Thursday, June 5, 2014
At the very tail end of his in-ring WWF career, Steele needed something new in his act. It was the second half of 1988 and "The Animal" had been playing to the hearts of the fans as the lovable and turnbuckle chewing buffoon for three years. For nearly two decades prior, Steele had been a vicious ring villain who terrorized heroes such as Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales. Although changing the gimmick would have fruitless at this point, adding to it was not out of the question.
As the story goes, Steele was on the road with his wife when Hillbilly Jim showed the couple an item that he had picked up to use in his in-ring act. It was a plush doll of an animal minus the stuffing so that it appeared to be roadkill. Steele loved that the item was easy to fling around the ring and incorporate into the often comedic side of his character. Needless to say, Steele wanted something similar for "The Animal."
The fact is that George Steele was only in WWF rings for a few months at best after Mine debuted. The doll never made a pay-per-view or any other major event. Steele was not even being used at events such as Survivor Series and Royal Rumble where the bottom of the barrel was scraped talent wise. Nonetheless, the replica was produced and made for sale through the merchandise catalog and at live events. Many WWF items that were sold solely through these channels have become desirable and sought after. Mine meets that description in spades.
Mine returned to collectors conscious about a decade ago thanks to Jakks. The prototype of the George Steele figure included in the WWE Classic Superstars line was holding a figure-sized Mine. As much as this thrilled fans, they were equally as disappointed when the final product was released and devoid of any such accessory.
In 2011, figure collectors could finally rejoice. The Mattel WWE Legends figure of Steele included Mine in all of his glory, complete with poseable arms. What was interesting about this interpretation of Mine is that the furry sidekick has feet. While none of the production versions of the actual Mine doll have feet, an early version that Steele carried around did in fact feature them. It should be noted that this early version of Mine also has a much smaller bald spot on his head.
I actually have no childhood memory of Mine being used. I remember watching "The Animal" long before his little friend came along, and vividly recall the green tongue, especially on the LJN figures of Steele. My first recollection of Mine was of someone waving a Mine doll in the audience of the 1995 WWF Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The moment was replayed several times in a televised recap of the event. Shortly after I saw the doll in a merchandise catalog nestled in a WWF Magazine back issue. Although that confirmed that they were planned to be sold, there never seemed to be one available for sale on the secondary market.
Years later, I can include myself in the small, but proud, group of collectors who own a Mine. It's fun to own a replica of an in-ring item from back when those types of collectibles were few and far between. It's also obscure enough to make for a great conversation piece. After all, fans going back and watching wrestling from that era will know nothing of Mine without seeking out the television episodes that Mine appeared, or possibly a taped house show appearance.