WWE Figures – Display or Play? A WWE Action Figure History

When it comes to wrestling, there are a ton of promotions floating around. The promotion that tends to stand out above the crowd and consistently remain relevant, is the WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment. This is why we will be focusing today specifically on WWE figures. Some of us will remember that the WWE used to be referred to as the WWF(World Wrestling Federation), which

makes older WWF figures more highly collectible. As most of us know, collecting wrestling figures, or anything wrestling related for that matter, can prove to be a spendy hobby. Throughout the years the action figures produced for World Wrestling Entertainment superstars have steadily evolved, with added personalities and updates to rendering and articulation. It is common, more so nowadays, for many wrestling figure to also come with a line of accessories. From breakable and rebuildable tables, to ladders and trashcans, and also belts and apparel, WWE figures pack a Super Kick into their product assembly.

WWE Stands Tall

The WWE has been around for a long time. Formerly the World Wrestling Federation, it was changed to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002 for reasons that would take entirely too long to discuss.(darn those pandas) WWE actually dates all the way back to the 1960s and the World Wide Wrestling Federation, always bound and determined to showcase their wide array of often muscle-bound characters.

Many of us remember classic personalities, such has Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and The “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The insane and over the top gimmicks offered real life versions of superheros and villains intertwined in an in-ring spectacle! Not too uncommon from the gladiators of Rome, crowds poured in to witness the events that the company, which would become the WWE, put on for their often roaring crowds.

The Evolution of the WWE Figure

Having purchased and been gifted wrestling figures since I was born back in 1986, and seeing the value some older figures have accumulated has made it difficult sometimes to decide if I wanted to display the figures in their packaging or actually remove them from their boxes and interact with my immortalized heroes. The evolution of the WWE figure has been a very long and winding road.

  • LJN

Back in the 1980s, a company called LJN produced the first figures for the growing wrestling company. These figures were non poseable, as they didn’t have an articulation, but they did provide a rather accurate depiction of their in-ring counterpart. LJN, not only the first to have a figure contract with WWF/WWE, didn’t produce figures for a long time, making any LJN WWF figure highly collectible.

  • Hasbro

When LJN closed their doors, Hasbro put out their first interpretations of the superstars in 1990. This time there was a mild amount of articulation, as each figure included a “signature move.” The Ultimate Warrior’s arms moved up and down to utilize his gorilla press slam attack, and Shawn Michael’s figure had spring loaded legs so he could fly into action. You could also pick up two packs of several popular tag teams. The first, and fairly basic version, of a toy wrestling ring was produced by Hasbro, giving the figures their grand stage, where many an adult and child would recreate their favorite matches, or create their own. These rings, and many hard to find variants(Moon Belly Kamala) or sought after prototypes are highly collectible.

  • Jakks Pacific

By 1996 Jakks Pacific had taken over the license and eventually would feature much more points of articulation depending on the series the figure belonged too. Technology had advanced to the point of face and body scans, adding more realism to the figures. Jakks would also go on to place microchips in their WWE figures that would interact with play sets. The first play set was the TitanTron Live play set and was capable of playing snippets of superstar theme songs for their entrances. Later on they would release the Trash Talkin’ Stage which would recognize the superstars and allow them to exchange a series of “smack talk” between two figures. These chipped figures were less articulated than the “Deluxe Aggression” line, but tailored to the microchip interaction. The “Deluxe Aggression” line featured many more points of articulation, and even fabric apparel for some wrestlers. Before the end of their contract, they also produced several successful lines of WWE Classic Superstars that brought new figures of older mostly retired wrestlers, immortalizing them in their prime. Countless multi-figure collections, often containing six or more figures were made available by Jakks, as well as backstage playsets and more realistic toy rings.

  • Mattel

January 2010, production shifted to Mattel. Mattel, being a much larger business than Jakks, was able to continue making EVEN MORE realistic WWE Action Figures. Several lines have been produced, offering less articulated and more basic models for a better price tag, as well as highly articulated figures that included accessories. Toy rings were more real than ever, with fabric ring aprons and real turn-buckles. Though, realism wasn’t always the focus, and more cartoonish rings with breakaway ring mats and crazier accessories are also readily available. The company also produces their own line of classic superstars, the WWE Legends line, even producing zombie versions of WWE Figures for several wrestlers. Mattel still continues to produce quality figures for WWE in 2017.

  • Return of Jakks Pacific

Jakks Pacific would eventually sign back on in January 2015. Jakks caters more to Asian markets, and Mattel still creates, what fans seem to agree, are the more favorable figures. You can still pick up Jakks versions of WWE figures on American shelves, but many reviewers have noted that they pale in comparison to Mattel’s detail and value.

Collecting WWE Figures as a Hobby

Whether you pick up an older figure that is no longer produced, or the occasionally rare,(and sometimes not so rare) variant of an action figure, collecting WWE Figures can be an exciting hobby. Mattel still continues to produce quality figures, while Jakks seems to create a more sub par figure in comparison. With technology quickly advancing, sometimes a favorite superstar of old is re released with signature attire from a classic event, and can be fun to pick up and display for nostalgia. The new technology, of course allowing for more amazing details than figures produced during that time could have offered, and often with superstars and apparel that wasn’t released during the time period.

  • Accessories

Every fan of Professional Wrestling knows that superstars like to take the event outside of the wrestling ring at times, and with that comes backstage accessories and play sets, as well as many tables, ladders, and chairs to collect and pummel your other WWE figures with. You can purchase announcer tables and full arena setups, complete with guard rails and entrance ramps(often sold separately) to showcase your figures. There are even steel cages, backstage play sets, elimination chambers, and many more new accessories being created every month. Picking up these awesome accessories can help you create or recreate your own wrestling matches and moments.

  • Completing Your Set

Announcers and referee figures are usually more rarely released, so collecting them to add to your set is of high importance to people who make wrestling collections their hobby. Sure, you can have your announcers table and your ring, but you need announcers to sit behind the table, so they can be involved in the carnage when your Randy Orton figure decided to put another superstar through it. Referees also add realism to your matches, and displays.

WWE Figures are Just, Plain, FUN

Whether you’re an adult that collects wrestling figures for nostalgia and display, an adult posing as a child that still plays with action figures(nothing wrong with that!), or a child who is a fan of Professional Wrestling, collecting WWE figures is just, plain, FUN! With so many wrestling figures available, and more upcoming superstars being put into the lineup every day, there are far too many to collect them all. The options are vast, which makes being able to be picky about your selection pretty easy when you want to pick up your favorite superstar. Sometimes, however, a superstar is released in limited amounts, and the fun comes from rushing to the store to try to be the first to pick one up before they sell out. You can opt to pickout a cheaper priced basic figure, or a deluxe figure, even search the internet for discontinued or harder to find figures, but you’re sure to find something in your price range that will provide joy to the hearts of any Pro Wrestling fan.

Now you can show off your WWE figures to friends and also trade them back and forth like many people do with their beloved Pokemon Cards. The industry of Professional Wrestling is constantly expanding, and there are some pretty great fans out there. Maybe you have a favorite superstar, so you make it your goal to grab up every instance that they are immortalized in action figure form. Then of course you will also have to pick up one of their rivals to fight/be displayed with. Let’s not forget the many variants that sometimes come out. Sometimes you might pick up a superstar from a particular series that has a different shirt, paint scheme, or sculpt, often making them more collectible and just plain fun to collect.

Conclusion

So maybe you already own a handful, or maybe like myself, an entire storage crate full, of WWE figures. Maybe you are just looking to pick up your first figures, and want to know what’s out there. Professional Wrestling provides an incredible entertainment outlet for millions of people, and collecting WWE figures is a huge part of the experience. Don’t be scared to pick up some action figures, even if some people still call them dolls. WrestleManiacs love their WWE toys. Wrestling fans are, for the most part, an amazing breed of people, and starting your figure collection is a great way to get involved. Whether you’re cheering your favorite star, or booing the heel you love to hate, it’s pure excitement. We’re thrilled to have you here with us at WrestleManiacs.

Do you Display or Play? Sound off in the comments.

About Eric Vollmar

I'm a practiced poet and a writer. I love making connections, which is why I do online marketing with MobileMarketKing.com I also have a deep love for Professional Wrestling and manage ProWrestlingPulse.com

9 Replies to “WWE Figures – Display or Play? A WWE Action Figure History”

  1. Eve

    Owned a couple of figures when I was a kid. My favorite wrestlers were Shawn Michaels, Goldberg, and Sting (do you remember him?). Wrestling has changed a lot since then, but it’s cool to see how it has retained it’s popularity after all these years!

    Reply
    • Eric Vollmar Post author

      Who can forget Sting!? From his young days as the bleached blonde surfer, to his long dark hair and reminiscence of The Crow. Sting is still a personal favorite. I wish he didn’t get injured when he finally came to WWE.
      Wasn’t is crazy to see Goldberg come back as well, and win the WWE Universal Title recently? His matches were extremely short, but it was neat to see him back.

      Reply
  2. Jude

    My favourite wrestlers (I stopped following WWE since long ago) were Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan. There was a classic fight between these two with UW winning and the ending was simply epic and emotional. I am out of touch with the WWE scene but thinking back to those days, it was kind of fun. I always think they are ‘faking’ it but that did not diminish the enjoyment.

    Reply
    • Eric Vollmar

      The Ultimate Warrior is no doubt a Legend. He had an energy about him that was unmatched.(RIP) I remember him and Hogan had several great matches, and they sure knew how to engage the crowd. I wonder if you are thinking of the match at Wrestlemania 6. Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior, Title vs Title. Hogan was the World Champ and Warrior was the Intercontinental Champ. That whole match told this amazing story of two humongous icons in the Sports Entertainment world coming head to head. I believe it was Gorilla Monsoon who called matches of that caliber, “The Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object.”
      They were equally matched through-out. Right when it looked like Hulk Hogan was going to win, Hulk went for his patented Leg Drop. Warrior would move out of the way at the last second, connect with his Big Splash, allowing him to pin Hogan to win the World Title. Hogan left the ring to get the belt, and the fans didn’t know what would happen as he brought it back into the ring and looked at Warrior. He went on to give Warrior the belt and raise his hand in victory. Truly an epic and emotional moment!! Thanks for the trip back in time.

      Reply
  3. Jonathan Gonzalez

    Kane, UnderTaker, The Rock, Big Show…..There are so many figure wrestlers!! What is funny my parents were against wrestling but I liked it haha. This is truly something that will be in the books! Do you think wrestlers have more of a spotlight than they did years ago? The media has shifted tremendously and anyone can really become a sensation with smart decision making online….especially having their own figure in retail stores…

    Reply
    • Eric Vollmar Post author

      I think Pro Wrestling has certainly developed more of a presence since the dawn of Monday Night Raw. They now have the longest running episodic show in history under their belt, with no sign of stopping. With the dawn of their TV presence, the show has only grown in theatrics and personality.

       Personally, sometimes the product becomes almost too mainstream for me, which is why I also have love for alternatives such as ROH Wrestling, and other companies with quality products that haven’t quite made mainstream. I do feel ROH is getting there though, as even though Impact Wrestling achieved a bit of a mainstream presence, their product suffers a lot from the constant change of ownership and even changing the company name several times within the last month. I have a soft spot for Ring of Honor because a lot of my favorites really made themselves there. The company has a proven track record of creating stars and the WWE likes to pick up on them. 

      The spotlight will however, remain on the WWE for quite some time, and I think Hulk Hogan, The Rock, John Cena, and Austin really helped Pro Wrestling achieve a more mainstream spotlight. Undertaker will always be huge to me, but he is a more of a wrestling fan’s wrestler in my opinion. Hulk really started getting wrestling into Hollywood (Hollywood Hogan) and The Rock made the most successful transfer to movies I’ve ever seen. John Cena has done so much as a person, that most non-wrestling fans still recognize his face.  

      Character has a lot to do with it. Anyone really can become a sensation. Look at Enzo Amore, he just won the Cruiserweight title, but most of his skills are in his mic work. Many will argue his wrestling skills could use some.. eh.. a lot.. of work. He has created a character that people love to engage with though, and here he is now with a major title. 

      Being immortalized as an action figure is quite the accomplishment. I think 9/10 kids know the name John Cena, that’s for sure. 5/10 probably have his figure. It’s neat to be able to look on my wall and see my favorite stars and tag teams that don’t exist anymore, in character form, for me to admire every day. I think when you see your face on a retail shelf, it can be a pretty good sign that you made it. Though, not every wrestler who has become a figure can account for that. Just like with everything else, hard work and determination are required to maintain your status and stay relevant.  

      Reply
  4. BRAD

    I grew up watching the original of wrestling which was Stampede Wrestling!! Every Saturday afternoon, all us kids from the neighborhood would stop what we were doing, cause wrestling was on!!
    WWE is iconic is wrestling history. The action figures made early and now are a testament to the popularity of the sport. Sadly, many of those super stars from the early days are passing away, and what better way to immortalize them than by creating action figures in their likeness.
    WIll these, as other action figures from various genres be worth anything in the future or even now?

    Reply
    • Eric Vollmar Post author

      It’s so awesome to hear stories from fellow fans! Stampede Wrestling! Wow! Good ol’ Stu Hart. Canadians have done so much for the sport. Stu Hart and the whole Hart family have such a deep heritage in Pro Wrestling! It’s crazy to think how far wrestling has come along. There are so many classic matches that still to this day make some modern matches look shoddy in comparison.
      As far as wrestling figures go.. For whatever reason, they replaced the moon on Kamala’s belly on one of the original figure lines. That is one of the most sought after figures now. Then of course, when a legend passes on, their figures tend to increase in price as well. I think the rarer the run, variant, etc definitely has a huge effect on the price value, but there will always be a worth to a fan somewhere.

      Reply
  5. otorres2628

    Back in the day, I use to have that old school WWF ring with the red, white, and blue ropes. It was a Royal Rumble every day after school. Ultimate Warrior, Yokozuna, Legion of Doom..even a couple Marvel Superheros got involved. It was so awesome.

    Man this brought back some memories. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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