Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Wrestling Classic Figure Review--Remco AWA Ric Flair vs Larry Zbyszko

Ask anyone who had the Remco AWA action figures as a kid and they'll tell you one thing: these things were fun. The LJN WWF figure line is legendary and enjoyed a much larger span and run, but the AWA figures were unique. They were poseable, they featured removable entrance attire (in some cases even accessories), and, although primitive, the facial likenesses were good. You could tell exactly who they were supposed to represent. We still haven't seen a better Terry Gordy release and many of the stars included haven't ever received another figure. Today we're looking at a two-pack that includes one of the latter and another star who, on the flip side, has seen many other figures since.

Until the final series, Remco released the AWA figures in multi-packs. Some packs were teams or units, others rivals of two AWA stars. One of the best sets featured Ric Flair versus Larry Zbyszko. Indeed it was, as the packaging announced, NWA Champion vs AWA Challenger. Whether or not the figure set was a direct result of the short-lived Pro Wrestling USA, an alliance that joined the AWA with Jim Crockett Promotions and other NWA members, it certainly well-reflects that era.

A look at the back of the card shows all of the two and three-packs available up to that point. The artists renderings also show what may have been differences between the prototypes and the final product. The biggest differences lie within the drawings of the Jimmy Garvin/Precious/Steve Regal and Fabulous Freebirds sets. The depiction of Curt Hennig's face also much more resembles the man than the released figure did. How about that belt on "Mr. Electricity" Steve Regal? Was he originally planned to include the AWA Light Heavyweight Championship?

Although the belt that was included with many Remco AWA releases looked more like the NWA World Heavyweight Championship than any AWA title, it isn't included here. We do get a beautiful Ric Flair robe, a red Larry Zbyszko jacket, and a sticker commemorating this match between "The Living Legend" and "The Nature Boy." These days, the sticker is often lost and even missing from carded examples in many cases.

Thanks to their Masters of the Universe-like articulation, the Remco AWA figures were fun to play with. They could wrestle, which was obviously what it said on the marquee of venues that the AWA played. You could mat wrestle, you could strut with Flair, and you could stall with Zbyszko. All bases covered. Even signature moves could be attempted. A perfect look in recreating these maneuvers wasn't necessary for kids back then. All it took was a couple of figures and a bit of imagination.

Though variants exist through the Remco AWA run, this is still the only figure of Larry Zbyszko. "The Living Legend" told me years ago that he had signed with Jakks to produce a new figure in their Legends of the Ring line, the continuation of the Classic Superstars line in the TNA line, but it never came to fruition. He was even under the impression that it would include the Western States Heritage Championship. On the other hand, Flair has had tons of figures since. Still, there is something charming about this very first. The fact that it includes an awesome robe when many Flair figures that followed didn't makes it all the better.

With Zbyszko under a WWE Legends contract and Mattel making more and more classic stars, I see a 50/50 shot that we'll get a new figure of "Larry Legend." The odds are certainly better than even a year ago at this time. Will it look better? Maybe. But I don't know that kids of today will have more fun with it than we did with the classic Remco...

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