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.
GREG "THE HAMMER" VALENTINE
Stop! Hammer Time!
Time to be inducted into the (prestigious) Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame, that is.
And not a moment too soon for this iconic wrestling figure which broke the mold in many ways by being one of the first LJN figs to actually look like the wrestler it was supposed to represent!
Introduced as part of the second series of LJN Wrestling Superstars in 1985, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was molded to show off the patented elbow drop that gave him his nickname.
Sure, one could argue that Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hillbilly Jim and others also had the "one arm punching and the other arm ready to drop an elbow" pose, but it just seemed like a more authentic stance coming from The Gregger.
For most of his WWF run, Valentine played a heel, terrorizing the likes of Tito Santana, Junkyard Dog and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat.
And while employing dirty tactics were a calling card for most of the WWF heels back then, there's something oddly satisfying about The Hammer doing the old "punch to an opponent's groin while the referee isn't looking" maneuever, as he willingly demonstrates here on the prone carcass of George The Animal Steele.
Despite having a decent singles run throughout most of his career (think his feud with Rowdy Roddy Piper in Jim Crockett Promotions or his Intercontinental Title run), around the time of his figure release, he was a steady tag team with Brutus (not yet a barber) Beefcake, managed by Luscious Johnny Valiant.
Together, these guys would terrorize The British Bulldogs (no relation), The Killer Bees and other WWF teams throughout your LJN federation.
Of course, The Dream Team split up at WrestleMania III, but because there was never a Dino Bravo figure to play with, my Greg Valentine pursued a singles career again from that point on.
Given his penchant for taking 20 minutes just to warm up (tm Gorilla Monsoon), he was routinely an upper midcard opponent for the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow, Jake The Snake Roberts and Terry Funk (I turned Funk babyface in my imagination).
Given LJN figures were never known for their articulation, there were very few moves you could just kind of set the figures in and leave them alone for a bit. But this is where the Valentine figure truly excelled.
You could create a perfectly serviceable figure-four leglock and it looked decent. You could almost picture the pain on Tito Santana's eyes here (but not Greg - he just lay there steely-eyed, like the pro that he is). The only downside was, if you happened to leave these guys in a figure-four overnight, their legs were kind of wonky afterwards.
Could you create the same move with, I don't know, Paul Orndorff? Sure you could. But given Valentine was the master of the figure four at the time (Ric Flair who?), it looked particularly punishing coming from the one and only Hammer.
Please Hammer, don't hurt 'em. And welcome to the (prestigious) Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame!