When Hasbro and the World Wrestling Federation parted ways at the end of 1994 the WWF was without an action figure manufacturer for the first time since the company went national. Throughout the dark days of 1995 the only WWF wrestlers on toy shelves were undesirable Hasbro leftovers in clearance bins and JusToys Bend ‘Em’s which looked like upside down wedges. I suppose it’s fitting that the worst year in Federation history was also lacking in the toy department. Just as the darkest hour is before the dawn there was a new age of greatness ready to shine on the WWF toy landscape.
In June of 1996 a little known toy manufacturer named Jakks Pacific released their first series of licensed WWF figures and history was made. Marketed as having “Bone Crunching Action” the first series of Superstars included six of the biggest names of the era; Bret “Hitman” Hart, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, The Bad Guy Razor Ramon, Diesel, Goldust, and The Undertaker. Made in six inch scale these figures were quite a bit larger than the previous Hasbro toys, smaller than the big rubber LJN statues, and included more articulation than either of the previous WWF collections. Rather than placing an emphasis on irritating spring loaded “action features” these figures were fully posable and made a cracking sound when their rubber arms or legs were bent at the joints. I cannot over emphasize the impact of these Jakks figures including five to six points of articulation (legs, shoulders, hips, and sometimes head). These figures provided the first opportunity for kids to actually stage wrestling matches with their WWF toys. As great as the previous offerings were for their time, basic moves like Hogan’s leg drop couldn’t be performed with either the LJN’s or the Hasbro’s.
Of course wrestling matches without a proper wrestling ring don’t carry the same impact. Knowing this, Jakks acquired the mold for the WWF Sling ‘Em Fling ‘Em Wrestling Ring and rehashed it as the Monster Ring with a new set of stickers. Since the ring was designed for the far larger LJN figures, the Jakks Bone Crunchers (or BCA’s) were dwarfed by the behemoth with the top rope actually suspended above their heads. Still, the ring looked great with the major Pay Per View event logos on each side of the ring apron and the classic red, white, and blue ropes included. Eventually Jakks would retool the ring as the Raw is War monster ring, containing all red ropes, a black color scheme, and new stickers. As the WWF took over the world and began dominating the Monday Night Wars, Jakks finally deemed the timing appropriate to create their own original ring made to fit the scale of the BCA’s. This ring doubled as a storage case, included steel cage attachments, and oddly a couple of catapults because we saw those on TV every week. Marketed as the Attitude Ring it eventually replaced the old Monster Ring which was a bit long in the tooth by this point.
In October 1996 Jakks released a second wave of figures: Superstars Series 2. This set included Owen Hart, Vader, a glow in the dark Undertaker, a repainted Shawn Michaels, a repainted Bret Hart, and The Ultimate Warrior. Only on our second wave and three of the six figures are rehashes. This trend continued throughout the Jakks Bone Crunchers life. As the WWF would enter the mainstream and explode in popularity Jakks would capitalize on every possible opportunity to re-release an old figure with a new paint job or recycle old sculpts. Stone Cold had approximately 82 different releases, mostly as the same figure with different t-shirts. Undertaker had over 50 releases during this same span. The sheer quantity of toys Jakks pumped out is truly astonishing.
The benefit of these cost cutting measures however was affordability. The savings in producing the figures was passed on to the consumer which helped fuel the already high demand. The BCA’s only cost $5 a piece, the Monster Ring was only $15, and because the toys were cheap the retail distribution and availability was as incredible as the variety. Whereas WCW toys were difficult to find, retail outlets everywhere stocked the WWF figures which were comparatively low in price when stacked up against other licensed toys. Jakks was also able to pump out new characters quickly because of the policy of reusing existing parts which led to an impressive roster over a 3 year span. A collector wanting every Hasbro would have a shelf of a little more than 100 figures whereas a BCA collector would easily have more than 400.
Unfortunately the liberal use of rehashed parts did create some issues. Most notably was the lack of scale between wrestlers. Each figure was approximately 6 inches in height which meant that The Undertaker and Kane were the same height as Brian Christopher and Owen Hart. Although this wasn’t a major problem it detracted from the menacing aspect of some of the larger monsters in the business. Other common complaints included loose joints (sometimes fresh out of the package), poor facial sculpts, and inaccurate ring attire.
More often than not the inaccurate ring attire seemed to be the result of an overzealous attempt to make a quick buck on the popularity of a character or an upcoming event. The most discussed example of this is the WrestleMania XIV edition of The Rock. How this concoction came to be is anyone’s guess but Jakks merely rehashed the old Rocky Maivia figure with fictitious long pants that said “The Rock” on the thigh. Other interesting examples included painting elbow and knee pads flesh colored so that the company could reuse limbs on wrestlers that didn’t wear such accessories in real life.
By 1999 collectors were looking for the next bing thing. ToyBiz had acquired the WCW license from The Original San Francisco Toy Makers and began distributing high quality wrestling figures with better articulation, better likenesses, and accurate scale. When these hit store shelves the BCA’s seemed to pale in comparison. Jakks announced a new type of WWF figure for quarter 4 of 1999 which would eventually be known as the Titan Tron Live collection. This was the death blow to the BCA’s and by the early part of the millennium the figure line had been discontinued in favor of the new Titan Tron Live series.
Initially some of the more desirable or rare Bone Crunchers sold for fairly high prices on the secondary market. As Jakks began releasing more detailed and complex figures spanning both modern roster wrestlers and classic superstars, the prices of the BCA figures spiraled into free fall. Currently most of the collection can’t even command the original retail price of $5 per figure carded and loose examples typically don’t exceed more than $2 or $3 a piece. Despite the lack of value, personally I consider them to be among the finest wrestling figures ever produced. The excellent distribution, affordability, playability, and sheer volume made them one of the most fun and memorable toy lines of the 90’s. Although the figures that came after included more detail, the increased price made it more difficult to walk out of the store with a major haul which was part of the allure of the BCA’s.