Sunday, June 16, 2024
Editorial'80s Wrestling Toys Were Better, And You Know It

’80s Wrestling Toys Were Better, And You Know It

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I have two things in common with Matt Cardona, AKA the hardest working man in wrestling. The first is, well, we’re both really good-looking. The second and most important thing I have in common with Cardona is that we both love wrestling toys. It is so sad that kids today will never know the joy of walking into a toy store and crying for their parents to buy them a Junkyard Dog action figure. RIP toy stores, hopefully, society comes to its senses and brings them back soon.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

When I was a kid growing up in the eighties, we went to visit my grandmother in Little Rock Arkansas every summer. There wasn’t much in Little Rock, but they did have a small mall. On one visit, I remember seeing a toy store near the food court and asking to go in. Of course, my mom said no, but being the good grandmother that she was, granny said yes. My grandmother bought me an LJN WWF Superstar Big John Studd action figure. She had no idea who he was or what he was, she just knew that she had to buy her grandson a toy to get me out of the store.

Every summer vacation I knew I was going to be stuck in the backseat of our 1978 Cutlass Supreme for six or seven hours, so I would bring my wrestling toys to keep me company. Big John Studd was always there for me, and so were my M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Sure, you could argue that there are tons of modern-day wrestling toys that look much better and have a million points of articulation, but they just aren’t the same.

LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars

Between 1984 and 1989, LJN made six series of WWF action figures. The figures didn’t have any articulation whatsoever and the likeness wasn’t super accurate either, they were just a big chunk of rubber. Even though they didn’t move or do anything special, I didn’t care, because I was holding a giant Jake “The Snake” Roberts in my little grubby hand. I loved my LJN WWF figures, they were awesome.

I can remember the first time I held Big John Studd, he so huge compared to a G.I. Joe or a tiny Star Wars figure. My little brain just couldn’t fathom that there were toys out there that were so big. The arms and legs had wires in them, and we’d stretch the hell out of them to try to get them to move. If you bent them too much the wires would bust right through the rubber. They weren’t the safest toy around, but we didn’t care about toys being safe back then.

I played with Hulk Hogan so much that the paint wore off and he was nearly all just skin color. My collection included Roddy Piper, (awesome in They Live), Iron Sheik (awesome on Twitter), Junkyard Dog, Big John Studd, George “The Animal” Steele, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and my favorite, Jake “The Snake” Roberts (who I got to meet recently at a wrestling con).

I would make all of my WWF wrestlers fight my other toys. Junkyard Dog would frequently fight Skeletor, and Steamboat would usually have a feud going on with Cobra Commander. I played with them everywhere, in the backyard, the living room, on the kitchen floor, and I even played with them in the bathtub. I loved to fart in the bathtub while playing with my wrestling figures. The sound and large bubbles the farts made along with the big splashes that the heavy rubber figures made was hilarious. Sometimes, I still fart in the bathtub, and if I still had my old LJN WWF figures I would probably play with them in the tub occasionally.

Posters Galore

One of the really cool things about LJN WWF Superstars was that they came with a poster. Posters were a big thing for us kids in the 80’s, we didn’t have NFTs. The more posters you had on your wall the cooler you were. I had wrestling posters, heavy metal posters, hot model bikini posters, you name it I probably had it. One day when I sell a big script, I am going to go on eBay and buy every single LJN WWF Superstar from every series, but for now, memories will have to do.

 

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

My other favorite wrestling toys were my M.U.S.C.L.E. action figures. Kinnikuman started in Japan as a toy line from a popular Manga. In America, Mattel launched their own line re-branded with the name M.U.S.C.L.E. in the mid 80’s. These figures were the complete opposite of the LJN WWF figures. They were tiny, pink, and incredibly detailed for their time. There were several hundred of these little guys, with tons of different character types. I was always getting yelled at by my mom because I had a ton of them scattered all throughout the house.

M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were so small that they’d get lost everywhere. You’d find them in the sofa cushions, outside in the flower beds, and sometimes buried deep in the shag carpet. They were small enough to fit in your mouth. I’d be willing to bet a few kids have choked to death on a M.U.S.C.L.E. toy over the years.

M.U.S.C.L.E. came in packs of 4, 10, or 28, and were totally affordable for any kid who saved up their allowance. The 28 packs had good guys and bad guys. The Face faction were the “Thug Busters”, and the heel faction were called the Cosmic Crunchers. There was a ring that you could mount them in with a little joystick and make them fight. If I remember correctly there was also a title belt that doubled as a case to store all of your M.U.S.C.L.E. in.

I teamed up my M.U.S.C.L.E. figures with my Transformers to fight against Iron Sheik and his buddies in massive wars that would take place all throughout the house. These little wars always started with me pretending to do a promo in a deep grown-up wrestler voice, yelling in my room. Junkyard Dog and Jake Roberts usually were the winners with a little help from He-Man.

Show Me Your Toys

Do you have a wrestling figure collection that you are proud of? Did you fart in the bathtub like me? Tweet me pics of your wrestling toy collection @MPRwrites or post them in the comments.

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