Thursday, May 28, 2015

Figureless Legends Get One More Shot At Immortality

Just when you thought that Mattel and WWE would be the sole wrestling figure source for the foreseeable future, a new "renaissance" of sorts hits the hobby. It's been no secret that Figures Toy Company has been busy creating the debut figure line for Ring of Honor for quite some time. Just this past week, the first four figure heads were unveiled, including Kevin Steen, much to the surprise of many. Steen, now known as Kevin Owens in NXT, is the first "Throwback" figure for the line, and it will be interesting to see if we also get a Mattel figure of the man in the same calendar year.

Figures Toy Company has also announced that they will be producing two addition lines: one of current, non-contracted, indy wrestling talent, as well as a new Legends of Wrestling line. It was not that long ago that I featured the original Figures Toy Company Legends of Wrestling figure line here on the blog. That line still contains a few stars of yesteryear who otherwise would not have an action figure.

As trivial as it may seem to some, I've heard some celebrities claim that they really didn't realize that they had "made it" in their profession before they saw their own action figure. No matter why it was produced, it's an honor. In a way, it's the modern day form of receiving a statue. Having your likeness immortalized in a form that will stand the test of time would be humbling to most. While so many wrestling greats have had this honor bestowed upon them, many still have not. Others deserve that chance again. Mattel has once again stepped it up as far as producing stars of the past in their WWE line, but it just hasn't been enough. Though the company has gone a bit deeper in character choices, they're still playing it safe and attempting to produce stars that kids just might know, ignoring the wants of the more mature collector.

Through various forms of social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, Figures Toy Company has slowly released information regarding these new figure lines. For starters, all of the lines will feature the Jakks "Ruthless Aggression" styled bodies. This is not a huge surprise considering that the company has used the body style for other figures. This is particularly notable for the Legends line as, in a way, this will be the second revival of Jakks legendary Classic Superstars line. The original line went into character depth that had never before been explored as far as wrestling action figures. When Jakks and TNA joined forces, the style was briefly revived with the "Legends of the Ring" line that produced, among others, Sting and Jeff Jarrett. Should all go according to plan, we will see yet more legends joining the compatible style.

Until more signings and announcements are made, we can all speculate just who will see inclusion in the line. As both FTC and logic will tell us, the wrestlers cannot be ones under current deals with WWE or other companies. Those deals generally end without much of a fanfare, leaving fans to figure out just who will and won't have a shot. I've previously taken a look at stars who've never had an action figure, but now that there is a new hope for these figureless folk, it's time to see who has a realistic shot.

Many times over the years I have publicly lamented the lack of a Magnum T.A. figure. The man was destined for the top of the business when his career was tragically cut short. Mattel had positioned Magnum for a WWE Legends figure, but callously went back on their plans. I spoke to Magnum about the figure last year at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Fanfest. He had indeed been contracted and paid for the figure, but didn't have much hope that his young sons would ever get to play with it. If I had to choose one figure for the line, it would obviously be the man known as Terry Allen.

It's amazing to me that men who played such an important part in the early "television era" of wrestling such as "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers and Verne Gagne have never been immortalized in plastic. It could be argued that they wouldn't appeal to children, but Figures Toy Company has proven with other lines that they're quite aware of the adult collectors. These lines will likely be tailored to them, leaving hope for these NWA and AWA pioneers.

Gagne really should have received a figure in his own AWA line produced by Remco. It's actually quite surprising that he didn't. Had the line gone on a year or so longer, perhaps a Verne complete with He-Man-esque physique (as the Remco line is so infamous for) would have made it to store shelves. A few who did make it to the AWA line such as Larry Zbyszko, Nick Bockwinkel, and Stan Hansen could all use some modern-day representations.

Speaking of modern-day, how about a man who still competes on the independent wrestling circuit today? Not only is he an ECW original and a WWE alumni, but I have always felt that he was the one wrestler who was absolutely made to be an action figure. I can only be talking about The Blue Meanie. Perhaps the most fan-friendly wrestler around, Meanie continues to entertain those fans on shows around the country. What puts Meanie even more into the "has to be made" column is the fact that he could fit into two of the upcoming FTC lines, either Legends or the independent stars.

If you've followed me at all over the years, you know that I have a soft spot for the female legends of the ring. While I realize that some just would not be marketable in the figure world, there are quite a few that would be coveted as figures by fans. Missy Hyatt and Leilani Kai have both stated that action figures are just about the only things missing from their long careers. Other great candidates would be Baby Doll and Wendi Richter. The various Halls of Fame for the pro wrestling world are filled with female stars who never got their due. Maybe this time around we can see female figures of more than just the usual suspects.

Last but not least, I would love to see figures of the territorial stars. They may have had a cup of coffee or two in the big time, but these guys were the true warriors of the road while going up and down the highways and bi-ways of the '70s , '80s, and '90s. These are men like Dick Murdoch, Exotic Adrian Street, Ronnie Garvin, and Tracy Smothers. Tag teams like The Andersons, The Blackjacks, and The Heavenly Bodies. The boys (or their families) deserve that one last payday, and we fans deserve remembrances like these to honor their work. I'd bet that Blackjack Mulligan prototype is still hanging around somewhere...

From here, I leave it to Figures Toy Company. As a fan of their "ReMego" line of figures based on the 1966 Batman television series, I can tell you that they will work hard to bring fans exactly what they want. These names are just an example of exactly what collectors are looking for. The Classic Superstars line didn't end as it should have, with many loose ends and disappointments. This is the line that can change that. I wouldn't bet against it.

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