Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Remco AWA Ref Squad

I've always appreciated it when toy makers go that extra mile with their wrestling figure lines. Wrestlers and wrestling rings are great, but it takes more for a kid to put on a whole event. Managers, announcers, and of course, referees. The two big wrestling figure lines of the 1980's each had the latter represented. The WWF Wrestling Superstars line from LJN had a referee figure that was released in both white and blue shirts. The Remco AWA line had a whopping three different referees, including one man who really donned the striped shirt in the ring.

Some kids probably wouldn't care if a referee figure existed or not, but children who truly wanted to immerse themselves in the world of pro wrestling absolutely needed one. Remco came to the rescue by including a referee figure in their All-Star Wrestling Battle Royal playset. The sets included six wrestler figures, a referee, and a ring. There were several variants between the wrestlers included and package art, but today we're focusing on the referee figure.

In the early releases of the set, included were either a referee with a sort of smug expression and brown curly hair or a rather ferocious ref with bushy hair and eyebrows. Somewhere in the past ten to fifteen years, collector-dubbed names of "Curly Brown" and "Nasty Ned" were bestowed upon these figures. These are not Remco-given names, but have certainly caught on over the years. The heads of both figures were actually reused from another Remco action figure line, DC Comics The Lost World of The Warlord. The curly haired ref was from a figure named Machiste while the bushy haired ref was named Mikola (who, in the original figure, reminds me a lot of Memphis wrestling legend Sputnik Monroe).

Later on, the Battle Royal playset was re-released, this time with a figure of real-life referee Dick Woehrle. The facial likeness of Woehrle is incredible and very much brings to life the referee who is probably best remembered for his work in the WWWF.

There are two misconceptions about the Woehrle figure. It is consistently written that the figure itself is very rare. In actuality, the two earlier referee figures are much more difficult to find. This misinformation likely began when an article about Woehrle's career reported that the figure had sold for several hundred dollars. That figure was the later carded release in the final Remco AWA series called "Mat Mania" and was still on the card. That, coupled with loose examples of the figure flying up on auction sites with exorbitant asking prices (which were not received), caused the fables to continue flowing.

The second falsehood regarding the figure is that the Woehrle from the playset is the same as the carded figure. The latter has "All Star Wrestling" molded into the back of his belt, as most of the Mat Mania figures have molded into the back of their tights. There's no doubt in my mind that some of the original figures without that imprint made it onto cards, but a loose example that has the imprint can assuredly be traced back to the carded version.

The Remco AWA line is just simply fun. When getting feedback for the blog, it's one of the topics that most people bring up. The popularity of the figures has never waned and likely never will. With as fragile as some of the figures and accessories have become as time goes on, there will forever be a market of collectors looking to "upgrade." Just don't forget the referee crew nor the fantastic stories behind each one of those men in stripes.

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