Professional wrestling’s explosive growth in the 1980s can be largely attributed to the merchandising efforts which helped the industry to break free from the stereotype of dwelling solely in smoke-filled arenas to become a visible component of popular culture in North America. The development of t-shirts, posters, promotional novelties, and other merchandise helped to illustrate just how far reaching the appeal of professional wrestling had become.
By venturing into the action figure market, the WWE helped to cultivate new, younger fans, while inspiring their imaginations to play out some of the showdowns they saw on TV right in their own living rooms. In the decades since, hundreds of wrestlers have been immortalized with an action figure in their likeness. But when short-lived characters such as Outback Jack and Ted Arcidi were able to find their way to toy store shelves, it shines a spotlight on some of the greatest omissions of wrestlers who perhaps deserved to be included in this element of the WWE’s marketing strategy. The following is a list of the top 20 wrestlers who have never been showcased as a WWE action figure – but the fans know what they want, and as part of this list, we’ve included some imagery of some fan-created figures that fill the gap.
20. “Iron” Mike Sharpe
If S.D. Jones, a man best known for his record-setting loss in nine seconds at WrestleMania I to King Kong Bundy deserves his own action figure, then the case can be made for “Iron” Mike Sharpe. Sharpe, a second generation wrestler that saw success in a number of territories before arriving in the WWE maintained a strong level of visibility, though never finding himself in the main events on the card. Declaring himself “Canada’s Greatest Athlete”, Sharpe’s antics and ring mannerisms are still remembered by fans and colleagues to this day, and it’s unfortunate that Iron Mike hasn’t been included in some of the recent lines of toys that celebrate the stars of wrestling’s past. That said, if you really want a Mike Sharpe figure to compliment your collection, you don’t have to search far to find a custom figure dealer that has created one, or can make one for you.
19. The Moondogs
Outside of professional wrestling, have you ever heard the term “Moondog” before? The zany pairing of Sailor White and Randy Culley under Vince McMahon’s banner as Moondog King and Moondog Rex created an immediate splash accompanied by manager Lou Albano, winning the tag team championships. However, when King was replaced by Larry Booker – aka Moondog Spot, that was a pairing that is best remembered by audiences. While their initial billing atop the card was short-lived, they were regulars on the roster for a few years before inspiring generations of Moondogs on the independent scene, clad in tattered jeans with rope belts. While the Moondogs were excluded from the WWE’s foray into action figures through LJN, in recent years, modified (unauthorized) versions of the George Steele figure have turned up, modified to serve tribute to one of the 1980s’ most notorious tag teams.
18. Blue Meanie
A common discussion among fans of Extreme Championship Wrestling and pro wrestling’s Attitude Era is that one of the most colorful characters (quite literally) of that period in professional wrestling seems to have slipped through the cracks in the area of merchandising. A member of ECW’s “Blue World Order”, intending to be a parody of WCW’s top faction the New World Order, the Blue Meanie was regularly featured in cheesy vignettes, lampooning Scott Hall. He maintained his name and image upon entry to the WWE, where his antics were reminiscent of a Batman villain from the Adam West TV series.
However, despite his visibility and comedic memorability, the Blue Meanie was never packaged for the toy stores. Some fans believe that during a period when the WWE and Jakks Pacific were marketing trios such as the Freebirds and all three members of Demolition that a set featuring the ECW cast of the Blue World Order would have become a cult favorite.
17. The Grand Wizard
Perhaps one of the greatest and most visible villains of the WWE during the 1970s and early 80s had to be Ernie Roth. His character as the Grand Wizard, serving as a manager to some of the top villains of the day, including WWE World champion, “Superstar” Billy Graham only added to the riotous conditions in the arenas wherever his clients appeared. Clad in a tacky mis-matched wardrobe which screamed into living rooms in the early days of color television, the Grand Wizard’s swami headwear and sunglasses ensured an unforgettable impression. As much as fans could appreciate the two-pack set featuring Freddie Blassie with a young Hulk Hogan reflecting their 1981 relationship on screen, the Billy Graham figure would have been nicely complimented with the addition of his manager to the set. After all, if Harvey Whippleman is getting his own wrestling doll … how could we overlook the Grand Wizard?
16. Butch Reed
Prior to entering the WWE, Bruce Reed had seen success in professional football as well as headlining multiple wrestling territories by the rugged handle “Hacksaw” Butch Reed. However, by the time he had arrived at Vince McMahon’s doorstep, that handle had already been taken by a former colleague, Jim Duggan. Borrowing a page from the legendary Sweet Daddy Siki, Reed bleached his dark locks to platinum blonde and was unveiled as the boastful “Natural” Butch Reed, paired with manager Slick. Reed was eyed for great things in the WWE, including as successor to Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental championship. While Reed would see toy aisles later while in WCW with a Galoob action figure as a member of Doom, it was much less colorful that what was created by a fan, modifying an LJN figure of Koko B. Ware.
15. Islander Tama
Curiously, there were occasions when the LJN line would only produce one member of a tag team pairing. This was the case in 1989 when the series released only Ax from Demolition, The Warlord from the Powers of Pain, and Haku from the Islanders tag team. While both Demolition and the Powers of Pain would see their teams fully assembled, Islander Tama was still missed. Tama, who is the real life twin brother of Rikishi Fatu, enjoyed success in the WWE as the Tonga Kid before teaming up with King Tonga when they were re-branded as Haku and Tama – the Islanders.
They feuded with Strike Force and later the British Bulldogs, but sadly, those matches would never be re-lived in 1/16 scale in the ring playset. Haku has been released in a few WWE toy lines and Tama’s brother Rikishi was featured in multiple incarnations of his own character throughout the years. The only way to find Tama is through a custom figure dealer, like this clever modification of a Jimmy Snuka LJN doll.
14. Beverly Brothers
After Jakks Pacific had released about a dozen series’ of Classic Superstars, they distributed a survey to the collectors themselves to ask about which wrestlers they would most like to see included in future releases. The survey included hundreds of names for wrestlers and tag teams of all eras, including the Beverly Brothers – Beau & Blake. We may never know the results of that survey publicly, but based on the number of fan-initiated tributes to this WWE-created brother tag team, it would seem that the toymaker missed the boat by not adding this colorful duo to their line-up. Interestingly, the team’s manager Lanny Poffo, aka The Genius would secure his own doll, but the brothers – whose biggest feuds during their WWE run were against High Energy and then the Steiner brothers, didn’t make the cut. We’re waiting to see if any other incarnations of the team –such as their AWA run as the Destruction Crew – start to turn up among the customs makers.
13. Killer Khan
Killer Khan was something unique. Most notorious for allegedly breaking Andre the Giant’s leg and putting him out of commission, Killer Khan offered a twist on the traditional Asian villain. Billed from Mongolia, he may not necessarily have struck fear into the hearts of the politically savvy, who couldn’t recall North America ever having a quarrel with that foreign nation, his scowled visage and colorful ring attire screamed to be molded in rubber such as his fellow villains of the day, in a parade of antagonists to line up against the patriotic Hulk Hogan. Of his era, Mr. Fuji would find himself as the lone Asian superstar to be included in the LJN line up. Some fan-inspired customs can be found online for Killer Khan though unlike his peers who signed deals for an officially licensed figure, Killer Khan won’t see any royalties for the tribute dolls fashioned in his image.
12. Jean-Pierre LaFitte
Though Quebec’s Carl Ouellet didn’t find himself marketed for the kids as a tag team set alongside Jacques Rougeau, Ouellet is one of many Quebec born wrestlers that never seemed to parlay the success of their character in the ring to merchandising success. Going solo as Jean-Pierre LaFitte, portrayed as a pirate, Ouellet would seem to have enough of a character that it would translate well as a figurine. Still, even with multiple reigns as WWE tag team champion and featured in feuds against the likes of Bret Hart and The Undertaker as a solo star, we never saw a Jean-Pierre LaFitte doll in the line-up. Years later, Paul Burchill would be featured in the Adrenalin series in his pirate likeness, but it lacked the originality of Ouellet’s portrayal which was worthy of going to market. Are you curious about other Quebecers who were snubbed from action figure immortality? Read on.
11. Boris Zhukov
It seemed peculiar that while Nikita Koloff, who never wrestled in the WWE, has his own action figure and has been released in a tag team two-pack alongside his fictional uncle Ivan, that the WWE would omit one of their own stars from the line-up. Boris Zhukov first appeared in the WWE alongside Nikolai Volkoff as the Bolsheviks. When their run concluded, after years of television and pay per view appearances, Zhukov feuded with Volkoff. Nikolai was featured among the earliest in the LJN line and again with Jakks Pacific and Mattel, while Zhukov has been overlooked. Diehard fans looking for a Zhukov figure may find one of the AWA Remco toys featuring Boris. The Remco figures, fashioned in the image of (and using the same mold as) He-man toys, feature all of their stars with bodybuilder physiques – which certainly doesn’t reflect how we remember the former Bolshevik.
10. Dino Bravo
Billed as “Canada’s Strongest Man” the barrel-chested Dino Bravo was featured as the main event antagonist for favorites including Jim Duggan, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Ken Patera and more during his WWE career. First appearing as a fan favorite and winning the WWE tag team titles alongside Domenic Denucci, Bravo is best remembered for his time as a bleached blonde villain, often with Jimmy Hart or Frenchy Martin in his corner. Bravo’s barrel-chested frame would seem a natural fit for the LJN style of figures, but it was not to be. Given his similar frame to Don Muraco at the peak of his career, some crafty fans have simply used a Muraco figure and painted to hair blonde to reflect a Bravo doll.
9. Damien Demento
Hailing from “The Outer Reaches of Your Mind”, Damien Demento was another one of those far out WWE characters that seemed to be custom-made for inclusion in their toy line. Brought up to the WWE roster in the early 1990s after success in the American northeast under the name Mondo Kleen, Damien Demento struck an eerie cord with wrestling audiences in a similar fashion to Mick Foley’s introduction as Mankind just a few years later. However, while Damien Demento’s character was a great fit in the sports entertainment world of the WWE, the wrestler’s stay in the company would be short-lived. However, if Damien Demento didn’t get an action figure, we can take some solace in the fact that neither did Mantaur whose peculiar ring attire will live on in wrestling infamy for many years to come. Demento did inspire customs to be crafted in his honor though among the action figure diehards.
8. Paul Roma
One might argue that during his five year run in the WWE, Paul Roma failed to see success – never holding a single championship before jumping to the rival WCW. However, when the WWE launched its own proprietary magazine in 1986, one of the first home-grown rookies to be featured was the young New York native, Paul Roma. Roma was given his first push as a member of the Young Stallions alongside Jim Powers and the duo were a popular attraction – even marketed with their own official t-shirt. Later, Roma became a villain and formed a memorable tandem with Hercules Hernandez as Power & Glory, managed by Slick. Considering some of the short-lived characters to spend time in the WWE, Roma’s omission leaves a void. Though there are a number of custom figures out there – using the likeness of Chris Masters that pay tribute to Roma’s WWE career.
7. David Schultz
“Dr. D” David Schultz was poised to be one of the top villains in the WWE in 1984, partnered with Paul Orndorff and managed by Roddy Piper to antagonize World champion, Hulk Hogan. Imfamously, Schultz’ career came to a screeching halt after an on air incident with 20/20 reporter John Stossel when he cuffed the broadcast journalist about the ear for challenging that wrestling was fake. So, we understand why Schultz may have been excluded from consideration in the 1980s, but with the release of the Classic Superstar line two decades later, which paid tribute to the stars of the 80s and even packaged pairings to showcase legendary feuds such as Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka, that they may have found a place for David Schultz to take his place, acknowledging that his notoriety as the WWE was about to make a national expansion could not have come at a better time.
6. Raymond Rougeau
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers are one of the few 1980’s tag teams that never made the cut for their own dolls in their likeness. While their rivals such as the Killer Bees, British Bulldogs and Hart Foundation were marketed as packaged tag team sets, the Quebec brothers were never featured as solo nor tag team sets. While brother Jacques would later be released under his guise as The Mountie, Raymond has remained excluded. What may add insult to injury in the case of Raymond Rougeau specifically is that the Brain Busters – Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, were rewarded with figures in their respective likenesses – both in single and tag team configurations, including versions as the Four Horsemen and a three pack with Bobby Heenan as the Brain Busters. The migration of this team from Jim Crockett promotions to the WWE and being fast-tracked to the World tag team titles over the Rougeaus who had put in three years as a team, actually led to Raymond giving his notice from the WWE and vacating his spot on the roster. The custom figure makers, though have remedied this injustice on their own.
5. The Missing Link
Hamilton, Ontario’s Dewey Robertson created a stir throughout the wrestling world as the Missing Link. With a hairstyle in the fashion of Krusty the Clown and featuring one of the first painted faces in pro wrestling in the 1980s, it would seem that the Missing Link was an ideal candidate to appear in the plastic rings that were marketed to the youngsters in the 80s. Perhaps his stay was too brief to consider including him among the LJN action figures, but with the expansion of the line under Jakks Pacific to celebrate stars of all eras and territories, The Missing Link would have been a great inclusion for the Classic Superstars line. Many fans agree, evidenced by the number of custom figures that keep surfacing on the internet featuring this brawler’s fearsome likeness.
4. Buddy Rogers
Our most memorable images of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in his prime were, of course in black and white. Still, when the WWE was extending recognition to wrestlers whose fame wasn’t associated with the WWE brand like the original Sheik, we had to believe that it was only a matter of time before the first holder of the WWE World title got the nod for release. It seemed even more probable to us after Superstar Billy Graham’s special edition black and white figure was launched – that perhaps Buddy Rogers could showcased in a similar fashion to one of his iconic poses from the pages of vintage wrestling magazines. Rogers, who inspired many who would follow – similar to Graham’s influence on Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and more – has been sadly overlooked for action figure consideration. His successor for the crown, however, Bruno Sammartino, has been showcased twice on the toy aisles.
3. Pat Patterson
It would seem that while wrestlers-turned-trusted-aides of Vince McMahon such as Gorilla Monsoon and Chief Jay Strongbow were released as part of the WWE’s Jakks Pacific line up that it was only a matter of time before the first WWE Inter-Continental champion would also find himself minted in plastic. There were plans for a Patterson figure as one of the later waves of the popular toy series, however they would never come to fruition. Patterson is one of the most obvious omissions among WWE Hall of Fame inductees to not be featured as an action figure. Patterson, who factored heavily into the WWE’s programming during the Attitude Era, didn’t even see a figure that depicted him during the time period when he was portrayed as one of Vince’s corporate stooges alongside Gerry Brisco. Were there politics at play that kept Patterson out of this merchandising opportunity?
2. The Red Rooster
We are still mystified about how the character of the Red Rooster was originally developed and who was paid for pitching this idea which still lives on today in wrestling infamy. Especially considering that Terry Taylor was being discussed as a possible fit for the “Mr. Perfect” character being introduced at the same time. It would seem like the best explanation would be that the character – geared toward children – would make for a great action figure, especially during the era when Hasbro was producing caricature-esque representations of the WWE superstars of the day.
Sadly, while the Rooster would be featured on his own WWE t-shirt and “Poultry in Motion” would appear as the slogan on his official poster, he is one of the WWE’s menagerie of outlandish characters that never appeared on toy store shelves. Taylor was later featured as part of the Legends of the Ring series – lending itself well to custom versions depicting him as the Red Rooster showing up on the internet.
1. Wendi Richter
As the WWE was taking its first steps toward a national takeover of the entire wrestling industry in the mid-1980s, one woman was front and center as part of the brand alongside the man who would become the franchise player of the company, Hulk Hogan. Wendi Richter was poised to represent a changing of the guard on the women’s wrestling scene, unseating the Fabulous Moolah for the WWE Women’s championship and rubbing elbows with rock stars such as Cyndi Lauper. Her rise came at the same time as the WWE first venturing into their relationship with LJN toys and she would have been a perfect fit for the limited edition toy line which released less than ten figures per year.
Sadly, Wendi would be passed over for a figure during the peak of her fame and it would be a ringside valet, Miss Elizabeth, who would claim the honor of being the first women’s action figure released by the WWE. However, one creative custom on the market shows Elizabeth’s LJN’s figure custom painted to represent Wendi.
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