampoline Wrestling Federation) and mimicked the moves they saw on television. Before signing with the WWF, Matt and Jeff created their own wrestling promotion, OMEGA Wrestling. The Hardys also wrestled for several other North Carolina based wrestling organizations and adapted a number of alter-egos.
Hardy worked as a "jobber" for the WWE from 1994 up until he signed a full-time contract. It was not until 1998, however, that the Hardy brothers were given a full-time WWF contract. The Hardy Boyz used a cruiserweight, fast-paced high flying style in their matches, often leaping from great heights to do damage to their opponents (and themselves in the process). Although Jeff was better known for his extreme moves, Matt was a prodigious high-flier himself. In 1999, while feuding with Edge and Christian, the duo briefly picked up Michael Hayes as a manager. On July 5, they won their first WWF Tag team Championship by defeating the Acolytes, but lost it back to them a month later.
In 2000, the Hardy Boyz found a new manager in their real-life friend Lita. Together, the three became known as "Team Xtreme". Throughout 2000 they continued feuding with Edge and Christian, defeating them for the WWF Tag Team Titles on two occasions. At SummerSlam the Hardy Boyz competed in the first ever Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, for the Tag Team Titles against the Dudley Boys and Edge and Christian.
In 2001, after Jeff's Intercontinental Championship run, Matt was given a singles championship push. Hardy won the European Championship on SmackDown! four days before Backlash. He became the second-longest reigning European Champion in history and the longest-reigning American-born European Champion.
In 2002, "Team Xtreme" dissolved and Matt took a heel turn as a bad guy for a time. Hardy joined the SmackDown! roster, and on the October 3 edition of the show, Hardy took advantage of a run-in from Brock Lesnar to defeat The Undertaker. Matt subsequently dubbed himself "Matt Hardy: Version 1" and sought to compete in the Cruiserweight divison during 2003.
2005 was a complicated year for Matt. He returned to being a good guy, but was having some real-life difficulties with Lita and Edge. He was released from the WWE, which only served to build up Edge and Lita as bigger heels. On the June 20 edition of Raw, during the storyline wedding of Edge and Lita, Hardy's entrance music and video were played when the priest asked if anyone had a reason why Edge and Lita should not be wed. On the July 11 episode of Raw, Hardy made his return, attacking Edge as he made his way to the ring. Several subsequent incidents, mostly backstage attacks, had fans wondering if these incidents were staged or real.
Finally, on the August 1 edition of Raw, Vince McMahon officially announced Hardy's return to WWE, adding that Hardy would face Edge at SummerSlam.
On the November 21, 2006 episode of ECW, Matt and Jeff Hardy competed in a match together for the first time in almost five years. They have since competed together occasionally, but for the most part are maintaining their singles careers.
Matt Hardy had a notable feud -- and subsequently held a tag-team title -- with MVP. He required some time off because of legitimate injuries, including a burst appendix. On March 30, 2008, at Wrestlemania XXIV, Hardy made his televised return to WWE programming in the Money in the Bank ladder match by cutting through the crowd and preventing MVP from grabbing the briefcase. He made his official in-ring return the next night on RAW, losing a singles match to WWE Champion Randy Orton. On the April 4 edition of SmackDown!, Hardy faced MVP in a non-title match, which he won, re-igniting their feud.
Matt has since been switched over to ECW, where he has become one of their top superstars, always garnering a considerable ovation from the crowd, and as of this writing has been involved in a feud with current ECW Champion Mark Henry.
I've always liked the Hardys. They have consistently shown an intensity in the ring and a level of activity that makes one believe that they really enjoy what they're doing -- even if one might also question their sanity for some of what they do in the ring. Arguably, Matt is the somewhat saner of the two in this regard, but it's a relative measure.
The figure of Matt Hardy is very nicely done. Jakks has created a number of body types which are switched between figures to utilize the most appropriate, and they chose a good one for Matt Hardy. Matt is muscular, and a little bulky, but not on a scale of some of the real powerhouses of the WWE. I believe a median-to-large body mold set was used for the Matt Hardy figure, and this is appropriate.
Matt is wearing somewhat loose-fitting trousers -- I think they used the same mold for Rey Mysterio and they certainly used the same mold for Jeff Hardy. Again, this is not at all inappropriate for Matt Hardy. The trousers are a dark green, with a skull and crossbones image imprinted on the sides of the legs. The back pockets are also painted, although frankly, I think I might've picked a color other than a light tan that's a little too close to Matt Hardy's skin tone.
The trousers also have a dark brown belt, and in a nice display of how well the details are painted, a gold belt-buckle.
Matt also has black shoes with white trim, white "tape wrapping" painted around his lower arms, and black rubbery elbow pads. A lot of the Build 'n' Brawl figures have these, and or knee pads. They are removable, but there's no real reason to, and they're not that much of a hindrance to articulation.
And the articulation on the figure is excellent. Jakks Pacific has really gone all out on these figures, and Matt Hardy is certainly no exception. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, lower arm swivel, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
The likeness of Matt Hardy in the headsculpt is very well done. I don't know at what scale these figures are initially created. Often times, especially in action figures that are going to be manufactured in a smaller scale such as these, the prototypes are created in a larger scale, and then (I am assuming) reduced in the actual tooling of the mold somehow. I know I wouldn't want to have to sculpt a decently accurate likeness of someone's face on a head that's not quite half an inch in height!
But this is a very capable likeness, with well painted details around the eyes and eyebrows, and a separate hairpiece, since Matt's hair is rather long. As one might expect, it's molded from rather rubbery plastic, so it doesn't impede the articulation of the head.
Series 3 of the "Build 'n' Brawl" series -- and here we come to the "Build" aspect -- features a cage, designed to look like a framework enclosed with chain-link fencing. Both Series 1 and 2 allowed a person to build a wrestling ring. Cage matches do happen occasionally in the WWE, and are generally used to resolve some long-standing grudge that has gone unresolved due to excessive outside interference, or the wrestler leaving the ring and taking a disqualification rather than a further beating. Matt Hardy comes with one half of the cage top -- an unusual piece, since a standard cage match generally doesn't include a roof.
On the whole, this is an excellent small-scale figure of Matt Hardy. Now let's consider his brother Jeff.
He was born in August of 1977, making him almost three years younger than his wrestling brother, Matt Hardy. As a tag team wrestler, Hardy is a former six-time World Tag Team Champion and one-time WCW Tag Team Champion.
Jeff cites Sting, The Ultimate Warrior, and Shawn Michaels as his childhood inspirations to wrestle (a pretty impressive combination, really). Hardy had been on World Wrestling Federation television as a jobber as early as age sixteen. His first WWF match was against Razor Ramon on May 24, 1994. The next day he wrestled against The 1-2-3 Kid, and the match aired on the June 25 edition of Superstars. He occasionally wrestled as a jobber as late as 1997 before beginning his first major run in 1998.
Jeff Hardy gained attention for his high risk stunts in the TLC matches in the year 2000, 2001, and 2002. He made a name for himself as one of the most seemingly reckless and unorthodox WWF performers of his time. In 2001, Hardy received a push as a singles competitor, and he held the WWF Intercontinental (defeating Triple H), Light Heavyweight (defeating Jerry Lynn) and Hardcore Championships (defeating Mike Awesome and Rob Van Dam on two separate occasions).
After years in the tag team division, Jeff took on The Undertaker in a Ladder match for the Undisputed Championship. Hardy came up short, but earned the Undertaker's respect. Hardy competed for singles titles on several occasions and defeated William Regal for the WWE European Championship. Finally, the Hardy Boyz split apart, as Jeff continued to pursue his singles ambitions on Raw and his brother, Matt was drafted to SmackDown!.
In January 2003, he had a brief heel turn that began after he attacked Van Dam and Shawn Michaels. It ended soon after. In February, he had a brief program with Michaels, which saw the two team up. In his last match before being released, Hardy was defeated by The Rock. Hardy was released from WWE on April 22, 2003. The reasons given for the release were Hardy's erratic behavior, refusal to go to rehab, deteriorating ring performance, as well as constant tardiness and no-showing events. Hardy also cites "burn out" and the need for time off as reasons for leaving WWE.
Hardy debuted in Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling on June 23, 2004 at the TNA weekly pay-per-view #100, the Second Anniversary Show, in a match against TNA X Division Champion A.J. Styles, for the title. He also debuted his new entrance theme "Modest", a song performed by Hardy himself, and his new nickname "The Charismatic Enigma".
Once again, though, erratic behavior and too many "no-shows" resulted in Jeff being suspended. His run with TNA ended in mid-2006.
On August 4, 2006, WWE announced that Hardy had re-signed with the company. In the following weeks, vignettes aired hyping his return on the August 21 episode of Raw. On the day of his return, Hardy received a push and defeated then-WWE Champion Edge by disqualification.
In early 2008, in accordance with WWE policy, Jeff Hardy was given a sixty-day suspension for violation of the WWE's Wellness Policies. Finally, it seemed, Hardy was ready to get his act together, and several tragedies in his life, including a fire that destroyed his home, got him back on track. It should be noted that Jeff did not cause the fire. He was not home at the time, and the cause is believed to have been faulty electrical wiring.
Hardy returned on the May 12 edition of Raw, defeating the massive Umaga, and has since been drafted to SmackDown, his current wrestling home, where he is regarded as one of its top performers and favorite faces. Most recently, during the "Armageddon" Pay-Per-View, and after months of effort, Jeff Hardy finally achieved his dream and reached the top of the peak by becoming WWE Champion! His brother Matt is currently the ECW Champion.
Jeff has an eclectic set of interests outside of wrestling. He calls his artistic side "The Imag-I-Nation". At one stage, Hardy constructed a 30-foot statue of an "aluminummy" named "Neroameee" out of tinfoil outside of his recording studio (a spray painted trailer). On another occasion, he created an artificial volcano in his front yard, which he then jumped over on his motocross dirtbike. On another occasion Jeff created a large sculpture of his brother's hand signal "V1", as seen on "The Hardy Show" which is an internet web show which features the Hardys, Shannon Moore and many of their friends. Hardy is also an artist and poet, and has a number of tattoos.
Between the two Hardys, Jeff is almost assuredly the more -- over the top -- of the two. He frequently colors his hair in such an unusual pattern that one wonders if he has a long-standing contract with Crayola, and he has a beard pattern that can best be described as "striped". Not the color of the hair, but the presence of it on his jaw. He also seems to be more inclined to take riskier moves in the ring, although this is a somewhat relative measure. Lately he's been painting his face for matches in the ring.
The figure of Jeff Hardy is very well done, although almost looks sedate compared to the real thing. The face sculpt is excellent. The hair is well done, and at least manages to reflect two different colors. However, those colors appear to be tan and dark brown -- that's downright dull for Jeff. Granted, I think Jakks Pacific could've set whatever colors of spray paint happened to be lying around the factory in China in front of their sprayers and they'd've gotten it right for at least some moment in Jeff's follicle history.
They even managed to paint his striped beard. One can also see two tiny little bits of silver at the base of his ears -- Jakks went so far as to paint his earrings. Keep in mind we're talking about ears that aren't quite 1/8" in height. Now, that's attention to detail!
Jeff is wearing a black tank top and black, rather baggy trousers. The molds used for the trousers are the same as for his brother Matt, and I suspect they're the same ones used for Rey Mysterio. I'm honestly not sure where the tank top comes from. Jakks has created a series of largely interchangeable body molds, mostly just different body types, to be used on this Build 'n' Brawl line. Whichever body type a wrestler most closely matches, that's the one used for that figure. I honestly don't recall a previous tank-top upper body, so it may have been created for its initial use on Jeff Hardy. That doesn't mean it'll be its last use, though.
Jeff is wearing a yellow belt with a silver buckle, very neatly painted, white shoes, and his arms have been painted with the unusual hole-filled gloves that Jeff customarily wears to the ring, and on occasion tosses out to the fans at the end of the match. Given the relatively subdued look of the rest of the figure, it's the most dramatic feature here. A portion of one of Jeff's tattoos can be seen on the right shoulder and upper arm, but as has been the unfortunate case with a number of figures in this line who have shoulder tattoos, the articulation joint gets in the way somewhat.
Interestingly, I saw Jeff Hardy on SmackDown just a few days after buying this figure, and the overall likeness, including the apparel and the tattoo, were pretty much a dead-on match. Jakks is really paying attention. About the only thing missing from Jeff Hardy's wardrobe on the figure was a length of knotted fabric that hangs from one of his back pockets. This might have been difficult to manage on the toy anyway, and generally, Jeff throws this object out to the crowd before the match.
It's not unusual for some of the more popular wrestlers to throw items like this out to the crowd, as souvenirs. Caps, T-shirts, that sort of thing, and occasionally their opponents. The fans generally keep everything but the opponents, which tend to be a bit hard to deal with anyway.
Jeff is also wearing rubbery black elbow pads. A number of the figures in this series have these. They're removable, but it's hardly necessary. It does add to the look of the figure overall, and is not much of an impedence to the articulation.
And the articulation on the figure is excellent. Jakks Pacific has really gone all out on these figures, and Jeff Hardy is certainly no exception. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, lower arm swivel, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
One again with regard to the oft-glitchy and frequently loose articulation of these figures, with Jeff Hardy, I guess I got really lucky. The upper left leg swivel is a little looser than I would like, but otherwise -- stability-wise, for lack of a better term, this is the best-assembled WWE Build 'n' Brawl figure I've purchased in quite some time! Let's hope it's a trend, since these figures are expected to continue into 2009 while Jakks still has the license.
Jeff Hardy comes with one of the four cage walls, assembled from four separate sections packaged with the figure, as part of his "Build" aspect of the "Build-n-Brawl" series.
On the whole, this is an excellent small-scale figure of Jeff Hardy.
The one shame in this line is that it won't likely last much longer. Jakks Pacific's days as the main WWE action figure maker are numbered, with the license going over to Mattel as of 2010. Their plans for the WWE remain unknown to me at this time, and frankly my biggest concern is the effect it'll have on other Mattel lines that I give greater prominence to, such as DC Universe and Masters of the Universe.
This isn't a dig against Mattel. It's just the way of things. When Hasbro continued the Marvel Legends line after acquiring the Marvel license away from Toy Biz, it was considered pretty remarkable news. I don't really expect a repeat for the WWE Build 'n' Brawl line between Jakks and Mattel, but we'll see.
Nevertheless, for however much longer it does last, this line, on the whole, is a very cool way for those who have, for one reason or another, perhaps some of those I stated at the top of this review, to bring some of their favorite WWE superstars into their action figure collections. True, the line has a few structural problems here and there, but for the most part it's very decent, and I'm pleased to have the figure likenesses of these people whom I see several times a week on TV as part of my collection.
The WWE Build 'n' Brawl line as a whole (loose articulation notwithstanding), and certainly JEFF AND MATT HARDY, definitely have my recommendation!