This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of WWF Magazine that went to press on in late November of 1985 and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $3.00 in Canada. With a cover featuring Hulk Hogan, we’re teased with stories about Special Delivery Jones, the Hillbillies, and “The night Hulk saw red.” Let’s make like Jim Brunzell and jump in.
We kick things off with WWF Mailbag, Mark from New Jersey says he loves wrestling but gets mad whenever Jesse Ventura puts down wrestlers like Junk Yard Dog, Tito Santana, and Hillbilly Jim. He adds that he doesn’t understand why Piper gets his own interview segment and suggests Hulk Hogan replace him. (Oh, Mark, you’re so precious. I hope you continue to enjoy the days of Kayfabe until the internet comes along to ruin it all.) Meanwhile, 14-year-old Christopher from Connecticut says it’s crazy for people like Jesse to call King Kong Bundy a giant when he’s only 6’5 and Andre is a foot taller. In fact, Chris adds, Andre could easily defeat Bundy, and Andre vs. Hogan would make for a much more exciting match. Chris hopes Andre someday gets that title match. (I have to say, one thing that’s apparent when looking back at these old magazines is that a lot of fans did not buy into the whole “Bundy is a monster” idea and didn’t consider him a Wrestlemania caliber opponent for Hulk Hogan.) And 25-year-old Edward from Connecticut writes in to say Hulk Hogan inspired him to get in shape, and he now goes to the gym almost everyday.
Next up, an article about S.D. Jones. He’s now embracing his West Indies roots and dressing in bright colors. he’s also instructing ring announcers to bill him from Antigua rather than Philadelphia. “I was born in Anitgua,” he says. “Philadelphia is just where I had my first match, so I call it my ring home. But now I’ve decided to go back to my origins.” (Anyone else have trouble with the paint peeling off his LJN doll? I mean, they all had problems with the paint coming off, but his was the worst.) Anyway, S.D. has also lost a lot of weight and hopes all the changes help him become more successful in the WWF.
Next, Dirty Tricks of the Trade, an article that looks at how specific wrestlers cheat. The article begins by pointing out that some wrestlers try to walk the straight and narrow, like Ricky Steamboat and Tito Santana. Other wrestlers try to take shortcuts, either hiding foreign objects, or having managers carry them in plain view. Take, for example, the new tag team champions, The Dream Team, which won the title thanks to a cigar. (Allegedly.) And what about Muraco, who has won plenty of matches thanks to Fuji’ throwing salt at an unprepared opponent? (Hey, throwing salt is a Japanese ritual! Can Fuji help it if someone gets in the way?) There’s also the issue of managers carrying canes, which can be used to trip, poke, or smack someone. (Now we’re going after innocent walking sticks because someone got to close to them?) Tiger Chung Lee sometimes hits people with a kendo stick. Moondog Spot is less cultured and sometimes uses his bone, which ring attendants often forget to remove when he sets it down in the corner. (I don’t blame them. Talk about germs!) Feigning injury is another tactic employed by dirty tricksters. Bob Orton, for instance, hurt his arm a year ago but still wears a heavy cast. (I’m sure that arm is just about heeled up, and the cast will be off soon.) Terry Funk is less subtle, using a branding iron. Bobby Heenan, on the other hand, uses his mind to prepare his men to cheat ahead of time. (That’s called strategy!) But perhaps the most cunning of them all is Miss Elizabeth, who often serves as a distraction, allowing her man, Randy Savage, to rack up the W’s. (Well, it worked about a thousand times against George Steele.) But what these dirty tricksters gain in the ring in terms of victories, they certainly lose in terms of fan support and respect, which in the long run could be just as important as winning. (Only if they buy your merch.)
Around the Ring with Ed Ricciuti: this month, he talks about how hard it is to be a referee, a job made even harder by managers like Jimmy Hart distracting them and commentators like Jesse Ventura constantly criticizing them. He says that they not only miss calls here and there, but sometimes wrestlers like John Studd and King Kong Bundy succeed in intimidating them. “I’ve seen it myself. Describing exact incidents and naming the officials involved would do no good at this point—but it’s happened.”
Next, the latest Lunch With a Wrestler contest winner! This month, it’s Lizette of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who chose Wendi Richter as her meal-mate.
Lizette, accompanied by her father and brother, chose the restaurant, and Wendi showered her with WWF merchandise. During the meal, Lizette asked Wendi all about her career, including a question about the strangest place she wrestled. “Japan,” Wendi answered. “We had to wrestle inside a drained Olympic-size swimming pool. And then in started to rain. I thought I was going to have to swim across the ring.” Then it was off to Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where Wendi defeated the Spider, who was managed by the Fabulous Moolah.
Pedro’s back in Puerto Rico, and this time the magazine has the photos to prove it. He seems to know everyone there, and everyone seems to love him. He says he enjoys visiting San Juan and his home village. “San Juan is very different from my little village on Culebra,” Pedro says of the islet, off the main island of Puerto Rico. “I love the big city, but I am also at home on Culebra. There are small islands all around with many sea birds, and the people are very friendly. It’s kind of quiet though, so I come to San Juan for excitement.”
Next, a quick article about Staying Fit, again featuring Ricky Steamboat. He says he rarely eats red meat and bread, and he doesn’t use salt, sugar, or additives in his food. He also steams his fruits and vegetables. (Does he own a boat too?) Another method of cooking he prefers is baking, which combines dry heat and a moist method so the oven heat is dry and the natural juices create a vapor that circulates and surrounds the food. You can put a whole meal in a baking bag or a tent of aluminum foil, go out for a couple of hours, and then when you return your meal will be ready to eat!
Next, coverage of Hogan’s match with Nikolai Volkoff from Saturday Night’s Main Event. (Just before Rocky IV was released, the WWF built this one up as a big event, and it was probably the peak of Volkoff’s career.) As fans held their collective breath, the two behemoths grappled in a toe-to-toe contest before Hogan dropped Volkoff to the canvas and delivered a crushing legdrop, scoring the win three seconds later. At the post-match press conference, Hogan said, “I found out before the match that Volkoff was out to humiliate America in front of the world. What better way to do it than on national television? That’s why he hit me from behind. I don’t like to play down and dirty, but I wanted to show Volkoff that, if we have to, Americans can take off the gloves. Maybe from now on, Volkoff will think twice before he tries dirty tricks. I think I made my point. That’s all, brother.”
Jeff Walton reflects upon what it was like to watch a young, in-shape Adrian Adonis wrestling in 1976 in A Match to Remember. Adonis was booked for two matches on the same night against Tank Patton and Toru Tanaka and won them both, much to the delight of the fans.
Next, coverage of Uncle Elmer’s wedding on Saturday Night’s Main Event. (This was a real wedding and is well worth watching if you haven’t seen it.) The article, in an attempt to recognize the people who think the WWF has moved too far to the circus side of entertainment, notes that some hard-core wrestling fans saw some merit in Jesse Ventura’s criticism of a wedding in a wrestling ring. But even most of these fans agreed that Ventura and Roddy Piper, the latter of whom said romance has no place in wrestling, took it too far. “Maybe there are too many things going on around the ring that don’t have much to do with wrestling,” one said. “But Piper and Ventura finally went too far when they began to ridicule Elmer and his bride.” Piper, for his part, isn’t apologizing. “I’d hate to see what their kids’ll look like!” Ventura adds, “Probably the big event on their honeymoon will be slopping the pigs.” WWF Magazine speculates a war may be brewing and that we could perhaps see Piper & Ventura versus Hillbilly Jim & Uncle Elmer.
Next, Battle of the Titans looks back at Wendi Richter’s victory over Fabulous Moolah for the title back on July 23, 1984, ending Moolah’s fictitious 28-year-reign as the WWF women’s champ. Looking back, Wendi says that Moolah helped beat herself. “She had me twice. Each time, though, she was overconfident. She thought I was a patsy. You’d expect that with all her experience she wouldn’t make that kind of mistake. But she did. It showed me that as long as I wrestle, I’ll always have respect for my opponent and never, never think I’ve got a match wrapped up until the final count. I guess you can say Moolah taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life, even though she didn’t mean to.”
And then, Breaking News which itself was legitimately a shock to WWF Magazine…
The Spider just defeated Richter to regain the title! And in a twist, this time the Spider turned out to be none other than The Fabulous Moolah herself. This was, of course, a screwjob that happened just as Richter was in the midst of a Hulk Hogan-like push and thought she had leverage to renegotiate her contract. The magazine has a special note basically apologizing for having two articles about ex-champ Richter, saying they were written before the title change, and then goes on to bury Richter, saying that she lost, ironically, because she didn’t take her opponent (in a mask) seriously and that after the three-count she showed her true colors by refusing to turn over the championship belt and instead using it as a weapon to whack the new champion. “Finally, Moolah headed to the dressing room, secure in the knowledge that, one way or another, the belt was again hers. Standing in the ring, Wendi finally realized it too. With a look of disgust, she flung the belt to the mat and, head hanging, walked to the dressing room.”
Grappling Glitter tells us about Kevin Fagan, the 29-year-old cartoonist behind Drabble, a nationally syndicated comic strip. He’s a big wrestling fan, as is evident by the wrestling references in his work. (Fagan, who created Drabble in 1979 when he was 22, is still at it, drawing each strip by hand and distributing them to over 100 newspapers worldwide. He’s now 65.)
Foreign Affairs tells us about the Killer Bees defeating former champions Sheik and Volkoff in Australia. “Self-proclaimed experts had expected the Bees to give a good account of themselves but dismissed their chances of beating Sheik and his Soviet sidekick. (Volkoff’s had a bad month, hasn’t he? He lost to Hogan. He lost to the Bees. And now he doesn’t even have a name. He’s just a “Soviet sidekick.”) “The Bees, however, never doubted their own abilities.” Aussie fans also had a chance to see la crème de la crème: Junk Yard Dog, Adrian Adonis, Iron Mike Sharpe, Tiger, Tony Parisi, and Les Thornton. (I’m assuming “Tiger” is Satoru Sayama after he sold the rights to the name “Tiger Mask” to Mitsuharu Misawa? Feel free to set me straight if I’m wrong.)
In sad news…
In other news, the Hillbillies continue to breed…
We now have three of them, with Cousin Junior joining the clan. Like the other Hillbillies, with Cousin Junior, what you see is what you get. Junior is the youngest of the bunch and “may be the best strategist.” He especially loves setting his opponents up for his mule-kick. He also enjoys his hoedowns. (Sadly, “Cousin” Lanny Neal Kean Jr died in 2009 at only 48.)
Next up, coverage of The Wrestling Classic, a tournament in Chicago that aired on pay-per-view. “All the bouts were packed with action.” And we run down the various results until we get down to JYD vs. Savage, with the Dog winning by countout to win the tournament. Meanwhile, Hulk defeated Piper by DQ, and Michael Hamby of Batavia, Illinois won a 1964 Rolls Royce in the Wrestling Classic WWF’s sweep-stakes. Hamby, it turns out, is a car collector who already owns a 1973 Cadillac limousine, a 1974 Corvette convertible, and a 1956 Dodge Power Wagon. But fear not! He has a four-car garage with one more spot for the Rolls Royce. Hamby was selected in a drawing from over 280,000 entries, which promoted the WWF pay-per-view cable television event under the name Wrestle-Vision.
Breaking news… Adrian Adonis has a new manager!
Adrian has been traded to Jimmy Hart. The magazine notes that Jimmy is really an evil genius. “Who else could have taken Brett Hart, a clean-cut clean-living youngster, and converted him into the ruthless ‘Hit Man’? Jimmy Hart’s relationship with Terry Funk is a little more understandable since both are southerners with shared ideals. Yet now Jimmy is handling a man who personifies a southerner’s mortal enemy and moral opposite, the decadent New Yorker Adrian Adonis.” But Jimmy insists everything is going to work out for everybody, including King Kong Bundy, whom he has traded to Bobby Heenan. And Jesse Ventura says Adrian is an asset for Hart, saying, “What can I say about Adrian Adonis? He’s one of a kind. He just stands out. I know him pretty well. We held the WWF tag team belts a few years ago.” (Okay: let’s unpack something here. Ventura and Adonis held the AWA tag team title for about a year from July of 1980 to June of 1981, but they never held the WWF tag team titles. Of course, Jess and Vince knew they could get away with fudging the truth, so they basically retconned that AWA tag team title reign into a WWF tag team title run, with most fans being unaware, and the WWF went on to reference Ventura as a former tag team champion a lot, including during The Wrestling Classic.) The article also touches on his “Relax with Trudy” briefcase and speculates that the contents are probably not good. (Wasn’t it ‘Trudi?” And I don’t think anything came of it.)
WWF Wrap Up: Captain Lou Albano’s movie is soon to be out, and the Captain himself continues to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Hulk Hogan was listed in People Magazine as one of the twenty-five most intriguing people. Hogan also guest-starred on The A Team along with Ricky Steamboat, Big John Studd, and The Iron Sheik. The WWF’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” music video has been airing regularly on MTV and several other networks and cable outlets. And finally, Titan Sports has available positions for full-professional wrestlers: “The successful applicants will wrestle for Titan Sports Inc. at various arenas in the United States and abroad for the entertainment of audiences. Applicants must have five (5) years training or experience and have great athletic ability, agility, and strength. Salary to $52,000. Respond to Connecticut Dept. of Labor, Wethersfield CT 06109. Refer to Job Order #CT0391389. Please submit resumes only.”
That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the May, 1986 issue of Inside Wrestling, where we’ll find out what it would mean if Randy Savage were to win the WWF Championship, learn that we once again have new AWA tag team champions, as well as a new AWA World champion, and find out what Terry Garvin has been up to. And be sure to check out my books!