LJN's Wrestling Superstars action figures are generally considered the first series of wrestling toys to be marketed to the mainstream internationally. And I'm lucky to have collected them all back in the 1980s! Each month, I'll look at one classic figure and explain what made them so special.
BOBBY "THE BRAIN" HEENAN
It is a crying shame that despite the (prestigious) Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame being in existence for nearly seven years... we've never once inducted the greatest wrestling manager of all time, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan into it.
Call it a clerical error. Call it an accidental omission. Either way, it's not acceptable, and I suspect Jack Tunney would not be the least bit pleased with this development.
Released as part of the third series of LJN Wrestling Superstars in 1987 (and as part of the "Managers" subset), Bobby Heenan was decked out in a blue jacket with "BH" initials on the front (some versions have white scrolls on his shoulders; some don't) and black dress pants.
Heenan was decidedly pudgier than many of the figures that came before or after him, and it totally worked! You wanted the "Weasel" character, who was perfectly at home distracting the LJN referee while his charge gained an illegal advantage. This also worked well for whenever Heenan was kicked out of the ringside area right before a commercial break on Saturday Night's Main Event.
In his (excellent) autobiography Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All, Heenan wrote that he succeeded in the squared circle because, unlike many of his contemporaries, he "managed like a wrestler, and wrestled like a manager."
This worked well on a few levels within the LJN Universe. Not only could you have him stumbling around at ringside, looking for any opportunity to give his Heenan Family stablemates a leg up on the competition, but you could also have him take big (and often-times) hilarious bumps.
For me, this was usually at the expense of his archnemesis Hulk Hogan, simply because it was so satisfying for The Hulkster to beat the ever-loving shit out of The Brain. And I say this as a huge Bobby Heenan fan!
Another fun activity you could pursue is having Heenan take on Captain Lou Albano in a Manager vs. Manager match. While you could have the Captain (as the lone babyface manager in the series, excluding Miss Elizabeth) facing off against Jimmy Hart, Luscious Johnny Valiant, Mr. Fuji, Classy Freddie Blassie or Slick... Heenan seemed to be the obvious choice for this one. Not only did they have their share of rivalries (think of all the times Albano seconded Andre The Giant against Heenan Family members), but this actually felt like an honest-to-goodness wrestling match that wouldn't feel out of place on any of your LJN pay-per-views.
Oh wow... I just noticed that Captain Lou, Jimmy Hart and Luscious Johnny each made by the CBWLJNWFHOF before Heenan. Again, what is wrong with me???
Of course, no induction for Bobby Heenan would be complete with mentioning The Heenan Family, one of wrestling's all-time greatest factions as ranked by no less an authority than this very website.
While the timing of this family photo may be slightly impossible... members of The Family at various points included Big John Studd, King Haku, King Harley Race, King Kong Bundy, King Paul Orndorff (not his actual nickname) and Hercules. You could also add Rick Rude, Ken Patera and Andre The Giant to that list. Plus, if you wanted to include his pre-WWF career, there's also Cowboy Bob Orton, Jesse Ventura, Ax (as Masked Superstar) and Johnny Valiant.
Any way you slice it, it was a great group befitting a great manager. Sorry that this humanoid left you out of the HoF until now, Brain!