REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS TENSAI
Some wrestlers go by pretty much the same name throughout their career, even if it isn't their real name. Hulk Hogan's real name is Terry Bollea, but he's always been known as Hulk Hogan, although for a while the prefix "Hollywood" worked its way in there.
Other wrestlers go by a multitude of names, developing different character types to reflect the name in some way. One such wrestler recently garnered his first action figure in Mattel's WWE SUPERSTARS line. He came upon the scene initially going by the name "Lord Tensai", later shortened to just TENSAI, with a distinctly Japanese theme and a vicious attitude.
But he's not Japanese, although he did enjoy great success wrestling in Japan, which takes wrestling to even greater heights -- and more seriously -- than we do here in America.
Let's consider the history of the man known as TENSAI, and then have a look at his WWE Superstars action figure.
Matthew Jason "Matt" Bloom (born November 14, 1972) is an American professional wrestler signed to WWE under the ring name Tensai and more recently referred to as Sweet T since forming a tag team with Brodus Clay.
Bloom first rose to prominence under the ring names Albert and A-Train during his first tenure with WWE when it was named the World Wrestling Federation, during which he also became a one time Intercontinental Champion.
After leaving WWE, Bloom adopted the ring name Giant Bernard and began wrestling extensively in Japan, where he became a three-time World Tag Team Champion by winning New Japan Pro Wrestling's IWGP Tag Team Championship twice (once with Travis Tomko and once with Karl Anderson as Bad Intentions) and Pro Wrestling Noah's GHC Tag Team Championship once with Anderson..
Bloom wrestled his first match in 1997, facing Tim McNeany. He briefly wrestled as Baldo, a gimmick given to him by referee Freddy Sparta that saw him wear a fur rug to the ring.
After being introduced to talent scout Tom Prichard by George Steele, Bloom was hired by the World Wrestling Federation. After receiving supplementary training from Dory Funk, Jr., Bloom was assigned to the Power Pro Wrestling developmental territory in Memphis, Tennessee, where he wrestled as Baldo. While wrestling in PPW, Bloom won both the Young Guns Championship and the Heavyweight Championship, and engaged in a feud with Memphis mainstay Jerry Lawler.
Bloom debuted on WWF television on the April 11, 1999 episode of Sunday Night Heat, saving Droz from a beating at the hands of Big Bossman. Bloom was dubbed Prince Albert, the personal tattooist of Droz, and together they formed a short-lived trio with Key. Droz and Albert continued to team together until Droz was paralyzed in October 1999, at which point Albert became the protege of the Big Bossman. The duo separated following the debut of Bull Buchanan, who formed a tag team with the Big Bossman.
In March 2000, Bloom, now known simply as Albert, was recruited by Trish Stratus to form a tag team with Test. The tag team, known as T & A, competed in the tag team division throughout 2000, feuding with rival tag teams such as the Dudley Boyz and the Acolytes. In December 2000, the team separated after Bloom attacked Test under the orders of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. At this time Bloom became notable for his roaring whenever he executed a high-impact maneuver.
In April 2001, Albert formed a stable called X-Factor with Justin Credible and X-Pac. On June 28, he defeated Kane with help from Diamond Dallas Page to win the Intercontinental Championship, his first WWF title. He lost it to Alliance member Lance Storm on July 23, after several wrestlers interfered. In July, Credible left X-Factor and joined The Alliance. Albert and X-Pac continued X-Factor as a tag team until November, when X-Pac was sidelined with an injury.
In late 2001, Albert was nicknamed "The Hip Hop Hippo" as he began teaming with Scotty 2 Hotty. Later, both Bloom and Hotty were assigned to the SmackDown brand. They disbanded on April 4, 2002 when Albert attacked Scotty after the duo failed to defeat their opponents for the Tag Team Championship.
Subsequently, he spent much of his time on Velocity until December 2002, when he joined forces with Paul Heyman and Big Show, which saw Heyman persuade him to rename himself to A-Train. A-Train and Big Show lost to The Undertaker at WrestleMania XIX, after which A-Train continued the feud, culminating in a match at SummerSlam. He then wrestled Chris Benoit at No Mercy and, at Survivor Series, was on Brock Lesnar's team in a ten-man Survivor Series match. He competed in the 2004 Royal Rumble match, and was eliminated by the eventual winner, Benoit. After Benoit decided to wrestle Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship on the Raw brand, General Manager Paul Heyman held a SmackDown brand-exclusive Royal Rumble, to determine who would meet Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. A-Train was eliminated by Eddie Guerrero, who went on to win the match. A-Train was traded to the Raw brand on March 22, 2004 before making his official Raw debut on June 7. Two weeks later, he was sidelined with a torn rotator cuff and was released from his WWE contract on November 1 before he could return.
In March 2005, Bloom began wrestling for the Japanese All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion, adopting the ring name Giant Bernard, a reference to former wrestler Brute Bernard. He went on to join the Voodoo Murders stable alongside fellow WWE alumni Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli. On October 18, 2005, Bloom unsuccessfully challenged Satoshi Kojima for the Triple Crown Championship.
In January 2006, Bloom left AJPW and joined the rival New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. In April 2006, he defeated Yuji Nagata in the finals of the 2006 New Japan Cup. As a result of his victory, Bloom received a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He unsuccessfully challenged IWGP Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar on May 3, 2006 in Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka.
In July 2006, following the vacating of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship by Lesnar, Bloom entered a tournament for the title, losing to Hiroshi Tanahashi in the tournament final. In August 2006, Bloom took part in the 2006 G1 Climax tournament, losing to Hiroyoshi Tenzan in the semi-finals.
On March 11, 2007 in Nagoya, Bloom and Travis Tomko defeated Manabu Nakanishi and Takao Omori to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship. At the February 17, 2008 New Japan show, they lost the IWGP Tag Titles to Togi Makabe and Toru Yano. Following Tomko's departure for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling on a full-time basis, Bernard began teaming with former World Championship Wrestling wrestler Rick Fuller in another powerhouse tag team. On September 5, 2008, Bernard and Fuller betrayed Shinsuke Nakamura and Hirooki Goto to align themselves with Togi Makabe's Great Bash Heel stable.
In 2009, after betraying Togi Makabe, Bernard and the rest of GBH left the stable to join Shinsuke Nakamura and form the new stable known as CHAOS. Bernard formed the tag team Bad Intentions with CHAOS partner Karl Anderson and together the two of them went on to win that year's G1 Climax Tag League after defeating Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi) in the finals of the tournament on November 1. They went on to challenge for the IWGP Tag Team Championship, but their match with the defending champions Team 3D (Brother Ray and Brother Devon) ended in a double countout. In April 2010, both Bernard and Anderson left CHAOS when the stable turned on them.
Through NJPW's working agreement with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, Bloom did his first tour of Mexico in May 2010, where he and Anderson managed to win six successive two-out-of-three falls tag team matches in two straight falls, before he lost his final match of the tour on June 11 via disqualification. Upon his return to Japan, Bernard and Anderson defeated the teams of Blue Justice Army (Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue) and No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi) in a three-way elimination match on June 19 to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship. The team would continue to play a prominent role in the IWGP for the next several years.
On January 4, 2012 at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, Bad Intentions lost the IWGP Tag Team Championship to Ten-Koji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima), ending their record-setting reign at 564 days. They followed suit with their other title on January 22, losing the GHC Tag Team Championship to Akitoshi Saito and Jun Akiyama.
On March 17, 2012, it was reported that Bloom had re-signed with WWE. Bloom publicly denied the signing; however, on the March 19 episode of Raw, he appeared in a vignette under the new ring name Lord Tensai. On the April 2 episode of Raw, Bloom made his WWE re-debut as Lord Tensai, where he was accompanied by his follower Sakamoto before defeating Alex Riley. In the following weeks, Tensai went on a winning streak, scoring pinfall victories over lower card wrestlers and even main stars including John Cena and WWE Champion CM Punk.
On the May 21 episode of Raw, Tensai dropped the "Lord" portion of his ring name and his Japanese outfit worn during his entrance. Following this, Tensai began losing much more frequently throughout the rest of 2012, beginning with John Cena ending his winning streak before he also suffered a loss to World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. His losing streak caused Tensai to often vent his frustrations by abusing and attacking Sakamoto, who eventually ceased appearing with Tensai.
On the June 29 episode of SmackDown, Tensai defeated Justin Gabriel to break his losing streak and also qualify for a spot in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match at Money in the Bank, though the match was ultimately won by Dolph Ziggler.
Over the next three months, Tensai's losing streak resumed, as he lost to the likes of Tyson Kidd, Sin Cara, Randy Orton, and Ryback. Tensai finally ended his losing on the October 5 episode of SmackDown, defeating Big Show by disqualification after Sheamus interfered. However, he would be back on losing end the following week, after being defeated by Sheamus. On November 18 at the Survivor Series pay-per-view, Tensai took part in a traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match, but he was the second man eliminated from his team. In December, Tensai was reduced to a comedy act, with Santino Marella calling him "Fat Albert" before proceeding to defeat Tensai.
On the January 28, 2013 episode of Raw, Tensai was forced to participate in a dance-off with Brodus Clay. Two days later on WWE Main Event, Tensai defeated Titus O'Neil in a singles match. Clay came out to support Tensai during the match and Tensai danced with Clay after the match, signalling a face turn.
Following this, Clay and Tensai formed a tag team and they went on to defeat established teams such as Primo and Epico, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal of 3MB and Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow), with the latter match taking place during the pre-show of Elimination Chamber on February 17.
On the March 22 episode of SmackDown, Tensai and Clay were defeated by Team Rhodes Scholars in a tag team match after an interference from their associates The Bella Twins. Tensai and Clay announced their official tag-team name "Tons of Funk" on the March 27 episode of Main Event, where they accompanied The Funkadactyls (Cameron and Naomi) to ring in a losing effort to The Bella Twins with Team Rhodes Scholars in their corner when Nikki pinned Naomi after an interference by Cody Rhodes. It was around this time that Tensai adopted the nickname "Sweet T", although he still uses the Tensai name as well.
The two teams were originally booked to face each other in an eight-person mixed tag team match on April 7 at Wrestlemania 29, but their match was cut due to time constraints. The match instead took place the following night on Raw, where Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls emerged victorious.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive. Also bigger than I expected. I briefly wondered if Mattel had somehow goofed the scale of this figure. They're usually more careful about this sort of thing. But then I read that Tensai stands 6 feet, 7 inches in height. That's big even in the wrestling world. So, okay, maybe Mattel didn't goof.
The Tensai figure stands about 7-1/4" in height. This in a line that tends to average -- if it has an average -- of around 6-3/4".
The headsculpt is excellent. Tensai is bald, with relatively small eyes, fairly large eyebrows relative to the size of his eyes, and currently has a fairly long mustache and a small goatee. He also has several piercings below his lower lip. These have all been nicely sculpted and painted, including three little silver dots for the piercings.
The WWE Superstars figures have a wide range of body types. This isn't like the Masters of the Universe or DC Universe lines, where a majority of figures can get away with using the same basic body, just recolored and re-detailed as needed. The WWE figures are based on real people, and need to come reasonably close to what they look like. As such, Mattel has crafted a good number of different body types in order to accommodate this.
And then you've got people like Tensai, that just don't fit any mold. Tensai is a huge powerhouse and I wouldn't want to be on his bad side in the ring or out of it. But the man does not have the chiseled, bodybuilder-type of physique that quite a number of WWE Superstars either have or seemingly aspire to. What Tensai has is some seriously solid bulk. Along with that 6' 7" height, his billed weight is 360 pounds. That's some serious weight even on that tall a frame, and a significant percentage of it seems to be in Tensai's torso and upper legs.
I initially wondered if perhaps Tensai used some of the same body molds as Mark Henry. They have similar, broad physiques. That theory was quickly disproven when I stood the two figures side by side. Tensai is considerably taller. They do not share any body molds.
It's entirely possible that Tensai's molds are mostly unique, although I would suspect he borrows his arms from somebody. Whatever the case, the overall likeness is accurate, not to mention imposing and impressive.
Tensai is substantially tattooed. He has this nearly symmetrical curved-jagged pattern running across his chest and down both arms to his elbows, in a very dark blue-back. There's a little angular red symbol in the center of his chest, outlined in black.
Additionally, Tensai has some very detailed Japanese script running from the top of his head down the left side of his face, right over his eye. These are not actual tattoos. I've seen them get rubbed off during the course of matches. Not that there aren't people out there that tattoo their faces. It's just that Tensai isn't one of them -- yet, anyway.
The facial markings are extremely detailed and intricate, especially compared to the broad strokes on his chest, and it must have been something of a challenge to get them right. Much credit is due to Mattel's researchers and imprinters.
Tensai's face is not the only place where Japanese symbols appear. Tensai is wearing red trunks with a black belt line. There is a broad black strip on one side of the front of the trunks, and a white Japanese symbol imprinted on this strip. This had to be something of a challenge for Mattel, because that's also right where the leg articulation is.
Tensai is wearing huge knee pads, molded in flexible plastic and secured to the figure during assembly. They do not hinder knee articulation overmuch. The knee pads are black, but the actual knees of the knee pads are red, and have Japanese characters imprinted on them.
Additionally, Tensai is wearing black boots, that have somewhat padded red fronts that extend from the tops of the boots to the top of the feet, and these red areas also have Japanese characters on them. Finally, Tensai has a small series of Japanese characters on the outside of his left leg. Unlike the facial markings, I suspect these are real tattoos.
As to what any of these Japanese symbols may translate to -- I haven't the slightest idea. I believe every one of them is genuine and legitimate. They certainly look it. But I don't read Japanese. There are any number of Japanese-based concepts that I am a fan of -- Gundam, Transformers, even Power Rangers -- but I've never learned the language. And once in a while, that's been a mild source of frustration to me. As it is here.
The only other costume details I have neglected to mention are white areas painted around Tensai's wrists, hands, and the fingers of his right hand. I believe this is intended to represent athletic tape, which many WWE Superstars make use of to one degree or another.
Tensai is very well articulated. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. A few points of articulation are lacking, compared to some action figures in this size range. There is no mid-torso articulation -- although given Tensai's build this would have been difficult regardless -- and although Tensai's legs move forward and backward, they do not move outward, nor is there any upper leg swivel.
However, one should keep in mind that these WWE Superstars figures are pretty much Mattel's most basic line of WWE figures. A higher level of articulation can be found in their Elite and Legends Collections -- for a higher price, as well. As it is, I'm content with the Superstars figures, and for their size, they're a bargain in the toy aisle.
So, what's my final word? Call him Matt Bloom, call him Albert, call him Tensai, call him Sweet T. The guy's been around for a while and had an impressive career both in the United States and in Japan, two decided hubs of popularity for the world of professional wrestling. I'm glad he's back with the WWE now, and certainly, he deserves his own action figure. This may be his "First time in the line", but he's definitely earned it, and this is an excellent rendition of him. If you're a WWE fan, you'll be very pleased with this figure.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of TENSAI definitely has my highest recommendation!