When I was just a Little Bulldog, I used to cart out G.I. Joe action figures and pretend they were wrestlers. After all, those figures were much articulated than the rubber LJN offering the World Wrestling Federation was selling, so it stood to reason that you could perform better wrestling moves with, say, Roadblock or Storm Shadow. So why couldn't WWF come up with a similar product?
They did, albeit about 20 years too late for my liking.
Full disclosure: When I first came across the WWE Build N' Brawl line by Jakks Pacific at some point in the mid 2000s, I figured the "build" part was that you could take the figures apart and build new ones. That didn't turn out to be exactly true (Mattel would take that on years later with a short-lived series called Create-A-Superstar, and some of their current action figures have removable heads, hands, etc.).
Instead, the "build" part of Build N' Brawl came in the form of accessories that each figure came with, such as pieces of a ring, elimination chamber or (in the figures shown above) a steel cage. Although you clearly had to collect the entire set to build said cage, it was a nice nod to collectors, giving them something more than a shrunken-down version of Jakks figures that could attack Cobra Commander.
And can we talk about the packaging? A work of art that I'd put on par with virtually any other wrestling figure out there. Between the portrait of the wrestler's head on the top of the carding to illustrations of how articulated each wrestler is, right down to the piece of the steel cage you were getting and how it all fits together... this is a wrestling figure package visually-stunning enough that you could bring it home to meet your mom (assuming those were your intentions for a wrestling figure package, you know?).
Because the Build N' Brawl figures were 3 3/4" near-replicas of the existing Jakks Pacific figures, they managed to capture all the small details, including tattoos, accurate facial expressions and costume designs. And there were a wide range of figures based on the Ruthless Aggression era, including Batista, John Cena, Edge, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, The Big Show, William Regal and MVP.
While they didn't focus on very many legends in the Build N' Brawl line, Jakks did manage to create a handful of Classic Superstars in G.I. Joe form, including the pictured Razor Ramon, Bret Hart and Sgt. Slaughter. This tells me that, if the line ever caught fire, they would have for sure attempted to bring more of the company's legends into shrunken-down action figure format.
Having said that... Build N' Brawl did at least invest time in performers that wouldn't exactly be considered main-eventers. That includes the pictured Finlay, as well as Deuce and Domino, The Boogeyman, Elijah Burke, Chavo Guerrero, The Boogeyman and future wrestling figure podcasters Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins (back when they were Edge cronies). We also received pre-fame versions of wrestlers such as The Miz, CM Punk and Kofi Kingston.
If there is one major knock on the Build N' Brawl line, it's that the figures don't tend to stand up on their own very well, which is why I've had to pose many people leaning against a ring or one another just to get the above photo. Still, it's a fair trade off to get G.I. Joe-compatible wrestling stars for your collection.
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.