Even though I don’t keep up with modern wrestling, I always know the date of Wrestlemania. And as it gets close every year, I get really nostalgic for old pro wrestling and everything that goes along with it. And not much went more hand in hand with wrestling on TV than wrestling action figures. Let’s look at some of my favorite wrestling figure lines from the past in this testosterone-filled edition of Retro Ramblings.
WWF Wrestling Superstars
To begin with, I’ve got to start where it kind of began for a lot of people…WWF Superstars figures from LJN. This was the wrestling action figure line that most folks would say was their first. It kind of was for me, but I never had a truly great experience with it. I first saw them when a neighbor kid at my grandmother’s house brought over his Hulk Hogan, Big John Studd, and Andre the Giant figures. I was mesmerized. I told my Mom about them, and that I wanted some. For Christmas, I got a Nikolai Volkoff figure, and a Mean Gene Okerlund. Now I love Mean Gene, but what the hell was I going to do with his figure? Have him interview Volkoff over and over again? This was not a good start. A while later, I got a Junkyard Dog figure, but by then, the bloom was off the rose for me as far as these figures went. In the meantime, I had played with them a couple of times at my cousin Tim’s house. He had the ring to go with the figures, so it was really cool. I still love the looks and designs of these figures, but I never owned enough of them myself to put them really high on my all-time list of favorite toys. Not to mention that their lack of articulation hurt their play a bit.
WWF Thumb Wrestlers
Sticking with the WWF, these Thumb Wrestlers were my consolation to not having the LJN figures. I was actually able to pick up several packs of these with my weekly allowance, and that gave me enough variety to really enjoy having these. I had Hulk Hogan, JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Big John Studd. As I said, enough variety to play around with and have some matches.
Now, these things weren’t great as what they were designed to be. They were too cumbersome to put on your thumb and have actual thumb-wrestling matches. I tried taking them to school to do that very thing but failed miserably. They were great for just playing with and having them do moves to each other though. And since they were far more flexible than their larger counterparts, they were actually more enjoyable to play with in my opinion.
Remco AWA Wrestling Figures
Growing up without cable TV, my only exposure to AWA wrestling was catching it when I was at my grandmother’s house, and in the wrestling magazines. Back then, I was consuming every wrestling magazine I could find, so I was fairly up to speed on the goings-on in the AWA. Then I started seeing these figures in my local Family Dollar store. Not only were they a cheaper option than the LJN WWF figures, but you got two figures in a pack. Well, in most cases. I was buying the packs as I pictured above, so I was getting a lot of bang for my buck. I had Ric Flair, Rick Martel, Larry Zbyszko, Baron Von Raschke, Stan Hansen, and Crusher Jerry Blackwell. I took these things everywhere with me. Like to the lake for our weekend camping trips. For the short time I was finding these things, they were probably my favorite toy. They were sized and proportioned just right for mixing in MOTU figures as wrestlers. I still remember the legendary matches between He-Man and Ric Flair. Of course, Flair won, why are you even asking?
Call me crazy, but I used to love all the knock-off wrestling figures you could easily find at the grocery store and dollar stores all over the place. Some of the knock-offs tried to make their figures look like famous superstars, and others just created whatever sculps they could think of and call them wrestlers. The real beauty of these figures was they were all sized identically, regardless of who was making them. That made them perfect for mixing and matching. Not to mention that almost all of the companies making these figures also made wrestling rings to go with them. You could pick those up on the cheap as well and use them for these figures or your G.I. Joes or MOTU or whatever else you wanted to put into a rumble. These knock-off figures were scaled to work well with the Remco AWA figures, so it was another source for building up both sides of the locker room for wrestling action.
And while I’m on the subject of knock-offs, the knock-off thumb wrestlers were great too, and were perfectly sized to compete with the WWF thumb wrestlers.
I got hooked on M.U.S.C.L.E. toys in 1986. Picking up the packs of these little critters and getting four of them was quite the treat. You could also pick them up in bigger packs, and even the cool trash can packs. On top of it all, they had a wrestling ring to use for them to do battle in. I had the ring, and my friends and I would use it for our own gambling purposes. We’d each put one of our figures in and do battle. Whoever won the battle got to keep his opponent’s figure. It was kind of like marbles, but with little pink alien wrestlers. I also had the championship belt carry case thing. It worked great to put on and wear as an actual title belt when my friends and I would wrestle. If you want to see more great images of old M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and accessories, check out the full scan of the M.U.S.C.L.E. toys from the 1986 Mattel Toy Dealer’s catalog here on Retro Ramblings.