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Classic Superstars
by yo go re

In a previous review, I admitted that I didn't really know much about the WWE "Attitude Era" of the late '90s. The reason why? Because I sided with WCW in the Monday Night Wars.

I realize this may tarnish your view of me as the dean of all things awesome [Pffft. I hardly think a guy who spends his free time writing about toys is a reliable arbiter of cool. --ed.], but I really enjoyed watching WCW Monday Nitro. I'd watched both WWF and WCW as a kid, but when I found my way back, it was WCW that held my attention, and the main reason for that was one man: Goldberg.

Bill Goldberg wanted to be a professional football player, but an abdominal injury in a 1994 preseason game sidelined that dream permanently. While working out at an Atlanta gym owned by WCW mainstays Lex Luger and Sting, he met many pro wrestlers, and was eventually convinced to try out. He trained at the Power Plant and debuted on September 22nd, 1997, defeating Hugh Morrus and beginning an undefeated streak that lasted 462 days and left him with an unprecedented record of 173-0.

Say what you will about the mistakes WCW made, they certainly knew how to give someone a push. Goldberg didn't have a large amount of talent at the start, but he did have presence. He was huge, intimidating, and really looked like a guy capable of destroying his opponents. I don't know if the "monster" angle was intended from the beginning, but once it got rolling, Goldberg became the most popular wrestler WCW had.

This isn't the first Jakks Goldberg figure, and amazingly, it wouldn't be the last - this figure comes from Classic Superstars series 25, and there was another released in Series 27. That seems a bit rushed, doesn't it? Especially since the guy wore the same basic outfit during his entire career: black boots, black gloves, black trunks, black knee/elbow pads... that's it. Seriously, Deadpool has worn more unique costumes than Goldberg. The body Jakks chose is appropriately muscled, neither over-buffed nor undetailed. He gets painted chest hair - something the previous Goldberg lacked.

There are a few small errors with the outfit, though. First of all, the boots are too big: Goldberg's usual ring attire included very short boots, about the height of high-top sneakers. There are no existing molds of boots like that, and there was no way Jakks was going to make new ones. Additionally, while he wore padded gloves, this figure has has normal hands painted black - that's apparently something the Series 27 release corrects. While his famous tattoo is nice and large, it's mostly covered by the muscles of his upper arm: obviously no one checked to see how things looked when they were all assembled.

A common complaint from the WWF fans at the time was that Golderg was a rip-off of Stone Cold Steve Austin - their "evidence" being that both men had shaved heads, goatees and wore black trunks. Yeah. Anyway, WWF was so hurting for ratings that they created their own knockoff, Gillberg. The height of parody, that is! The reason we mention this? The figure's face.

To begin with, Goldberg is molded with a lopsided smirk that isn't really something he was ever known for. Go look for images of Goldberg, and you'll see a few common "in-ring" expressions, but none of them are this. Plus, the entire head is oddly distended from front to back, throwing off all the proportions - taken all together, these make the figure look more like Gillberg than Goldberg.

The figure doesn't come with any accessories, other than his kneepads. He wore elbow pads, too, you know. And really, guys? No belt? Goldberg was a champion multiple times, but doesn't get a strap? Considering that WWE has had final approval on the figures and their accessories, what do you think the odds are this was done as an intentional slight?

Rumor has it that the WWF was offended that WCW had managed to produce a star who could rival their own creations, such as Stone Cold and The Rock - sure, the nWo concept was huge, but that was an idea, not a person (and they'd already ripped that off to create D-Generation X). When the WWF bought WCW in 2001, Goldberg's was one of the few contracts they didn't buy out as well, leaving him in limbo. He eventually joined the company in 2003, signing a one-year contract. During that year, the bookers did everything they possibly could to kill any heat Goldberg had, starting with a poorly timed introduction to the promotion (the day after a pay-per-view, instead of at the show) and culminating in a WrestleMania match that hadn't been built-up at all in the leading weeks and saw both participants leave the WWF immediately after. If they were willing to make sure his career turned out badly, is it really so much of a stretch to think they were willing to make his toy come out badly, too?

There is talk right now that Goldberg may be joining TNA Wrestling, which I admit I'd love to see. Promise me the return of that unmistakable sparking, smoking entrance, and I'm there. I am a total mark for Goldberg, which is why I bought this figure, despite its problems. If you want the best Jakks Goldberg, don't bother with either of the Classic Superstars releases: track down the "Summer Slam" figure from 2003; it has a belt, all the pads, and - most importantly - a head sculpt that's better in every conceivable way.

-- 02/24/10

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