Tired of getting the same mainstream, high quality, detailed little plastic wrestling men Mattel keeps putting out? Do you prefer five points of articulation as opposed to twenty-something? If you answered “yes,” “no,” or the more realistic “don’t care,” you should still check out these infamous lines of bootleg wrestling action figures only most hardcore collectors are familiar with. They might even make the perfect gift this holiday season.
10. The OSFTM ECW Bootleg Figures
Keep in mind these are ECW originals knock-offs. Well, the toys that Official San Francisco Toy Makers produced back in 1999. They weren’t the exact same molds in scale with the original ECW figures, but they sure as hell were inspired by them. These are some of the most generic-looking wrestlers ever. Because a lot of them were based on Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, and Raven’s plain clothes attire, some of these guys looked more like ECW fans than actual wrestlers. These guys also came with a crap-ton of accessories, which was awesome, except in some cases the folding chairs and crutches were bigger than the wrestlers themselves. Most dollar store wrestlers were based on this ECW line of figures up until someone decided to rip off the officially licensed CMLL mold of luchador action figures from 2007. Which brings us to…
9. Extreme Fighting Dollar Store Wrestlers
It seems like this mold of bootleg wrestling figure has been on the shelves of your local Dollar Tree for the last 10 years, which makes it either the most successful line or dollar stores have just stopped trying to cater to wrestling fans who refuse to pay more than $1.09 for their figures. The line also comes with a variety of weapons, including the ever popular chainsaw. Because when people fondly remember wrestling props of the past it’s not a 2×4 or nightstick that comes to mind, it’s a giant fucking chainsaw. You can thank Chainsaw Charlie and the Attitude Era for that. Aside from the overabundance of chainsaws, the most memorable thing of this line will forever be the countless Mistico clones it spawned. Not just in bootleg wrestling figure form, but in every type of bootleg action figure imaginable, as bootleg figure maker, Scraped Resin, points out. It’s like bootleg art imitating life.
8. Mannix International Wrestling Champions
Every WWF Hasbro collector waited with bated breath for the ever elusive Orange series, and instead received Jakks Pacific Bone Crunching figures, a line that couldn’t even get the scale of Vader down. You really expected us to play with a Vader figure who was the exact same size as Shawn Michaels, Jakks?!?! In came Mannix with this collection of repurposed WWF Hasbro heads on generic molds that were wildly out of scale with the original WWF Hasbros themselves. The only cool part about this line, and every Hasbro customizer’s dream, was the head of the Diesel knock off. Many a nerd assumed it might’ve been the actual head that Hasbro was going to use for its Diesel figure (despite it not being in the unreleased Orange Card head sculpts image that was recently surfaced). Still, that Diesel head alone made this a popular knock off line with wrestling figure customizers.
So if you’re going to make a Hasbro version of Diesel yourself, make sure you get this Diesel bootleg. But a word to the wise, you can go with a Bushwhacker or Mr. Perfect torso, but when it comes to choosing the legs, go with Big Boss Man #2’s legs, if you’re not going to sculpt some pants don’t go with the Papa Shango ones. I don’t care if you’re trying to capture Diesel’s size, it just doesn’t look right.
7. Arena Luchador Figures
These “arena figures”, as they’re commonly referred to, are the most current type of luchador bootleg figures found in Mexico. Well, there’s also the muñeco patones, which literally mean “doll with big feet.” And I would’ve included them on this list because they’re probably the most detailed bootleg figures from Mexico, but I can’t get over how gigantic their feet and hands are. They remind me of those freakish WWF Maximum Sweat figures from Jakks Pacific.
Anyway, these arena figures are definitely a step up from the original luchador bootleg staple. For one, their 5.5″ scale made it possible to provide more detail to their attire and a cleaner paint job. Plus, Mexican lucha libre fans finally had luchador figures with some damn articulation, as limited as it was. They also came with capes. All of them. Further perpetuating the stereotype that ALL luchadores wear capes during their entrances.
6. Soma Wrestling Figures
Unlike those Masters of the Universe bootleg style of wrestlers, these figures by Soma seemed to be a little taller. Maybe it had to do with the fact that their knees weren’t bent like they were getting ready to pop a squat like those other guys. A lot of these figures also came with capes, but they weren’t necessarily luchadores. Except for maybe the guy in the mask. A lot of these figures also looked like they were based on Exotic Adrian Street, given the type of face paint used on them. Sadly, none of them had ponytails though. But the thing that stood out about them the most was the fact that the wrestlers could be divided into two groups: those with huge-ass pendants hanging from their neck and those with chest scars in the form of the Acolytes’ Ministry of Darkness chest symbols. Maybe that’s how you were able to distinguish the heels from the babyfaces. Soma definitely gets creative points for bringing us their new-age representation of a futuristic wrestling organization not named Champions of the Galaxy.
5. The Magnificent Wrestlers
I picked up two of these figures as a kid at my local flea market. With my limited knowledge of lucha at the time, I wasn’t sure if they were based on actual luchadores until I saw Octagon. Everybody knows Octagon. I also got Misterioso because Octagon needed somebody to fight. I’ve never been a fan of wrestling figures—or action figures in general—having clothing made out of actual fabric material. These figures probably triggered that dislike. It’s like, don’t be lazy and take the Jakks Pacific route, Mattel. Get off your asses and make a plastic molded-on pair of overalls for Hillbilly Jim.
The tights were loose and flimsy, but the capes were cool. The championship belts were the best part though. Until then, most bootleg wrestling figure belts looked like regular belts with giant novelty-size belt buckles. All they were missing were the cowboy hats. Magnificent Wrestler figures had realistic looking wrestling championship belts. I even used these belts for my old WWF Hasbro and WCW Galoob figures even though they weren’t in scale. My WCW Galoob Ric Flair literally had himself a big gold belt.
4. Simba WWF Hasbro Bootleg Wrestlers
Simba pretty much became the first WWF Hasbro customizers. Their brand of figures consisted of reusing old Hasbro parts and mashing them together. Although, in all fairness, that’s what Hasbro did with their entire WWF line. Want to know what a Hulk Hogan with jet black hair would look like with Bushwhacker arms, and Jake the Snake-type legs? Done! Simba was clearly ahead of its time given all the mash-up brand of action figures out there today. However, in doing so they created the most jobber line of wrestling action figures, which was great because if you were going to recreate Saturday morning WWF Superstars these Simba guys would definitely qualify under the legal definition of making great props to lose to your more prominent Hasbro figures.
3. Original Luchador Bootleg Figures
If you’ve ever been anywhere in Mexico, no matter the state or city, chances are you’ve run into these figures. They’re really terrible, but in that so bad they’re good kind of way. I got a handful of these the first time I went to Mexico as a six-year-old kid at a local swap meet by my grandma’s house. These were before WWF Hasbros were released, and since I had missed the boat on LJN figures these luchador bootleg figures laid the foundation for my imaginative wrestling play for years to come. But definitely not past middle school. I don’t care what Tito says he saw in my room that day he dropped in by surprise in 9th grade.
Next to the replica masks these guys, as I mentioned above, are Mexican lucha staples. They’re probably the oldest form of wrestling figure that’s been in production years before WWF LJN or AWA Remco figures. At least, if you believe eBay and other online shopping sites when vintage versions of these figures, supposedly from the 60’s, show up. Point is, they’re famous in Mexico among wrestling figure collectors. They deserve the number three spot. Also, check out this five-minute video on how these figures get made:
2. Wrestlers of the World
So the Masters of the Universe/He-Man figure mold was a popular one. Not only for MOTU knock-offs, but for most of the bootleg action figure lines put out at the time. Aside from the Soma guys, a few other companies produced these types of figures: Madison, Sungold, and Sparkle. These Wrestlers of the World are from Sparkle. Clearly they went above and beyond to make their guys halfway decent play things. Their masked wrestlers looked like they were wearing actual masks and not some weird pantyhose masks with attached elf ears. The faces were more detailed. And, even though I’m not a fan, their actual fabric attire wasn’t that bad. At least it seemed to fit them properly. The Sparkle-made belts were also cool and different: instead of the cheap-looking tiny belts, all their championships looked like the second generation IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt, which was a great looking belt. These were definitely the best looking MOTU-style bootleg wrestling figures.
1. Over Top Man
With body molds similar to the ones of the Mannix IWC guys, or probably the original molds that the Mannix guys were based off of, as I think these figures came out first; Over Top Man nailed one of the most important aspects of bootleg figure making: scaling the figures to the size of existing licensed ones (in this case the WWF Hasbro figures). Even WCW Galoobs couldn’t get the scale down. They also seemed to be the earliest line of bootleg wrestling figures to come with accessories that weren’t crappy championship belts. Instead, we got weaponry like axes and swords, pretty much what you would see on an episode of Deadliest Warrior instead of WWF Saturday morning Superstars.
One of the coolest things about Over Top Man figures were their commitment to old school wrestlers being solely defined by their ethnicities—a true relic of the past (never mind that the League of Nations is a thing that exists in WWE in 2015). Most of the figures had their ethnicities as part of their wrestling name like, Japanese Whale, Mexico Wild Bull, and Canadian Hawk. And they were wildly racist caricatures as well. For example, the two American wrestlers were L.A. Horse and New York Gorilla. L.A. Horse was a white dude with blonde hair. New York Gorilla was a black dude with a mohawk. Clearly, this line fully captured the nuances that made 1980’s wrestling great. And terrible.