Today’s article is about Hasbro’s World Wrestling Federation action figures from the early ‘90s. These guys, I mean:
I’m sad to admit that I wasn’t a big collector during their heyday, I guess owing to building suspicion that I was too old for “wrestling figures.” (I was in junior high when these were big, and if junior high taught me anything, it was to be ashamed of everything I liked, no matter how trivial.)
Only in recent years have I come to see that these toys are exactly as great as their most ardent supporters have long claimed. I’m not ready to put them a notch above LJN’s older set (the big rubber figures), but I’m very ready to fill a couple of shelves with ‘em.
What I like most about Hasbro’s line is the huge string of absolutely ridiculous wrestlers, from the WWF’s “difficult” period in the early ‘90s. There’s a high concentration of grapplers frequently found on today’s “worst ever” lists, but I always loved those weirdos. Any time a wrestler could be best described as a “monster” or “cartoon,” I was in. The stranger the better!
Below are five of my favorites from Hasbro’s collection:
Action Feature: Tombstone Tackle!
Next to Randy Savage, The Undertaker is my favorite wrestler of all time — and the only guy on this list still actively competing for WWE. Most simply described as a “wrestler slash zombie,” Undertaker had a lot going for him: Cool outfit, tremendous size, apparent lack of nerve endings to indicate pain, and oh yeah, supernatural powers. (Not many wrestlers refuted their enemies’ claims by summoning goddamned lightning storms.)
I’ve been following Taker’s career since his 1990 debut, which is just shy of 25 years as of this writing. Today, that just means watching WrestleMania every year and hoping I haven’t seen his last match. But back in the ‘90s? Forget it. I was nuts about the guy. In secret tribute to my hero, I even wore button-down black shirts with torn sleeves… which I’ll admit did little for my social standing at the schoolyard.
DOINK THE CLOWN!
Action Feature: Big Top Clobber!
I’m not fond of how fans (and even wrestlers) now point to Doink the Clown as proof that pro-wrestling was out of touch in the early ‘90s. While it’s true that Doink lost a step (many steps) after his face turn, the original idea of a “psycho clown” was just brilliant.
See, at the start, Doink was basically Heath Ledger’s Joker. A mad villain seeking anarchy for its own sake. This was perhaps best exemplified at WrestleMania IX, where Doink defeated the heroic Crush with the help of a second Doink and a severed arm. I don’t know how anyone can point to that as an example of what was wrong with wrestling. If anything, that was one of the few things right about it!
Unfortunately, Doink lost much of his mojo after his eventual face turn. Doink hitting bad guys with pies really couldn’t hold a candle to Doink hitting good guys with severed arms. (It’s also worth noting that Matt Osborne, who originated the role, was replaced around this time by a series of other wrestlers who just couldn’t “pull off Doink” nearly as well.)
Action Feature: Berzerker Blast!
The Berzerker was basically a giant, lunatic viking. Save for that one time he tried to literally impale the Undertaker, he never seemed to be particularly high up on the chain. Just another monster who never won when it counted, but always won when it didn’t.
The most memorable thing about Berzerker was his catchphrase: “Huss! Huss!” That’s all I can really remember Berserker saying. I never knew what it meant, nor did I know why Berserker so often held one hand with the other while he said it. (It was almost as if he was offering you “huss.” Invisible “huss.”)
I do have a theory, though. Berzerker always struck me as a sort of Negaverse Hacksaw Jim Duggan. They looked alike, and they kind of wrestled alike. Perhaps all of Berserker’s “hussing” was the Scandinavian translation of Hacksaw’s famed “Hooooo” chant? (Did those two ever feud? Or better yet, become friends?)
Action Feature: Robber Clobber!
Confession: I loved Repo Man. Truly and totally, and without the slightest hint of irony. While I’ll admit that a “wrestling repo man” wasn’t an idea with legs, Barry Darsow played the hell out of the character, and seemed like he was having the time of his life.
Naturally presented as a villain, Repo Man had a habit of
stealing repossessing items from other wrestlers. Sneaking around in a trenchcoat, bandit mask and tights covered in tire track graphics, Repo Man also benefitted from one of the greatest entrance themes in wrestling history.
At the time, I had no idea what real repo men did, or that they even existed. To me, Repo Man was just a rat bastard dressed in scattered parts from six different Halloween costumes. And brother, that was more than enough.
(This wasn’t Barry Darsow’s first at-bat with the WWF, by the way. Prior to Repo Man, he was Smash from the legendarily badass tag team, Demolition. You’d think going from “Monster Gene Simmons Who Never Loses” to “Random Robber” would’ve put a chink in Darsow’s gusto, but nope, he seemed to be even more into playing that guy. What a trooper!)
Action Feature: Giant Jab!
Oh boy. Giant Gonzales. It’s not being mean to call him one of the worst wrestlers ever, because so many of his colleagues have already done so. It’s also not entirely accurate. Giant Gonzales had five moves and all of them were chops, but he was the size of a house and walked like Frankenstein’s Monster. I wouldn’t bother learning the GTS if I could win by sitting on you, either.
Willfully ignoring his prior stint in World Championship Wrestling, Giant Gonzales was introduced to WWF audiences as an almost literal sasquatch. Standing nearly eight feet tall, Giant Gonzales came dressed in an airbrushed bodysuit, partially covered with patches of fur.
Immediately targeting the Undertaker for a series of bad matches that were made better with the addition of such accoutrements as live vultures and chloroform, I can’t say that Giant Gonzales was much beloved, then or now. Still, as a kid, I bought the pitch. There weren’t many things scarier than eight foot guys dressed like artificial cavemen, no matter how little they could do in the ring.
Thanks for reading about old plastic wrestlers! If they piqued your interest, you’ll be happy to learn that loose figures are usually sold super cheap. (eBay sellers often have trouble unloading them even for a buck or two a piece!)