I briefly touched upon the WWF LJN figures in my feature on the Macho King Randy Savage figure. To summarize, from 1984 – 1989 toy company and terrible video game maker LJN had the rights to produce officially licensed WWF action figures and toys. What they released were very realistic looking but completely inarticulate large and heavy rubber figures painted to match their real life counterparts. The toy line was called “Wrestling Superstars” and it was a huge success for LJN and for the WWF. Unfortunately by the end of 1989 LJN made the decision to drop toys and move exclusively into the world of video games. This brought the Wrestling Superstars line to an abrupt end meaning several popular wrestlers were either not released at all or had figures produced in very small quantities at the end of the toy line’s life.
One toy that remained in production from the inception of the line to the last wave however was the iconic WWF Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em Wrestling ring. Since the figures themselves were rather large the ring had to be of an acceptable scale to accommodate the action. This ring was absolutely massive. It measured at nearly 20″ in width and the height from the bottom to the top of the turnbuckle posts was about 13″. Bigger is always better as a kid (maybe not just as a kid) and this ring ranked among the largest toys in your bedroom.
The Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em Ring was a pretty accurate toy representation of the WWF rings at the time. Encircling the wrestling matt were the classic red, white, and blue ropes as well as blue turnbuckles. The ring apron was decorated with stickers depicting the blue apron itself along with a few cartoon looking characters such as a camera man and a time keeper fixated on the pro wrestling action within. Emblazoned in the center of the ring was the classic 1980’s World Wrestling Federation block logo. In a toy line that is highly regarded top to bottom, this ring is the focal point and the crown jewel of the collection. The only real complaint I have about the ring is that it wasn’t perfectly square. The turnbuckle posts were attached to rounded pieces of plastic that jutted out of the corners. Since the posts were recessed the ropes run directly above the edge of the matt meaning you can’t have a tag team match as there is no ring apron for the figure to stand on. A minor complaint but it’s the only flaw preventing perfection.
The story doesn’t end there however. Every pro wrestling fan knows that you can’t have a feud that doesn’t conclude without a great blow off match. The grand daddy of all blow off matches? Of course that would be the cage match. Two combatants settle their scores locked inside of the terrifying confines of a fifteen foot high steel cage. Cage matches were even more special during the heyday of the WWF. At the time Vince McMahon was very interested in having production values that were leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The on-screen graphics of his shows were slick, the lighting grid state of the art, the editing studio top-notch, and of course the main attraction had to coordinate. The competition wrestled in dimly lit bingo halls in front of a few hundred people on grungy looking mats. World Wrestling Federation shows took place in brightly lit arenas in front of capacity crowds and everything on the show was color coordinated. Outside of the ring were matching blue safety mats, the referee wore a blue shirt, the ring crew wore blue jumpsuits decorated with the WWF logo on the back, and the chain link steel cages of old were put out to pasture in favor of a matching all blue cage with bars spread further apart so that the crowd could better see the action.
LJN released the blue steel cage accessory to attach to the ring allowing for classic cage battles. Just like the ring itself, the steel cage nailed the look and feel of what the WWF was putting on TV at the time. The scale was perfect and it heightened an already impressive looking toy. Since there were no other accessory gimmick matches in the WWF at the time, this addition allowed you to recreate anything seen on TV to that point.
Apparently the ring was so durable and massive that kids who lacked basic motor skills impaled themselves on them. No I’m not making that up. In the autumn of 1991 there was a recall issued for the Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em ring. Apparently “there were four very serious injuries which resulted when children, ranging in age from six to 10 years, fell onto one of these toys. In each case, one of the four rigid plastic corner posts penetrated the child’s body cavity causing severe internal injury.” I would love to hear from one of those kids today to ask how they impaled themselves on a toy wrestling ring. Don’t believe me? Here’s the recall from the Consumer Product’s Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/1992/LJN-Sling-Em-Fling-Em-Wrestling-Ring-Toy-Recalled/
Despite LJN going out of business and a recall being issued for the ring, it’s story still does not end there. In 1996 Jakks Pacific picked up the rights to produce WWF action figures. Somehow they obtained the mold for the LJN Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em ring and they rereleased it as the WWF Monster Ring. Even risk of impalement can’t keep a good toy down. Jakks did put some rounded plastic caps at the tops of the ring posts so I guess that was enough of a change to avoid any risks. Initially the ring looked similar to the 1980’s version with the red, white, and blue ropes and the blue apron. By 1997 the WWF was entering the attitude era and the color scheme changed accordingly. The surface of the ring was molded in black plastic and all of the ropes were red now. In addition to those changes the apron stickers now had the Raw is War logos on them. Since this ring was made with the large LJN figures in mind, the moniker “Monster Ring” was incredibly accurate. The Jakks figure line was in a completely different and smaller scale, so this ring was way too large for them. When a figure was placed in the ring, the top rope was actually taller than the figure. It looked like every wrestler was the height of Rey Mysterio Jr.
Unfortunately these rings don’t withstand the test of time very well. Although the posts and ring are rather sturdy, the ring posts weren’t meant to be removed once installed. As a result a lot of these rings on the secondary market have corner posts that have been snapped off. The ropes also lose their elasticity over time and become stretched and saggy. Just like all of us I suppose. Since they are difficult to find mint, rings in good condition sell for a fairly hefty price on the secondary market.