By the dawn of the 1990s, the World Wrestling Federation was firmly entrenched in action figure business. They already had one successful line from LJN that ran from 1984-1989 and they quickly ran to Hasbro for their second line that ran from 1990-1994.
But what about WCW? They never seemed to have quite the same merchandising aspirations in those days that the WWF did. Or, perhaps it was interest from vendors that was lacking (WCW was a distant second in popularity to WWF in those days)? Well, the stars aligned in 1990 because we not only had Hasbro’s WWF line, but we ended up with WCW line of figures produced by Galoob.
As much as I loved the then-current WWF line, many of those figures were goofy, clunky and not well sculpted. I blame most of this on the action features each figure had (Hasbro would continue to recycle those very same action features/body sculpts for new figures up until the day the line died). In short, the action features prevented those toys from becoming good action figures.
For the sake of simplicity, and more likely monetary reasons, the WCW line featured no cute little movements. These figures were rock solid pieces of plastic pre-posed for your convenience– Arn Anderson was sculpted perfectly to deliver a classic “Double A” spinebuster to his foes or even a DDT, if you preferred! I thought the sculpts were great, there was a lot of realism and detail to these figures that the cartoony WWF line couldn’t compete with and their poses didn’t seem out of character as was the case with many of the WWF figures.
One other neat thing about the WCW figures is that they ALL came with a championship belt. Nice touch, so if you only had one WCW figure, you’d at least always have a WCW World champion of your very own.
Sadly, like all good things in life tend to do, the line left us way too soon. We only got a “Series I” here in the States featuring these figures: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Sting (two color variations), Lex Luger, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham, Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner, Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. I really wanted to add Windham, Zenk and Pillman to my collection as well, but I could never find them. Zenk and Pillman were one of my favorite teams back in the day (they were young high-flyers) and I wanted Windham to complete the Four Horsemen group.
Some of these figures were also packaged in tag team sets: Flair/Anderson, Sting/Luger, Rick & Scott Steiner (Rick had a color variation) and Doom (Reed/Simmons). Not sure why they didn’t release the remaining four figures as teams. Zenk & Pillman were regular partners (once winning the United States tag team championship together!) and Windham & Vicious were members of the Four Horsemen group alongside Flair & Anderson.
Not my photo, but subtract Pillman and add Arn, that's my whole collection.
The line was also released in the UK in 1991, but their series was a bit different. They had El Gigante, Big Josh, Dustin Rhodes, Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, a Hayes/Garvin team set and two new sculpts of Sting and Luger. All of that was in addition to getting the entire U.S. line, with the exception of Tom Zenk and Butch Reed.
Seriously, why would the UK get an exclusive release of a Texas wrestler?
There was also the “Slam-Action Wrestling Arena” to host your WCW battles. The ring was pretty cheap though. In fact, come to think of it, I think I got it from Big Lots, so that should tell you something right there. The ropes were never tight, the cage was always falling off and the mat had no give! Yes, I know it’s plastic, but the WWF ring wasn’t hard as stone and when you figures would drop to the mat, there was a nice sound that carried. Plus, that weird springboard feature didn’t seem to work so well given that the figures were so heavy. The ring bell was a nice touch though.
So the line wasn’t a runaway hit, but as you can see, they selected well from the roster and the designs were really good. I got many years of enjoyment out of those figures and I still own them all. They may be scuffed and have paint wearing thin in some places, but at least they aren’t chipped or have had a finger break off like some of my WWF toys!
WCW wouldn’t try out their own action figure line for another 7 years or so once this line folded, during the late ’90s wrestling boom. Those figures were garbage and I was too old/cool to be messing with ’em anyway, so we won’t get into that mess.
Thanks to FigureRealm.com for the use of some of these images!