The year was 1994 and the wrestling action figure world was in a very weird place.
After all, the very popular WWF Hasbro line was on its deathbed and WCW hadn't produced much since the end of his Galoob deal. Enter JusToys, which had a line of miniature action figures known as Bend-Ems.
Now... Bend-Ems weren't the exclusive domain of the World Wrestling Federation. Some research shows that Star Wars had an extensive Bend-Ems line, and even WCW had a brief tryst with the company earlier in the decade. But over the years, the WWF is the brand most closely associated with the iconic JusToys line.
Much like the predecessor WWF Wrestling Superstars Bendies line and the later WCW Bend 'n' Flex Figures, the "bendie" piece of the puzzle is kind of a misnomer. Sure, you can twist the limbs slightly, but it's not like you can put your Ken Shamrock or TAKA Michinoku into a pretzel formation. The most I could ever really accomplish is an inspired figure-four leglock from some of the figs with skinnier legs - but given you could do that with most of the LJN figures previously... no big deal there.
Having said that, here are some very cool things about the line:
Variety! Through 15 series and more than 50 figures, there are some wrestlers where this may be their only action figure ever released. In addition to must-have figures such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind and The Undertaker, you had some rarities such as DOA-era Crush, Droz, The Patriot, Aztec outfit-wearing Jeff Jarrett and Steve Blackman.
The only action figure series representing The New Generation. Sure, Mattel has made a decent attempt in recent years of recreating the mid-1990s, but this set perfect captures the period between The Rock 'n' Wrestling and Attitude eras.
Free Trading Cards! Although you had to cut them off the card-back to collect them (thus ruining the package if you're into that), the WWF Bend-Ems Trading Cards were absolute works of art (see the gallery below for some examples) and definitely different than anything else out there.
Signatures on the back! I haven't quite seen anything like this before. Even though I appreciate there are some figures that come pre-autographed, these signatures are actually molded into the backs (which I'd want my Stone Cold figure to get checked out by his doctor- see the gallery below for images).
Hey - even though these figures aren't truly bendable, WWF Bend-Ems deserve some love from what they were back in the day.