When it comes to factions, it unquestionably has to start with The Four Horsemen. Unlike most heel groups of the mid 80s, the Horsemen were winners with the belts to prove it. They smartly looked out for each other to protect said titles and they weren’t above attacking opponents in the locker room or parking lot to get any kind of advantage.
And when they weren’t cheating or using their superior numbers to take out the opposition, along with manager J.J. Dillon, they gloated incessantly about living the good life of furs, limos, money and women. They were the ultimate loud-mouthed heels and fans couldn’t wait for the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and The Road Warriors to shut them up.
While the membership changed over its decade-plus run, most longtime fans consider the third iteration of mainstays Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and (new to the group) Barry Windham as the best incarnation. Hard to argue as the group held the four major titles of the National Wrestling Alliance during their far too brief stint in 1988.
That version was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 for their accomplishment, which led to Mattel trying something new with its Elite Flashback line. Despite earlier setbacks with tag teams sets languishing on Toys R Us pegs, Mattel has become far more encouraged by the success of its Flashback line and expanded it to include a Target exclusive Hall of Fame set.
And to really test the waters, Mattel is trying a Hall of Fame boxset featuring the Four Horsemen. Is this set the symbol of excellence or should it be taken to the glue factory? Time to break it down!
Let me start with the elephant in the room. This set bizarrely features the wrong look for Barry Windham, who is portrayed like his WWF tenure as ‘The Widowmaker’ and 1990 era Horsemen than how he looked with this group of Horsemen. Since it’s not a lock we’ll get more than this one take on Windham, it’s a major letdown as this figure is far too tied to a brief period of his career and not the more common look for him.
The 1984-1988 version Windham would work just as easily as the U.S. Express WWF Windham, NWA Western States Heritage Champ and dreaded U.S. champ with the Four Horsemen. Mattel would have easily had me on the hook for two sets with that take on Windham. It’s odd considering the WWE used this era Horsemen on the DVD set photo. It’s the kind of move that previous license holder Jakks was doing in the end when it didn’t seem like anyone remotely cared about accuracy and detail.
Ironically, this set would work perfectly — even down to the tights — if this were the 1990 era of the Horsemen with Sid in place of Tully. Just swap in the Defining Moments Flair and you’re nearly set. Side note, this is yet another reason why Mattel needs to make a Sid figure a priority. Ok, with that griping out the way onto the set.
Packaging: As the first Mattel WWE Hall of Fame box set there’s not much to stack up to, which is a good thing considering it’s not exactly going to win packaging of the year. The inner package features a backdrop like the WWE Hall of Fame LCD display at the actual show so you could theoretically use that as a piece for a diorama.
The package back has less personalization than normal with just large portraits of the wrestlers. A bio of some sort would have been nice to explain to folks the significance of the group.
Granted, the set likely restricts this to the more old school collector already familiar with the Horsemen, but a bit more personalization or even a pic from the Hall of Fame ceremony would have been a nice addition.
Arn, Tully and Barry are shown in their respective attires from the set while the Flair portrait is from the mid-90s with his shorter hairstyle, hardly resembling the Flair in the set. My wife noticed it right away and it’s such an odd decision considering WWE probably has a few reference pictures of Flair that would match up better. It’s not a big deal, but hopefully Mattel isn’t starting to cut corners and skimp out on small details like that.
Likeness: Arn and Tully don’t have new head sculpts, which is great considering those are two of the best in Mattel’s WWE run. Windham and Flair both take a hit for the same reason — the dreaded open mouth expression. Flair looks like he’s either smiling or grimacing, but the expression is a bit too nice and pleasant for the smack-talking ringleader of the Horsemen. It looks better in person, but it doesn’t scream ‘that’s Ric Flair’ like Arn and Tully.
Paint: The figures aren’t the most paint intensive, but that’s no fault of Mattel’s. They execute the paintjobs fine with one exception: my Windham’s hair had some grey paint streaks along the right side. I doubt this is a wholesale issue and I don’t think it’s noticeable from the box, but you might want to look a bit closer than normal at the hair.
The monogram tampo on the tights are clean and there’s no issues with Flair’s ‘RF’ on his boots, the stars on Blanchard’s boots, Arn’s two-tone tights or Windham’s cowboy boots. Mattel even lightened up Arn’s hair to be more accurate to that timeframe when his hair was more blond-ish. Arn also rocked the two-tone tights while a member of The Dangerous Alliance so I’m ecstatic Mattel went with this look over the full red version.
Tully got the black tights in the Matty.com exclusive version so this figure has his other signature tight color. The chest hair on both Arn and Tully is done smoothly and not too excessive like the DM Razor Ramon.
Flair’s black tights wouldn’t be my first choice, but it compliments the DM’s black robe so it makes perfect sense in this case. Flair does not have the painted finger tape, which is surprising since it was included in the DM version.
Windham’s beard is too thick — he had more of a three-day growth than a full on beard. Accurately differentiating between stubble and beards is a problem for most companies so this is no great surprise.
Scale: Blanchard is perfectly scaled to capture his 5’10” height while Flair and Arn were billed at 6’1″ and Windham stands tallest at 6’5″. Windham’s head looked a smidge small to me, but it may be because of the slicked back hairstyle. He could probably stand to be just a bit taller, which you might be able to fudge by adding a little cotton in the neck hole.
Windham and Flair are a bit more defined than they should for that timeframe, but the line has always gone with more desired than actual for the torsos and there was no reason to expect that would change here.
Articulation: Solid as you would expect from Elite figures. Whether DDT, lariat, superplex, figure four or gourd buster, you’ll be able to handle each Horsemen’s signature move. Flair’s hair is a tiny bit restrictive on left to right and up and down movement, but it’s not a major problem.
Accessories: This is the one category where the set takes a hit. With a $50 price tag you knew we were gonna get dinged somewhere. Of all the areas though this was the best one since the Matty.com Arn and Tully already came with the WWF tag team titles (which you can also get in one shot with the HOF Wave 2 Yokozuna).
Flair had the matching robe and world title with his DM figure so Windham was really the only one in need of an accessory and he gets his trademark vest. There’s no detail on it, but that’s a very minor complaint.
Worth it? For $12.50 each you’re getting four Elite figures that would otherwise run you $30 more. Depending on the paint decos and accessories with their wave mates, they could get skimped on with accessories on that end as well. Arn and Tully alone cost $50 thanks to Matty.com’s questionable shipping costs.
While you’re not getting much by way of accessories with these guys save Windham, this set is a tremendous value deal that lets you get the most influential faction of all time in one swoop. Some Hall of Fame figures have just been repaints and they run $21 so this is a killer deal especially considering we get the full roster in one swoop.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Where you can get it: This is a Target exclusive so don’t complain about not finding them at Wal-Mart or Toys R Us.
Mattel is testing the waters with this Hall of Fame set and WWE figure designer Bill Miekina said more HOF sets depending on the success of the 4 Horsemen so if money isn’t an object, don’t wait for this to hit clearance. Grab it now so we can get more Flashback figures!