Today, I want to write about wrestling action figures. I can’t really explain my desire to write about wrestling figures but it works out because I can’t think of what I would write about otherwise.
I had a lot of toys when I was a kid. I had Ghostbusters toys (I loved the Ecto-one so much) and Ninja Turtles but the ones I had the most of were wrestling figures.
The first wrestling figure I ever got was Ax of Demolition. It is kind of boring to only have one figure but fortunately for me, I already had some formitable Ghostbusters figures that could step in the ring on a moment’s notice. The ring in this case was the window ledge in my sister’s bedroom. Yes, the first wrestling matches I ever had were in a window.
Shortly after Ax came Smash because Demolition was my favorite tag team…they still are! Then it was Hulk Hogan and Jake Roberts came after that, I had the entire Hulk Hogan team from Survivor Series 1989 right out of the shoot. Then came Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage, Rick Rude, Big Bossman, Ultimate Warrior, Akeem, and Brutus Beefcake in some order. I didn’t know anything back then about action figure series or waves but it turned out I had all but one of the first series of Hasbro figures. The one I did not possess was Andre the Giant…more on him later.
The Hasbro figures were small in scale and made out of a hard plastic. They didn’t have points of articulation or whatever the cool kids call it today. They were essentially statues that had one movement for a move like Jake Robert’s arm which you could pull back and release to make a punch.
Around that same time I got some of the WCW Galoob Figures as well. I got Sting, Lex Luger, The Steiners, Doom, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Brian Pillman, Z-Man, Sid Vicious and Barry Windham. That was all of the first wave of that series but I never had all of them at once since my Barry Windham figure disappeared into a black hole or something. The figure was probably on a mission to figure out what happened to his talent between 1988 and 1994.
The Galoob figures weren’t all that great because they were basically posed statues. They had no movement whatsoever but they did feature one thing that made them attractive to me. They all came with a championship belt. All the belts were the same but still, it was a good way to get tag titles, a television title, U.S. title and even my long-missed United States tag titles. As I said, all of the belts looked identical but my imagination wasn’t completely gone yet.
It was also at this point that I was able to upgrade from the window to an actual ring as the Hasbro ring came in to my possession. The ring came with a belt and it instantly became the heavyweight championship belt…since that’s what it was.
At a local store I was looking around and came across some older figures. This is how I got the Remco Hawk and Animal figures from when they were in the AWA. I also had Rick Martel and Baron von Raschke from that line. They also had some of the old WWF thumb wrestlers and even one of the old LJN WWF figures. They had Ricky Steamboat and I wish I had bought that figure when I had the chance.
I got a couple of LJN figures from a friend of my brother’s and he also had the ring so I ended up with a second ring for my collection.
I added more figures to the collection through series 2 and 3 of the Hasbro figures. But for some reason I remember that the figures became much harder to find in my area during series three. I added Roddy Piper, The Rockers, The Bushwhackers, Demolition again (this time it was Smash and Crush), Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, Macho King Randy Savage, Jimmy Snuka and a few others. Mr. Perfect, Koko B. Ware, another Brutus Beefcake, Repo-Man, El Matadore and a couple of others eventually joined my collection as well.
It is lucky for me that I still didn’t know what figures I didn’t have because if I had, I would have become obsessed. I knew that they had made Bret Hart and that was one I always wanted but it was not to be.
I did cards that matched up with the WWF and WCW events of the time. I had a Royal Rumble and a WrestleMania, Halloween Havoc and so on. My favorite event was the Survivor Series. I always did it the night before Thanksgiving, even after the Survivor Series itself moved to a Sunday in November. I did the elimination tag team matches and to this day, the fun I had in those days is partially responsible for Thanksgiving being my absolute favorite Holiday.
As I grew older, I still kept buying figures. WCW had some that were like the old LJN WWF figures so they were big and rubber. I had Hulk Hogan, Vader, Flair, Kevin Sullivan, Sting, Johnny B. Badd and The Nasty Boys from that group. It seems that not getting every figure in a line was my destiny because I never got Harlem Heat or Jimmy Hart. Never saw Harlem Heat and couldn’t bring myself to buy Jimmy Hart when I did see him.
When the WWF license with Hasbro expired I did start buying the figures put out by Jakks Pacific. These were a little more mobile but were scaled bigger so there was not much interaction between the Hasbro/Galoob figures and the new ones from Jakks Pacific. It was nice to finally add a Bret Hart to the mix. I actually had a fair number of the earliest ones but nowhere close to them all.
A couple of years later, WCW had another line of figures though I can’t recall who made them. They were like the Hasbro Figures with special moves but were articulated better and also scaled to be taller. These did interact with the Jakks figures from the WWF. I had a fair number of these and would still buy a few of them even after I went to college. Maybe one or two as I saw them on a random store shelf.
My collecting days ended when I went to college. Not just my figure collecting but my collecting of everything. We’re talking figures, football cards and so on. All of it stopped then and there.
Then a few years later I heard about the Jakks Pacific Classic Superstars series. I didn’t really think about it too much back then but after awhile I picked up a few of the figures. I got Akeem, Papa Shango, Iron Sheik (getting Sheiky baby was a must) and the Midnight Express. I wasn’t serious about it and those were really the only ones I ever had but I did at least start to pay attention to who was available.
I also had a few of the TNA figures that came out. I had Christian, Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles and Elix Skipper I believe. I even got a 6 sided ring because it is 2 sides better than a 4 sided ring, or so I’m told.
I also added a couple of UFC figures to my lot. I had Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva but it never went beyond that.
When Mattel got the WWE License in 2010 I was intrigued. I waited for the new figures to come out and remember the huge display of them that my K-Mart had. Still, I didn’t buy any of those early figures. Until I came across a Ricky Steamboat figure and decided to pick it up. For one thing Ricky Steamboat was a favorite wrestler of mine and I never had that Hasbro figure. Plus I wanted to actually hold one of these figures in my hand and compare them to my memories of the other sets. By this time, I had gotten rid of the few Classic Superstars figures I had, as well as the TNA and UFC figures. Out at my parent’s house, in a couple of buckets are my much older figures.
Then about a month ago, I was at K-mart looking at Star Wars figures. On a whim, I asked my friend who was with me what they had for wrestlers. So he told me and one of the things he mentioned stopped me cold. It was a two pack (called a battle pack) of Elite WWE figures from Mattel. In that two pack was the Big Show and … Andre the Giant. Like I said, this stopped me cold. I had always wanted an Andre figure going back to Hasbro. I had seen a few versions of him over the years but never pulled the triggar.
So after a few minutes of deliberation I decided that I was going to buy this set. I reasoned that if I didn’t buy it I would come to regret it sooner or later. I would finally have an Andre figure in my collection.
Well, what has happened since then? I have gotten the bug again and have been paying more attention to what figures are out there. I don’t intend to go back and collect older figures, although from time to time I do browse the Hasbro figures that get listed on Ebay. But I will start picking up a few figures here and there from this Mattel line as I find them. I’m more interested in figures of guys from my childhood than modern WWE guys but I’m sure I will get a few of them as well.
Do I take them out of the box? Yes, I do. I have two reasons for doing this. The first is that since I’m visually impaired there is no reason for me to buy figures that I can’t see in a package. Removing them and holding them in my hand gives me tactal feedback. These figures are now so detailed that by holding one in my hand I can tell a figure’s hairstyle and proportions. Not all wrestlers are created equal, some have shorter legs and bigger chests and some have massive tree trunk legs and smaller chests. Things like that.
The other reason I take them out is because I think that is what is meant to be done with them. I’m not a hardcore collector and will never be. I think that the same thing is happening with action figures that has happened with sports cards. People buy these things and keep them mint in box hoping to sell them later at a huge profit. The problem is that a lot of people do this and these sets are mass produced as it is, so pretty much anyone collecting these will have them. How can you sell at a huge profit if everyone that would be interested in buying already has what you’re offering?
So maybe I can argue that by taking mine out of the box, I am making those that stay in the box slightly more valuable to collectors.
Of course, some figures are made with the collecting market in mind. So those will be rarer than some of the others and as a result more valuable but I wouldn’t plan to retire off of the sale of those figures if I were you.
I’m not sure how long I will keep this up. I get the bug every so often to buy figures and then don’t. Listening to The Lapsed Fan Wrestling Podcast starting last year brought that itch back for a brief time. I wanted to look at the Hasbro figures on Ebay again and start buying them because of the stories I had heard on that show. I registered for an ebay account and everyting. I made exactly zero purchases. I think I maybe placed one bid on a figure and I’ve had the account for a year.
I wil l probably add some of these figures to my Christmas list this year. Actually, without these figures I don’t think I would even have a Christmas list this year. I basically have most everything else I want or need. I’m hoping to acquire Earthquake, Doink the Clown, Junkyard Dog, Dean Malenko, X-Pac, Diamond Dallas Page, Randy Savage and Demolition Crush the most. I’m always going to want Demolition figures. Target sells an exclusive Hall of Fame collection and while I would love some of those, they might be harder to come by. I mean, they’re not really sold through the company’s website and there’s not a Target store near me to go through and hunt.
Right now, I have Ricky Steamboat, Andre and Big Show, Ultimate Warrior and John Cena, The Legion of Doom, The 4 Horsemen and the Outsiders. These figures have replaced all of the DVDs I used to have. I may spend less money on audiobooks and more on figures, at least for a little while but again I don’t know how long it will last. All I know is that I’m glad to have the ones that I do have.
In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to spend any money and could get them for free. Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect and I’m not the person you want reviewing WWE figures anyway. Although I do wonder what would happen if I stuck my color identifier up against some of these figures. I will have to try this later and find out.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down wrestling figure memory lane. Last year, as a fun exercise I put a post up on my old website doing a dream Survivor Series card. The premise was that I had somehow gotten every one of the old Hasbro figures and put a Survivor Series event together since it was my favorite. Maybe I’ll repost that one of these days.
Also, if you’re a fan of wrestling figures. My friend Karl Stern did a series of shows covering the history of action figures a few years back. That series also activated the itch for a bit. All of those shows Karl did are available on his Super Stern Stick which has all kinds of cool stuff on it for just $20.