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.
When I was a little itty boy ba-by (actually, I was probably 11), I remember cutting a deal with my best friend Harold to buy his Hillbilly Jim action figure. For the bargain basement price of $5, I could have my very own rubbery rendering of Mudlick, Kentucky's favorite son.
Today, my Hillbilly Jim is valued at over $15,000 - how do you like them apples, Harold? BAHAHAHAHAH!
Okay, that's not entirely true. Over the years, I've seen Hillbilly Jim's LJN figure sell for about $7 or $8, although usually in better condition than the one I have displayed here. Plus my Jim figure didn't come with his trademark floppy hillbilly hat, thus reducing the actual retail value that much more.
Having said that, this figure was one of the first that LJN released when they began their line in 1985, making the Hillbilly with a heart of gold figure at least 30 years old now. That's almost "antique" territory - which makes me feel really, really old.
But hey, at least he can still give "Adorable" Adrian Adonis one hell of a back body drop!
Here's the thing most people forget about the Hillbilly Jim action figure (assuming, of course, you're in the habit of keeping random statistics about 30-year action figures handy. I know I do.): he had a decent size to him and wouldn't look out of place matching up against most others on the roster.
That mean that Hillbilly Jim would feel just as at home duking it out with The One Man Gang or Kamala as he would with, say, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine or "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. That's a rare quality to have!
Sure, he wouldn't necessarily win against a 400-pound behemoth such as the Gang, but it didn't matter because he at least looked like he belonged out there.
As with many of the LJN figures, there wasn't much Hillbilly Jim could do in terms of moveset. I mean.... his signature move was a bearhug, so you could try and trap his opponent's midsection in Jim's upper arm.... but that just seems like more trouble than its worth.
But you wanted him to grip a headlock on King Kong Bundy or Jimmy Hart? No problem. You wanted him to leap into the air and deliver a crushing elbowsmash to The Warlord or The Honky Tonk Man? Done and done - and I mean done.
Hillbilly Jim was more than some yahoo in a pair of bib suspenders. Buddy was a master strategist.
I want you to close your eyes for a minute and imagine a scenario. Actually, don't bother closing your eyes, as a good part of the success of this depends on you reading the following paragraph.
Let's just say that Hulk Hogan was robbed of the WWF World Title in the mid-1980's. It could be by Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, even Sika (assuming LJN ever successfully manufactured and marketed a Sika figure) - doesn't matter. All of the top babyfaces try in vain to wrestle the championship away from the heel and fail miserably. Then, on one random episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, President Jack Tunney decides to call an audible and give a title shot to Hillbilly Jim. Sure, he didn't earn the shot, but he has something a lot of these so-called "superstars" don't have - something called heart. The champ learns that day that you just don't go messin' with a country boy.
Now open your eyes and look at the victory celebration below:
Admit it - you got goosebumps looking at the above tableau. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Hillbilly! Yeeee haw!