Ranking Pro Wrestling's Action Figure Lines
Not all action figures are created equal. Which is why, in a world where creative freedom reigns—where Scott Hall can be your world champion and Undertaker can finally square off against Sting—there are still downsides to your fun.
If your Bret Hart figure can't slap the Sharpshooter on his opponent because both lack knee joints, or your Steve Austin looks more like Gillberg than the world's toughest S.O.B., things can get a little frustrating.
There are several things that go into making a great action figure. The ability to perform wrestling maneuvers is at the top of the list. They're called action figures for a reason. I don't want them just sitting on a shelf collecting dust.
The next thing is the look. I want my figures to look as close to what I see on television as possible, not like some hulking beast from outer space or a midget stepchild that looks like something his real-life counterpart crapped out last week.
There have been so many spin-off series and duplications that ranking every line ever released would be near impossible. So here are some of the major professional wrestling action figures lines, ranked from worst to best:
12. Maximum Sweat Series by Jakks Pacific
I wonder who's bright idea this was.
"Say, Hank, what's missing from our WWF action figures?"
"Gee, I don't know—the ability to perspire?"
I assume that's how it went over at Jakks Pacific.
Also, it's like they decided that since the wrestlers were now going to contain realistic sweat glands, they had to tone down the realism of their look. What we got were gargantuan, steroid-abusing freaks.
Perhaps Vince McMahon wanted to send a message to the federal government in reaction to the early '90s steroid trial against WWF.
"If I was really distributing steroids to my wrestlers, this is what they'd look like, dammit!"
11. WWE Flex 'Ems by Jakks Pacific
What the heck are these figures supposed to be? A model of what the surviving humans would look like after a nuclear holocaust?
I understand these aren't supposed to be the archetype of realism, but at least make them proportionally correct.
Instead, Jakks took a vise to each wrestler's waist, and as a result, each one came out with a set of double Ds that rival Pam Anderson's.
10. WWF Finishing Move Series by Jakks Pacific
The basic premise of these figures was that they had bendable joints so you could perform wrestling moves with them.
Now, that being one of the most important factors in determining a wrestling action figure's worth, these should be No. 1, right?
Well, good idea, bad execution.
First of all, the figures were a little too flexible. You could basically rotate their torso 360 degrees. Secondly, they were taller than other WWF figures, making them stand out horribly from the rest of the bunch.
Their height and long legs also made it incredibly difficult to stand them up, so much so that they would often topple over immediately.
In the picture, you see Billy Gunn attempting to perform a Fameasser on Eddie Guerrero, but the way they are packaged makes them look like they're playing a rousing game of chicken fights in the backyard swimming pool. Plus, in attempting to accurately capture Triple H's hair when performing the Pedigree, Jakks instead made it look like the Game was perpetually suffering from electric shock.
9. WWF by Hasbro
Hasbro went with a more cartoonish look after purchasing the WWF rights from LJN in the late 1980s.
These clearly are made more for collecting and displaying than for playing, as the legs don't move at all (Repo Man's legs are permanently stuck together).
Hasbro did do a solid job capturing the facial likeness of each wrestler, but the lack of flexibility and short stature hurts their overall ranking.
8. WCW Nitro Series
These were just a larger version of WWF's Hasbro line. They were incredibly detailed with awesome paint jobs, but they just didn't have a wide range of motion at all.
You couldn't even perform basic moves like Hogan's legdrop, much less complex submission holds.
These figures will be fondly remembered for the WCW/NWO era that they came from, but like Habro's line, they really had no functionality.
7. WWE R3 Tech by Jakks Pacific
Jakks started improving its technology when designing these figures in early 2002, but the result was less than desirable.
The positives from this line were that the faces became more accurate and detailed, and each wrestler's height was created to scale, meaning Big Show's figure would no longer be the same height as everyone else.
However, as you can see with the Rock and Hollywood Hogan figures, they also were made to be way too skinny. The figures looked as though they had never seen a weight room, which was fine for Chris Jericho's figure, but for Rock and Hogan, it was a little unrealistic.
The R3 tech figures ended up being much smaller and less mobile than the figures that came before them.
6. WWF Superstar/Signature Series by Jakks Pacific
The WWF Superstars line by Jakks Pacific was solid, if unspectacular.
They were semi-flexible even though none of the joints were made to bend.
However, they were a little bow-legged, making them difficult to stand up at times.
5. WCW Smash 'n' Slam by ToyBiz
Fantastic detail and functionality add up to make WCW's best action figure line.
The line included all of WCW's most popular superstars—Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, Sting, Scott Hall, Macho Man Randy Savage, Goldberg, the Giant, Lex Luger and Diamond Dallas Page.
Each figure came with a cool accessory, like Hall with a breakaway table, Savage with a steel chair or Kevin Nash with a referee figure.
The only negative was each wrestler's "action" that they were able to perform by squeezing the legs. After awhile, some of the wrestler's legs would completely fall off, so you had to refrain from using that function. DDP's figure was also permanently giving the Diamond Cutter symbol, making him difficult to use.
4. WWE Ruthless Aggression/Classic Superstars by Jakks Pacific
A precursor to Mattel's WWE line, the Ruthless Aggression series was WWE's most accurate and realistic line—until Mattel came along and changed the game again.
These figures were a major improvement on the R3 tech line. Each wrestler had a wide range of motion and looked eerily similar to their real-life counterpart.
In fact, they just might be the No. 1 line if Mattel didn't come along and improve upon everything Jakks accomplished.
3. WWF TitanTron Live by Jakks Pacific
Game-changer. That's the best way to describe the TitanTron live figures.
Each figure came with two metal strips on the foot that, when scanned, would react with the playset to play the wrestler's entrance theme.
Entrance music, are you kidding me!? For a young kid, these figures were better than discovering gold in the backyard.
Sure, the Ruthless Aggression series that Jakks released several years later looked and played much better than these, but these figures were such a major step forward for wrestling action figures that they have to be considered the No. 3 line.
2. WWF Wrestling Superstars by LJN
LJN's mid-'80s action figure series may not be the most mobile figures ever released, but they encapsulate the spirit of the era in which they were released better than any other line.
Made of posable rubber, the Wrestling Superstars line was quite durable. Like Ric Flair in the '92 Royal Rumble, these figures could take a beating and keep on getting up.
But the best thing about these figures was their character and individuality. Even as technology has improved, this line still stands up as one of the best of all time.
1. WWE Series by Mattel
The perfect wrestling figure, bar none.
Sure, Mattel had the benefit of creating its line in 2010, when much more advanced technology was available to them, but even when handicapping the field, Mattel still comes out way ahead of everyone else.
These figures are exact replicas of the wrestlers they are intended to portray. They also have so many points of articulation; not only can you perform any real wrestling move you want, you can also innovate your own moves. The ball joint in the shoulders allow for full arm rotation, and the torso even has a hinge for movement.
Mattel's line is so perfect, it makes me want to age in reverse 15 years like Benjamin Button so I can get them in the ring.