Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mine!

Who in pro wrestling has a bald head, hairy body, and green tongue?  George "The Animal" Steele, of course!  But he isn't the only one.  From the same bizarre realm of the wrestling universe that brought us such luminaries as Mr. Socko, Head, and Rocco came a furry little plush creature that was as inanimate as it was adorable.  It wasn't around long, but many remember at as just another quirky moment in the career of an even quirkier wrestler.  Others know it is a very interesting, and uncommon, entry in the world of wrestling collectibles.  This plush Steele doppelganger is known simply as "Mine."

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."

Told to design this new addition to his character, Steele took several things into consideration.  It had to look like a "friend" that "The Animal" would have.  It also had to be marketable as something children would want to own themselves.  After all, this was right at the time that Vince McMahon realized that he could market and make money off of anything.  With those qualifications and a simple name that could be uttered by even a man with a limited vocabulary as possessed by "The Animal," Mine was born.

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.

Whether it was Steele's low profile or just poor sales, very few Mine dolls show up these days.  It is a shame, as the toy is well made and those that have survived still have a lot of green-tongued life in them.  The merchandised example seems to be the exact same size as the ring-used version.  He has small circular patches of velcro on each "hand" so that he can hang from the ring ropes, just as he is on the cover of Steele's 2013 autobiography.  Interestingly enough, the cover is the sole reference to Mine in the entire book.

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.

As far as wrestling's inanimate characters, Mine is in a class by himself.  Mr. Socko, like his owner, wore out his welcome long ago.  Head created too much controversy, especially among soccer moms with agendas.  Rocco could have been something interesting, but seemed very out of place coupled with the streetwise Legion of Doom.  Mine grew to mythical proportions for a time when collectors wondered if it was ever even actually sold.  Now that we know that he in fact was available, for some of us it's like owning a piece of "The Animal" himself, just a heckuva lot cuter.

5 comments:

Hobgoblin238 said...

Congrads! I guess it is now...YOURS!

J\/\/ said...

Yours...Mine...I think Repo Man is creeping around!

Anonymous said...

Rocco was just plain creepy in general. I don't think it ever would of taken off no matter who it was partnered with.

J\/\/ said...

I've never viewed dummies as creepy, so I disagree. I guess that is another way it could have been used though, playing off of the irrational fears like Doink originally was.

Damaged Dolly said...

I had the joy of seeing The Animal with Mine at a live event when I was 9-10, My older brother bought it for me since my father had recently passed away, wrestling was something all three of us enjoyed togher. I loved that doll and I wish I knew what happened to it, but along with so many things, it got lost in life. I would love to find another one but they are super rare and sadly George passed away today, so I doubt that will help their price if I ever do find one.