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It has been just about five years since Hulk Hogan’s racist language from his leaked sex tape and recorded jailhouse conversations with his son Nick forced WWE to distance themselves from one of their all-time top acts.
On July 24, 2015, I emailed Mattel and also asked them on Twitter, “Any statement on future Hulk Hogan figures in your WWE line?”
Their response on July 28: “We are committed to embracing people from all cultures & backgrounds. At this time, we will halt production on Hogan product.”
What resulted was an apparent five-year moratorium on Hulk Hogan action figures. On July 23, 2020 – almost five years later to the day – Mattel revealed images of planned figures for their various WWE lines, including new toys of Hogan. They didn’t trumpet the return of Hogan figures to Mattel, they just sort of snuck him in there – much like WWE snuck Hogan back into the company’s universe at Extreme Rules in July 2018. Among the new Hogan figures are a New World Order Hollywood Hogan (which was scrapped in 2015) and a He-Man-like figure in Mattel’s Masters of WWE Universe line.
Mattel’s WWE toy line debuted in January 2010. At that time, Hogan was appearing with TNA, so his figures were nowhere to be found in Mattel’s new line. Hogan returned to WWE in 2014, which gave Mattel just over a year before his comments were made public to produce figures. Mattel was only able to release a handful of figures before removing Hogan from future releases, including the planned NWO Hollywood Hogan that collectors really wanted.
When Mattel responded to my question on Twitter, the responses to both Mattel and me ranged from ignorant to disgusting.
“Not fair! WWE are hypocrites!”
“Just because he made a mistake the whole world turns their back on him, I will never buy another Mattel product again.”
“Don’t punish fans and collectors!”
“This whole destroy-Hogan vendetta stinks.”
“Bunch of politically correct puppets.”
“Give me a break, what he said wasn’t bad, blacks say it to each other all the time!”
“Both of you can KMA!”
“That is stupid! @HulkHogan is no racist and it is pathetic that you try to make him sound like a villain.”
Mattel also revealed images of new Ultimate Warrior figures, whose own hateful rants had to make Hogan blush. But since Warrior’s tirades didn’t occur during the years Mattel was making his figures, the company never really had to answer for those toys.
Some of WWE’s other business partners have also decided enough time has passed to bring Hogan back to their products. Last spring Funko produced a Pop Vinyl figure of Hogan, and Topps’ recent promotional materials advertise the return of Hogan to their products as well.
Mattel was quick to respond to the Hogan controversy in 2015 and give themselves a big corporate attaboy for their decision to cease production of Hogan figures. However, Mattel did not respond to numerous voicemails, emails, and Tweets regarding the company’s decision to resume production of Hogan figures.
Hogan and Warrior aren’t the only controversial wrestlers to be included in toy lines marketed to kids. Here are five other cringe-worthy wrestling action figures from the last few decades.
- Suicide Jakks Pacific TNA Ruthless Impact. Back in 2008, TNA created a masked character as a tie-in with the company’s first official video game, and an action figure of said wrestler hit stores in 2010. The video game tie-in brought TNA some love from the that industry, and the mask and outfit were admittedly pretty cool. But seriously – TNA named a wrestler “Suicide.” And Jakks Pacific thought it was OK to make toys of the wrestler named Suicide and sell them in the toy aisles at Walgreens and other locations. Jakks obviously was somewhat aware of the situation, because the name “Suicide” doesn’t appear on any of the packaging. His name is replaced by the logo on his chest, so obviously printing the word “Suicide” was the one step that Jakks wasn’t willing to take.
- Roddy Piper Jakks Pacific WWE Deluxe Classic Superstars New York Toy Fair 2007 Giveaway. Roddy Piper’s idea to work his WrestleMania VI match with Bad News Brown with half his body painted black – and the WWF’s apparent approval of his racist ring gear – were astounding in 1990. But even more puzzling was Jakks’ decision to produce a Piper figure in 2007, after the match had marinated in controversy for 17 years at that point.
- Val Venis Jakks Pacific WWF Series 7. Mattel recently released its first Chyna action figure, and two weeks ago posted photos of more figures to come. In 2014, Triple H famously told Steve Austin that Chyna’s adult film career might keep her out of the WWE Hall of Fame, and posed the question of what would happen if a child did a Google search for Chyna’s name. Vince McMahon and company had no such qualms in 1999, when figures of Val Venis first started hitting toy aisles in large retailers like Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us. Maybe since Venis was only a pretend adult film star, the WWF wasn’t concerned about kids in the late 90s searching for Val on AOL.
- Sable Jakks Pacific WWF STOMP Series 3. OK, so wrestling action figures are basically just toys of men and women posed in their underwear. But this particular figure of Sable made a few dads blush and moms cover their kids’ eyes when they came across it in the toy aisle. Up to this point, Jakks’ toys of WWF women were limited to Sable in an evening gown and Sunny in a crop top and skirt. This figure had Sable’s chest puffed out in a tiny top, with an accompanying bikini bottom or thong. Oh, and some snap-on armor, because this Sable fought aliens in space, or something.
- Al Snow Jakks Pacific WWF Fully Loaded. Al Snow’s 1999 action figure may have caused the most well-known wrestling toy controversy of all time, but also the silliest. Snow came with a barstool and Head, which looked nothing like the Head he carried to the ring. Instead, Head looked like a leftover dollar store doll piece. As noted by Canada’s Slam Wrestling, Kennesaw State University professor Sabrena Parton thought Head was meant to represent a decapitated woman, and complained that the figure promoted violence against women. As a result, Walmart pulled Snow’s figure from shelves. Once the controversy blew over, the Head once again appeared with new Al Snow figures.
PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MMooreWriter on Twitter.
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