Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Top Ten Things: WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome to a special two-part edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!


Today I have not one but TWO lists for you, and they're opposite sides of the same coin.  Back in the 80s we wrestling fans had very limited options as far as the available toys with which to recreate our favorite in-ring matches and rivalries.  In 1985 Remco (makers of the fabulous He-Man knockoff toys based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak) unveiled a modest series of AWA action figures (plus Ric Flair) and a cardboard ring for the action to take place in.  These toys were quite functional but sadly also very generic, being made from essentially the same body mold.  As I got older I came to value poseability over visual aesthetics, and along with my vast collection of He-Man guys the Remco figures became my primary wrestling toys.  Man did I run a helluva Federation.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Also in 1985 the WWF got into the action figure game, releasing a colorful, oversized line of LJN toys called Wrestling Superstars.  These massive hunks of rubber had zero points of articulation, paint that would rub off in literally minutes, in some cases questionable-at-best resemblance to their real-life counterparts, and were easily capable of inflicting blunt force trauma to a person's skull.  They were so heavy and dense the accompanying toy ring couldn't handle the stress of play and would routinely crack; my ring had to be replaced less than a year after I got it.  But if you were an eleven-year-old, new pro wrestling fan like me, goddamn these toys ruled.  They were unlike any action figures out there; at eight inches tall they dwarfed every other figures on the market besides the unwieldy 12-inch dolls that had long since become obsolete.  With a roster of colorful, larger-than-life characters to model the toys after, LJN had no shortage of eye-catching products to offer.  The sucky thing about these toys was their rather hefty price tag for the time.  These fuckers cost a good 8 bucks a pop, which for my age was way too much to easily collect them.  Thus my early matchmaking abilities were limited; when I first began accumulating these toys at the end of 1986 I only had three figures, all babyface characters.  The hell am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, while some of these toys were very playable thanks to well-chosen poses and slight flexibility in the rubber, others were not so much.  Likewise, while some figures carried quite serviceable likenesses to the actual people they represented, others looked like barely-formed humanoid blobs.  I noticed a trend at the time - certain character molds seemed to be done by the same person, and that guy was terrible at capturing realistic facial features, plus all the toys this guy worked on had gigantic nipples for some reason.  Go back and look at the figures for Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake and a few others.  The faces look awful and the nips are like the Capitol building dome.

So here's where these lists come in.  I've compiled the ten best and worst LJN figures, based on a combination of likeness accuracy and playability.  I'm trying to keep it as fair as possible, since some figures looked great but were useless to play with, and some had perfect wrestler poses but looked like Sloth from The Goonies.  This being an era long before computer-scanned faces I'll go fairly easy on the likeness ratings, and the playability will be somewhat determined by each wrestler's moveset.  I'll give you the ten best ones today and the ten worst in Part 2.  Let's get to it.....




10. Ricky Steamboat


The Steamboat figure had a pretty detailed face/hair sculpt and a lean, defined body type that more or less matched the real guy.  The resemblance wasn't exactly uncanny but it vaguely looked like Steamboat.  The arms were posed in a way that body slams and suplexes were possible, and his hands were open which lent itself to Steamboat's chops.  This toy was a solid bit of work from LJN.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14





9. Greg Valentine


Valentine's toy was one of the uglier in the series, with a face like a mean old lady and bright yellow hair like banana ice cream.  Then again, Greg Valentine was always rather homely, so the rough sculpt kinda fit.  This was one of the toys in the series that looked like the sculptor either worked solely from memory or forgot to put on his glasses.  It's a vague representation of Greg Valentine that kinda sorta captures his essence, but by no means is it true to life.  Like at all.  But what this figure lacked in realism it made up for in utility.  Valentine was posed perfectly for slams, suplexes, and most of all, that signature Valentine elbow drop.  You couldn't do the Figure Four, but then again I've never seen a wrestling figure that could.  This one scores quite well on playability.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 8
Total - 14





8. Hart Foundation


Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart were more often than not sold as a team, so I'm including them as one entry.  These guys looked quite a bit like the real people and the sculpts captured their body types pretty realistically.  The ring attire looked pretty much just like the Harts' actual gear.  My only issue aesthetically, and this was true for a lot of these toys, is that Bret is wearing his sunglasses, which of course he never wore while wrestling.  As far as their respective poses, they were vaguely configured to do wrestling moves.  Bret's arms were partly outstretched to do clotheslines and slams, while Neidhart could easily do a powerslam (though I'm not sure why the fingers of his right hand are spread out).  These two toys looked good and could get you through a match.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14







7. Jake Roberts


Jake's toy more or less captured his slender, average build and his composed demeanor.  They didn't quite make him tall enough, but overall they got his look just about right.  His pose is a little odd for Jake, who didn't often do body slams or suplexes, and mimicking the legendary DDT was damn near impossible with this toy.  So it loses points there.  Then again they included a bendable Damien for legitimacy.  Not too shabby overall.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14





6. King Kong Bundy


The Bundy toy is actually a dead ringer for Sloth.  Look at this hideous monstrosity.  But I must say, as a kid this added to Bundy's terrifying reputation as a monster heel.  Without a doubt, this was the scariest-looking toy in the series.  It only sorta looks like the real Bundy, but it's exaggerated as though conjured from a child's mental image of Bundy.  As for his pose, Bundy's offense was mostly based around squashing people, whether via his Avalanche corner move or big splash.  So this toy was posed damn near perfectly for King Kong Bundy.  Also this had to have been the heaviest toy in the entire line.  You could legit bludgeon a person to fuckin' death with this thing.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 9
Total - 15





5. Junkyard Dog


Here's another one that's a fair approximation of the subject without being detailed enough to quite look like him.  But it was a step above the Valentine toy, in that it wasn't ugly, and it came with JYD's signature collar and chain.  And as far as playability, this figure was pretty great.  JYD's arms are positioned perfectly for his finishing move, The Thump (a glorified powerslam), not to mention clotheslines, punches, and suplexes.  The JYD toy was one of the easiest to play with, despite the sculpt not being as detailed as it could've been.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 9
Total - 16





4. Randy Savage


This toy had sentimental value for me, being that Savage was my favorite wrestler of the 80s.  So it's possible I've been overly generous here, but I don't care.  This one was quite nicely sculpted to mirror Randy's svelte musculature, and while he really shouldn't have been wearing the headband and sunglasses, it sure looked a lot like him.  The pose didn't quite lend itself to playing, as his arms were a little too high like he's being held up at gunpoint.  But you could do clotheslines, press-slams, running elbows, and of course that glorious flying elbowsmash off the top rope.  This was the fourth LJN figure I ever got, and it coincided with my becoming a "Macho Man" fan.

Likeness - 9
Playability - 7
Total - 16





3. Big John Studd


Another pretty unpleasant-looking likeness, the John Studd figure looked like it hadn't finished developing yet, like an in-progress pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Or maybe like they based the mold on the cartoon iteration from Hulk Hogan's Rock n' Wrestling.  But it was good enough for 1985.  And the pose they gave him was great.  This was one of three such figures who were slightly crouched with both arms outstretched but bent, for maximum moveset versatility.  Studd could slam, suplex, clothesline, legdrop, kneedrop, elbowdrop, hip toss, you name it.  From a gameplay standpoint this was one of the best.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 9
Total - 16





2. Nikolai Volkoff


These last two combine good-to-great likenesses with good-to-great playability.  Nikolai Volkoff, hardly one of the more important characters in the company, nonetheless had a pretty damn good action figure.  The sculpt captured his perpetual snarl and imposing build, but also provided plenty of different potential moves.  Clotheslines, body slams, suplexes, even a Samoan drop if you were feeling jaunty.  The Volkoff toy scored very high on both scales.

Likeness - 9
Playability - 8
Total - 17





1. Hulk Hogan


Alright, so his toy wasn't nearly tan enough, his arms weren't big enough, and LJN was VERY generous with his hairline.  But the original Hulk Hogan toy was far and away the best one they ever put out (fittingly enough since this was the He-Man of the Wrestling Superstars series).  This toy got the Hogan likeness about as close as they were ever going to at this point, and like the John Studd figure he was posed perfectly to do a wide variety of wrestling moves, including the dreaded Hogan legdrop.  Of all the clunky LJN rubber figures, the flagship Hulk Hogan toy was at the top of the pile.

Likeness - 9
Playability - 9
Total - 18



There's your top ten LJN toys.  Stay tuned for the ten worst, coming very soon.  Comment below with your picks, snd join us on Facebook by clicking HERE, or on Google+ HERE.






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