By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
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Before we get into this blog, I need you to know something about me: I have never left a Star Wars movie without wanting to purchase a toy. This was true when I first saw them in the theater in 1997. This was true on the cursed day when I saw The Rise of Skywalker. I love Star Wars and one way of expressing that love has always been purchasing and playing with action figures.
I played with wrestling action figures for longer than I admitted. In 1998 I wandered the aisles of a Target and bought a Bret Hart action figure (you never forget your first). For the next four years, I collected obsessively, always checking on new wrestlers in the aisle. One morning, I begged my mom to take me to a Walmart 20 minutes away before school to buy an Undertaker and Kane two pack I couldn’t live without. I ended up with hundreds of wrestlers during those years, along with multiple rings, entrance sets, and those weird figures that would sweat for some reason.
Eventually I left the tub of action figures in my closet, went off to college and completely forgot about the idea of wrestling figure collecting. I still loved wrestling. I still thought of action figures often, particularly when I saw a wrestler in great gear. I just didn’t buy figures.
Fast forward to 2020 and the world is in chaos. Wrestling fandom feels like an awful proposition as both major wrestling companies continue producing television shows in sad dark warehouses without fans. I was at a lower point than ever in my own wrestling fandom. I don’t think it counts as depression when it’s only focused on wrestling, but nothing in wrestling could actually spark joy.
That is, nothing could make me happy until I saw Penta El Zero Miedo’s AEW Unrivaled Series 2 action figure. I had watched Penta for years in Lucha Underground, both on TV and in person. I had seen him at PWG’s legendary American Legion Hall. Penta had always seemed so very cool and his look was iconic at this point. I saw this toy and knew I had to have it. I’m not even sure why this one struck such a chord with me, but it did. I needed it.
At this point, I had to buy Fenix as well. It’s only right. If the Toy Story theory of the universe is true (it is), I couldn’t have Penta standing around on my desk without a brother.
These two figures were like a gateway drug. How could I ever have forgotten the joy that wrestling toys can bring? I ordered these two, then realized I needed more! At first, I focused on the AEW toys made by Jazwares. Supporting WWE with my toy money felt icky at best, so I avoided it. But AEW was a start up challenging the wrestling status quo! Buying these toys would be a statement! This is how I convinced myself to buy the entirety of multiple lines of AEW’s toys.
Then I hit a stumbling block. I wanted more toys, but Jazwares wasn’t releasing AEW toys to keep pace with my need for consumption. I needed to buy more! I had all this money I could not spend for a whole pandemic and damn it, I needed $20 pieces of plastic to spend it on! With AEW not releasing toys at the rate I needed, I compromised my morals, climbed off of my high horse, and decided it wouldn’t hurt to buy a few WWE toys.
This is when wrestling toys started blowing my mind. Mattel is out here making WWE figures with gear and accessories from specific nights! Jazwares is telling you what night their figures attire is from on the box! If you’re a wrestling fan obsessed with details, these figures have tons of them! Heck, I routinely marvel at the WWE Ultimate Edition toys and have since I first took this beautiful boy out of his box. Look at those joints! Look at those accessories! How can I not compromise my morals and buy WWE toys? They’re excellent. There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism and all that…
Speaking of accessories, my latest obsession with wrestling action figures has to be title belts. WWE has been including all sorts of weird random titles with figures and it’s truly wonderful. I’ve got the WCW United States and Television titles. I have three versions of AEW’s TNT Championship. I have two WWE Women’s Tag Team titles. I keep getting tricked into buying Hulk Hogan figures because of the sweet belts he comes with (again, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism). It’s amazing!
All of this is to say, I started collecting again. I started scouring stores. I spent far too much money with Ringside Collectibles. I now have over 100 figures in my latest collection and I’ve put up shelves for all of them. Duplicate figures have come with me to work and live on my desk there.
In the process of rediscovering a love for wrestling figures, I rediscovered a love for wrestling itself. It’s caused me to take everything but the gear a wrestler wears a little less seriously. While the wrestlers themselves aren’t toys, wrestling is ultimately designed to sell toys and be fun. It’s a better way for me to look at it and it’s caused me to enjoy wrestling far more.
Wrestling action figures helped activate and carry my fandom forward in my formative years. As an adult, as I was drifting away from something I had loved for decades, wrestling figures brought me back.
And now in no particular order my favorite figure purchases of my current collection era:
Hangman Page Walmart Exclusive – Look at his shirt! Look at his cool glass! Look at this championship! What a toy!
AEW Penta El Zero Miedo – While Series 2 Penta brought me back, Series 6 Penta El Cero Miedo with his gold accents is my current favorite edition of him.
TNT Champion Cody – As I mentioned, I’m a sucker for titles and the unfinished version of the TNT Championship that comes with this is pretty cool.
NWO John Cena – Did I enjoy pandemic WrestleMania? Maybe. Did I enjoy The Firefly Funhouse match? Not really. Did I enjoy John Cana playing air guitar as a NWO member? Hell yeah.
WWE Ultimate Edition 16 AJ Styles – They made a head sculpt of AJ Styles’ hair blowing in the wind. It’s beautiful.
Unrivaled Series 3 Orange Cassidy – It’s the pockets that make this one. It still might be the best toy the AEW team at Jazwares has made.
San Diego Comicon Exclusive Mr. Brodie Lee – This is the only toy in my collection I keep in the box. It’s a special one and a great toy.
AEW Supreme Series 1 Dr. Britt Baker, DMD – I like what Jazwares is putting together with the Supreme series figures. Getting both street clothes and wrestling gear in one package is cool. And Britt’s Pittsburg gear is great.
Coliseum Collection Terry Funk – These figures from Mattel are beautiful and made to be pulled from the packaging. And getting a 1980s Funk complete with a branding iron is both hilarious and amazing.
WWE Elite 86 Seth Rollins – This is all about the gear. Rollins dressed as Halloween Havoc 1997 Rey Mysterio is just too fun.
Jurassic Express AEW Two Pack – The packaging for this one is too fun. Luchasaurus is made to be a toy. Jungle Boy fits perfectly on his shoulders even outside the box. It’s a super fun set.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.