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.
KOKO B. WARE & FRANKIE
One of my great regrets in life is that we weren't able to induct Koko B. Ware and Frankie into the prestigious Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Fame before his real-life counterpart was inducted into the WWE's HoF. Of course, that happened a good four years before this site even opened its doors.... so it just wasn't in the cards.
The Koko and Frankie figures were available in 1987 as part of LJN's fourth wave of figures, less than a year after The Birdman debuted in the WWF. Even by today's debut-to-action-figure standards... that's pretty damn impressive. There must have been a lot of kids wanting Koko figures that Christmas or somesuch.
Apart from the flying headscissors being demonstrated on an overly-cooperative Cowboy Bob Orton, Koko B. Ware couldn't really do a lot of wrestling moves. His hands were scrunched up in odd positions -- this was done so that Frankie could perch upon them, so they weren't entirely impractical -- and didn't lend to being able to bust out a clothesline or DDT, you know?
Unlike many of the previous LJN figures, Koko came ready to PAR-TAY! Not only did he have a fancy white jacket, with blue and gold accents, but he was also sporting red trunks with a picture of Frankie on them and a cool-ass white sunglasses and headband combination. I could see someone walking into a Prince concert dressed like this.
What Koko lacked in wrestling abilitiy, he more than made up for by doing "The Bird", a dance craze that was sweeping the nation at the time, according to pop culture experts such as Gorilla Monsoon. Here, Koko is teaching CBW spokesman Mean Gene Okerlund how to do the world-famous dance.
Koko could also throw one hell of a dropkick -- provided, of course, you had a wall to prop him up against, and an overly-cooperative King Haku to kind of hold him in place. Still.... that's quite the dropkick. Look at the height he gets on it! Jumpin' Jim Brunzell would be rolling over in his grave (assuming he or his action figure were deceased).
Fun side note: Last month, we featured King Haku as our CBWLJNWFHOF inductee and in one photo, he was taking apart Koko. This month, the tables have clearly turned. They even competed against each other at WrestleMania IV -- The Birdman with The British Bulldogs, and Haku with Tama and Bobby The Brain Heenan.
Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention Koko's co-inductee; his first love, if you will. Frankie B. Ware was more than a mascot. He was Koko's partner to the end (I still remember in Beyond The Mat how Koko slept with Frankie at night). We would assert that Frankie was just as responsible for Koko's success as the Union City, Tennesse native was himself.
Take the clever tableau shown above as proof. Koko is taking care of business against Nikolai Volkoff (much as he did on a November 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event) but he's having trouble getting the job done. For all of the flying headscissors and opponent-assisted dropkicks, Koko still has to contend with Volkoff's manager, the always dangerous Slick.
But does B. Ware panic? Of course not. He simply dispatches Frankie to take care of The Doctor Of Style. Here, Koko does his famous "bird dance" to crush the communist Volkoff, while Frankie playfully pecks at the skull of The Slickster. It's the perfect combination!
Was Koko B. Ware the defining figure in one's LJN collection? Of course not. Hell, he could even throw a proper punch. But if you ever needed someone from the midcard to be dispatched by Kamala, Greg Valentine or The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, he was always available.
So was his first love, Frankie. And as the old saying goes, sometimes love feels like a piledriver.