Do You Remember? M.U.S.C.L.E.

You thought the WWF had some bizarre characters? Please. Anybody who wanted to see some real oddball wrestling action in the mid-80s took a visit down to the M.U.S.C.L.E. arena. Those brawny battlers on television may have painted their faces and worn scary masks, but they couldn’t compete with fur, fins, horns, snakeheads, brick-wall bodies, or a guy with a teacup for a head. Those kinds of freaks were only available in M.U.S.C.L.E. packages, and what’s more, they were much, much cheaper than the Hulkster and his action figure cronies.

The acronym stood for “Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere,” and while that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, there were certainly plenty of M.U.S.C.L.E. men to go around: 233, according to the handy-dandy collector’s poster that Mattel printed for young M.U.S.C.L.E. maniacs. The series was a trans-Pacific carryover from Japan’s Kinnikuman toys, and like their Japanese forebears, the M.U.S.C.L.E. men were designed to be cheap, durable, and freaky.

Molded from hard rubber, the little pink guys had no painting on them, their limbs didn’t rotate, and they were rather small. But that was part of the appeal. Mom may not have been too keen on paying five bucks for a single Andre the Giant action figure with “Giant Jolt” action, but 99 cents for a pack of four M.U.S.C.L.E. men, now that’s a deal!

Not that the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were mere bargain bin leftovers, mind you. Each wrestler was a highly-detailed individual. Only leaders Muscleman (with the fin on his head) and Terri-Bull (with one broken horn and one good one) had names, leaving the kids themselves to decide what to call the rest (Six-Arms! Poser! Big Hands! Guy Who Looks Like A Dreidel!). The M.U.S.C.L.E. men’s new masters also had to pick which of the two camps the rest of the odd lot fell into…Muscleman’s “Thug Busters” or Terri-Bull’s “Mighty Maulers.” Since the wrestlers came in mixed packs of four, ten (in the popular plastic garbage can), or twenty-eight, it took a lot of lunchroom trading to start building a complete set.

The M.U.S.C.L.E. men’s rubbery bodies let kids stage their own arm-twisting wrestling matches, but for more formal affairs, the Hard Knockin’ Rockin’ Ring was the only way to rumble. A plastic clamp held warring wrestlers in place, while two control knobs outside the ring (one for each player) let the M.U.S.C.L.E. masters jolt the brawler forward or move him from side to side. Once a wrestler fell out of the clamp, the match was over, and the loser slunk away in shame (figuratively). Other M.U.S.C.L.E. accessories included the Battlin’ Belt (combination carrying case and championship belt), a tag-team video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the M.U.S.C.L.E. Mega-Match Game, a board game designed for use with the little rubber stars.

The M.U.S.C.L.E. line left the market by the end of the ’80s (after a fling with brightly-colored green, red, orange, and purple figures, and an all-female C.U.T.I.E.S. line), but the Unusual Small Creatures weren’t the types to go out without a fight. The Kinnikuman line continued in Japan—in comic books and animated series as well as ever-evolving action figures—keeping the flame of freakish wrestling lit into the 21st century.

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About Mickey Yarber 240 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Sometimes referred to as the Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via my Retro Ramblings column.

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