Sunday, June 18, 2023

PowerTown Arrives: Lou Thesz & Verne Gagne

For as many great legends figures as we’ve received over the years, the true early television era of wrestling has largely been ignored. While no one ever expected figures of a Hans Schmidt or a Wilbur Snyder (although…), fans have clamored for representations of the champions and megastars of the day. In PowerTown’s Ultra Series 1 we’re finally treated to certainly two of the biggest names of that era and the championships that defined them. Put away the signs, cellphones and t-shirts. Put on your Sunday suit, slick back your hair and, as much as I detest it, light up your unfiltered ciggies: we’re going back in time!

For some collectors the entry of Lou Thesz and Verne Gagne into the first PowerTown set was disappointing. They aren’t as recent as the other four men in the lineup. You cannot count myself, nor you, among those people. Not only did we want them as figures but I think that they actually may be the sleeper hits of the set. Didn’t think that action figures of wrestling stars of seventy years ago could be exciting? Think again! My one and only qualm was that we weren’t getting the older version of Verne that many of us grew up knowing. I’ve long wanted a figure of the Minnesota legend from that era and I still feel that he is a glaring omission from the Remco AWA line. I have a feeling that PowerTown will take care of all of that in the future, but that’s just my own speculation. In the meantime I’ve truly come to love the figure that we did get.

As shown in our Stan Hansen review, the packaging is very nice and unique in design. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the strength to purge these boxes even considering how big they are. Even without the figures inside they truly feel like part of the product rather than just a disposable means of delivering the figure to collectors. It should be noted that the NWA Championship included with Thesz is labeled as such but the AWA Championship with Gagne is just called the “Police Gazette” (named after the Police Gazette presenting the belt to Gagne as Wrestler of the Year) belt. Ultimately it doesn’t matter when it pertains to the figures and the accessories.

Each figure comes with their respective championship belt, towel and a changeable fist for their right hand. Thesz has a robe while Gagne has a ring jacket proudly proclaiming “VERNE” on the back. These pre-match gear items are both soft plastic as we’ve seen in virtually every wrestling figure line of the past few years. They can be a bit difficult to remove and replace, but they do look spectacular when on. The colors are perfectly muted for the era and really help to make these figures look as if they stepped right out of a black and white photo.

Speaking of photos, the longtime fan can easily pinpoint the promotional photos that were used to design each of these figures. That’s because, again, they look just like the photos. Some companies would have tried to get away with generic faces here, but PowerTown did not go that route. They brought the respect that these guys deserved. Each has an expression that is easily recognized with these golden age champions. The lower legs/boots are removable just like on the other PowerTown figures even though there aren’t kneepads with these two. Kneepads? Who in the ‘40s and ‘50s needed kneepads? As mentioned above the hands are removable, too, which greatly helps when utilizing the robe and jacket.

One thing that was big in the era was the “wrestling stance.” That look where a wrestler looks as if he’s about to go for a takedown. The poseability here is perfect just for that. Want these two to go an hour Broadway? You can do it. LJN may have said “twist ‘em! turn ‘em!” four decades ago, but that’s what these two grappling greats will be doing. Only now it looks insanely real! No flippity floppity thigh slapping good times here, this is real wrestling. No sociopolitical agendas being promoted with keyboard warrior fans complaining about missed spots. Real men who were unafraid to act as real, respectable people.

With Stan Hansen I didn’t dive too much into the belt, especially since we’ll be looking at that belt again, but I will go that route here. If you had asked me to make a list of wrestling world championships that we would have in figure form one day I never would’ve guessed these. This AWA Championship was indeed the one that Gagne wore back then, but you may remember it from its revival in the late ‘80s with Jerry Lawler and Larry Zbyszko. Some of the PowerTown championships have very large straps but this one is absolutely perfect compatibility wise. I’ve already tried it on a figure of Lawler and let’s just say that The King is on top again! This version of the NWA Championship is best remembered with Thesz, but in a cool move he actually presented it to Adrian Adonis upon the latter winning the Southwest Championship Wrestling tournament. Lou took it back, of course, but that’s one of my first recollections of seeing it on tape.

As I believe will be the standard for PowerTown, I feel that two huge gaps in the wrestling figure world have finally been filled. If you already have these or have them coming to you, congratulations! I knew that these would be a worthwhile pre-order and it’s nice to see my prediction come true. If you didn’t partake in the pre-order I sadly don’t have any further info for you. What I can tell you is not to sleep on Series 2 when it’s finally announced. There has been a long standing rumor that yet a third legend from this era will be coming shortly from PowerTown. It would fill another gap, to be sure.

Get your Georgie pins ready…

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