Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Way Back WhensDay: LJN Wrestling Dolls

My collection of LJN stars
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Yes, I called them dolls in the title.  I figured I haven't written about wrestling all week, so I'd make this week's flashback about the subject that got this whole blog started more than 3 years ago.  I became a wrestling fan in 1983.  Back then, there were no wrestling action figures or dolls, so a kid had to use his imagination.

I was never really into the HeMan figures or GI Joe, but I was crazy about Star Wars.  So naturally, when wrestling went main stream and I became hooked, I would have matches with my Star Wars figures.  Chewbacca was Andre the Giant, the "Endor Forest" Han Solo was Kerry Von Erich,  and for reasons I can't explain, the Emperor was my Hulk Hogan, even though I was a Hulk Hogan fan at the time.

Hulk vs. Andre
I remember it was the end of my 6th grade year and my buddy John (who is probably reading this) told a bunch of us wrestling fans that the WWF was releasing a series of action figures.  I don't know why, but I didn't believe him.  After all, I had all the Apter mags and read WWF magazine and watched Superstars and Tuesday Night Titans every week.  Why wouldn't I know this?  So I continued to have my battles with Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader.

The summer of 85 was underway, and my family headed to Florida for vacation.  We spent part of our time near Tampa with relatives there.  One afternoon my aunt took us to the nearby mall.  We went into the KB Toys and right there was the first series of WWF LJN wrestlers.  I can still remember the pure excitement I felt when I laid my eyes on Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant, "Big" John Studd, and "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.  As badly as I wanted all five, I only bought one, Hulk Hogan.  My brother opted for the Superfly.

Savage vs. Steamboat
Of course that dynamic wouldn't last long, as both were baby faces and we could only have so many matches between the two.  A couple days later, we headed north to stay with my aunt and uncle in Live Oak.  We went into the Pick 'n Save and I found the Iron Sheik and promptly added him to my collection.  Before that summer was over, I had Studd and Andre and between me and my brother we had all five superstars.

Then came the waiting game for more figures to be added.  Sure enough, my wishes were granted.  Roddy Piper, Hillbilly Jim, Nikolai Volkoff, and the Junkyard Dog were all issued.  And one by one I added them all as well.  As more dolls (I don't know why we called them dolls) were released, I'd add them to my Christmas and birthday wish lists.  I was also saving my allowance and buying them when I could.  I can recount getting just about every one of the figures, that's how important they were to me.

Mean Gene & the Heenan Family
I collected the figures up until I was in high school, stopping at 43.  I had the ring and the blue cage and would have matches all the time.  I'd play entrance music on my little boom box and put on super cards with matches that have never to this day actually happened.  For special super pay per views, I would throw all of my wrestlers behind me, then reach back and grab two of them without looking.  They would be each others opponent for the night.  I did this countless times.

The last two figures I bought were Slick and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.  Like I said, I was in high school, and this time we were on vacation in Canada.  We happened to go into a store in Montreal and there they were.  My plan then was to leave them in their packaging and I'd cash in as an adult.  However, on the long drive back to Missouri, I broke into the wrappers and had a mini match on the way home.

Warrior vs. HTM
During the LJN years I somehow missed the promotional Sgt. Slaughter figure.  I guess you could order it with the little bonus "coins" printed on the back of the package of the other figures.  I never remember seeing an order form for this.  LJN released a bunch of figures after I stopped collecting, but it got increasingly difficult to find them in the stores.  There were order forms on the back of wrestling magazines, but the figures were more expensive and you had to pay for shipping.  Before they made the Ultimate Warrior though, I recreated one with my Paul Orndorff by using a marker to make the face paint.  It was a fail.  I never got the real Warrior, but luckily a friend of mine, Matt Allwardt has the figure and has loaned me his for some video and photo opps.

I've seen many of the guys I never got on eBay and I'd love to add them to my collection and maybe one day I will just to say I've got them.  I won't lie, from time to time I still break out the superstars and have a quick match.  My ring has long since met its fate with the landfill, but it doesn't stop me.

Who were your favorite LJN stars?

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