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Series: Generation 1
Year: 1989
Allegiance: Decepticon
Class: Pretender 
Function: Enforcer
Rule one is: There are no rules!
A muscle-bound monster! Willing to do anything to win. Kicks, gouges and sucker punches his way to victory. The reigning Intergalactic Cybertronic Wrestling Federation Champ. A powerhouse of brute strength. All brawn and no brains. Enjoys bench-pressing houses and arm curling cars to stay in shape. Sends his opponents down for the count with his steel-smashing, ultra-suplex or a short-circuiting atomic piledriver. Armed with brawn blaster that drains his enemies´ power. Equipped with concussion blaster in robot Mode.

Prelude: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. The Intergalactic Cybertronic Wrestling Federation presents to you, its undisputed Champion of the WOOOOOOORLD, the one, the only, the incomparable STRAAAAAANGLEHOOOOOOOOOOOLD! Ladies and gentlemen, are you rrrrrrrrrrrready? Let’s get ready to rrrrrrrrrreview!

Many thanks to my buddy Jörg “the Carpenter” Zimmermann for loaning me Stranglehold for this review.

Robot Mode: Stranglehold is a Pretender from the gimmick’s second year, meaning he is smaller than the first batch, but isn’t simply a lean, spindly robot that simply folds in half in order to (sort of but not really) transform. In fact, his inner robot, while relatively small, looks like a typical Transformers toy from the late 1980s. Small, boxy, connected knees to keep stubby children fingers from prying them apart, the works. Articulation is limited to swiveling the arms at the shoulders and bending the (connected) knees. Some poses are possible, but not a lot. Stranglehold carries a small yellow blaster as a weapon in robot mode, which fits with his mostly yellow paintjob. Only his arms, his face, and the beast legs on the side of his robot legs are green. Could easily be a member of any given gimmick group in the late 1980s.

Of course the main selling point of the Pretenders is not the robot, but rather the Pretender shell. Even most Generation 1 fans would probably be hard-pressed to identify all the Pretenders solely through their robot modes, but they will recognize most of the Pretender shells. Case in point, Stranglehold, whose Pretender shell is... Burt Reynolds? Shirtless Burt Reynolds who just starred in some 1980s wrestling movie? Or possibly Mad Max? Hard to say. It’s rather unusual for a heel… I mean, Decepticon Pretender to have a human-looking Pretender shell, but it’s also his main (or rather sole) unique feature.

The Pretender is standard in being a statue except for the arms, which can rotate on the shoulders. He has a sculpted grey rucksack on his back, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of him, but he needs it in order to fit the robot inside the shell. He is armed with a big white blaster, wears a removable helmet, and has a … weird little lavender shield thingy on his arm? See the alternate mode for why this thing even exists, but it sure looks out of place here. Anyway, much like many of his fellow Pretenders (Bludgeon and Octopunch come to mind) Stranglehold lacks the ball-and-chain weapon he wielded in the comic books. Stranglehold’s smaller blaster for the robot mode can be stored inside the shell alongside the robot.

So bottom line: Stranglehold in robot mode is nothing to write home about, but his Pretender shell is certainly among the more memorable ones.

Alternate Mode: Stranglehold transforms into a yellow and green rhinoceros. The transformation is the standard for beast-formers back in the day, basically going down on all fours and hiding the robot head beneath a beast head, done. The rhino is actually better-articulated than the robot, as all four limbs can move independently. Detailing is as good as you can reasonably expect from a toy from that time and it’s recognizable as a rhino, so mission accomplished.

This is also the mode where the lavender shield thing comes into play again, as you can attach it to Stranglehold’s back and thus provide the rhino with a tail. Okay, a rhino should have a tail, granted, but why is the shield thing lavender again? No idea. Stranglehold’s gun can also be mounted on top. So bottom line: an okay beast mode, as good as it got during those days.

Remarks: In the second half of the 1980s, wrestling was experiencing a serious boom and mainstream recognition thanks to Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania. So naturally the Transformers toyline, which had left its boom period far behind by that time, also introduced a sort-of wrestler. Stranglehold’s Pretender shell looks like a rather generic wrestling star (or possibly a 1970s porn actor) and his profile text speaks of suplexes and piledrivers as it declares him the Intergalactic Cybertronic Wrestling Federation champion. Any similarities to the World Wrestling Federation are, of course, entirely unintentional.

Stranglehold never appeared in the cartoon, but has quite a few comic book appearances under his belt, having been a member of the Mayhem Attack Squad alongside fellow (and somewhat more famous) 1989 Pretenders Octopunch and Bludgeon. He is also the only Decepticon Pretender (apart from Classic Pretender Starscream) whose shell appears human instead of being some sort of monster (possibly having switched with Autobot Pretender G1 Longtooth). Weirdly enough he was not involved in the sole Transformers comic story that ever featured a wrestling storyline. His being a wrestler was restricted to his profile text.

So what can I say about the toy itself? The inner robot is standard late 1980s Transformers fare, both in robot and beast mode. Like most Pretenders, Stranglehold’s only claim to fame is an interesting-looking Pretender shell. So bottom line: if you are a fan of the Pretender gimmick or simply like weird-looking Transformers toys, Stranglehold is worth a look. Otherwise there is nothing too terribly special about him. Writing this review and including the wrestling references was more fun than the actual toy.

Rating: C+

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