?Back in the 1980s, American kids hadn’t yet fully experienced the wonderful madness of Japanese toy designers that would become more commonplace a decade or two later. One of the early tastes they got was the short-lived but popular M.U.S.C.L.E. toyline, a collection of little pink (and sometimes other colored) wrestlers that Mattel imported from the very bizarre Kinnikuman series in Japan. While Kinnikuman was an epic tale of galactic wrestling told through anime and manga, Mattel ditched the story, characters and even most of the references to wrestling to instead focus on the basic idea of MILLIONS OF UNUSUAL SMALL CREATURES LURKING EVERYWHERE!!! Kinnikuman would later be presented in a form closer to the original as Ultimate Muscle in the western world.
The addictively collectible M.U.S.C.L.E. figures didn’t just depict typical grapplers that resembled the Iron Shiek or Andre the Giant (although those were included, too). No, many of the little creatures that stepped forth onto living room carpets looked like the product of an LSD-influenced tryst between David Lynch and Lewis Carroll. It’s hard to narrow down the freakiest of the 236 lovable freaks in the M.U.S.C.L.E. toyline, but these are the 30 we feel best epitomize how much detailed craziness you can pack into a 1.5-inch sculpt. Many thanks to Nathan’s M.U.S.C.L.E. Page for the photos.
30) The Mountain
?The Rock was a great wrestler, but he never went up against a whole mountain.
?Never, ever punch him in the chest.
?Mapman is really taking his theme to the limit.
27) Screw Kid
?You really don’t want to know what his finishing move is.
?His father loved his Harley just a little too much.
25) Black Hole
?The hole in his face is meant to represent a dimensional portal which sucks in his opponents. But it looks more like someone just punched a window in his skull.
24) Big Radial
?We used to have something like this on our school playground, until overcautious safety regulations forced them to replace the tire pyramid and tire castle with crappy plastic equipment that took all the fun away.
?Yes, as in “personal computer.” If only this dude would leap into a Mac Vs. PC commercial and wrestle them both.
22) Bam Bam Ji
?Randomly, he’s half tree. Let’s hope he doesn’t get into a fire match with Kane.
21) King the 100 Ton
?Whatever this guy is supposed to be, in the Kinnikuman manga he had the ability to shift his weight from almost nothing to a whopping 100 tons. Those would be spikes sticking out of his boy, turned into child-safe nubs.
20) One Million Magnitude
?He’s meant to represent a volcano, but he looks more like a guy who had his head chopped off and then grew eyes on his neck.
19) Oil Man
?The scariest True Lube mascot, ever.
?While a turtle who is part sneaker and has tiny, useless flippers for arms may not seem very intimidating, Sunigator was a shapeshifter who had a much more fearsome form up his sleeve (which you’ll see later in this list)…
17) Planet Man
?He’s literally a whole solar system. I don’t think that match is going to fit in Madison Square Garden.
?At least when Pinchman retires from wrestling, he can easily transition into a career as a home repairman.
15) The Ball
?Looks like Wilson from Cast Away finally got an action figure!
?Hey, everybody, it’s Rubik the Amazing Cube! In the Kinnikuman manga, the only way you could defeat him was by solving him.
?He really knows how to lock in a hold. Granted, if he’s as strong as the typical dollar store bike lock he appears to be, all it will take is the brute strength of a 12-year-old to defeat him.
12) Mr. VTR
?This jumble of 1980’s technology desperately wants to be a Transformer. He failed.
?Little known fact: The Parthenon is not just the temple of the Greek goddess Athena and an artistic masterpiece; it was also the Intercontinental Belt holder from 1984-86.
?Does he control the snake or does the snake control him?
?This just scares the shit out of me.
?Sunshine was a shapeshifting brick shithouse who turned into a lot of bizarre things, include a stone arch and a top, the latter which gave kids the options to spin him around and knock down all his opponents. Sunshine’s most visually striking form, as seen above, looked like a New Wave dreidel.
Based on the cup-and-ball toy, Kendaman swings his own head around on a chain. Amusingly, one figure depicts him after having lost his head; the strings on those cheap cup-and-ball toys are always breaking!
6) Spray Devil
He looks freaky, but the worst you can expect is to get tagged with gang symbols.
5) Teapack Man
?I have a bad feeling his finisher has something to do with teabags.
4) Mixer Taite
His defeated opponents all get to personally answer that burning question: “Will it mix?”
This guy is a walking ode to a Japanese toilet, complete with a hat made of poo. In Japan, he was defeated when Kinnkuman took a crap in him, thus clogging him. And Japanese boys everywhere learned why you shouldn’t take a crap in a urinal.
2) Paper Mummy
And here is Benkiman’s natural tag team partner, a toilet paper monster! (Although, as Matt from X-Entertainment once pointed out, he does look a bit like Rosie the Robot Maid from The Jetsons.)
1) Sunigator Shotai
?Ask anyone who even remembers M.U.S.C.L.E. vaguely and they’ll likely name “the Hand” as their favorite character. The shape-shifting reptile Sunigator, who is actually represented numerous times in the M.U.S.C.L.E. toyline in his various forms (including what looks an upright frill-necked lizard wearing sneakers), had only a short run in the original Kinnikuman story before being defeated by its titular hero (a.k.a. Muscleman). Despite that, the toy depicting him as a giant, disembodied hand with four digits, warts, claws and a scary face on his middle finger was both the coolest and most frightening figure in the whole toyline. Could you imagine having to fight this monstrosity without wetting your wrestling tights? These days, Sunigator can he hard to get your… ahem… hands on, as he’s the most in-demand M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.