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.
"LUSCIOUS" JOHNNY VALIANT
Let's call a spade a spade here, folks. We get that Valiant, best known in the mid-80s as a third-string manager in the World Wrestling Federation, isn't the first person you'd think of when it comes to our prestigious Hall of Fame. Heck, he's probably not the fortieth person you'd think of, either. But that's what makes the CBWLJNWFHOF so damned prestigious - we're looking beyond the popular vote and trying to induct figures that matter.
In Valiant's case, he was most definitely a character who represented wrestling's seedy underbelly. He'd yell insults and taunt opponents in a brash New York accent. He'd wear loud jackets and a sweatband on his head while rocking a purple skinny tie and sunglasses like a freaking rock star. And while LJV would never be confused with Fred Blassie as a Hollywood fashion plate, his experience and nastiness distinguished him just fine, thank you very much.
Even the way he would duck behind a ring post and taunt his men's opponent(s) was unique and kind of sleazy all in the same breath. Much like his jacket and tie.
Another major skill Johnny V had was his ability to act like a punching bag (in this case, for one Hacksaw Jim Duggan) in order to cause a diversion for his clients.
In this case, he's getting choked out by Duggan and possibly losing his windpipe in the process. But it's all a clever ruse! While Valiant flails and hangs on for dear life, Duggan can't see that Greg "The Hammer" Valentine is standing there RIGHT BEHIND HIM and ready to deliver his famous forearm.
Sure, it's the oldest trick in the book, but Valiant can get away with it because (a) he's an ex-wrestler so he can presumably take care of himself in the ring and (b) Duggan is a freaking moron. Hooooo!
Of course, back in the "glory days" of wrestling, there was far more than one manager calling the shots.
Now, imagine if they ever got on the same page??? It would be like The Legion Of Doom (not the wrestling version, although... kinda), as they plotted ways to destroy Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. Muhuhuhhahahahah!
And while Valiant wouldn't have necessarily been the ringleader (not with Blassie, Hart, Heenan and Fuji in the same room), he at least would have a seat at the table.
And the final use for your Luscious Johnny Valiant figure? He doubled as a perfectly capable heel when you needed one!
Let's say you're running the house show circuit with your figures (I know what you're thinking - why not a TV taping? - but you couldn't do that unless every squash match involved S.D. Jones and Jim Brunzell). You've got your main event booked, a couple of decent tag matches, now you just need a decent mid-card to keep asses in the seats.
So you want to book Tito Santana (in his "Strikeforce white" trunks, not the purple variation) against Dino Bravo, but you've got a few problems. Bravo couldn't make the town that night (also, he doesn't have an LJN figure). What do you do? No problem - just let Chico run roughshod over Johnny V. It's not like he can't take a decent bump! Plus, he has legit heel heat because of all of his time on the stick, so all of the fictitious fans at your fictitious house show are sent home happy!
As I mentioned at the outset, Luscious Johnny Valiant isn't going to be the first guy you think of, especially for purposes of this Hall of Fame. But what the hell - at least he'll bring some much-needed personality to your group. Welcome to the Hall, Johnny V!