ill LYTeracy – At Long Last, The Camel Clutch

I’ve collected wrestling toys since they became available to me. I was too young for the first wave, the Remco AWA figures and the large rubber LJN WWF ones (though I scored a couple of those on clearance years later: Mr Fuji and Jesse Ventura). But when the Hasbro figures with the action moves came out, I was hooked. After years of being a wrestling fan, I finally got to book the matches. Yes, it was limiting that there were no managers or other personalities in the line (A Super Powers figure of Robin was my referee, mainly because you could squeeze his legs to make him thump the mat with his karate-chop action), and the only foreign object was the sole championship belt, but I improvised. Appropriate-scaled superheroes sometimes made their way into the line, and when Galoob briefly brought out similar-scaled but unposable WCW figures, all with belts, we had the impossible dream of an interpromotional battle.


When Jakks Pacific got the WWE license after a year or so of inactivity from Hasbro, things were initially promising. Yes, the first couple figures I got in the line fell apart in my hands, but the “bone-crunching” sound was fun, and the detail seemed okay at first. Then they started putting out sloppily painted and sculpted stuff – Sid Vicious had eyes that looked like fried eggs – but they were still wrestling toys. The first ring Jakks put out was a repainted LJN ring, way out of scale...but it was still a wrestling ring. And once they released accessories and managers, well, now we were cooking.


At various times, Jakks would get so lame that I’d think about quitting, but the company would always make a last minute save. Crappy rubber figures with bad sculpts? Check out the new, hard-plastic Titan Tron Live toys, with chips that play entrance music! Sick of the Titan Tron Live line’s reuse of parts and still-mediocre sculpting? We’re gonna introduce new laser-scanned likenesses on the heads! Hell, how about the R3 line, fully Real-Scanned? Oops, we don’t have the budget to keep that going as it should, so let’s recycle parts. Ultimately, a new basic body style called Ruthless Aggression became the standard, and many, many figures of this type came out, including classic wrestlers I never thought I’d see toys of, like Abdullah the Butcher, Brother Love, and the original Freebirds. Fans got so used to this style that they hotly objected when Jakks tried to introduce more articulation.


And that brings us to a very key point about wrestling figures. Most of them, throughout toy history, have not been able to actually duplicate wrestling moves. LJN’s rubber toys could be twisted slightly, while Hasbro’s figures had limited articulation with one spring-loaded maneuver. Jakks toys could barely do a chinlock.


All of which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the Iron Sheik.


A genuine Iranian Olympian who played the role of evil Persian to a tee in the ‘80s, and now sounds off on Twitter about his penis size and who he’s going to humble (Hulk Hogan, Saddam Hussein, Mel Gibson, and Michael Jackson are all on his shitlist), Sheik is perhaps best known as the guy Hulk Hogan beat to win his first WWF championship. He had a successful resurgence during the first Iraq War playing a Hussein supporter named Col. Mustafa. Yet he never got a Hasbro figure at that time. LJN and Jakks both made figures of him, but one thing was missing: those figures couldn’t do his signature submission, the Camel Clutch.


Well, I went to Toys R Us the other day, and found that Mattel, new licensee for WWE toys, has a series of tag team sets exclusive to that store. The Bushwhackers, Roddy Piper and Bob Orton...oh, and Iron Sheik with Nikolai Volkoff. I want them all, but at $30 apiece, only one set came home with me. And, well, see for yourself...




Isn’t (toy) technology wonderful?

I just had to share that.

Luke Y. Thompson is an actor, writer, and film critic living in Hollywood.

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