Modern wrestling has me so underwhelmed, I’m getting my fix watching old stuff from the early ’80s. I started watching in 1984 right at the peak of Hulkamania and had only a passing interest in anything that occurred pre-Hogan pinning Iron Sheik for the WWF title. I was clearly missing out. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I’ve gone through the late ’70s and am now watching 1983. This stuff is great. Seriously, if you’re bummed out about the current state of wrestling — at least until Lucha Underground returns in January — just plop down and watch real wrestling in the territory-era on YouTube.
Like most collectors, I can’t watch anything without envisioning figures I’d love to add to my collection. When he was in charge of the DC line for Mattel, Toy Guru mentioned he got to choose one figure. I’m getting greedy, though, and I am choosing five from various promotions. This week, I’m kicking things off with Memphis, or the CWA.
From 1980 to at least 1984, Memphis was one of the more consistently great promotions with some of wrestling’s biggest stars and craziest angles taking place in the deep South. Alliances and titles turned on a seemingly weekly basis as stars like Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Superstar Bill Dundee, The Rock n Roll Express, Ken Patera, Jesse Ventura, and more battled for supremacy. While I could easily come up with a Top 20 list, this is the most important stars deserving of figures that have pretty much no shot of getting a figure from Mattel.
5. Stagger Lee aka Koko Ware
Anyone familiar with Koko is going to tell you exclusively about his run in the WWF where he was The Birdman, doing The Bird, dancing with Frankie, singing Piledriver, and losing to any worthwhile competitor. In Memphis, though, Koko was pretty cool.
After ditching Jimmy Hart’s First Family, Koko began battling his former partner, Beautiful Bobby Eaton, and lost a “loser leaves town” match. Not long after, a mysterious masked man known as Stagger Lee started appearing. This was a blatant rip-off of the same angle in Mid-South with the Junkyard Dog right down to the name, but Koko pulled it off.
4. ‘Boogie Woogie’ Jimmy Valiant
I’d seen a few NWA tapes of Valiant fighting Paul Jones and considered him pretty obnoxious and annoying. After watching his Memphis antics, both as a face and a heel, I’ve come around on the guy. Valiant actually got a pretty decent figure from Jakks, but a Mattel version that’s scaled worth anything would be a dream.
3. Dutch Mantell
The current Zeb Coulter was one of those ornery, hard-nosed wrestlers every promotion has to have on its roster. Mattel could perfect its hair painting techniques with Dirty Dutch just so long as he comes with a hat and a bullwhip. With a lot of work, maybe Mattel’s Zeb figure could be customized, but to spare me the trouble, let’s just get the figure from Dutch’s glory days.
2. Austin Idol
Don’t write the Idol off as just another platinum-dyed Ric Flair wannabee. Idol was pretty tough and tremendous in his own right doing promos. Whether as Jerry Lawler’s staunchest ally or toughest opponent, Idol is definitely someone that probably isn’t on most collectors’ Top 100 list, but Memphis fans definitely would rush to get this classic star
Right next to the Road Warriors, the Fabulous Ones are one of the most influential and important tag-teams of the ’80s. Unlike Hawk and Animal, Stan Lan and Steve Keirn don’t get nearly enough credit.
They were essentially the first “pretty-boy” tag-team that played up their sex-symbol status so every female in attendance wanted a piece of them, but at the same time being hardcore-enough brawlers that the male contingent didn’t hold it against them. The Fabs were the blueprint for teams like the Rock n Roll Express (who were put together to be a draw on cards the Fabs weren’t appearing), the Midnight Express, the Fantastics, the Midnight Rockers, and more.
Give them the full works with hats, cloth jackets, and bow ties and let them run wild on our Mattel tag team collection.
Alright, so that’s my picks. Which one figure would you love to see Mattel actually take a crack at releasing?