When it comes to wrestling figures, kids and collectors are pretty simple folk with simple wants and needs. Kids want toys they can play with, with enough flexibility to create their own moves and matches. Adults want figures that look like the wrestlers, or figures that are throwbacks to the toys that they collected growing up.
But despite the fairly simplistic desires of kids and collectors, toy manufacturers often overdo it. Very few kids are yearning for figures that sweat or have their faces pop off. Not many collectors want toys of wrestlers reimagined as zombies, monsters or soldiers. And yet all of those things have become reality.
While there have been plenty of bad wrestling toys, here are five truly awful wrestling action figure lines.
- Jakks Pacific WWF Maximum Sweat. Wrestling was so hot in the late 1990s that companies were putting wrestlers’ likenesses on everything they could. This included a grotesque line of wrestling toys that would sweat – seriously. The figures were overly muscular and distorted, with their faces contorted into all sorts of weird expressions. Each figure came with a pump for kids to fill with water and inject into the figure. By pressing a button, the figures would then “sweat” from holes in their heads. Jakks produced four series of the Maximum Sweat line that included everyone from Gangrel and the Big Boss Man to Steve Austin and the Rock.
- ToyBiz WCW Gross-Out Wrestlers. ToyBiz put out some especially bad WCW figures during the company’s final years, but none were worse than the Gross-Out Wrestlers series. These figures were even more distorted and jacked than the Jakks Maximum Sweat figures, with gigantic arms and hands and tiny little legs. Each figure had a special “gross-out” feature: Goldberg sprayed water from a gap in his teeth. Sting’s face came off and his eyes popped out of his head. The top of Sid Vicious’ head popped off to give kids a look at his brain. The Gross-Out Wrestlers line lasted just one series of three figures.
- Mattel WWE Zombies. Thanks to the success of the Walking Dead, zombies have been all the rage for a decade. Mattel decided to get in on the action by turning Triple H, Bray Wyatt, Paige, Finn Balor and others into zombies. The figures have either green or pail white flesh, with gaping wounds exposing their muscles and bones. The first series of figures spent more than a year collecting dust on the shelves, and yet Mattel put out two more series. What’s worse, the suggested retail price of each zombie figure is about $2 more than basic Mattel WWE figures. Mattel supplemented the WWE Zombies series with WWE Mutants and WWE Monsters, which may have been even worse.
- Jakks Pacific WWF S.T.O.M.P. Jakks decided to make wrestlers into a special forces outfit equipped with weapons and armor. Series 1 included such memorable figures as Ahmed Johnson as a farmer and Crush as a soldier with a camouflage vest and an assault rifle. Series 2 – with an “underwater siege” theme – put the Headbangers and Chyna into scuba gear with spear guns. Series 3 – “space domination” – took the Undertaker, Kane and others into outer space. The S.T.O.M.P. line did produce a couple decent figures once they were stripped of all the silly accessories, including a Brian Pillman in Series 1 and Sable in Series 3.
- ToyBiz WCW Ring Masters. This line of figures took a handful of WCW wrestlers and turned them into caricatures based on their nicknames. “Lionheart” Chris Jericho became a circus-like lion tamer, with a whip, chair and baby lion. Bret “Hitman” Hart was turned into a 1930s gangster, with pinstriped suit and a tommy gun. Lex Luger, because of his finisher being dubbed the “human torture rack,” was transformed into an executioner with a hood and axe. And Rick Steiner, the “dog-faced gremlin,” came with a gargoyle on a chain. Fortunately, fans never got to see Ring Masters versions of the Booty Man or Braun the Leprechaun.
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Five Count is a new format for the Pro Wrestling Torch’s long-running collectibles column, which began in 2011. PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be contacted email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.