Full disclosure: I had to photoshop the crap out of this magazine cover, simply to make this somewhat viewable. Between the super-glossy cover and foil-embossed logo, it wasn't the most scanner-friendly image in the world. If you've just come to Canadian Bulldog's World through a Google Image search with intentions of stealing the photo above? Apologies.
But for those who didn't.... this month's magazine is dedicated to the first-ever issue of WOW (World of Wrestling) Magazine. And it certainly wowed its audience with its unique approach.
Case in point: WOW was the first newsstand wrestling publication to openly celebrate the fact that wrestling was "pre-determined," and that there was a market out there for the so-called "Smart" fan. Sure, WWF Raw Magazine had similar elements to it in the years leading up to WOW's debut... but they certainly weren't flagrantly advertising it the way WOW did.
From a business standpoint, this made perfect sense. After all, professional wrestling was near an all-time high in terms of fan interest, and for those of us who grew up on the kayfabe-heavy Apter Mags (e.g. Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler), we were now mature enough to appreciate a magazine that told us the truth and had adapted with the times in a relevant way.
If you were wrestling fan during this era, or even if you appreciated quality-magazine journalism, this was the publication for you. This feature on Bill Goldberg, for example, went on for TWENTY PAGES! Are half of the pages photos? Sure, but it was still a welcome respite from the two-and-half page feature articles we were used to seeing every month.
This particular article, written by former ESPN personality Larry Burnett, is called "GOLDBERG! The Ironic Inside Story" and includes plenty of comments from Bill Goldberg himself, as well as folks inside and out of WCW, explaining what makes Da Man tick.
As was the case with most non-WWF publications, WOW Magazine had limited access to their stars. While they did manage to land some decent interviews over the years, most of their content was speculative and featuring the work of freelance photographers.
Along those lines, Bill Apter tells a great story in his autobiography about how, when he went to work for the WOW folks, he was expected to get WWF access. And in a way, he delivered.
Anyways... even WOW's ratings were different from the norm, going into explanations about what made each contender unique and their current challenges.
Getting back to the WCW content, this premiere double issue -- a whopping 190 pages, though that also includes stories on rollerblading, music and pop culture -- featured excellent pieces on both Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Scott Steiner.
I'm not sure who drew the short straw and was forced to interview Big Poppa Pump, but reading it is a real treat, as Steiner makes comments such as "I've come to realize that most people suck. That's a part of life. That's my personality and if people don't like it they can kiss my (bleep)" and "I didn't start watching professional wrestling until I was in college. I started watching it then and saw some of these lame wrestlers like Tully Blanchard, the Midget, the Rock and Roll Express...?
To be fair, WOW Magazine was about much more than just WWF and WCW coverage. They had tons of content related to ECW (and actually published an ECW specific magazine for a cup of coffee in late 1990s), the independent scene and even a dedicated section to women. On the latter point, it seems as though the folks at World Of Wrestling were way ahead of their time, profiling women in wrestling as more than just sex objects...
I..... stand corrected.
A good chunk of each WOW Magazine featured provocative pictorials on the likes of Tammy Lynn (Sunny), Sable, Terri Runnels, Francine, Lita, Debra, April Hunter and many other women who helped shape that era.
In the ranking section, Chyna was given the number one spot, because of she spoiled Vince McMahon's plans on a recent episode of Raw (in storyline). Fair enough.... but then they get to someone like Terri Runnels (# 7 in the rankings) and wrote "I don't like the 'Baby Dead' angle, but I do like the PMS angle with Jackie. Terri seems to be providing good entertainment now that she's left Val Venis and Dustin Runnels alone."
Apparently the womens section was written by a bunch of horny teenagers, a stance that is backed up by the caption of Debra's full-page photo that reads, and I quote, "Legs, Legs, Legs".
Stay classy, WOW.
Potential sexual harassement suits aside, WOW Magazine was revolutionary in its industry. It took the stance that, since everyone knew wrestling is fake, why not have some fun with that and give people the inside scoop? Over the next couple of years (I have to believe WOW went out of business by 2001 or thereabouts), the publication would try all kinds of wacky concepts, such as incorporating SCOOPThis! parodies into its content, printing mini-magazines on a different star each month, and publishing truncated bi-monthly publications to keep more current with the existing storylines.
It was a great idea, overall, and certainly worth trying, but WOW became a victim of a monopoly in wrestling and the subseqent decrease in fan interest. Otherwise, I could have seen it lasting much longer than it ultimately did.