This week, we look back at a 1985 issue of WWF Magazine that went to press in November and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $3.00 in Canada. With a cover featuring an illustration of Roddy Piper, we’re teased with stories about Roddy, Corporal Kirchner, and The Wrestling Album. Let’s tango!
We kick things off, as usual, with The Mailbag, where Judy of Massachusetts wants to thank the WWF for giving her such gorgeous men to watch. (Wait, Jimmy Garvin isn’t even in the WWF!) She also says that if Hulk were to ever visit her town, she’d faint. Meanwhile, Tim from Hawaii is confused. He wants to know how George “The Animal” Steele was able to learn his line for a TV commercial when he doesn’t seem to be able to talk during his interviews. Editor Linda McM…. er ah, Linda Kelly responds that actor Tony Randall took a considerable amount of time to work with George to teach him his one line for the commercial. Tim goes on to ask how all the wrestlers in The Goonies video were able to get along enough to enable the director to shoot it. (Okay, at this point I’m thinking Tim is just trolling the magazine.) Linda says it wasn’t easy, but everyone muddled through. (With a coked up Piper on the set, this was probably true.) And finally, Tim has a couple of questions about Wrestlemania: First, why doesn’t the WWF force Bobby Heenan to give Andre the rest of the money Andre is due, and second, why doesn’t the WWF review the footage of the tag team title match and give the belts back to Windham and Rotundo? Tim says he hopes the editor will answer all his questions so he can watch wrestling with pride, but Linda leaves the questions unanswered, perhaps in part because Windham and Rotundo had already won back the tag titles making the latter part a moot point.
Around the Ring with Ed Ricciuti: Freddie Blassie is mad because in the last issue of WWF Magazine, the article about managers only included him pictured in a group shot as opposed to full page photo of him by himself.
Staying Fit with Ricky Steamboat: he says it’s important to allow muscles to rest after use, so he rotates his workouts. He also warns novice body-builders not to focus too much on the upper body while ignoring the legs. He says his personal choice is to use free weights and go for more reps than heavier weights.
Oh, great. Now Tim’s going to write in to complain again. Anyway, for those of you playing WWF Clue, the answer is Beefcake and Valentine in Philadelphia with the cigar. Now, the magazine says, all the teams will be coming after them, including Windham and Rotundo, The Killer Bees, and The British Bulldogs. (What, no heel teams?)
Next up, an article about Pedro Morales in Puerto Rico, his home island. Not that there are any photos of the trip, mind you. (Why would they do that?) Anyway, Pedro talks about his long journey to become WWF champion and tells aspiring wrestlers to stay in school and get their college degree before turning pro. (So it’s Pedro who is responsible for the present student loan crisis.)
Next, the cover story about the “Year of the Piper,” recapping his time in the WWF in 1985. And what a year it was. He had his own interview segment, he headlined Wrestlemania, he disrupted an in-ring wedding, he sang a song, he attacked rock ‘n roll, and he wrestled Hulk Hogan left and right. With all due respect to the Hulkster, 1985 really did belong to Roddy. The magazine notes, “Piper, the neighborhood misfit of the wrestling world, has done more than make a living. He has created an institution.”
Foreign Affairs: The WWF continues to be popular worldwide, with matches in Japan, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. Egypt, in particular, has proven to be a hotbed of WWF activities, with Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson, Gamma Singh, Velvet McIntyre, and Leilani Kai wrestling in Cairo. The highlight of the tour was Les Thornton successfully defending the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title against Mr. Wrestling II. (Don’t even ask me to explain this title.)
Next up, the making of The Wrestling Album! (This is particularly exciting to me, since I ran out to the record store to buy this album as soon as I could, and I’ve listened to it about a thousand times.)
Due out in October, this album features all the major stars of the WWF. (What about Les Thornton? He’s the Junior Heavyweight Champion, for crying out loud! Sorta kinda.) Anyway, the article talks about how Jimmy Hart was a member of The Gentrys, who sold 4,500,000 albums and singles and had their biggest hit, “Keep on Dancing,” while they were still in High School. (And let me tell you, while many backstories about wrestling personalities are either made up or exaggerated, this one is completely true.) Anyway, flash forward to 1985: Hart and Dave Wolff, Cyndi Lauper’s manager, were backstage and began to talk about music, and eventually that led to the idea of a wrestling album. (Not sure if this is true. Jimmy later said the project was already in the works when he became involved.) That got everyone excited, and soon a WWF label was born. Vince McMahon and Lenny Petze teamed up to produce it, Rick Derringer signed on to help, and Joel Dorn, Mona Flambé (Cyndi Lauper), and Jim Steinman joined the project too.
Now onto the music. “One of the oddest tracks is Nikolai Volkoff’s version of Jay and the Americans’ ‘Cara Mia.’ Dorn, who produced the song, was impressed with the Russian’s alto tone and claimed he sang the tune better than the original artists.” (Yeah, no. He had pitch problems. But I did like his tone and this was a good song for him.) Anyway, the magazine says it was the Iron Sheik who goaded Volkoff into pivoting into the Soviet National Anthem rather than finish the song properly.
Dorn also produced Hillbilly Jim’s song, “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy,” which Dorn helped write. (Let me tell you something as a violinist: this song has some really good fiddle work.) And then there’s a little song called “Real American.” This came about when Barry Windham was sitting around thinking about how to express his love for his country. He suddenly had an idea and picked up the phone to call Rick Derringer. “Barry and I have been friends for seven or eight years,” Derringer says. “Feeling the way he does about this country, he liked my song “American Boy” and asked me to write a similar song about him.” (Okay, this is all wrong. For starters, Rick never wrote a song called “American Boy,” though he did do an album called All American Boy. Anyway, Derringer later admitted he and Bernard Kenney had already written “Real American” when they were asked to help out with The Wrestling Album. “I never intended it for the WWF,” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “My partner and I who wrote it, when we listened back to that one, we actually cried. I remember thinking ‘We have written the most patriotic song of all time.’ We looked at it as a legitimate thing; we never envisioned it for the WWF, but when we came to be involved with The Wrestling Album, they asked us what songs we had, and one of them was ‘Real American.’ At first, Vince wanted it to be the theme for the U.S. Express tag team, but they left or something, and all I know is that Hulk Hogan decided he was going to use that song. It was a double-edged sword, to be honest. Hulk Hogan was successful and very prominent, so because of him, a lot of people heard the song. But on the other hand, we felt we wrote this fabulous patriotic rock anthem—it’s one of the better songs I’ve ever written, probably—and we felt like, ‘Oh wow, we’re kind of throwing it away on this wrestler.’ Of course, since then, in some ways, it’s become one of the biggest records I’ve ever made.” Some other fun facts about this song: it’s actually cowriter Bernard Kenney, not Rick Derringer, who sings it, which is why it’s credited to “Derringer,” their collective group name. You can also hear Cyndi Lauper, who produced it, as a background singer. Of special note: in 1990, the WWF asked one of their new composers to put together an instrumental version of it for a Hulk Hogan tribute video, with no expectations that it would be anything special, and when it was done, it had everyone in house in tears!)
Onto JYD and his rap song, “Grab Them Cakes,” which he says is about baked goods. Back when he was a young pup, his mama used to bake delicious cakes and he had to grab them before they were all gone. The producers say they were impressed by him. (And this was indeed true. “Grab Them Cakes” was released as a single, and JYD even mimed the song on American Bandstand.)
Meanwhile, “Hulk Hogan exhibits championship caliber bass playing on ‘Hulk Hogan’s Theme,’ the song Saturday morning television viewers hear each week on the champion’s cartoon show.” (This was fine workout music, but it was no good as a replacement for “Eye of the Tiger.” We, of course, lost the composer, Jim Steinman, in April of 2021, who reused the music for Bonnie Tyler’s “Ravishing.”) Hogan, who played in a rock ‘n roll band before entering the mat wars, says, “Playing the bass is relaxing for The Hulkster. It gives me something to do with my fingers when I’m not hanging and banging in the gym.” (No mention is made of his audition with Metallica.)
Then there’s Captain Lou, who… does a thing. Specifically, he does a comedy routine that drifts into NRBQ’s 1982 novelty song, “Captain Lou,” written about himself. (NRBQ stands for “New Rhythm and Blues Quartet”) “I always knew I had a Pavarotti voice and a Caruso tone,” Albano says. He also adds that while recording the song, he ran into Bruce Springsteen, who told him, “Captain, you’re one of a kind.” (I have to admit, I enjoy the bit in the song about accidentally inventing rock ‘n roll. “The neighbors complained. They moved. The new neighbors complained. It was almost like being on tour.”)
Jimmy Hart sings, “Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield.” He says, “It’s hard being a wrestling manager, a rock star, and a sex symbol.” (Hart said in later interviews that he was told Rick Springfield heard the song and loved it. He also talked about how he and his wrestlers would listen to the WWF albums just like we fans were doing, which is funny to think about. “Back in the day, if I managed The Hart Foundation or The Honky Tonk Man or whomever, I would travel with them. And when the wrestling albums came out on cassette, we’d always listen to it in the car and just flip out. We loved it.” You know, if I could have seen Jimmy Hart and The Hart Foundation driving down the road listening to “Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield” just once, my life would have been complete.)
Mean Gene, who plays piano, sings a rendition of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Dave Wolff says, “If Mean Gene had been born just a little bit later, I’m convinced he’d be a rock ‘n roller. He’d be walking around with a feather earring and blue hair.”
As for Rowdy Roddy Piper, he performed a take of “For Everybody” before “storming out of the building.” (Derringer said in later interviews that he was actually kind of surprised by how good Roddy was.)
“The most difficult song to record was ‘Night of a Thousand Dances,’ which features 30 wrestlers.” (C’mon, WWF Magazine! Can’t you even get the title of the song right?) Freddie Blassie says, “Just as they called me to save The Goonies video, they called me to save this record!” The magazine sums up the experience, saying, “It was a magic moment—one that was captured in all its chaotic glory—and one that will be relived on turntables for generations to come.” (Personally, I just love having an album with commentary!)
Next article: A Match to Remember with Jeff Walton. He talks about Ramon Garza upsetting Buddy Rose after a dropkick in the summer of 1974, sending the local Seattle fans into a frenzy.
Next, WWF Merch!
Then we get into “Speed merchants,” who the magazine says generally weigh around 230 to 240 pounds and must be fast to avoid the larger, more powerful wrestlers.
The magazine rightly points out that these are not small men in the real world. They just look small next to Andre the Giant or King Kong Bundy. And that’s something I didn’t appreciate until I began to go to the shows in person. When you realize that a guy flying around the ring is actually 6’2 and 240 pounds of muscle, you can suddenly appreciate the effort it takes for him to play the “small, quick man” in the ring. These speed merchants include Ricky Steamboat, Lanny Poffo, Les Thornton, the Killer Bees, and the British Bulldogs. They’re all like matadors taking on a raging bull. (Hey, now! There’s only one El Matador.)
Next, an article about Sgt. Slaughter’s failed replacement, Corporal Kirchner.
Straight out of the 82nd Airborne Division, Kirchner takes great pride in his army background. (And to be fair to Mike, he’s using his real backstory here, unlike others who are just pretending to be military men.) He says the American fans are the greatest, and he loves their cheers. (Maybe if Barry Windham leaves, he can have “Real American” as his theme song.) Sheik and Volkoff, however, think he’s a joke, and they’re preparing to take him down. But don’t worry, Kirchner is ready for all comers. (When my local toy store used to carry the LJN wrestling figures, nobody wanted Corporal Kirchner. So everytime I went in to look for a new figure, I’d see an army of about 50 Kirchners covering the wall and maybe 4 or 5 other wrestlers. I always thought how cool it would be to be Kirchner himself and see almost a whole section of a store dedicated to yourself.)
Next up, an article about wrestling moves. With pictures of Les Thornton serving as a guide, we go through the basics one by one. (What’s with all the Les Thornton stuff in this magazine? They should have just put him on the cover.) Body slams, sleeper holds, suplexes, toe holds… they’re all covered. The magazine says it’s important to know your weight and use it to your advantage. Similarly, if you know your strength, you can use that as an asset as well. And don’t forget psychology. For example, both Tony Atlas and Nikolai Volkoff like to pause briefly when they press a man skyward so he can become frightened and disoriented before absorbing the impact when crashing down on the mat. The article also talks about running the ropes, noting that Beefcake and Hogan are especially proficient at it and use the added momentum to their advantage, such as when Hogan drops the leg. (I mean, it just wouldn’t work properly without the ropes, right?) And then there are aerial tactics, with the British Bulldogs leading the way in this category performing high risk moves off the top rope. But it all starts with the basics, such as wristlocks and shoulder blocks. WWF standouts in this area include Rick McGraw, David Sammartino, and Wendi Richter. (So apparently, these moves aren’t necessarily indicative of a long WWF career.) “Professional wrestling offers its competitors a vast number of both offensive and defensive tactical options. It is important, therefore, that a grappler think quickly on his feet so as to continually select the best strategic action available to him from one moment to the next.” And speaking of tactical wrestling…
Brian Blair visited an amateur wrestling tournament managed by his old high school wrestling coach and served as referee and scorekeeper for some of the matches. He also tried to help out the kids and offered them some tips. (Good for you, Brian! I went to school with Tony Romo, and throughout his pro career, he used to do something similar, coming back here each summer to help work with our youth football players.)
Moving along, we learn about Lanny Poffo, who says he never throws the first illegal punch. He only retaliates when an opponent breaks the rules. He also says he never does anything out of rage. He only tries to win his matches. (Well, he would go on to defeat Hulk Hogan on SNME! How many guys can say that?) He says he keeps his flexibility by drinking distilled water to avoid chemicals that could cause toxic acid crystals to become compacted in his joints. The article sums him up by saying he’s poetry in motion. (Genius.)
And finally, we learn that Lou Albano was named WWF’s “Manager of the Year.” However, in a shocking twist, Bobby Heenan stole the trophy and smashed it over Albano’s head at the ceremony. (When will the WWF learn not to have ceremonies?)
That’s it for this week! Join me next week for an issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated where we’ll look at pictures of Hulk Hogan from his early years, hear from Greg Gagne about his new military gimmick, get tragic news about Jay Youngblood and Mike Von Erich, and learn that PWI has decided to recognize a certain championship as a World Title rather than a regional title. And, if you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, check out my book all about them, Middle-Earth Madness.