Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Mysteries of Wrestling Memorabilia: Figures

FAQ (or Frequently Asked Question) files are soooo 1995. Sure, they answer a lot of questions. But who wants a boring text-only FAQ when you can have a whimsical, fully illustrated, and entertaining blog entry? We get a lot of questions both in e-mail form and on the Facebook Fanpage regarding a lot of the same items. A lot of those questions are "mysteries" of sorts that have been scuttling around the wrestling memorabilia community for years. In some cases even decades.

This new series here on the blog (ANOTHER series?) will focus on answering, or at least attempting to answer, many of the better known mysteries of the hobby. This first installment will cover the items that probably bring the most traffic to this blog: action figures.

If there's something that you're dying to know the answer to regarding any form of wrestling memorabilia be sure to drop us a line. I'm sure that there are even enough "mysteries" regarding wrestling figures to do another installment entirely on that.

Without further ado, in a homage to the great urban legends website Snopes, here we go...

Mystery: Was a final "orange" carded Hasbro WWF figure series planned and/or produced?

This one has been around since the online wrestling collecting community was largely based on the AOL Grandstand sports community. In early 1995 when the Hasbro WWF line was finishing up, collectors were hungry for more. Just as the last series of green carded figures hit Hill's Department Stores and a small number of other retailers, a rumor of an orange carded series spread like wildfire.

Figures rumored to have been in the set included any combination of Diesel, Jeff Jarrett, Bastion Booger, "All American" Lex Luger, "face" Doink the Clown, "heel" Owen Hart, and Men on a Mission. Certainly if the line had continued we would've seen many, if not all, of these figures produced.

The truth of the matter is that no one shred of evidence has ever presented itself regarding validity of this rumor. Although it was widely believed back then and is still very much remembered today, it was most likely just the wishful thinking of an overzealous fan. Combine that with the fact that the Internet was still a very new tool for many thus making it even easier to spread such a story. I think this one can finally be put to bed.

Mystery: Which poster is inside of the single carded British Bulldog LJN figures?

The single carded versions of the LJN WWF tag team members have always been some of the more coveted pieces in the line. There may be none more so than the single carded British Bulldogs. Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith seem to have been produced separately in far less quantities than the other teams. This idea is backed up with the fact that LJN did not even bother to print up backer cards for the Bulldogs, but rather just utilized Hulk Hogan cardbacks. While the company did produce proper "poster holders" with the Bulldogs individual names, it's a mystery as to just what is inside those holders.

The LJN posters are beloved by many. Featuring great art (and later photos) of each wrestler, it was a very appealing bonus for kids who not only had a toy to play with but a poster to hang in their room as well.

Single posters have never surfaced of Dynamite and Davey Boy. The posters included with the LJN Tag Team sets would not fit in the single packaging. Just what is beneath the paws of the Bulldogs?

Some would venture to guess a Hulk Hogan poster. Perhaps it could be the "wrestling moves" poster included with the WWF Referee figure. Until someone has the guts to open a very valuable figure, this shall remain a mystery. That someone will not be me.

Mystery: Were any Hasbro Kamala figures released with a moon on the stomach?

Anyone who remembers the Ugandan Giant knows his body paint like the back of their hand: two white stars on the chest and a yellow moon on the belly. When Hasbro released their version of Kamala in late 1993, fans were scratching their heads. Why was there a yellow star on the stomach instead of the moon?

Fans have voiced much speculation over the years, but none can come up with a viable answer to my question: Why has whatever caused Hasbro to change it not effected every other Kamala figure before or since?

My theory has always been that it was simply a production error that wasn't corrected. Hasbro figures were fairly limited after the first two years. If you saw a character in stores that you wanted it was wise to pick it up. Chances are that you weren't going to see it again. Aside from a few choice figures, most wrestlers were released in one series and one series alone. Adding to that the fact that stores were ordering the figures in much smaller numbers, there weren't to be any running changes for a simple detail such as that.

Although a few sales samples are said to exist, the majority of the ones floating around now are custom made. Regardless of the final product's inaccuracy, the Hasbro Kamala is still a great figure of one of the all-time great ring characters.

Mystery: Were figures of Smash, Bad News Brown, Brother Love, etc. ever produced by LJN?

This one is the LJN equivalent of the aforementioned Hasbro "orange card" rumor, although this time we have actual evidence of consideration by the company.

For the last series of LJN WWF figures which was actually produced by Grand Toys out of Canada, the cardbacks took a drastic turn from how they had appeared throughout the rest of the run. In lieu of showing pictures of other actual figures available, live action shots of wrestlers were used. In addition to the wrestlers included in the final series (also known as the black carded series), shots were shown of wrestlers whose figures were being re-released on black cards (Elizabeth, Randy Savage, and Honky Tonk Man among them) and also of wrestlers who were never released as LJN figures. The wrestlers included in this latter group are Bad News Brown, Brother Love, The Bushwhackers, Demolition Smash, and The Barbarian.

While it's not known if these ever made the prototype stage, their inclusion on the cardback indicates that LJN intended to produce these characters. Fans have long clamored for photos of prototypes of these figures, but after over two decades nothing has yet surfaced.

These are the mysteries that baffle collectors worldwide. Some remain unanswered, while others can be sent to the incinerator...hopefully unlike any Luke or Butch LJN prototypes...


In a sad repeat of the last entry, I once again want to mark the passing of a legend of the wrestling industry. Tully Blanchard reported this morning that his father, Joe Blanchard, passed away at the age of 84.

Mr. Blanchard was much more than just the father of a founding Four Horsemen member, in actuality he was a wrestling renaissance man. After a stellar career in the ring, Blanchard went to the opposite end of the industry becoming a promoter and booker. Many fans will remember his Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion that was actually the first wrestling program ever carried by the USA Network.

In 2010, Blanchard was inducted into the NWA Hall of Heroes by another member of a famous wrestling family, Dory Funk Jr. With his extremely strong faith, I'm confident that Mr. Blanchard has now reached his ultimate reward.


Halpernia said...

Some would venture to guess a Hulk Hogan poster. Perhaps it could be the "wrestling moves" poster included with the WWF Referee figure. Until someone has the guts to open a very valuable figure, this shall remain a mystery. That someone will not be me.

...but it could be me...

Malcolm said...

Nope... it was me. I bought one of these when I was a kid, and I can guarantee you that the poster inside was not Hulk Hogan, It was the British Bulldog's tag team poster. It was folded then rolled to make it fit. It was also included in the Davey Boy figure. I still have the card-backs and posters to those figures.