SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
What do a demon, four ninja turtles, Prince Pretty and the current WWE World Champion have in common? They all made the list – of top wrestling figures of 2016, that is.
To say that hundreds of wrestling toys were released in 2016 wouldn’t be an exaggeration. There were basic figures, elite figures, toy rings and playsets, zombies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dressed as wrestlers, die cast cars, kids’ costumes and more.
Mattel has been producing WWE action figures since 2010, and shows no signs of slowing down. The toy giant continued to crank out quality figures of current WWE stars and legends in 2016, including the first Finn Balor Demon figure, which may have been the single most anticipated wrestling figure of all time. In addition, Figures Toy Company in 2016 released its first figures of Ring of Honor stars and beat Mattel and WWE to the punch with a new AJ Styles figure.
But which wrestling figures released in 2016 really were the best? In order to present a variety of opinions, several prominent collectors and toy industry insiders were asked to submit their lists of the top figures of 2016. Special thanks to Chris DePetrillo of Figures Toy Company, photographer and filmmaker Matthew Goldberg, and Jef and Scott Toon of the Fully Poseable Wrestling Figure Podcast for answering the call.
Here are a few takes on the top toys of 2016. If you’d like to share your own thoughts, tweet them to @MMooreWriter, or the Twitter accounts mentioned throughout this article.
Seth Rollins Mattel WWE Elite Series 45 (in white outfit). This is by far my favorite Seth Rollins figure. The outfit looks amazing, the belt is the right accessory, and the face perfectly captures the cocky Authority-era Rollins personality. A real home run from Mattel.
Finn Balor Mattel WWE Elite Series 41. This was one of the figures everyone was waiting for, myself included. Despite the multiple variations of Finn already out and in the works, I’ll probably just hang onto this one. On a related note, I feel like Mattel has already killed the excitement over Finn releases with so many variants in such a short amount of time, and even this particular figure wound up in Big Lots shipments for only $10. It seems like Finn is the new Rey Mysterio when it comes to constant color swaps to make a new figure.
AJ Styles Figures Toy Company Rising Stars of Wrestling. I think that this figure perfectly captures the NJPW/ROH/Bullet Club era of AJ Styles. The black/grey variant especially will look great alongside our upcoming releases like Doc Gallows, Tama Tonga, and the Young Bucks.
Tyler Breeze Mattel WWE Then Now Forever. Tyler Breeze doesn’t wind up on many top five lists these days, but this is such a great figure. I think it might wind up overlooked by a lot of collectors, and even though it’s a Walmart exclusive, it’s not exactly hard to come by. This one shouldn’t warm shelves – it should get the credit it deserves.
Jay Lethal Figures Toy Company Ring of Honor Series 1. The cocky sneer, the long jacket and the color scheme really make this figure pop. My favorite out of our ROH line thus far. This represents the “evil” Jay Lethal perfectly.
Chris DePetrillo is the chief marketing officer for Figures Toy Company, which makes Ring of Honor, Legends of Wrestling and Rising Stars of Wrestling action figures. Follow him on Twitter @ZackMalibu.
Jef and Scott Toon, Fully Poseable Wrestling Figure Podcast
1. Finn Balor Mattel WWE Elite Series 41. With Finn in complete Demon paint and wardrobe, Mattel hit on all cylinders with perhaps their finest elite ever! This Finn made a lot of collectors’ top five favorite figures of all time right away.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Playmates WWE. Two of our favorite things from our childhood mashed up into one. All four Turtles as Cena, Undertaker, Macho Man and Sting could not have turned out any better.
3. AJ Styles Figures Toy Company Rising Stars of Wrestling. With AJ’s first figure since his TNA days, FTC did not disappoint, capturing AJ during his ROH/NJPW days. With the spot-on detailing to his outfit and his 2014/15 look, FTC did well hitting on their AJ figure.
4. Magnum TA Mattel WWE Elite Legends Throwbacks. A wrestler that was on every wish list, Mattel was able to give fans Magnum TA his first figure ever! Capturing Magnum in his traditional cowboy boots, Mattel did not disappoint with Magnum’s first figure.
5. Shockmaster Mattel WWE San Diego ComicCon Exclusive. This figure shocked the world and fans when the figure was announced for SDCC. From the way Fred Ottman was positioned to the design of the package, the figure was near perfect.
6. Dusty Rhodes Mattel WWE WCW Ring and Figure. This Dusty Rhodes Elite figure was an added accessory with the Target exclusive WCW ring, but it was the Dusty figure that moved this product.
7. New Day Funko Pop Vinyl Toys R Us Exclusive. Funko’s Pop Vinyl, one of the hottest toys on the market, captured one of the most fun acts in wrestling. Adding Francesca to Xavier Woods and the unicorn horns to all three guys, this set was amazing.
8. Seth Rollins Mattel WWE Elite Series 45 (in white outfit). Whether it is his Funko or his Elite, Seth in his white outfit has become a hot commodity within the figure collecting community. Equipped with the WWE World Title, Elite 45 Seth captures his Summerslam 2015 look.
9. Tyler Breeze Mattel WWE Then Now Forever. Tyler’s first Elite ever was spot on. From his blue tights to his jacket, this figure was done correctly. Oh, and let’s not ignore one of the greatest accessories ever: a selfie stick!
10. Bayley Mattel WWE Network Toys R Us Exclusive. This figure would’ve been higher on our list if it wasn’t for the face scan. Outside of the face scan, Mattel did a great job on Bayley’s outfit from NXT Brooklyn, which is how this figure was able to crack our top 10.
10A. Jay Lethal Figures Toy Company Ring of Honor Series 1. We couldn’t decide between Jay Lethal and Bayley, so we decided to do a 10 and 10A. Lethal stood out above all in FTC’s first series of ROH figures. What makes this figure is Jay’s likeness and the attention detail on his outfit.
Jef and Scott Toon are longtime collectors of wrestling action figures. Together they host the Fully Poseable Wrestling Figure Podcast; new episodes drop each Sunday. Follow them on Twitter @FullyPoseable.
Matthew Goldberg, YouTouber and Instagrammer
Finn Balor Mattel WWE Elite Series 46. Either this Elite (has even more detail) or his Elite 41, hard to choose, are both phenomenal figures this year as they’re filled with detail and highly sought after. Mattel knocked both of them out of the park.
Wolfpac Sting Mattel WWE Ringside Collectibles Exclusive. Mattel did a fantastic job capturing a young WCW Sting. Besides his crummy rubber shirt, this figure is very detailed and well done.
Asuka Mattel WWE Elite Series 47. A beautiful figure that I was blown away by when it was first revealed this year. Probably one of the most highly detailed Mattel WWE figures to date, releasing very soon.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass Mattel WWE Battle Packs Series 40. One of the most sought after Battle Packs this year that I could not wait to get, and I’ve honestly never seen it at the store. Enzo could be a little better, but both figures are still very nice and definitely aren’t SAWFT!
Matt Goldberg is a popular Youtuber (mbg1211) and Instagrammer (mbg1211) in the wrestling figure community who writes a wrestling figure column for WrestleZone.com every week. He has produced videos for WWE, TNA, Jakks Pacific and Wicked Cool Toys, to name a few. After meeting Eric Bischoff in 2008, he produced and directed documentaries on Elijah Burke and Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria). Follow his Wrestling Figure News Twitter account @WWETNAfigures.
Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles Specialist
1. Magnum TA Mattel WWE Elite Legends Throwbacks. Magnum TA’s first action figure was originally planned for Mattel’s WWE Elite line back in 2011, but it wasn’t long after announcing this figure that Mattel decided to scrap the line altogether. This figure seemed to be forgotten for several years, until it popped up for sale in mid-2016. It’s a great looking, very simple figure of one of the biggest stars of the 1980s.
2. AJ Styles Figures Toy Company Rising Stars of Wrestling. Jakks Pacific, Toy Biz and Mattel have all produced toys of AJ Styles, but no other company has done it as well as Figures Toy Company. The head sculpt looks, well, phenomenal. The detailed work on his tights and removable hooded vest make this AJ’s best figure to date.
3. Finn Balor Mattel WWE Elite Series 41. Not since the Ultimate Warrior has a pro wrestler looked so much like an action figure come to life. When images of this figure were first released in 2015, many collectors were saying it would be the top figure of 2015. The debut Demon figure is generally regarded as one of Mattel’s best to date. Every collector who contributed to this article mentioned this Balor figure.
4. Lita Mattel WWE Elite Series 41. Mattel has taken some heat for the faces on some of the company’s female wrestling figures, and for good reason. Early figures of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch have been ridiculed by collectors; Sasha herself took a few shots at her first Mattel figure. But Mattel produced an amazing first figure of Lita. The head sculpt was great and Mattel seemed to get every little detail right, from the removable shirts to the thong hanging out of Lita’s pants.
5. Paul Orndorff Mattel WWE Basic Series 58. Admittedly, this figure is a sentimental favorite. “Mr. Wonderful” was one of the first wrestlers who got me hooked on pro wrestling as a kid, and his heel turn in 1986 was one of the best ever. This was only Mattel’s second Orndorff figure, and first since 2011. Many collectors had a hard time finding them in stores when they were first released, but they’re pretty easy to find online now.
Michael Moore has written wrestling collectibles columns for PWTorch.com since January 2011. A former newspaper report and editor, his work has also appeared in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Beckett Football Card Monthly, Tuff Stuff and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
NOW READ OUR PREVIOUS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Prices on Goldberg’s Action Figures Soar after Survivor Series