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.
KING HARLEY RACE
While easily one of the most iconic wresters of the 1970s and 1980s, Harley Race only became internationally recognized after selling his soul to Titan Sports in 1986, where he quickly gave up his no-nonsense style of hard-nosed technical wrestling in favor of a purple cape and crown.
Remember the word "cape." That becomes kind of important later.
Race was released in the fourth series of LJN Wrestling Superstars circa 1987. Now.... the crown is a thing of beauty. Decorated with regal-looking markings and gold accents, the rubber headpiece is removeable and it's also the perfect size to fit the afro-laden head of King Harley. King Haku only wishes he came with the crown as illustrated.
However, Race's jacket is.... well, kind of a letdown. For one thing, he never wore that jacket! Like, ever. And while the purple coat lined with dalmatian-spotted fur makes quite the statement, Harley looks silly wrestling in it. And while I'm hardly a fashion critic.... I'm not sure the "purple jacket with blue underwear" look is really working for the guy, ya know?
Sartorial quibbles aside, Pantsless Harley was always known as a technical workhorse and, while he and Bruno Sammartino were barely in the WWF at the same time, you could recreate, through the magic of the LJN Universe, a battle between the iconic NWA and WWWF Champions.
I totally see these two legends going to a 60-minute curfew draw.
And unless you're one of those guys who stuck to "rules" while playing with your LJN figures.... there was nothing stopping you from bringing in one of the WCW knock-off figures by Original San Francisco Toymakers to wage the classic Harley Race vs. Ric Flair main event from the very first Starrcade.
Technically, you would have had to wait until 1994, when the Flair figure was made.... but still - what a match-up!
Bastardized figure booking aside.... one of the stand-out moments during King Harley Race's WWF run was at WrestleMania III in 1987. After handily defeating fellow CBWLJNWFHOF'er The Junkyard Dog, Race and manager Bobby Heenan (barely visible here) forced JYD to bow to The King as per a prematch stipulation.
Junkyard didn't take well to it, but it's hard to replicate that scene using LJN figures...
One of The King's best matches during his WWF run was against World Champion Hulk Hogan on the March 12, 1988 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event - a great brawl that included a rare (for the time) table spot!
While still wearing the damn purple coat, Harley clasps The Hulkster in a front facelock -- virtually one of the only moves his LJN figure could pull off.
I know we've discussed this before.... but the poster that came rolled up in the bottom of the LJN package? The one of King Harley Race was, like, next-level awesome.
Just look at The King in all his regal splendor, arrogantly looking down on his peasants, snubbing the fans in the first few rows with the "USA # 1" sign and American flags (wait, wasn't Race from St. Louis?). And look at how resplendent Handsome Harley is wearing his.... purple robe?
Wait. If LJN fully knew Handsome Harley didn't pack some bullshit purple jacket in his gear bag.... why couldn't have they modeled him wearing his robe instead?!? Or, if that didn't work for whatever reason... wearing no robe whatsoever?
This is a royal disgrace.