Thursday, December 29, 2022

Figure(s) Of The Year 2022

I can’t really say that 2022 was a great year for anything, but we did receive some nice figures. Did we get everything that we wanted? No, but as Darren McGavin taught us, “That’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s life.” I’ve done enough ranting about the negatives in the past several weeks, so let’s look at the good things. I really feel that this was more a year for improvements than actual new figures. Sure we had some thrown in here and there, but it was really twelve months of some really good new versions of old favorites. Perhaps, “Ultimate” versions? While I use that terminology, neither are part of Mattel’s “Ultimate Edition” line, though that is the company that produced them. Yes, I say “them,” as we have a tie this year. Say hello to your 2022 Figures of The Year: Mattel WWE Elite 96 Hulk Hogan and Elite Survivor Series Ultimate Warrior.

Although both of these legendary characters did in fact receive Ultimate Edition figures this year, for my money neither were quite as good as Elite offerings that we received late in the year. While the Ultimate body style often works well, sometimes the tried and true Elite sculpting and articulation is really all that you need. The choice of style and décor is always a factor as well, and each of these figures brought us a truly unique look that’s never been done before. One is so good that, minus a few of the accessories, it could be looked at as the quintessential version of the wrestler. Yes, we’ve seen countless versions of The Hulkster and The Warrior, but 2022 brought us two of the all-time best.


Hulk includes two accessories that he only briefly used back in 1988. The “war bonnet” helmet and license plate to go around his neck were used virtually only on house shows and in local promos advertising them. What’s nice is that The Hulkster’s standard bandana is also included. Throw that on and you absolutely have the post-Rock n’ Wrestling Hulk figure that we’ve all been waiting for. How many out there grew up on this Hulk look? Honestly, if I were running the game, I’d re-release this guy in 2023 minus the helmet and necklace, throw in a shirt, and plop him into a “Top Picks” series. He’s that iconic and a figure that really every collector should have.

The Ultimate Warrior is a bit more show specific as it’s the exact look from the 1990 Survivor Series. What’s nice about the design is that it’s show specific without LOOKING show specific. The Warrior wore many similar designs and colors in this era. While the WrestleMania VI look is iconic (and overdone as a figure), it’s really locked to that show. He never wore anything else quite like it at any other time. Of course the sky is the limit when it’s your figure. You do as you please. If you want the Mania VI Warrior press slamming Andre the Giant in your latest figure photography post, you do it! Hell, I may just do that after this blog entry. But it’s nice to have a more neutral look here and there. This figure brings that to us. It also utilizes a head sculpt that was only used once before. For a character with as many wild expressions as The Ultimate Warrior, we deserve a variety of faces.

Other runners-up? In my opinion several releases of Randy Savage, The Canadian Earthquake (some of you may have had him in late 2021, to me he’s a 2022 release) and even the “chase” Lex Luger in orange tights all fit the bill. Retro Jimmy Hart should also get a mention for the sheer awesomeness of finally having a Hasbro-styled manager figure. As for 2023, Mattel has already showcased several figures that in my book have FOTY written all over them and one outside company is about to give everyone a run for their money. You thought that the shady performances of “boutique” manufacturers killed the chances for one to make it as FOTY? Not by a long shot. I’m looking at you, PowerTown and Stan Hansen…

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Merry Christmas 2022!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s also nearing the END of the year, thank goodness. I’m not sorry to see this one go and I’m sure that many of you are in the same boat. So what do we want next year? Sticking with the theme of the blog, why not list The Five Figure Wishes For 2023?!? Well, they’re my figure wishes, anyway. Some have a shot at happening. Others are nothing more than a pipe dream. The reality is that anything is possible with everything that we’ve seen come to pass and fall into our hands over the past few years. Remember…

“I believe. I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” – Susan Walker

*For figure collectors it looks like PowerTown is going to be taking up a lot of their head space in 2023. The possibilities are endless and what we’ve seen so far is promising. Figure collectors will finally be able to have Verne Gagne versus Lou Thesz in 2023? It’s truly unreal. I’m not the only collector who has been appreciating PowerTown not jumping the gun on announcements. We have other, less-than-professional outfits, announcing dozens and dozens of figures when they’ve barely shipped any product. It’s a disgrace, really. But PowerTown has kept me optimistic for the “boutique era” going into the next year. The one announcement made in addition to their main lineup was that they will also produce a line of Remco-branded figures to match the legendary AWA line. Seeing as that many involved in that line are now involved in PowerTown it was a no-brainer. My wish? Verne. Not young Verne, either. I want Verne just as he appeared in the ‘80s to fit perfectly with Nick, Greg, Stan and all the rest that Remco brought us decades ago.

*Speaking of PowerTown, let’s talk about their main lineup. The first six were solid and we have heard whispers here and there of others who are eligible for production. A twosome that I personally spoke with about the matter has been at the top of my “I need their figures!” list for years. Of course I’m talking about The Glamour Girls, Judy Martin & Leilani Kai. As you’ve read here in the blog before, the legendary female team are truly pumped that they’ll finally have official figures. I know that myself and many other collectors would like to see them represented at any point in their careers, but I’m thinking that figures from The Glamour Girls era would sell best. Glamour is what we want.

*The gold outfits of The Glamour Girls greatly resembled the shimmer of a character who came along a few years later, the one and only Goldust. We’ve seen countless figures of Dustin Rhodes in the Goldust attire as well as similar costumes. Sadly, only one figure of Dustin Rhodes himself was ever produced. It’s way beyond time to modernize “The Natural” in figure form. Currently signed to AEW, Dustin is seemingly a no-brainer for their AEW Luminaries line which, thus far, has been kind of disappointing. I still haven’t found the urge to pick up Chris Jericho cosplaying as Susan “Tex” Green and where is a young Tony Schiavone? There are also rumblings that the line is headed for failure, though it may just be fan speculation. Dustin could definitely begin to make things right…

*Speaking of making things right, how wronged has Adrian Adonis been over the years? One figure in thirty five years? For a man at his level of talent it’s a disgrace. His family has begun making a presence on social media and keeping his name alive. I hope that this translates into some figures. Again, I would choose PowerTown. Most collectors want both “biker” Adrian from earlier in his career and the classic “Adorable” Adrian from the latter. Mattel, which has become vomit-inducing in their pandering to the blithering idiots who are “offended” by anything, wouldn’t make The Adorable One even if they had the rights. Let’s go with PowerTown. This is a man who hasn’t gotten his due. Keen fans and collectors will note that we’re actually getting an accessory in Series 1 that also involves Adonis. Maybe in the inevitable PowerTown Series 1 review I’ll give the answer…

*One guy who’s gotten plenty of figures yet always needs more in my book is, you guessed it, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Was there any doubt? Yes, we’ve been getting a new Dusty figure for the past several years now, but there’s a lot more room to explore. Now that Cody is back with WWE I feel that The Dream’s legacy will stay there, too. How about a later years Dusty like the one that Jakks gave us? “Hard Times” Dusty? That seems to be up Mattel’s alley as far as recreating classic moments. How about a new retro figure? Seeing as that the Hasbro figure is one of the more famous in the line, it seems as if Mattel would want to get in on that fame. None may match up to The Art of Jason Wulf custom figure shown here (complete with splotch!), but I’m sure something suitable could be done.

In all seriousness, wrestling figures and memorabilia mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. They’re a pleasant diversion to the daily trials and tribulations that we all face throughout the year. My true holiday wish for the new year is health and happiness for my friends, family and all of you.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Chasing Dynamite

I’m not going to get into all of the controversy surrounding this figure and its manufacturer. The troubles (and supposed rebirth) of Chella Toys are well documented elsewhere. I will get into a personal issue that I have with something involving today’s reviewed item, but that’s a bit different. I will say that although it’s unfair to lump all of the smaller wrestling figure producers into this (PowerTown has yet to release any product and we haven’t even entered the original shipping period given and Junk Shop Dog consistently knocks it out of the park on all levels), the bloom is off the rose when it comes to the “boutique” lines. Missed production dates, product not living up to promise and, in some cases, even radio silence have become the standard across the board. It isn’t a good thing. For these lines to sustain and go as deep as many of wish that they would, alienating the consumer that keeps them alive in the first place is the last road to travel. Again, you all know what I’m talking about. Personally, I’m largely done letting many of these small time folks hold my money for an unspeakable amount of time. Oh, I won’t get it unless I pre-order? I guess your product isn’t in my collection, then. It’s that simple. Again, PowerTown and Junk Shop Dog should be left out of this. They have yet to do anything wrong with their original offerings and they aren’t listing dozens of “upcoming” names when they’ve shipped little to nothing else.

But you’re here for the toys and not the drama. If you are here for drama, as mentioned above, I’ll rant a bit. Nonetheless, those of us who pre-ordered long ago finally have the “Uncensored Collection” Dynamite Kid in hand. This series, by Chella Toys or whatever they’re going to go by in the future, was designed to fill in some gaps in the Mattel WWE line. In fact, even way back when only renders were shown the figures looked remarkably like Mattel WWE Elite product. Dynamite and Sabu were the first announced and it didn’t hit my radar if any other future names were thrown out there. As mentioned, the pre-order wait time was long due to various issues, but Mr. Billington has finally shipped.

The packaging is nice and simple. There really isn’t anything keeping you from placing it completely back into the box. I don’t recall removing any tape or ties or anything of the sort. The box is glossy with a nice plastic window (remember those?) and holds up to anything from the big guys. In fact, the lack of ties and plastic bands makes me like it a lot better than the stuff from the big guys. The window showcases the figure nicely and, although extra hands are included, you don't have to see them "floating" in there.

Is this a Mattel? It obviously isn’t, but boy does it look like it is. That’s what we were promised and what we’re receiving. There have been some questions if legalities will come into play from Mattel, but certain those issues were sorted out seeing as that this is a licensed product. I would think so, anyway. The plastic feels a tad different than your standard Mattel. I wouldn’t call it cheaper or any less quality. I’ve had some flimsy Mattel figures in my hand over the years and this doesn’t feel like them. There’s a bit of a larger gap in the right leg joint on mine, but nothing to be upset about. The facial likeness isn’t perfect, but it’s there. Would Mattel have given you any better? As with all facial scans/sculpts, who is to say? After all of these years collecting we should all have come to expect by now that getting likenesses down pat will never be a perfect science. This guy should really fit right in with the Davey Boy Smith Elite released last year.

He should. But mine does not. I mean, it’s right there…aside from the fact that mine has blue on the tights. For certain, the additional blue on the front is a definite look for The British Bulldogs. We all remember the blue. But the Mattel Davey doesn’t have the blue. I ordered this figure, as did many others, with the belief that it would fill the gap when Mattel was only able to produce one half of The British Bulldogs. Since opening it I’ve actually learned, through other collectors that I received a chase. The white is the more common variant. A chase? On an expensive figure that you have to order? That isn’t in stores that you can “hunt?” Mattel did it with their SDCC Sgt. Slaughter, but that was just the packaging. A boutique figure designed to have a SPECIFIC needed look has a chase? Excuse me?

Sure, I should be happy that I received a chase. I’m not losing any sleep over it. If your life is so good in today’s world that you can get upset over wrestling figures being an incorrect color, please direct me on how to live your lifestyle. That being said, this figure was made to match the other. There’s no reason to have a “chase” if you can’t “chase” it. If someone wants the “chase” do they have to keep ordering figures until they get it? The “chase” concept already works terribly in a brick and mortar store based product. Now we’re extending it to boutique lines? This should have been offered as a separate variant to buy on its own if it just had to be made. Am I returning it? After all of the time it took to receive it? No. But it only helps my personal policy of greatly limiting pre-orders with these smaller outfits. Now if they chose to send me a spare head to pop onto a Davey it would certainly go a long way with me, but that’s just a pipe dream. I’m stuck with the figure not matching as it was specifically designed to do and that’s that.

At the end of my reviews I usually recommend whether or not you need the product in question for your collection. If you want a chance at a Dynamite to match your Davey I guess you may want to try. But at boutique prices who has the money to take a gamble like that? I certainly don’t and I am a bit perturbed that the choice was made for me. When Target does similar it’s a quick trip to the store for a return and another order to try again. This isn’t Mattel nor is it Target. Caveat emptor.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Wonder Of Das Wunderkind

You did the dance. Don’t lie. I know during WCW Saturday Night, Worldwide or Monday Nitro you were moving right along with Das Wunderkind. Alex Wright was a fun wrestler. Young, energetic and maybe ten years too late. The world was already pretty cynical in the mid ‘90s (don’t even get me started about how bad it is now) and Das Wunderkind wasn’t getting the fan support that he deserved, although he certainly had his fair share. I always like to brag that, since he returned to Germany after WCW was sold, my parents are just about the only people that I know who met Alex. It was a chance encounter. They just happened to be shopping in a grocery store when Alex Wright was doing an appearance in the video section. Iggle Video for you nostalgic Pittsburghers out there. Sadly, I was out of town, but they did get me a personalized promotional photo.

While Alex Wright has yet to debut on the wrestling convention scene (there are always rumblings that someone will fly him over), he has returned to the action figure world. Many will remember his debut figure in the Original San Francisco Toymakers WCW line. While a great looking figure, due to the pose and immobility of the style there just wasn’t much that you could do with it. Still, it was a cool figure as were many in that line that was largely a throwback to both Galoob WCW and LJN WWF figures. Das Wunderkind is finally poseable thanks to his inclusion in the Legends of Professional Wrestling line from Figures Toy Company or FTC.

These figures all come packaged in plastic clamshells. While you can certainly place the figure back into the clamshell which snaps shut, you do have to remove the Figures Toy Company branded zip tie and the ubiquitous wire ties holding the figure to the tray. What I like is that upon opening you get a nice, clean card back perfect for saving. No plastic or tears here as nothing is attached to the card back, it simply fits inside the clamshell. The packaging for these has remained largely unchanged since the debut of the line, but the roster on the back continues to grow. While not shown on the Alex Wright card back, some figures have shipped where Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane, Tom Prichard and Brad Armstrong are all on display. It sounds like we’re about to feel some true Smoky Mountain “madness” in the near future. Two incarnations of The Midnight Express AND the first Jim Cornette-led Heavenly Bodies? Along with the plethora of Corny figure options already available from FTC, it’s looking to be a good time for SMW collectors.

But back to WCW and the young prodigy of the mid ‘90s. The Legends of Professional Wrestling figures are designed based on the Jakks “Ruthless Aggression” style introduced for their WWE figures in the early ‘00s. Just like the latter, the LOPW figures are largely compatible with any other standard wrestling figure line of today, so Alex will fit in with other WCW characters out there. Most of the LOPW figures include some sort of accessory and Alex has what could undoubtedly be considered his signature one: his leather jacket. When you get down to it, the jacket is the surprising star here. FTC could’ve left it blank, but instead we get this awesome glittery design on the back. It almost makes me want to display this figure backward. Dancing, of course.

The facial likeness is very good and will bring to mind the wide smiles of everyone’s favorite German babyface, not to mention the distinct hairstyle. How could he have ever gotten rid of that million dollar hair? Oh, Berlyn. After that gimmick he just never brought it back. This facial sculpt would actually look perfect on a retro styled figure, too. Customizers take note! Alex is clad in red, however he did change it up now and then. FTC frequently releases variations of their figures so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Alex Wright figure in a different color down the line. And speaking of when Das Wunderkind turned sour, why NOT a Berlyn figure at long last? Considering the era in which that character existed, I can only imagine high demand for that one.

A solid figure for a fun character and a wrestler who never got his true merchandising due. You want one? You got it. Head over to Figures Toy Company using our link and help the blog out in the process. Before you checkout don’t forget to apply our very own code of JWS_WRESTLING_MEMORABILIA to take 10% off of your order! It’s a win-win for all of us! While you’re there you can also pick up a set of the snazzy classic blue mats that you see outside the ring here. That’s not cardboard like some offer, those are foam mats that connect. Buy them once and you’ll never go back to photographing with the cheap stuff.

There are a ton of wrestling figure options and FTC should not be overlooked. In addition to Alex Wright you’ve got names like Francine, Scott Norton, The Sandman, Vince Russo, Chris Candido, The Blue Meanie, New Jack and many other Legends of Professional Wrestling available! There are also tons of independent stars in their Rising Stars of Pro Wrestling line not to mention rings, cages and any accessory you may need to fill your “figure arena!” Get to it, because the competition for “best wrestling figure photography” is getting stiffer every day!

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Hulk Hogan vs Terry Funk -- Tonight In The Coliseum Collection

Between exclusive playsets, Retro figures and plenty of non-WWE products, Mattel has found yet another way to get extra money out of us. Mattel Creations has become their own version of Hasbro Pulse and likely other company “exclusive” sites that aren’t on my radar. Their standard excuse for most items released this way is believable: these are products that retailers wouldn’t want to stock for various reasons. That’s actually not hard to understand after seeing the pathetic action figure sections of most brick and mortar retailers. Still, I think that today’s topic is a line that retailers just may have gotten behind. It’s entirely possible. Don’t kid yourselves, Mattel isn’t doing you any favors by having Mattel Creations at their disposal. If it isn’t making them money it will never be in your hands, it’s as simple as that.

Hitting porches most recently from Mattel Creations is the first entry in the Coliseum Collection. This series was obviously spawned from the positive reaction for the San Diego Comic Con “Ultimate” Sgt. Slaughter figure from 2021. The figures are in the “Ultimate” style based on décor from the beloved LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars line complete with packaging that bears resemblance to those well-remembered blue cards. The title comes from the text on the poster included with the first few series of figures. On those cards an artistic rendering of the figure was accompanied by “X-Wrestler TONIGHT At The Coliseum.” So while the thought of Coliseum Video is certainly there, that isn’t where it originated from.

Our first two wrestlers in the Coliseum Collection are Hulk Hogan and Terry Funk. I’ll admit that I wasn’t blown away by the choices at first, but it’s interesting that Mattel picked this concept at all for the fact that it’s very limited. How many LJN figures can be recreated with what Mattel has to work with? That being said, the company isn’t limiting itself as much as I initially thought. We’ll get to that at the end. The Hogan is based on the middle of three LJN Hogan releases with red trunks and white shirt. There was only one Funk in the LJN line and while there are liberties with this recreation, it’s close enough to bring those memories roaring back.

The packaging here is impressive to begin with. A brown box with the WWE block logo houses a more colorful box featuring art of The Hulkster and The Funker. Like the LJN-esque cards inside, the outer box was also done with the SDCC Slaughter. Inside are the two figures in poses reminiscent of the LJN counterparts. Additional accessories are housed in boxes at the base of each figure. The card backs slide out of the enclosing plastic and you are indeed able to place the figures back in rather seamlessly. They won't be "mint" again, however, as there are the usual plastic bands and ties which need cut to get the figures out in any sane way. It should be noted that Slaughter is shown on the back as part of the set, even though the "Coliseum Collection" name hadn't been coined for his release. Mattel seems to be indicating that he was the actual first in the series.

The inside of the box as well as the individual card back art depicts an audience just like the LJN designs did. "Crowd signs" are individualized for each wrestler and I must admit that I got a kick out of the choices for Funk. There's also a cool little bonus included in between the two carded figures. You get a third piece of cardboard with the Coliseum Collection logo and a blank space on one side with the classic "Mean Gene" baby blue interview backdrop on the back. This is obviously a little gift for action figure photographers, sort of like the cardboard crowd backdrop that Mattel gifted us with as part of The New Generation Arena. Posing a figure in front of the Coliseum Collection side would make it almost appear that a classic LJN poster went three-dimensional.

Each figure includes three heads total, several sets of hands, The Hulkster's championship belt, headband, soft goods shirt and cross necklace as well as The Funker's cowboy hat, poncho, chaps and branding iron. Many will want this set for the belt alone. This is the first time since the actual LJN days that the first WWF Championship won by The Hulkster has been recreated in figure form. I have a suspicion that we will see this belt re-released down the line as the coloring here is to resemble the LJN version rather than the green strap that it had in real life. This and several other championships either already in or coming to the Mattel line lead me to believe that the rights to "trophy belts" of the past have either been figured out. It's also possible that it's simply been decided that no one can lay claim to the classic, yet basic, piecemeal designs. The Funker's clothing has been redone from the original WWE Legends release of over a decade ago. It's much higher quality this time around and the branding iron even has a thicker portion of the handle to allow better gripping.

The figures themselves are high quality and worthy of inclusion in any collection. I've never felt that the "Ultimate" body type was all that special but it certainly does well here. I wasn't sure if Terry Funk necessarily needed the body type, but I can totally see his physique. Each head contains a different expression for each grappler. While we've seen the Hogan faces before, it's fun to have The Funker be able to display that classic array of emotions in the midst of battle. It's also fun that while the red Hogan trunks do indeed reflect the LJN figure, the look is actually more reminiscent of his AWA days.

Remember what I’d said about this line being limited? That was when I thought that it would be limited to figures who either would be completely different in looks from other Mattel releases (Hulk) or were released so far back (Funk) that it’s not really out of the question to do it again. With the second set unveiled I was proven wrong. Ravishing Rick Rude vs Jake “The Snake” Roberts features a figure of the latter that was just released in the Legends line a few years ago. Yes, this is an Ultimate, but again that's not enough to sell me on a re-release. Rude is also very close to a Basic figure done a few years ago. Will I bite for that set? Time will tell. Even still this line will not go on forever. The one line that Mattel cannot cross is licensing rights. A lot of the more interesting wrestlers that LJN produced are off-limits for them. Am I hoping for some new names to pop up? Yes, but the faith I’ve seen of collectors that this will actually happen has been mind-blowing. Some people just don’t learn. We’ve been shown time and time again that, while we’re occasionally thrown a nice bone, we’re going to see the same faces over and over again. While new versions of Piper and Savage (who has so many looks that he’s almost always a purchase) would be fine, I’m just not seeing too much fresh ground to be broken here. Obvious LJN choices like Paul Orndorff and Big John Studd have absolutely nowhere left to go. Without packing a mind-blowing name with them it’s not even worth a purchase for most.

No matter who comes next, this first installment is a winner. As of press time it's still available at Mattel Creations. I always enjoy when things are available for a good period of time enabling as many collectors to obtain them as possible. Or should I say, enabling collectors to "Bring Home All The Action..."

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Wrestling MarketWatch: Totally '80s!

Did nostalgia for the ‘80s ever really die? I remember myself and people that I knew being nostalgic for the “decade of excess” midway through the 1990s! I guess we knew that it was never going to get any better, and it hasn’t! But enough veiled statements on the sad state of the world, we’re here to talk about when life was FUN! Wrestling in the 1980’s certainly resembles that statement with the big “boom” of the Rock ‘n Wrestling era, some epic in-ring action and more stars than you could fill a sky with. Considering the amount of merchandise that was done for wrestling in the ‘80s, a MarketWatch entry on the topic could actually be a weekly feature. As usual we’ve whittled it down to five items at random. As always the prices listed are for unsigned examples unless otherwise noted. My own photos are used for reference which is why you’ll see a signature or two pop up. Grab your Members Only jacket, a can of New Coke and let’s get to it!

*Although there were examples earlier, it was in the ‘80s when wrestlers truly began to sing. On MTV, no less! One of the biggest singles off of 1985’s WWF The Wrestling Album was the classic number by The Junk Yard Dog, “Grab Them Cakes.” The song, co-sung by “Turn The Beat Around” songstress Vicki Sue Robinson, became the anthem for JYD once the era of licensed “real” music died off. Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” was out and people were grabbing cakes worldwide. The album itself had plenty of single releases, many of which have been seen over the years in this very blog. While the three 45 inch singles are best known (GTC, Land of a Thousand Dances?!!? & Don’t Go Messin’ With A Country Boy) there were other releases including both promotional and foreign. The 12 inch “Dance Mix” of everyone’s favorite song where you just go for your partner’s you-know-what recently sold for $20. 

*Though not affiliated with any major U.S. promotion in the ‘80s for any length of time, you can’t deny that the star power of Mil Mascaras carried over from the ‘70s into the 1980’s. His mask was made for merchandising and while he’s been grossly underrepresented in the action figure world (especially with modern day versions), his mysterious mug has made it onto countless other items over the years. In 1983 Bernie Lopez Enterprises and The Mil Mascaras Corporation released the aptly named “Mil Mascaras Pro Wrestling Game.” It doesn’t get more straight forward than that, does it? The game features an iconic George Napolitano shot of Mascaras in mid-air and the promise of the game allowing you to promote matches in major cities across the world. I’m not sure that anyone’s ever actually played it (I own it and haven’t…) but it certainly is fun to have. A copy just sold for a bargain price of $30.


*You knew we couldn’t talk ‘80s wrestling without talking LJN. The famous Wrestling Superstars figure line is what many collectors cut their teeth on. Proof? “Big Rubber Wrestlers” is one of the most searched phrases that has led to this blog over the years. That’s how they’re remembered by casual fans and it proves what an impact they had. You were hard pressed to find a kid who didn’t own at least one back then, even if he or she was not a wrestling fan. But while the carded versions seemed to be everywhere, the tag team two packs were not. Much more limited in distribution, the two packs included Hulk Hogan and Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, The Killer Bees, The Dream Team and Strike Force. All of those figures were released individually as well, but there’s something really cool about the tag team boxes. The Hillbilly and The Hulkster recently sold for $600!


*The WWF wasn’t the only game in town. Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA were producing a high-impact in-ring product born out of the classic southern style. Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, The Rock n Roll Express and The Midnight Express were just some of their top names that remain beloved to this day. Do I need to remind you of that? Nah, but who doesn’t love those great memories? Starrcade, “The Granddaddy of Em All” was the prime event in that wrestling world and even predated WrestleMania. While the world may not be as fun as it used to be, it is pretty nifty that, on a whim, we can go from watching WrestleMania to Starrcade with just a few clicks. If you do surf on over to a Starrcade, especially since we’re in that season, you may want to pick up some of the classic programs. The Starrcade ’87 program (Chi-Town Heat!) recently sold for $100.


*Let’s wrap it up by seeing stars. Superstars. Wrestling Superstars. But not by LJN. This time the 1985 stars of the World Wrestling Federation are coming to us via View-Master. As ubiquitous as LJN figures were in the ‘80s toy box, so were View-Master reels. If by some chance you’ve never owned some, you slide the thin reel into the viewer (there were plenty of viewers dating back decades and were all virtually universal) and magically you could flip through three-dimensional pictures of your favorite television, movie and cartoon characters, places around the world, wildlife and of course WWF Superstars. The Hulkster and Hillbilly are once again prominent here and are joined by Andre the Giant and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. There is a scarcer “gift set” where the reels are packaged in a window box with the viewer but the package of reels itself sells for around $20.


We still love the ‘80s and always will. It was magic, fun and just felt like a friendlier place. Admittedly I was but a child then, but many who were older in that day feel the same. The world has gone sour, especially in the last few years, but I recently saw a quote that brought me some comfort: “Nostalgia is one of the few rewards we get when getting old.” That’s why we have to hold onto it…

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Owen Hart Stampedes Back To The Figure Universe

Unless you live under a rock you already know that the legendary Owen Hart is finally getting new action figures after twenty-three years. Through Owen’s widow Martha agreeing to a relationship with All Elite Wrestling, Owen’s memory will finally be honored within the realm of professional wrestling and not just by its fans. Much to the happiness of collectors, modern action figures are part of that. As Jazwares began a “legends” series of sorts in their AEW line called “Luminaries,” The King of Harts fits right in. 

It felt obvious from the get go that any WWE incarnations of Owen would be off-limits. That meant that in order for there to be modern figures of a man who spent roughly a decade in WWE, the look of these figures had to predate that. Exclusive to the large online wrestling figure retailer that needs no extra press, the first figure comes in a special window box with several unique accessories. There will be another release down the line in one of the mainline/standard AEW series. The packaging is very attractive with several nice photos of Hart. Initially I thought that there weren’t any plastic bands holding any part of this figure in, but there did end up being two or three. Jazwares isn’t as offensive as Mattel when it comes to those things, but we got along for decades without them. Why do we need them now? 

Included are two different heads, sunglasses, soft goods jacket and a championship belt. The latter is likely supposed to be the Stampede Wrestling North American Championship. It’s missing a lot of detail, but it’s good enough. That last phrase could actually be a theme for this figure. As good enough as the aesthetic design of the belt is, the physics of it are less so. In nearly forty years of attaching title belts to figures I had yet to encounter one that I just couldn't apply. Notice how he's just holding the belt? It's because the pegs simply don't fit into the holes on the belt. The rest of the accessories are also “good enough.” The smiling head is about the only part that I would say is less than good enough. The serious head is a much better likeness, but the headband is part of the sculpt and non-removable. The jacket may go a bit above “good enough.” It looks exactly like a wrestling jacket from the ‘80s and thankfully isn’t rubber like so much wrestling figure entrance gear done today. I have seen some reports of the jacket staining the figure right out of the package, but I didn't encounter that personally.

The smiling head has holes for the sunglasses to fit into, but they will stay on the serious head as well. One thing that surprised me when I finished unboxing was the lack of extra hands. No fists? Just open hands? It isn’t like Owen was a huge puncher or anything like that, but for the price of this figure a pair of fists couldn’t have been factored in? Five years ago we would have thought nothing of it, but it’s a different ball game now. I wouldn’t call the body sculpt 100% exactly Owen, but again it’s good enough. And for such a bright wrestler did we really have to go with black and white for the first figure? Why not save that for the mainline release instead of an exclusive which is supposed to stand out?

I won’t say that I’m disappointed with this one. Again, it’s good enough. But it could have been so much better. Customizers will have a field day when this goes down in price. My other big gripe lies with the yet-to-be-released mainline figure. The word on that one is that a great looking figure in red gear will be some sort of “chase” version. Jazwares deliberately makes their chase figures impossible to get in order to make them, what I deem, manufactured collectibles. Big thumbs down on that. As far as this figure, you know the retailer. You also know that sales and clearance is the name of their game. I’d wait on this one until it goes cheaper. When I say to wait, you know it’s a safe bet.

You should’ve made amends with WWE, Martha. Mattel gets a lot of things wrong, but I have a feeling that they’d have done Owen right.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

There's A New Enforcer In Town

There are some figures that Mattel just won’t give us. Some for ridiculous political reasons, others because WWE holds a grudge. One of them doesn’t even have to have a given name. He could simply be “WWE Referee.” Yes, Mattel has brought us a few “guest referees” and Danny Davis, but after over a decade kids (and adults alike) still don’t have a proper modern WWE referee figure. The Mattel spokespeople who parrot the company lines say that it’s a WWE decision. It probably is, but it still makes zero sense. Could Figures Toy Company have provided the answer?

Just a few weeks ago FTC quietly unveiled not only a new figure but one in an entirely new style to emanate from them. Their “Ultimate Referee” is in a style very similar to the Mattel WWE Elite figures with multiple points of articulation. This is certainly a departure from the “Jakks Ruthless Aggression” style bodies used for the other FTC wrestling lines such as Legends of Professional Wrestling and Rising Stars of Wrestling. There’s no word yet on if this new style will find its way into any of the FTC lines with licensed names. One does tend to think that doing a referee in the style initially is a marketing test of sorts. Nominally priced, it was well worth the dive to see just how the new ref in town measures up and if he finally quenches the thirst for such a figure.

Packaged in a sturdy, fully illustrated cardboard box, you have no doubt who’s inside before you even open it up. Remove the bubble wrap and there you have The Ultimate Referee. He does indeed have articulation similar to “the leading brands” and the plastic feels like it isn’t far off from the type used by the “big guys.” His face is generic, as it should be. The referee should always blend in and we’ll expand upon that shortly. His left hand is open and can clutch the ring ropes or even a small accessory. The right hand is giving the “two” sign, which, aside from a pointing finger, is exactly what you want on a referee. There's been a lot of fuss lately over "pinless" figures. For those of you who enjoy that, this guy is indeed pinless. There isn’t much paint here since it’s a referee, but what is there is all good. You could easily apply a sticker or two if you want to give your referee some affiliation. If you’ve got a steady hand you could even grab multiples and paint a ref for each promotion. You could do WWE, AEW, NWA…

Early concerns, as with most wrestling figures, are with height. Our ref here is on the shorter side but by no means does this disqualify him. He’s taller than Mattel Rey Mysterio and that’s all you need. He does his job and does it well. As stated above, the best referees shouldn’t be noticed much. He’s there to count, argue with a heel or a manager and maybe even get intimidated or roughed up a bit. This is exactly who you need to do all that. Some have mentioned alternate hands or even heads, but for this price point you just can’t beat what you get. Certainly those things could come along with a future release. Perhaps even retro styled refs? Sure ‘80s bow tied refs would be great, but how about the less uniformly-attired officials of the ‘60s and ‘70s? An aging guy with a gut and a sour expression to match? I’d be all for it!

You need a ref and you can’t go wrong with “The Ultimate Referee.” He’s available at Figures Toy Company right now. Don’t forget that when you follow the link just provided you can use code JWS_WRESTLING_MEMORABILIA for 10% off of your order of $20 or more! Need a new ring? Steel cage? Chairs? Tables? Singapore canes? It’s all there to fully equip your arena. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, wrestling figure photography is hot. It’s the adult way to play with your toys. If you’re going to do it right, get all of the essentials. And if you don’t have a referee you have absolutely no excuse now thanks to FTC!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Cold November Brain

There are a few reasons why I think of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan in November. Most importantly it was indeed his birth month. The legend would turn 78 this year. But also because my favorite piece of Bobby Heenan memorabilia, shown very often on this blog, involves the month of November, as well. No, it has nothing to do with The Survivor Series. But we’ll get to that in a bit. Why not look at some other Heenan memorabilia first? 

I think that I enjoy The Brain for reasons other than most. Of course everyone loved his humor which he brought to any job that he had within the business. Being the Gorilla Monsoon guy that I am, how could I not? I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I prefer the Monsoon-Jesse Ventura team as far as commentary goes, but there were no better hosting duos than The Gorilla and The Brain. Prime Time Wrestling would not be as beloved today had it not been for those two. You can sense the bits that the two came up with on their own that no outside writer could have. My favorites usually involved the two preparing for an upcoming event such as WrestleMania or the premiere of No Holds Barred. The two were gold in the studio but I feel that they truly shined when “out and about.” 

My love of Heenan comes from, as is almost cliché, the “little things.” It’s those things that can turn a good wrestler into a great one. If you’ve read Heenan’s books you already know that his philosophy was to “wrestle like a manager and manage like a wrestler.” It shows. You can literally pick any appearance of Heenan either inside or outside of the squared circle and see this shine through. Watch him come to the ring. There’s always something going on and it isn’t generic. It’s something pertaining to whichever story is being told, and not even necessarily his. He knew that in order for him to look good he had to make everyone around him look good, too. He fidgets. He looks concerned. He’s focused. He’s gleeful. It’s always something. 

What was also rather unique to Heenan, especially in the “WWF golden era” of the ‘80s, is that he could switch between serious or cartoonish in the bat of an eyelash. If he and his charge were hatching a plan to attack another wrestler you were definitely going to see “cruel and calculating” Heenan. If Gene Okerlund chased them down for an interview after the heinous action, Heenan was prepared with a good insult. He also kept it real. When The Brooklyn Brawler took out both The Red Rooster and Gorilla Monsoon on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling, Heenan repeatedly apologized to Monsoon and claimed that the attack on him was not part of his plan. It made sense. Going forward why would Monsoon continue to find amusement in Heenan’s antics had Heenan not shown a little remorse for something so physical? Again, it was the little things. 

Speaking of little things, Bobby Heenan has had a few in the form of action figures over the years. Not only was he one of the manager figures in the LJN Wrestling Superstars line (a figure that he proudly displayed on Prime Time Wrestling), but he was also one of only two managers to make it into the bendies line also from the company. I only got into the bendies after the Hasbro WWF line was released and was absolutely thrilled that both Heenan and Captain Lou Albano could be integrated with the Hasbro figures. Jakks and Mattel really upped the ante with several Heenan figures from each manufacturer. The latest was the Mattel WWE Legends Bobby Heenan in the infamous weasel suit. Beneath it is the first accurate and widely available “wrestling gear” Heenan figure. Sadly, the figure is underrated and undersold. I don’t know if that means that we’re dead as far as future figures of “The Brain” go, but someone desperately needs to produce him in a Hasbro style before the “Retro” craze ends. We could also use several more regular sized Heenan’s as well. You and I both can think of five or six designs right off of the top of our heads. 

Heenan was no stranger to trading cards, magazine and program covers and even coloring books, either, despite being a manager who were sometimes left out of such things. I say “were” as sadly the wrestling manager seems to be gone. Every so often there are glimmers, especially with Paul Heyman still running rampant, but it has yet to truly feel the same. But The Brain made it beyond. Need someone to go on Arsenio, Regis & Kathy Lee or even The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon? Heenan was your man. He even made it onto an episode or two of Hulk Hogan’s Rock n’ Wrestling, though the little merchandise sadly doesn’t reflect that. 

My favorite Heenan item as promised? The November 1970 issue of The Wrestler, of course. I had wanted the issue for years, seeing it listed as a back issue, but even then it was coveted. Finally, in a box chock full of ‘60s and ‘70s wrestling magazines that I picked up at a local convention, there it was. I was able to get The Brain to sign it and, though he was in his later stages where communication wasn’t as easy as in previous years, he positively glowed upon seeing it. A gory and slightly horrifying reminder that Heenan was indeed a wrestler and for more than just comedic weasel suit matches. Bobby was the real deal. 

Now beat it, humanoids!