REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS TRIPLE H
Despite a long-standing enjoyment of professional wrestling, particularly of the WWE, until recently I've never really been one for collecting the action figures that have been produced, and certainly there's been no shortage of them over the years.
Some of the first professional wrestling action figures were turned out by LJN. These things were only marginally action figures, as they were basically big lumps of humanoid-shaped rubber. Hasbro turned out an interesting line of WWF action figures some years later, with rather cartoonish, exaggerated appearances. Following that, Jakks Pacific turned out a massive run of generally superb WWE action figures for a great many years.
Maybe I didn't get involved because I knew completing any given line would be nearly impossible. There are just so many of these guys, both past and present, that manage to find their way into plastic form. Maybe it was because, well, we all have our favorites and not so favorites, those of us that follow professional wrestling, and I didn't especially want to feel obliged to purchase a figure of a wrestling character that I didn't really like. That, and I simply had other action figure collecting priorities.
The current licensee for WWE action figures is Mattel, and they've done an excellent job. So, I finally decided to break down and bring a few of their figures into my collection. There was no reason in the world that I had to be any sort of completist, so I've decided to pick and choose here and there, and review them for you as I bring them in.
Mattel's most basic line of WWE action figures is known as the Superstars line. Primarily devoted to currently-active WWE superstars, it's their most affordable segment of their action figure line, and I suspect the most extensive. But just because it has the lowest price tag doesn't mean you're not getting a quality action figure. I can assure you that you are.
I was almost surprised, but certainly delighted, to see one recent addition to this particular series. A longtime player in the WWE who at best wrestles on a part-time basis these days, someone who's been active in the wrestling world since the mid-1990's, when I saw this figure of TRIPLE H, I knew I had to include him in my collection.
Let's consider a very abbreviated look at the man's career, and then consider his action figure.
Paul Michael Levesque (born July 27, 1969), better known by his ring name Triple H (an abbreviation of the ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley), currently works in the front office of WWE as the Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events, and appears as Triple H on television as the Chief Operating Officer and part-time wrestler.
Levesque began his wrestling career in the International Wrestling Federation as Terra Ryzing before joining World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1994. He changed his character to Jean-Paul Lévesque, a French Canadian aristocrat which would be similar to his character Hunter Hearst Helmsley, that he used in his early years with the WWE from early 1995 to late 1997.
He later abbreviated his name to Triple H and adopted an alternative image in the D-Generation X (DX) group. After the dissolution of DX, Triple H was pushed as a main event wrestler, winning several singles championships. As part of a storyline Triple H married Stephanie McMahon, who later became his real-life spouse. In 2003, Triple H formed another stable known as Evolution, and reformed DX with Shawn Michaels in 2006 and 2009. He is heavily involved in the writing process of WWE programming, and holds complete creative control over his television character's storylines, win/loss record, and championship reigns.
Overall, Levesque has won 23 championships in WWE. He is a thirteen-time world champion — the all-time record in the company — having won the WWE Championship eight times, and the World Heavyweight Championship five times. He was the first World Heavyweight Champion. In addition, Helmsley won the 1997 King of the Ring, the 2002 Royal Rumble, and was the second Grand Slam Championship winner.
In early 1994, Levesque signed a one-year contract with WCW. Levesque left for the WWE in January 1995 after WCW turned down his request to be pushed as a singles competitor.
Levesque was known backstage as one of the members of The Kliq, a group of wrestlers including Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman and Scott Hall, who were known for influencing Vince McMahon and the WWF creative team. It has been claimed that he was scheduled to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, but the victory was instead awarded to Stone Cold Steve Austin after the Madison Square Garden Incident, in which the Kliq broke character after a match to say goodbye to the departing Nash and Hall.
Helmsley's push resumed in 1997, when he won the 1997 King of the Ring tournament by defeating Mankind in the finals. Later that year, Shawn Michaels, Helmsley, Chyna and Rick Rude formed D-Generation X. This stable later became known for pushing the envelope, as Michaels and Helmsley made risqué promo. By that point, Helmsley had fully dropped the "blueblood snob" gimmick, appearing in T-shirts and leather. During this period, his ring name was shortened to simply Triple H.
After WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels was forced into temporary retirement due to a legitimate back injury sustained at the Royal Rumble, with Triple H taking over the leadership position in DX. He introduced the returning X-Pac the night after WrestleMania and joined forces with the New Age Outlaws. As 1998 went along, D-Generation X became more popular, turning the group from villains to fan-favorites.
During the May 21, 2001 episode of Raw, he suffered a legitimate and career-threatening injury. In the night's main event, he and Austin were defending the Tag Team Championship against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. At one point, Jericho had Austin trapped in the "Walls of Jericho". Triple H ran in to break it up, but just as he did, he suffered a tear in his left quadriceps muscle, causing it to come completely off the bone. Despite his inability to place any weight on his leg, Triple H was able to complete the match. He even allowed Jericho to put him in the "Walls of Jericho", a move that places considerable stress on the quadriceps. The tear required an operation, which was performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The rigorous rehabilitation process kept Triple H out of action for over eight months, completely missing The Invasion storyline after the WWE bought WCW.
Triple H returned to Raw as a face on January 7, 2002 at Madison Square Garden. He won the Royal Rumble and received an Undisputed WWF Championship match at WrestleMania X8. At WrestleMania X8, Triple H beat Chris Jericho for the Undisputed Championship.
In January 2003, Triple H formed a stable known as Evolution with Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista. Triple H and Ric Flair challenged RVD and Kane for the World Tag Team Titles, but they lost the match. The group was pushed on Raw from 2003 to 2004.
Shawn Michaels returned on the June 12, 2006 episode of Raw and soon reunited with Triple H to reform D-Generation X, turning Triple H into a fan-favorite once again for the first time since 2002. DX defeated the Spirit Squad at Vengeance in a 5-on-2 handicap match. They continued their feud with Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and the Spirit Squad for several weeks. They then defeated the Spirit Squad again on the July 18, 2006 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event in a 5-on-2 Elimination match. They then again defeated the McMahons at SummerSlam, withstanding the attack of several handpicked WWE superstars by Vince McMahon.
In January 2007, Triple H suffered a legitimate torn right quadriceps (similar to the one he suffered in 2001 but in the other leg) fifteen minutes into a match. Surgery was successfully performed on January 9, 2007 by Dr. James Andrews. Triple H made his return at SummerSlam, where he defeated Booker T. Two months later at No Mercy, Triple H was originally scheduled to face Umaga in a singles match. However, at the start of the night Triple H decided to challenge newly named WWE Champion Randy Orton, reigniting his rivalry with Orton that had been interrupted following his injury. Triple H won the match, winning his eleventh world championship and sixth WWE Championship.
On the February 16, 2009 episode of Raw, Triple H made an appearance aiding Stephanie and Shane McMahon, after they were attacked by Randy Orton. On the February 20 episode of SmackDown, Triple H was interviewed by Jim Ross, in the interview, footage was shown highlighting the events that occurred on the February 16 episode of Raw. Ross asked Triple H how he felt seeing that footage, in response, he broke character (after 5 years of marriage) by admitting that Vince McMahon is his father-in-law, that Shane is his brother-in-law, and that Stephanie is his wife, thus creating a rivalry between Triple H and Orton.
On the August 10, 2009 episode of Raw, video segments aired in which Triple H met with Michaels at an office cafeteria in Texas where he was working as a chef; throughout the segments, Triple H would try to convince Michaels return to WWE from hiatus. After several incidents during the segments, Michaels agreed to team with Triple H to face The Legacy at SummerSlam. On the August 17 episode of Raw, Michaels and Triple H officially reunited as DX. Their first match after reuniting was against Legacy at SummerSlam, which they won.
On the March 1, 2010 episode of Raw they lost their rematch for the titles which would be their last televised match before Michaels retired following his match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Michaels and Triple H had a non-wrestling reunion at the 2010 Tribute to the Troops.
On February 21, Triple H eliminated WWE Champion Sheamus in an Elimination Chamber match, though he would not win the title himself. Sheamus attacked him weeks later, setting up a match between the two at WrestleMania XXVI, where Triple H was victorious. Also at WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels lost to The Undertaker and was forced to retire, but while giving a farewell speech the next night.
On the February 21, 2011 episode of Raw, Triple H made his return to the WWE by interrupting the return of The Undertaker. He challenged him to a match at WrestleMania XXVII, which later became a No Holds Barred match. A week later he put Sheamus through the announcer table with a Pedigree, in retaliation for Sheamus giving him a 10 month injury. At WrestleMania XXVII Triple H lost which extended Undertaker's undefeated streak to 19-0, however Undertaker was carried from the ring in a stretcher whereas Triple H left the ring of his own volition.
At the end of the July 18, 2011 episode of Raw, Triple H returned on behalf of WWE's board of directors to relieve his father-in-law Vince McMahon of his duties. This was followed by the announcement that he had been assigned to take over as Chief Operating Officer of the WWE
Triple H returned on the January 30, 2012 edition of Raw, and was at one point interrupted by the returning Undertaker. After initially refusing the rematch as he did not want to tarnish Undertaker's legacy, Triple H accepted the challenge after being called a coward who lives in Shawn Michaels' shadow, on the condition their rematch be contested inside Hell in a Cell. Triple H went on to lose this match at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Triple H returned on the April 30 episode of Raw, when he refused to give into Brock Lesnar's unreasonable contract demands, resulting in Lesnar attacking him and storyline breaking his arm. Upon his return two weeks later, Triple H was confronted by Lesnar's legal representative, Paul Heyman, who announced Lesnar was filing a lawsuit against WWE for breach of contract.
At the No Way Out pay-per-view in June, Triple H challenged Lesnar, who was not present, to a match at SummerSlam, which Heyman refused on Lesnar's behalf the following night on Raw. At Raw 1000, Stephanie McMahon managed to goad Heyman into accepting her husband's challenge against Lesnar. At SummerSlam, Lesnar defeated Triple H via submission after once again breaking his arm. On the August 27 episode of Raw, Triple H was supposed to address his potential retirement, but he did not make a definitive decision as he merely announced he was unsure of his future. WWE portrayed his speech as "an emotional farewell of sorts... seemingly capping his epic in-ring career".
In 2010, Levesque's role as an Executive Senior Advisor was officially formalized as he was given an office at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Levesque was named Executive Vice President, Talent in 2011. In this role he oversees the talent relations and talent development departments, training of performers and management of worldwide recruitment. In addition to his talent duties, Levesque has worked as a director and producer of the creative direction and storylines of WWE's programming.
This is, need it be said, a very basic overview of the man's career.
One would hope that we have not seen the last of Triple H in the ring. If nothing else, his last match with Brock Lesnar was a rather inglorious defeat, especially after his spectacular match with the Undertaker at the previous WrestleMania. Given that Triple H has creative control over his in-ring character, one has to wonder why he'd want to end such a spectacular career on a note like that. Come on, Hunter, you've got a few more in you.
So, how's the figure? Outstanding! I have found that I have two main criteria for bringing a WWE figure into my collection. First off, is how good the facial likeness is. There's a couple of WWE superstars that I would very much like to add to my collection, but to date, I haven't seen any versions of them that I thought were especially good likenesses.
I suspect that it's no easy feat to sculpt these characters. It's one thing to sculpt a figure that's an entirely fictional character. Mattel can sculpt a figure of He-Man, or Batman, or Skeletor, or the Riddler, or whomever, and it doesn't have to look specifically like a person, as long as it reasonably resembles the character. Hasbro can sculpt G.I. Joes and all they have to do is match the design. Along the way, some G.I. Joes were designed to look like certain Hasbro employees, but there's a difference between that and getting a figure to match someone who's as much in the public eye as the WWE superstars.
Even sculpting an actor playing a role is a little different. If a figure of Obi-Wan Kenobi isn't quite a perfect match for Ewan MacGregor (or Alec Guinness as the case may be), as long as it looks enough like Obi-Wan, it'll pass muster. But the WWE superstars look pretty much the same outside the ring as in. The characters they portray may be a bit over the top, but for the most part, there's not much difference in their physical appearance.
So one of my main criteria for any of these Mattel WWE Superstars figures is -- how much does it look like the actual individual? My second criteria is facial expression. I'm not really interested in anyone with an extreme facial expression. Now, certainly, these people are capable of some very interesting expressions. But it's one thing for them to briefly show that expression as part of some sort of ring entrance gimmick, or reaction to the crowd, or to another wrestler's comment, and it's another matter for a figure to have that facial expression permanently sculpted in place, forever unchanging. That just gets a tad annoying.
While I haven't paid all that close attention to the WWE line from Mattel until recently, I certainly know that Triple H has been a part of it. However, until I discovered this recent Superstars figure, the only other Triple H figure that I'd seen had this wide open, yelling mouth. Now, that particular expression is indeed part of Triple H's ring entrance, and certainly, it was a very capable sculpt and a good likeness. But it wasn't particularly an expression that I wanted to look at perpetually. So I took a pass on that particular figure.
All the more reason why I'm so pleased with this Triple H figure. He has a far more agreeable facial expression. Triple H has what I would call rather prominent features. His brow and nose are quite distinct. The brow, especially gives him the ability to assume a considerable scowl, and that's the expression that this figure's headsculpt has, and as such, it looks very much like him. The figure has very deepset eyes and an expression on his face that looks like he's just picked you as his next opponent and somehow you've already managed to do something to tick him off.
Triple H's facial hair has changed over the years, but there's usually been something there. This figure has been given a full mustache and beard, neatly trimmed and not too long. His hair is very long, however, which, until recently, Triple H was certainly known for. At the moment working more in the offices than in the ring, it wasn't too long after his loss to Brock Lesnar and his "am I or am I not retiring" speech that Triple H got a decidedly short haircut. He's been seen on television with it a couple of times at this point, and while it may be his current hairstyle, it's not the one he's best known for. I am pleased that the figure maintained Triple H's lengthy locks.
What surprises me, though, is that as far as I can tell, the hair is sculpted as part of his head. It's been my experience that generally when an action figure, male or female, has especially long hair, that hair is usually sculpted and molded as a separate piece, and attached during assembly. It's usually possible to detect this if you know what to look for. This goes back at least all the way to The Baroness, a 1984 figure in Hasbro's G.I. Joe line, who was created first for the comics and the animated series, and Hasbro had little choice but to figure out how to make it work on an action figure. It's been a common practice since.
However, so far as I can determine, Triple H's head is a single piece, hair and all. He might have gotten away with it in part because his hair is brushed back from his forehead and past his ears, and is really only very long in the back, although the sculpt of the figure has some of it hanging down over the front of his shoulders. This has not only resulted in an impressive molding job, but assembly, as well.
Triple H is a fairly tall individual, even for a WWE superstar, and the figures are being created with respective heights in mind. Triple H is very slightly shorter than the figure of Sheamus, who's a notably tall individual, but is slightly taller than more "average" height figures such as John Cena or The Miz. The Triple H figure is precisely 7 inches in height.
While some WWE Superstar figures do share some body parts, as one would expect, given the expense of creating molds, I haven't determined yet who Triple H might "share" with. Triple H has an imposing muscular physique, and this is certainly reflected on the action figure. I've been impressed with Mattel's overall line of WWE figures, in that they've crafted a wide range of body types. This isn't DC Universe or Masters of the Universe. Not everyone has an idealized muscular build.
Triple H is wearing black trunks, with one of his various emblems imprinted on the front and back in silver and white. This one, among other elements, incorporates a skull and a couple of sledge hammers, a device that Triple H has been known to employ against opponents from time to time.
The figure has black elbow and knee pads, which were molded separately and attached during assembly. They're flexible enough so that they don't hinder the figure's articulation to any significant degree.
Triple H's wrists and portions of his hands are painted to look as though they're wrapped in white athletic tape. Interestingly, there's more on his right wrist than on his left. The detail is extremely impressive and extensive here, right down to small white stripes on the first two fingers of each hand.
Triple H's wrestling wardrobe is completed by black boots, with very impressive sculpted detail on the laces, and emblems imprinted in white on the outsides of the boots.
Interestingly, there's not a lot of painted detail on the figure. I'd say most of the paint is on the head -- the eyes, which are superbly well done and very precise, and the hair, including the facial hair, also very well done. The rest of the paint is the white around the wrists, and the black portions of the trunks that are on the legs. Oddly, these black portions seem to have been hand-painted, but neatly enough.
One thing Triple H doesn't have that a lot of wrestlers do is tattoos. These are customarily imprinted on the figure, and certain individuals, such as Randy Orton, CM Punk, or Rey Mysterio, probably give the production crews at Mattel's factories absolute fits in this regard. They caught a break with Triple H. The imprintings are limited to his trunks and boots.
Articulation is excellent. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot swivels, and ankles. One thing that is noticeable about the articulation is that there is no mid-torso articulation, and the legs do not have any outward movement. Here is what differentiates these more basic "Superstars" figures from the more expensive "Elite Collection". That's where you'll find mid-torso and outward leg movement. However, I, for one, am disinclined to pay that much more for just a moderate increase in articulation. I don't expect any of these figures to win a dance competition or anything. The level of articulation that they have is very agreeable to me, and their price tag certainly is. I have no complaints about the Elite Collection. It's to scale with these figures, and it's a perfectly fine line, and I even picked up a couple of them quite some time ago (Shawn Michaels and Undertaker). But it's not in my price range to the same degree that I can manage for these Superstars figures.
So, what's my final word? The WWE Superstars line is a superb way for a WWE fan who also enjoys action figures to bring a superb series of 6-7" scale figures of his favorite WWE characters into his action figure collection. They're very well made, certainly affordable for their size and design, excellent likenesses, and admittedly the line has a focus on currently-active WWE superstars.
That's all the more reason why I was surprised, but also very pleased, to see Triple H as a part of it. And this is an excellent figure of him. If you're a fan of the WWE, and of Triple H in particular, then you will be as pleased with this figure of him as I am.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of TRIPLE H definitely has my highest recommendation!