Before the Internet, online dirt sheetz, Reddit and constantly updated wrestling-related social media feeds, wrestling magazines were the glue that held fans together. Sure, classic wrestling mags were 90% made up, but that didn’t matter. They were what kept folks speculating, obsessing and arguing about pro wrestling between the actual events and TV shows — today’s wrestling fan community was born from their pages.
Since I am a man of considerable means and resources, not to mention knowledge of local pawn shops, I’ve managed to get my hands on a number of classic wrestling mags. I thought it would be fun to look through their pages to see what fans really thought about major events that have since been clouded by revisionist history, and maybe have a few chuckles at some of the crazy crap Bill Apter and pals were pulling out of their asses on a monthly basis. I think you may find no much has changed in the past 30 years.
Before we get going, please help this new feature get off to running start! Take a second to click one or both of these share buttons – thanks!
Pro Wrestling Illustrated (September, 1985)
The Wrestling World That Was
So, what were the hot topics in world of wrestling as of September, 1985 according to Bill Apter and boys and girls of Pro Wrestling Illustrated?
Well, the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection was in full swing, and the first Wrestlemania just went down, both of which were totally obnoxious circus garbage sure to be the ruination of this beautiful sport of ours according to PWI. Ric Flair was gearing up for a title match with Nikita Koloff, who was training in a literal dungeon for the bout. Meanwhile Kerry Von Erich and Chris Adams were having strap match battles to the death in Texas. Also, you could win Dusty Rhodes’ boots in a trivia contest! It was an exciting time, in other words.
Weekly Cranky Wrestling Letters
To listen to the last 30 years of WWE propaganda, the 80s were an unbroken golden age for Hulkamania, and Wrestlemania was a universally beloved, unquestioned triumph. Well, don’t tell that to 1985 PWI readers. About a solid third of this magazine is made up of letter columns, and the general consensus was that Wrestlemania was a lot of empty hype, and Hulk Hogan was a bland, untalented corporate construct everyone was sick of. Hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar.
Check out these fans insisting that it’s time to move on from this stupid, played-out Wrestlemania concept only months after the very first one ever…
This issue has an entire section devoted to fans bickering over whether Hulk Hogan is garbage, as moderated by anti-Hogan heel character, Peter King. Here’s a few choice snaps from the height of Hulkamania…
Hogan is all hype. He is a showman and performer, not a wrestler. I’ve seen all three champions wrestle in person. To see a classic wrestling match with holds and ability, you have to see Martel and Flair. – Mary Beth McCarthy
“Top Guy X is an entertainer, not a WRESTLER. He doesn’t know HOLDS or HAVE WORKRATE. To see real wrestling, watch [insert other lower profile promotion].” Oh, wrestling fans, never change.
I think Hulk Hogan is the perfect champion for The WWF. The WWF has based itself on this ridiculous rock-wrestling connection, allowing musicians and actors to enter into a sport they have no business being in. They have disgraced wrestling and all true wrestling fans. — Julie Grace
Hulk Hogan is the most overrated “wrestler” there is today. Pain and simple, he has no wrestling skill. He is nothing more than a media creation. — Kevin M Currier
It wasn’t all bad news for Hogan though, there were some proud Hulkamaniacs writing in…
I strongly disagree with your criticism regarding Hulk Hogan. He is a fantastic wrestler and good-looking at that. He has a gorgeous body and he knows how to use it. — Gerri Gardiner
Sing it, sister. While we’re on the subject, a surprising number of the letters in the mag come from women, a lot of whom seemed to have, um, ulterior motives for following the sport. Take Susie, who was moved to write this glowing endorsement of the BOOGIE WOOGIE MAN himself, Jimmy Valiant…
Down here in Greensboro, North Carolina the number one wrestler is Jimmy Valiant. The “Boogie Woogie Man” is the cutest and cuddlyest wrestler in the whole world! I love him to death. How about a full-length cover on him? Or a color picture centerfold? I would love to be his valet, even for just a day (or night!). Soon, I’m going to start a Jimmy Valiant fan club and then the world will know how good he is. — Susie Shonburg
Geez Susie, find Jimmy and get a room. Oh, you did? Well good for you.
Cuteness and cuddlyness confirmed.
The Cover Stories
Here were the biggest, most ground-shaking stories in wrestling according to this random PWI…
Give The Hulkster a Rest!
According to PWI, Hulk Hogan was dangerously overworked following Wrestlemania, leading to the greatest indignity of his career – a count-out loss to Don Muraco. Oh, the humanity!
“Some actors and celebrities thrive in the limelight and actually gain sustenance from it. Hogan must remember, though, that he is not just a celebrity. He is an athlete. If he wishes to retire from the ring then that’s fine. Let him be on TV all day long. But as a wrestler, he’s dying a fast death. He needs a rest. He needs to relax. Even if it was just for a week. With his recuperative powers, that’s all he’d need. But he’d better do it soon. There are plenty of wrestlers out there better than Magnificent Muraco.”
Guys…I think Hulkamania may be done for.
He’s Got Millions of Fans, But He’s the Loneliest Man In Wrestling
Magnum T.A. Is the hunkiest, fur-chested, slab of man meat in pro wrestling, that goes without saying, but PWI wants you to know he’s also tragically unfulfilled and alone. News you can use, amirite ladies? They prove this using analysis from famed made-up psychobiochemist Dr. Lawrence Maltin…
“What we do is study the athlete in all facets of his professional athletic experience. We do research in psychobiochemistry, which deals with the combined physical and emotional experiences that a professional athlete undergoes.
I’ve been following the development of Magnum T.A. very closely, because I feel he is a very unique case in professional wrestling. He is obviously a loner by nature, who prefers to spend his time away from the ring in solitude. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Magnum T.A. is a very lonely man. It’s almost like the professional comedian who goes on stage and receives laughs to compensate for his own perceived emotional inadequacies.”
What? That’s not why people write jokes! SHUT UP DOCTOR MALTIN, YOU DON’T KNOW ME.
It Was Like a Battle to the Death!
Guys, Kerry Von Erich and Chris Adams had a strap match, and it was literally a battle to the death! Well, okay, not literally. Except YES, TOTALLY LITERALLY! THESE MEN WERE GOING TO KILL EACH OTHER WITH TABLE SPOTS!
“’It was a battle to the death!’ one fan gasped as he stood next to the overturned table that Von Erich had slammed Adams onto only moments earlier. Well, not quite a battle to the death, but that may only be because both Von Erich and Adams were so superbly conditioned.”
Have I mentioned how much I love these old magazines’ obsession with “conditioning”? Because I do.
Scouting and Ratings
The month’s scouting report was entirely devoted to the AWA, which was totally better than the stupid Cyndi Lauper clown circus that was WWF for those not following along. Here’s a couple selections…
Spoiler: Sarge never found that new mission.
You heard it from PWI – goosestepping = wasted energy. Just don’t bother with that malarkey!
Here’s this month’s all-important PWI Ratings.
The Back Pages
A major part of the appeal of dusty old nerd publications like PWI are the weird and sometimes downright sketchy ads packed in between the articles. This particular issue was no slouch, as right near the beginning of the mag we have a full page ad for the meta-physical, computer-generated mystic forces of the XENOX BRAIN-WAVE RECEIVER! Hey, if you believe pro wrestling is real, who are you to turn your nose up at Xenox?
I’m not a religious man, but the above ad is my new Bible.
There were also plenty of intriguing smaller ads, including ones for live seahorses, masturbation flashlights, explosive hammer fists and just straight-up fake IDs.
Never let it be said PWI wasn’t looking out for the youth of America.
Ultimately though, the sketchiest, most off-putting ad in the magazine was this one for Michael Hayes’ Badstreet USA single. Listen to Badstreet USA while hanging your Badstreet USA posters and wearing your Badstreet USA satin jacket, Badstreet USA bandanna and Badstreet USA buttons. Guys, we can never say a mean thing about John Cena merchandise ever again.
Final Wrestlemag Rating
A top class effort from top to bottom. Whether tackling the shameful world of Rock ‘n’ Wrestling WWE or the shocking violence of Kerry Von Erich strap matches, the superbly conditioned writers of PWI magazine, delivered with professionalism and good taste. The September, 1985 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated currently ranks #1 on my list of all-time best wrestling magazines. Granted, I’ve only reviewed one thus far, so things could very well change with further research.
Hey, by the way, did you know Pro Wrestling Illustrated is still around? In magazine form no less? You can sign up for a subscription right here.