I miss the Classic Superstars. I miss reading of new star signings to be upcoming additions in the line. I miss seeing the first prototype pictures and whether or not Jakks captured the particular likeness I was hoping for. I miss everything about Jakks WWE Classic Superstars.
Although I've peppered this blog with talk and photos of the line, I've never devoted a sole entry to the series. Like the LJN and Hasbro figure lines which preceded it, the Classic Superstars collection cannot be completely covered in just one entry. Also similar to its predecessors, the Classic Superstars line has enough good and bad nuances to fill a book.
In 2004, Jakks launched what would undeniably become the crowning glory of their nearly 15 years of holding the WWF/WWE license: WWE Classic Superstars. It was an action figure line that not only captured the attention of current fans, but also brought older fans back into the fold.
I will honestly admit that the original first series lineup didn't thrill me as much as it did many other collectors. Figures of "main event" talent such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Undertaker, Andre the Giant, and The Ultimate Warrior weren't what I wanted to start with. Taking nothing away from this half-dozen of talent, I wanted figures of stars who had no previous plastic incarnations. I wanted mid and undercard talent.
As the line progressed, myself and many other longtime fans were regaling with new figures of Harley Race, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, Billy Graham, and Demolition while enjoying first time figures of The Barbarian, The Fabulous Moolah, Ernie Ladd, Gorilla Monsoon, and Tully Blanchard. The stars of wrestling's glory days were finally being remembered as they should be.
While I expect no one to believe this, at one time I actually envisioned such figures. For some unknown reason, a Nikolai Volkoff figure in similar window packaging came to my mind in daydreams of a retro wrestling figure line about a decade before the introduction of the Classic Superstars. I'm sure I was not the only one.
As the list of legends grew in the line, so did the lines of collectors wanting to have their figures autographed. While it is impossible to have each and every figure in the line signed, many of these stars frequently appear on the fanfest and convention scene. This has made the Classic Superstars figures some of the top items to get autographed at these shows. During the height of the line, some convention guests were being booked solely on the release of their figure.
While the talent did get paid for their likeness, many seemed to enjoy just being produced into a figure. Whether it was their first figure or not, seeing the excitement of many of the stars over their figures can sometimes be as big of a joy as getting them signed.
As with any figure line, the line wasn't perfect. Be it due to outside restrictions (Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Owen Hart, Elizabeth), cancellations (Blackjack Mulligan, Pat Patterson, Arnold Skaaland), or glaring omissions (Gorgeous George, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers) some stars that could have made the line even better are not represented. In addition, some stars who were signed on to have figures ended up not being produced. This is particular sad in the case of Sir Oliver Humperdink who had signed on and seemed very excited to finally have an action figure in his likeness.
That being said, the amount and range of talent that was included in the line is unmatched. From Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair to the modern day "Classics" of John Cena, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge, there will never be another wrestling action figure collection of the same caliber.
Another highlight of the line is that, like the WWE Hall of Fame, names included reached out beyond the realms of WWWF/WWF/WWE talent. The Rock & Roll Express, The Koloff's, Bruiser Brody, The Brisco's, and even WCW, nWo, and ECW figure styles all showed up. Collectors in any era could find something to love in the line.
While Jakks continues to produce older stars in their TNA line under the "Legends of the Ring" banner and Mattel does similar work in their WWE Legends series, the true Classic Superstars line is over. Although there is much to collect and enjoy with the hundreds of figures produced from 2004 to 2009, any fan could wonder just what may have appeared had the line gone on a few more years. Although Jakks took the low road in the final months of the line, had WWE stayed with the company I have a feeling that we would have seen many more memorable figures.
More Classic Superstars will be covered in the future. What were your favorites? Tell your thoughts right here or on our Facebook Fanpage.