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“THE NATURAL” BUTCH REED

WCW-Butch fullWCW WRESTLING

Black History Month rolls on and I have another black action figure review for you.  Today I’m taking a look at Butch Reed.

Butch Reed made his debut in the WWF in 1986.  It was shortly after that when I became familiar with him.  I don’t remember his debut as I was just getting into WWF wresting around that time. He was already an established presence when I started watching.  He fought and defeated “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware at the legendary Wrestlemania III where Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant.  Apparently he went on to have memorable feuds with Tito Santana and Don “The Rock” Muraco.  I remember all the fighters but the details of the match-ups are pretty blurry to me now; I would’ve been 8 or 9 when all this was going down.  The main thing I recall about “The Natural” Butch Reed is his blonde hair.  One of the reasons I don’t remember much about him may be because his stint in the WWF was quite short; he left shortly after Wrestlemania IV in 1988.  WWF was the only wrestling promotion I cared about so when he left the organization he may as well of fallen of the face of the Earth as far as I was concerned.WCW-Butch photo

I was aware of the WCW and knew who the stars of that federation were, mostly by way of generic wrestling magazines, but I never watched it.  I knew that Butch signed with them after his WWF departure but I knew next to nothing about the path his career took.  It was actually pretty interesting to read his wikipedia page in preparation for this review and to learn about what came after the WWF and even more so what came before.WCW-Butch Pillman

 

 

From ’83 to ’86 he fought in an organization called Mid-Soutch Wrestling where he fought under the name Hacksaw.  The Nickname put him at odds with Jim Duggan, the other Hacksaw.  Mr. Duggan is the only Hacksaw I was ever familiar with because he carried that nickname with him when he entered the WWF some years later whereas Butch made the change to “The Natural”.  I only ever knew Reed as a bad guy (or “heel” in wrestling jargon) so its neat to  learn that he started out as a good guy (also known as a “face”) and the tag-team partner of the Junk Yard Dog.  After Reed became a heel in Mid-South he took on a new partner, Jim Neidhart, I guy I know as “the Anvil” from WWF.   Reed later switched back to being a face and had feuds with baddies like Ted Dibiase and Kamala.

Loved these trading cards when I was a kid.  Had the whole set.

Loved these trading cards when I was a kid. Had the whole set.

After WWF he fought in WCW as part of a masked tag-team known as DOOM along with Ron Simmons. He and Simmons were eventually unmasked and ended up feuding with each other.  Thing have been relatively quiet for Reed since he left WCW in 1992.  though he’s fought for smaller regional promotions here and there.  The best thing I learned from his wiki page is that he’s still alive.  So many wrestlers from my childhood have passed away so it’s nice to check in on a guy like this who I haven’t give much thought to for the past few decades and find out he’s alive and well.

As kids I, along with my brother Doug, managed to collect nearly the complete collection of LJN’s big rubber WWF wrestling figures.  We loved those things.  Unfortunately they never made a Butch Reed.  However, I had a double of Koko B. Ware and so I painted the double’s hair blonde and used it as Reed.  I’m not sure why I had a double of the Birdman but I may have acquied it specifically to create a custom Butch Reed…I can’t recall for sure.WCW-Butch slam

After LJN lost the WWF license Hasbro began putting out smaller articulated WWF figures which I didn’t like nearly as much as the big solid rubber ones.  Meanwhile, Galoob began releasing WCW figures right around the same time.  Galoob’s figures were solid unarticulated pieces much like the LJN figures but they were smaller and more-or-less to scale with Hasbro’s figures.  I wasn’t interested in the WCW characters who had never fought in the WWF, like Sting and the Steiner Brothers, but I was happy that Galoob finally provided me with a real Butch Reed figure.

Since this figure is of plain ol’ WCW Butch Reed, and not WWF’s “Natural” Butch Reed it doesn’t have the trademark blonde hair, but hair color aside this is a great figure.

The sculpts on the WCW figures were ahead of their time.  The likenesses are very good and the proportions are far superior to those found on the goofy Hasbro figures.  Butch’s hair is textured, he’s got veins sculpted into his arms, and his Nike sneakers have loads of nice details.

The key to a great unarticulated wrestling figure is the pose and Butch has a great one.  His arms are up and curved which is perfect for body slams, pile drivers, clotheslines, and a bunch of other essential moves.  I also like that he has one open hand and one closed fist as that allows for more possibilities as well.  Of the 3 WCW figures I have (I also have Lex Luger and Brian Pillman) Butch is my least favorite character but my favorite toy because of his great pose.  8 out of 10.

WCW-Butch compare

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TED DIBIASE “THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN” (1990)

WWF-Ted fullWWF-HASBRO

Well this is embarrassing.  I told a friend that I’d review a wrestling figure in my next post so while at work the other day I pondered which one to review. I presently only have 3 wrestling figures displayed in my collection, an LJN Kamala in my bathroom, and Hasbro versions of Macho Man and Ted Dibiase in a display case on my man-cave wall.  Since I see them all the time those were the first ones that came to mind.  I opted to review the Ted Dibiase.  I reviewed the figure from memory (which is what you’ll find below).  But, when it came time to post the review tonight I discovered that I already reviewed this figure back in January of 2012.  I guess after 600 + reviews I was bound to eventually review the same toy twice by accident.  At least I took my own pictures this time.  Some of this will be repetitive but I’ve added some new thoughts on this figure as well.  He even scored a point higher this time.  Enjoy…WWF-Ted face

I don’t have a ton of wrestling figures in my collection so I have to review them sparingly. But it has been a while so let’s take a look at another one shall we? I loved the solid rubber WWF toys produced by LJN when I was a kid. I had hours and hours of fun with them. I had a lot less fun with the Hasbro figures that replaced them after LJN’s WWF toy license expired. Personally, I found the solid rubber LJN figures to be superior to the articulated Hasbro figures of the early 90s on almost every occasion. But, when it comes to Ted “the Million Dollar Man” Dibiase, he was an exception to the rule.

LJN Dibiase

LJN Dibiase

The LJN Dibiase was one of my least favorite figures from that line. The biggest problem with him was the color of rubber he was molded in. As you are aware, most wrestlers are fairly scantily dressed. Usually boots, wristbands, and some tiny shorts make up the work uniform of most WWF superstars. Therefore it made sense for LJN to cast those big solid semi-nude toys in flesh colored rubber and then paint the shorts and boots afterwards. Less paint meant less cost. But, when it came to wrestlers like Million Dollar Man who wore a tear away tuxedo, or the Honky Tonk Man who wore an Elvis inspired rhinestone jumpsuit, it made fiscal sense to cast those figures in colored rubber and then paint the flesh tone on their face and hands. The LJN Dibiase was cast in black rubber. The only way to play with those toys was to bash them together in the wrestling ring. This resulted in frequent paint scuffs. When Dibiase would come down off the top rope to deliver a vicious elbow onto King Kong Bundy’s bald head a black skidmark was often left behind on Bundy’s forehead. Luckily these were fairly easy to remove with a rub of your fingernail. The problem with Dibiase was that when he was the recipient of an elbow, instead of taking a colorful scuff to his forehead, the flesh toned paint would rub right off of his face. It didn’t take long for my Dibiase to have a black nose and forehead; and no fingernail could fix it. WWF-Ted back

Beside the black rubber issue, the LJN Dibiase figure wasn’t posed very well for battle. He had a fistful of money and seemed to be leaning back in cowardice. My LJN Dibiase did not usually do to well in the ranks (My brother Doug actually kept a record book of every wrestler’s wins. We even awarded those with the most wins and longest unbeaten streaks Slammy Awards each year). WWF-Ted real

Ted Dibiase was one of those heels that I loved to hate. His character was just so despicable. I remember when he first entered the WWF. They hyped up his coming by showing vignettes of him belittling people by paying them to do stuff like lick his bodyguard Virgil’s toes.

When the Mattel figures came out most of them left me extremely underwhelmed. But there were two figures that I really liked; Macho Man and Million Dollar Man. It’s hard to believe this Dibiase figure is even part of the same toy line that produced clunkers like my previously reviewed Jimmy Snuka and Jim Duggan. This figure has unrealistic proportions, almost like he’s a dwarf, but it works within the stylized toy line. His tuxedo is black with metallic gold trim. It’s a much nicer looking and more iconic color choice than the purple of the LJN version.WWF-Ted belt

The head sculpt is really nice. It’s not necessarily a great likeness but I still really like it. I think they maybe could have given him a more smug expression.  This Dibiase looks a little too chilled out. The best thing about this head is that it isn’t prone to paint loss. This Ted’s face still looks like a million bucks even after all these years (see what I did there).WWF-Ted victory

One of the things I liked least about the Hasbro toy line was the inclusion of spring-loaded action features. Those features are the reason why Snuka and Duggan look like freaks of nature. Million Dollar Man was blessed with one of the simplest, most effective, and least distracting features of the line. Spin his arm back and it swings forward to deliver  a brutal “million dollar punch”. It swings with some serious force too. I hurt my fingers playing with this guy on more than one occasion. Lastly, the figure came with a super sweet version of his diamond encrusted million dollar belt. I’ve seen modern more realistic figures of Dibiase produced by companies like Jakks in recent years but I still think that this is the best Ted Dibiase figure released to date. 8 out of 10WWF-Ted pin

A quick side note: I didn’t go to my high school prom. I didn’t buy into that nonsense. But 3 years after I graduated a dear friend of mine asked me to accompany her to her prom before she moved away. I accepted, but there was no way I was going to wear a standard rental tuxedo. Luckily my mom is a professional seamstress (check out her handy work here) so she was able to produce a custom tux based on my design. The tuxedo was extremely wide legged which was a must for me at the time as a skateboarder/raver. As a color choice I went with a deep blue, almost purple, with reflective silver trim.  My vest and bow-tie were also reflective silver. It may have been subconscious but I think its fair to say that Mr. Dibiase influenced my design.WWF-Ted me1WWF-Ted me2

SHAWN MICHAELS

WWF-Shawn MichaelsWWF

Man I loved wrestling as a kid.  I almost completely lost my taste for it into my teens but I do still indulge by throwing on a classic WWF DVD from time to time.  My brother Doug is still pretty into wrestling but mostly in a nostalgic way.  He collects toys of the guys who wrestled when we were kids and he reads their autobiographies but he doesn’t follow current going-ons in the WWE.  Recently he told me about a special he watched which ranked , I believe, the top 100 pro wrestlers of all time.  I was shocked when he told me that Hulk Hogan wasn’t number 1.  I know some of you people grew up in the age of Stone Cold and the Rock and you think they’re the best and that’s all well and good.  Some of you may be older wrestling fans who would rank some guy from the 70s in your number 1 spot, wrestling has been around a long time.  But as far as I’m concerned, as a child of the 80s, Hulk Hogan is the undisputed greatest wrestler of all time. Yes, I know he actually wasn’t that great of a wrestler but I’m taking the whole Hulkamania package into account; the prayers and the vitamins and all of that.  The guy was a goddamned super hero.WWF-Shawn Micheals package

Anyway, the guy who topped the list was Shawn Michaels, HBK, the Heartbreak Kid.  I don’t agree with this choice but that’s not meant as a slight to Mr. Michaels.  I was a HUGE Shawn Michaels fan as a kid.  That was long before he was known as HBK though.  Doug and I idolized the tag-teams of the 80s: the British Bulldogs, the Hart Foundation, the Killer Bees, etc. Not only were tag team matches generally more exciting to watch, but the figures came in easily shared 2-packs.   Doug and I used to emulate our favorite tag teams when wrestling our stuffed animals.  When the Rockers, a team featuring a young Shawn Michaels and his partner Marty Janetty, came onto the scene Doug and I became instant super fans.  We were won over by their high flying acrobatic moves and their rock n’ roll attitudes.

When wrestling Scooby Doo and Stinky, our largest stuffed animals, in  our epic bedroom brawls it became common practice for Doug and I to tie our housecoat belts around our arms and legs in an attempt to replicate the Rockers look.  I was always Shawn and Doug was always Marty.  Pretending to be the Rockers was fun and all but we both so wanted LJN to produce action figures of the Rockers.  Back in those days LJN produced big solid rubber wrestling toys which were well sculpted and a blast to play with.  Sadly LJN lost the WWF license before they got a chance to produce any Rockers toys.WWF-Shawn Michaels-rockers

When Hasbro took over the WWF license shortly afterwards they began releasing shorter, articulated figures made of harder plastic.  Some of them were okay but in no way compatible with our beloved LJN rubber wrestlers.  Some of Hasbro’s toys down right sucked.  Their Jimmy “Super Fly”  Snuka figure received the lowest ranking I’ve ever given on this site (and yet for some reason it remains one of my most viewed posts??).  Hasbro released the first ever Rockers figures and unfortunately they were on the sucky side of the spectrum.  They shared the same action feature and construction as that god awful Snuka figure.  Their legs were stuck together and their oversized torsos could be pulled down over their legs, revealing a giraffe neck, in order to launch the figures into a drop kick or something.  Doug got the Marty out of the pack and I got Shawn.  I hated that Shawn Michaels toy but I played with it a lot anyway since it was the only Shawn Michaels toy available at the time.

I still own that figure and I still hate it.  He looks fat, has a growth on his back,  and his proportions are way out of whack.  You would never guess from looking at this figure that this guy would go on to make a solo career based on a heart throb persona.  I almost feel like I should go out and buy a better Shawn Michaels toy for myself as dozens have been made in the years since, but I just don’t care enough anymore.  This clunker shall remain my one and only Shawn Michaels figure.  I should give it a 1 but just because I idolized this guy so much and this was his first ever figure I’ll give it a 3 out of 10.

BRIAN PILLMAN

WCW-Brian PillmanWCW

I think the last wrestling figure I reviewed was a craptacular version of Jimmy Snuka.  Well today I’m going to review a much better figure of different wrestler with the same fashion sense as Mr. Snuka, Flyin’ Brian Pillman.  I loved my WWF wrestling figures when I was a kid.  Back in the day when the WWF aired on Saturday mornings Doug and I watched it religiously.  But the WWF figures that I have such a fondness for can hardly be called action figures.  They were just big chunks of molded rubber with zero articulation.  I imagine that some kids back then longed for more traditional action figures but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about those big clunky figurines produced by LJN.   I feel LJN losing the WWF license to Hasbro played a huge part in me losing interest in wrestling.  The Hasbro figures were smaller, chubbier, articulated (poorly) and made of harder plastic.  I collected the first wave or two of the Hasbro figures but for the most part they sucked balls and so I moved on.  Hasbro is to blame for that Snuka monstrosity so you can see what I mean.WCW-brianpillman real

Around the same time that Hasbro launched their WWF figures another toy company, Galoob, released their own series of wrestling figures based on the WWF’s only real competitor of the time World Championship Wrestling; or WCW.  I was never really into the WCW and probably only watched it a couple of times.  However there were so many cross over figures because wrestlers tended to change promotions quite often so I was familiar with most of the wrestlers in Galoob’s 12 figure line.  The line featured future Hall of Fame-ers like Sting and Ric Flair and other big names like the Steiners and Arn Anderson.  I owned 3 figures from the line, all of whom wrestled in the WWF at one point or another: Butch Reed, Lex Luger and Brian Pillman.  Doug had Pillman’s partner Tom Zenk along with Barry Windham.WCW-carded

 

 

The Galoob figures were leaps and bounds better than Hasbro’s offerings in my mind.  They were the same size but they had superior sculpting and lacked articulation, akin to the LJN figures.  I personally don’t think wrestling figures need articulation so long as they’re given a nice static pose.  Sure it makes moves like the figure-four-leg lock impossible but it makes them durable enough to take a real beating.  If I had dared to put any of my G.I. Joes or Transformers through the kind of abuse my wrestling figures endured I’d have nothing to show of my childhood but a bucket full of loose screws and broken plastic limbs.

The UK version with blue shorts

The UK version with blue shorts

My fondness of Pillman didn’t come from his stint in the WWF wither.  That occurred  around the time I was graduating from high school and I had been done with wrestling for years by then.  I discovered Flyin’ Brian when he wrestled in Stampede Wrestling based out of Calgary.  I barely remember watching Stampede Wrestling on TV as I would’ve been quite young but I remember really liking this guy.  He was my favorite wrestler in the company.  He had the same acrobatic stylings as the Rockers who were another favorite of mine and he seemed like a good guy.

I remember Pillman died a while back but I couldn’t tell you the specifics about it.  I read his wikipedia page before writing this to refresh my memory on the man and was kinda shocked to discover that he died at the age of 35 back in 1997.  His body was discovered in his hotel room after he failed to show up for his match against Dude Love/Mick Foley.   What shocked me was his age.  I turn 35 10 days from now so it’s kind of eerie.  Hopefully I don’t have any undiagnosed heart conditions like this childhood hero of mine.

This figure is a great representation of the man how I remember him.  He looks young and happy and ready to fight.  He’s got his long curly hair which looks wet from sweat here.  He’s wearing his classic animal print tights and he’s sculpted in a pretty good pose; perfect for diving off the top rope.  R.I.P. Brian.  7 out of 10WCW-Brian Pillman face