Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Five Favorite Jakks WWE Classic Superstars Figures

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Jakks WWE Classic Superstars line is the greatest wrestling action figure line of all-time.  Was it perfect?  Absolutely not.  There were glaring omissions, errors, and both a rocky beginning and end, but the good far outweighed the bad.  Collectors were treated to product never before thought possible.  When it seemed that the window on figures of so many past superstars had long been slammed shut, Jakks didn't just open it back up, but instead completely shattered it.

I would never expect anyone to believe me, but I actually had an almost completely accurate vision of the line around 1996.  Even in the 1990s, I wanted figures of wrestlers from the past.  The initial Jakks WWF offerings had just began to hit stores and were, sadly, less than spectacular.  One night, while perusing my own figure collection, I envisioned a figure line consisting of all wrestling legends.  The one that I pictured, in dark colored packaging with the figure positioned in the middle, was Nikolai Volkoff with his arms in the air.  Obviously this vision was helped by the original LJN figure of Volkoff, but the Classic Superstars figure that came almost a decade later was pretty darn close.

The Classic Superstars line was predated by two other lines of past stars.  The first was also by Jakks, but earlier in their stint with the WWF license.  This series was limited to just one wave and featured figures of Jimmy Snuka, Fred Blassie, Lou Albano, and Andre the Giant.  The figures had limited articulation and were more like statues, even being packaged as such.  In the late 1990's, Figures Inc. produced a line called "Legends of Professional Wrestling."  These figures were more like toys, featured a wide variety of characters, and were more in scale to the regular Jakks WWF line of the time.  In my opinion this line has been long underrated and will be revisited on this blog in the near future.

In 2004, Jakks began the Classic Superstars line.  With an initially weak lineup filled with mostly stars who had received countless figures in the past, the series gradually began to improve.  In about five odd years, hundreds of figures were produced under the banner, including many stars who, at the time, would have nothing to do with WWE.  Names like Bruno Sammartino and The Ultimate Warrior may be back in the WWE "family" now, but at the time the fact that those stars made deals directly with Jakks to be included in the line was mind-blowing.

In this entry, I present my five favorite figures from the line.  My opinion is no better than that of anyone else, but it is just that, an opinion.  I'm biased, and I present my reasons upfront.  I can still recall collectors being blown away by figures of stars like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Steve Austin in the line.  While they may have been great figures, they didn't excite me as much as others did.  My view of the line was to showcase stars of the distant past, especially those who had never before received an action figure.  Although there is one exception on my list, most of my favorite figures resemble these facts.  Without further ado, in no particular order, here are My Five Favorite Jakks WWE Classic Superstars Figures...

* Goldust

Yes, the bizarre one has had plenty of figures, but this later entry into the Classic Superstars line is in a class by itself.  Originally sold only through an online retailer, the "Shattered Dreams Exclusive" is essential for any collector who favors this line.  The gold packaging of the figure is only the beginning of what makes this figure so appealing.  Goldust is clad in a soft goods robe and is equipped with the gold-strap Intercontinental Championship that he held in 1996.  The head features a facial likeness exclusive to this figure and captures the sneering look of Goldust to a T.  An updated wig accessory that could fit this figure better is just about the only missing ingredient.

* Ernie Ladd

There were plenty of "Kings" in the Classic Superstars line, but this one just might tower over the rest.  "The Big Cat" is presented here in figure form for the one and, thus far, only time.  A groundbreaking superstar in many ways both in and out of the ring, Ladd certainly got star treatment from Jakks.  The likeness of Ladd during his "King" era of the 1970's shines here, and even includes the repeatedly used crown accessory as a nice nod.  The figure is accurately taller than others in the line, making it easy to recreate his legendary feud with Andre the Giant.  Going even a bit further, Jakks made it possible to relive one of the most often seen Mid-South Wrestling main events of all-time: Ladd & The Wild Samoans against Andre, Dusty Rhodes, and the Junkyard Dog.

* Meng

The man known as Haku and Meng had figures under both names in the line, but it's the latter figure that has always counted among my favorites.  Haku was first released as a figure in the final series of the LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line, but it's an unreleased figure of the man that especially made me appreciate the Meng figure.  When Haku made his return to the WWF in the 2001 Royal Rumble match, Jakks announced that there would be a figure of him in their Stunt Action Superstars line.  The figure ultimately never saw the light of day, but it would've looked similar to this figure since, at the time, Haku was just coming off of his WCW "Meng" run.  The Tongan superstar is one of the toughest to ever enter the squared circle and was always a welcomed addition to any roster that he graced during his storied career.

* Terry Funk

Before Jakks released this figure in the 5th series of the line, it wasn't easy to find a figure of "Middle-Aged & Crazy" Terry Funk.  Funk had both an LJN WWF and Popy Japan figure at that point, but only a Japanese figure released in conjunction with the "Beyond The Mat" movie captured Funk in the look that redefined him in the 1990's.  We would get several more versions of the Funker in later releases of Classic Superstars (including Chainsaw Charlie), but none were quite as cool and iconic as this first release.  Long live the Hardcore Legend!

 * "Outlaw" Ron Bass

Another superstar made his one and only figure appearance in the line, that being "Outlaw" Ron Bass.  This figure always stunned me, as though Bass was a territorial star and also spent some time terrorizing the heroes of 1980's WWF, it was one of the last figures that I ever expected to own.  Once again, an amazing facial likeness is a definite highlight here, and the accessories follow suit.  Even the Outlaw's bullwhip, Miss Betsy, is included for unleashing a wild west whippin' on other figures such as Brutus Beefcake and The Ultimate Warrior.

There's my five.  Do you have a different five?  Maybe you appreciated the '90s stars much more than the territorial greats.  Debates are what make lists like these fun, so let your voice be heard!  If you aren't already following us on Twitter, what are you waiting for?  @JWsWrestlingMem is our handle there, and if you're on Facebook, be sure to "Like" our page and tell us if guys like "The Funker" and "The Bizarre One" made your list!


Gavin said...

Some great choices here, I remember the release of Terry Funk gave me hope that the line would get ECW guys, which later proved to be true with Sabu, RVD, Tazz, etc. Goldust was also a great figure, sadly I passed on him when he first came out. I'm very interested in the Legends of Professional Wrestling line as well, but can't seem to find any info on the series lineups and such. Looking forward to a post on them.

J\/\/ said...

That CS Sabu with the gold pants was definitely in consideration for this list. It's my favorite Sabu figure ever done, and I have great memories of getting it signed right after it came out. I think it might've been even before it hit brick and mortar stores.

Yeah very little has been written about the Figures Inc. Legends line. What little was said about it was often negative after the CS line came out, but they really aren't comparable other than having some of the same names. Different scale, different limitations, different companies, and they can easily co-exist in a collection. The blog entry will probably pop up in the next month or so.