(Straight off the bat, I 100% ripped off the format and idea for this post from Dinosaur Dracula, a blog whose author I have been a fan of for a very long time and who is much better at this than I am. Go check out his stuff if you want to see what this post is SUPPOSED to look like, or if you just want to see a grown man drink 20-year-old Kool-Aid packets!)
Recently I’ve found myself getting hardcore back into wrestling. I bring this up because it’s going to be kind of a throughline for the whole article, even if it isn’t strictly about wrestling toys. As a kid I grew up pretty staunchly pro-WCW, watching years worth of Nitro episodes (and furthering my decades-long streak of always picking the wrong side in the important kid’s pop culture battles, having also grown up preferring DC to Marvel and the Genesis to the SNES) and occasionally dabbling in WWF RAW or In Your House when I’d find myself in the company of a fellow wrestling fan, but I really drifted away from it in recent years. I can’t quite put a finger on how or why it happened, but around 2015 I suddenly found myself possessed to watch Wrestlemania that year, and ever since then I’ve been both keeping up on the new stuff and going back to revisit stuff I either watched at the time or missed out on due to reasons.
I bring this up to clarify why, exactly, I was at a car show. I’ve never really been a “car person” as such – there’s cars I like, I tend to get picky about the cars I drive, but like I don’t tend to get as excited about seeing old hot rods or NASCAR vehicles the same way an actual car person would, and as such I tend to find myself skipping the myriad car shows around Detroit.
This year was different, though. I heard through the grapevine that Autorama was going to offer a chance to get autographs from none other than the former leader of the Bullet Club, AJ Styles. As my favorite current wrestler I had to meet him. I did, it was fun, and afterwards while wandering around the show killing time I made a remarkable discovery: there were people at Autorama that sell toys. Elated by having just met the Nature Hoot, I took a poop around the weird toy corner and this is what I left with:
Razor Ramon (Wrestlemania 32)
I found this to be a perfectly-timed score for a number of reasons. Chiefly because I was at an auto show to meet a professional wrestler, and why not continue embracing my inner middle-class 12-year-old by buying a wrestling toy while I was there? Secondly, I’ve really been coming around on Razor/Scott Hall as a wrestler lately and it seemed to be good timing.
I really only knew Scott Hall from being the co-leader of nWo alongside BIG SESSY Kevin Nash, and while he was pretty good there (until the Personal Demons kicked in) I really missed out on his turn as Razor Ramon, and that’s a huge mistake on my part. Despite the iffyness of having a huge white dude pretend to be Puerto Rican?/Cuban?/vaguely Latinx, he’s an incredibly charismatic heel and absolutely the sort of dude I would have thought was awesome had I watched more of his matches at the time. Luckily, that’s why I’m borrowing a friend’s WWE Network subscription.
As for the toy, it’s really par for the course with all Mattel’s recent offerings. As opposed to some of the…err…facial likeness issues they’ve been having lately, this manages to both look like the person it’s modeled after AND look like an actual human being, a combination that some of the newer Mattel toys struggle with and something a lot of the old Jakks Pacific or ToyBiz figures we had growing up never quite manages, especially when they were too busy saddling them with goofy gimmicks. He’ll take a spot of pride right next to Sami Zayn and the CM Punk I randomly found at Meijer, waiting for the day I can find a cheap Kevin Nash for him to hang out with.
Battle Ready Terminator (T2: Future War)
To break up the wrestling talk a little, let’s instead go back those halcyon days of the early 90s. I don’t need to explain Terminator 2 to everyone: it’s Cameron’s second- or third-best movie depending on how you feel about the first Terminator and it still rules to this day.
This specific figure from this specific series, however, really encompasses something about the late-80s-to-early-90s that you just don’t see anymore, at least not when it comes to movie merchandising and toylines. Terminator 2 was one of those movies that everyone around my age somehow managed to see a million times as kids, despite it probably being way too goddamn violent (and, let’s face it, kind of confusing) for a six year old, right up there with Aliens (which is Cameron’s best movie and I will never back down from this), Robocop, and Predator.
These movies all wound up in the weird situation of having extensive, kid-friendly toy lines on shelves for years after they were in theaters (even if Robocop kept trying to crap out increasingly toned-down sequels) without a lot of other media to accompany them. (Ghostbusters is SORT OF an outlier to this, as that turned into a multimedia franchise pretty quickly and had an excuse to hang on as long as it did).
Terminator 2, however, had no annual sequels or animated series to turn to, so they decided to go for the next thing kids love: the toy aisle. This particular specimen comes from Kenner’s “Future War” series, a sort of Extended Universe toyline that depicts the characters from T2 engaged in what is, presumably, the battle with Skynet that leads up to the whole movie franchise happening. This was pretty neat because at the time that was never depicted in great detail in fiction, so had I owned this at the time I would have been more than happy to grab some of m Aliens and Robocop figures and act out some giant future/space battles for the fate of mankind. They would have inevitably gone to meet the Transformers. Almost all of my ideas ended with someone meeting a Transformer.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Unknown, Late 90’s
Alright, so straight up I’m not sure what Stone Cold this is? My five-to-ten minutes of research on Google Image Search didn’t turn up anything too helpful – I initially thought it was the old Jakks Pacific King of the Ring figure, but that one is rocking the classiest jorts I’ve maybe ever seen on a toy, so this Stone Cold is clearly a classier variant. Or it’s from somewhere else. Who knows.
Anyway, I picked this particular Austin out of a literal bowl of wrestlers, half of which I just plain didn’t recognize, one of which was a different kind of shittier Austin. I went with this one because it sort of adheres to my low wrestling toy standards much like Razor did up there, and it was from an era where a lot of them kinda sucked, at least for my needs.
For better or for worse, a lot of wrestling toys back in the day had like action gimmicks. Mankind swings a chair, The Rock does the People’s Elbow if you pull something back, and so on. Maybe I was just doing it wrong, but out of the few wrestling toys I owned back then, I always kinda preferred the ones that didn’t do anything and just sort of looked like the guy. The ones with gimmicks always tended to be stuck in like an awkward looking pose, or just looked..shitty, and I just wanted plain old wrestlemans.
So had I needed a Stone Cold toy, it would have been this one. Sure his arms are a little stuff but we weren’t exactly spoiled by elbow joints in toys (except for some of those later Generation 2 or Beast Wars-era Transformers) so I could have gotten past that. All I would have wanted was a Stone Cold-looking Stone Cold, and this would have worked perfectly. Wherever the hell he came from. I did not have one, however, because as mentioned above I missed a lot of the Attitude Era in favor of later-period WCW, and while I would occasionally see Stone Cold on pay-per-view at a friend’s house, he never quite clicked with me the way he did for a lot of people. Don’t worry, I’m working on amending that, and not just because I saw CM Punk wear his shirt once.
Ty Toys, 1995
Alright, now that we’ve gotten the cool boy stuff out of the way, here’s the one I’m gonna get laughed at for the most!
As a kid, I was the perfect age to have a mom that got sucked in by the Beanie Baby craze. And I got in on it pretty hard too – I’m pretty sure everything I’ve ever learned about collecting stuff came from the 3-4 years my mom was constantly researching Beanie Baby values and release dates. The constant trips and phone calls to toy stores, drug stores, book stores, anywhere we heard rumor that Beanie Babies were around. My mom would read magazines, check for release dates, and was occasionally one of those people you heard about trying to get to Toys R Us when they open so they can get first dibs on a case of Beanie Babies. I’ve done it myself with Amiibos and Transformers, and frankly I look back on those times pretty damn fondly.
I guess to me the difference is that, much like the stuff I collect now, I still wanted to play with Beanie Babies, or at least have them out of their plastic display cases and goof around with them. Even if I knew one was kinda expensive, if it was cute, I wanted to befriend it.
Snort here was one of the earliest ones I remember liking. My favorite Beanie Babies were always the kind of simple ones; cartoony animal shape, two, maybe three colors tops, and a short name. I had a big pile of Snort because he was always extremely easy to find (as opposed to his older brother Tabasco who was colored slightly differently and was pulled from shelves due to the fact his name is a brand name), and I would display them lovingly (and occasionally pretend he was some kind of Pokemon or something).
I bought Snort out of nostalgia, since basically all of my purchases at Autorama related to the late 90s, and also he was a dollar. That’s my favorite part of Beanie Babies is just how hard the bottom fell out, despite how he’s listed on eBay as of this writing for anywhere between $10 to $4,000. I don’t think anyone in 2017 is going to pay FOUR GRAND for a Beanie Baby. Maybe they never did. Maybe they never will.
Thanks for sticking around – I wrote this while waiting for my Switch to come in the mail to stop me from going stir-crazy, and rest assured you’ll all be hearing plenty about that in the days and weeks to come.