As 2022 comes to a close, Wrestling Figure News is taking a look back at the action figure stories that defined the year. These seven stories highlight the trends we saw this year.
Not included on the list is the recent Ringside Fest reveals that 1. the Steiner Brothers are coming to the Mattel WWE action figure lines and 2. Defining Moments is returning as a Ringside exclusive. While both are big news, let’s see how they play out in 2023.
Also, a honorable mention story for 2022 is the continued rise of the custom creator community creating custom figure championship belts, heads, hands and accessories. Turnquist Custom Figure Belts, Pledge Club, World Wrestling Headeration, Kayfabe Exclusives and so many others are doing fantastic work. This also marked the year that Forbidden Figurines shut down her custom belt making operation.
So here are our top eight stories of 2022.
7. The Reveal of WWE Elite 100
Mattel is about to hit a major milestone for the second time with the WWE license. After reaching 100 waves with the WWE Basic Series a few years ago, Mattel is on the verge of doing the same with the Elite line. In July, the lineup for the 100th wave of Elite figures was revealed — featuring Andre the Giant (plus Rock ‘N’ Wrestling chase attire), “Stunning” Steve Austin, Becky Lynch, Rey Mysterio, The Rock, and John Cena.
Each figure (with the exception of Andre) comes with an all new head sculpt. They also in include all new or retooled championship titles, many appearing for the first time in the Mattel WWE line (WCW Cruiserweight Championship, WCW TV Championship, the 1987 WWF Championship for Andre, and The Rock’s Brahma Bull Championship). The WWE Spinner Championship has reworked, while the WWE Women’s Championship has finally been resized. E100 will also receive special packaging, with artwork by Jonathan Bartlett.
Mattel is pulling out the stops for the set to make it feel special, although not everyone has gotten the tingly feeling. Is the set perfect? No, but they rarely are. Reaching 100 waves is a hell of an accomplishment for the Mattel team; a big congrats to them.
I’m all in on this set, which is slated to ship in January 2023 from Ringside and Wrestling Collector Shop.
6. The Rise of Alternative Wrestling Lines
Mattel and Jazwares aren’t the only game in town anymore. Several companies have popped up to fill the holes in our collections. Although they’re not in hand yet, PowerTown made a splash with its first lineup of figures (Verne Gagne, Lou Thesz, Magnum TA, Kerry Von Erich, Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody) slated to ship in the first quarter of 2023. PowerTown figures are expected to be in-scale with the current mainline WWE and AEW figures.
Chella Toys announced a slew of retro-style figures and also finally shipped its first 7-inch figure, the Dynamite Kid, in December. For those wondering, Dynamite Kid fits pretty seamlessly on a WWE Elite shelf. ECW legend Sabu will be next in the 7-inch Uncensored line. After some bumps in the road, business has picked up since Wrestling Trader in the UK took over the business.
Zombie Sailor Toys kicked out its first lineup of retro-style figures under the Heels and Faces banner: Dino Bravo, Matt Cardona, Brian Myers, Earl Hebner and Sabu. A special release of Jeff Jarrett is also already in collectors’ hands. A second wave of figures (Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Raven, Nick Gage, Kevin Sullivan and Bruiser Brody) sold out. So did a special pre-order for a Danhausen figure. And Johnny Gargano is on pre-order through the end of this month.
Ethan Page invested in Asylum Toys’ Remco-style figure line, featuring the Road Warriors, Scott Norton, Buff Bagwell and Earl Hebner.
The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast going hard behind its Bendies line. The latest series includes Colt Cabana, Chelsea Green, Gangrel and Effy.
Boss Fight Studio’s second wave of premium figures — Konnan and Lady Maravilla — began shipping this month and more figures are on the way in 2023.
This is just a small sample of the other companies in the wrestling figure game with Rush Collectibles and KWK Kayfabe Heroes expected to release product next year. As long as all of these products hit the market, that’s a good thing for collectors.
5. The Launch of the AEW Supreme Collection
The AEW Supreme Collection became Jazwares’ answer to Mattel’s collector-focused Ultimate Edition line. Each Supreme Collection figure comes with multiple heads, an extra set of legs, butterfly joints, removable arms, premium entrance attire, accessories and of course a microphone. Always a microphone.
The first two series of Supreme figures featured Cody Rhodes and Britt Baker, and Kenny Omega and the first AEW figure of Malakai Black.
The positives: A major advantage of the AEW line has always been the interchangeable parts, with ball-joint waists and removable heads. The Supreme Collection takes customizing to another level. Cody and Kenny were both figure of the year contenders. Malakai looks awesome when completely decked out in his cloth accessories and masks.
The negatives: Jazwares is still suffering from quality control issues. Loose knees were common with Cody. The arms can be fragile. Some of the heads were a bit cartoony. The cloth accessories stain the figures every damn time. But overall, the Supreme line is a huge win for collectors.
The next three waves are public knowledge: Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix (Series 3), CM Punk and Thunder Rosa (Series 4), and the Young Bucks (Series 5). Plus, Kenny Omega is getting a Walmart exclusive. The possibilities are tantalizing for the future of this line, although the statuses of Punk and Rosa leave some questions.
4. The Return of CM Punk & Owen Hart Action Figures
After a several-year hiatus, CM Punk and Owen Hart finally received new action figures thanks to Jazwares. Punk’s return to AEW manifested with a handful of new figures, while Hart’s return to the collector realm coincided with AEW’s Owen Hart Memorial Tournament, with the full blessing of Hart’s widow, Martha.
Punk was plentiful thanks to an appearance in Unmatched 4 and a Walmart exclusive Punk in trunks.
Hart wasn’t exactly what collectors had hoped for, as the King of Harts wasn’t depicted in his pink and black singlet. This look was honoring his early career from Stampede Wrestling. More Owen figures are expected, including in Unmatched 6 (with a chase figure), and maybe Jazwares will find a way to make Owen in pink and black a reality.
Getting new figures of Punk and Owen in 2023 marked a huge victory for the collector community.
3. The Return of WWE Retros
The We Want Retros movement led to the return of the 1980s Hasbro-style figure form factor to Mattel’s arsenal this year. The Mattel Creations platform provided the spark for a resurrection of the line. A 1980s flavored 4-pack kicked off the return with Mr. T, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
The second wave of Golden Era figures included Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Jimmy Hart and Nikolai Volkoff.
The next wave will include late 1980s and 1990s New Generation stars Lex Luger, Doink the Clown, Tugboat and Jerry “The King Lawler.”
Ringside Collectibles will get into the action in 2023 with nWo 2-packs of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, and Syxx and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.
Although the figures often didn’t sell out and many were offered at a discount, the demand seems to be there for this form factor to continue.
2. Jazwares Acquired in Berkshire Hathaway Deal
One of the stories that flew under the radar this year has bigger implications for collectors than they may realize. In October, multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway acquired Alleghany Corp, an insurance business whose subsidiary, Alleghany Capital Corp, owns AEW toy maker Jazwares.
Why does it matter? Well, as many collectors and industry commenters noticed, there was a slow down in AEW news and pre-orders over the last couple of months of 2022. That led to a lot of speculation — probably undue — about the future of the AEW line. Just an educated guess here: When there’s a merger or acquisition, the seller often cuts back on spending. Also, notice how Jazwares’ Jeremy Padawer hasn’t been as communicative about AEW? Being a principal figure at Jazwares, Padawer was likely needed elswhere.
Padawer has promised a “big 2023” not just for AEW but also Ring of Honor figures. We already know a good portion of what’s to come. So hopefully Padawer finds the energy for the AEW line that he showed during its early days.
1. The Growth of the WWE Ultimate Edition Line
Mattel’s WWE Ultimate Edition line has rapidly become the line to collect. In 2022, Ultimates expanded beyond A-list talent to world build. Mattel Creations has played an outsized role in the expansion, with the introduction of the 1980s WWF LJN-inspired Coliseum Collection, which launched with Hulk Hogan and Terry Funk and will expand in 2023 with “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Mattel Creations has also helped build out the modern talent roster, with made-to-order pre-orders for Cody Rhodes and Logan Paul, both expected to ship in 2023.
Big box retailers are also supporting the line and getting exclusives. The Target exclusive legends line added Batista and nWo “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the line, with Bret “Hit Man” Hart and The Rock slated to follow next year.
Ringside Collectibles has also joined in, with the Ultimate Edition Attitude Era wrestling ring and Ultimate Kane action figure. Ringside will go deeper in 2023 with the addition of the first Ultimate Edition tag team 2-pack featuring the Usos.
The Ultimate line s consistently the one collectors are talking about, with many filling their shelves with the library book-style packaging. The future of this premium figure line appears to be brighter than possibly any other out there. That’s why it’s the No. 1 story of 2022.