Hasbro Makes Its Mark
In 1990, a new decade brought a new figure line from Hasbro. From rubber statues to plastic semi-moveable objects you could fit in your hand. Series 1 of “The Hasbros” featured Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Ax, Smash, Rick Rude, Akeem, Macho Man, Jake the Snake, Brutus Beefcake, Ted DiBiase, and the Big Bossman.
Hasbro had a lot going for them. These figures looked like their real life counterparts, for the most part. The wrestling ring was easier to put together. Each series came in different colored packaging, which made it seem more exciting to us little kids and there were always a plethora of new stars in each series.
The scale of the Hasbros also made them easier to play with them, if you did, not naming names.
The final series featured 1-2-3 Kid, the Smoking Gunns, Adam Bomb, Crush, Ludvig Borga, and a repainted Yokozuna.
With the Hasbro lineup, to me at least, it seemed this is when collectors started to see some profit in wrestling figures. A mailaway Hulk Hogan figure was a very sought after item and to this day can cost you $300 on Amazon. But wrestling figures were and should always be about the kids who were ready to rip the packaging open and play with them.
However, for a year, wrestling figures were in limbo.
That is until a company from Malibu, California, known as Jakks Pacific took over the rights in 1996.
It took Jakks, in my opinion, a good six years to find their voice and to find their groove. But let’s back up a few years and begin with 1996. Jakks started out being more of a copycat of LJN than the previous maker Hasbro. Their ring was the same exact giant LJN ring with the same stupid turnbuckles and frustrating cage!
They even called their original set WWF Superstars, much like LJN did. However, these figures were more of an action figure than the other two collections. They were 6-inch (give or take) pieces of clay with (drum roll, please) bone crushing sound! What?
Literally. You bent an arm, a leg, and would hear a cracking sound. Don’t ask.
Series 1 featured Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, and Goldust. Goldust was hard to find. Then he wasn’t. Then he was. So it goes. He came with a wig, which was just the start of the fun accessories Jakks would give to you throughout its tenure.
So, for the most part, Jakks’ main series – Superstars – was fine and its tag team, managers, Ringside Collection, and 2 Tuff series were also decent. But then Jakks went crazy. Seriously, they went off their rocker and started thinking fans would buy any sort of insane concept they could think of and attach a wrestling figure to it.
There were the STOMP series where wrestlers became, actually, I’m still not sure, they became soldiers or Navy seals or something. Why? And Series 1 had the first ever Brian Pillman figure, so you had to buy that! Uggh. Then it got even worse.
The Maximum Sweat series had wrestlers actually sweat. With some convoluted pump, you were supposed add water to a figure and watch it grow…wait, that was the Stone Cold Chia-Pet which I’m surprised Jakks never made. But who wants their wrestling figure to sweat?!!
So in 1999, Jakks decided to end their Superstars line, which for some reason became packaged in pay per view logos – they were on Summerslam 1999 packaging and end the way all their main WWE figures looked. No more bone crunching action style, folks (awww).
What we got were figures that were made not so much for the wrestling aspect, but for the entrance portion of the product. Behold – Titan Tron Live.
How riveting. To be honest, it was pretty cool at the time, but then it got dull hearing Vince McMahon’s theme song thirty times. And then when you analyzed the figure itself without the theme song addition, they weren’t all that great. In my opinion, Bone Crunching style was far superior to Titan Tron style.
After numerous series involving TTL versions, from Titan Tron Live, Smackdown, Double Slam, Finishing Moves, and the like, in 2001, Jakks came upon a technology that would forever change the landscape of wrestling figures – Real Scan.
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