The second series of the Target-exclusive WWE Elite Hall of Fame line just started to hit the big red retailer, and all I have to say about that is, “¡Ariba!” If you are one who knows, you know that is the enthusiastic catchphrase of the avuncular superstar of the ’80s and ’90s – Tito Santana. Hey, you have to be a member of the WWE Hall of Fame in order to get into this line, and as a 2004 inductee, Santana is certainly one of the most deserving men in the history of sports entertainment. He has been a must-have for me since the “Flashback” stars started making their way into the Elite line, so this was a perfect opportunity to get him in the line.
Tito Santana was always one of those solid performers of the WWE that you could count on having a presence at everything from house shows to giant pay-per-views. After a highly successful run as Intercontinental Champion in the early ’80s, he had success in both the tag-team and singles divisions (mostly as a “mid-carder” in the latter), ultimately finishing with a pretty storied career. While he was not ever one of my favorite guys (I tended to like the heels more), he was always likeable enough, and within the confines of the WWE, he had four memorable runs, befriending and feuding with the full gamut of talent. Plus, Tito is one of those guys who has a pretty spotless record outside of the ring, and he is deservedly respected as a role model and a positive voice for the crazy show that is professional wrestling.
So, to say that the WWE Hall of Fame would lose credibility without his inclusion is understatement, and because he is rightfully enshrined, we finally get our first Mattel action figure of good ol’ “Chico.” This figure could have gone a few different ways when it comes to the look and costume that was chosen, and while it might not be as dynamic or flamboyant as his “El Matador” persona, the white trunks and red t-shirt combination was certainly some of his longest-tenured ring attire. Mostly a hold-over from his Strike Force days, this look carried him through his time as a singles combatant with memorable turns in multiple Royal Rumble and Survivor Series matches in the later ’80s to early ’90s days. This is the look I remember the most for him, but I can see the red trunks his IC champ days being very viable as well. The same goes for less successful El Matador, as that green, gold, and pink getup would make for a very striking figure. At any rate, if we ever get a Strike Force Rick Martel, this figure would do pretty well for that era too.
Thus, as far as figures go, Tito’s basic outfit makes for a pretty simple figure, but it is certainly not without its charm, either. All of the little details on the costume from the lightning bolts on the boots to the sombrero on the backside are well done in the typical Elite figure fashion; that is to say, the lines are all crisp and clean and everything is where it should be in terms of placement for stamps. He is built on the slimmer Elite body, so if you are familiar with the articulation scheme, that is what you are getting here. One thing that consistently impresses me with the WWE Elite line is the functionality and engineering of all of the articulation. The joints are always strong and tight and have a good range of motion, so kudos to Mattel and the Gentle Giant team for making it so.
Santana’s likeness is pretty good as well, and I like that they captured him smiling as he was one of the few superstars of the day to do so on a regular basis. While he was a skilled and intimidating wrestler, he also struck me as the kind of guy that you would want to have a beer with as well, so this is how I remember Tito. His hairdo matches the era of his costume, and while I think the color is a touch bright, it doesn’t bother. One thing I did notice is that it initially looks like Tito is missing some paint detail in his eyes, and that they forgot to paint the irises. However, upon closer inspection, they just matched his brown eye color, so from a distance it is tough to differentiate that from the black in his pupils, but it is great that they went for accuracy.
Finally, Santana’s lone “accessory” is a soft goods recreation of his famous t-shirt, which the figure can wear. Under usual circumstances, I am not a big supporter of soft goods, but they are standard in this line and Mattel actually does a good job with them. So, since the shirt fits the figure nicely, I actually dig it. It is hard to make cloth look realistic at this scale, especially with the wrinkles and folds, but Tito can wear his tee quite well. The emblem is sharply printed and even though the whole sombrero theme is probably not the most PC by today’s standards, it is 100 percent vintage Tito.
¡Arrrrrrrrriba! I am very glad to add this figure to my collection, and Tito Santana is most certainly deserving of a figure that celebrates his Hall of Fame status. The HoF line is exclusive to Target, so hunting can get a little tricky at times, but I hope this line is doing very well because it is a great opportunity to get more figures of the best. I can easily picture guys like Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Don Muraco, Harley Race, and Jimmy Snuka making it into this line, but since the roster is big and diverse, maybe guys like Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan aren’t out of the question either.