There isn’t a single facet of pop culture that doesn’t have a fan base rapidly and rabidly collecting just about anything and everything with the name of their favorite TV show, movie, band, or sports team splattered all of it.
Wrestling fans also have their fair share of memorabilia, but just like the sport had to evolve from smoke filled bingo halls and high school gymnasiums, wrestling collectibles had to evolve from beyond just the program for the evening’s matches. Like all collectibles, it’s hard to discern which items will be humongous successes and which will be laughable failures.
Even when the items are successes, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a strange piece of memorabilia for one to collect. Ranging from “what were they thinking?!” to “what kind of job do you have to be able to afford this stuff?” to simply “I could have just made this at home but I’m buying it anyway,” wrestling fans tend to support their favorite superstars no matter how odd their merch is.
15. Ice Cream Bars
When CM Punk lashed out against Vince McMahon and had refused to resign his WWE contract in the summer of 2011, one of his ridiculous demands was the return of the famous Superstars Ice Cream Bars of the mid 80s and early 90s. The one off line popped the crowd huge and had plenty of people writing to Good Humor inquiring if there favorite ice cream bar sandwich on a stick was making a comeback. Alas, the only thing we got was TLC 2011’s poster featuring a picture of CM Punk in ice cream form. No one is saying the ice cream was bad, but it was weird and you couldn’t even ask for a bar with your favorite superstar on it, you just had to ask the ice cream man for a bar and hope for the best.
14. Replica Urns
“Hi I’d like to buy a gift for my (insert family member here). He / she really likes wrestling, I think that Evil Undertaker guy.”
“Oh well, have I got a piece for you that you’ll just have to buy, it’s an Undertaker urn.”
One would have to assume, many mothers ran from novelty toy stores screaming when they heard about this ‘toy.’ For $49.99, you could own this hard plastic replica that comes in case lined in purple satin. The Phenom is one of the most popular superstars ever and over the years has had some badass merch to own, but this one is not the piece of wrestling history for you.
13. Bray Wyatt’s Swamp Playset
You got to hand it to the WWE, when Lego won’t make toys for you, just DIY. Hence, the Stackdown series of customizable Lego-like toys. Ranging from a SWAT truck for The Shield to Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H, these sets are obviously geared towards kids, so there’s really no limits to how far imaginative designers could go with these things. However, the oddest one out of the bunch is Bray Wyatt’s Swamp House. Sure the early Wyatt vignettes featured the family traipsing around the swamp, but I doubt we’re going to see an Everglades Match anytime soon (with Skinner as the guest referee!). Plus, Super Cena slipping on a faulty floorboard just makes for a highly unrealistic toy. At least if The Shield ever reunites, they could ride a SWAT truck into an arena, which would make for a killer entrance in Dallas at WrestleMania, wouldn’t it?
12. John Cena’s Cenation Fan Bench
He puts on pretty decent matches against everyone. It’s not his fault that Vince McMahon books him to win against everyone either, but still the kids love him and with his recent string of US title defenses, John Cena is steadily winning over some of the fans who chant “Cena Sucks,” because if they chant that the US champion sucks, well then America sucks and of course that is something that can’t happen.
However, someone in the WWE marketing department should probably lay off the sauce for thinking of this one. Someone must have watched Cena’s WrestleMania 25 entrance where he comes down to the ring surrounded by a cavalcade of Cena lookalikes and decided it would be a grand idea to craft an entire line of John Cena Garden Gnomes in honor of this entrance. Because nothing spells out Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect more than a whole bunch of bearded shrimps each wearing a different color Cena shirt (hold the Daniel Bryan jokes, please). Even the write-up WWEShop.com gave the four gnomes is as cheesy as the product:
“We here at WWE.com know as well as anybody that a desk needs a bit of flavor to help you through the day. Staring at a computer for five days a week can get a little maddening. Happily, we’ve got four little friends who can help you through your case of the Mondays. (And Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. To our knowledge, no one has ever had a case of the Fridays.).”
11. WWE Betrayal
If you watched the WWE intently during the Attitude Era, then seeing Stephanie McMahon kidnapped might bring back some fond memories. The first time she was taken by The Undertaker, in an attempt to wed the boss’ daughter and gain some control of the company. The second time, she was kidnapped, roofied, and wed successfully by Triple H (hopefully, their real life union happened a little more traditionally). Someone at WWE thought these scenarios could make for a good video game storyline. In 2001, WWE Betrayal was released for Game Boy Color and used a variant of the Steph has been kidnapped storyline. Vince would offer your character (Austin, Rock, Triple H, or Taker) a title shot if you could save his daughter. If you’re ever played Double Dragon, then the gameplay would be familiar to you. Unfortunately, imitation was not the sincerest form of flattery here and WWE’s first attempt to have a game not set inside the squared circle is the equivalent of the Shockmaster and fell flat on its face.
10. Championship Replica Rings
The dream of every young wrestling fanis to hoist a championship belt above their head. Maybe you grabbed a big thick belt and pretended or you were more creative like a young John Cena and created a homemade title. WWE took the dreams of their Universe and crafted foam titles to sell in their catalogues and then took it one step further and minted a true replica of just about every title ever in the company’s existence. Actually, you can go one step farther, and for just $49.99, you can own a replica title ring! That’s right, for people who can’t afford a replica world title and because the belts don’t actually hold your pants up, you can purchase the gaudy looking replica rings for your fingers. You can buy ten and pretend you’re the Mandarin from Iron Man. You can give one to your grandmother, whose old enough to remember the great Fabulous Moolah when she wore jungle girl clothing. Or perhaps, the WWE wanted to give fans the opportunity to wear a championship for those who declared and succeeded in a thumb war.
9. Squirt Heads
In the early days of wrestling merchandise, the marketing mavens sort of heaved ideas at the wall to see what would stick. Squirt Heads was not some new weird tag team; they were rubber heads of all of your favorite superstars, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, even the Big Boss Man, that would squirt water out of a gap in their teeth. For extra intimidation, you could also buy Power Grip Squirt Heads, which made your favorite superstar look like a giant Pez dispenser. If it was the company’s goal to make all of their wrestlers look like Madonna, then the Squirt Heads were a big hit, but otherwise, these toys were a dud, especially when you could just buy a Super Soaker.
8. Naomi’s Hat
Currently, this item sells for 2.99 on WWEShop.com, so if anyone needs a good gag gift, now’s your chance. Hopefully the whole #GiveDivasaChance campaign will extend to much better merchandise for Divas, along with more TV time and better matches. Naomi, while not the best Diva in the company, certainly has a lot to offer, but a hat with her likeness and fake hair protruding out the back is not offering anything to anyone. Unless you’re planning on dressing like Paul Heyman circa mid–nineties, then by all means buy yourself this hat. But otherwise, this poor piece of merch is further proof that main roster Divas aren’t much of a priority.
7. Nitro Cologne / Attitude
It’s easy to dismiss Nitro Cologne as just one of the many signs of a company on the brink of failure. However, WWE came out with a fragrance of their own, appropriately named, Attitude; which has one of the cheesiest commercials ever (which you can see above). “Do you smell what the Rock is wearing?”
WCW would mock themselves by having Madusa shill their smelly cologne during Halloween Havoc 1999, before condemning the whole thing and dumping it on Bobby Heenan. Now, in the spirit of terrible moves WCW made, while WWE did make an earnest attempt at selling their cologne, Heenan spent the entire segment complaining about how bad it smelt. Unfortunately, Smellavision hasn’t been invented yet so what the fragrances actually smelled like, the world will never know (unless you can find a bottle on Ebay).
6. AWA Steel Cage Playset
WWE and WCW might have dominated the collectible marketplace, but why should they have all of the fun. The Remco toy company put out a set of AWA action figures around the same time that LJN released their more popular WWE Wrestling Superstars line. The figures themselves weren’t so terrible and featured AWA greats (the Road Warriors, Ric Flair, the Fabulous Freebirds, even Stan Hansen). However, the oddest of eyesores has to be the Steel Cage playset, which was the wrestling version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots. The cage had openings for figure controllers which plugged into figure’s backs and then it was time for some big time fighting. But like most toys of the day, this was a lot easier said than done and far more fun in the commercial than in reality. You couldn’t even take the cage off, unless you wanted to break the thing.
5. CM Punk Sleeves
CM Punk came to the WWE with the reputation of being “king of the indies.” Couple that with being a Paul Heyman Guy and looking nothing like Vince McMahon’s idea of what a top superstar should be and you have a recipe for a guy heading for the Future Endeavor chopping block. However, CM Punk consistently won over fans, before winning over the machine and the WWE finally got behind him, even marketing sleeves to rock at shows so that you could look like the Straight Edge Superstar. The only problem with this bit of merchandise is that if any fan had the spare time before heading to the arena that night, they could just cut a few finger holes in a pair of socks, draw a big X on them and viola – CM Punk Sleeves.
4. Crush Hour
Someone at WWE forgot to pay attention to wrestling’s history, as if they had, then someone would have seen the 1995 WCW Halloween Havoc event and the laughingly bad main event monster truck match between The Giant and Hulk Hogan. However, WWE trudged on with this video game anyway and what we got was another in a long line of wannabe Twisted Metal games. The plot was that Vince McMahon gained control of all the TV networks and with the daunting job of having to fill so many networks and hours, he made the WWE superstars compete in a demolition derby, because why not, right? The gameplay was sluggish at best, although it did have around 30 different Superstars and Divas to choose from. The quantity over quality approach would be the second time that WWE has tried to take a video game out of where WWE video games are best set, the wrestling ring. Anyone interested in this title, should just go play Twisted Metal instead
3. Superstars Shootout
If the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers or New York Rangers ever had to face a starting line that featured the likes of Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, and The Ultimate Warrior, those teams might…well they’d do nothing because that would be preposterous. Superstars Shootout was toy hockey at its most interesting. Remco, the same company that made the AWA Cage, released this table top hockey game in 1990. Most of the superstars had a themed hockey stick, so PETA might be annoyed by the fact Jake Roberts’ stick is actually Damien. For fans, it’s a little depressing that the set came out before the Macho Man started hawking Slim Jims, otherwise we’d get a beef jerky hockey stick, and what does golf have to do with “the Model” Rick Martel? Superstars Shootout is the kind of fun relic of the past that would have old school fans marking out and younger fans of today quite possible shaking their heads.
2. WCW Vibrating Action Figures
The name of this product pretty much says it all. WCW again showed that although Ted Turner really loved ‘rasslin’ he had little to no clue as to who to put in charge of running his company. So in the mid-nineties, the Original San Francisco Toymakers won the license to design and market WCW toys to the world. The result was the wildly inappropriate on all levels Vibrating WCW Nitro line. Each figure had the old “try me, press button” feature on the packaging. While each figure had the words “thump” and “bash” writing on the cards, for some reason the Outsiders’ packaging was made to look like the word “hump” instead. While it might be en vogue to try to bring as much believably to wrestling toys as humanly possible, has anyone actually seen a wrestler vibrate, except Hulk Hogan when he was Hulking Up?
1. LJN Titan Figures
Action figures from the eighties are all looked back on fondly, like Ninja Turtles, He–Man, GI Joe, true action figures with articulation at just about every joint and made of fairly light materials. LJN’s Titan WWF line from the mid to late eighties were the entire opposite. Each standing at nine to twelve inches tall were not able to move at all, and each toy was modeled to look like they were either posing or mimicking The Bushwackers. They were also made of hard plastic, so they were heavy enough that you could use one as a foreign object. Along with the inaction figures, you could also buy a ring and a steel cage and try your best to re-imagine your favorite battles of the time.
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