Nowhere other than maybe reality TV shows, soap operas or Japanese television will you find a more strange, bizarre, unreal and just plain brilliant form of entertainment than professional wrestling.
In wrestling anything is fair game and taboos are there to be broken, and they frequently are.
Luckily for fans, a lot of these iconic moments of oddball entertainment have been immortalised in plastic as action figures and collectibles. One of these is the addition of WCW’s very short-lived superstar The Shock Master. Not sure who he is? Well, he had one of the worst introductions in wrestling history.
At the SDCC this year Toy News International gave us a glimpse of a great version of this figure. Even better is the tongue in cheek nature of the figures packaging which is displayed showing him falling over, mimicking perfectly his epic entrance in WCW.
This is not the first time the WWE have celebrated their eclectic output in figure form. Half black, half white Rowdy Piper got a figure and numerous commentators, ring announcers and sports and celebrity stars (Dennis Rodman action figure anyone?) all share a spot in the plastic figure wrestling hall of fame.
They even made a figure of the Gobbledy Gooker!
So to celebrate this amazing release, I thought it may be pretty cool to take a look at a few of the other interesting and slightly strange releases that have come out in figure form over the last few years. Below are some of my personal favourites from the archives of wrestling figure history.
Wrestling Zombies (2015)
Zombies. Everybody loves zombies. Heck wrestling promotion JCW even had a zombie as their title champion at one stage.
So it was no surprise that WWE came up with the concept of giving some of their favorite stars a decayed makeover.
Should it have been done? Who knows? What I do know is that they look great and some in particular (like HHH) look especially distressing.
It looks a darn sight more creepier than his Terminator Wrestlemania costume which always looked strangely odd and patch work like to me.
There was a prototype Hulk Hogan zombie figure which debuted at last year’s con, but with Hogan’s recent sex scandal and racist comments, the WWE has distanced themselves from him, I doubt we will see it anytime soon. Here it is if you wondered how good the Hulkster would have looked with no skin on his rib cage!
Maximum Sweat (1998-2008)
We have toys that cry and wet themselves. So why not have wrestlers that sweat through their pores just for your entertainment?
The figures came with a small water container and a hole in the back of their backs where you could fill them up with water and (I guess) at your pleasure press a button and watch the sweat flow! Though it was not a feature that instantly made me want to buy one when I was collecting figures, the super-deformed look of these characters (with their massive arms and caricature features) was certainly a selling point.
Grapple Gear (1999-2007)
Want to have your figures wrestle on a dirty mattress and relive the bygone days of hardcore matches by smacking them on the head with chairs? Grapple Gear fulfilled that desire for you. Depending on how you look at it this is really a great or terrible idea. Did kids want to buy a construction site set up rather than the latest wrestling figure?
They are definitely an interesting addition to the action figure collections. They also had some really good expansion sets to like announcer’s tables that broke open and film crews you could actually set up next to the ring to get kicked in the face when the match spilt out onto the arena floor!
The marketing tool of changing a toylines original history to something else is quite common. For more details let me explain what I mean. Batman figures sell well. If sales start to lag what do you do? Create more Batman figures, but change them to a completely different style so kids will stay interested. Sometimes these are cannon, sometimes not, but this is why you get Pirate Batman action figure toy lines.
WWE did the exact same thing with their S.T.O.M.P line turning their wrestlers into all kind of characters ranging from Space Ruler to Under Water Crews.
This line has maybe the worst choice of alternative identities in history as Ahmed Johnson becomes a country bumpkin style character and Brian Pillman is a gun totting maniac!
Ahmed Johnson was a huge, bulked up giant of a man and the best thing they could do is give him a straw hat. Who would want to play with that figure? The last thing you want to do is to give the late, great Brian Pillman a gun to play around with!
Flex Em (1995-2009)
Given Vince’s obsession with muscle wrestling stars it’s no surprise really that we get a lot of super pumped up figures. But the Flex Em line took this to a whole new level.
These very bizarrely crafted figures look like a WWE carton gone horrible wrong. The sculpts for this line are actually pretty cool, but the anatomy is terrifying. Those tiny, tiny waists would snap before any wrestling move could be performed!
They even had a variation called pump and flex which moved the body muscles of the actual figures!
This is one of the things I loved about the WWE toy lines, they just tried anything to see what would work and you get these really interesting and odd-looking character sculpts which you would not get anywhere else.
Ring Masters (2001)
I have focused on WWE products here, but I wanted to end this article with a look at one of the WCW toy lines which has an interesting, but maybe not exactly playable for kids Ring Masters. The idea was simple enough. Take a wrestlers in ring name and then change them into a figure to represent said name. Chris Jericho was named the ring master because he was blooming good at wrestling. So when this toy line came out he turned into this….
Oh there are more, lots more.
So there you have it, a plethora of wrestling figures that are just as bonkers to look at as they were to talk about. But man what variety and diversity. If you still want to carry on reading up about wrestling past and present then you can look at all our wrestling articles right here on Grizzly Bomb. Perhaps you want to see some more collectible news ranging from Marvel and DC and many more, well we have articles a plenty there too.
Images: WWE, Tomopop, Collector Action Figures, Ring Side Collectibles, Dennis DiLaura, Wrestling Figures.com, Mattell, Jakks, Pro Wrestling Wiki, All Pro Wrestling Review, Wrestling Figs.com, Ebay, Pwtorch, Sony DSC, Comiccollectorlive, Wrestling Super Store, Dreadcentral, Wrestlecrap.