THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: 20 Figures for 20 Years - Part 1 of WCW Nitro's Biggest Stars in Action Figure Form
Sep 9, 2015 - 4:04:26 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
In-Brief: Collectors still chase action figures of some of WCW's top names.
When Eric Bischoff announced in 1995 that WCW would go head-to-head with the WWF’s Monday Night Raw, many fans were skeptical. Raw was wrestling’s “it” show, while WCW had earned the reputation of a bad 1980s WWF re-run by featuring wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake, Hacksaw Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, and many more.
But, from the moment Nitro kicked off on September 4, 1995, fans saw something different. The Mall of America setting was like no other wrestling show on television, and the surprise appearance of Lex Luger set the tone of things to come.
Twenty years later, many fans still carry a fondness for WCW Nitro and the wrestlers who made those shows feel special. Here’s a special look at action figures of 20 wrestlers who made a big impact on Nitro.
(20) Sabu (Jakks Pacific WWE Classic Superstars Series 10). Sabu’s WCW run wasn’t very long or memorable, but it was newsworthy and groundbreaking in so many ways. In 1995, Sabu was the cool wrestler that most fans only read about in magazines or newsletters. And yet on that first Nitro, Bischoff promised that Sabu would be there the next week. The surprise addition of Sabu instantly made WCW feel like a much bigger world than the one that had been filmed in the small TV studio.
(19) Raven (Toy Biz WCW Bruisers). Scott Levy had been in WCW before as Scotty Flamingo, but in 1997 he returned with the Raven act he had honed in ECW. He brought with him a (toned down) hardcore style, and it wasn’t long before he attracted a whole new flock of wrestlers. Raven had a strong mid-card run and lost the U.S. Title to Bill Goldberg in 1998.
(18) Dennis Rodman (Toy Biz WCW Power Slam Wrestlers). Famous athletes, actors, and other celebrities regularly show up on Raw these days, but in 1997 the WWF wasn’t getting much love from the mainstream. WCW was the hot brand, and Dennis Rodman – one of basketball’s biggest and most controversial stars – joined the New World Order. Rodman appeared on several episodes of Nitro and then teamed with Hollywood Hogan to lose to Karl Malone and Diamond Dallas Page, earning WCW lots of mainstream publicity from ESPN, USA Today, and many other media outlets.
(17) Sean Waltman (Mattel WWE Elite Series 33). The former 1-2-3 Kid showed up on Nitro as the sixth member of the NWO and was christened “Syxx.” While Waltman might not have been as big of a star as Kliq mates Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, he brought with him energy and credibility that were unmatched. He delivered quality matches in the ring and added a real street cred to the Outsiders’s act.
(16) Brian Pillman (Mattel WWE Legends Series 3). Pillman, who had wrestled stellar matches with Jushin Liger a few years earlier, was paired up with the Japanese legend on the first episode of Nitro. The two light heavyweight wrestlers put on the type of match that wasn’t seen on WWF programming at the time. Within weeks, Pillman’s demeanor changed, and he became known as the “Loose Cannon” and the “Rogue Horseman.” He parlayed that character into a big money contract from the WWF, and was the first big star to jump from WCW to the WWF when most other wrestlers were going the other way.
(15) Roddy Piper (Toy Biz WCW Power Slam Wrestlers). Months after appearing on WWF television as a wrestler and the promotion’s figurehead president, Piper showed up on Nitro to challenge his old nemesis Hulk Hogan. He went on to defeat the Hulkster in the main event of Starrcade ’96 – a one-on-one match that never headlined a WWF pay-per-view. Despite jokes about Hogan’s and Piper’s ages from fans and the wrestling media, Starrcade ’96 was a big success.
(14) Chris Benoit (OSFTM WCW Action Figures). Benoit had a forgettable run in WCW in the early-‘90s before finding greater success in Japan and ECW. In 1995 he showed up on WCW television and instantly added wrestling credibility and a cool factor that WCW was lacking. He was a mainstay in WCW for more than four years before jumping ship to the WWF in 2000.
(13) The Giant (OSFTM WCW Action Figures Series 3). Paul Wight somehow managed to survive some horrendous gimmicks and storylines to become one of WCW’s few homegrown stars. He debuted as the son of Andre, and at Halloween Havoc locked Hulk Hogan in a double bearhug with the Yeti that those who saw it will never forget. But by the spring of 1996, he had developed some in-ring credibility and defeated Ric Flair for the WCW World Title.
(12) Bret Hart (Toy Biz WCW Ring Masters). “The Hitman” should have meant so much more to WCW. He arrived in December 1997 shortly after the Montreal Screwjob as arguably the hottest act in wrestling. But horrendous politics and terrible booking had Bret flip-flopping between babyface and heel more times than most fans remember. Perhaps his biggest WCW moment was defeating Chris Benoit in October 1999 at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena, the same building where Bret’s brother Owen had fallen to his death just five months earlier.
(11) Diamond Dallas Page (Toy Biz WCW Smash N Slam). DDP’s ascension from lower-card manager to legit main-eventer was nothing short of spectacular. His friendship with Eric Bischoff aside, Page worked hard and became a star in the eyes of the fans. His star-making feud with Randy Savage in 1997 may have been the highlight of his career.
PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
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