Quick preamble: Following the death last month of WWE Magazine, I noticed that there really weren't any wrestling magazines on the newsstand shelves any more. That may differ in parts of the world, but I feel that, by and large, this is the trend as fewer and fewer get supplementary information about the squared circle through the printed word.
This isn't a good thing. Many, many hours of my childhood were spent leafing through magazines like the ones below, learning about wrestlers that I hadn't seen on television (in Canada, we mostly had WWF with a bit of AWA and Stampede until the early 1990's) and creating delightfully-false backstories for existing feuds and other situations.
You can tell by just looking at the cover of this edition of The Wrestler (one of the London Publishing pubs affectionately referred to by fans as "The Apter Mags" after longtime editor Bill Apter) that there was a whole lot going on in the world of wrestling at this point in time, which was roughly the end of 1985.
Such an event was outlined in the article "Better Dead Than Red!" which discussed the conflict between Magnum T.A. and Nikita Koloff.
Read the description to the left; it's about Magnum working out and watching the movie Red Dawn, getting him fired up about that no good Russkie Nikita.
Sure, the same type of storytelling exists today with Rusev talking smack about 'Murica every week on Raw, but here in the magazine, it just seemed more... real, like Magnum couldn't wait to face off against Koloff and gain redemption for his country! And that said redemption could take place when you see them face off next week at The Omni!
Another pressing story in this issue was the impending conflict between Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Remember, this was a good two years before they formed the Mega Powers and three before they began feuding, so at this point, the conflict was limited to a handful of (very good) house show matches.
Still, The Wrestler's investigation concluded that Savage had to defeat WWF Champion Hogan, or he would risk the love of his manager Miss Elizabeth who was, according to this article, the driving force behind Savage and was at ringside only to lead her man to the WWF World Title.
Personally.... I think The Wrestler's investigation was more about showing photos of Miss Elizabeth's cleavage (see clipping above). Not that a 12 year-old Bulldog was exactly complaining about this development, mind you.... but that was my biggest takeaway from this article.
But the articles in The Wrestler weren't always focused on the big two WWF and NWA. There were articles about the AWA, independent scene (this issue conducted a Q&A with Wendi Richter, who had recently departed the WWF amid controversy) and of course, promotions like Memphis and World Class, which were the real hidden gems to a fan like me.
I wasn't able to see a lot of these wrestlers until they made it to the big stage of the WWF (because Canada), so getting an introduction to Rick Rude or, for that matter, Percival Pringle, was great information to have. Then you could think about what kind of impact they would ever have if they crossed paths with, say, Junkyard Dog or Lex Lugar (their spelling in this month's issue; not mine).
One comment, though: why does Ravishing Rick wearing longjohns instead of proper tights? I get it - he was still light years away from having airbrushed photos of Jake The Snake's wife or Arsenio Hall on his ass, but.... why were they making him look like a Great Depression-era boxer?
There were several features within The Wrestler that you could set your watch by, and one of them was "Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down".
The idea would (normally) be to praise the good guys for the heroic efforts and tsk tsk the heels for doing whatever it was heels did, but this month's edition kind of went Freaky Friday on our asses for some reason. As you see here, three of the wrestlers with the dreaded Thumbs Down were actually solid babyfaces at the time.
Case in point - they are blaming The Junkyard Dog for winning The Wrestling Classic (a tournament that was actually WWF's very first pay-per-view) but not using that opportunity to make himself the first black World Champion. WTF?
First of all, shouldn't the blame be on WWF President Jack Tunney for not signing JYD to a title match? Why is the Dog getting blamed for bearing, as the column puts it, "the burden of social responsibility"?
Second.... they refer to Junkyard Dog as "the man with the canine heart". Um.... WHAT????!?
Another popular feature was called "X-Ray", in which a panel of impressive wrestlers give their two cents on an up and coming talent (or a veteran that was currently in the spotlight for whatever reason).
The panel here is tremendous - five of the six men are former World Champions, and not in a "Great Khali was technically a World Champion" way, either. Of them, only Bruno is still (a) alive and (b) semi-involved in the industry today, but at the time, you couldn't have asked for a better group of judges.
But the subject of this month's panel was a tad disappointing - they were X-Raying Bruno's good-for-nothing son David Sammartino who, apart from appearing as a pudgy kid at the first WrestleMania, never did anything of consequence.
Among the panelists, only Killer Kowalski and Gene Kiniski have the guts to tell The Wrestler that Bruno Jr. sucks eight different kinds of ass and shouldn't be anywhere near a wrestling ring. You're not going to expect the guy's dad to be objective, fine, but why the hell are Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz being so nice to the little fatass? You guys are supposed to be MEN - act like it!
Later, the X-Ray panel welcomed, among others, Larry Hennig, who would ALWAYS find a way to compare whomever was being X-Rayed to his kid Mr. Perfect. Always.
Every issue of The Apter Mags always had their own Monthly Ratings system and whether you agreed or disagreed with how they compiled it, it stood the test of time. Like it or not, Tito Santana (from.... Mission, Texas??) was #1 contender to Hulk Hogan's WWF belt back in April 1986.
What I don't understand is why the NWA has a separate ranking list from the "World Championship" territory, which are more less two versions of Jim Crockett Promotions.
Sad fact: Seven wrestlers on this page are no longer with us :(
And finally.... I thought I would take a minute to discuss the advertising in the month's edition of The Wrestler.
Sure, there were the usual ads for knives, get rich quick schemes, bodybuilding "pills" and male girdles (I'm not kidding about any of those, by the way), but there was also some ads for pretty sweet wrestling merch, too.
Well, at least I think it's pretty sweet. It's hard to tell because the resolution of the photo to the left is pretty much the same resolution as it is on the page.
While it would be INSANELY cool to have, say, a Baron Von Raschke t-shirt or the same white satin jacket that Sgt. Slaughter's "official staff" wears.... I can see the images whatsoever. It might be The Road Warriors or it might be a drawing of Pac-Man. We'll never know....