What is old is new again.
WWE’s “New Generation” is the new focal point of Mattel’s upcoming line of collectibles. Their Ultimate Edition New Generation Arena further immortalizes that distinct era of pro wrestling by creating a specific line that features the trademark neon entry way, an incredibly detailed ring, and an action figure of “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, who was champion for a 358-day stretch that ran through almost all of 1995.
The man behind Diesel is WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Nash, who became a legend during his NWO run in World Championship Wrestling. Yet a critical reason why his arrival in WCW had such meaning was because of his body of work during the “New Generation”, where he was presented as an industry-defining star and helped carry the company as its champion.
“It hit me recently while I was watching the [WWE Untold: Two Dudes with Attitudes] special about me and Shawn [Michaels],” said Nash. “That was only three years of my life. It seemed like so much more. I came from basically nowhere. There were so many times during my first run in WCW that I was going to leave and go back to the bar scene. It didn’t seem like it was going anywhere, until I came to WWE.”
After starting as Michaels’s bodyguard, Nash exploded into stardom in WWE, even defeating Michaels in their world title match at WrestleMania XI in 1995.
“Shawn got suspended [in 1993], I took his dates, and that really propelled me,” said Nash. “I got the push at the Rumble [in 1994], and the rest is history.”
Mattel’s decision to showcase Diesel as the centerpiece of that era is particularly meaningful knowing his backstory. Nash projected such confidence during his first run as a main-eventer, all despite the fact that there was enormous pressure on him to deliver as WWE’s top act, which was a role where he had no prior experience, and he was also grieving the loss of his mother.
“People don’t realize that during my run in WWE as champion, not only was I green and I barely had 300 matches, but my mom died almost 30 days to the date of being crowned champion,” said Nash. “I was dealing with that on top of everything else.
“I just remember soldiering on. I buried my mom and went to Winnipeg and worked. That’s kind of the way it was.”
Knowing Nash’s history places an even brighter spotlight on the importance of that era. The “New Generation” timeframe marked a pivotal stretch for WWE during the 1990s, creating new stars while transitioning away from the fading golden years of Hulkamania. It helped lay the groundwork for the industry’s explosion of popularity during “The Attitude Era”, and provided talent—primarily Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Nash—a chance to establish themselves as the newest faces of the brand.
Mattel is celebrating the era with its premiere crowdfunding campaign. Additional tiers will be announced this Friday during the Mattel and WWE Elite Squad fan panel, which takes place at the San Diego Comic Con and be viewed on YouTube.
PJ Lewis, who is Head of Mattel Action Figures, touched on the excitement inside Mattel of launching this new crowdfund.
“WWE is so unique, in terms of the brand and how they reflect pop culture,” said Lewis. “They’re such a great partner for Mattel and our action figure team, and their line continues to be one of the top-selling brands in the US. That has to do with new superstars, new storylines, and the legends.”
The collector community is the heart of Mattel’s WWE brand, and the crowdfund initiative allows them to hear directly from fans.
“It opens up a door to engage the community of fans on a new level,” said Lewis. “Audience and authenticity are what we aspire for, and our Ultimate Edition New Generation Era is a whole new level for us. We want to create something that will last, and this is also a chance for us during Comic Con to show more and share more, allowing us to really participate in the excitement.”
WWE fans are in especially good hands with Bill Miekina, a product designer from Mattel’s WWE team. Miekina is a proud WWE action figure collector dating back to 1996, which led to his career in toy design.
“That era of WWE was so colorful and toyetic,” said Miekina. “So when it came time to launch a crowdfunding item, this era rose directly to the top of our discussions.”
Miekina worked as a designed on the first-ever Randy Savage figure with Mattel, even serving as part of the team that helped Savage create a video that showed off a new action figure that debuted at the 2010 SD Comic Con, and he also took great joy in creating the new Diesel figure.
“I’m still wrapping my mind around that we got to work with Randy Savage,” said Miekina. “And this whole item is going to blow people away, especially with Diesel as the centerpiece. People are really going to like how the ring turned out. When you pull up the ring mats, you see the actual floor boards. Even though it’s hidden, collectors are going to appreciate that level of detail.”
Decades after the twilight of the “New Generation”, its memory beats on. Nash expressed gratitude that fans still view that era in such a glowing light.
“There are people that still have me sign their vintage eight-by-10s as ‘Big Daddy Cool’ Diesel,” said Nash. “They don’t want me to sign as Kevin Nash. Diesel was a beloved character.”
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