In the late 70’s I was very much into WWF wrestling. It was a family tradition for my entire family, Mom included, to sit down with a huge bowl of buttery popcorn and watch Friday Nights Main Event on television. We all had our favorites and when they faced off against each other we really really got into the matches.
This was the very early years of WWF wrestling and some of the more gaudy and showy wrestlers had not yet hit the scene. Instead the wrestlers actually used to do actual wrestling moves and they dressed more like collegiate wrestlers do, with usually shorts only and the huge wrestling boots.
The WWF, during those early years, had not yet figured out the lucrative toy business yet. Of course they would eventually, but in those days you had to use your GI Joes as pretend they were your favorite wrestlers.
Enter Stretch Armstrong! Stretch Armstrong was a toy that was created in 1976 by Kenner. Now Stretch was not an actual wrestler, but by gosh he certainly looked exactly like one and that was good enough for my 8 year old mind! Here is a picture of Mr. Armstrong after unboxing:
Stretchs head was made from a very hard molded plastic and if you were strong enough you could actually make it turn. I was indeed strong enough to make it turn by one time I was too strong and I pulled the head completely off. What I found scared my Mom to death! There was this huge square plug there and if you turned it just right you could pull it out and the acidic goop on the inside was then available to you! Do not try this at home kids!
Stetchs body was the awesome rubber that you could, of course, stretch and pull as you saw fit. The real fun here was getting a friend on one side and you on the other and each of you pull your respective arm and leg as far as you could, which turned out was pretty far. Here is a page from a catalog that advertised Stretch back in the day. Thanks to PLAIDSTALLIONS for the picture:
Today, you have to show a kid 3D graphics and 5.1 dolby sound on the largest high def television to keep them occupied. In 1976, that kid in the add and me were more than content to sit and stretch Mr. Armstrong as we watched WWF wrestling until the cows came home!
Alas, soon you would run out of different shapes to put Stretch into. Not to mention the more you stretched him the thinner his skin became until it would inevitably tear! Once it tore, purple ooze would start escaping. It has the consistency of month old, left out in the sun grape jelly. Once Mom saw this, it was time for Stretch to his the trash can.
Luckily Kenner soon followed Stretch up with Stretch Monster, who was a villain who hated Stretch: Here is the Stretch Monster (Thanks again to PLAIDSTALLIONS):
As the pictures show, Stretch Monster really extended the life of Stretch Armstrong because they could actually have wrestling matches. Kenner really outdid themselves with Stretch Monster as his skin was much thicker than Armstrongs was, and you could stretch the Monster much farther with no fear of tearing him. Suprisingly, Kenner never attempted to make a cartoon out of the Stretch family of characters, but they did keep creating new creatures. Seen here are Stretch Ollie and Stretch Olivia, the Stretch Octopusses:
These days whenever I bring up stories of Stretch from my youth, people accuse me of actually making him up as if he never existed. None of my friends today ever had a Stretch Armstrong it seems. All of my friends had them when I was younger and we would wrestle them endlessly as we watched wrestling on TV.
The story does get better for me though. In 2008 Universal Studios signed a deal with Hasbro (the new owners of the Stretch Armstrong license) to create a film about Armstrong based on a screenplay written by Nicholas Stoller. Universal Studios announced Taylor Lautner (Jacob from the Twilight movies) will star as Armstrong and that the film will be in 3D. The director of the film, BrianGrazer states “Stretch Armstrong is a character I have wanted to see on screen for a long time … It’s a story about a guy stretching … the limits of what is possible to become all that he can be.” The film is scheduled for a 2012 release. Get ready to stretch all over again! And no I did not make him up!
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