“Cuttin’ and a struttin’, cuttin’ and a struttin’!”
From a popularity and gimmick perspective, it seems like madness that it took until wave 49(!!!) to get Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake into Mattel’s WWE Elite line, but I have to remind myself that Ed Leslie (Brutus’s given handle) is a bit of a, um, unique(?) character unto himself. We know that popularity is not the only thing that will get you into plastic as a WWE action figure, you also have to be in good legal and social standing (at least recently) and on amicable terms with the WWE itself to make it through an approval process and/or “Legends” deal. Mr. Leslie had struggled with all of those things the last several years, but it seems like things have finally settled down, and much to my delight (and relief), I finally have one of the most memorable characters from my heyday as a WWF fan.
By this time, Ed Leslie’s career might be more infamous than famous, especially with guys around the business itself. However, even after a laundry list of forgettable (and regrettable) gimmicks, the “Barber” persona still rings as memorable, and the one time in Leslie’s career where he wasn’t just known (at least publicly) as Hulk Hogan’s best friend and lackey, riding a meal ticket to mid-card stardom. As kid watching his run in the WWF, I had no idea of any of that, and while I was always more of a “heel” fan, I thought Brutus was a pretty good wrestler who did a nice job capturing a unique persona.
In terms of quantitative accomplishments over the course of a career, Brutus never really had much to speak of past his Tag-Team Champion status early on in his heel career with Greg Valentine as “The Dream Team.” This was before the “Barber” became a part of the gimmick, and while the more straightforward persona as a Chippendales-like performer made more sense overall, once he ripped up his tights, carried a ridiculously-sized pair of garden shears, and started cutting fallen opponent’s hair, Brutus was blasted to the peak of his career with the WWE. He was never a champion again, but he did find ways of staying relevant for several years leading up to his near-fatal parasailing accident, and like I said, I always enjoyed watching him.
This new figure recreates the character in a look from his peak time as a singles superstar, and it is one of the better Elite Flashback figures in recent memory. Brutus (please don’t call him “Brother Bruti,” or “The Disciple,” or “The Booty Man”) had a very unique, and fairly complicated costume with lots of different materials, cuts, and designs that are often difficult to accomplish with an action figure, especially within a line that often relies on a lot of parts reuse. However, Mattel has come through, and all of the pieces that really should be new and unique in order to facilitate Beefcake’s look are present, much to the benefit of the figure. Within the scope of the Elite line, I find Brutus to be just about as close to flawless as any figure I have gotten recently (I only collect the Flashbacks that land between the mid-80s and very early 90s), and if his head wasn’t slightly oversized, I would not have a single nit to pick.
When it comes to wrestling figures, the correct build is very important, especially in relation to other figures in the line. What I am saying is, Brutus needs to be built like you would expect him to look, but also keep a good size relation to other figures from his era. In this case, I think Mattel has done a good job. I am not nearly the “part library” expect with the WWE line as I am with say, ML, but the plastic physique on this Barber figure matches well with Leslie’s build from that time frame. He was pretty buff during his peak years, and I think most people forget how tall he is; at 6’4” he stands with some of the upper-average guys in terms of stature, and a good measuring stick is his pal Hogan, and this figure is just a bit shorter than Hulk, so I call that right on in term of scale. I am pretty positive his chest, upper arms and boots are all made up of previously-existing parts, so Mattel used to the library well.
The new pieces are where this figure really shines, though, and they really help to capture Beefcake’s unique nicely, and that is something that every Elite figure deserves, really, especially considering the more premium price point. So, if you are familiar with Brutus at all, you know he wears long fingerless gloves, and has some pretty unique-looking “tears” in his tights. I am sure the latter is to help to sell the cutting gimmick, but Brutus was never short on flair and over-the-top pizazz in look and deed. The figure has new thigh pieces with the netted cut outs sculpted into the tights. The zebra print on the tights and gloves is well-executed as well, so the clean paint job and new parts make for an eye-catching figure.
The included accessories also help to sell the look and the figure (with the exception of the pretty lame “back drop” pieces), and come in the form of his shears, bowtie, and shredded jacket/smock. The big shears are the most iconic part of this look, and they have been recreated faithfully here with the red and white “barber pole” motif, and ability to open and close. Not that Brutus ever used them to actually cut anyone’s hair, but there is no way you could release a Barber figure and not include these. The removable bowtie (possibly a rehash from Rick Martel, I am not sure since my collection is boxed up for a move at the moment) is one of those weird carryovers from his regular “Beefcake” days, but it is nonetheless essential to recreate that super sexy barber look. Yeah. His chopped up jacket is made of cloth (something I usually take a pause to), but it is actually really, really nice, and while it doesn’t have all of the pockets and stuff on it, it fits really well, the colors match, too. I cannot imagine what it would have cost to tool this jacket, so even though soft goods are really expensive as well, this must have been a case of being less than the plastic alternative.
Finally, and probably the most important thing, is the success of the likeness/head sculpt. Brutus definitely had a memorable mullet, even in a time when they were rampant, especially among professional wrestlers, as well as a look of the crazies, and both of those come through very well in the sculpt. It seems to me that in this line likenesses are either great, terrible, or just completely non-descript, so as this one is definitely in the former, I am happy to report that. This is definitely Brutus, and I like how the expression is almost a throwback to the original Hasbro Beefcake figure that I remember so well. The downside is that, to me anyway, the head seems a little big, even considering that luscious mullet. It is not terrible, but compared to some of the other Flashbacks that I have not packed away yet, the noggin does look a bit large. I don’t know, judge for yourself, but just because I notice doesn’t mean it really bothers me, but your mileage may vary.
Hey! Getting an action figure of a wrestler that you like can capture his/her image in a certain time, so can remember them fondly. Brutus Beefcake was a memorable part of the WWF stable when I was a big fan, so even though he was never really a top of the top guy, he is still essential. I am glad we have been able to get such a nice figure of guy, and possible gimmick, that could have been swept into the dustbin of history, but now that we have so many of the heavy-hitters done, this is just the kind of character I hope we see more of in the future of the Elite Flashback releases. So, whether you call him Ed Leslie, Ed Boulder, Eddie Hogan, Dizzy Hogan, Baron Beefcake, The Booty Man, Big Brother Booty, Brother Bruti, Brute Force, The Butcher, The Mariner, The Clipmaster, The Disciple, The Zodiac, The Zodiac Man, or simply The Man With No Name, he will always be Brutus Beefcake to me, and now I have a great figure of the Barber to call my own.