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By Thomas Wheeler

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 REY MYSTERIO'S turn, as part of the second series of these cool figures.

Rey Mysterio was born Oscar Gutierrez, and hails from San Diego, California, although he has Mexican roots, and the early part of his career was spent there, in the popular "lucha libre" style of wrestling. In the United States, he had a brief tenure in the original ECW, a fairly lengthy and well-regarded run in the WCW, and has become a popular wrestler in the WWE since the dissolution of the WCW.

After his brief run in ECW, he came on the scene in WCW in 1996. He debuted in WCW at The Great American Bash, challenging Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship. Misterio had a great showing in the match and he performed his great high-flying maneuvers during the match but Malenko cheated to win the match and retain his title. At Bash at the Beach 1996, he defeated longtime rival Psicosis in a #1 contender's match to get a shot at the Cruiserweight title. The next night on WCW Monday Nitro, he quickly made an impact in WCW by defeating Dean Malenko for his first WCW Cruiserweight Championship, only three weeks after his debut in the company. He reigned as champion for three months which included title defenses against the likes of The Ultimate Dragon, former champion Malenko and Super Calo before he lost the title back to Malenko at Halloween Havoc 1996.

Mysterio was one of a fauirly large stable of Mexican wrestlers brought into WCW for the sake of their new Cruiserweight Division, which was highlighted by a high-flying, extremely acrobatic style of wrestling that hadn't really been seen extensively in the United States before. Mysterio was also one of a handful of Mexican wrestlers who constantly wore an ornate and decorative mask. The mask holds far greater significance in Mexican wrestling than in American wrestling, but its significance was explained to viewers on frequent occasions.

On the January 15, 1998 edition of Thunder, Misterio defeated Juventud Guerrera for his third WCW Cruiserweight Championship which he lost only nine days later to Chris Jericho at Souled Out 1998. After the match, Jericho continued the beating using a toolbox found at ringside. This would put Mysterio on the sidelines for six months before making his return at Bash at the Beach 1998 where he defeated Jericho for the championship.

Later that year, Eddie Guerrero formed a Mexican stable known as the Latino World Order (a spin off of New World Order) that included nearly every luchador in the promotion. Mysterio continually refused to join and feuded with Guerrero and LWO members.

At SuperBrawl IX, Mysterio, alongside with Konnan, lost a tag team "Hair vs. Mask match" against the The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) forcing Mysterio to remove his mask. After the match, he phoned his uncle to tell him the news. Mysterio has publicly expressed his disappointment over being unmasked, "the fans wanted Rey Mysterio with the mask and losing it hurt me a lot."

Mysterio would later become a "giant killer" by scoring upset victories over towering, powerhouse performers like Kevin Nash, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Scott Norton. If memory serves, he even beat The Giant (Paul Wight, the future Big Show of the WWE) on one occasion.

In June 2002, Rey signed with the WWE, and promos were aired hyping his debut. Vince McMahon also requested that Mysterio wear his mask again. While this was technically a severe violation of Mexican wrestling tradition -- a wrestler in Mexico who replaces his mask after losing it can be fined or even lose his license, Mysterio agreed, perhaps grateful to be able to restore the image by which he was best known.

Mysterio was immediately thrown into the mix, teaming with John Cena and Edge, feuding with the likes of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. He then became extensively involved in the WWE's Cruiserweght Division.

Rey subsequently switched over to the WWE's Tag Team division, teaming up first with Rob Van Dam, and then, after RVD was injured, with his longtime friend Eddie Guerrero. This partnership ultimately led into one of the more disturbing storylines in Rey's on-screen career, after Eddie not only turned heel and turned against his partner, but claimed that Rey's real-life son Dominik, was in fact his child. Dominik was involved in this storyline, as well. Honestly, it was a little disturbing to watch.

In 2006, Rey saw what would have to be considered the high point of his career to date: At Royal Rumble 2006, Mysterio won the 2006 Royal Rumble match entering in the number 2 position, and later eliminating Randy Orton to win the match. By winning the Royal Rumble, Mysterio earned a World Heavyweight title shot at that year's WrestleMania. By lasting over 62 minutes in the match, Mysterio also set a Royal Rumble record for longevity and size. Rey dedicated his performance at the Royal Rumble to Eddie Guerrero. After his win, he was congratulated by Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Chavo Guerrero and Rob Van Dam - all close friends and family of Eddie Guerrero.

At WrestleMania 22, Rey faced off against both Randy Orton and then - World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle. Mysterio won the match by pinning Randy Orton using the West Coast Pop to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. It was an astounding victory for someone who, because of his relatively small size -- Rey is 5'6" and weighs around 165 pounds -- is almost perpetually considered an underdog.

Rey's career since that time has unfortunately been one of costly injuries. He injured his knee, and was put in an "I Quit" match against Chavo Guerrero, which he lost after Chavo brutally attacked the knee, giving Rey the time he needed away from the ring to have medical treatment and time to heal. He successfully returned after that, but in early 2008, was once again forced away from the ring, after a brutal feud with Edge and SmackDown manager Vickie Guererro, when he tore his biceps, an injury once again requiring surgery and a lengthy rehab period. As of this writing, Rey has just recently returned, and was part of the annual "Draft" which seeks to shake things up on the various shows by swapping certain wrestlers around. Rey Mysterio ended up on RAW, a decided departure for this largely SmackDown based superstar, and has just returned to action, taking on Italian loudmouth Santino Marella.

Let's consider the Rey Mysterio figure. Honestly, it can't have been that easy for Jakks Pacific to decide how to make this figure. Although Rey wears a make with a consistent design, and his current ring garb traditionally consists of loose-fitting trousers with elbow pads and gloves, the color range of these outfits Rey has come up with, including some based on established super-heroes including, but hardly limited to, Flash, Daredevil, and Spider-Man, would indicate to me that the man's wardrobe probably requires its own warehouse somewhere. Which one do you choose for an action figure?

Interestingly, Jakks Pacific chose an outfit that is primarily orange. I find this interesting from two aspects. One, I don't offhand recall Rey wearing orange all that often, although it's entirely possible I've missed a show or a PPV here and there. Secondly, you just don't see the color orange pop up in the action figure world all that often for some reason. There's not a lot of super-heroes that wear orange (Benjamin J. Grimm and Aquaman notwithstanding). It's not a color that has turned up that much in Star Wars or G.I. Joe. I don't even think it's been all that prevalent in Transformers. So it's an interesting decision from that standpoint.

However -- it looks good on Rey. The figure is wearing a mask based on Rey's traditional design. This is a headpiece with eyes that are open and look rather Spider-Man-like in their shape, especially when the outline color is black, as is the case here. There are two flared wing- like designs to either side of the face. I'm honestly not certain if these are supposed to be flames or birds. There is a large ornate cross on the forehead. I do not know if Rey Mysterio is a Christian. Still, I'm not going to complain about seeing a Christian cross on a toy, given how seldom it happens.

Rey tends to wear contact lenses that make his eyes appear very pale, and this is also reflected on the figure. All due credit to Jakks, there is some very find painted detail on this figure, and the paled-out eyes are definitely part of it.

Rey Mysterio is wearing somewhat baggy orange trousers. There is an ornate design of apparent Mexican origin imprinted in black and white on the right leg, and the numbers "6-1-9" on the left leg. This is the name of Rey's most popular ring move. The "6-1-9" happens when Rey has stunned his opponent and left him hanging through the ring ropes. Then, in a considerably acrobatic move, Rey launches himself off of the ropes on the opposite side of the ring, grabs the ropes next to his opponent, swings through and back around, kicking his opponent, essentially from the outside of the ring, generally causing him to fall all the way back inside, and leaving him stunned enough for Rey to pin him.

The move is called the "6-1-9" for no other reason that "619" is the telephone area code of the San Diego area where Rey Mysterio is from. Unofficially, on the rare occasions when Rey has been in either a tag team or handicap match and has leveled two opponents at the same time with this move, it's called the "1238", although some commentators need to do their math a bit, because I've also heard it called the "1218" and the "1438".

Rey Mysterio also has an extensive number of tattoos. Now, this is not something that is going to be that easy to duplicate on such a small figure. On the other hand, given the number of wrestlers who do have ornate tattoos these days, Jakks needed to figure out a way to do them. And on Rey, they've done a generally good job. About the only place Jakks has had some trouble getting tattoos to work is on the shoulders, because of the design of the articulation point. Inevitably any figure whose real-life counterpart has a tattoo on the shoulders, including Mysterio, ends up with that tattoo being split across the articulation point on the figure. Still, credit due to Jakks for even managing as much as they do.

Rey also has the word "MEXICAN" tattooed on his abdomen. Here is also a spot that was apparently a little troublesome for Jakks, perhaps because of the curve of the abdomen as it heads into the mid-torso articulation point. I've seen a few of these Rey figures where it wasn't imprinted very well.

Rey also has a huge tattoo of -- something -- on his back. I really don't have any idea what it is. But it takes up the better part of his back. Jakks did a very good job duplicating this very complex tattoo.

And they're reasonably up to date, too. Rey's most recent tattoo (unless he's gotten some more during his rehab) is a tattooed chain around his neck. It is present and accounted for.

Articulation of the figure is excellent. Jakks has come up with a number of standardized body sections to use on these "Build 'n' Brawl" figures whenever possible. Rey's baggy trousers sort of precluded using anyone else's legs for this figure, but the upper torso and arms are clearly of the established molds. Fortunately, the design is excellent. Rey is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The figure is wearing rubbery elbow bads which restrict the elbow movement a bit, but not severely.

The name "Build 'n' Brawl" comes from the fact that each figure in any given assortment -- and there are six figures in an assortment -- comes with a part to complete a small wrestling ring. Those parts include four ring segments, the ring posts, and the ring ropes. Rey comes with part of the ring itself. Unfortunately, the assembled ring is a little too small, scale-wise, but it looks decent enough.

So what's my final word here? Well, overall, I'm impressed with the entire Build 'n' Brawl line. Unfortunately, I know it won't last. As I said at the start of this review, Jakks Pacific has lost the WWE license, and in the next year or so, it will be taken over by Mattel. As to whether they turn out anything like these Build 'n' Brawl figures, that remains to be seen. However, at the same time, Jakks plans a fairly extensive line of these Build 'n' Brawl figures for as long as possible.

And they are impressive. They're well made, they're a good size, and they have excellent detail and articulation. And Jakks is doing a generous number of the top wrestlers currently active in the WWE, the best known names presently found on their lineup of shows -- RAW, SmackDown, and ECW.

And although Rey is currently sidelined, certainly he is a prominent part of the current WWE roster, and I am confident that he will return to the ring as soon as possible. Certainly, he belongs as part of this cool collection, which is an excellent way for a wrestling fan who has been reluctant to get involved with Jakks' main, and voluminous, line of WWE action figures, to have some WWE action figures in his collection.

The entire WWE Build 'n' Brawl line, certainly including REY MYSTERIO, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!