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.
It's been a good three months since we've inducted anyone into this, the most prestigious Hall of Fame in all of the LJN wrestling figure universe. Couldn't tell you why, exactly; perhaps our board of directors was busy doing something else this summer.
But we figured, hey, if anyone is going to make it in after all this time.... it's got to be a "model" employee. Enter Rick Martel, who wasn't quite "The Model" yet, but hey... close enough.
Released in the 1988 as part of the fifth series of LJN Wrestling Superstars, Martel was adorned in a "babyface white" motif, with only a red lightning bolt on his boots. This was extremely faithful to his look at the time, shortly after The Can-Am Connection went south and then he ended up as one half of Strike Force with Tito Santana. Heck, they even released a new Tito that year and changed his outfit so they could match. How adorable!
Slighty shorter and looking much-less constipated than his tag team partner, the Rick Martel figure was the ultimate 80s good guy. He was smiling, he had the perfect mullet, and his right hand was even posed doing the "right back atcha" finger gun. Plus, Ricky could throw one hell of an imaginary dropkick, as displayed here against Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart on route to winning the WWF Tag Team Titles.
As we all know, Martel turned on his Strike Force partner following their tag team match at WrestleMania V and, upon becoming a hated villain, aligned himself with The Doctor Of Style Slick. This led to a long feud (both in the WWF and in the universe of my imagination), where Santana reverted back to his purple trunks for the ocassion, and where Martel was always saving his manager just in the nick of time from the wrath of Constipated Chico.
Following the Santana feud, Martel ditched the mullet and became Rick "The Model" Martel (a look that wouldn't be evident in action figure form until his Hasbro was released years later). Regardless, you could pretend Martel was The Model in a pinch, and pit him against his WrestleMania VI opening match opponent, The Birdman Koko B. Ware. If memory serves, Martel won with a Boston Crab.
Following WrestleMania VI, Martel began taking his Model crap more seriously, walking to the ring with an atomizer of his Arrogance cologne (what I wouldn't have given for an LJN version of that!). That summer, he used the atomizer to temporarily blind Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Here you can see Martel arrogantly hiding behind The Snake, who is shrugging his shoulders because he can't see his opponent.
Normally, I'd play up the little poster rolled into the bottom of the action figure package, but Martel's isn't even worth getting into. It's not an illustrated poster promoting him being "Live at the Coliseum" or whatever... it's simply a photo of him headlocking one of The Islanders (probably Haku). Who cares?
Unfortunate poster choices aside, Rick Martel was a solid edition to your LJN collection. With his white outfit, muscles and long hair, he could have doubled as virtually any enhancement talent from that era: paint his trunks and boots red and you've got a perfect Jim Powers; give him a moustache and he's Leaping Lanny Poffo. Plus he was posed in such a way where he could throw a dropkick, give him a hiptoss, perform a bodyslam, whatever.
Yes, you are a Model, Rick Martel: now it's time to welcome you into the (prestigious) Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame.