Thursday, November 13, 2014
Before Classic Superstars, There Were The Legends Of Professional Wrestling
It was the wrestling "boom period" spurned by the "Attitude Era" and the "Monday Night Wars." Every wrestling company including WWF, WCW, and ECW had a figure line that were relatively interchangeable at around six inches tall. One of my main issues with the era is that the history of the business was all but forgotten. There was suddenly no room for the wrestlers of yesteryear. These men, who were portrayed as either good or evil, were no longer welcome in a wrestling world where even the "good guys" didn't really fight with good intentions. Thankfully, as WWE became the steward of wrestling history as the 2000s went on, the past began to be "rediscovered." In the meantime, we had this collection of twenty-three wrestling legends made of plastic.
Figures Toy Company and parent company Figures Inc. frequently advertised in the many wrestling magazines of the era and began the line with ads for "The Walking Condominium" himself, King Kong Bundy. Each figure was around six inches tall (like the other wrestling figures of the day) and offered in both regular and "bloody" versions. The blood was painted on rather generously and most of these figures also had slightly different colored attire as well. For unknown reasons, Chief Jay Strongbow had two different color variations as opposed to a "bloody" version. The first four figures (Bundy, Abdullah the Butcher, Killer Kowalski, and Ivan Putski) were also offered completely molded in a glow-in-the-dark plastic.
Each wrestler was it's own "Series" and eventually there were twenty-four series in all. The only wrestler to be repeated was Bruno Sammartino, as he was offered in both his 1970's look and a "young" representation. This is still the only version of Sammartino to include his infamous '70s perm hairdo. Until the Classic Superstars line was released, this was the only time that many of these men had been immortalized in plastic. As of this writing, the only figures to ever be released of Wahoo McDaniel, Eddie Gilbert, and Ox Baker are in this line.
Starting with Series 14 (Captain Lou Albano), the figures were released in completely enclosed boxes rather than carded. Two-pack re-releases of figures were produced but are rather scarce. Also beginning with Series 14, the heads of the wrestlers were actually interchangeable. This led to FTC releasing a pack with all of the Series 14-24 heads, generic heads and bodies, as well as staff jackets and accessories as a "Create Your Own" set.
A few years later, FTC. tried to revive their line with the addition of Andre the Giant. Two figures of the Eighth Wonder of the World were released, one in yellow and the other in the black strap. They were made similar to the bodies of action figures produced by the aforementioned Mego company, and therefore they are out of scale with the other LOPW figures. The figures were released in Mego-like packaging, as well. The two are in-scale with the more recent Andre figures by Jakks and Mattel, and have risen in value in recent years.
In a way, the line hearkens back to the Remco AWA figure collection of 1985-86. They work as great companion pieces, especially since many of the names here popped up in the AWA. The Legends of Professional Wrestling line might best be described as a celebration of the wrestling territories. Men who made their name not only in the WWF, but the various NWA territories such as Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling.
We'll have to wait and see just what success FTC will have with ROH. Will wrestling collectors connect with the offerings and FTC's online-only distribution? Will high price points and kids unfamiliarity with the ROH roster hurt their chances? Time will tell. In the meantime, the LOPW line continues to gain back popularity. Secondary market value of the later series figures has begun to rise. It's time that this under-appreciated wrestling line takes its rightful, and legendary, place in collections everywhere. Some of us have already treasured them for years.