Action figures have long been seen as more than mere toys. Where children might see something fun to play with, adults see something potentially worth money. Wrestling toys are no different than those featuring superheroes or cartoon characters. While wrestling, in general, might not enjoy the same reputation as other hobbies and fandoms, there are still millions of fans who used to be kids and never lost their passion. Either because of nostalgia, investment, or because of the indescribable need to stockpile objects felt by collectors everywhere, these people flock towards the toys that feature the heroes of their youth.
Through a combination of rarity and desirability, some of these action figures end up being worth a small fortune. Though most of the really expensive ones feature popular wrestlers who were celebrated throughout their careers, being a beloved icon is not enough to shield someone from the ongoing march of capitalism. These legends also had terrible toys made in their name. Being famous and popular could not save them from being featured on some of the worst merchandise in wrestling history. With modern action figures being made from actual scans of the wrestlers’ face and body, the quality of the likeness has generally improved, but the companies still have the occasional brain farts that are worth laughing at.
To show that the toy industry can produce both delight and horror, we have found the absolute worst wrestling toys ever produced and decided to juxtapose them with the most valuable ones available on the collectors’ market. My biggest takeaway from all the research done for this article is that the quality of action figures has improved tremendously with time, and that I used to play with some pretty ugly toys as a child.
30 WORST: Shawn Michaels – Hasbro Series
Shawn Michaels was only a year or so into his singles run at the time this atrocity was produced, and his trademark look had not been set in stone. However, as someone who has watched way too much wrestling in his lifetime, I can confirm that the Heartbreak Kid never put on an outfit that made him look like the Terminator only stole the pants from that poor biker. This action figure makes him look like Stretch Armstrong heading to a Judas Priest concert.
29 WORST: Ahmed Johnson – WWF S.T.O.M.P.
I get going for a cartoonish look, but have these people ever seen Ahmed Johnson from the waist down, or did they only have a picture of his face? Ahmed was one of the most imposing wrestlers the WWF had in the mid to late 90s. He was almost a throwback to the chemical days of the 80s. The only way this particular action figure could ever hope to look like Ahmed Johnson was if they caught him on day 100 of a hunger strike.
28 VALUABLE: “One Warrior Nation” and “Marble Statue” Ultimate Warrior - Jakks ($3500 to $5000)
Jakks went all out with this series of four exclusive action figures featuring the Ultimate Warrior at different times in his career. These sculpts were created with the blessing of the Warrior, and there are only 20 copies of each of them. This obviously helped drive the price up, with two of them reaching a higher price range than the others. This is weird when you consider that the “best” ones are those representing the Warrior in WCW, a definitive low point creatively, as well as one made to look like a nonexistent marble statue. Sometimes the market moves in mysterious ways.
27 WORST: Wildman Marc Mero & Sable – Managers Series
“The Wildman” Marc Mero looks as surprised as we are to see how bad his action figure is. The eyes popping out of his face are reminiscent of Judge Doom revealing he is a toon at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If it wasn’t for the fact that this particular toy is accompanied by Sable (who herself looks like she was captured mid-nap for her sculpt), you would think that this is supposed to be Jimmy Hart in his underwear.
26 WORST: Sable – Jakks Pacific Collector Figure
A few years later, Sable would get her own action figure, having effectively surpassed her (soon to be ex) husband in popularity. The WWF wanted to capitalize on that newfound fame, which is why they released about a half dozen toys of Sable, all with a varying degree of authenticity. This one is probably the worst offender, with an outfit that resembles Barbarella more than anything Sable has ever worn in the WWF. This figure is supposed to be a rarity at only 5000 copies, but the collectors market did not buy.
25 VALUABLE: Macho Man Randy Savage – Wrestling Superstars 89 ($10,000)
The Macho Man was one of the biggest stars of his era, but he is also one of the select few, like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, whose legend keeps growing after he retired. Because of that, anything bearing his likeness will always be worth a bit more, even if it isn’t all that rare. For example, this action figure from 1989 was mass produced, but it’s worth $10,000 if it is still unopened and in excellent condition. Even if you just happen to have the poster that came with it, that’s worth about $200.
24 WORST: Vader – Jakks Pacific
If you have ever seen Vader in your life, you know that he was a very stocky wrestler known for brutality and strength. He had tremendous power, in a barrel-chested kind of way, looking more like the guys on Strongman competitions on late night ESPN than your traditional bodybuilder. His action figure is obviously nothing like that, portraying him with a waistline that would make any corset aficionado think “tone it down, buddy”. At least they got the mask right!
23 WORST: Rowdy Roddy Piper - Jakks Pacific 2007 Toy Fair Exclusive
Roddy Piper was an exceptionally talented performer. He was able to keep an audience captive through his wrestling as well as with his intense promos. He was basically a sports-entertainment genius, but still had his issues. For example, let’s consider Wrestlemania 6. For a match against Bad News Brown, an African-American wrestler, he painted half of his body black. This was obviously a bad idea for multiple reasons, one which angered Brown in real life, and one which already lives in infamy through the WWE Network. Unless it was for a series called “Worst Ideas In Wrestling History”, an action figure wasn’t exactly deserved.
22 VALUABLE: Hart Foundation Boxed – LJN ($2000)
About half a dozen tag teams got a boxed set edition which included both partners in the same packaging instead of two individual figures in a plastic shell with cardboard backing. Most of them are worth a few hundred dollars if the box is intact, but it’s The Hart Foundation which will net you the biggest loot. The soon-to-be Hall of Famers are worth much more than The Killer Bees or Strike Force, going for as much as $2000 if the box is in mint condition.
21 WORST: Mark Henry - Royal Rumble 2009
This action figure is labeled as being from the 2009 Royal Rumble. I remember that particular Rumble; I watched it live on Pay-Per-View. Though Mark Henry’s performance wasn’t that memorable, I do remember that he was wearing a singlet. That’s what he wore for all of his career. Jakks Pacific decided to take things in another direction, thinking Henry needed a change of wardrobe. The action figure is indeed looking pretty slick, with a facial expression that’s in the mood for some loving instead of butt-kicking. It’s just that even during his “Sexual Chocolate” phase, Mark Henry was usually a bit more prudish.
20 WORST: Jake Roberts - LJN Thumb Wrestler
Jake The Snake Roberts might have been an intimidating wrestler, but it was because he always sounded too calm. It gave him a cold-blooded killer demeanor. For someone who has never heard Jake speak, however, he only looked like a weird uncle. With a mullet, a mustache, plenty of chest hair, and a doughier physique than most of his contemporaries, Jake already needed all the help he could to look like a threat. This thumb wrestling figure does him no favor. He looks like an exotic pet shop clerk being choked to death by his own merchandise.
19 VALUABLE: Hulk Hogan – Popy ($5000)
The Japanese company Popy produced a few action figures based on North American wrestlers. The most valuable is that of a young Hulk Hogan, before he was “The Immortal”. Back then, he would tour Japan extensively, still had hair on top of his head, and used the Axe Bomber as a finisher. Clad in black and silver instead of his trademark red and yellow gear, a figure in a perfect packaging is worth at least $5000. That’s quite a bit of money for something that barely looks like the man.
18 WORST: Chris Jericho - WCW Ring Masters
There is such a thing as being too literal. When Chris Jericho got the nickname “Lionheart”, it was to emphasize his courage and his attitude. WCW took things one step further, if not a step too far. Probably taking inspiration from his finishing manoeuvre’s name, the merchandising team made him an actual Lion Tamer, complete with a whip and chair. The toy also comes with a lion so small that it looks like a kitten in a Halloween costume. Even the youngest Jerichoholic would tell you that this is too dorky.
17 WORST: Rey Mysterio - Flex ‘Em Series
The “Flex ‘Em” series of action figures was designed to emphasize the wrestlers’ chiseled physique. Squeezing the action figure would make the muscles bulge even more. This works fine I guess for wrestlers like Batista, Triple H or John Cena. For Rey Mysterio, it makes the whole thing look grotesque. Poor Rey here looks like he’s starring in a spin-off of The Mask. He’s already a pretty jacked guy for someone who’s not even 5’5’’, so this reinterpretation seems completely unnecessary and totally impractical.
16 VALUABLE: Ric Flair 2005 Employee Special Edition – Jakks ($3000)
The Nature Boy is one of the all-time best, and he needed an action figure to match his status. With only 25 of these ever made, this special edition silver-clad Ric Flair has an intricate robe which is unlike any other ever created for an action figure. Jakks Pacific was so proud of the robe that they made it so it can be admired without opening the package, thanks to the plastic window in the back of the cardboard. If you happen to have one (and you probably don’t), it’s worth $3000.
15 WORST: Sting – WCW Gross-Out Wrestlers
I understand trying to sell more action figures of your most popular wrestler. Sting was the top guy in WCW for a long time, and if a kid already has a bunch of Sting toys, you want to find ways to sell them a few more. The problem if that Sting already had a million different ring attires, if a new model of his action figure was absolutely crucial. WCW did not need to make a zombie out of him. This one would have been right at home with my Real Ghostbusters action figures, but as a wrestling toy, it’s a total miss.
14 VALUABLE: Dusty Rhodes – Hasbro ($2000)
The Hasbro series of WWF toys is not as fondly remembered as the LJN action figures. Despite a lackluster design, there are still some gems in the line-up. The Dusty Rhodes action figure is worth more than most because Dusty was not with the WWF for that long. Most of his tenure happened while LJN were still producing the company’s toys. He was on his way out when Hasbro created one of his likeness, so there weren’t that many that made it to the market. Because of that, it is worth over $2000 if unopened.
13 WORST: Road Dogg Jesse James - Maximum Sweat
Really, the only thing that could identify this as the Road Dogg Jesse James, the least physically imposing guy in a faction that included X-Pac, is the fact that he’s wearing a DX shirt. Everything else about this toy is wrong. If we focus on the likeness, this look like The Hulk with a Venom symbiote growing out of his head. If we look at, I don’t know, ANYTHING ELSE, there’s the fact that the action figure was designed to sweat, which is the kind of idea that sounds good in a brainstorming session but is kinda gross in reality.
12 WORST: Shawn Michaels as Hulk Hogan - Road to Wrestlemania 22
During the build-up to his match against Hulk Hogan at Summerslam 2005, Shawn Michaels once dressed up as his nemesis, which was fine for a segment of television to crack a few old people jokes. What you don’t need is an action figure of this one-off moment. The result just ends up looking like a bad version of Hogan: too thin, and with a full head of hair. The face doesn’t even look like either of the guys. Unless you are a hardcore Shawn Michaels collector or a completist, this serves no purpose whatsoever.
11 VALUABLE: Big Boss Man - Star Toys ($3000)
This one is an oddity because it is part of a series rarely seen in North America. The Spanish company Star Toys produced a Big Boss Man action figure in the 90s which is over a foot tall and has stitched garment instead of the usual painted plastic. This mammoth action figure has some serious craftsmanship going on for something which was supposed to be mass produced. Because of its rarity, and its attention to detail, a Big Boss Man still in its original packaging can net you over $3000.
10 WORST: Owen Hart WWF S.T.O.M.P. Series 2
Owen Hart was a really good wrestler, one which was critically underrated during his run and which fans have come to appreciate with hindsight. One thing he wasn’t, however, was a scuba diver. The STOMP series tried to portray the WWF Superstars as actual action heroes, pitting them in different cartoonish settings. This only works if you can still identify who the action figure is supposed to be. As far as I can remember, Owen Hart never had red hair, and really wasn’t that ripped. Once he’s taken out of the packaging, how could you ever tell that it’s Owen Hart?
9 WORST: Rob Van Dam - Ring Giants
For once, the sculpt of the figure does look like the wrestler it is supposed to portray. Rob Van Dam is here in all of his glory, with his signature shorts-under-singlet style and proportions which look just like the real thing. There are a few glaring issues, however, the biggest of which is his facial expression. Poor RVD looks like he just stepped on a thumbtack, or like he’s been visited by the little girl from The Ring. They were probably going for “intense”, but instead it’s just “confused horror”. That’s the face Scooby-Doo makes when he sees a ghost.
8 VALUABLE: White Shirt Hulk Hogan - Wrestling Superstars 89 ($1500)
Hulk Hogan would be an example of a wrestler who, unlike Randy Savage, has not held up as well as the years pass. His action figure is still worth a considerable amount of money however, if you happen to have the right one. The regular Hulk Hogan LJN action figure clad in his trademark red and yellow is too ubiquitous, so it’s the white shirt variant that you want, in the Canadian bilingual packaging: It can be worth over $1500 if the cardboard is still in good shape.
7 WORST: Jeff Hardy (Unmatched Fury)
This Jeff Hardy sculpt is indeed a figure, but not an “action figure” in the literal sense. This toy captures him in the middle of performing a Swanton Bomb, but he’s forever stuck in that pose, unable to move any of his articulations like other, superior toys. It’s perfect for the grown-up collector, but it’s a pain in the ass for a normal, young WWE fan who just wants to let their dolls wrestle. This one can flip, moonsault, or fall backward on a fire hydrant, but don’t ask it to throw a clothesline.
6 WORST: Sting – WWE Mutants
WWE has heard their fans talk about how John Cena is a mutant for so long that they decided to play along. An entire line of action figures was created out of the concept of turning WWE superstars into dollar store X-Men. Sting’s action figure shows that the poor guy can’t catch a break. WCW’s Zombie Sting wasn’t bad enough, so WWE gave it a try with Mutant Sting, who is nothing more than a scorpion with the Stinger’s normal head. It makes Dwayne Johnson’s CGI Scorpion King look downright natural next to this.
5 VALUABLE: Hulk Hogan Prototype Figure – LJN ($50,000)
Before an action figure is produced, there is always a prototype which is then approved before being sent to production. These are usually kept by the company, but when LJN closed its doors in the 90s, soon-to-be ex-employees snatched whatever they could. These are so rare that they are obviously worth a fortune whenever they end up on eBay or at an auction. This Hulk Hogan prototype is actually 16 inches tall and belonged to an LJN engineer. It can now be yours for a mere $50,000if you are so inclined.
4 WORST: WCW Hero Heads
These decapitated heads of WCW’s most popular mid-90s wrestlers were supposed to be fun toys for kids to play with, but they weren’t super popular because they overlooked one simple fact: No one wants to play with just a head. It’s creepy, and there’s just no good game you can play with it. Maybe hide Vader’s head in a box and re-enact an even more messed up version of Seven? Turns out kids want to play with things that stimulate their imagination, and Hulk Hogan’s huge noggin is more upsetting than fun.
3 WORST: Diamond Dallas Page - Bashin’ Brawler
Wrestling Buddies have been a thing for a long time, with Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Ted Dibiase being memorable old school toys. WCW tried to create their own knock-off version, calling them “Bashin’ Brawlers”. Not bad, but the execution was a bit lacking, particularly with Diamond Dallas Page. His plushie looks like an early N64 3D low poly model that had photorealistic textures mapped onto it. It looks like a papercraft version of Bubba Ray Dudley. Basically, it looks like anything but DDP. But hey, as long as the royalty checks were coming, I’m happy for the guy.
2 VALUABLE: Kamala Moon Belly Variant – Hasbro ($10,000)
Kamala had multiple stintz in the WWF. Hasbro created an action figure of him during his final one, but something was off about the first version. Kamala would usually paint stars on his chest and a moon on his belly. The Hasbro figure put a star on his belly, though it is still unclear if this was by accident or for legal reasons. The company released a second version with a moon on his belly, but the rumour is that less than 25 copies were made. One still in its packaging is worth at least $10,000.
1 WORST: Andre The Giant - Wrestling Superstars
The LJN series of wrestling superstars is legendary, but there were a few misses among the gems. One of these is this early version of Andre the Giant. There are many reasons why this action figure does not work, the first of which being that the proportions are all off. Second, the face looks nothing like Andre, whose acromegaly gave him very distinctive features. Finally, Andre was always known as a large man, not the svelte competitor you see here. This action figure looks like an 80s NWA jobber who’s unsatisfied with his perm, not like the 8th Wonder of the World.