Friday, November 9, 2012

Figure Friday: Get Bent

The closest thing to standing these guys can do.
This week's Figure Friday focuses on the travesty that was the WWF Bend-Ems (Series I, specifically). These toys, manufactured by JusToys, were for people who tired of the old Hasbro line of wrestling figures and their pesky ability to be posed, to have their body parts moved without ripping apart, and to stand on their own. How bad were the Bend-Ems? For years, this would be Kevin Nash's only WWF figure, and it couldn't even do him justice in terms of replicating his move set.

The number one problem for the Bend-Em figures was also their sole selling point (well, that and the fact that they were the only figures being produced after Hasbro discontinued their WWF toy line): they were made entirely of rubber. Sound promising? Not when you realize that they were literally made entirely out of rubber; they didn't even have the benefit of a metal skeleton. These figures were not plastic in any sense of the word, since "plastic" as an adjective means that something can be moved and stay in place (the opposite of elastic).

If you wanted to actually "bend" these Bend-Ems as their name would suggest, you would need the strength of Ted Arcidi, Ken Patera, and at least a half dozen other World's Strongest Men. Try and get Bret Hart to do a scoop slam and you'd be met with more resistance than the WWF on TBS got from Southern fans. His arms would pop right back in place, at his sides, just like he's shown in the box. Attempting to get Lex Luger or Diesel to do a suplex was about as difficult as it would be in real life. A DDT was about all these figures could muster; you would be hard-pressed to get these dolls to do anything involving lifting their arms above chest-level. Instead, you would just have to be content with a bunch of wrestling toys that moved more like John McCain than John Morrison (too soon?).

You might think that these rubber figures would at least have an advantage in terms of durability. You saw the mangled Doink figure from last week, after all. On the one hand, unlike their plastic counterparts, they lacked fragile parts, meaning that they could collide ad infinitum with other figures or fall off make-shift cage walls made of wooden blocks and not run the risk of cracking or falling apart. On the other hand, they were extremely easy to tear. Just trying to manipulate the arms on these figures beyond their miniscule range of motion would result in big rips under their armpits. I never felt the need to stretch their legs apart in such a way, but there was later a Sunny Bend-Em figure, so some lonely wrestling fan of the 90s can probably attest to similar damage in that region.

It's no wonder, then, that the WWF's next major series of figures (from Jakks) would correct these major flaws, using moveable rubber limbs on a plastic torso. When WWE released another set of entirely-rubber figures (including this Rock figure which I didn't remember owning until two weeks ago, when I opened up by old bag of figures for a photo shoot), the toy-makers had the good sense to include a metal skeleton, ensuring that even an absurdly muscular Dwayne Johnson (absurd at least for his pre-Wrestlemania 28 physique) was able to do most anything a young wrestling fan put his mind to. Go ahead and pose him like the Undertaker. Even the Undertaker Bend-Em couldn't do that, nor could the Diesel figure do his patented hair-flip or fist-in-the-air (accounting for 1/3 of his move set).

Much like everything else going on in the WWF in 1995, this action figure series is best left alone by the modern fan. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give WWF Bend-Ems two thumbs down.

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