Friday, December 17, 2010

What's red, yellow, Hasbro, and rare? Not The Hulkster...

In the last entry you were treated to the 2010 King of the Ring. This time, we take you back to 1994...

Although all of the vintage wrestling figure lines are popular and highly collectible, Hasbro hysteria has reigned supreme in recent years. From 1990 through 1994, Hasbro produced their legendary WWF figure collection. Each figure had an action feature and although many different characters were produced over the years, the line clearly lacks managers and other non-wrestler figures.

A classic blue ring was released with the first series of figures and highly marketed in commercials starring Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Including an American flag and figure-sized replica of the WWF Championship, features on the ring itself have long made fans wonder if perhaps more was originally intended.

A deep groove around the ring apron of the toy has led fans to speculate that a steel cage attachment (similar to one released with the Galoob WCW ring of the same era) was planned at some point. Although the ring was released in the United Kingdom with a soundbox attachment, no evidence of a cage toy has ever been found.

With the line growing and the WWF always changing, 1993 must have seemed like a good time to Hasbro for them to update their ring.

1993, you ask? I thought we were going back to 1994? While it is true that the ring hit the shelves in 1994, nearly every toy in those days took about a year to make it from production to retail. This is perhaps why this ring is styled after 1993's new WWF pay-per-view event, King of the Ring.

While the original 1990-released blue ring could still occasionally be found on shelves, the box was greatly outdated with pictures of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, and Rick Rude. All of the aforementioned stars were either no longer in the main WWF spotlight or out of the company altogether.

While the style of the ring itself changed, most everything else was the same. The same style box and molds for the ring, posts, flag, and belt all remained the same. A dynamic artists rendering of Bret Hart literally punching Yokozuna out of the ring was an instant attention grabber.

Adorned with three King of the Ring logos, it is somewhat curious that the base is yellow with red posts and turnbuckles. One could go as far as to speculate that this may have originally been intended as a "Hulkamania" ring planned during Hogan's brief WWF return in 1993.

Other sticker changes include a WWF logo replacing the stars and stripes on the flag, as well as a different WWF Championship logo. Also of note is the sticker which is to be placed on the tv monitor molded to the base. While the original ring featured a sticker of The Hulkster, this version featured a blank white sticker. A look at the rarely seen instruction sheet reveals that a sticker of none other than Vince McMahon was originally intended here.

The instruction sheet also includes a listing of nearly every WWF figure produced by Hasbro at that point. If you were not fortunate enough to have been following wrestling at the time, believe me when I say that ANY reference to past WWF superstars was a shock in and of itself.

When the ring was finally released in 1994, it coincided most closely with the "red carded" series of figures. Yokozuna, Lex Luger, and Bam Bam Bigelow all made their Hasbro debuts in this series and were accompanied by re-paints of Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect. A re-released Undertaker including his trench coat rounded out the series of six.

Even in 1994, the ring did not last on shelves for very long. Production on the item was no doubt short thus leading to high collectibility. The box, instructions, flag, and stickers are least often found. The belt and ropes are exactly the same as the blue ring release and thus are replaceable. The two King of the Ring logo stickers on the side apron are most often lost as they did not completely attach to the ring due to the grooves in the apron mold. The ring is dated 1989, as the original ring mold was undoubtedly one of the earliest items designed by Hasbro (the initial line did not hit stores until mid-1990).

Even a stripped-down version of this item will sell from $50-$100, while examples with more of the original stickers and accessories can go for quite a bit more. Boxed examples would be correctly priced at several hundred dollars. It is one of the highest valued pieces in the entire Hasbro collection.

While many collectors want the item today for display, it all boils down to the fun originally had with the toy. Many King of the Ring tournaments were held in the ring with the WWF Hasbro line, but the most savvy young collectors knew that crazy cross-promotional matches could be had using figures available from years past.

All Hail The King!


Horror Movie BBQ said...

I had this ring. It was much cooler in my mind than the blue ring in my mind. But that's only because no one else I knew had it.

Bix said...

JW, what can you tell us about the 2nd blue ring (slighly bigger with flat stands on ringposts)? I've never heard much about the variation and discovered it when I went to a friend's house with my ring.

When did it first hit stores?

Was it a response to the recall of the LJN ring (over children being impaled on the ringposts)?

Why was it slightly bigger?

Did the KOTR ring base use the first model or the second, bigger one?


J\/\/ said...

Amazingly, I only ever had the blue ring with the larger post tops. It wasn't until later that I learned that the rounded tops shown on the commercial was actually released. And it was released with both black posts/turnbuckles and the dark blue. Haven't heard of it being any larger, but something to look into!