Merch from '88
1988 was a magical time for WWF merchandising. Not only did you have the peak of Hulkamania, but folks such as Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake and Junkyard Dog were getting their fair share of sweet, sweet merch money. Check out what the Federation folks had up for sale at the time...
How many times has this happened to you: You're 500-plus pounds and over seven feet tall, and you can't find a decent T-shirt with giant hand and footprints on it anywhere?
Statistically speaking, I'm going to say that there's a 0.000000003 percent chance that anyone reading this website has had that exact problem for. But in case you did in 1988, Vince McMahon had the perfect solution for you!
And yeah, I get that these could be used as an oversized nightshirt (as modeled here by - and I'm totally guessing on this - Vince McMahon's secretary at the time). Fine. But really, how many people were going to drop $15 for that very purpose? You'd be much more likely to drop $13 on a regular-sized shirt.... but even then, it's Andre The Giant... and this was before he became a meme!
Speaking of things that people were highly unlikely to buy.... may I present to you the official World Wrestling Federation Douchebag Collection™, complete with beige sweater, baseball cap and pen and pencil set (not pictured).
At best, I can picture these items being handed out as freebies at a licensing convention, something that traveling salesman might take home and give to their kids. Maybe Howard Finkel used to wear these items around the house before he got old and became the approximate size and shape of Batman villian The Penguin? I suppose we'll never know, but that's essentially the extent of the usefulness I could see for any of these puppies.
On a side note: see the douchebag modeling the sweater? Look closely and you'll note that he grew up to be.... former Raw General Manager Mike Adamle!
Not really.... but hey, admit that I had you fooled for at least a few seconds there....
From there, we experience The Hulkamania Collection, which makes it sound ultra-prestigious as if it's something art collectors would drop $2,000 a pop on.
Instead, it's just two Hulkamania shirts - a sleeveless one in yellow with theholes being "hand cut" by "made in the U.S.A.", which probably is code for machine cut in Taiwan. And then you have the red and yellow short-sleeve number being modeled by (I'm fairly sure) DJ Tanner from Full House.
And sure, there's a blue polo shirt below this taken directly from the official World Wrestling Federation Douchebag Collection™.... but more important is the all-purpose sports bag. Nothing special on its own, but the bag has some serious history:
Bobby Heenan: "Hands off the money, Gene!" - WrestleMania 1
And then we move on to the WWF T's section, which was as good a barometer as any back then to see which wrestlers (or at least good guys) were being pushed.
Here we see brand-new (at the time) shirts for Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and..... wait, Billy Jack Haynes?
BILLY JACK HAYNES???
The pride of Portland, Oregon, best known for drooling all over the back of Hercules Hernandez at WrestleMania III, had his own friggin' shirt?? For what what possible reason? Did someone at Titan Tower think that wrestling fans were clamoring for a logo of a bowler hat and creepy eyes peeking out? WTF???
Here we have a collection of T-Shirts from top wrestlers including Randy Savage and.... you know what? No. Forget it.
I can't do this.
I just can't get past the fact that Billy Jack Haynes has his own shirt. WHY?!?!?!? Was WWF suggesting to us that Mr. Creepy Hat was at the same popularity level at Junkyard Dog or Strike Force? I'm not sure why a 26 year-old T-shirt concept (and you KNOW that no one ever purchased it, other than possibly Mrs. Jack Haynes) bothers me so much, but it does.
And this is followed by TLOOGWHTS: The League Of Other Guys Who Had T-Shirts.
From top to bottom we have: The British Bulldogs (whose shirt I was given via my dad from Davey Boy Smith and Matilda); Bam Bam Bigelow, Koko B/ Ware (sunglasses and a parrot? Kind of random); The Killer Bees (giant wings; even more random); Outback Jack; Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Famer King Kong Bundy, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
And to answer your question -- yes, all of them were more over at the time than Billy Jack.
One cool note: check out the crappy photoshop here with Jake's missing arm:
Up next we have a beach towel with the likeness of the first lady of wrestling, Miss Elizabeth, plastered on the front with a life-size picture of her in a bikini.
Not sure why wrestling fans -- mostly pre-teen boys at this stage - would want to drop 20 bucks to lie down on a life-size a picture of... oh, wait. I get it.
Our final item is a selection of wall posters featuring top WWF stars. I know quite a few people who had the Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan ones back in the day, and I could definitely see the JYD one, if re-released today, getting some retro love.
The Hart Foundation one probably wasn't popular at the time, but if had been released 10 years later, I guarantee it would have been a best-seller. It's a great concept that humanizes the heels, but the poster is clearly way ahead of its time.
Not sure what to make of The Killer Bees one, because.... wait. Billy Jack Haynes??? Again????
WHAT THE HELL??????
At the end of the day, I probably spent a little too much on these items (not to mention I spent way too much time writing about them). But at least I get a free "Hulkasized" shirt: