A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
This past week, Pro Wrestling Illustrated announced Seth Rollins as the number one wrestler in the PWI 500. It mattered to pretty much nobody and was hotly debated for about three minutes. There was a time when the PWI 500 did mean something, however. As a matter of fact, there was a time when PWI – and a bevy of other wrestling magazines – were an important part of being a hardcore wrestling fan.
Bill Apter is one of the most well known names in professional wrestling. Before Dave Meltzer, Apter was the journalist many wrestling fans would turn to. Their styles were completely different; where Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter is often credited with being the first wrestling dirtsheet, Apter would always report on wrestling as if it were a real sporting contest. Kayfabe was upheld and storylines were progressed through the various magazines he published.
I don’t remember my introduction to PWI. I know by the end of 1987, they had already become essential reading. I bought a 1987 double size PWI year end awards issue. It was not the first issue I had read (I think it was the one with Ric Flair on the cover with an article imploring him to dump the Four Horsemen), but it is definitely the first I owned.
PWI stood out from every other wrestling periodical on newsstands. The covers were some of the best of any magazine. It seemed like each month would top the previous one. The ratings seemed more accurate, the columns were more interesting, and the results seem to cover the entire wrestling world. The articles delved deeper and provided loads of information. And even though it was hard sometimes, if PWI did not consider a title a World Championship, then neither did I. (The UWF may have been the best promotion on Earth in 1986 and 1987, but it was just another regional title.)
By 1988, I knew I needed this magazine every single month. I begged my mom for a subscription. It seemed to take forever, but she eventually gave in. That April, I received my first issue of PWI in the mail. The August 1988 issue (cover dates were months ahead of calendar dates) featuring the Mega Powers on the cover. It was the beginning of the union that would last for years.
There was so much to love about PWI. The monthly press conferences were always a great read. These were more than just a line or two in an article — they were top stars answering hard-hitting questions. I especially enjoyed the interviews with wrestlers and managers I didn’t get to see regularly. This kept me in the know of wrestling promotions I had no other access to. The interviews with big name stars provided more information to the action I was watching play out on TV. There may not have been many interviews with the stars of the WWF (interviews with Kerry Von Erich on his way to the Federation and the Ultimate Warrior after his WrestleMania VII return stand out), but what they did have were informative and interesting.
The color centerfold was always the first thing I would look for. The May 1990 issue featuring The Great Muta is still my favorite; others like Rick Martel were interesting in detail but lacked a cool poster. Then, there were others like the tag team of Doom which did not have a good picture or an interesting bio. There were even some that I did not care for at the time but came to appreciate later, like Missy Hyatt.
Adding more color pages made the world’s best wrestling magazine even better. They already had the best pictures, so I never really craved more color, but I didn’t complain when they did so. The addition of color also came with the odd decision to move the centerfold to the back cover. In other words, if you wanted to pin the picture up on your wall you had to remove the cover of the entire magazine. Thankfully, this change did not last long.
I would read and reread these issues all the time — the stories never got boring to me. I could learn more about the wrestlers I had only heard of and hear about crazy storylines I had no chance to see. I learned about the time Flair and Rick Steamboat teamed in Mid Atlantic, Kevin Sullivan’s devil worship, and Jerry Lawler’s ongoing battles to keep his kingdom. I got caught up on Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz, and the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. I soaked up all the wrestling information PWI gave me.
I learned about Japanese wrestling through PWI. In his Off the Top Rope column, Eddie Ellner would constantly harp about the talents of Stan Hansen and Jumbo Tsuruta. PWI was where I first learned about an awesome team with the greatest name ever: The Miracle Violence Connection. (The Violence was what Steve Williams and Terry Gordy would do to you. The Miracle was if you survived.) The combination of constantly reading top notch wrestling journalism and hardcore tape trading filled my head with pro wrestling knowledge I still use on occasion.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated is an important part of my wrestling fandom, but as with most things, as I got older, I lost interest in the magazine. The magazine itself never changed, teenage me just wanted to spend time doing different things. The end of kayfabe, a newfound interest in WON (Meltzer’s work on the Montreal Screwjob still holds up), and the birth of the internet pretty much sealed the deal. Regardless, PWI remains one of the strongest memories of my life.
Next week: The rest of the Apter Mags.
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