If you ever wanted to see just how different professional wrestling is today than it was, say, ten years ago, look no further than the magazines that cover the industry. With them, you really get a feel for what the business was like in any given era, much more so, I believe, than even by watching old shows and PPVs. While those give you an idea of a particular event, the magazines have a broader scope, and therefore, give a greater insight into how things really were “back then.”
The fact that I have a hefty wrestling magazine collection should come as a shock to no one. I’d hate to even guess how many of the old rags I have – I do know, however, that I have five or six 18-gallon storage totes crammed full of them, as well as some odds and ends boxes laying around as well. What might surprise you is the fact that in my collection, less than maybe 10% are actual, bonafide WWF publications. I always found them to be much less interesting than the old Apter mags. It’s hard to say exactly why that is, but I think a lot of it had to do with the way the magazines were written. When I read Pro Wrestling Illustrated, it was as if the stories actually had some semblance of “realism” to them. Now don’t get me wrong, they had tons of stupid BS in them, like the OJ Trial starring wrestlers, but there was something else there that made for a more believable read. For example, I can totally hear Dusty Rhodes doing an interview in which he confides in “Willie Apner” and tells “Eddie Ellnoid” to cram it with walnuts. The WWF magazines, on the other hand, always felt like they had a spin to them that was blatantly obvious even during my most markish days.
By the time the mid 90’s rolled around, I had pretty much given up on wrestling magazines altogether. Therefore, when loyal Crapper Timmy Stewart offered to send some mid 90’s WWF mags my way, I jumped at the chance. After all, it stood to reason that during such a horrific era in wrestling history, the mags themselves were likely to be overflowing with crap.
And so, without further adieu, let us take a look back 9 years ago, when the world was a much different place.
Just make sure you put on your boots, kiddies – we’re about to get knee deep in Crap.
“Who Will Be Crowned King?” queries the front cover of the July 1995 WWF Magazine. And indeed, this is a special theme issue of the magazine, in which nearly every article is hyping up the King of the Ring PPV. The cover is actually a shot of one of my favorite WWF bits of all time, as “King” Jerry Lawler presides at the head of a table with Don King, King Arthur, King Tut, and The King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. I remember watching the old commercials for that back in the day and thinking how witty that was. With a cover like this, it seemed as though maybe things wouldn’t be too bad.
Then I made the mistake of actually opening the magazine, and the smell of crap hit me like a backed up toilet at a state park on the Fourth of July.
“Can You Guess the Secret Superstar?” asks the first page in the magazine, and I am already starting to get ill. Garish colors adorn the hints given to the reader. “The Secret Superstar drives a Volkswagen Beetle. Sometimes he piles as many as 10 or 12 of his friends in at the same time before heading to his favorite candy store!” Hmmm…well, this here’s quite the noodle scratcher, right up there with the mind benders from Highlights for Children. However, before I am able to decipher the cryptic clues, I glance to the right and see the staff credits.
Oh Dear GOD No.
To quote The Amazing Colossal Man: “What kind of sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?”
Before we get to any of Russo’s no doubt superlative writings, however, there’s a fan art page. Look, I know this stuff was probably drawn by five year olds, and therefore it’s not entirely fair to judge it.
Look at the image below:
Now, granted, I’m no Picasso, but I truly believe I could pinch a Crayola between my ass cheeks and draw something better. I truly hope that L’il Monica Mieth’s parents didn’t waste a stamp sending in her drawing of Tippy the Turtle in hopes of getting an art scholarship.
There’s also a poem by Sarah Wiltshire:
“The Million Dollar Man
is buying everyone in sight,
as he knows they will put up a good fight.
His corporation, as you can see,
is part of a money making machine.
Bam Bam, Volkoff, Tatanka and Bundy,
Kama, IRS, they’re all clumsy.”
And I thought the drawing of Sid with four boobs was bad. Still, mad props to Sarah for rhyming “Bundy” and “clumsy.” Hell, she probably writes rap songs now and makes millions. That or they just had Oscar scribble something down so they could fill the page.
I had barely recovered from the art section when I stumbled upon “Rookies to Legends: Heroes of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Hmmm…you know, I don’t even understand what the hell that means. If they are rookies, how would they be heroes of yesterday?
And what the hell does it really matter when you are featuring THIS guy?
Oh yes – it’s everyone’s favorite mooing WWF Superstar, MANTAUR! “Competitors never know what to expect in the Federation,” explains the article. “Still, unpredictable as life in the ring can be, wrestlers can be fairly confident that the individual they are facing is a human being. Now, even that is in question.” Sadly, they didn’t feature him in his giant bull head get up, so I’ve one-upped them by reposting that atrocity this week as well.
More fun awaits us two pages later, as we get “Five Reasons Why Jean Pierre LaFitte Wears an Eye Patch”, one of which is “He poked himself in the eye while attempting to CLEAN his nose.” Poor Carl Oulette – not only did he get saddled with a stupid pirate gimmick, he also had the misfortune of having WWF magazine make fun of him. That’s a pretty clear indicator that you’re at the bottom of Chief Vince “Wampum Maker” McMahon’s personal totem pole.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a magazine if we didn’t get a shill piece of some sort, and luckily, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are the calvary coming over the hill, doing their best to hock the new WWF Stretch-Em figures. Talk about a powerhouse duo – not only did they get gooey stretch figures, they both later went onto WCW and got vibrating dolls as well. It’s too bad they never made a combo doll that both stretched and vibrated. I mean, seriously, the WWF marketed Stone Cold Condoms at one point, why not go all the way and have a dildo in the shape of King Kong Bundy?
Not only were these toys fun for the young ‘uns, they were also apparently researched for years prior to their release: “Tests have proved that the latex skin on the toy gladiators expand better than plastic.” Whoa whoa whoa there, egghead. You’re trying to tell me the reason I can’t stretch my SD Jones figure is that he’s made of plastic instead of latex? Fascinating!
Not even twenty pages into the magazine and you can tell Russo is already bored with silly old wrestling, as we are treated to an interview with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Remember him? That kid from Home Improvement? Sure you don’t.
Anyway, he’s here under the guise of an interview (with Russo, of course) plugging his new movie, Man of the House, a supposed comedy with Chevy Chase and Farah Fawcett. “Slug-slow and predictable as a phone book” raves the San Francisco Chronicle!
Indeed, one look at Chevy’s pained face and it’s pretty clear he’s realized that his career has just hit rock bottom. That or Farah’s nipples have impaled themselves into his shoulder.
Back to the wrestling side of things, and to be honest, I’m practically begging for part two of the interview with the Toolman’s kid. Because now we get to the meat of the magazine, a series of lengthy (ie, two to three page) articles by oh yes, the Russonator himself.
Articles like “The King and the Hitman: A Fairy Tale” in which Russo waxes philosophic about the showdown between the two. And “Sir Roddy Speaks His Mind”, which contains this actual text: “Rebirth. Meaning: to be born AGAIN. Translation: Something was born BEFORE.” Given Russo’s penchant for swerves, I’m surprised it didn’t read “Rebirth. Meaning: to be born AGAIN. Translation: Something DIED BEFORE.” Sure, it wouldn’t have made much sense, but since when did that ever stop the guy? He even makes a heel turn in the middle of the magazine, becoming Vic Venom, a character that he would later portray not only in the future issues, but also on the short-lived Live Wire TV show as well.
However, not even the dumbest of prose can old a candle to the crem’ de la crap, “The Knights of the Squared Circle.”
In this column, the “great great great great great great great great great great grandson of Sir Ed Itor” (and sorry dude, but you’re more like the great great great great great great great great great great grandson of Sir Id I Ot) examines the royal lineage of all the competitors in the tournament. For you see, every wrestler in the tournament, from Kama to the Roadie to everyone in between was born of royal blood. For example, Mabel is actually a decendent of Lebam (get it? It’s Mabel backwards!), who was…well, here, just read for yourself (otherwise you probably wouldn’t believe me):
That’s right – Lebam was King Arthur’s personal rapper. And you probably didn’t know the Undertaker’s ancestor was a guy by the name of Tom B. Stone – known as Jim Reaper to his pals. Or that Bob Holly’s forefather, Sir Stockcard Car, actually invented the stock car, which traveled at three cobblestones per hour.
It’s all like something a five year old would come up with, but sadly, not quite as clever.
Despite the best efforts of this magazine, King of the Ring 95 went down as one of the absolute worst PPVs in WWF history. Not only did it feature exactly zero good matches, the coronation of King Mabel (Lebam would have been proud) set up yet another atrocious show, as that year’s Summer Slam drew one of the lowest buyrates the WWF had ever seen. Fans were departing the company in droves.
So what did Vince do? He read WWF magazine, and decided that Vince Russo was one hell of a writer. No, I am not making this up. Rumor has it McMahon was so impressed with what he read that he offered Russo a spot on the booking committee. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason he must thought the idea of Shawn Michaels’ great grandpappy being Laddy S. Man was just the kind of thing his TV shows needed.
And then, with Russo as one of his main writers, McMahon went on to become a billionaire.
Life sure is weird.