So give me a few minutes to talk about 27 year old wrestling figures.
First off, there are two big reasons I decided to do this series of reviews. One was the Mattel WWE Retro series which was released earlier this year, which attempted to capture the look and feel of the classic WWF Hasbro figures. I’ll hopefully be reviewing those figures too as we move along.
Second off, and the biggest reason, is my mom found a tub full of my old wrestling figures, which I had just given up as lost. Most of them were still in there and, in spite of their brutal in ring careers (and in the pool, and in the yard, and on the brick grill), they are all in pretty decent shape. And I love them.
There’s a lot of info online about these classic figures, but beyond checklists, no one is really reviewing them. Plus, I just wanted an excuse to finally complete my collection.
So here we go.
Everybody had that one signature toy that defined their childhood. GI Joes and Transformers. Cabbage Patch Dolls. Barbies. Baseball cards. Hot Wheels. Game Boy. If you were like me, you probably had a few toys from a lot of different categories, but there was that one supreme toy line that you dedicated the biggest lot of your playing time to. Your main thing. My main thing (and my brother’s main thing) was Hasbro’s early 90’s WWF figures. We called them our wrestling men.
My brother and I got into wrestling, specifically the WWF, right after Wrestlemania VI. And when I say “got into”, I mean “devoted our whole lives to”. Wrestling magazines were required reading. I’m not talking just WWF Magazine – Pro Wrestling Illustrated, WCW Magazine, The Wrestler, Wrestling Superstars, Inside Wrestling, Wrestling Action, Ringside. My brother literally learned to read by reading a wrestling magazine. I’m 37 years old and I refer to wrestling websites as “The News”.
Then there were the videos. Our local video store, Nite Time Video, carried a handful of the old WWF Coliseum home videos, and we must have rented each of them a dozen times. Wrestlemania III, Summerslam’s Greatest Hits, a random Starrcade. It didn’t matter that no one was ever going to return the second half of Wrestlemania IV. It still had that good Jake The Snake/Rick Rude match at the end of the first half!
All of this is to say that, as kids, of course we were going to gobble up any kind of official wrestling toy. They didn’t even have to be good toys. But boy, did Hasbro over deliver!
Let’s backtrack a little. With Hulkamania booming in the mid-80’s, the WWF partnered with LJN to release a now-classic line of wrestling figures. The large, rubber, completely inflexible toys became a fixture in every child’s toybox if they had even a passing interest in watching wrestling on Saturday morning.
As the 80’s ended, though, the LJN line was more or less obsolete. The bulky wrestlers were great to knock your brother in the head with, sure, but the fact that the giant figures were stuck in a single pose really decreased replay value. Enter Hasbro.
The Hasbro WWF figures were half the size of the LJN line (about four inches) and, with four points of articulation, their pose-ability was practically endless compared to their double size counterparts. The likenesses were also really great for 4-inch action figures. While they’ve got nothing on the real-scan technology that today’s WWE toys utilize, they made up for it in being slightly cartoony. Since being slightly cartoony is part of the charm of Hulkamania-era WWF, it was the perfect look and feel for this new line.
WWF and Hasbro came strong with the first series of these figures. Twelve different wrestlers, so you got all of the main event guys like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, but you also got some deeper cuts like Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and Demolition. Some of the figures came with accessories, too, like Jake The Snake’s snake Damien and Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Belt. This is the point where you should be losing your mind.
Though released in 1990, I would guess that the lineup was decided on the year before, around Wrestlemania V. All twelve of the figures in Series One had big matches at WMV, and a lot of them actually faced each other. Hogan/Macho, DiBiase/Beefcake, Andre/Jake and Rude/Warrior were all marquee matches from that year.
Unlike today’s WWE, which moves by so fast that sometimes a wrestler is repackaged or released before their figure comes out, the Series One figures were all pretty much still on TV as-is when they hit toy store shelves. The only major difference was Randy Savage, who you can see from the commercial had transitioned from “Macho Man” to “Macho King”, which I can only guess includes a bump in pay.
So let’s go through the lineup.
Note: The first six series of the WWF Hasbro figs came on blue cards, so I won’t be specifying card colors until Series Seven. I also won’t be showing any figures on-card. I play with my toys.
“THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN” TED DiBIASE
The first WWF figure we ever owned was “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. My brother had gotten sick and my mom let him pick out a toy after he visited the doctor. My brother admitted that the only reason he picked the Million Dollar Man was because he came with a belt. It’s sound logic. It was hard having just one wrestling figure, but since the Million Dollar Man was the size of a lot of other toys we had, he made a good business type character in his tuxedo. Then if he needed to scrap, wham!, Million Dollar Punch.
The figure pictured is not our original Million Dollar Man. While I still have that figure, unfortunately the Million Dollar Belt was missing. I was able to get a figure with the belt on eBay for $11.50 after a lot of watching and waiting. The eBay figure was in better condition, so he got photographed. Just so you know, our original MDM is missing a lot of paint and a thumb, but he can still hit that Million Dollar Punch.
Overall, the DiBiase figure was great. The tux was a little awkward from a play perspective (like, why is this guy so dressed up to take a bodyslam?), but he definitely captured the Million Dollar Man’s high-class attitude. The simple wind-up punch was a great feature that didn’t get in the way of articulation. And that belt? Priceless (well, definitely worth $11.50).
JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS
As fans of accessories, it should come as no surprise that Jake The Snake was the second figure we ever owned. That snake tho.
I can remember my brother buying Jake at Family Toy Warehouse (one of my Top 3 favorite ever toy stores). We bought Jake and the Series Two Roddy Piper and Jim Duggan that day. I picked out Roddy. I don’t know how my brother got two and I only got one. WTH mom?
Jake was an awesome figure. As you can see in the ad, his arm had a spring in it that let you push it back to hit his Python Punch. Note, very few of the special “Real Wrestling Action” moves that these figures were given were ever actual moves their real life counterparts did in the ring. I mean, I’m sure Jake The Snake did a punch, but he never called it a Python Punch. And he couldn’t dislocate his shoulder up to his elbow to do it.
Anyway, the reason Jake was an awesome figure was because his non-Python Punch arm was shaped perfectly to do Jake’s real life signature move, the DDT.
Like Ted DiBiase, the figure pictured is not our orginal Jake The Snake. You guessed it, when my mom found the box, he was missing his snake. It’s really annoying, too, because we managed to keep nearly all of the accessories when we were kids. Jake with Damien ran me $18.99 on eBay, which just goes to show that a lot of people lost that little snake. I thought about buying some other, non-sanctioned toy snake, but the real Damien just curves so perfectly around Jake’s shoulders that it wouldn’t be the same.
THE TWIN TOWERS (BIG BOSS MAN & AKEEM)
GRADE: BOSS MAN – B+, AKEEM – A
The brainchild of The Doctor of Style, his Reverend, Slick, The Twin Towers were formed when Slick realized he had two giant dudes in his stable. Slick’s client the Big Boss Man had been feuding with Hulk Hogan. Since the Mega Maniacs (Hogan and Macho) were in full force around this time, Boss Man got his own tag team partner, Akeem the African Dream. Who was a big white dude. Don’t ask.
By the time Series One was released, The Twin Towers were no more. In fact, Boss Man and Akeem faced each other at Wrestlemania VI. Akeem kept Slick in the divorce. The breakup was fine from a Series One perspective, though, since Akeem and Big Boss Man were not packaged together.
Akeem’s “Real Wrestling Action” was labeled as a “Body Slam”. Now, I don’t mind the made-up actions being given to these toys, but you can’t just completely misname a move. I’m sure everybody in the world knows what a body slam looks like, but just in case, here’s John Cena:
You pick up a person’s body, and you slam it.
Akeem’s “Body Slam” action is a spring joint in his midsection that allows his torso to be pulled back and sprung forward (like Andre The Giant in the ad). And while I guess that motion is partially required for a body slam, I think we can all agree that a body slam is more of an arm-oriented action than a midsection-oriented action.
Also, his hollow upper body collected a lot of dirt and gunk in it, so the ring kept getting dirty when I was playing with him before I took the pictures.
Those qualms aside, I do like Akeem’s bright color scheme and I remember being pretty psyched when I found him at the Magic Mart in Oceana, WV.
For his part, Big Boss Man is the perfect example of what makes this line great. He had a great mold that showed off his girth, a cool detailed cop costume, and he just LOOKED like the Big Boss Man. He also came with a night stick accessory, which is something the real Boss Man always carried. The figure’s “Hard Time Slam” involves lifting his arms and letting them smack back down, which is basically just clobbering someone with a night stick. #HEEL.
Lucky for me, my Boss Man managed to retain his night stick for all of these years, so I didn’t have to hit up eBay for that.
“MACHO MAN” RANDY SAVAGE
The Macho Man may be the best figure in Series One, and it’s the little things that make him. For one, his ring gear is on point for pre-Macho King Randy Savage. When you add in that head band and sunglasses, you’ve already captured the essence of Macho.
Secondly, his “Real Wrestling Action” is the Elbow Smash, which was one of Macho’s actual signature moves. In reality, the action was more similar to a double axe-handle, but that’s something Savage also routinely pulled out in a match.
I remember buying this Macho Man figure at Magic Mart in Welch, WV. He was definitely one of the earliest figures we owned and always in the title picture. I also always thought he looked like my ex-uncle Dwayne.
ANDRE THE GIANT
Speaking of Magic Mart in Welch, I remember seeing Andre The Giant there one night. I remember my dad ran into his Aunt Winnie and my parents were talking to her when I excitedly came up to her with Andre. Maybe it was because my mom was distracted or maybe it was because it was too close to payday, but her response was the dreaded, “I said, no toys”. We never saw Andre again.
Now, who knows how the history of the MBWF (our wrestling organization) would have gone differently if Andre had been there to raise havoc. All I can say is this – even better, we’ve got him when we’re 40.
I got Andre and the Series One Hulk Hogan for $24.99 on eBay and I thought that was a pretty good deal. This Andre is in great shape and I was happy and surprised to see his mold was bigger than the other figures in the line. Andre’s imposing size makes for a realistic matchup with a smaller guy like, I don’t know, Rick Rude. Everything about him is big, even his arms and hands.
Andre’s “Real Wrestling Action”, like Akeem, involves pulling back his torso and basically lunging back at his opponent. It’s called the Giant Jolt, which is probably what it took to wake Andre up after a long night. Am I right people!?!
Hulk Hogan WAS the WWF in 1990, so of course his figure is one of the marquee pieces from Series One.
As I said, I picked up this Hogan with Andre on eBay because, growing up, we didn’t have Series One Hulk – we had Series Two and Series Three. Since those are the versions of the Hulkster I grew up with, I prefer them over this Hogan, which is kind of basic. His “Real Wrestling Action” isn’t very Hulk-like – a “Gorilla Press Slam” which was favored more by The Ultimate Warrior.
I wouldn’t call Hulk a misstep, but in hindsight, his Series One figure was nowhere near the most impressive in the series. The likeness, though, was great if you like angry faces and razored up t-shirts.
While Hulk Hogan was the man around WWF in 1990, the Fed was hoping to move Ultimate Warrior into that spot. With his energy, muscles, facepaint and tassles, the Warrior was everything a kid could hope for as the 90’s dawned.
Like Hulk Hogan, we had Series Two Ultimate Warrior when I was growing up, and I prefer that one WAY more than the Series One version. While Series One has a great look from a paint perspective, I hate the Hasbro figures that have the little handle on the back that makes them do their action. Warrior was the first of MANY of these. It makes the figure bulky, their legs are all one solid piece so they’re harder to do moves to, and their shoulders won’t lie on the mat for a proper 3-count. It’s terrible.
Warrior’s “Warrior Smash” is basically just a way to push his torso down and make it spring back so the figure lunges forward. This action would be used in a lot of high flyer-type figures later, which I guess makes sense, but it was a terrible choice for Warrior.
I got Series One Warrior on eBay in a 2-pack with Rick Rude for $14.98.
GRADE: AX – A, SMASH – A
Like The Twin Towers, Ax and Smash of Demolition were packaged separately in Series One. However, unlike the Twin Towers, neither of these guys were known for their Singles matches. If you had one, you HAD to have the other.
I can’t recall which one I had first, but I clearly remember buying Ax at the Welch Magic Mart. Their face paint and cool ring gear made them great figures, and honestly they could play just as well with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dick Tracy toys as they could in the ring.
Ax’s “Ax Attack” was basically the same as Hulk Hogan’s “Gorilla Press Slam”, but I always thought the move worked better for this figure. His name was Ax and he could chop you with his arms like an axe. Smash had the “Demolition Smasher”, which is a wind-up arm like Million Dollar Man’s Million Dollar Punch. I don’t know if it’s because I was less familiar with Demolition’s arsenal, but I just felt like the weird generic actions worked so much better for these guys than the other figures in the line.
Pictured is my original Ax (whose clearly worked a tough match because his facepaint is nearly gone). My original Smash is lost to time, which is a bummer because I’m pretty sure I had two of them and now I have none. I got this Smash for $3.48 on eBay.
It’s hard to say which one I like better, so we’ll just call it a tie. They would be my favorite Series One figures, but having their tongues permanently out is a little offputting.
“RAVISHING” RICK RUDE
We are so lucky to have gotten a “Ravishing” Rick Rude figure, since I’m pretty sure he was nearly done with his first WWF run when these figures hit stores.
I remember liking this figure as a kid, but now, not so much. He’s oddly lightweight, and that pose, though befitting of the narcissistic Rude One, just doesn’t translate well to in-ring play. His action is the “Rude Awakening Headlock”, which is all wrong, since the Rude Awakening was his finisher, which was a neckbreaker. He is set up well to do a either, actually, but he looks more like he’s going to give you a noogie.
I’m also not big on the likeness. His features just seem more bland than the other figures. It’s like Hasbro just said, OK, he’s got a mustache – that’s Rick Rude! Rude was also known for his outlandish airbrushed tights, so this purple with a black squiggly line is fairly boring for the guy.
Our original Rick Rude was the victim of a complete shoulder separation, and he lost his right arm. He wrestled for a long time with a wad of duct tape holding it on (the MBWF was not known for its medical team), but you had to be careful and he could never wrestle in the pool, which was the site of most of our summer PPVs.
As said above, I picked this guy up on eBay.
BRUTUS “THE BARBER” BEEFCAKE
Ah, the Barber! This guy could have only survived in the Hogan-era WWF, and I’m not just saying that because he was a personal friend of the Hulkster. First off – his last name was BEEFCAKE. Second of all, his gimmick was a barber, so he wore cut up tights and carried garden shears to the ring. It’s pure WWF Golden Era and you have to love it, even if there aren’t going to be any 5-star Brutus Beefcake match compilations.
I’m torn on the Brutus figure. On the one hand, he had the best accessory – those shears. His action was also Brutus’s real finisher – a Sleeper Hold. On the minus side, though, he had that weird handle on his back like Warrior. I guess making him go up and down helped the sleeper?? Why not just make his other arm do a punch or something?
Miracle of miracles, my Brutus has held onto his shears all these years, so I did not have to go hunting for those on eBay.
SERIES ONE GRADE: A-
Overall, Series One was an amazing first shot out of the gate. While some of the figures would get better versions as the line went on, the overall look and feel of this series – cartoonish and fun – set a precedent for one of the most beloved toy lines of the early 90’s. Well, for me anyway. And releasing so many figures from the get-go gave kids plenty of fresh match-ups to have until Series Two came along.
I would have to call out “Macho Man” Randy Savage as my favorite figure from this series, with Jake The Snake coming in a close second and Demolition as the sleeper favorites. Ultimate Warrior, with his bulky back handle, would win the least favorite award.
Note: Brutus Beefcake, Jake The Snake and Big Boss Man would be repackaged with the Series Two figures on Summerslam cards in 1991.
Note: Smash would be repackaged with a new Crush figure and a mask accessory for the Series Two Tag Teams Demolition set. Smash would also be repackaged on a Red Card for release in India via Funskool in 1994.
Note: Hulk Hogan and Macho Man would later be packaged with some versions of the Official WWF Ring. While print ads showed the Macho Man in green tights, the actual delivered version was the same as Series One.
Well, that wraps up 3300 words about old toys. I’m working on completing my collection, so I’ll be back again soon hopefully with another write-up. I’m very close on completing Series Two, and I do plan to review the Mattel Retro Series One when I complete that (I’m still shy an Undertaker).