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"Stone Cold" Steve Austin

WWE Zombies
by yo go re

BAHGAWD! IT'S STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD!

As the Hellraiser of WWE, Stone Cold Steve Austin is the perfect superstar for the underworld, still raising hell while raising his smoking skull head for zombie life.

While the former Stunning Steve Austin (half of the "Hollywood Blondes" tag team, alongside Flyin' Brian Pillman) makes a lot of sense for the WWE Zombies line, we can't help but feel like there's a missed opportunity here. Originally introduced as "The Ringmaster," a henchman for Ted DiBiase, Austin was going pretty much nowhere, so he asked creative for a change. His new character was a creepy serial killer type who talked in a low monotone, based on mafia hitman "The Iceman" Richard Kuklinski. In need of a threatening name to go with this new gimmick, they considered such timeless monikers as "Ice Dagger," "Baron VonRuthless" and "Chilly McFreeze." Austin's said that if they hadn't agreed to his "Stone Cold" choice that he would have tried to be the best Baron VonRuthless he could be, but it's still hard to imagine Chilly McFreeze becoming the face of the industry in the late '90s. Anyway, Mattel could have leaned into all that frigid imagery and made him an ice zombie.

Cold Stone Steve Creamery always had what wrestlers of an older generation referred to as a "natural" body - that is, he worked out hard and took care of himself, but he also spent most of his time sitting in cars for hours on end and eating greasy food at tiny diners all across the country. So, not fat, but also not a total physical specimen with a few "wellness violations" (WWE's code for steroid use) under their belt. We don't get to see a lot of that body, between the fact that he's still wearing his vest, and the way the entire mid-section of his torso has been ripped away. Seriously, if you don't take the vest off, you're going to miss half of what's cool about this toy. Spinal column, ribs, piled up entrails... it's all terrifically gross, but the vest means the only thing you can easily see is his peeled left arm (and a chunk of meat hanging off his hand makes it look like he's holding his pinky finger out all daintily). Though it would have required more new tooling, they should have given him a new vest that was as ripped as the body beneath.

When Austin became the WWF champion, the Road Warriors pulled him aside and suggested that wearing the same belt everyone else had used wouldn't really fit with his on-screen persona. So he went to the guy who made the belts and paid his own money for a new one, featuring a skull with smoke rising out of its eyes. That image became synonymous with Austin even after he lost the title, so this figure has the flesh ripped away from his head, leaving only a smoking skull on top of his neck. The smoke is white and puffy, while the skull is appropriately bone-colored.

Originally, Austin was a fairly technical wrestler, who mixed submission holds with brawling. Then, during his match with Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997, a botched piledriver legitimately broke his neck in the middle of the ring (which is when the WWF banned the move for everyone except the Undertaker). After that, he started to just be a "kick and punch" type of guy, with his matches using tricks - outside interference, bumped referees, etc. - to disguise the fact that nothing was actually happening, a trend that sadly continues to this day. This figure's articulation is plenty for that "main event style," with hinged ankles, swivel boots, hinged knees, H-hips, swivel waist, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head that has a fairly limited range of motion. He can also perform the Stone Cold Stunner (basically the same thing as the Diamond Cutter, just less versatile and more predictable). He's wearing his knee braces, which present another missed opportunity: why not ruin his knees the same way they did his midsection?

So yeah, three things we would have changed to make this the best Stone Cold zombie it could be: make him blue and icy, instead of green; shred his vest so we can see the damage to the body; and tear up his knees so there's a logic behind his braces. This toy may not fit into the story I've made up for HHH, but considering I found it at Five Below, it was worth the price.

-- 10/31/18


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