REVIEW: WWE ELITE SERIES SHAWN MICHAELS
With Mattel's acquisition of the WWE toy license, one of the new action figure lines to emerge in the massive and diverse array of new WWE toys is the WWE ELITE COLLECTION. These superb action figures have enhanced articulation -- not that the standard WWE figures from Mattel come up short in the articulation department, they certainly do not -- a display stand, and a few select additional accessories.
I haven't picked up a lot of these figures, but one of these that I definitely decided to add to my collection was -- well, he's been known as the Show-Stopper, the Main Eventer, and Mr. Wrestlemania. But he is perhaps best known as the Heartbreak Kid -- SHAWN MICHAELS!
Let's take a look at the considerable history of this hugely popular WWE Superstar...
After training under Mexican wrestler Jose Lothario, Michaels debuted in the Mid-South Wrestling and Texas All-Star Wrestling (TASW) promotions in October 1984 at the age of 19. He also worked for Central States Wrestling. There, he and tag team partner Marty Jannetty defeated The Batten Twins for the Central States Tag Team Championship. Michaels also made several appearances in the Dallas, Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling throughout 1985.
Michaels made his national-level debut at the age of twenty in American Wrestling Association (AWA), once again teaming with Marty Jannetty. The pair were billed as "The Midnight Rockers" and held the AWA World Tag Team Championship. In 1987, The Rockers were signed by the WWE, then the WWF. They were fired two weeks later, for a bar incident (a misunderstanding, according to Michaels' autobiography). They then returned to AWA, but were re-signed by WWF a year later.
The Rockers redebuted at a WWF live event on July 7, 1988. The team proved popular and was a mid-card stalwart of television and pay-per-view shows for the next two years. The Rockers continued their partnership, eventually splitting on December 2, 1991 during an incident on Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's televised Barber Shop talk show promotional segment. Michaels superkicked Jannetty and threw him through a glass window on the set of Beefcake's talk show. Jannetty disappeared from the company, and Michaels became a villain.
Michaels adopted the nickname "The Heartbreak Kid." Along with his new name came a new gimmick as a vain, cocky villain. During that period, Michaels normally wrestled during the first half of live events, and his departure was announced with the words, "Shawn Michaels has left the building" (alluding to the phrase "Elvis has left the building").
On August 28, 1994, Michaels and "bodyguard" Diesel captured the Tag Team Championship. The next day, at SummerSlam, Diesel lost the Intercontinental Championship to Razor Ramon when Michaels accidentally superkicked Diesel. This triggered a split between Michaels and Diesel, a storyline that was drawn out until Survivor Series that November. Michaels went on to win the Royal Rumble in 1995, which set up a championship grudge match at WrestleMania XI against Diesel. After this, Michaels took time off, because WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wanted Michaels to return as a fan favorite.
Michaels returned to the ring, as a fan favorite, in May 1995. He went on to defeat Jeff Jarrett in July at the In Your House pay-per-view event, to win his third Intercontinental Championship. This led to a title defense against Razor Ramon at SummerSlam, in a ladder match, which Michaels won.
After taking some time off to heal from legitimate injuries, Michaels returned to WWF at the Royal Rumble match in 1996, which he wound up winning for a second year in a row, to receive a WWF Championship match in the main event at WrestleMania XII. Around this time, Jose Lothario became Michaels' on-screen manager. At WrestleMania XII, Michaels defeated Bret Hart in their sixty minute Iron Man match.
In the summer of 1997, Michaels joined forces with real-life friend, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Hunter's then-girlfriend, Chyna, and Rick Rude to form the stable, D-Generation X (DX). This marked the beginning of the WWF Attitude Era. Also in 1997 was the infamous "Montreal Screwjob" incident involving Michaels and Bret Hart.
At the 1998 Royal Rumble, Michaels received a legitimate back injury in a Casket match against The Undertaker. Michaels took a back body drop to the outside of the ring and smashed his lower back on the casket, causing him to herniate two discs and crush one completely. This forced Michaels into temporary retirement after losing the WWF Championship to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV. In early 1999, Michaels re-joined DX as a fan favorite, but disappeared from WWF television for a few months to have back surgery, and by the time he had returned, DX had broken up.
In 2002, Michaels returned to wrestling and was brought into the New World Order (nWo) by Kevin Nash as a new member of the group. Over the next several years, he would be entered into feuds with Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan, and even his longtime friend, Triple H.
In 2006, a series of events took place which suggested a reunion of Michaels and Triple H as DX. They began at WrestleMania 22, where both Michaels and Triple H performed the DX-signature "crotch chop" during their matches. On Raw, the two continued to deliver chops, as Michaels feuded with Vince McMahon and Triple H went for the WWE Championship, repeatedly butting heads with Vince McMahon in the process. On the June 12 episode of Raw, DX officially reunited. During Triple H's gauntlet match, which had him compete against the Spirit Squad. Michaels came in to help Triple H, and the two did the DX "crotch chops."
DX would then take on the team of Edge and Randy Orton, and later, operating as a singles wrestler, Michaels would enter into feuds with Orton, John Cena, and Chris Jericho. At WrestleMania XXIV, he had a match with the legendary Ric Flair, which he won, resulting in Flair's retirement from the WWE.
At WrestleMania XXV, Michaels had a match with the Undertaker, which the Undertaker won, defeating the man known as "Mr. WrestleMania", and maintaining his undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Michaels then took several months off.
Michaels returned to WWE programming in a series of segments that aired on the August 10, 2009 episode of Raw. Triple H convinced Michaels to return to WWE and reform DX. Michaels agreed to team with Triple H to face Legacy (Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase) at SummerSlam. At the pay-per-view event, DX defeated Legacy. The two teams would exchange victories, with their feud concluding in October. Two months later, at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, DX defeated Chris Jericho and The Big Show to win the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.
At the annual "Slammy Awards" show, a mock awards show staged by the WWE, Shawn Michaels' Wrestlemania match with the Undertaker was given an award, and Michaels said that he was convinced he could beat the Undertaker, and challenged him to a rematch at WrestleMania XXVI.
On the January 4, 2010 episode of Raw, Michaels buried the hatchet with long-time rival Bret Hart, as they shook hands and hugged in the ring. In contrast to the storylines featured on the show, this was in fact a real-life reconciliation which laid to rest animosities surrounding the Montreal Screwjob. While some cast doubts on its sincerity, Hart has confirmed that it was indeed genuine.
DX lost the Unified Tag Team Championship in a Triple Threat match to the team of The Miz and Big Show on the February 8 episode of Raw. During this time, Undertaker had refused Michaels' request for a WrestleMania rematch. At the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Michaels cost The Undertaker the World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. With this, Undertaker granted Michaels his request, with the stipulation that if Michaels lost, he would be forced to retire.
At WrestleMania XXVI, March 28, 2010, Michaels lost to the Undertaker and, as a result, retired. The following night, on the March 29 episode of Raw, Michaels gave an emotional farewell speech, departing with the familiar sentence, "Shawn Michaels has left the building." He was greeted on his way up the ramp by longtime friend Triple H, who took two of the popular DX souvenir "glow-sticks", and placed them on the ramp in the traditional "X".
Given the pre-determined nature of the outcomes of wrestling matches, it's certainly reasonable to believe that it was Michaels' choice to retire, wanting one more superb match on his way out. One of the most prominent stated reasons for Michaels' retirement is the need to heal from a number of lingering injuries. Online research indicated that he's certainly had no shortage of them over the years. While I cannot imagine anyone begrudging Michaels his retirement, desire to spend more time with his family and not incur further injuries, he is certainly sorely missed from the WWE by his fans, myself included.
Those of you interested in learning more about Shawn Michaels, I recommend the WikiPedia entry, a book Shawn wrote and published several years ago, or the DVD of Shawn's career titled "My Journey".
So, after all of that, how's the figure? Really superbly well done, I must say.
One of the biggest hurdles to jump in a line such as this is getting the facial likeness of the individuals done well. Unlike lines such as DC Universe Classics or Masters of the Universe Classics, which are open to some degree of artistic interpretation, Mattel has to get these WWE figures to look like real-life individuals. I don't imagine that's easily done.
As one would expect, some are better than others. The same was true when Jakks Pacific held the license. Arguably its true anytime any toy company does figures that are based on a real-life concept, whether it's wrestlers, other professional sports, or movies. An Indiana Jones figure had better look something like Harrison Ford. If you're going to do a movie-based Superman, then he'd better look something like Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh. And a figure of a professional wrestler had better look like that individual does when he appears in the ring.
With Mattel's line, I've seen some hits, and some -- well, I hesitate to call them "misses", but I've seen a few that could've been a good bit better than they were. In the case of the Shawn Michaels figure, I'd definitely call it a hit. The absolute worst thing I can say about it is that the eyes look a little too small, but they are not drastically so, and the overall likeness from just about any angle you'd care to view the headsculpt certainly looks like Shawn Michaels. It's not going to be mistaken for anyone else, it's not any sort of "generic" headsculpt. This is definitely Shawn Michaels, and the sculptors should be commended.
Michaels' expression is relatively neutral. I appreciate this. I've seen too many wrestling figures over the years that, in my opinion, were somewhat spoiled by an extreme expression. I saw one of Triple H one time that had him giving that grimace that he gives during his entrance. Okay, this is an expression that Triple H uses. But he doesn't maintain it during the entire match. I prefer something more reasonable, a little more neutral. The Shawn Michaels figure definitely has this.
Michaels wears his hair fairly long in the back. The headsculpt dealt with this very effectively by making his hair below a certain portion that's tied off a separate attachment. It looks good, and it works well with the overall sculpt and design. I might wish that the attached piece had been made from a more flexible plastic, as it is a slight hindrance to his head articulation, but not that seriously.
The only other observation I would make is that, more often than not, Shawn Michaels has appeared with a few days' worth of facial stubble. The figure is clean-shaven. I'm pleased about that, since in my opinion and experience with other figures, this just isn't something that can all that effectively be painted on or sculpted on. It's just too small, and just doesn't work. And -- it still looks like Shawn, certainly.
So how's the rest of the figure? Just as impressive. One of the things that Mattel assured WWE fans that they wanted to do was to design figures that were properly proportioned and to scale with one another. Not all wrestlers are alike, certainly. You have the super-giants like The Big Show and The Great Khali, really big guys like Undertaker and Kane, a fair assortment of, shall we say, standard-sized individuals (although that standard is still bigger than most people), with a fair disparity of height within this group, down to the somewhat smaller such as Rey Mysterio.
Shawn Michaels, listed as being 6'1", is in that fairly standard group. And consider that the height of his Elite figure is almost precisely 6-3/4". I measured my Undertaker figure, and he's about 7-1/2". So Mattel is certainly creating individual figures here.
Michaels' overall physical build is muscular, but he's not a superhero powerhouse. If you stand him next to a DC Universe Classics figure, and they're just about the same height, you can readily see the difference. The DC figure has a certain "idealized" physique that while it certainly works within the DC Universe, wouldn't work as well within real life. And while "real life" may not be a term often associated with the world of professional wrestling, the fact remains that the WWE does obviously use real people, and their physiques are going to be such accordingly. Michaels isn't the biggest or the strongest that's ever been in the WWE, but he's no slouch, either, and I believe that his figure represents him well.
The Shawn Michaels figure is not wearing a shirt, although it does come with one, but it is wearing trousers that are molded to the figure. These are the rather wide-based trousers that Michaels traditionally wears to the ring. For this figure, they've been molded in black, and have an ornate pattern of silver, pale gold, and a bit of brown painted on them. The detail is really amazing, and even goes over the articulation points with great precision. I find myself of the distinct impression that these decorations were painted AFTER the figure -- or at least the figure's legs -- were assembled, which I suspect is somewhat unusual.
The precision of the detail is really quite remarkable, right down to simulated zippers on the sides of the legs. Michaels is also wearing a wide black belt with a metal buckle, also superbly detailed and painted. The back of the belt reads "HBK". Michaels' boots are black, with silver toes and heels.
Michaels has a single tattoo imprinted on his upper left arm. Given how -- decorated -- some WWE Superstars can be (it seems that every time Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, or Batista take any length of time off, they come back with more ornamentation), this was probably a distinct break if not relief to whoever has the responsibility of making sure that these are carried out properly on the figures. "Just one small tattoo on his upper arm? Great! Love it!"
Michaels' additional accessories for his Elite figure include his trademark cowboy-type hat, which has an "HBK" logo on the front, and a torn shirt, made of fabric, in dark blue, with a very ornate design in white and gold on the front, that features the initials "HBK", a sword, and the words, "True Souldier" on it. That's not a typo. Michaels is a devout Christian and often expresses his faith. He did so in his farewell speech, and on the figure, the trousers also have crosses as part of their design.
Articulation of the figure is excellent. Michaels is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word here? I'm very pleased to have this figure, and am very impressed by him, as well. "The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels" may have "left the building", but he hasn't left the hearts of his fans, and fortunately for those of us who are into action figures, he hasn't left the toy aisles, either. I'd like to think that someday, he may return to the WWE. I suspect for the moment that is unlikely, however. But there's no reason he can't join a WWE Elite Collection, and this is an excellent rendition of him.
The WWE ELITE COLLECTION figure of SHAWN MICHAELS definitely has my highest recommendation -- and the real Heartbreak Kid definitely has my thanks!