PRO WRESTLING ILLUSTRATED
A quick note about me: I used to buy at least two wrestling magazines per week back in the day; possibly a more expensive habit than, say, drugs.
Now.... I always approached the company-owned publications (WWF Magazine, WCW Magazine) with a bit of healthy skepticism - after all, they were being paid to promote the product a very specific way, so it was hard for them to be objective. And then there was Wrestling Eye and the like - complete crap and in my mind, these only appealed to the lowest common denominator.
But the London Sports family of publications (otherwise known as "The Apter Mags" for longtime writer Bill Apter)? That was a completely different ball of wax. You had Inside Wrestling, Sports Wrestling Review, Wrestling '91 (or whatever the current year was) and all the rest....but the flagship publication, the bible, the one that always had the true look and feel of sports journalism, was Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
I mean, look at that cover up there. Sure, it's a little strange peeking over at Hulk Hogan's Hulk-a-rection, but you could just tell that the PWI folks were going to get to the bottom of whatever it was they threatened to get to the bottom of.
Case in point: PWI's patented Scouting Report feature, which looked at a series of wrestlers and told you about their strengths and weakness, how well they were doing in the industry and how they were likely going to fare in the coming year. Laugh if you must, but if wrestling were fantasy football, this type of analysis would have been a must read.
This particular month, PWI focused on Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, both of whom had seen better days in the ring prior to June 1991. And PWI admits it, suggesting Valentine has picked up "slovenly" habits from The Honky Tonk Man and that Eaton is no ring general.
Of course, no edition of PWI (or any of the Apter Mags, for the matter) would be complete without the "Official" rankings.
Admit it - how many times did you read through a magazine and fantasy book a member of the NWA top 10 against a member of the WWF top 10? I would always get excited at the prospect of, say, Lex Luger vs. Curt Hennig and secretly hoped Ted Turner and Vince McMahon would put their differences aside and listen to the fans... but it didn't happen.
Also - want to hear something depressing? Of the list posted to the right... seven of those wrestlers are now deceased :(
From there, we went to the PWI Press Conference, which would feature the various reporters grilling a top wrestling personality (although never anyone from the WWF because they wouldn't let that damn Apter into their locker room) on the issues of the day.
This month's edition of the Press Conference, called out Scott Steiner, who was a good seven years away from being Big Poppa Pump, and at this time was just your run of the mill, collegiate star-turned-tag team specialist.
And THIS is how I know the Apter Mags only pretended to interview wrestlers: name one other interview you've ever heard where Scott Steiner comes across this eloquently?
PWI's cover story this month is on Hulk Hogan (remember the creepy cartoon Hogan with the boner?) and how he has become America's Hero.
This was, of course, just before the first Gulf War broke out and it was already evident at that time that the WWF was heading towards Hulk Hogan and Sgt, Slaughter at WrestleMania 7. Picking up on that vibe, PWI capitalized on the fact that Hogan was a proud defender of 'Murica and would be WWF Champion before long.
How did PWI tells us this story? Apparently, Hogan was visiting military bases around the country, posing with servicemen, shaking hands, kissing babies, the whole nine years. How did Apter's camera mysteriously get onto the military bases even when the WWF folks couldn't?
Anyways, the story is more or less a puff piece that mixes in Hogan's loyalty to the military (years and years before Tribute To The Troops became a thing, mind you) and how he's used to battling no-good foreigners.... like, um.... Mr. Fuji and Antonio Inoki? Not exactly the two names that come to mind when I think "foreign threats", you know?
But hey, you stupid marks didn't drop $2.50 ($3.25 in Canada) on PWI to hear about Hogan entertaining the troops. No sir, you wanted to read old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness wrestling journalism.
Look no further than Ric Flair's Annual Bonus Payout by up and coming journalist Dave Rosenbaum (I actually have a theory that the entire PWI newsroom, from Dave Rosenbaum to Liz Hunter, from Kostya Kennedy to Matt Brock, were all just Bill Apter working under a pen name).
Anyways... the big scoop here is that Ric Flair is paying his fellow Four Horsemen hush money to run interference. Not sure how Rosenbaum procured pristine copies of Flair's personal cheques, nor do I understand how Flair could pay bribes to his buddies without running afoul of the IRS (although.... IRS is Barry Windham's brother-in-law, so maybe that was the loophole?).
But the biggest problem I have with this whole expose is the difference in payouts between the Horsemen. Barry and Arn Anderson end up 75 and 85 K, respectively, which sounds respectable. But Sid Vicious walks away with a cool million?!? How is that even remotely fair to the other guys, who are busting their ass and not even getting a tenth of what Big Sid is clearing?
Another big expose this month was written by the legendary Eddie Ellner, the magazine's Jesse Ventura-esque resident heel sympathizer. While I'm still sort of subscribing to the theory that Eddie was just another character in the deranged mind of "Sy"Bill Apter.... a couple of years ago someone pointed out that Ellner was very real, and in fact he's now a yoga instructor living in Los Angeles!
The last two pages in PWI were typically reserved for the "Wrestling ENQUIRER", which brought you all kinds of late-breaking scoops that the "man" didn't want you to see. Or more likely, it was because these events happened after the issue was written and they wanted to seem somewhat current.
(Come to think of it - the cover date of this dirtsheet is March 1991 and the magazine was published in June. So that doesn't make sense, right?)
The big story this month about Sherri leaving Savage for DiBiase was probably discovered by "Andy Rodriguez" (Bill Apter in disguise) at a TV taping the week after WrestleMania 7, and in fact was probably well-known by the time PWI hit newsstands.
And finally..... we close with an advertisement on the back cover for the "UWF Power Line", a 1-900 service for wrestling fans that were too elitist to take in the WWF and NWA hotlines, but had already called 1-900-HOT-BRUNO too many times that month.
As someone who watched some of the UWF action, including their first and only pay-per-view, the promotion was mildly interesting and it definitely had an interesting roster of former WWF and NWA guys and indy superstars on the rise. But would I pay $2 a minute to listen to any of the "gossip" that promoter Herb Abrams could give me, or perhaps the latest on John Tolos? Probably not. And hey, I say that as a huge fan of Mick Foley, who was one of their rising stars!
But let's be honest: the only reason I'm featuring this picture is because of Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff. I know he's always been an ornery dude, but in this photo, he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than promoting the effing UWF Power Line. Or maybe he's just pissed that his archrival Hulk Hogan got the cover of PWI this month while wearing a speedo?