TNA Impact

The Commissioner is back, Jason Chirevas.  He's checking out wrestling figures, something this site doesn't do nearly enough.  Take it away, Jason!

Thank you very much! Hello again, my friends. It’s been a long while since I’ve appeared here at MROTW. I was reluctant to offer any guest reviews in the last few years because every toy line I’ve reviewed figures from in this space has died a quick death soon thereafter. Remember Max Steel? Titan A.E.? Disney Adventurers, anyone? No? Exactly. I very much hope my jinx will not affect the subject of tonight’s review. 

Professional wrestling action figures are very much a subculture of the larger collecting hobby. There are collectors, like myself, who collect wrestling figures alongside other lines. There are a great many figure collectors who look down their noses at wrestling figures as they do the product itself (it’s living comic books, people). And there are collectors, typically younger collectors it seems, who rabidly collect wrestling figures and little else. 

For most of the last decade, if you collect wresting figures in the United States, you collect WWE figures from Jakks Pacific. A few companies tried their hand at WCW figures and Original San Francisco Toymakers chipped in with an ECW line as well but, as Vince McMahon’s stranglehold on the American wrestling industry tightened, so too did Jakks Pacific’s on the wrestling action figure market.

In the last few years of WCW’s existence, ToyBiz produced action figures for promotion that, to this day, is my favorite wrestling line of all-time. ToyBiz’s WCW line improved greatly over its run while WCW itself spiraled out of control and self-destructed. By the time the promotion was absorbed by WWE, the WCW figures were better than the company’s shows.

Flash-forward a years and a new wrestling promotion is trying to make its way onto the big league stage. Coupling the rich tradition of the venerable NWA with the flash and pizzazz of cruiserweight style wrestling, veteran promoter Jerry Jarrett and his son, former WWE Superstar and WCW Champion Jeff, started Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, or TNA for short.

Get it?

TNA’s shows have clawed their way from weekly pay-per-views to a weekly TV show on Fox Sports Net and monthly PPV extravaganzas. During the transition, rumors abound ToyBiz decided to re-enter the ring and produce action figures of TNA’s superstars. Those rumors proved true and TNA Impact Series 1 is now shipping from some on-line retailers with a debut in brick-and-mortar stores to follow, likely some time in May. 

This first wave consists of four figures and offers a decent array of what TNA has to offer. There’s perennial NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett, the monstrous Mankind/Undertaker amalgam Abyss, the original cerebral assassin Raven and, perhaps the most anticipated figure in the line, the phenomenal A.J. Styles; arguably TNA’s signature star.

If you liked ToyBiz’s WCW figures, have they got a line for you now.

Packaging - ***
The package is colorful and eye-catching, but nothing innovative. The figures are displayed well, and attached to their trays with a merciful minimum of twisty-ties. One big plus in my view, the packages are individualized with portraits and small pics of the enclosed wrestler in action on the blister and a small bio on the cardback. That’s something it seems every company but Playmates has abandoned, although ToyBiz (now calling themselves Marvel Toys, by the way) also does it for their Lord of the Rings line.

Sculpting - Abyss, Raven & Styles *** ½;  Jarrett ***
Wrestling figures are notorious for reusing parts to create different characters. I’ve never had a major problem with this practice; after all, these are largely figures of ripped guys with their shirts off, as long as the parts used are appropriate to the character they represent. It is on that basis, as well as accuracy of head sculpts, I arrived at the ratings above. The reuse trend continues here, some of the parts are even from the old WCW line, but everything works for the individual wrestlers. Abyss, who uses an old Hollywood Hogan torso, is suitably larger than everyone else. Raven and Styles are the same figure from the waist down, but Raven’s bulkier torso makes him suitably larger and taller than A.J. overall. Jarrett’s torso is the same as his ToyBiz WCW counterpart, but it worked for him then and works for him now.

The head sculpts are universally good, but not great. Abyss’s mask is captured well, which is the key to getting his likeness, as we can’t see much of his face. Styles and Raven look good, but A.J. more so, which will be explained in the next section. Jarrett’s likeness suffers from more than a little lateral compression (Raven has a touch of it as well), making his the weakest head sculpt, although in profile it’s actually very good.

Paint - Raven *** ½; Styles: ***; Abyss & Jarrett ** ½
By now you’ve seen the portrait pics at the top of this review and thought, “What in the HELL is with Jarrett’s and Raven’s eyes?” The answer? They’re badly painted. Jarrett has kind of a beady, surprised thing going and Raven just has a flat-out sloppy, amateurish application. That said, it’s only REAlly noticeable in the fluorescent light in which I took these pics. In the more subdued, regular light here at my desk, neither problem is all that noticeable, particularly Raven’s. One again, Jarrett’s scared stare is much more a problem when looking at the figure head-on. In profile, or from a short distance, it’s not as bad.

The rest of the paint is well done, when there’s paint to apply. Styles has the least going on paint-wise, but his trunks are done in a nice glossy paint that makes it look like…whatever the heck shiny material the wrestlers use for their trucks. What is that, some kind of spandex? Lycra? Vinyl? I have no idea. 

Abyss’s shirt is not removable, so I’ll include here the nicely painted pattern on its flanks. The big man’s tattoos are also well done. The balance of Jarrett’s paint ops are fine, his trunks and boots use metallic paint with sharp lines for the patterns. The overall winner paint-wise is Raven, despite his lazy eyes. His stubble and eyebrow stud are nicely done, and his tats look great. Sure, they’re more vibrant and colorful on the figure than they are on the man, but I say if the guy’s got tattoos, let’s see them. I don’t like Jakks’s recent move to faded looking tats on their figures.

Articulation - Raven & Styles *** ½; Jarrett ***; Abyss ** ½
One of the major drawbacks of Jakks’s WWE figures is, for all their RealScanned likenesses and Classic Superstars, the figures are basically statuesque bores. I’m not someone who’s having full-on wrestling matches with my figures, but it’s cool to be able to pose wrestling figures doing, y’know, wrestling moves to one another. These figures can to that…mostly.

Abyss checks in on the lowest rung in this category, sporting 21 points of articulation: neck (there’s actually a joint at the base of his neck and another where the head joins the neck, but they’re both cut joints, so the action is that of one POA), shoulders, bicep, double elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, and dual place ankles. Just as a frame of reference, Abyss is more articulated than just about any figure from ToyBiz’s WCW line, but in this field his articulation is a bit limited.

Jarrett fares well here, but there’s one thing keeping him from reaching the next level. He has 26 points of articulation: neck, ball shoulders, biceps, double elbows, wrists, fingers, left hip, thighs, double knees, dual plane ankles and toes. You’ll note I said left hip only. Jarrett’s right hip is frozen in place by his action feature, which is odd because it’s the same action feature (and torso) his ToyBiz WCW figure had. I guess it’s the sculpt of the hip getting in the way now.

Raven and Styles are the big winners here. They have 28 points of articulation, which includes everything Jarrett has plus ball-jointed hips and a waist twist. The only reason Raven and A.J. don’t get the coveted four stars is the lateral ankle joints don’t have the stability or range of motion to be able to pose them in one-footed positions like mid-superkick. That’s asking a lot, I know, but Bandai’s Ultimate Muscle figures could do it, and ToyBiz has used that type of ankle joint before with Ultimate Rhino.

One last general articulation note, it’s all tight. Loose, floppy joints plague some ToyBiz lines, particularly Marvel Legends. None of that is present here, everyone holds their poses well and the joints are universally stiff, even on habitually fragile joints like ankles and fingers. I think we can attribute this to the overall quality of these figures, which is a cut above what we’re used to with Marvel Legends and some of the LOTR line. In order to accommodate the action features, ToyBiz was forced to make these guys out of some pretty dense plastic, and it adds to the overall quality and tightness of the joints. These are solid figures.

Action Feature - Abyss, Jarrett & Raven **; Styles * ½
Yep, like their WCW predecessors, these all have action features, usually the bane of any “serious” collector’s existence. Abyss, Jarrett and Raven get two stars because, though I’d rather they weren’t present, the action features don’t take away from the sculpt or articulation of the figures. Styles, who has a sizeable lever sticking out of his back, suffers a bit.

Squeeze Abyss’s legs together and he delivers a headlock punch (provided he has another figure in a headlock, otherwise he’s just clambering for a hug). Raven has a spring-loaded right shoulder for uppercuts. Styles has a “body slam action” (i.e. brings both arms down) when the obtrusive lever is pressed down. Jarrett has essentially the same action feature as Styles, but it’s activated by squeezing his legs together and is used to smash undercard talent over the head with his breakaway guitar.

Speaking of which…

Accessories - Jarrett ****; Raven & Styles *** ½; Abyss ***
I’m going a bit outside the scope of what is usually considered an accessory for these ratings because these figures soar in an area where Jakks Pacific’s WWE figures often fall down on the job; they all have the proper removable elbow (Raven and Styles) and knee (Jarrett) pads. Styles’s vest (with “Phenomenal” paint ops) and Raven’s kilt are also easily removable.

In terms of traditional accessories, Raven and Styles have a folding chair and ladder respectively. Banal, by wrestling standards, but both are well made. Abyss comes with his chain, which is made of real metal and is surprisingly heavy. Jarrett come with the same breakaway guitar his ToyBiz WCW figure had, but it now features a peg that fits snugly into the figure’s right palm so he can hold it. (Note to ToyBiz: eliminate the wholly unnecessary jointed fingers and you won’t have to worry about how figures hold their accessories). 

So, why the four star rating for Jarrett? He comes with the best action figure wrestling title belt I’ve ever seen, that’s why. Jarrett includes the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and, even if you despise Double J (and many do), it’ll be worth your while to buy this figure for the belt alone. Look at the close-up pic; this thing is beautiful. It makes Jakks’s belts look like crude customs. Completely wonderful execution by ToyBiz, and the best wrestling figure accessory ever, in my opinion. ToyBiz MUST make the X Division belt for Series 2’s Christopher Daniels.

Compatibility - With ToyBiz WCW ****; With Jakks WWE Bupkis
I added this category because wrestling figure fans often look to mix one fed’s figures with another. As you can see from the pics, the new TNAs blend almost seamlessly with the old ToyBiz WCW line, which is great because you can add guys like Roddy Piper and Shane Douglas to your TNA collection right now.

Unfortunately for Jakks fans, their WWE figures don’t mesh with the TNAs at all. The scale and style is completely off, as the scale pic shows.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
These are great collector’s figures, but kids should have a ball with them too. They’re more than doubly articulated than their WWE counterparts, are well made, and include some terrific, relevant accessories. As my collecting career progresses, I find myself gravitating more toward figures that make for great TOYS as much as, or more than, they make for great collectibles. TNA Impact Series 1 fits perfectly within that philosophy.

Value - ***
I based that rating on the $10 each I paid for these figures. I was more than happy to pay it because I love TNA; I think they put on a better wrestling product than WWE week in and week out. These should probably run about $7-$8 at mass retail, where I hope they’ll see wide distribution. I’d say they’re three star values at that price if you’re a casual TNA fan or just curious about the figures, a half star higher if you know who Mikey Batts is.

Things to Watch Out For:
I’d be careful about yanking Raven’s kilt off, or taking it off and putting it on too much. The rubber tab that holds it on isn’t the thickest. If you have the ToyBiz WCW Roddy Piper, you know that I mean.

Overall - ***
This is a good, solid beginning to the TNA line. There are some significant issues here and there, but these figures represent several evolutionary steps forward from the old ToyBiz WCW line and are just flat-out more fun than anything Jakks puts out for WWE. If TNA flourishes as an organization and Series 1 sells, the future looks very bright for the this line. Impact Series 2 is already scheduled and will include fan favorites Jeff Hardy and Shark Boy along with Ron “The Truth” Killings and the one man I mark out for as though I was eight, “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels. There is also a series of two-packs and a six-sided ring coming soon. ToyBiz also showed characters like “The Alpha Male” Monty Brown and Chris Sabin at Toy Fair. 

Long live this line. It has the potential to be one of the best there’s ever been.

Score recap
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - Abyss, Raven & Styles *** ½;  Jarrett ***
Paint - Raven *** ½; Styles: ***; Abyss & Jarrett ** ½
Articulation - Raven & Styles *** ½; Jarrett ***; Abyss ** ½
Accessories - Jarrett ****; Raven & Styles *** ½; Abyss ***
Action Feature -  Abyss, Jarrett & Raven **; Styles * ½
Compatibility - With ToyBiz WCW ****; With Jakks WWE Bupkis
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Where to Buy - 
I got mine through They’re selling the set of four for $49.99, but I got mine through an ebay auction for $39.99. Ringside Collectibles is also selling the set of four for $39.99. If you can wait, I’m sure (or at least, I hope) mass retailers like Toys R Us and Target will have these figures within the next month or so.

Figure from the collection of Jason Chirevas.

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