It was great being a kid in the 1980s; being a wrestling fan back then
was even better. But throughout most of the decade, WWF enthusiasts
only had a few options when it came to collecting action figures. In
fact, we really only had two: LJN's Wrestling Superstars, and their
smaller (and less popular) counterparts, the thumb wrestlers. These
guys were constructed out of solid rubber and basically had zero
articulation. Sound like fun, eh? At the time these figures were all
the rage due to the WWF's aggressive advertising campaign. And don't
get me wrong, some of those commercials were classic:
"I'll bring MY guys, you have YOURS!"
"They're so real, can YOU tell the difference?"
Yep, they'd get you pretty pumped up, and seeing Roddy Rowdy Piper promoting the figures on late-night television was equally exciting. But in retrospect, the toys were pretty crappy. The main issue was their lack of durability. It was only a matter of time before the deterioration set in, and soon enough your wrestlers were grappling with each other sans pants as the paint began to peel away from their trunks, exposing the flesh-toned color bases of the figures. Dogs were also quite fond of them. After a few months of play, it wasn't uncommon to see LJN's big ol' rubber wrestlers lying neglected on the lawn, half naked and half chewed up.
In 1989 Acclaim purchased LJN, shutting down its toy division to focus exclusively on video games. After five years of production, the Wrestling Superstars were canceled. But we needed something different anyway. We needed a new generation of toys to represent a new era in the World Wrestling Federation. And we would soon get it. In 1990, one company introduced what would perhaps become the most collectible wrestling figure line of all time: Hasbro's "Official" WWF Superstars.
In contrast to the larger LJN wrestlers, Hasbro produced plastic
figures that only stood approximately 4 1/2 to 5 inches tall, each
featuring a signature "action move". The toys were relatively tiny, but
came packed with tons of personality like the series #1 "Macho Man"
Randy Savage. This is a great representation of such an intense,
colorful performer given how small the scale was. The head sculpt is
accurate and his attire is spot-on for this stage in his career:
headband, wacky glasses, star-patterned trunks, yellow knee pads, and
Macho Man was given a generic hammer fist for a signature move; this type of action feature and figure mold would be used again for characters like Rick "The Model" Martel and Shawn Michaels. It wasn't the most exciting wrestling maneuver, but it worked well enough and was easy to perform. Basically, the figure's arms are pulled up and then released, unleashing a quick, downward strike.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts is another great figure from the first series. They pretty much nailed his appearance, from the icy facial expression to his trademark snakeskin boots. This figure also came equipped with one of the most essential accessories in the entire line: the SNAKE. That's right, Hasbro included Jake's first pet, Damien, who adorns the figure perfectly. Jake performs a "Python Punch", an appropriate signature move given to a wrestler known for his quick, believable-looking strikes.
My only complaint with the appearance of this figure is its size. Jake was a large wrestler who was billed at 6'5; his figure should reflect that to some degree. But he looks quite small next to others like HBK, a performer of average build and stature.
Other figures like Andre the Giant, "Giant" Gonzales, and even The Undertaker tower over most of the models and still manage to be proportioned correctly, so it was clearly feasible to accomplish this. But other than that this is a great representation of the Snakeman, and a must-have figure.
The Bottom Line
I still love looking at these guys today. You won't have any display issues with the Hasbro figures, provided you take care of them. A simple dusting every now and then should suffice. The paint jobs generally are solid and the toys even seem to retain their glossy finish after all these years. The signature moves wear down over time, so if you're thinking about purchasing pre-owned figures online, make sure they are in working condition. A broken action feature is usually indicative of other problems due to heavy play, such as paint wear, loose parts, etc. There were eleven series in this line and several exclusives, so stay tuned for more Hasbro figure reviews.
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