Wednesday, April 6, 2011

From Hulk & Andre to Bret & Shawn--Hasbro WWF Madness

After a certain amount of time nearly everything experiences some sort of nostalgic resurgence. Foods, television shows, cars, fashion, and even decades all become beloved and "in" again after a certain amount of time.

Around ten years ago, the wrestling collecting community was especially nostalgic for the LJN WWF figure line. For those of you who simply remember those "big rubber wrestling dolls" that epitomized the Rock 'n Wrestling era, this is the LJN figure line. The 60-plus character collection full of figures heavy enough to bash your neighbor on the head with were suddenly hot again and prices were skyrocketing. Seeing as that the Jakks Classic Superstars line had yet to be developed, many wrestlers only figures were in the LJN line. Some stars such as Adrian Adonis, Slick, and Special Delivery Jones are still only available in the collection.

Today, the LJN line is still widely collected and loved by fans, but there is one figure line I get more questions about above all others. This line, produced from 1990 through 1994, is the Hasbro WWF figure collection.

When the WWF's deal with LJN expired in 1989, the company seemed to quickly sign a new deal with Hasbro. While the line did not hit stores until 1990, the Hasbro WWF ring mold is dated 1989, showing that the toy company jumped right into production.

The initial lineup of WWF superstars included Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Rick Rude, Brutus Beefcake, The Big Bossman, Akeem, and Demolition Ax & Smash. Introduced on a series of commercials starring Jesse "The Body" Ventura and several of the aforementioned stars, children watching morning cartoon shows were captivated by the "Real Wrestling Action" included in these new toy grapplers.

Each figure included a different mechanism which enabled the figures to perform different signature maneuvers. While some of the moves matched those of the real wrestlers, others did not. Either way, the inclusion of these features proved to be a big hit with kids used to their wrestling figures not moving at all.

Flying off of the shelves, the line ultimately lasted until 1994 producing well over 100 figures if you include paint and design variants. Many of these variants help carry collector interest today. Between differences in card design and even country of origin, many fans collect these "subsets" to further extend their WWF Hasbro collection.

Even during the time that these figures were available at retail, a keen collector could tell which would be more desirable in the future. Peg hooks full of Brutus Beefcake version 1 and Roddy Piper were commonplace while finding a Dusty Rhodes was pure chance. The original blue ring, carried by retailers for years, is still easy to find while the yellow King of the Ring version saw very few shipments.

Beginning in late 1993, the individual figure waves began appearing on color coded cards. While the first few waves saw a red, white, and blue motif, these color coded sets featured yellow, red, purple, blue, and finally green card backs. The green carded series saw limited distribution and was most widely available at Hills Department Stores in early 1995. Rumors of an additional orange carded series have circulated since then and are completely unfounded.

For many collectors it's the sheer range of the line that makes these figures so attractive. From products of the territories such as Kamala, Greg Valentine, Kerry Von Erich, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan to megastars like Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat and even "New Generation" WWF stars like 1-2-3 Kid, Yokozuna, and The Smoking Gunns--they're all here.

Glaring omissions such as managers, referees, and female characters have always been a black mark on the line. One has to wonder just what memorable figures Hasbro could've produced of Dino Bravo, Haku, The Barbarian, Jeff Jarrett, and Diesel among others.

However, if Hasbro memories are what you're looking for, look no further than the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. During their acceptance speech, Road Warrior Animal and Paul Ellering paid tribute to their fallen brother, Road Warrior Hawk, by placing his Hasbro representation on the induction podium. It does not get more sentimental than that.

The value of each figure varies greatly and, as always, is due to the demand at the time. While some such as Dusty Rhodes, any of the final green carded series, and Andre the Giant have remained high over the years, other figures such as the various releases of Randy Savage, the second version of Brutus Beefcake, and Demolition have seen hot and cold moments. As always, your best bet is to check eBay for all the latest price trends.

With the wide range of figures alone, you can be sure that this is not the last time the WWF Hasbro line will be visited on this blog. We've only scratched the surface with stories, photos, and memories. Many of the figures could be entries in themselves and let's not forgot a "little" toy with a "big" following that was also produced by Hasbro for the WWF. You may have had to rumble a bit back in 1992 in order to get your hands on one...

As always, stay tuned!


David said...

You should enlighten readers about the 1-2-3 Kid's picture.

And is there any truth to the rumor that Animal and Paul Ellering contacted you specifically to borrow the Hawk figure from your collection so that they could display it at their HoF induction?

J\/\/ said...

Like I said, there are stories with all of the individual Hasbro figures!

I'll have to check on that rumor!