[Poe’s note: Custom figures and toys are fair game for Show and Tell. Just FYI.]
It’s weird the stuff that makes an impact on you. For my Show & Tell item I’ve ended up with a toy that I basically made. The toy itself isn’t that special, but it serves as a good gateway to what was one of the best times of my life both in terms of action figures as well as fun.
Before you is the M-Wrestling ring. What is that? Well back when I was starting to grow out of playing with toys I had a large collection and wasn’t sure what to do with it. For whatever reason, when you start reaching a certain age it becomes harder and harder to sit down with Batman/Superman/whatever and play a plot. I still loved toys, but I just couldn’t seem to get into voicing characters and sounds. It just seemed to disappear from me one day.
Now remember, this was all before the internet was common place, there was no Ebay to buy things or digital cameras to make comics with toys. You either played with your toys, or you didn’t. I’m also a big wrestling fan and things were just starting to get interesting to me with wrestling. So my best friend (Who was also suffering from Growing up-itus) decided to try our hands at something new… Wrestling with toys.
For starters, no monsters. Everyone had to be human. Or at the very least passable as a guy in a costume. So that meant Rhino from Spiderman was in, but Rocksteady was out. If you had a good “monster” figure that you wanted to use, you had to build him a costume so he didn’t look out of place. Still if he had four arms or something, he wasn’t able to compete. Secondly, all the characters had to be wrestling characters. That meant, you could have a Batman figure wrestling, but he couldn’t be Batman. Third and perhaps most important, you needed to keep it realistic within the realms of wrestling. Which meant no one died, no one got shot, no laser beams. Just headlocks, arm drags and superplexes.
Right off the bat I was at a disadvantage. My best friend had the old WWF Hasbro ring. Myself? I didn’t have anything. At first I used computer printer boxes. The sides of the box were the ropes. That only lasted a few weeks before I realized it just wasn’t going to cut it. So I had to build a ring. But out of what? Given that I had limited amounts of tools at my disposal and no real talent, I constructed the now infamous M-Wrestling ring out of a old Batman Animated Series Rock ’em Sock ’em ring. Gone was Batman and the Penguin. Still I had two big holes in the middle of the ring, no turnbuckle corners, etc…
Which is how I ended up constructing this beast you see before you. Granted it doesn’t look like much now, but it’s been in a half dozen storages for over a decade. Imagine this baby in it’s prime back when it wasn’t getting pushed aside and stuff stacked on top of it. When the ropes were tight and the tunbuckles didn’t slouch over. It was a thing of beauty.
I used upside down carpeting for the ring padding, which allowed the figures to hit hard without ever being damaged. Dowel rods and tape helped me string up ropes and turnbuckles. Eventually I was able to craft actual turnbuckle pads and using my mother’s word processor I was able to even get the M logo on each one. The turnbuckles are actually filled with cotton balls, so they’re completely accurate.
Once the ring was in place so began the playing. I couldn’t bring myself to play plots, but I could put on wrestling shows. My best friend and I lived pretty far apart and rarely did we get to actually go over one another’s house, so we decided to stage our shows over the phone. We weren’t playing toys, we were conducting radio plays!
We set up amounts of time for our shows, then after 15-20 minute intervals we would “go to commercial” in which the other person would put on their wrestling show. Not only did we commentate on the matches as specific commentators, but we cut promos as the characters, set up storylines, as well as acted out the matches in person all the while replaying the action over the phone to our audience of one. We literally voiced 20-30 characters a night. I can still do some of the voices!
This started out as a thing we’d do maybe once a week, but before long we had shows every night. Sometimes two! We even had house shows (untelevised or shows we didn’t do over the phone) and would update the other if anything happened during that time that was relevant.
M-Wrestling became so big that eventually it had well over 150 unique characters. Some were ripoffs of actual wrestling characters. Some were actual wrestling characters. Such as Hulk Hogan, who would occasionally stop by. He was played by a GI Joe: Extreme Lt. Stone figure. God knows why, but it worked. Macho Man was there too, he was a Fisto head shoved on a Remco offbrand He-Man body. Still the majority of the characters were completely original.
Guys like Bigfoot, Giant (no relation to the WCW character), Nitrol, Minotaur, Gambit “Hot Pants” Jones, and so fourth. We also had a variety of running gags. Referees were named after characters from the Andy Griffith show. If you needed a last name for any particular wrestler, Jones would work. We had probably 50-60 guys with the last name of Jones between the two of us.
There were also tribute characters, who were similar to real characters but different as well. Arnold the Giant, King Koopa Flair (That’s right a Mario Brothers figure was my Ric Flair, SUCK IT!), Cods Majoney (Balls Mahoney), Mortalkind (Burned up Barney) even Scott Norton had an imitator.
The actual wrestling was good and authentic. Figures that couldn’t move as well, didn’t have as wide of an arsenal. Heck, we even invented wrestling moves that have become common place today, but the first time I’d ever seen them performed were by my own hands. Or heard over the telephone.
We built stages, tables out of pop sickle sticks, steel steps, ladders, chains, you name it. Since there wasn’t much of anything readily available at the time (This was before WCW and WWF were making toys again) we had to create all our own stuff. At one point I had a whole stage with fans, guardrails made out of match sticks and steel cages. The M-Wrestling arena was a permanent fixture of my basement much to my parent’s chagrin. Eventually it was all broken and destroyed in battle. Everyone had entrance themes that we cued up and played before they came out.
Very little remains of M-Wrestling today, but I still have most of the crew. I can remember a lot of the characters, but as time goes on I do find some of them fading away, which saddens me. I still have three or four record books (We kept meticulous records of every show and who won and lost) but even some of that appears foggy to my memory. It was easily the longest plot I’ve ever played lasting well over 5 years.
Ironically by the time M-Wrestling was closing up shop, the WWF and WCW had began to pump out some really cool toys that would have been perfect for what we were doing in our basements all those years. Still today I pass some of those awesome wrestling toys or any toys in general and think about how great it would be to have those guys or items in M-Wrestling.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering why in the hell I would name my wrestling federation “M-Wrestling”… Well the answer is oddly simple. Out of necessity for a World Title belt, the very first title I ever had was the Shell Slammin’ Mike Ninja Turtle figure. He came with a green wrestling belt with a big M on the front of it. Thus it became M-Wrestling. We never explained what the M meant, it just was. Interestingly since Mike was a mutant turtle, he wasn’t able to compete.
So there’s my Show & Tell item. A huge piece of my childhood and beyond. I’m sure after reading this you think I’m a giant dork. That’s okay, because nothing you can say or do will match the shame and ridicule that my parents would regularly give upon me for playing “wrasslin” downstairs on the phone for 4 or 5 hours at a time. There is no greater humiliation than my Dad picking up the telephone and being privy to 20 minutes of M-Wrestling action before telling me to get off the phone because he had to make a call.
M-Wrestling, much like this article, lasted much longer than it had any right to. But it was a blast while it was going on and I still have fond memories. Thanks for reading!