REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS MASON RYAN
I've made an interesting discovery as I've been collecting the WWE SUPERSTARS line from Mattel. That discovery is this -- between the lead time necessary in creating a new action figure of a given WWE Superstar, and given the seemingly rather sporadic, or at least scattershot, method of distribution of the figures to various retailers (I have yet to see the same group of figures at any two stores even among the same retailer, never mind different retailers), it's pretty hard for the action figure line to keep up with what's happening on the major WWE programs right now.
For example, right now, as I write this, John Cena is the WWE Champion, and is in a rivalry with Ryback. Cena's been around the WWE long enough for there to be several figures of him. Ryback's first has just come out and I'm having a heck of a time finding it. For all I know, Ryback could be the next champion. Or he might be out for a year with an unfortunate injury. Or Cena might be.
Another up and coming Superstar in the WWE goes by the name of Damian Sandow. His figure has just come out, as well, although I have yet to find it. See what I mean? And don't even get me started on what it must take for Mattel to keep up with those WWE Superstars that have a penchant for tattoos, take a couple of months off to heal up from injuries, and return to the ring more marked up than ever.
Then there's the flip side of the coin. Those WWE Superstars that get a fair bit of emphasis, a generous amount of screen time, make an impactful statement or two in the ring, and then for whatever reason, seem to fade from the spotlight. Often it's not their fault. Some writer or some executive somewhere just decides that this individual isn't working out, and he is removed from the top tier. He's still with the company, generally shows up on the second or third level TV shows, works the house shows, but that's about it.
Is it fair? In my opinion, no. Unless a given WWE talent is a total screw-up somehow, in which case he probably wouldn't've gotten close to the top tier in the first place, I think it would provide some variety to shuffle the deck of "prominence" once in a while, more than seems to happen these days. But that's not my call to make. I don't work for the WWE.
However, in something of a moderate irony, sometimes a given WWE Superstar will gain a measure of prominence just long enough to be immortalized in action figure plastic, and then someone like me comes along, and discovers his figure, doubtless not part of one of the most recent assortments, but still a perfectly legitimate action figure, and thinks, "Oh, right, HIM! Hey, I haven't seen him for a while. I wonder what happened to him?" And then I buy the action figure.
Such was the case recently with a WWE Superstars figure of an individual by the name of MASON RYAN. And believe me, for a time, the man definitely made an impact, first as a member of the "New Nexus", and then on his own. And then -- well, let's have a look at the man's history in the ring, and then we'll review his action figure.
Barri Griffiths (born January 13, 1982) is a Welsh professional wrestler and former Gladiators competitor, also known as Goliath and by his ring name Mason Ryan.
Griffiths studied construction management at Cardiff University, before working as a trainee carpenter and in his family's funeral home. He also played as a centre-back for Porthmadog F.C., but a knee injury curtailed his career. Griffiths appeared as "Goliath" on Gladiators in 2009.
Griffiths began training to be a professional wrestler in 2006, and competed around Europe for the next three years. In 2009, he signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and debuted in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), WWE's developmental territory, in January 2010 using the name 'Mason Ryan'.
In July, he won the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship and held the championship until February 2011. Griffiths debuted as Mason Ryan on the Raw brand in January 2011, where he aligned himself with The New Nexus.
Grifftihs is a son of Malcolm Griffiths and Carys Griffiths. Griffiths attended both Ysgol y Gorlan primary school in Tremadog, Wales and Ysgol Eifionydd secondary school in Porthmadog, before studying construction management at Cardiff University for 18 months.
Griffiths worked as a trainee carpenter and in his family's funeral home business prior to becoming a professional wrestler. Griffiths played football as a centre-back for Welsh Premier League side Porthmadog F.C., but had to curtail due to a knee injury he suffered.
Griffiths appeared in the second series of the revived Gladiators television show in 2009, and competed under the name "Goliath". When he was working on a television show in Wales about being a wrestler, he was told that producers were looking for new gladiators, and he applied with the encouragement of his trainer, Orig Williams.
Griffiths began training to be a professional wrestler in 2006 after attending a wrestling show with a friend where the promoter Orig 'El Bandito' Williams, recommended he start wrestling. He trained at a professional wrestling school in Birkenhead.
Prior to appearing on Gladiators, Griffiths had wrestled under the names "Celtic Warrior" and "Smackdown Warrior" since 2007, and had competed in almost 100 matches in countries including Egypt and Venezuela. He represented the UK in a 'Battle of the Nations' tag team match between the UK and Austria, teaming with Drew McDonald and Sheamus O'Shaunessy in a losing effort to Chris Raaber, Michael Kovac, and Robert Ray Kreuzer at the European Wrestlng Association's Night of Gladiators show in June 2007.
After signing with World Wrestling Entertainment, Griffiths had his final show in Wales at Y Ganolfan, Porthmadog in October 2008, where he first won a singles match, before winning a battle royal.
In mid-2009, Griffiths signed a five-year contract with WWE. When he received his work visa, he debuted in their developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in January 2010. Under the name Mason Ryan, he competed against wrestlers including Johnny Curtis, Tyler Reks, Johnny Prime, and Hunico in his first matches.
On 22 July, Ryan won a triple threat match against defending champion Alex Riley and Johnny Curtis by pinning Riley to win the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship for the first time.
Over the next few months, Ryan successfully defended the championship against wrestlers including Bo Rotundo, Richie Steamboat, and Eli Cottonwood. At the tapings of FCW television on September 2, Ryan successfully defended the championship against Johnny Curtis when FCW commentator Byron Saxton interfered and aided him. The following week, Saxton became aligned with Ryan, accompanying him to the ring and acting as his manager.
In November 2010, Ryan toured Europe with the SmackDown brand, defeating Chavo Guerrero in Belfast on 4 November and again in Liverpool on November 6. On February 3, 2011, Ryan lost the Florida Heavyweight Championship to Bo Rotundo, ending a six-and-a-half month reign.
Griffiths, as Mason Ryan, made his WWE television debut on the January 17, 2011 episode of Raw by interfering in a match between CM Punk and John Cena. Following his interference, Punk presented him with a "Nexus" armband, inducting him into the New Nexus.
Ryan then participated in the 2011 Royal Rumble match where he eliminated The Great Khali and Booker T. On February 7, Ryan had his debut match on Raw when he lost to R-Truth via disqualification. In late February, it was announced that Punk would face Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXVII, with each member of the New Nexus facing Orton to win the right to accompany Punk to the ring in the preceeding weeks. Ryan was the final member to face Orton, but lost.
Following the match, Orton punted Ryan in the head. Ryan was absent from television for nearly a month, making his return on the April 11 edition of Raw with the other New Nexus members, attacking Orton and preventing him from earning a WWE Championship match.
On the episode of Raw on May 2, Ryan lost to Kane by disqualification following interference from Punk, and went on to attack both Kane and Big Show. Afterward he left the ring without celebrating with the other members of the New Nexus.
At the Over the Limit pay-per-view on May 22, Ryan and Punk challenged Big Show and Kane for the WWE Tag Team Championship, but were unsuccessful. Mason Ryan was voted to face Evan Bourne in a singles match and won, but Ryan winning the vote was later revealed to be due to a technical error, as Sin Cara was the actual winner of the vote. The following month, Ryan suffered an injury and was absent from television to recuperate.
Ryan returned from injury at a house show in Jackson, Mississippi in late August. He made his television return as a "face" on the September 8 episode of WWE Superstars, defeating JTG. On the September 26 episode of Raw, Ryan was chosen by Vickie Guerrero as the partner for Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler in a six-man tag team match against Zack Ryder and Air Boom (Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston), but Ryan turned on Swagger and Ziggler, allowing Ryder to pick up the victory for his team, thus turning Ryan face on a major program.
The following week on Raw, Ryan teamed with Air Boom, Sheamus, CM Punk and John Cena in a 12-man tag team match to defeat the team of Alberto Del Rio, Christian, Cody Rhodes, David Otunga, Ziggler, and Swagger.
Ryan began feuding with Ziggler, with the pair trading wins via disqualification. Ryan was part of Team Orton at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in November 20, where he was eliminated by Cody Rhodes.
After Survivor Series, Ryan was confined to wrestling on Superstars mainly for the first half of 2012, but did not wrestle a single televised match in the second half of 2012 because he requested some time off. Instead he appeared on the October 22 edition of RAW where he was a lumberjack during a match between CM Punk and Sheamus. He then marked his return to WWE tapings on the January 30, 2013, edition of NXT, by defeating Sakamoto.
He has since continued to write off TV appearances, but still appears at NXT live events.
You know, it's easy to say, and I doubt that the full story is here, but I wonder why he would choose not to be on television, assuming it is his choice.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive. As I said, it was something of a surprise to me to find it.
Mason Ryan is not a small man, even as wrestlers go. He's always been presented as a powerhouse, and at 6 ft., 5 inches and a billed weight of 285 pounds of rather finely tuned muscle, the powerhouse description certainly applies.
The WWE Superstars line makes use of multiple body types, far moreso than some of Mattel's other lines, such as DC Universe or Masters of the Universe. While these lines have their variety, they can also get away with a more consistent look to their respective figures, a consistency which I sincerely appreciate.
However, the main reason these lines can get away with this consistency is because they are based on fictional beings. Not so the WWE Superstars line. Say what you will about the in-ring characterizations of the various individuals, they're all still real people, and that means different body types.
If you're going to be a WWE Superstar, and get away with the athletic, highly physical activity in the ring that these people have to achieve, then you'd better be in very good physical condition. And indeed, the WWE Superstars are. But training and muscle definition does vary, as do things such as height and weight. It is to Mattel's credit that they have allowed for this to a substantial degree in their WWE line.
Some wrestlers require an entire set of molds to themselves. No one is as big as The Big Show. There's a reason that the common package bubbles for these figures have a few extra inches. It's so that The Big Show can be worked in every so often without his feet hanging out of the package.
Other, more typically-sized wrestlers can share some body parts, as long as the end result is a sufficiently accurate rendition of the individual. In Mason Ryan's case, that has meant using a set of body molds that results in a figure that stands seven inches in height, moderately above average if there even is such a thing as an average in this line, with an exceptionally well-defined musculature, which Mason Ryan certainly has.
When he was part of the New Nexus, a group of "heels" within the WWE that was noted for largely unprovoked group attacks upon unsuspecting wrestlers in the ring, Mason Ryan was the guy that those unsuspecting wrestlers hoped had taken the night off. The rest of the New Nexus, you stood some chance against. But if Ryan came out, he didn't just tip the scales, he kicked the scales over on his way to the ring to beat you up even worse than you were already getting it from the rest of the group. And he clearly had the physical presence to back it up.
Need it be said, the figure is just as imposing a presence in a gathering of WWE Superstars figures as Mason Ryan himself was at any given WWE event.
One of my main criteria, always, for purchasing a WWE Superstars figure is -- how much does it look like the actual individual? It's fortunate that Mattel runs photos of the actual individual on the package card. Very convenient, that is. The Mason Ryan figure is an excellent likeness, and better still (and here's my second criteria) doesn't have some goofy expression on his face. I really am not fond of that, either, and it's kept me from buying certain WWE Superstars figures of individuals that I would otherwise welcome into my collection.
Mason Ryan's facial features tend to be quite prominent. He has a prominent brow, a fairly prominent nose, slightly larger than average eyes, and a fairly prominent jaw. It's definitely a rather European-looking face in many respects. The headsculpt has been given a slight smile, but it's not a "Hi there, nice to meet you" sort of smile. More like, "Hi there, I'm really going to enjoy beating the heck out of you" sort of smile.
Mason Ryan's eyes and eyebrows have been very neatly painted. He has black hair of moderate length, slightly wavy and slicked back away from his forehead. This has been sculpted with considerable and impressive detail.
Mason Ryan tends to have a slight growth of beard, maybe a couple of days' worth. This has been nicely allowed for on the headsculpt with some gray paint around the jaw and over the upper lip. Honestly, Mattel did a better job on Mason Ryan than they did with a similar effect on Randy Orton. However, in Mattel's defense, Orton changes his hairstyle -- facial hair included -- so often that it's a wonder that production of the latest Randy Orton figure doesn't come to a screeching halt while Mattel changes the paint stencils. Grows a beard, shaves it off, grows his hair, nearly shaves it off... At least Mason Ryan has been a bit more consistent.
Mason Ryan does not have any visible tattoos. This was doubtless a nice break for the imprinters at the Mattel production facilities. The figure is wearing red trunks. This is something of a change of pace, given the number of WWE Superstars (and their respective figures) that have a distinct preference for black. The WWE action figure collection is a very cool one, but it's not the most colorful one in the world.
Mason Ryan's red trunks have some white trim. There's some broad jagged lines on the sides that look a bit like flames, and some lettering on the back, a rather interesting take on the initials "MR", in which the entirety of the M is there, basically, but there's this backwards curve on the upper right of the M, which essentially helps to form a backwards "R", using part of the "M". So, where does the M leave off and the R begin? I have no idea, but it's a pretty cool and certainly imaginative logo, and it's been very neatly imprinted on the trunks.
Mason Ryan is wearing black knee pads, which were molded separately from flexible plastic and attached during assembly. They do not hinder the knee articulation of the figure. And he is wearing black boots of a rather interesting design. They do not have laces n the front. Rather, they have straps and buckles in the rear.
Articulation of the Mason Ryan figure is excellent. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Some will likely notice the fact that there is no mid-torso articulation, upper leg swivel, and while the legs move forward and backward, they do not move outward.
Please keep in mind that this is the WWE Superstars line, and is arguably Mattel's most basic WWE action figure product. There is a more advanced line of figures, called the Elite Collection, which does provide these additional points of articulation. It also costs about 1-1/2 times as much as the Superstars line. Given that difference, I'm content with the Superstars line, although there's nothing wrong with the Elite Collection if you are so inclined.
So, what's my final word? I'd like to think we haven't seen the last of Mason Ryan on prominent WWE television shows. He was certainly an imposing and impressive presence. But, in the meantime, he's still with the WWE, and his action figure is also an imposing and impressive presence in the WWE Superstars collection. It's very well made, and a good and accurate likeness of the individual, and I believe would be a welcome addition to any WWE collection.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of MASON RYAN definitely has my highest recommendation!