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.
While an impressive addition to the LJN Wrestling Superstars lineup back in the day, we have to admit that this particular rendering of Ken Patera is.... well, a little off.
It's not that Kenny shouldn't have been muscular, because the former weightlifter certainly was. It's more because of the outfit choice, skin tone and completely wrong hair color that collectors looked at this figure and immediately said "..... the hell?"
The Ken Patera story is an interesting one (and WWF Coliseum Video had a release at the time of this action figure called, in fact, The Ken Patera Story).
An Olympic weightlifter, Patera had success in the 1970s and 1980s as a strongman heel in the AWA and WWF, before being sent to prison for destroying a McDonald's restaurant and assaulting a police officer.
After two years of doing hard time, Ken returned to the WWF in 1987, now a babyface who claimed that former manager Bobby Heenan "sold him down the river" the minute Patera got placed in the pokey.
After Patera was paroled, he instantly declared war on all of Heenan's Family members, including the pictured King Harley Race. It was an epic storyline steeped in reality -- and actually was a bit ahead of its time in many respects.
Despite the outstanding backstory, Patera's LJN figure had a few design flaws. For one thing, his hair was actually a hybrid of black and grey by this time, not so much light brown. And he wore a black singlet with the Olympic logo, never a purple one with a WWF logo. And if Hulk Hogan reportedly had 24" pythons, than Kenny's biceps appeared to be in the 38" range by comparison.
The way that LJN posed Patera, there wasn't a whole lot you could do with him. Beyond gorilla press-slamming Heenan Family members as we saw above, he could engage other big lummoxes like The Warlord in a test of strength. But let's be honest - restholds like this one aren't exactly going to set your LJN figure federation on fire. At least guys like Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper could be posed to punch their opponents.
With the recent passing of CBW "spokesman" Mean Gene Okerlund, we were reminded of the above promo by Ken Patera from this time period, one of the either worst or best interview segments ever, depending on how you look at it. And now, thanks to the magic of LJN Wrestling Superstars, you can create this exact scene and try to prevent your Mean Gene figure from bursting out laughing.
While Bobby Heenan might have sold Ken Patera down the river, we're picking him right up.... and bringing him into the prestigious Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame. Welcome!