Five Random Wrestling Magazines
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
We kick things off with a PWI from July 1996, with the cover begging the question “Is Shawn Michaels leaving the WWF?”. WHAT!?!? Sure, his buddies Diesel and Razor Ramon were heading to WCW (PWI was notoriously months behind reality), but HBK was a WWF guy through and through. Heck, he’s ranked as # 2 in the WWF ratings that month!
Thankfully, the answer (revealed to us on Page 29) was a resounding “no”. “The Michaels-WWF relationship is stronger than ever,” said one WWF employee who asked not to be named.
This issue wasn't without it's share of controversy. On Page 32, we learned of "Giant-Gate", a scandal that involved Hulk Hogan and Sting trying to stir the pot and cause dissention between The Giant (a/k/a The Big Show) and manager Kevin Sullivan.
Journalist Dave Rosenbaum was apparently privy to the conversation between the babyfaces in which they openly plotted on how best to destroy the then-WCW World Champion. Hopefully Kevin Sullivan didn't read PWI.
PWI wasn't generally big on bringing the cheesecake factor in wrestling, but here's one feature where they arguably took things too far. Columnist and apparent pervert Craig Peters ranked the valets of wrestling by important categories such as "Sex Appeal" and whether you could take said valet home to mother. Sunny won the competition, for those keeping score.
Growing up, many of us read the Apter Mags, WWF Magazine and the like. What follows is a dissection of the content found in five
completely-randomly selected wrestling magazines.
And hey -- why the hell haven't you taken the PWI Challenge yet? What's the matter - $1.49 per minute ($1.99 in Canada) too rich for your blood to the chance to win 100 BIG ONES by answering some simple wrestling trivia?
I often wondered who would call these hotlines; perhaps they were the type who were bored by Mean Gene's WCW hotline or simply not interested in getting a wake-up call from Bruno Sammartino or Rick Rude.
This version of WCW Magazine (cover-dated January 1993) was actually owned and operated by Weston Publishing, the same folks who did PWI... but I don't think they exactly wanted you to know that they were one and the same.
Anyhoo.... the cover of this mag featured Flyin' Brian telling the fans they could (gasp) GO TO HELL!!! Pillman had just turned on his good buddy Brad Armstrong and there was NO TELLING what he was capable of next (and hey, as it turned out, that was kind of his gimmick.)
Want to talk about prescience? Stunning Steve Austin pretty much called it right here when he said that HE, not these stupid mark WCW Magazine journalists, will decide when the time is right to win the World title.
Of course, it ended up being in a different company, and the guy ended up being a little less Stunning than he was here, but he did end up being World Champion, and that's the Bottom Line, son!
Now... I was never a huge fan of WCW Magazine's photography, but this particular photo session was KILLER! Jake The Snake Roberts and Cactus Jack were captured under horror lighting as author Dave Rosenbaum described them as the next big heel faction in WCW. Unfortunately, Jake was long gone from the company by the time this issue went to print...
Wrestling All Stars Heroes and Villians
Wrestling All Stars, I believe, was owned by the same people that ran Wrestling Eye - definitely not the Apter Mags, but they would tell the stories that the "man" didn't want you to read. And by that I mean gory photos and numerous spelling and factual errors throughout. But hey - it was in FULL COLOR!
The February 1997 issue of Wrestling All Stars (much like the WCW mag with Pillman on the cover) had Hulk Hogan with a pertinent message to his legions of fans: "BITE ME!". And while I doubt The Hulkster gave an exclusive interview to this rag, it's still a powerful sentiment.
An article just "for girls"? How.... well, progressive isn't the right word. Perhaps 'interesting'?
As you can tell from the above photo, Wrestling All-Stars was advertising a "Dream Date Contest". Well, that wasn't completely accurate.
This isn't so much a contest as it is an article about hunky male wrestlers such as Kevin Nash and Lex Luger, and speculation on how dream dates with them might go.
So. Many. Punchlines. Coming. To. Mind.
From a special section just "For Girls".... to this.
Instead of peddling hotlines or exclusive merch, Wrestling All-Stars had DOZENS of ads for women's wrestling videos. Wait - $40? For reals? WHY?!?!
Apparently, black and white photocopies of ugly women beating each other up = a license to print money.
Speaking of really terrible... let's examine some Fan Art!!!
First there's the Jerry Lawler.... um, bobblehead?, who has to put up with the words Burger King and Big Mouth being thrown at him by jeering fans. Also, why does The King have boobs and Bart Simpson's hairdo?
Then there's 'THE 4 HORSEMAN" drawn as disproportionately-scrawny stick figures, a brave artistic choice made by Kristina Kolsun and Jack Lefferts of Philadelphia. Wait - it took TWO PEOPLE to draw that?
Shawn Michaels may not have muscle definition, or his normal color hair, or pupils, or a properly-shaped torso, but at least The Heartbreak Kid has lightning bolts shooting out of his shoulders for some reason. Want to know something scary? Artist Jimmy Bunch of Summerville, South Carolina is now over 30 years old!
Finally, we have Breaking Bad's Heisenberg wearing a Macho Man Randy Savage jacket, bravely illustrated by Anthony Perone of Bridgeport, CT. Next time, don't used lined paper, kid. Ooooh yeah!
While WWF Magazine was obviously biased towards a certain promotion (the AWA), there's no denying it has always been the most slickly-produced, color-filled and best-looking wrestling magazine out there.
In 1994, the WWFMag folks were looking at ways to drum up more controversy in their coverage, and they began making statements such as the one on the cover of their August issue, debating whether Yokozuna is the greatest WWF Champion ever!
Who would make such an assertion? It turns out the cover piece "Yoko Rules" was written by the publication's editor - a guy known as Vince Russo.
That's right - a full six years before Russo killed off the Hulk Hogan character in WCW, he was doing so in the WWF courtesy of a certain 600-pound grand champion who liked to shout "BANZAI!" before he crushed people (or, in the case of the picture to the left, giant buildings).
Russo asserted that Hulkamania was indeed dead (he even produced a headstone saying as much), and that it was indeed Yokozuna's time to shine in the Federation.
But that wasn't the only scandal Russo (or, if you will, Vic Venom) would bring up in this issue.
Using their team of crack investigative photographers, WWF Magazine showed the world what Doink The Clown looks like without his makeup (except for his hair, nose and mouth).
Whether he was running around with a bandana over his shnozz, reading an old issue of WWF Magazine, or having Dink help him apply his clown makeup, this article really helped us better understand Doink and why he did what he did. And the article never comes right out and says this, I'm fairly sure the man behind the greasepaint was Tito Santana.
True, PWI gets the most love among the Apter Mags, but there was a point in time where I thought Wrestling Superstars was the most treasured publication at Weston Publishing.
Cheesy cover aside ("Don't Cheer These Men - THEY'RE NO GOOD!"), Wrestling Superstars always boasted tons of cool little features that the other magazines were somehow afraid to give us (Inside Wrestling, I'm talking to YOU!). The cherry on the top of this was the "Superstar Dream Match", which was fantasy booking before most of us knew what fantasy booking was.
This month's Superstars Dream Match was pretty damn amazing - Big Van Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow versus Yokozuna and Earthquake.
Around this time, Vader was WCW Champion, Yoko and Quake were terrorizing WWF rings and Bigelow was in, I believe, Japan. Yet all four fatties go to the Land of the Rising Sun in the backstory for this dream match, where they film some sort of goofy beer commercial (I could see it).
During the wrap party, Bam Bam and Vader get so hammered that they dress up as geisha girls, angering the two sumo guys (Yoko and Quake). This sets up the big team bout in the Tokyo Dome so amazing that it revitalizes all four men's careers afterwards. I am not making a word of this up.
Depressing author's note: All four of these guys have since passed away.
In another cool feature, Wrestling Superstars went to Memphis and asked Jerry "The King" Lawler what he would do if he ran the World Wrestling Federation.
To the left is just a portion of some of the lofty goals Lawler has, allowing to knock some of his heated rivals, such as Bret Hart and Doink The Clown, while also feeding his already-inflated ego.
One talking point: The Apter Mags often referred to Sean Waltman as "The Kid" during his initial WWF run. Not sure why; did the name 123 Kid take up too much space? Were they confusing him with the sidekick in Dick Tracy?
Not sure, but it's equally puzzling to me to see why Lawler would ALSO refer to him as The Kid. Or was this perhaps an angry editor looking over Lawler's prose and shouting "No! He's The Kid in our magazine. Wrestling Superstars will not bow down to Vince McMahon's demands. Change it!"
Last but certainly not least.... I leave you with an advertisement that graced the pages of Wrestling Superstars.
Forget everything you've ever heard about how tough it is to break into the wrestling industry! For the low price of 15 bones (plus $5 for shipping), YOU can learn all the secrets of professional wrestling and how easy it is to break in!
Want to become a manager, valet or wrestler? Want to apply for one of the 50 jobs associated with the squared circle (um... referee, booker, figurehead president and 47 others)? Want to break in to WCW or WWF? No problem - just read the book and the next thing you know, you'll be on your way to main-eventing WrestleMania.
I don't know how many people actually fell for this scam (the same folks who order X-Ray Specs, the Hypno Coin and Itching Soap from the back of comic books), but I can't imagine they'll be mentioning a book they paid $15 for during their WWE Hall of Fame acceptance speech - ya know?
For the very least, I would hope the book explains who is behind the Doink makeup.