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COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Looking Back at Odd Choices from Jakks's line of Classic WWE Figures

Feb 1, 2013 - 3:50:06 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist

In Brief: Jakks-Pacific's popular Classic WWE Superstars toy line left out some of wrestling's biggest stars while including some odd choices.

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In the early 2000s, the past was often hotter than the present in pro sports. Demand from sports nuts led companies to offer jerseys, toys, cards, posters, and just about everything else of athletes who hadn’t been seen in decades.

The nostalgia craze caught up with pro wrestling as well when Hulk Hogan returned after nearly ten years away and John Cena made the old WWF logo cool again. In 2004, Jakks-Pacific offered the first series of Classic WWE Superstars, a new line of toys based on wrestlers of the past. The first wave of figures included toys of WWF legends like Bret Hart, the Ultimate Warrior, and Andre the Giant.

From 2004 to 2009, Jakks released 28 waves of Classic Superstars, along with deluxe figures, tag team packages, box sets, Internet exclusives, and more. The popular toy line included figures of almost every major star in WWE history, from Hulk Hogan to Steve Austin to The Undertaker. Jakks included toys of wrestlers from all eras, from Jack Brisco to Rob Van Dam.

The toy line wasn’t just limited to WWF wrestlers either. There were toys of wrestlers generally associated with WCW who had brief WWF or WWE runs (Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, Rick Steiner) and figures of wrestling legends who spent little or no time in WWF or WWE rings (Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, Kevin Sullivan, and the Midnight Express).

There were some wrestlers who Jakks left out for obvious reasons. Martha Hart would never okay a toy of her late husband Owen. Randy Savage had become persona non grata with WWE and was omitted from the series, even though wrestlers like Bret Hart and the Ultimate Warrior had several figures despite public battles with WWE. And, even though fans and collectors clamored for a Sting toy, he was too closely associated with TNA during the existence of this line for Jakks and WWE to offer up a figure.

Even though collectors were disappointed to see some of their favorites left out of this line of toys, most of them could understand the reasoning. But, many other wrestlers were excluded for reasons that fans just never understood. Meanwhile, Jakks cranked out toys of many wrestlers that almost nobody was asking for.

Jakks included Bastion Booger, but never found room for the Rougeau Brothers (although there was a toy of The Mountie). There were toys of Chainsaw Charlie, The Berzerker, Zeus, and “Dangerous” Danny Davis, but no figures of Magnum TA, Mil Mascaras, Dino Bravo, or Adrian Adonis.

Here is a look at five odd choices that Jakks included in the Classic Superstars Series – and five seemingly obvious choices the company left out.

They made … Johnny Rodz. Rodz is a WWE Hall of Famer and had a long, respectable career. But, he’s hardly a household name among wrestling fans, and spent much of his career as a jobber to the stars. Younger collectors were probably scratching their heads when they found a Rodz figure in their local toy store. Even most older fans who began buying wrestling toys in the mid-1980s probably only remember Rodz as a guy who used to job to Lanny Poffo and Scott Casey on Prime Time Wrestling.

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But they didn’t make … Buddy Rogers. Jakks made toys of legendary wrestlers like Bruno Sammartino, Jack Brisco and Killer Kowalski. Unfortunately, they never produced a figure of the original “Nature Boy,” the first WWWF Champion. A two-pack with Sammartino or Ric Flair would have been an especially cool way to release a toy of Rogers.

They made … Tank Abbott. Jakks’s decision to include a figure of the former MMA fighter in its 15th series of Classic WWE Superstars was a strange one. Abbott rose to prominence in UFC’s early days long before MMA caught fire, and his wrestling career lasted roughly a year. In fact, wrestling fans probably know him best as a fan of the fictional boy band 3 Count and the guy Vince Russo wanted to make WCW World Champion.

But they didn’t make … Ricky Steamboat. “The Dragon” seemingly has been on good terms with WWE for years, and has been working with the company as an agent since 2005. Yet for one reason or another, Jakks never produced a toy of the victor of the first great WrestleMania match. Collectors would have loved an NWA two-pack of Steamboat and Flair, or a WWF Steamboat in martial arts gear. Fortunately for collectors, Mattel has released three steamboat toys to date: a basic figure, an Elite-style Legends figure with lizard and removable jacket, and even an early-90s version of “the Dragon” who sprouted wings and blew fire.

They made … Mae Young. The geriatric Young has been a comedy figure on Raw for more than a decade. She and the Fabulous Moolah were regulars on Attitude Era WWF programming, and Young still shows up on Raw from time to time. But, really, what collector of any age wants a toy of an old lady in a bathing suit?

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But they didn’t make … Wendy Richter. The victim of the MSG Screwjob has had a sour relationship with Vince McMahon since her departure from the company in 1985, but she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame two years ago. Jakks made plenty of toys of WWE critics over the years, including Bret Hart and the Ultimate Warrior, and included toys of some of the WWF’s top female personalities in its Classic Superstars line, such as the Fabulous Moolah, Sunny, and Sherri Martel. A Wendy Richter toy certainly would have looked better than Mae Young.

They made … Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz. During the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, Vince McMahon chose to vilify pro baseball players by turning lifelong jobber Steve Lombardi into the evil Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz, also called “the MVP.” Lombardi only appeared as this character on television a handful of times, but Jakks produced a figure in a two-pack with Bobby Heenan. Somewhat surprisingly, collectors never got that “Many Faces of Steve Lombardi” box set with figures of the Brooklyn Brawler, Kim Chee, Doink, and the Red Knight.

But they didn’t make … Hercules. Like many other WWF characters of the 1980s, Hercules looked like a real life action figure. He was a consistent mid-card wrestler as a heel and a babyface from 1985 to 1991. It’s disappointing that Jakks didn’t offer collectors a cool Hercules toy with powder blue shorts and a steel chain, or a Hercules Hernandez figure with removable gladiator-like armor. Some fans even clamored for a Power and Glory two-pack; coincidentally, Jakks never made a toy of Paul Roma either.

They made … the Shockmaster. WWE has developed an unhealthy fascination with the Shockmaster based on disaster of a debut on WCW TV. That brief moment has appeared on WWE television, DVDs and website features probably more times than Fred Ottman’s more successful characters Typhoon and Tugboat. Did the Shockmaster, who never wrestled in WWE and vanished from WCW within months, really need his own toy?

But they didn’t make … the Von Erichs. Jakks earned kudos from fans for not limiting the Classic Superstars line to just WWE wrestlers. There were toys of many top stars from the NWA, AWA, World Class, and other territories who never even set foot in a WWF ring. Jakks even made a three-pack of the Fabulous Freebirds, the Von Erichs’ nemeses in arguably the greatest feud in wrestling history. But, Jakks never made a toy of David, Kevin, or even Kerry, who had a run as WWF Intercontinental Champion in 1990. Mattel later released two figures of Kerry (as “the Modern Day Warrior” and “the Texas Tornado”) and the first ever figure of Kevin.

Which wrestler or wrestler do you think was most egregiously omitted from the Jakks Classic WWE Superstars line, or from other wrestling toy lines? Send your responses to michaelmoorewriter@gmail.com.


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