In 1985, Hasbro introduced professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter into the G.I. Joe universe by turning him into an action figure and even featuring him in the cartoon series (voiced by Slaughter himself). In 1986, Chicago Bears defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry also became a G.I. Joe action figure. Unfortunately, we were robbed of ever seeing The Fridge in animated glory. Then, in 1987, Rocky Balboa joined the ranks of the Joes.
Er, well, he was supposed to.
I’m not exactly sure who would’ve been negotiating with Hasbro to make this happen. Sylvester Stallone obviously would have been needed to approve his likeness but whether Hasbro was having to go through MGM/United Artists (who had released the then only four Rocky movies) for licensing rights I don’t know. Either way, the deal fell through for whatever reason.
Now, Marvel at the time was publishing the G.I. Joe comic books. Apparently they were so confident that Hasbro and Stallone & MGM/UA would reach a deal that they even went as far to print a character profile for Rocky Balboa (codename: “Rocky”) in the second issue of their G.I. Joe: Order of Battle handbook.
Here it is:
Personally, I love the idea of Rocky Balboa kicking it in the Joe universe. Rambo would’ve been cooler but by this point Rambo was too buy ripping G.I. Joe off with the rival Force of Freedom cartoon and toyline. They already had a professional wrestler and NFL player so why not a fictional boxer? Oh the adventures those three could have had together!
Knowing Rocky’s close call with G.I. Joe sheds a bit more like on the creation of Big Boa. Though I loved the character, I always thought having an evil boxer was an odd addition to the Cobra organization. As noted his profile, Rocky was to be a combat instructor for the Joes, just as Big Boa is listed as being a combat instructor for Cobra. My guess is either Big Boa was meant to be Rocky’s main foe or after the Rocky deal fell through Hasbro soldiered on the the project ended up giving us Big Boa (presumably because the idea of a boxer was too good to pass up).