The Great 90's Wrestling Magazine Cover Project
I own, by conservative estimates, approximately 36.4 billion wrestling magazines, mostly collected from the first half of the 1990's. Every once in a while, I will pull a stack of them out of a Rubbermaid bin in my garage and go through them because (a) they're often the source for material or ideas for this website (b) it's always fun to study the recent past and (c) they make great bathroom reading material.
But who dominated the 1990's in terms of magazine coverage? To the best of my knowledge, something like this has never quite been conducted before. To conduct this totally non-scientific experiment, I plucked a stack of 100 wrestling magazines from my collection. After checking that all of them were cover-dated between 1990 and 1999, I set out to see which wrestling personalities were most prominent on the covers.
Before we get to the results, here is the breakdown of magazines I selected (again, pretty much at random):
Inside Wrestling - 5
New Wave Wrestling - 1
Pro Wrestling Illustrated - 22
Sports Review Wrestling - 1
The Wrestler - 10
WCW Magazine - 13
WOW - 1
Wrestle America - 2
Wrestling All-Stars - 1
Wrestling Ringside - 1
Wrestling Superstars - 2
WWF Magazine - 28
WWF Raw Magazine - 9
WWF Spotlight Magazine - 4
For those unfamiliar with the pubs, Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Sports Review Wrestling, The Wrestler, Wrestle America and Wrestling Superstars were all made by the same publishing company and are often referred to as "The Apter Magazines" .
New Wave Wrestling was an upstart that I discussed the other week. Wrestling All-Stars and Wrestling Ringside were similar to New Wave in that they weren't heavy on journalistic content but more focused on graphic photography.
WCW Magazine was, at least for some of its run, ALSO published by the Apter Mags company, although they made an attempt to separate church and state there. WOW (World of Wrestling) was one of the first magazines to break kayfabe and was actually a phenomenal read until it was bought out by.... the same company as PWI, etc.
WWF Magazine, WWF Raw Magazine and WWF Spotlight Magazine were, of course, all owned by one person (Ted Turner; just kidding.... Vince McMahon) and were strictly Titan Sports-fed propaganda.
After going through each of these magazines, I jotted down any time a wrestler figured prominently on the cover. In other words, if their picture appeared in the inset box at the top corner - forget it, but if they're on a cover (even with multiple others), they count as a cover boy (or girl, although there are very few women here; none in the top ten).
After that I tabulated whom appeared the most frequently, and have selected the top 10 for your enjoyment... in reverse order, of course, to build anticipation.
One final point of order: I stopped buying wrestling magazines, at least religiously, towards 1997 or so. So some of the big Attitude Era names you might be expecting to see here aren't represented, but that's because I wasn't buying every single magazine on the newsstand at that point.
Ready? Here we go!
10) The Steiner Brothers
Rick and Scott Steiner appeared on two PWI covers, two WCW Magazine covers and two Inside Wrestling covers for a total of six covers in my random pile.
The Steiner Brothers were popular cover boys for several reasons: they were WCW creations, so it was probably easier to get them to pose for portrait-style photos (at least compared to their WWF counterparts); they were a popular tag team and their outfits definitely stood out.
NOTEWORTHY: Only Scott Steiner is featured on the PWI cover. But I still counted it!
9) Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious/Justice appeared on three covers of WWF Magazine, one copy of WCW Magazine and one copy of PWI.
Although he didn't hog most of those covers for himself (see photo to the right), Sid was also a popular choice because of his unique combination of size and physique - even though he couldn't wrestle worth a lick, he looked like the 90's version of Brock Lesnar. That sold magazines.
NOTEWORTHY: Sid's detached purple head on the black WWF Magazine cover looks legit psycho.
Sting appeared on the cover of two WCW Magazines, three copies of PWI, one copy of Inside Wrestling and 2 copies of The Wrestler.
I'm actually surprised Sting was only eight covers in my random pile, as he was fairly consistent in being a top guy in WCW, thus a favorite for the Apter Mag folks to feature time and time again.
Plus the facepaint didn't hurt to set The Stinger apart from others in the business.
NOTEWORTHY: Forget Bray Wyatt; Sting literally has the whole world in his hands!
Diesel/Kevin Nash appeared on the cover of two WWF Magazines, three PWI's and one cover of The Wrestler.
Truth be told, if I'd kept collecting through the late-90's, Diesel as Nash would have probably been far more prominent because of his involvement with the nWo.
As it stands, Diesel's unique size and rugged look goods made a natural for cover photography during this era.
NOTEWORTHY: Nash eating watermelon from a provocatively-dressed Alundra Blayze.
5) Ric Flair
Ric Flair appeared on one WWF Magazine cover, three PWI's, two covers of Inside Wrestling, one cover of The Wrestler, one cover of Sports Review Wrestling and one Wrestling Ringside.
Had this survey taken place in the 1980's, there's no doubt in my mind that Flair (along with a bloody Dusty Rhodes, and Hulk Hogan) would have been the top three cover boys. The fact that Slick Ric bounced from WCW to WWF and back again in the 90's says a lot about his staying power.
NOTEWORTHY: Nature Boy giving the thumbs up/wink at the same time looks ridiculous.
8) Lex Luger
Lex Luger appeared on the cover of one WCW Magazine, two PWI's, two covers of The Wrestler and one Wrestling Superstars.
The Total Package was an absolute favorite of the Apter Mags. He had one of the best builds in the business and could display a wide vareity of emotions (even though, in the photo to my left here, they mostly appear to be "barely grinning"). But trust me when I say, Luger was a perennial favorite for the magazine crowd.
NOTEWORTHY: How does The Wrestler really know what Luger and Sting were thinking?
4) The Undertaker
The Undertaker appeared on the cover of six WWF Magazines, one WWF Spotlight Magazine, two Pro Wrestling Illustrateds and one cover of Wrestling Superstars.
The Phenom first became, well, a phenom on maagzine covers in the early 1990's due to his unique apparel and scary stare. He did (and will always) look different than any other character in wrestling. Any mag with The Dead Man on the cover signified that you weren't quite reading a horror magazine... but you weren't all that far off, either.
NOTEWORTHY: The giant ghost Undertaker trying to destroy Bret Hart.
3) Shawn Michaels
Shawn appeared on the cover of five WWF Magazines, one WWF Raw Magazine, four Pro Wrestling Illustrateds and three covers of The Wrestler.
As a good looking guy who was younger than a lot of the big names in wrestling, Heartbreak Kid got more than his fair share of ink. Sure, he was loved by the folks at Titan Towers who gave him a massive push as he graduated from tag team guy to singles superstars, but even The Apter Mags found it hard to leave The Showstopper in the dark.
NOTEWORTHY: HBK on a TV in a TV in a TV in a TV is almost a work of art.
2) Bret Hart
Bret Hart appeared on the covers of eight WWF Magazines, two WWF Raw Magazines, one WWF Spotlight Magazine, two Pro Wrestling Illustrateds and one The Wrestler.
The Hitman was always a go-to guy, particularly for WWF Magazine, because he represented the "new" generation and was something a little bit different. Plus, his singles career began in 1990 and went until 2000, so this period represents his absolute peak.
NOTEWORTHY: "This place has old man stink!"
1) Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan appeared on the covers of four WWF Magazines, one WWF Spotlight Magazine, eight Pro Wrestling Illustrateds, two Inside Wrestling covers, five of The Wrestler, one Wrestle America, one Wresting All-Stars and one New Wave Wrestling.
Was there ever any doubt that Hulk would be number one? Sure, the 80's were probably more Hulk-focused overall, but The Hulkster went from red, white and blue icon to nWo leader over the decade, all very much in the public eye.
NOTEWORTHY: PWI appears to have mixed up Hogan with one of the WBF Bodystars.
... And The Rest
Just outside of the top ten, Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Sunny, The Ultimate Warrior, Dustin Rhodes/Goldust and Alundra Blayze/Madusa had four cover shots each.
Just below them were Earthquake, Macho Man Randy Savage, Razor Ramon, Sable, Big Van Vader, Bill Goldberg, Booker T, Brian Pillman, Crush, Doink The Clown, Jim The Anvil Neidhart, Marc Mero, Marty Jannetty, Mr. Perfect, Paul Bearer, Ravishing Rick Rude, Ricky The Dragon Steamboat and The Rock.
Those with one cover apiece included: Adam Bomb, Ahmed Johnson, Bam Bam Bigelow, Barry Windham, Beulah, Billy Kidman, Cactus Jack, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Jamison (?), Jerry The King Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Jushin Liger, Ken Shamrock, Kerry Von Erich, Canadian Bulldog's World LJN Wrestling Figure Hall of Famer King Kong Bundy, Konnan, Lawrence Taylor, King Mabel, Marlena, Miss Elizabeth, Missy Hyatt, Mr. T, Perry Saturn, Raven, Rey Mysterio Jr., Rob Van Dam, Ron Simmons, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Sabu, Shane Douglas, Stevie Ray, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Tatanka, Ted DiBiase, The Bodydonnas, The Giant, The Godfather, X-Pac, Yokozuna and Zeus.
Were you surprised by the results? Any old PWI covers that stand out for you?
As always, leave your comments below.