The MakeToys Re:Master (Masterpiece-a-like) train steams along with MTRM-05 Wrestle, their version of the Autobot Grapple. Pretty much released at the same time as their Inferno "Hellfire" of the same base mould, for the time being Wrestle has only been offered as a MakeToys website exclusive. I was told I was within the first 20 to order this, and so I've received my specimen in the first wave of send-outs. Having owned and loved G1 Grapple as a child, I was always going to choose this over Inferno/Hellfire. Following the lauded MTRM-01 Cupola, the (in my opinion) excellent 02 Gundog and 07 Visualizers, 05 Wrestle fills another hole in the Autobot season 2 cast list that TakaraTomy may not fill for at least another year. With MakeToys' reputation for quality engineering and solid figures still in place, there's a chance that by getting to market first before Ocular Max and X-Transbots, Wrestle will be a success too. However, being a website exclusive that almost all online retailers are denied from offering currently, and taking into account MakeToys' distinct aesthetics, that's not a guarantee any more.
MakeToys MTRM-05 Wrestle comes with a bit of gear included. There's the two-piece rocket hand, the handgun, 5 extra faces, extra eyes, two heads for MTRM-02 Gundog (one for 2Y and one for 2N) and three extra faces/sets of eyes as well. There's the instruction sheet but no collector's card. Wrestle is packaged in robot mode, and a week or so before release, MakeToys issued a warning about the one-piece waist flaps on social media. Buyers were advised to lift the waist flap before moving the thighs in robot mode, and warned that it was an extra sensitive area as the flaps do not move independently with breakage a real risk if done incorrectly.
First impressions straight out of the box in robot mode were exceptionally good. If you have made peace with the chunky proportions that MT decided to give Wrestle and Hellfire, and the fact that he has a Sunbow cartoon-accurate orange coloured robot head, then you will be as blown away as I was by the presence of this quite weighty, well filled out orange beauty. I love Grapple, I always have, since my Dad picked G1 Grapple up for me when I was collected from school that day in 1986. I remember sitting in the back of the car staring at this orange truck crane wondering who the heck it was (our cartoon exposure in the UK was very limited at the time). It wasn't until Desertion Of The Dinobots on VHS that I got to see him on screen, with his immediately alluring orange head. Anyway, back to the present, absolutely love at first sight with MakeToys Wrestle. I had been so excited during the pre-order phase and ordered it as soon as it was declared live.
I noticed that one of the outer leg panels was not clipping in so well and every time I brushed my fingers against it, it would rotate and swing a bit. Before it started to worry me as a QC issue, I noticed Wrestle was packaged with the central shin panel depressed on the right leg, but you need to pull it out in order for the outer leg panel to clip onto it. Both Wrestles I have were packaged this way, and I'll explain why I have two a bit later. Posability is really good, lots of bend in the knees and elbows, solid and satisfyingly clunky shoulder ratchets and ole orange fat boy has some cracking visual impact when posed in-action or making full use of his various points of articulation. The Run, The Kneel, all possible and natural-looking, but he can't do the Ultra Magnus G1 Movie pose as the head articulation does not allow for an upwards glance. He can lean back well too as one can utlilise the crane arm for support.
Keeping in mind the last minute advice from MakeToys, I was always very careful to lift the waist flap(s) before any leg movement, lifting both flaps at the same time, never applying pressure to one side only, always both ends. I can just imagine a tiny loss of concentration or failure to recall the warning and that's it, goodbye flap. Wrestle's fists rotate into the wrist by way of a flap and it leaves a nice big peg for you to attach the rocket to. The handgun is a little more tricky to slot into the Cupola-style grooves in the palms but once you've managed it, the fit is secure. I had to hold the fist under the light and really get in close to make sure the gun sat properly in the groove. Nine times out of ten, though, I don't get the alignment right and the grip is a bit floppy. It's nowhere near as sweet a connection as Cupola has with his accessories.
Wrestle is just lovely to handle in robot mode, I've been lucky with my specimen because the tolerances and the ratchets are just right, and even though the ball joints in the ankles aren't very tight, he still holds all the dynamic range of poses I force upon him. I adore the fact that he is so like his G1 toy incarnation, the black tabs on the forearms for launching the non-existent projectiles included. There's an impressive amount of balance to him as evidenced by the successful running pose he can rock, meaning the die cast has been sensibly distributed.
OK, so, why do I have two Wrestles? I received my first one as planned via UPS, who actually didn't bother to deliver it to my home but instead delivered to a Turkish supermarket almost a post code away which qualified as a UPS "Access Point". When I got it home on Tuesday night, I had to finish the FansToys Mercenary review for TFSource Blog, which took until very late and involved a Eureka moment with the Mercenary transformation that made the review more positive, and that put me in a great mood. So, all promotion and writing duties done, the girls were in bed, I put my feet up and grabbed Wrestle to transform to truck mode. I'd heard the instructions were useless and that there were a number of scary moments. I was determined to enjoy it and I cannot explain it, I just knew that I would and that I'd be able to figure it out with ease - a proper rarity with today's 3rd party figures.
Every step of the transformation was a joy, folding down the panels behind the shoulders, rotating the shoulders and folding the arms back to make the sides of the truck, clipping them into the crane arm, folding down the front of the cab and hiding the robot head, rotating side panels to clip and tab sections together, ratcheting the waist into the underside of the cab while the front wheels were flipped up and rotating the inner feet sections up to form the back of the truck, all of it was a delight. There was no need to re-invent the wheel (not even the Autocon Lucky Draw Grapple Wheel), so the transformation is hugely intuitive and does not require the instructions. I did it all by feel and it was easily one of my favourite - if not the favourite - 3rd party transformation yet. I have seen people say it's a bit simple, but I guess that's where my lack of appreciation for 30 minute conversions comes to the surface. There's no over-engineering here, it's just right and completely in line with what you'd expect from a Masterpiece Transformers Grapple.
That's when I turned the freshly-transformed stunning orange vehicle based on a Mitsubishi FUSO truck crane over and noticed Wrestle's left waist flap hanging by an atom. You can see it missing in the robot mode pictures above. I couldn't even tell you how it happened, what it snagged on or if it was my fault. I felt ridiculous because it was the first transformation, it had gone so well and I had not used the instructions. Checking the instructions later I saw that there was no mention of being careful of the flaps during conversion, which made me feel slightly better. The warning from MakeToys had been related to leg posing, not transformation. It could I suppose have happened when the waist was being compressed into the underside of the cab but there appears to be enough clearance to avoid that. Maybe I had gripped the figure in a sensitive spot when moving something? Either way, MakeToys currently do not have replacement parts in stock, I suspect a number of collectors will have the same issue, but a fix is being prepared. It will be tricky as the flaps do not look that easy to access on dis-assembly.
So, I sniffed around a bit, and my love of the figure still very fresh in my heart meant that I was not going to be able to stomach a repaired or broken figure (even though nothing was affected), and I knew I couldn't get another from MT before the Chinese New Year. I got my broken one sold and sourced another from a local collector. I would have had to pay £20 to send it back to MT anyway, so a net £30 loss was something I could swallow. All was right with the world again, and for one night I got to play with 2 Wrestles!
Truck crane mode is spellbinding, especially for those of us who have a special place in our heart for Grapple. It may not be the most desirable vintage G1 Transformer and Autobot car, but as a vintage Diaclone it is among the rarest, and I don't just mean the Japanese Takara Diaclone Truck Crane. The Finnish Diaclone Truck Crane has only ever been seen once, all other Finnish Diaclones have had multiple specimens appear. The GiG Trasformer Camion Gru is also very difficult to find, among the hardest of the selection. Finally, the Ceji Joustra Diaclone Camion Grue has never even been seen packaged before, let alone photographed. Respect where it is due.
Speaking of Diaclone, it is a little bit of a shame that Wrestle does not have the Mitsubishi and FUSO logos moulded into the cab above the grill or the chrome neck/connecting arm of the crane like the Japanese and Finnish Diaclone figures (just plastic for other Diaclone and TF versions). Wrestle does, however, have rubber rolling wheels that feel wonderful, an extending crane and absolutely every visual nostalgic G1 Grapple bell is being rung at full volume. Notice from the last picture above how the rocket hand can be split into two pieces and attached to the underside of the neck arm. The handgun can have its handle folded up and it attaches to the top of the same piece towards the back of Wrestle, and the crane sits just above it.
I thoroughly enjoyed trying all of the different faces out and to my surprise, chose the last one above over the stock face. The face clips in just under the helmet and no unscrewing is necessary. You do have to detach the faces and the sparkly blue eyes from the sprues. Now, you get five extra faces and six sets of eyes. Why? Well, that's because the stock eyes are a lighter and matte blue, but the extra sprued eyes are all sparkly darker blue. So that means you can attach one set of sparkly blues to all the new faces, and even replace the eyes in the stock face for a full set of six faces with sparkly eyes. Or, you know, add the light blue matte eyes to your preferred Wrestle expression. As with almost every Masterpiece style figure since MP-3, smiling faces on this kind of item just look creepy, but Wrestle's more restrained smiley face is actually pretty good. Great options nonetheless, whether you choose to employ them or not.
Looking fabulous alongside Masterpiece Autobot cars and Optimus Prime, I still feel Wrestle will come in for some criticism with regards to that filthy word scale. I guess a truck crane like this should be the same size if not larger than Prime, and should certainly have bigger wheels than Tracks or Red Alert. It's not bothering me in the slightest though because I'm put in mind of the G1 toy scale for the vehicles, and I believe it matches that well enough not to jar with me. I am sorry, but you will have a hard time getting me to knock this vehicle mode, I think it's glorious. It's like Gundog, if vehicle mode scale inconsistency is a deal breaker for you, stay away. If it's not, there's so much to enjoy here. Just remember, even the official Masterpiece cars are not all correctly scaled relative to each other.
My God is the season 2 Autobot cast filling out nicely or what? I am completely understanding of those who want purely official figures in their ranks, I have had enough negative comments about Ocular Max Sphinx (Mirage), BadCube Sunsurge (Sunstreaker), Voodoo Robots Salus (Ratchet) and MakeToys Gundog (Hound) to know they stand out like sore thumbs to some. MakeToys do have their own style that is immediately recognisable in the face sculpts and the larger lower body proportions, Wrestle and Hellfire are not exceptions. My eyes and my brain work in such a way so as to allow these toys to meld seamlessly in with the official Masterpiece figures, and I have accepted them as more than just worthy stand-ins. Wrestle is actually an exceptionally fun and attractive figure with a perfect transformation, excellent posability capable of great expression together with that glaring flaw in the waist flaps that has the potential of ruining the magic for a fair number of us.
I loved this figure so much out of the box that I just had to replace my damaged one within 24 hours, even at a loss of £30 which hurts a great deal right now. My reward is the best Grapple toy I have ever seen or owned. X-Transbots and Ocular Max may well give their interpretations other qualities, especially aesthetically (more height, more streamlined), and despite including only a cartoon-accurate orange head there are nods to the Grapple G1 toy evident too. That could mean collectors are not drawn to it as strongly for one reason or another depending on their love of a particular source material. I guess when mimicking Transformers Masterpiece, you go for a toon look in robot mode but try to stick as closely as possible to the real life vehicle too. Here are some Grapple screen caps from the show:
It would have been nice for MT to include a toy-accurate head as well in black, and I look forward to their proposed fix for the ill-considered waist, but MakeToys Wrestle is a hit. A figure that is forcing me to afford Hellfire as well. Being a webstore exclusive does make it difficult for folks to justify, and despite getting very lucky myself, a customs charge in the UK is almost guaranteed when ordering direct. Is Grapple likely to get an official Masterpiece figure in the future? Well if Inferno ever comes, this is a nailed on repaint for TakaraTomy, so you just cannot count it out. Being first to market will have advantages for MakeToys, but they do have to keep an eye on those issues. Cupola had the waist wheel issue, Gundog 2Y has the shoulder issue, this has the waist flaps. Come on MakeToys, get a fix (independently articulated waist flaps) out the door, maintain your good reputation and make this a perfect figure. An early contender for my figure of the year.
I will leave you with Transformers Masterpiece, official and unofficial, season 2 Autobots. Roll on Hellfire or Backdraft, and someone think of the Hiluxes! Won't anyone think of the Hiluxes?!
All the best