Monday, September 28, 2015

REVIEW: WWE Create-A-Superstar Gladiator Pack

WWE Create-A-Superstar is a new line of figures from Mattel. The concept is fairly simple: allow kids to assemble and mix-and-match an assortment of heads, legs and accessories to create their own wrestlers, similar to the CAW modes that have been a staple of wrestling videogames for a number of years. But rather than simply offer an assortment of trunks, elbow pads and boots, Mattel has gone one better by re-imagining the superstars of the WWE roster as quasi-superheroes. For example, Real American Hulk Hogan includes accessories that allow you to create a patriotism-themed superhero; Sheamus is now a true Celtic Warrior, complete with mail shirt, crown and ax. And then we have the subject of today's Review, Triple H, whose look takes a few cues from his Wrestlemania 22 entrance...

Gladiator Pack
The Create-A-Superstar figures come in two flavors: retailing at around $13 are the ''basic'' figures, which include a core figure with a couple of accessories. There's really not much you can do with these figures by themselves but grab a few and you'll quickly be able to start switching and swapping parts.

Triple H, however, being the King of Kings, comes in a delicious $20 Pack flavor. That means not only do you get the basic figure but the set also includes additional accessories to allow for a greater level of customization over the basic sets.

Let's begin with a look at the basic Triple H figure, stripped of all his accessories.
Even though the shootfighter foot-wraps and metal vambraces aren't the sort of thing Aitch usually wears, it's still a pretty good basic Triple H figure

I'll quickly run down the articulation before we move onto the swap function. The figure sports a neck ball-joint, ball-jointed shoulders, twist-and-bend elbow joints, twist wrists, twist waist, ball-jointed hips*, single-jointed knees, calf-cut twists and single-jointed ankles. That's actually better - ab crunch joint aside - than what the basic WWE figures offer, so there's certainly plenty of scope for movement and the figure isn't lacking in the pose-ability department.

* Although not technically a ''ball-joint'' I've described it as such because the peg-and-port system used is identical in terms of movement range to the standard ball-joint.

So what about the mix-and-match/figure assembly features?
Swapping parts is a very simple process: simply pop out the piece you wish to replace and then snap the new piece on (or in.) If you've seen Hasbro's Marvel Mashers then you'll know what to expect. In the case of the Create-A-Superstar figures, there's a fair amount of customization available, with ''pop off/out'' pieces at the head, shoulders, waist, hips and calves. In addition - and unlike Hasbro's offerings - these figures also include soft rubber accessories that can be combined with the build. As you can see in the above image, I've swapped-out his chest, popped on his shoulder plate and added his warrior loincloth to create a new look.
I really dig this swapping feature. It reminds me a lot of the Denys Fisher Cyborg/Muton/Android transformation feature (particularly Android, as these figures use an almost identical system for their hip joints.) So that's a definite bonus in my books, as I really enjoy toys that echo the ones I played with as a kid.

The pack features two heads (regular Aitch and full helm), two torsos (bare and armored), two arms, a groin piece, two legs, four feet (two shootfighter foot-wraps, two furry barbarian boots), a shoulder plate, a cape and a shield. That allows for a pretty good range of custom builds and the extra pieces will, I'm sure, come in handy when I add a few more figures to my collection.
It's also interesting to note that the shoulder armor can also double as a death-mask head accessory. It looks a little goofy and may not even be the actual intention of the designers for it to be used in this manner but, as you can see, it's entirely possible to do so, should you so wish.
The sculpting is very good, overall. There's no mistaking that this is Triple H, although the figure's hair is a little longer than the real Triple H's, but that's a minor point.

Muscle definition is also good and doesn't descend into the realms of over-the-top superhero. The inclusion of the trunks reminds me of the old Mego sculpt (again, there's that old. happy nostalgia feel), as does the definition of the muscles. 
I also like the way Aitch's skull fetishism has been incorporated into the figure's design, with the shield sporting a great skull motif and the shoulder plate, belt and even full-face helm echoing this form. But given that Triple H is known for using a sledgehammer in the ring, it's mind-boggling to me that nobody thought to include his signature weapon - or indeed a weapon of any kind...

Thankfully I can rectify that with a quick visit to my Imaginext spare accessory box...
OK, so it's not exactly a sledgehammer but if it's good enough for Axmin the Viking, it's good enough for Aitch the Gladiator...
Paint - where it's used - is neatly applied (the head paint app is very good) but the majority of the figure's coloring comes from individually-colored plastic pieces. And that works fine, although I wish the silver helmet was cast from the same bronze tone as the other accessories, although I suppose his silver wrist straps echo the coloring, so it's not that bad...

I should also mention that the pack includes a set of tattoo transfers, which can be applied to your figure using water, similar to the way model kits have transfers applied. Of course that means  they're permanent (like real tattoos!) but it's a neat way to apply some extra customization that won't simply peel off over time...

And finally I just want to comment on the plastic used for this figure, as it has a rather unique feel to it. It's a softer, more rubbery plastic, with varying grades of flexibility. Obviously pieces like the loincloth and cape are very soft and his feet (both styles) are slightly softer than the rest of his body but even these ''solid'' pieces still have a slightly... I guess, ''sticky'' feel to them. That's not to say they're cheap-feeling but more that they're not the super-hard, sleek-feeling plastic of something like a Marvel Legends figure. I actually like it, as it feels as if it will endure the pull-apart/pop-together play style the line encourages. And the hands remind me of Action Man's gripping hands or GI Joe's Kung Fu grip, which is another cool retro nod...

Final Thoughts
The WWE Create-A-Superstar figures appear a little odd on first viewing. Rather than simply give us an assortment of ''everyday'' wrestlers with vanilla accessories and parts Mattel has instead launched a massively over-the-top, quasi-fantasy/superhero line of figures. And whilst I like my wrestling as much as the next man, I have to admit that it's this fantastical element I find so much more exciting and interesting about this line.

You see, what Mattel has sneakily done here is launched a line based on a simple concept: what would Masters of the Universe be like if it starred members of the WWE roster? Sure, you can say this is Triple H sporting gladiator/barbarian-themed armor. Or you could say that this is Hun-Tor, Warrior King of the Green Witch Lands. The upcoming wave sees Randy Orton's ''viper' gimmick transform him into a snake-themed anti-hero, complete with venom injector pack and snake-themed mask. That's Vi-Por right there. And you can't look at the Rey Mysterio Pack and tell me that's not Hawkman/Stratos...

So yes, as a line of ''straight'' wrestling figures, the Create-A-Superstar figures may be a bit too ''out there'' for those looking to create (or recreate) lifelike wrestlers. But if you look at these figures as a complimentary range to the aforementioned Masters of the Universe or Magic: The Gathering lines, then you'll see how much fun they can be. And yes, I know there are some figures in the line-up that really won't work as part of a new MOTUC/MTG universe (unless you're a huge Stone Cold mark, in which case I guess his upcoming figure could be Bi-Kor) but the majority of these figures would seem much more at home in a fantasy environment than in the squared circle. And I'm just fine with that, as I've been aching for a really good fantasy-themed line of figures for years. And odd as it sounds, I think this line will fill that void perfectly.

As for the Gladiator Pack, I'd say that this is probably the best of the figures released so far and a great place to start if you're interested in seeing just what the line has to offer. It's just a shame they didn't include a weapon with him but if you're a collector of action figures, there's a fair chance you'll have something you can give him to finish his warrior look.

Overall, a great-looking figure with a bunch of neat accessories and display options fans of both the WWE and the fantasy genre will really dig.


Image Gallery


  1. wow this is good figure! Spartan looking

    1. Yup. It's just a shame he doesn't come with a spear...


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