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The Hart Foundation

Classic Superstars
by yo go re

Most tag teams in wrestling, even today, comprise two (or more) guys with a similar style - the team of brawlers, the team of high flyers, whatever. But one of the best tag teams of all time broke that rule, pairing a technical grappler with a bruising powerhouse: the Hart Foundation.

Jimmy Hart was already managing Jim Neidhart when Vince McMahon and the WWF bought out the Canadian Stampede Wrestling promotion and put him in charge of newcomer "Cowboy" Bret Hart. No relation. Bret hated the Cowboy gimmick, and had asked to form a tag team with Neidhart. Jimmy resurrected a name he'd used for his stables before coming to the WWF, and the pair were a hit as a tough heel team. They won the World Tag Team Championship twice in their run, and fought in some of the most memorable matches of the '80s, so it's excellent that we now have a complete Hart Foundation in the Classic Superstars line.

We'll start with the excellence of execution. The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. Bret "The Hitman" Hart. The guy actually has a legitimate claim to all those nicknames; from his debut as an undercard nobody, he rose to be a true superstar. He's a triple-crown champion for two promotions, only ever missed two shows (both due to travel problems, not injuries) and never once seriously hurt an opponent. He may not have been the driving force in wrestling in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was probably its backbone. Probably still would be, too, if Shawn Michaels wasn't such a self-serving douche.

Bret was the small, quick member of the team, but he's still pretty big. The face doesn't look quite right. He looks okay in profile, and as long as he's got his sunglasses on, but without them he looks a bit... goofy. They got his stringy hair perfectly, and you can tell they got close from a few select angles, but head-on he still needs some work.

The figure stands 7" tall and moves at the ankles, knees, hips, waist, hands, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. It's enough to get some decent poses out of him, but the fact that his wrists are just peg joints is limiting. Also, would it really be hard to give them joints at the top of the boots? Jakks only has, like, five bodies that they re-use for all their figures. Wouldn't the cost of added joints been covered by now?

Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart got his nickname from the improbable sport of anvil tossing. Think about that - the guy could literally pick up an anvil and throw it farther than anyone else. Holy hell, now that's an accomplishment! Some guy can benchpress 600 lbs? How often does something like that come up in real life? Honestly. Has a situation ever arisen that required you to lay on your back and use a bar to lift to heavy weights? Compared to that, how often have you needed to just pick something up and move it? Yeah, I thought so.

If Bret was the brains of the group, Jim was the brawn. He's looking nice and bulky here, with definite muscle but without looking like a 'roided out freak. The likeness is much better than his partner's, right down to that unmistakable goatee. He's also got a pair of removable glasses, but his don't have the wraparound strap to keep them in place, instead relying on the might of his ears. Mighty!

Neidhart is the same height as his partner, and has all the same joints. In fact, I think they have the same body, save for the head and torso. Both figures have pads on their elbows, and Bret has them on his knees, as well. They're wearing the championship belts, as they should be, and are in their all-pink outfits. There were a few different versions over the years (black trunks/pink top, pink trunks/black top, etc), but the only black here is the stripe down the outside of their legs. You definitely have to be a tough guy to go out in public wearing all pink.

Part of the Hart Foundation's success can be attributed to their manager, The Mouth of the South, Jimmy Hart. Jimmy was originally a member in the Gentrys, the '60s era band that had a Top 40 hit with Keep On Dancing. The band was a one-hit wonder, and Jimmy eventually moved to the world of professional wrestling, where he found success as a heel. In addition to his ringside appearances, Jimmy used his musical talent to compose the themes and entrance songs for tons of wrestlers.

A manager in wrestling usually serves one of two purposes - to cut promos for wrestlers who couldn't talk their way out of a paper bag, or to serve as a favorable distraction (or accomplice) to help their guys win. Jimmy actually managed to be both. He was the Hart Foundation's spokesman at the beginning, but he was eventually better known for the prop he carried: a megaphone that played a decisive role in many close matches, when it was bonked against someone's head, setting up an easy pin.

The Mouth of the South has that familiar foreign object and a pair of removable sunglasses, and the likeness is pretty good, but not great. The Classic Superstars line definitely suffers from the fact that they can't use RealScan technology to capture the wrestlers. It's not a constant problem, but just as in this three-pack, the facial sculpts generally hover somewhere around the "acceptable" level instead of up around "reliable" or "impressive."

Jakks' re-used bodies really bring this figure down, though - Jimmy Hart was always a scrawny little guy, definitely not the same size as the wrestlers he managed. This figure, though? He's huge. 7" tall. And buff. Buff? Buff isn't Jimmy Hart. He could be eating Buffalo wings and buffing floors at a buffet with a history buff, Jimmy Buffett and Buff Bagwell while watching Buffy and he still wouldn't be this... big. Jimmy Hart plays the wimp, not the muscle, but because Jakks doesn't have any small bodies, he's the same size as everyone else.

Now, all these figures have been available before. Bret was in Series 1, Jimmy was in 7 and Neidhart was in a previous three-pack. However, this is the first time the Pink and Black Attack has been packaged together, and the paint apps are new. Jakks has said that they're committed to making sure everyone has a chance at the characters they want - which is a polite way of saying they're going to re-release the hell out of these things. Personally, I'm all for it: I'd rather get a figure the second time around than worry about paying eBay prices.

The tag team, it seems, has gone the way of the dodo. Sure, there's still a tag championship in the WWE, but it's all changed. Gone are the days of the Hart Foundation, the British Bulldogs, the Killer Bees... Guys who dressed alike and shared a common gimmick and were unequivocally a team. Now it's just singles stars who happen to be in a match together. So unless things change, it'll probably be a long time before any team overtakes Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, and "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart in (where else?) the fans' hearts.

-- 08/23/06

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