The wrestling business shares a lot of similarities with comics, in terms of taking normal men and women and elevating them to a godly status through their performance in the ring; they are also not dissimilar in their desire to try and make money off of their customers any way they can, including an almost unlimited amount of action figures. While there have been excellent wrestling action figures that look dead-on like the sports entertainers they are modeled after, there have been a truly staggering number of terrible wrestling action figures. Some are most likely the result of chasing down a cheap set of figures — perhaps they were already designed and sent to production without a particularly strong eye for quality assurance; but many of them are just truly bad figures.
They don’t look like the wrestlers, or they emphasize things that are wholly unrelated, and try to shoehorn characters that don’t mesh with the wrestlers’ in-ring personas. As some people love bad movies for their sheer, unrepentant badness, some of these figures may appeal to those who truck in the grotesque, in the mistaken effort from a toy company or a licensing department. These 15 examples are only the tip of the iceberg of cruddy wrestling figures: let’s dive in.
15. D-GENERATION X WISEGUYZ
When you think D-Generation X, you think of Shawn Michaels and Triple H (and sometimes Rick Rude and Chyna) talking trash at the height of the Attitude Era, and making lewd gestures at their crotches to a chorus of “suck it!” from the audience. So at some point in the toy design process, someone looked at everything they knew about DX and said “But what if we dressed them up like gangsters instead?”
And we’re talking Prohibition-era gangsters here; the boys are dressed in pinstripes and fedoras, looking relatively sharp. It’s unclear where the directive to turn DX into Miller’s Crossing extras came from, and why it was branded with a Z (presumably so it would be a copyrightable word), but the toys couldn’t be farther from the spirit of DX.
14. UNMATCHED FURY JEFF HARDY
Jeff Hardy’s finishing move is the Swanton Bomb, a high-angle maneuver in which he jumps off the top turnbuckle in what looks like a swan dive, but turns into a front-flip, landing him on his opponent’s back and shoulders. It is a move with not a small amount of grace to it, and performed well, it’s a delight to see in a match. All this begs the question, however, why the Unmatched Fury Jeff Hardy action figure came posed mid-Swanton Bomb, like someone in the middle of doing the worm.
The figure was poseable to a certain extent, and if you could hang it over a ring from some fishing line, it would probably look pretty rad — unfortunately, it just looks like Hardy is screaming to the heavens in agony over his horribly broken back.
13. S.T.O.M.P. SERIES AHMED JOHNSON
The S.T.O.M.P. series was a bonkers run of wrestling toys to start with; a fairly transparent attempt at cross-branding wrestlers into a marketable super strike force, trying to capitalize on things like the Power Rangers and G.I. Joe. S.T.O.M.P. stands for Special Tactical Operations Military Police, which is both nonsensical and a series of words that would almost never be used to describe a sports entertainer.
Ahmed Johnson’s S.T.O.M.P. figure is particularly egregious. He looks like he’s been starved for weeks, with his skin stretched tight on his skull and his neck veins bulging to an alarming degree. Instead of the full range of awesome weapons the other figures came with, Johnson’s came with a straw hat: the perfect Tactical Operations weapon, for any number of situations.
12. HASBRO ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Rowdy Roddy Piper was one of the most famous heels to ever step foot inside the squared circle, with his faux talk show promos and dramatic provocations. He was also always a pretty slim guy, what might be a cruiserweight or light heavyweight nowadays. So why is it than when Hasbro released a figure of Hot Rod, they used a body that was clearly sculpted for another, much beefier wrestler, and they gave him the widest, most open grin they could?
He looks like he’s about to offer to volunteer in a soup kitchen for the holidays, not like the surprisingly violent, charming jerk that was Rowdy Roddy. This isn’t strictly a bad figure — it’s just not a figure of Piper, which makes for a disappointing time for all.
11. ADRENALINE 33 VICKIE GUERRERO
Vickie Guerrero, the real-life widow of Eddie Guerrero, first appeared in WWE when she was part of a storyline involving Eddie claiming to be the real father of Rey Mysterio’s son, Dominick — since then, she has risen to become one of the greatest heel managers and authority figures in the business (her run as RAW General Manager when CM Punk was on his road to the WWE Championship was masterful).
Unfortunately, when Vickie was memorialized as a doll, the result looked like a Barbie doll that had been given an emergency transplant of brown hair, and had been literally stuffed with padding to make it appear closer to Guerrero’s body type. They could have invested in more female molds, but this business being wrestling, no stranger to trying to dig itself out of its ingrained misogyny, they just chose to make her doll look like an afterthought.
10. WWE MUTANTS
Trying to bridge the gap between a series of wrestling action figures and a series of X-Men action figures, WWE released its line of Mutants, featuring any number of abominations. You could start with the Sting figure that keeps Sting’s head as normal, with his hairdo and his face paint, but the rest of his body is an organic shell, complete with pincers for hands and a scorpion tail.
Or you could go with a Stardust figure that makes Stardust look like one of the Tall Greys, an alien with blue skin that glows in the dark and still has a star on the palms of his hands. Maybe Brock Lesnar, who’s bright red, and has four arms, so he just looks like a bright red Goro. They’re janky-looking figures, and the novelty wears off extremely quickly; you’re better off getting a Marvel Select Colossus than this metallic John Cena.
9. WCW “RING MASTERS” CHRIS “THE LIONHEART” JERICHO
Back in the before times, when WWE wasn’t the only major wrestling promotion in North America, they used to compete for time on Monday nights with their last major rival, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). A lot of wrestlers went back and forth from then-WWF to WCW and back, including Hulk Hogan, and Chris Jericho. Jericho got his start wrestling in Mexico as Corazón de León (“Heart of the Lion”) and León D’Oro (“the Golden Lion”); he continued the gimmick in Japan, wrestling as The Lion Heart.
They took these nicknames to heart for a line of “Ring Master” action figures, where Jericho was reimagined as a circus lion tamer — the figure came complete with a whip and a way-too-cutesy lion atop a colorful circus platform. They spent so much time on the figure wondering if they could, that no one ever stopped to question if they should.
8. SABLE EXCLUSIVE ACTION FIGURE
Sable is renowned in WWF history as one of the OG champions in the Women’s Division, and also for her outside-the-ring reputation as a desirable symbol, having graced the cover of a certain men’s magazine more than once. She also once filed a $110 million lawsuit against the company, alleging harassment, among other things.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the WWF licensing department created such a monstrosity of a figure for her — a limited run of 5,000 figures, the doll features a few fantastical weapons, but is mostly just Sable in a bikini that looks like it was painted on by a drunk, full of weird line weights, and showing off an impossible amount of cleavage. It’s another shameful example of the internalized misogyny that led to a Women’s Revolution in NXT and WWE recently.
7. S.T.O.M.P. SERIES BRIAN PILLMAN
Brian Pillman is another tragic tale of a wrestler gone too soon; he died at the age of 35 from a congenital heart condition after a storied career in Stampede Wrestling, ECW, and WWF, helping to birth the Attitude Era that brought wrestling to a whole new generation. He was also involved in the inaugural S.T.O.M.P. (Special Tactical Operations Military Police) series of action figures, which went through several waves due to their popularity.
Pillman was known for cultivating a “loose cannon” persona, and the designers clearly tried to bring that to the fore in the action figure’s expression, but ultimately, it ends up looking like a rejected Diamond Dallas Page figure, especially when you compare it to the actual picture of Pillman on the packaging.
6. MAXIMUM SWEAT
The Maximum Sweat figures are so impossibly bad that it’s unreasonable to pick one figure to single out, so we’ll indict the entire line. For starters, they’re just not attractive figures in any way — the bodily proportions are way off (even for an industry with a history of steroid abuse), to the point that each figure ends up looking like Bane.
Instead of Venom serum, however, each of the Maximum Sweat line could secrete a different fluid; each figure had a refillable reservoir in the back for “Official Federation Sweat” (hopefully water, but theoretically any liquid), and when you pressed a button on the figure repeatedly, it would sweat. If the only thing your action figures, proportionate to an 8-foot-tall man with a 75-inch chest, was missing was realistic sweating action, the Maximum Sweat line is for you.
5. SCANTILY-CLAD ROYAL RUMBLE MARK HENRY
Mark Henry is legitimately one of the strongest men on the planet, and he looks it at a glance. Weighing in 360 pounds on a 6′ 4″ frame, Henry specializes in intimidating smaller wrestlers with his sheer size, as well as his impossible strength. Usually, Henry wears a singlet, in the fashion of other Big Dudes like André the Giant and the Big Show; so what would have possessed the licensing department to allow this Mark Henry figure who looks like a sumo wrestler?
There’s something about the figure that manages to misconstrue the size of his body to make him look like he’s just a heavy guy, or that his gimmick is that he’s trying to be more like Yokozuna or Rikishi — again, not a strictly-speaking terrible figure, because it does look kind of like Henry, it just doesn’t look like anything Henry would ever really do.
4. JAKKS ECW LAYLA
Layla is one of the greats — she was the final WWE Women’s Champion before the title was deactivated in anticipation of the introduction of the “Divas” division and its related titles. Usually appearing on SmackDown or RAW, she was shipped to the ECW brand, becoming a heel, and turning to more black leather outfits. The Jakks Layla figure actually looks okay as far as her facial features and her hair, but there are two issues with it that pop out.
First off, she’s wearing a reissue costume, and it looks really low-rent on the figure, like they didn’t know until the last minute that they would release it, secondly, her skin looks much darker than it really is. Layla is of Spanish and Moroccan descent, so she definitely has a darker skin tone, but the figure makes her look much too dark, to the point of it being problematic.
3. WWE NITRO MACHINES
There have been multiple iterations of this truly unfortunate series of WWE figures, the Nitro Sprints and the Nitro Machines. Each is equally terrible. Featuring wrestlers whose heads are significantly bigger than their bodies, the figures themselves look like DK mode rejects from GoldenEye 007. To add insult to injury, each wrestler comes with their Nitro Machine; they run a variety of styles, from Brock Lesnar’s “Beast Bike” to John Cena’s “The Cenanator.”
The most recent sets even include Dean Ambrose in an ambulance, for some reason. The cars themselves are the kind of charged up Hot Wheels, where you can pull them back to rev them up and let them go — who knows why this unholy marriage of toy cars and mini-wrestling figures keeps going, but we can only hope it stops soon.
2. S.T.O.M.P. SERIES OWEN HART
Owen Hart is the fallen angel of WWE history — his death during his ring entrance on live television during the Over the Edge pay-per-view is a landmark event in the annals of the company, akin to the assassination of JFK, kayfabe-wise. But before he passed away and was essentially retired from the company’s merchandising, Owen was part of the S.T.O.M.P. series, featuring wrestlers as G.I. Joe-esque anti-terrorists with bonkers armor and space guns.
Owen’s figure comes with a lot of cool bells and whistles, but the figure itself looks more like John Cena’s character from The Marine; sporting a high-and-tight that a drill sergeant could only dream of, Hart’s figure certainly looked the part of an anti-terrorist space cop, but it didn’t look anything like the real Hart, whose flowing locks were legendary.
1. CLASSIC SUPERSTARS ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Roddy Piper is regarded as one of the greatest heels, or villainous wrestlers, of all time. He was loud, he was brash, he was unashamedly Scottish (especially for a guy who was really Canadian), and he would do anything and everything to get under his opponents’ skin, even if it was extremely problematic. One famous instance was a promo Piper cut in anticipation of his WrestleMania VI match with Bad News Brown, a black man.
Piper comes out with the right side of his body painted in what is clearly blackface, and talks about Brown’s “wide nose” and “bugging eyes,” before doing a softshoe and working an extremely forgettable match against Brown. This was in 1990. It was not okay then, and it’s not okay now — so somebody help us understand why they decided to immortalize that look in an action figure?
Which of these is the worst? Let us know in the comments!
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