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Zack Ryder's top 10 wrestling toys
Zack Ryder’s a toy addict, and he doesn’t care who knows it. Since he was a child, Ryder has scoured toy stores and comic shops for plastic replicas of his in-ring heroes. Even though he has sold off or lost many of his original toys, Ryder has amassed an impressive collection of more than 1,000 action figures from a variety of WWE, WCW and ECW toy lines, recapturing his childhood one eBay score at a time.
“It’s all about the thrill of the hunt,” said Ryder, who invited WWE.com to his Long Island home to dig through nostalgia-filled bins of vintage sports-entertainment collectibles. “Back in the day, before the Internet and before I had a credit card, it was all about making sure you were the first one at Toys ‘R’ Us or making sure you knew when KB Toys was getting their shipment in.”
As a cardboard Zack Ryder standee stood watch, the real-life “Broski” emptied out his bins of loose, polybagged WWE figures, many of which were encased in plastic pouches labeled “biohazard.” Zack’s Adam Bomb (with “Nuclear Knockout”) has never felt more at home.
“My mom works at a hospital, so she was able to get me these bags for free,” Ryder explained. “Plastic bags are expensive, you know?”
Speaking of expensive, Zack wouldn’t divulge the exact worth of his collection, but that doesn’t matter to him. Long Island Iced-Z collects purely for the fun of it. But which items in Ryder’s inventory are his top picks? Zack dug deep to pluck his 10 favorite sports-entertainment toys out of his titanic tubs, including his first eBay find and a toy that currently has an undefeated streak on YouTube.
Here they are, in no particular order ...
Razor Ramon (with “Bone-Crunching Action”)
When WWE action figures re-emerged in toy stores after a brief hiatus in 1996, WWE Universe members were treated to a play feature known as “Bone-Crunching Action,” which allowed kids to bend the figures’ knee and elbow joints to create a gruesome popping sound. Among the first figures released in this form was Razor Ramon, along with Diesel, Goldust, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.
“I remember thinking they were garbage,” Ryder said with a laugh. “Some of them broke within a couple of days. So I returned them all and thought, ‘Alright, I’m too old for these anyway.’”
When attending Survivor Series 1996 at Madison Square Garden later that year, Zack spotted figures from the second series of the Bone-Crunching Action line, which immediately reignited his interest.
“They were selling Bret and Shawn, and I remember looking at the back of the package and they had Owen Hart, Vader and The Ultimate Warrior. I wanted these again,” Zack recalled. “That Christmas I told my parents, ‘I want ‘em all back.’ But they could never find Razor or Diesel.”
A fan of The Bad Guy since before he saw him compete in an Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X, Ryder had to wait a while to get his hands on the figure again.
“Razor was one of my favorites — I still have my Razor necklace — but you always want what you can’t have,” Ryder said. “I couldn’t have Razor, so I wanted him even more. So to be able to get him years later was great.”
16-inch Hulk Hogan (Wrestling Superstars)
Toymakers LJN might have been known for their rubbery, immobile WWE action figures, but the company produced 16-inch, large-scale figures of Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in 1985 that are highly sought after by collectors today. Zack Ryder — who still owns the first Hulkster shirt he wore as a two-year-old — has fond memories of this titan of the toybox.
“I had the original one when I was a little kid,” Zack said as he adjusted the replica WWE Championship around The Hulkster’s waist. “This one I re-bought, and it’s in mint condition. It was just so much cooler than the other figures I had and so much more unique.”
Like many of the toys in Zack’s collection, this 16-inch Hogan (with less-than-16-inch pythons) was purchased mint-in-box and opened, destroying its resale value. But it’s not like Zack would ever part with this massive recreation of one of WWE’s most timeless Superstars.
“You can find this figure on eBay all beat-up and stuff like that, but I wanted the paint right and I wanted the shirt right, so I had to keep searching,” Zack said. “I probably got this around 10 years ago. Once I got a credit card and learned what PayPal was, I was in trouble.”
Royal Rumble Wrestling Ring
There are few things more exciting for a WWE fan than watching a Royal Rumble Match, so it’s no surprise that this unique Royal Rumble ring set captured the imagination of a young Zack Ryder in the early 1990s.
The toy came packaged with six miniature Superstars: Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, The Million Dollar Man, Big Boss Man, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. By placing all six figures in the ring and operating the mechanisms on the sides, kids could knock the Superstars over the ropes to see who would be the last man standing.
“You always saw commercials for WWE figures where two kids would be bashing them up against each other. Maybe that’s what kids did, but I never did that,” Zack explained. “With this ring, I’d pick Hogan, Savage and DiBiase, and my brother would pick the other three, and we would just battle it out to see who would be last. And they made other figures in multi-packs, but the ring is actually hard to get, believe it or not.”
Despite Zack’s lifelong affinity for the playset and the accompanying figures, Long Island Iced-Z refrains from holding any Royal Rumble Matches with his ring relic these days.
“When I was a kid, I was strong enough to break this thing,” Ryder joked. “Now that I’m all ‘Zacked up,’ I would destroy it even quicker.”
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (Wrestling Superstars)
A large portion of Zack’s collection is comprised of LJN’s Wrestling Superstars, a line that ran from 1984 through 1989 that gave kids their earliest replicas of their favorite WWE ring warriors. Collectors now lament the figures’ easily ruined paintjobs, but kids at the time loved the figures’ toughness — even though they boasted a whopping zero points of articulation.
“That was the thing about these figures — they were all stuck in one position,” Zack said, clutching his favorite figure from the line, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. “Rick Rude has his hands on his hips — you couldn’t do anything with him. What’s the point of that? With this figure, Macho Man could do the elbow from either side.”
Once Ryder became a WWE Superstar himself in 2007, Zack took some style tips from Savage, whose over-the-top wardrobe has been replicated by countless action figures over nearly three decades.
“I made sure that everything matched — from my headband to my glasses to my entrance shirt,” Ryder explained. “I wasn’t like The Miz, who has the same jacket that he wears every month. Sorry, Miz. But every time I got new gear, I needed new kneepad covers, I needed a new shirt for it. Macho Man was so colorful and so larger-than-life and I definitely modeled myself after that.”
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan (R3 Tech)
Although this Hulk Hogan action figure might be far smaller in stature compared to the other Hulkster toy on this list, this NWO-attired “Hollywood” variation of the WWE Hall of Famer is held in equal esteem by Long Island Iced-Z.
“This figure is from when Hogan first came back to WWE in 2002 with the NWO, and there was an autograph signing at Toys ’R’ Us in Times Square,” Ryder recalled, holding the miniature replica of Hogan as he appeared during his “Icon vs. Icon” Match with The Rock at WrestleMania X8. “I went to meet Hogan with one of my buddies, and they were filming for his DVD, ‘Hulk Still Rules.’ I was on that DVD! I’m doing the Hogan ear and the point.”
The toy was part of the short-lived R3 Tech line, which stood for “Real Scale, Real Scan, Real Reaction,” offering unique body types and accurate Superstar heights for the very first time. However, the most eye-grabbing feature on this particular action figure is the unmistakable signature of The Immortal One himself. NWO — and Hulkamania — for life.
Zack Ryder (Mattel Elite Series 17)
There have been several Zack Ryder figures released over the years, but the one that stands ahead of the (Zack) pack is from Mattel’s Elite Series 17. The toy comes complete with realistic ring gear, sunglasses and “Broski”-approved headband, but Ryder’s favorite feature of this Elite-scale Long Island Iced-Z is his Internet Championship.
“I used the Internet Championship on my YouTube Show, ‘Z! True Long Island Story,’ but I never wore it on TV,” Ryder explained. “Mattel designer Bill Miekina actually sent me a professional email asking for my permission, and I had to sign over the rights for them to use my title. This all came from something I created myself. How did that happen?”
As a toy aficionado who has collected virtually every line of sports-entertainment action figures — he even picked up those bizarre “Maximum Sweat” toys — Ryder still gets excited about Mattel’s latest offerings, but the sheer number of new figures that the toymakers are producing these days can get overwhelming.
“I’m a completist, so I like to get everything,” Ryder said. “I can’t be selective. It’s just out of control. But I do have every Zack Ryder from Mattel.”
The Ultimate Warrior (Wrestling Buddies)
A childhood staple of every young WWE fan in the early 1990s, Wrestling Buddies allowed kids to grapple with their favorite Superstars without fear of getting hit with an Atomic Legdrop or a Gorilla Press Slam. Ryder grew up owning an entire roster of these plush pugilists, but his favorite of the bunch was easily Ultimate Warrior.
“What kid wouldn’t want to play with this?” Ryder asked, holding up the colorful, face-painted pillow. “I was actually a Hogan guy, originally. My younger brother, he was a Warrior guy. So for Halloween, I was Hogan, he was Warrior. At WrestleMania VI, we were butting heads. But it was one of those moments where I was upset Hogan lost, but if it wasn’t Hogan, I’m glad it was Warrior.”
The particular Warrior Wrestling Buddy in Ryder’s collection actually holds a victory over the former United States Champion, having defeated “The Ultimate Broski” in a match that aired exclusively on “Z! True Long Island Story.” The YouTube bout with the plush toy actually caught the attention of Warrior himself, who brought up the clip when the pair briefly crossed paths the night after WrestleMania 30.
“I was so honored to get to meet him, and to even spend a minute talking to him,” Ryder said of the late WWE Hall of Famer. “He was so happy and passionate. You ask anyone in my age group who they remember most from their childhood, they’re gonna say The Ultimate Warrior. He’s irreplaceable.”
1-2-3 Kid (with “1-2-3 Punch”)
Before message boards and online stores made it easier to keep track of the latest action figure releases around the world, Zack Ryder’s window to the wider toy world was Long Island’s L&S Comix, a store that earned esteem as a “collector’s paradise” thanks to a three-page feature in the May 1995 edition of WWE Magazine.
It was shortly after that WWE photo shoot that Ryder made one of his greatest action figure finds: a green-packaged 1-2-3 Kid. This replica of a pre-DX Sean Waltman was part of a 1994 series of WWE action figures — marked by their distinctive jade packaging — that was nearly impossible to find at retail. The set also included figures of Ludvig Borga, Yokozuna, Crush, Adam Bomb and both Smokin’ Gunns. However, the 1-2-3 Kid figure was “short-packed,” meaning that stores received less of him than other figures in this assortment.
“WWE Magazine was just there, and they had all of their WWE stuff on display,” Ryder explained. “So I went in one day and 1-2-3 Kid was on the rack with the normal guys. And I was like ‘What?!’ One of the owners wasn’t there at the time and it was just some kid who tells me it’s $12. And at the time, $12 was expensive and my dad said, ‘We can’t get it.’ So I couldn’t get it. That year for Christmas, all I wanted was this 1-2-3 Kid figure. Every year for Christmas, I got everything I wanted … but not that year.”
However, Ryder’s quest to own the elusive 1-2-3 Kid culminated just a few years later.
“In 1997, the first thing I ever did on eBay was buy this action figure,” Ryder said, admiring one of the few mint-on-card collectibles in his collection. “I have one out of the box, but I keep this one carded because it took me forever to get this.”
Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ Snake
Jake Roberts would often use his pet snake Damien to slither on fallen foes and give him a dark, psychological edge over his opponents. Fun for the whole family, right?
This replica of Roberts’ iconic pet slithered its way into homes everywhere in 1991, and a young Zack Ryder had to have it. The intimidating toy came boxed with a drawstring sack emblazoned with Jake “The Snake’s” logo, making it perfect for imitating Roberts’ spine-tingling walk to the ring and his wince-inducing snake attacks.
“I would play tricks on my mom with this all the time,” Ryder said with the snake coiled around his neck. “I always wondered why no one’s ever made anything else like this.”
Although we’ve never gotten the life-sized Frankie the Bird or Matilda the Bulldog toys that we’ve all been longing for, the timing might be right for a reptile revival of the 2014 WWE Hall of Famer’s favorite serpent. Mattel, are you listening?
Sting (U.K. Exclusive)
Galoob’s early 1990s toys might have lacked the articulation of WWE’s line of spring-loaded action figures, but their comparable size made it easy for Zack Ryder to create legendary WWE vs. WCW dream matches on his bedroom floor.
“When Ric Flair jumped to WWE, you could just use his WCW figure from Galoob! It was perfect,” Ryder exclaimed. “You could make dream matches like Sting vs. Hulk Hogan.”
One particular Sting figure from that line was only released in the United Kingdom, and was kept behind a glass case at Long Island’s L&S Comix. That meant expensive. Ryder finally obtained it years later.
“This Sting was my favorite because it’s so detailed,” Ryder said of the sole item on his “top 10” list that is not from WWE. “It has the entrance gear, it has the title and he’s doing his pose. The only problem with the figure is that it’s black plastic with details painted over it, so it’s easy to scratch.”
Even though Ryder never got to pit this particular version of Sting against his toy ring warriors as a child, he did get to meet the man himself in the flesh … sorta.
“When I was in first grade, I had Sting come to my birthday party,” Zack said. ”I later found out it was one of my dad’s muscular friends with baby powder in his hair.”