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Kamala

WWE Legends
by yo go re

Professional wrestling is, at times, barely better than a minstrel show. There are very few black wrestlers who are allowed to work in the "majors" without adopting some entirely ridiculous gimmick. For every Bobby Lashley, R-Truth or Ezekiel Jackson, there's a dozen Orlando Jordans or Cryme Tymes. These days you get "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero; in the '80s, we had Kamala the Ugandan Giant.

After several stints in WWE, Kamala was recruited by the notorius Harvey Wippleman to return to the ring. Wippleman had one goal in mind - to take down Undertaker. At SummerSlam 1992, Undertaker defeated the "Ugandan Giant," but Wippleman wanted revenge. Months later, at Survivor Series, Kamala and Undertaker faced off in the first-ever Casket Match. Although Kamala at times seemed to manhandle Undertaker, the "Phenom" hit his savage opponent with an urn, placed him in a coffin and nailed the lid shut!

So, that's really more of a "Memorable Moment" for the Undertaker, isn't it? Of course, the fact that the most memorable moment of Kamala's career is someone beating him is a pretty good indicator of why he got fed up and left the WWF in the first place - though he got booked in some big matches, he constantly lost, and fans don't like watching a loser (his words).

Kamala is part of Mattel's "WWE Legends" line, which is the equivalent of Jakks' "Classic Superstars." The figure is very well made, and does a pretty good job of duplicating his physique from 20 years ago - sure, it's more buff than it should be, but we're looking for a fun toy, not an anatomical duplicate. It's like buying toys from a superhero movie: you want the figures to look like heroes, not like actors. He's got a bit of a paunch, and bare feet. Bare feet! Think about how rare that is on action figures. You can probably count the number you own on one hand. Or one foot, as the case may be. His leopard-print loincloth is a softgoods piece sandwiched firmly into the waist so it won't fall off.

What really sells this figure as Kamala, though, is the paint. Yes, the head sculpt is accurate (check out that crazy lop-sided mouth!), but if that black and white facepaint got messed up, there'd be no saving the figure. The stars and moon on his chest are crisp, as well, and he's got black trunks on beneath the skirt. The edges of his beard appear flawless as well.

The figure stands 7¼" tall, which is right in line with his billed height of 6'7". Mattel gives their wrestling toys top-notch articulation, so Kamala moves at the head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, shins and ankles. The legs are particularly good, what with rocker joints in the ankles, double-hinged knees a full range of motion in the completely natural hips. A balljointed torso may have worked better than the hinge, since his belly is so big, but does Mattel even have one of those designed?

Kamala has three accessories: his necklace, made of bone, or rocks, or bulbs of garlic, or owl pellets or whatever; the giant tiki mask he'd wear to the ring; and a large African shield. He'd sometimes carry a spear to the ring with him, but Mattel must have run out of money in the budget for that (or maybe the "spear chucker" implications were too much for them to bear). The figure's left hand is open to hold the shield. There's also an oval base with a cardboard nameplate that fits in the front.

Jakks did make a Kamala figure in their Classic Superstars line, but this one is definitely superior. Back in the day, James Harris (the man behind the makeup) sued Vince McMahon for merchandising residuals from the sales of the LJN figures. Let's hope he sees the money he deserves this time, because the toy is great, and Harris has a long history of being short-changed by the WWE. That casket match mentioned on the back of the packaging? Undertaker was paid half a million dollars; Kamala got $13,000.

-- 02/02/11


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