Looking at an old-school rasslin’ magazine
I was going through some boxes in the basement the other day when I discovered a bunch of my old wrestling magazines from the ’70s and ’80s. To my surprise and delight, I came across the first wrestling magazine I had ever purchased (well, actually my parents bought it for me, because I was only 6).
The weathered, tattered magazine was the February 1974 edition of The Wrestler, part of the family of wrestling magazines that came to be known as “Apter mags” because famous wrestling writer and photographer Bill Apter worked for them. I got the magazine while attending my first live wrestling event, a World Wide Wrestling Federation show at the Baltimore Civic Center on the day after Christmas in 1973. The 66-page magazine cost just 75 cents (the year-end awards issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated currently on newsstands goes for $8.95).
Looking through the magazine brought back a lot of memories and was a reminder of how different the business was back in the days of the territories. This wasn’t sports entertainment, it was rasslin.’ There was no pyro, entrance music or prime-time television shows, just dimly lit, smoke-filled arenas and Saturday afternoon programs on grainy UHF stations. And while the product wasn’t nearly as salacious as it is today, it certainly wasn’t geared towards kids.
The magazine cover featured Andre The Giant, who literally and figuratively was the biggest attraction in wrestling at the time, winding up to deliver a punch to Blackjack Lanza. The headline read: “Top Stars Reveal: How I’d Beat Andre The Giant.”
The best quote from the accompanying article was from Cyclone Negro, who was billed as “wrestling’s most bloodthirsty man.” Negro said: “I’d cut him down to my size with a sharp razor. Then, once he was down I’d cut off his arms and legs and make him a vegetable.”
It wasn’t just the writing that was graphic, either. Gory pictures were a staple of wrestling magazines back then, and this one had a few, including one of The Sheik carving up the forehead of Mighty Igor with a pencil. Keep in mind that I was in first grade when I got this magazine. I’m not sure what my parents were thinking by indulging my fascination with all things wrestling – but I’m glad they did.
I’m also glad my mother never actually took a good look at the inside of this magazine. I’m pretty sure that if she had seen the ad for the “Love Doll: An amazingly life-like companion,” it would have been the end of my wrestling-magazine-reading days for quite awhile. The full-page ad for a blowup doll featured a very real topless woman sprawled across a bed. For only $9.95, you’ll “never be bored or alone again,” the ad stated.
Some other ads included: “The Secret Power of Chinese Kung-Fu: The Deadly Oriental Fighting Art of Instantaneous Death,” a book on “How to Pick Up Girls,” and the “Hercules Muscle Building Plan,” which featured a cartoon in which a bully steals a girl from a scrawny guy, who then transforms himself into a bodybuilder who beats up the bully and reclaims the girl. These ads don’t exactly paint a flattering picture of wrestling fans, do they?
Oh, well, back to the editorial content. The latest news was recapped in a column by Apter titled “Here’s What’s Happening, Baby!” The top story was that babyface Fred Curry was disqualified for using a foreign object in his match against “vicious maniac” Killer Brooks. I guess it must have been a slow news cycle. In other news: Larry Henning’s new nickname is “The Ax,” which was given to him by his manager, Lou Albano; and Florida Championship Wrestling with Gordon Solle (sic) was voted best syndicated television wrestling show by the NWA for the third consecutive year.
The Official Wrestling Ratings ranked the top 10 in the WWWF, NWA and AWA, as well as tag teams, midgets and women. The world champions were Pedro Morales (WWWF), Jack Brisco (NWA) and Verne Gagne (AWA). Actually, by the time this magazine came out, Morales was no longer the champion, as the WWWF title had changed hands twice, going from Morales to Stan Stasiak and then to Bruno Sammartino in a span of nine days in early December. Sammartino, who was not listed in the WWWF ratings, was the No. 6 contender in the NWA, and he was a member of two top 10 tag teams (No. 3 with The Bruiser and No. 6 with Edouard Carpentier).
The coolest feature in the magazine was a page that consisted of wrestling ads from newspapers across the country. Clippings that stood out included: The Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn. (NWA world champion Jack Brisco vs. Lou Thesz); The Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis (Harley Race vs. Dory Funk Jr.; Johnny Valentine vs. Gene Kiniski); and the St. Paul Civic Center in St. Paul, Minn. (24-man battle royal featuring Superstar Billy Graham, Wahoo McDaniel, Andre, Ken Patera, Ray Stevens, Ivan Koloff and Bill Watts).
Oh, and there also was one other wrestler of note in that battle royal, although no one knew it at the time. It was a rookie named Rick (sic) Flair.