The Evil Horde Fright Zone

The Evil Horde Fright Zone playset was released in 1985 for the Masters of the Universe toy line. It featured a caged cell, a dead tree that could capture action figures and a “snake” that could drag off unsuspecting foes. It wasn’t the largest playset the MOTU line had to offer, but it was a great companion piece to Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain.

I was still very deep into all things Masters of the Universe in 1985, and already had Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain. But the Fright Zone eluded me for some reason. Maybe my parents were suffering burnout from all of the MOTU stuff in the house or me running around yelling “I Have the Power!”. Whatever the reason, I never ended up with this.

While a lot of fans my age would rather have had the Slime Pit, the Fright Zone was where it was at for me. Maybe it was the Halloween vibe it puts off or the way it feels like an outpost in some far-off corner of Eternia, but either way, I wanted it then, and I wouldn’t say no to it now.

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

The WWF Thumb Wrestlers were my consolation for not having the LJN figures.  Now I really didn’t mind not having the full-sized LJN figures as they weren’t very fun to play with due to their inflexibility. The only reason I wanted the full-sized LJN counterparts was because everyone was getting them.

The Thumb Wrestlers were cheaper, so 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. 

The WWF machine was clicking on all cylinders and they really knew what they were doing with these thumb wrestlers. I mentioned how they came packed two per package…well, they mixed them up and the same figure would appear in multiple packs. This meant that you could theoretically find any matchup of the figures you wanted. To the best of my research abilities, here are the two-pack combinations that were available:

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Kenner Star Wars Return of the Jedi Toy Catalog from 1982

In this Time Capsule, I’m treating all of you Star Wars fans to something really special. It’s the Kenner Star Wars Return of the Jedi Collections catalog from 1982. Flip through it all you want and salivate over all of the cool toys they were offering at the time!

The flip book below is super easy to use. The controls are in the control panel below the book, and you can use them to go forward or backward. I suggest using the expand button to blow it up to full screen for maximum enjoyment.

Old Masters of the Universe Ads

Friday Five is a quick list of five things with a common theme, and instead of doing a big write-up, I’m doing it in pictures (or videos) with just a couple of sentences to give context to the picks. You can play along by adding some of your own in the comments.


The early days of the Masters of the Universe brand were fascinating. I’ve covered a couple of the early ads here and here, and in this Friday Five post, we’re going to take a look at five more.


I’m not sure exactly when this ad is from, but it’s either from 1981 or very early 1982, as the quip at the bottom of the scroll says more figures will be coming later in 1982. And the fact that it only features characters from the original wave of figures, solidifies that thought.

The Beast Man interpretation is pretty cool in this one. I’m sure it would have been difficult to convey this look onto a plastic action figure, but that would have been a great-looking figure. It would have also been good if this interpretation was what we had gotten in the animated series as well. It would have been pretty hard to portray him as a goof like they did if the character looked like this.

Here’s another one from the early days, and it’s a sale ad from a newspaper. Again, only some figures from the original wave are featured. It’s interesting that it’s Beast Man and Stratos featured in the ad and no He-Man and Skeletor. But even though they are featured prominently, the ad seems geared more toward promoting Castle Grayskull instead of the figures.

While that $21.47 price tag after rebates sounds appealing, if you adjust it for inflations, it works out to be $65.92 in 2022 dollars. That’s right in the range I would think it should be. The figure’s price of $3.88 translates to $11.91. At that kind of price point, I’m surprised I ended up with as many figures as I did as a kid.

This ad is from 1982 and from a newspaper as well. Besides advertising several cool toys, this ad promotes the ability to meet He-Man and Skeletor in person at the local department store.

Those in-person meeting opportunities still fascinate me. They certainly weren’t going to happen in my neck of the woods. I’ve seen just a few pictures online, and don’t believe I’ve come across any stories from anyone who actually went to one. If you ever got to go to one, by all means, please share your story in the comment section.

This is a beautiful ad right here. It’s an ad from some kind of trade magazine trying to entice store owners to carry the product. Using Star Wars figures in the background is a nice move as they try to show that those toys are the past, and He-Man is the future. It details how popular the line was the year before, selling over five million figures, and promising more new figures to come. Towards the end, it mentions the opportunities for in-store experiences like we saw in the previous ad. I’m sure with the powerful imagery featured, and those statistics on sales numbers from the year before, this ad convinced a few more stores to get on board.

And finally, we come to an ad from late in the brand’s heyday. This is an ad for the Masters of the Universe magazine, which was a quarterly magazine that was only available through subscription. It features three actual issues in this ad, and if you want to see what this magazine was all about, check out the Time Capsule feature here on Retro Ramblings to browse through the entire issue pictured on the far right.

When it came to magazines like these, I always drooled over them. They were available featuring brands like MOTU, G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Barbie, and more. The closest I ever got to that was a subscription to LEGO’s Brick Kicks magazine in the late ’80s. I was disappointed by it, but I believe I would have found this magazine fully worth the time since I was a bit younger and it would have been geared more towards my age.


If old Masters of Universe stuff is your thing, then don’t leave the sight without checking out the full scan of the 1986 Masters of the Universe Toy Catalog.

LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars Action Figures

This LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars card back is from early in the toy’s run, as it still pictures the likes of Hulk Hogan, Hillbilly Jim, Big John Studd, and others that were part of series 1. But it also features Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake, and King Kong Bundy, which would place this card back as being from series 2.

While technically these were “action figures”, a more accurate name for these would be “inaction figures”. They featured no articulation and were comprised of stiff rubber. They were absolutely fantastic as display pieces to show your love for wrestling in general, and the magical era of Hulk Hogan and the WWF in particular.

But when it came to playing with them, it took a lot of imagination to pretend you were pitting them in wrestling combat with each other. But what kids out there wanted to display them and not play with them? Not this guy.

But I wasn’t into them in the beginning. One reason was the fact that they were hard to find in the rural area I live in, and when they were to be found, they were expensive versus other action figures I was into at the time, namely GI Joe and Masters of the Universe. But when I would go to my grandmother’s house, her neighbor’s kid would bring them over and we’d play with them. That was almost enough to make me succumb to the power of the LJN figures, but not quite. What put me over the top was my cousin had the ring. Once I got to play with that thing I was hooked. I told my parents that I wanted some. And you know who they chose as the first figure to buy for me? “Mean” Gene Okerlund. What the heck was I supposed to do with an announcer as the only figure in my collection.

I ended up also getting Junkyard Dog and Nikolai Volkoff but trying to play wrestling with the same two figures over and over, and the fact that it was so hard to do so with their lack of articulation doomed it all for me and I called it quits on the line. But looking back at it now, I wish I had been more involved with it. I likely wouldn’t still have any of them, but being able to put them up on display today would be pretty cool.

Now while I’m on the subject of the LJN WWF figures, I want to take just a second and mention the knock-off Sgt. Slaughter figure.

The ad above is for a Sgt. Slaughter action figure that was produced independently from LJN to mimic their line of figures and capitalize on both the popularity of those figures and the popularity of St. Slaughter himself. For years, the rumor was that an official LJN figure of Sarge was in the cards, but after he cut his own personal deal with Hasbro to appear in the GI Joe line of 3 3/4″ figures and wasn’t going to cut Vince McMahon in for a share of the loot, he was fired from the WWF and his planned LJN figure fell thru.

Rumors also persist that this particular figure was made from the original prototype mold that LJN had produced and was later purchased from them by Hasbro. So this figure was actually independent of the LJN line but fit with those figures perfectly.

As you can see from this ad, Hasbro made no bones about the fact that their figure was superior to the LJN ones, as the advertising focuses on the Sarge figure standing tall over LJN figures that had succumbed to his awesomeness.

Now whether the story about the mold is true or not, I really have no idea. But this figure got made and was sold through direct ads I believe. I remember seeing ads for the figure in various wrestling magazines in the late 1980s, and even though I wasn’t really into the LJN figures by that point, I still wanted this Sarge figure. I guess I just thought it would be cool to buy a wrestling action figure from a wrestling magazine. Through the years I saw numerous things in those magazines that I had dreams of purchasing, but to this day, I’ve never purchased a single thing from one.

M.U.S.C.L.E. Toys

I certainly dabbled in more than my fair share of toy lines as a kid, but one of the lesser ones turned out to be one of my favorites. Let’s remember M.U.S.C.L.E. in this edition of Retro Ramblings.


M.U.S.C.L.E. Men started out as a manga comic in the late seventies in Japan called Kinnikuman. It proved to be so popular, that an anime series of it was adapted and ran from 1983 – 1986, and focused on an intergalactic form of professional wrestling. Toy company Bandai quickly started producing the little two-inch figures as the show’s popularity soared. And like so many other things, when it became popular there, toy companies in the United States took notice, and Mattel launched its own line of the little pink warriors. Since the name Kinnikuman translates to “Muscle Man”, Mattel named the line M.U.S.C.L.E., an acronym that stood for “Millions of Unusual Creatures Lurking Everywhere”. M.U.S.C.L.E. Men were produced from late 1985 – 1988 before finally fading from store shelves. Although their popularity was short-lived, it was impressive, as M.U.S.C.L.E. was listed as one of the 10 Best-Selling Toys of 1986. 

The little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors were not really posable in any way and were so small that you couldn’t really do much with them. But the fact that they came in multi-packs, and that they were marketed as “wrestlers” was enough to hook me initially. It was intriguing to see who would win in a fight between someone with a motorcycle for a body or a human with a ripped body and the head of a wild boar. Of course, who won that battle was up to the kid in control of the action. That is until the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring Wrestling Arena came on the market. 

It was a small yellowish-orange contraption with glorified rubber bands for ring ropes, and a plastic arm that held the two combatants. You and a friend would do battle by moving your wrestler side to side, Rock ’em Sock’em Robot style, in an attempt to knock your opponent off of his plastic control arm. If you did, you were the winner. The key was to find one whose body was slightly too big to fit in the controller, and then force him into it anyway. He would then be almost impossible to beat. My best friend and I would play this for a while, and for each match, we would select a combatant. The winner would win the losing figure from its owner. Both his and my collection of these increased and decreased, depending on who had the better day of competition. 

The big drawing point for me was two-fold. First, their small size made them easily transportable. It was quite easy to stuff several in each pocket and head off somewhere and take the action with me. The second part was the cheapness of the toys. For a kid with a light allowance, being able to pick up multiple little M.U.S.C.L.E. warriors in one package was quite the draw. They were typically available in a blister card pack of four figures for around $1. Then there was the clear trash can pack that was stuffed with 10 mighty M.U.S.C.L.E. Men for the low price of $3. So as you can see, a kid could grow their collection quickly with minimum allowance spent.

M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were one of my favorite toy lines as a kid. Heck, I still enjoy the newer versions they put out today based on other popular properties like Masters of the Universe and Street Fighter. If you remember them, hit me up in the comments with your thoughts on them.

Retro Wrestling Action Figure Lines

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?

Knock-Off Figures

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.

M.U.S.C.L.E.

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.