REVIEW: WWE GLOBAL SUPERSTARS YOSHI TATSU
After many years of being a fan of the WWE, I've finally started collecting select action figures from Mattel's line. My focus has been on the Superstars line. They're a surprising bargain, given the price and the size and quality of figure that you get. The Superstars line tends to focus on currently active wrestlers in the WWE, with occasional exceptions.
One particular division of Mattel's Superstars line is a series known as Global Superstars. This group focuses on wrestlers born around the world. The USA is represented by John Cena. Ireland comes in with Sheamus, and so forth. Japan, certainly a notable locale for professional wrestling, is represented by YOSHI TATSU.
Professional wrestling is just as (if maybe even a little more) popular in Japan as it is in the United States -- and they're a good bit more dedicated to it, as well. There are several notable Japanese wrestling organizations, and their top superstars are distinct celebrities throughout the country.
Interestingly, the WWE doesn't have a lot of Japanese wrestlers at the moment. I'm not entirely sure why this is. I doubt there's any great reason for it except that it's just how things are at the present time.
Let's consider the background of Yoshi Tatsu, and then have a look at his action figure.
Yamamoto trained for his professional wrestling career in the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo before making his professional wrestling debut on October 12, 2002.
Yamamoto lost to Wataru Inoue in his debut match in the first match of a show in the Korakuen Hall. Initially Yamamoto worked low card matches for NJPW, normally on the losing side to gain ring experience. On December 27, 2003, Yamamoto lost to Ryusuke Taguchi in a match where the winner would get a match on NJPW's most prestigious show, their January 4 Dome Show Wrestling World. Yamamoto participated in the 2004 Young Lion Cup where he defeated Hirooki Goto, Aikya Anzawa, and Hiroshi Nagao to earn a total of six points, not enough to qualify for the finals. Yamamoto also participated in the 2005 Young Lion Cup where he only won one match, defeating Yujiro.
In 2006 Yamamoto participated in his first G1 Climax tournament, losing all four matches. Yamamoto teamed up with Manabu Nakanishi to compete in the 2006 G1 Climax Tag League, defeating Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko to earn their sole victory in the tournament. On January 8, 2006, Yamamoto and Osamu Nishimura defated Toru Yano and a returning Togi Makabe. Over the summer of 2007 Yamamoto began teaming regularly with Hiroshi Tanahashi forming a team called "New Japan Dragons", earning a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship against the then champions, Bernard and Tomko, albeit in a losing effort.
For the 2007 G1 Climax Tag League Yamamoto teamed up with Takashi Ilzuka, while they defeated three teams (Hirooki Goto and Milano Collection A.T., Togi Makabe and Toru Yano, and Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko); the team ended up in last place. On November 2, 2007 Yamamoto wrestled his last match for NJPW, teaming with his mentor Yuji Nagata in a losing effort against Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.
In late 2007 Yamamoto was signed by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to a full time contract, which meant that he had to relocate to the United States. He immediately was assigned to WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), to undergo assessment and training in the "WWE Style" of wrestling. Initially he wrestled as Mr. Yamamoto, then simply as Yamamoto. He briefly teamed with Sheamus under the team name "the Movers and the Shakers". Later on he changed his ring name to Yoshitatsu, before tweaking the spelling to Yoshi Tatsu, the name he currently works under.
On June 30, 2009, Yamamoto joined the ECW brand under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu. He had his first match that night, defeating Shelton Benjamin, although he lost a rematch to Benjamin on the July 9 episode of ECW. On the October 20 episode of ECW, Tatsu defeated Zack Ryder to become number one contender for the ECW Championship, although he failed to win the championship the following week against Christian.
On the December 22 episode of ECW Yoshi Tatsu defeated Jack Swagger to earn a spot in the ECW Homecoming battle royal where the winner would challenge Christian for the ECW title at the Royal Rumble. On the January 12 episode of ECW, however, Tatsu was not able to win the battle royal when he was eliminated by Kane. At the Royal Rumble Tatsu competed in his first Royal Rumble match, but was eliminated by John Cena. Tatsu then formed a tag team with Goldust and the duo became the number one contenders for the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship but failed in capturing the titles on the final episode of ECW on Syfy.
After the ECW brand was discontinued, Tatsu made his debut on the Raw brand on the February 22, 2010 episode of Raw, where he teamed up with Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston to defeat The Legacy (Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase, and Cody Rhodes), after Orton turned on his partners. Tatsu won a 26-Man Battle Royal in the dark match to open WrestleMania XXVI by last eliminating Zack Ryder.
In July 2010, Tatsu would be involved in a few backstage brawls with The Nexus to try to help John Cena get rid of them, which he failed to do. Yoshi then went to Japan to promote the new WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 video game. After months of not appearing on WWE television, Tatsu returned on the November 11 episode of WWE Superstars, defeating Zack Ryder. On the November 29 episode of Raw, Tatsu teamed with Mark Henry to defeat WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, after a distraction by John Cena. A week later, Tatsu and Henry received a shot at the titles in a Fatal-4-Way Elimination Tag Team match, which also included The Usos and Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. Tatsu and Henry were the first team eliminated in the match.
On the February 14 episode of Raw, Maryse and DiBiase were about to kiss but instead Maryse kissed Tatsu. On the 24 February episode of Superstars during the match between Daniel Bryan and Ted DiBiase, Yoshi Tatsu came out and gave Maryse flowers but Maryse hit DiBiase with the flowers before Bryan used the LeBell Lock on DiBiase, making him tap out allowing Bryan to win the match. Tatsu also had a chance to earn a World Heavyweight Championship shot in a 20 man number one contenders battle royal which he was eliminated from.
On April 26, Tatsu was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2011 Supplemental Draft. His only appearances on SmackDown for 2011 were in the form of number one contenders battle royals for the World Heavyweight Championship and participation in the All I Want for Christmas battle royal where the winner would receive one wish.
Tatsu was a WWE Pro for the fifth season of WWE NXT, also known as NXT Redemption, with his rookie being Byron Saxton. On the April 26 episode of WWE NXT, Tatsu was attacked by Saxton after Tatsu cost his match against Lucky Cannon. This would cause tension between the two until the May 17 episode of WWE NXT, where Tatsu would defeat Saxton. On the May 31 episode of WWE NXT, Saxton was the second rookie eliminated.
After Saxton's elimination, Tatsu began a feud with fellow NXT pro Tyson Kidd, whose rookie was also eliminated. Their feud stemmed from Kidd breaking Tatsu's toy figurine of himself and stealing one of the toy figurine's legs. Both wrestlers would trade wins during their series of matches, and Tatsu claimed back the stolen figurine leg by winning a Necklace on a Pole match on the July 26 episode of NXT. After the match, Kidd brutally assaulted the right leg of Tatsu, causing Tatsu to be absent from NXT for more than a month.
However, in the next few weeks, a mysterious Japanese symbol would appear on the TitanTron to distract Kidd during his matches. The symbol turned out to be the Kanji lettering for "pride" – a message from Tatsu. Tatsu returned on the September 6th episode of NXT, where he debuted black tights emblazoned with Kanji characters and the Japanese flag, had his small lock of blond hair dyed red and had half his face painted. Tatsu would go on to defeat Kidd on that episode to end the feud. Tatsu later explained that his new look and wrestling style was due to him wanting to better portray Japanese culture, Japanese pride and the aggressive style of Japanese wrestling; he also explained that his face paint was a tribute to the Great Muta. Tatsu stopped wearing his face paint to the ring by October 2011.
Tatsu formed an alliance with Trent Barreta; from December 2011, they feuded with Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks. Both teams would play pranks on each other, with Tatsu being locked in a closet and Reks' hands being superglued onto an Xbox controller. On January 18th Hawkins and Reks beat Barreta and Tatsu, culminating the feud.
Tatsu would then go on a losing streak against the likes of Jinder Mahal, Hunico, Damien Sandow, and Wade Barrett. On the January 23, 2013 episode of NXT, Tatsu and Percy Watson entered a tournament to crown the first NXT Tag Team Champions, but were defeated by the Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) in the first round.
In my opinion, Tatsu has deserved better than he's gotten. Granted, not everybody makes it to the top in the WWE. But Tatsu seemed to be on a good track and got shot down. Don't get me started on the irony of a feud developing between Tatsu and another wrestler that involved a Yoshi Tatsu action figure being dismantled...! The Great Muta, by the way, is one of the most legendary Japanese wrestlers around.
So, how's the figure? Very nicely made, really, and it comes from the point in time after Yoshi Tatsu changed his image, started painting half his face and colored part of his hair red.
One of my primary criteria for adding a WWE action figure to my collection is -- how much does it look like the actual individual? Fortunately, the package cards for the Superstars line have a photograph of the actual individual right there on the card, nice and big, so a comparison is easy to make.
The Yoshi Tatsu figure is an excellent likeness of the character. Tatsu has a somewhat long face, with a fairly prominent chin. The figure duplicates these features extremely well. Yoshi Tatsu tends to have rather long hair, which is tied off in the back like a ponytail. This, too, has been duplicated very effectively on the figure.
The left side of Yoshi's face has been painted with the pattern which he wore for a time. Although the background information indicated that he has since discontinued this practice, as far in advance as action figures tend to be prepared, it was probably produced before he had done so. Or Mattel simply chose to bring it back for this particular Global Superstars figure. It's a perfectly legitmate look for him.
While the face paint may be intended as a tribute to The Great Muta, there's a certain kabuki look to it. It's mostly white, with thin, decorative red and black lines. A kanji symbol, I suspect the one representing "pride" that Tatsu used when he more or less reinvented himself, is also present on his face, in black. Several streaks of Tatsu's hair have been colored red on the right side of his head. Overall, it makes for a decidedly colorful visage.
Tatsu is wearing black tights, a color that turns up quite often among WWE Superstars. It doesn't exactly make for the most colorful collection in the world. Fortunately, I have more colorfully-garbed figures of individuals like Rey Mysterio and Kofi Kingston to break up the moderate monotony.
Tatsu's tighes do have some fairly ornate patterning on them. There's a wide white stripe down the side of the right leg that has numerous kanji characters on it. I don't read Japanese (and for the sake of some other action figure lines I've collected in the past, such as certain Transformers and Gundams, I rather wish I did), but I was able to determine that the same symbol that appears on Tatsu's face is also among those on his tights.
The left side of Tatsu's tights has an ornate Japanese dragon imprinted on it in outline. It's a very fancy decoration, although it did give me a bit of a flashback to another Mattel action figure line from decades past.
Fortunately for Yoshi, not to mention hundreds of other action figures from various action figure lines from various companies, however this imprinting process is done, it has vastly improved since those days.
Tatsu's boots, also black, have outlined trim on them, in the form of red flames. He has silver wristbands, each of which has the Japanese flag imprinted on it.
Perhaps the most unusual costume characteristic on Yoshi Tatsu are these little armbands which look like thin black rope, and appear to have been tied off with excess rope hanging from the knots. It's not real rope, they're molded plastic, but they were molded separately and placed onto the figure during assembly.
Mattel's WWE line doesn't go in for the same level of standardization of bodies as some of their other lines, such as DC Universe or Masters of the Universe. This is certainly because the figures are based on real people, who have different body types, not fictional characters. However, there is a certain level of parts reusage, which is only understandable. Doubtless Mattel has a good supply of various body types, and when possible, they use the one that's closest to the actual physical build of the individual. And I have to say, the results are impressive.
Articulation of the figure is excellent. Yoshi Tatsu is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. The legs move forward and backward, but not outward. And there is no mid-torso articulation. But keep in mind, this is pretty much the basic WWE Superstars line. If you want more articulation, it can be found in the Elite Collection, which includes mid-torso articulation and more extensive leg articulation. But you'll be paying quite a bit more for it, about 1-1/2 times the price of a Superstars figure. I'm content with the Superstars collection.
So, what's my final word? This is a cool figure. As I've said in other WWE reviews, I'm really not sure why I didn't get into collecting these figures sooner. I can only say that I had other action figure priorities. Really, I still do, but I'm more than prepared to welcome in some of these WWE Superstars as I see ones that appeal to me and are good likenesses of the individuals, without some quirky facial expression -- another one of my criteria, and face paint aside, Yoshi Tatsu has a very straightforward expression on his face.
Mattel's done a really outstanding job with these figures, and the basic Superstars line is extensive (I have yet to see the same assortment in any two stores, which can be a little frustrating at times, especially since I'm still just "getting my feet wet" on this and am really not sure who to look for), they're well made, and they're abundantly affordable.
As for Yoshi Tatsu, I think it's unfortunate that he hasn't fared more prominently in the WWE. Not to denigrate the top stars, but I think the fans of the WWE would be well served with a greater level of variety. I like John Cena, Sheamus, and the other top players as much as anyone else, but I would like to see some other faces come in and present them with some different challenges from time to time -- and from what I saw of him when he first debuted, Yoshi Tatsu is more than up to the challenge.
In the meantime, I'm pleased to welcome his action figure into my growing collection of WWE Superstars figures. And if you're a fan of the WWE, I think you'll be pleased with him as well.
The WWE GLOBAL SUPERSTARS figure of YOSHI TATSU definitely has my highest recommendation!