It's not often that you get to use the words "grotesque monstrosity" to describe a figure based on a real person, so today is going to be a special day.
I remember watching the WWF on weekend afternoons when I was just a kid. This was during wrestling's first popularity boom in the mid-80s, when Hulk Hogan was a quite literally a national hero and the sport merited even a Saturday morning cartoon. I outgrew wrestling, though, and never really got back into it as the group who used to be skinny young kids showed up as beefy brutes with new personas (sorry, Stone Cold, you may think you're some big badass, but no one's forgotten when you wore hot pink trunks and blew kisses to the crowd as "Stunning" Steve Austin).
Though I no longer followed wrestling, I certainly couldn't escape its influence when its popularity rose once again. I didn't know who the good and bad guys were on any given week, but I at least knew who was who. And I knew that they were finally getting some good toys. ToyBiz and Jakks Pacific were both releasing decent figures of the two competing "promotions," and a lot of those figures were great for customizing projects.
Jakks soon learned, as dozens of toy companies had before them, that every long-running toyline eventually faces a choice: the choice to turn toward unpopular characters or weird variations. There was
a brief infusuion of life when the WWF absorbed the WCW, but that couldn't last forever. If some kid has already bought the Rock, how can you get him (or his parents) to drop more money on the same guy?
Fortunately for Jakks, wrestlers change costumes more often than Madonna. Rock in trunks. Rock in pants. Rock in pants and shirt. Rock in trunks with title belt. But rather than just rely on clothing changes like this, Jakks has tried to keep things fresh; every so often, they come out with a weird subline through which they can reinvent their characters. Such is the case with the new "Flex'Ems." Taking the old idea of a rubber body around a thin, flexible wire, Jakks has created wrestlers that can actually move like a human being.
Since that pliable plastic doesn't hold detail very well, the figures were already going to have to be distorted if any musculature was to show up. Jakks decided to push this even farther, moving the wrestlers into cartoonish territory. The Flex'Ems were now distinctly new toys, capable of standing up to the type of play any kid would put them through.
For my planned custom figure, I needed a head with long hair and a slight beard. I found the perfect combo in Triple H. Though the Flex'Ems' bodies are soft and flexible, the heads are standard ABS plastic: the stiff stuff, as opposed to the squishy/flexible PVC; there is a peg joint at the neck that allows the head to rotate side-to-side.
The figure is wearing black boots, elbow pads and black trunks with his insignia. His hands are even taped. The package includes a warning not to turn any body part more than 180° (lest the internal wire snap). Triple H is about 7⅜" tall, and can be put into pretty much any wrestling hold you can imagine. There is a whole line of the WWE's biggest superstars in Flex'Em form, but these certainly aren't the future of wrestling toys. It is, however, a fun way to keep the characters fresh without getting completely outrageous.
Though, truthfully, "outrageous" suits wrestlers to a T.