Despite being a longtime fan of the WWE, I've never really collected the action figures from Jakks Pacific. Don't get me wrong -- I think Jakks has done an excellent job over the years. It's just that their WWE product line has become so massive and so convoluted that there just didn't seem to be a decent "jumping-on point" for anyone who hadn't followed the line from the outset, which I had not.
That's why I'm really enjoying this 1:18 scale (3-3/4") "Build 'N' Brawl" line. The figures are smaller than the other WWE product, which is good news for those of us with limited display space, and also because of this, there's no direct connection between these figures and any of the other products make by Jakks, other than the fact that they obviously represent WWE superstars.
In a rather annoying bit of irony, it's been announced that the WWE license for action figures is headed over to Mattel. Their plans for WWE remain unknown to me. But in the meantime, for as long as this Build 'n' Brawl line from Jakks exists and continues, I have every intention of collecting and enjoying it. And reviewing the characters presented within it. This time around, it's SHAWN MICHAELS' turn, as part of the second series of these cool figures.
Shawn Michaels has been one of the mainstays of the WWE for nearly twenty years. He first came on the scene in 1988, teaming with tag-team partner Marty Jannetty to form a high-energy, colorful team called The Rockers.
The team proved popular with both children and women. The team was a mid-card stalwart of TV and pay-per-view shows for the next two years, but never seemed to get a chance at the Tag Team Championships. The Rockers plodded along, eventually splitting on December 2, 1991 during an incident on Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's televised "Barber Shop" talk show segment. Michaels superkicked Jannetty and threw him through a glass window on the set. Jannetty vanished from the WWF and Michaels turned heel.
Michaels' adopted the nickname "The Heartbreak Kid." Along with his new name came a new gimmick as a vain, cocky heel. Michaels failed to win the Intercontinental Championship from Bret Hart in July 1992, even losing the WWE's first ever Ladder match against him at a house show. Still, Michaels was beginning to get over as a heel. He won the Intercontinental Championship from The British Bulldog during the Saturday Night's Main Event on October 27, 1992. Shortly thereafter, he was in a pay-per-view main event for the first time, facing -- and losing to -- future nemesis Bret Hart, for the WWF Championship at the 1992 Survivor Series.
Following an "attack" by wrestler Sid Vicious in 1995, Michaels took some time off. He returned to the ring as a good guy, without losing his cocky attitude in the least, in June 1995 and defeated Jeff Jarrett at July's In Your House pay-per-view to win his third Intercontinental title. This led to a title defense against Razor Ramon at SummerSlam, in a Ladder match, which Michaels won.
In the summer of 1997, Michaels joined forces with real-life friend, Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Hunter's then-girlfriend, Chyna to form the stable, D-Generation X (DX). Moving away from the family-oriented product, this marked the beginning of the WWF Attitude Era. Michaels also began re-feuding with Bret Hart's reformed Hart Foundation, which was now a pro-Canada stable.
Michaels' feud with the Hart Foundation culminated in a title shot at the 1997 Survivor Series against Bret Hart, in what is thought to be the most controversial match in wrestling history. Michaels came out of this match, dubbed by fans the "Montreal Screwjob", as the WWF World Champion.
As of 1998, Michaels would take several years off, more or less, from wrestling, due largely to the effects of legitimate injuries. He appeared occasionally on WWE television programs, but not in the ring. He acted as "Commissioner" for a time, but believed his wrestling career to be largely over.
In 2002, Michaels returned to wrestling. At Survivor Series, Michaels won the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H in the first-ever Elimination Chamber match, which also involved Rob Van Dam, Kane, Chris Jericho, and Booker T.
On the June 12, 2006 edition of Raw, D-Generation X officially reunited. During Triple H's gauntlet match against the Spirit Squad, Michaels came in to help Triple H. At Vengeance, DX defeated the Spirit Squad in a 5- on-2 handicap match. They also defeated the Spirit Squad at Saturday Night's Main Event in a 5-2 elimination match and defeated The McMahons (Vince and Shane) at SummerSlam. At Unforgiven, DX overcame the odds once again, defeating The McMahons and ECW World Champion The Big Show in a Hell in a Cell match..
In early 2007, Triple H suffered a legitimate injury which kept him sidelined for months. It was the end of DX. Michaels resumed his solo career and has performed admirably in the ring.
Most recently, Michaels faced the legendary Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24, in a match which, if Flair lost, he would retire from the ring. Michaels was victorious. The next night on RAW, Flair said his farewells, and embraced Michaels for giving him one heck of a last match.
These are just the most meager highlights of Michaels' career. I encourage you to read more about this remarkable wrestling legend. He has also penned his own book, Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story.
So, how's the figure? Pretty impressive. Shawn has never been known as a powerhouse in the wrestling world. He tends to rely on his speed and agility to get him through his matches, and his signature finishing move, the "Superkick", wherein he is able to quickly raise his leg fast enough and high enough to catch a charging opponent squarely on the chin and send him sprawling to the mat, has earned him any number of victories.
The figure of Shawn Michaels reflects his build quite well. I believe that Jakks has created a supply of generic body molds for this line, adding on individual parts as required, which they use to assemble various wrestlers. For Shawn, they chose one of the somewhat more slender upper bodies.
The headsculpt is truly a superb likeness of Shawn. I really don't know how Jakks manages to get this level of accuracy and detail into a headsculpt that's less than an inch high. I'm sure they sculpt the original at a larger size, but you'd almost thing some detail would be lost in the reduced-size mold creation. But it really is superb. Michaels has an almost goofy grin on his face, but this isn't entirely inappropriate. Ask anyone who's ever seen DX in action. Michaels is more than capable of acting the goofball -- and then still giving you a heck of a fight in the ring and making you eat the bottom of his boot at the end. The painted facial detail is as impressive as the sculpt. The level of intricacy, especially around the eyes, almost makes my head hurt thinking about what it took to achieve this in mass production.
Michaels has always worn his hair rather long. Granted he's hardly the only wrestler to do so, and Jakks has utilized a good method of giving a wrestling figure the proper length of hair without interfering overmuch with the articulation. The hair is molded as a separate piece of relatively thin, rubbery plastic, which is flexible enough to turn with the head and not be an impedance at the shoulders. The detail within the hair is excellent.
One of the things Michaels is proud of is being from Texas. Although born in Arizona, he spent most of his growing up years in San Antonio. He frequently wears a cowboy hat, and other Western gear, not as a gimmick, but simply because this is part of who he really is. One extension of his wardrobe tendencies that is reflected in his in-ring persona is the fact that he wears heavy and colorful chaps over his wrestling tights, which are removed before he starts the actual match. However, since these figures are arguably iconic versions of the characters they represent, these flared chaps are present on the figure, and are a distinctly unique part of the Shawn Michaels figure, using parts that aren't likely to be found on another figure.
And the pattern markings on the chaps represent another important part of Michaels' real life He is a Christian, and has been for some years, although he was not when he started out in the business. He makes no secret of his faith, and much of his in-ring apparel and much of his apparel merchandise that is sold to fans -- T-shirts, whatever -- has Christian symbols on it. I was a little surprised, but not displeased, that this was reflected on the figure. His chaps are white, and they have numerous little black crosses imprinted on them on the front and back.
About my only criticism of the outfit that Jakks has given Michaels is that it is pretty much just black and white. Michaels is usually a little more colorful than this.
Articulation of the figure is superb. These Build 'n' Brawl figures remind me in some ways of the Marvel Superhero Showdown figures, except they're somewhat better made. They certainly have an amazing range of articulation. Michaels is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, lands, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
I have noticed that some of these figures will occasionally have a point or two that's a little loose, that moves a little too easily. This is unfortunate, and perhaps should be addressed, but also is unfortunately just as likely a simple consequence of mass production. Ultimately, nothing is perfect.
Michaels is wearing wraparound elbow pads -- I've seen these turn up on a few other figures in the line -- that slightly hinder elbow movement even if they allow for a more realistic appearance to the figure. To whatever degree you might consider this a serious annoyance, they are removable.
The "Build 'n' Brawl" aspect of this line gets its name from the fact that each wrestler in a given series comes with a part of a wrestling ring that can be put together. With six figures in each series, this consists of four quarters of a ring platform, ring posts with turnbuckles, and ring ropes. The final ring is a little small to scale, unfortunately, but it's not a bad-looking construct.
So what's my final word here? I'm extremely pleased with this line. It's a long-awaited opportunity for me to add some of my favorite WWE characters to my action figure collection without being dragged into an overly convoluted line, or having to accommodate figures that are frankly of a larger scale than most of my collection, and that I simply don't have room for. The line has also proved to be extremely popular. The first series sold through very quickly, actually making it rather difficult for me to find certain figures within it. I expect the line to continue to do well.
If you're of a like mindset to me, where you've WANTED to have some
WWE figures around, but just couldn't see yourself trying to make your
way through the massive offerings of Jakks Pacific's main line, then
the Build 'n' Brawl line is most certainly for you. It has my recommendation,
and of course, the BUILD 'N' BRAWL SHAWN MICHAELS definitely has my