By Bob Calhoun
The only thing missing from the WWE and Mattel panel at Comic-Con on Thursday was the pyro, because it had everything else: entrance music, trash-talking and even a surprise run-in. And the atmosphere there in Room 25 of the San Diego Convention Center was as raucous as a Monday Night RAW broadcast in Philadelphia with fans cheering, booing and chanting along as Mattel’s new line of WWE action figures was unveiled.
Of course, having such WWE superstars as The Miz and Dolph Ziggler work the crowd helped make this more fever-pitched than your regular Comic-Con panel, however the biggest crowd pop (as wrestlers call it in their insider lingo) wasn’t earned by any wrestler–even the unannounced appearance by hardcore legend Mick Foley. Shockingly, the fans cheered the loudest for Mitchell Cameron, the manager of marketing of Mattel. And he didn’t do it with bombast. He won the fans over with a well-timed quip and a PowerPoint slide. Yes, a PowerPoint slide.
The panel kicked off with reality-TV-star-turned-wrestler The Miz giving big ring announcer style introductions to Mitchell and toy designer Bill Miekina only to lay into them with barbs and insults for looking and sounding like nerdy toy designers instead of chest-thumping strongmen.
“Do you understand these are superstars you’re talking about,” the Miz said, getting into the faces of the toy company reps. “I feel you should be more manly about it.”
“I’m not trying to bully you or anything because the WWE has a great anti-bullying policy,” The Miz said with a little bit of snark.
During a rare lull in The Miz’s barrage, Cameron wryly said, “Next slide.” The sound of laughter filled the large conference room, and then the fans started chanting, “MITCHELL! MITCHELL! MITCHELL!”
The bespectacled marketing rep had gotten the better of a former world champ, at least verbally.
Not quite learning his lesson, The Miz started making fun of “spray-tanned superman” Dolph Ziggler’s pink shirt.
Ziggler stood up from the table to reveal images of Wonder Woman, Superman and other DC superheroes screen-printed onto the hot pink fabric.
“It’s a great shirt,” Ziggler said, “It’s a slim fit. Something you wouldn’t know anything about.”
The Miz and Ziggler continued trading jibes even after “Mankind” Mick Foley made his surprise entrance.
“I’m missing one of my ears,” Foley said, “but listening to you two bickering is making me wish I was missing both of my ears.”
Somehow in the middle of this verbal steel-cage-match Cameron and Miekina were able to announce a new line of WWE Flashbacks action figures featuring HHH and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels in their D-Generation X gear, a masked Undertaker from WrestleMania XII, Trish Stratus, and recent WWE Hall of Fame inductee Bruno Sammartino.
Mattel also premiered new, fully-posable replicas of Big E Langston, Antonio Cesaro, the Funkadactyls, Fandango (for whom the crowd started singing his instrumental theme song) and, yes, The Miz.
“We can sculpt it to make it look the way it does on TV,” Miekina said, referring to the detail Mattel was able to put into the replica of The Miz’s ornate jacket.
“You think they could make me bigger?” The Miz asked.
Bob Calhoun is the author of “Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor” (Obscuria Press, 2013). You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun