While everyone fondly remembers Pro Wrestling Illustrated as the crown jewel of The Apter Mags (named after journalist Bill Apter, who wrote for but never created them), there's always been a special place in my heart for The Wrestler.
Beyond the provocative cover photo (how did they know what Sting and Lex Luger were thinking?), The Wrestler was always one of the meat-and-potatoes publications of the London Publishing family that had tons of regular features that you could set your watch by.
Case in point: The regular Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down feature, in which fan favorites were generally lauded for their efforts and rulebreakers were given a thumbs down. Every once in a while, The Wrestler would put a good guy on the bad guy list or vice versa, just to shake things up a little.
Here we praise for NWA Champion Sting, NWA Vice President Jim Herd (for some reason), new WWF recruit Kerry Von Erich and... WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH TONY ATLAS'S CREEPY SMILE?
Another regular feature by The Wrestler was the "Introducing" column, in which a future star would be written about while he or she (usually he) toiled away in the indies.
This month's feature was on War Eagle Chris Chavis, who would later go on to bigger fame as.... Roman Reigns! Just kidding - it's CBW spokesman Tatanka!
The article talks about Chavis' football background and his early experience in the NAWA (yeah, I have no idea, either), and it did nicely foreshadow his future appearance in the big leagues, namely the WWF.
Next up was "X-Ray," a feature that had a panel of former wrestlers analyze a current star and their prospects for success. This month, the X-Ray panel was examining Doug Furnas, who at the time had just joined the NWA doing a strongman gimmick (he later appeared in the WWF for a cup of coffee as part of the Furnas and LaFon tag team).
Without even reading the content, I guarantee that: Captain Lou Albano will praise Furnas for taking the straight and narrow path; Killer Kowalski will say he needs more killer instinct; Professor Toru Tanaka will say something in broken English; Larry Hennig will compare him to his boy Curt; and Lou Thesz and Jack Brisco will go on and on about some old-timey amateur wrestling crap.
It's almost as though Captain Lou Albano and company didn't actually comment on Doug Furnas, but the folks at The Wrestler wrote the quotes for them! Oh, and speaking of which....
Matt Brock was one of my favorite "characters" of The Apter Mags. I have no idea if he actually existed, but the photo of the guy to the right is straight out of central casting: old man, cranky, a cig dangling from his mouth and (probably) drunk.
While I'm going to take an educated guess and suggest that "Matt Brock" is actually just a photo of Bill Apter's alcoholic uncle or something, his columns always seemed to take the same direction: the good old days were better because they didn't have any damn cartoon characters in the ring. Here, he's fondly recalling to back when Road Warrior Animal was known simply as The Road Warrior.
Another tremendous feature was "You Asked Us," in which fans would ask questions of their favorite wrestlers, who were definitely the actual wrestlers and definitely not the staff of The Wrestler pretending to be them.
This month's feature asked tough questions of Eddie Gilbert, Ricky Steamboat and Steve Doll. But my absolutely fave question comes from "Kary Borden" of Morristown, New Jersey, where she asks Associate Editor Andy Rodriguez whether Hulk Hogan can trust Tugboat.
Sorry.... but why in the HELL would anyone voluntarily ask Andy effing Rodriguez (nothing against him personally, if indeed he actually existed) anything about a situation he's not involved in? Probably because The Wrestler and its sister publications didn't get interviews from WWF guys.... but even so, this whole premise seems kinda, sorta fabricated, no?
We close with a portion of The Wrestler's rankings page (which was identical to all of the Apter Mags' ratings in any given month). I legitimately wonder how The Wrestler's editorial staff decided on these "overall" singles and tag team rankings, given they're legitimately trying to put the champion Portland Wrestling in the same grouping as Sting and The Ultimate Warrior.... Bill Apter actually talked about how the individual promotion rankings worked in his excellent autobiography Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken!, but I don't think he ever covered off how the big picture rankings were decided.
Still, look at both of those groups, especially the tag teams, and tell me that the wrestling rosters weren't REALLY deep with some great names 28 odd years ago?