This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of WWF Magazine that went to press in January of that year and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $3.00 in Canada. With a cover featuring Jesse “The Body” Ventura, we’re also teased with stories about Beefcake & Valentine, George Steele, and the WWF in Australia. Let’s jump in.
We begin, as always, with The Mailbag, where Allen from Davenport, Iowa says WWF Magazine is the best because all the other magazines put down Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, but they’re what wrestling is all about. Allen also says to keep an eye on this Colby Lopez kid he knows. (Just kidding, Colby Freakin Lopez wasn’t yet born when this magazine hit the stands.) Casey & Nadia from Ontario write in to say, “You’ll never see him sulk, for he’s the man with all the bulk. It’s the all-time wrestling champion, the one and only Hulk!” (Give me an H! Give me a U!) Then we get more letters praising Roddy Piper, a common feature of late in this mailbag section. John from Pennsylvania says he loves it when Piper humiliates guys like Bruno “The Living Creampuff,” and Don from California says Piper is someone to look up to because he gets things done. (You fans better be careful. If you keep cheering him, the WWF might have to turn him into a babyface.) Meanwhile, Justin from New York writes in to say he enjoyed watching Uncle Elmer get married, and he loves seeing the WWF in person, having attended four shows so far. And finally, Paul from Brooklyn compliments the WWF on its extraordinary line of clothing. (I honestly don’t know if he’s trolling them or not.)
Advertisement: the WWF has three new video cassettes available for $59.95 each! They are The Best of WWF Volume 5, The Life and Times of Captain Lou Albano, and Tag Team Champions. ($60? That was like a car payment back then.)
Next, beaming down from his starship, it’s Danny Spivey, here more or less to replace Barry Windham. Spivey is 28 years old, 6’7, 270 pounds, and hungry for some competition. He admits that he’s getting mixed reactions from the fans because they don’t really know him yet, but he appreciates the support he’s getting from some of them. (You know, looking back, maybe they should have used Spivey as the poor man’s Hulk Hogan instead; sort of like what Buddy Landel was to Ric Flair. Whenever a guy is gearing up for a feud with Hogan, he first has to go through Spivey as a test run. Or they could change his name to Waylon Mercy and have him pretend to be Max Cady. Whichever.)
In this month’s Battle of the Titans, we look back at the Hogan v. Piper match from The Wrestling Classic. It was a golden opportunity for Piper to win the title, and he spent weeks scheming. His plan? Have “Ace” Bob Orton interfere. (Hey, nobody ever accused Piper of being a Harvard graduate.) But Hogan had an ace in the hole of his own: Paul Orndorff. Actually, it turns out Orndorff had been minding his own business in dressing room, recuperating from his match from earlier in the evening, when he heard the crowd yelling. “Sensing trouble was afoot, he went to the arena. In the ring, Piper held Hogan fast, while Orton battered away at him. Orndorff didn’t think twice. He rushed the ring, jumped in, and grabbed a chair. Realizing it would now be two-on-two instead of two-on-one, Piper and Orton released Hogan and scuttled to the safety of the dressing room.”
Next, more WWF merchandise!
Around the Ring with Ed Ricciuti (Sidenote: on his website, Ed says, “I may be the only man alive who has stood on Andre the Giant’s chest flexing muscles while the WWF star was flat on his back in a bar. Actually, he was easing his back pain and let me do it for a goof otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this.” Ed plugs Lou Albano’s new book, The Wit and Wisdom of Captain Lou Albano. In an excerpt, Lou says, “Some people ask me if I’d quit wrestling if I ever made it big in movies or television. No way. As long as I can climb into the ring or keep my mouth going at ringside, I’ll never leave wrestling.” (Then he went on to leave later in the year.)
Next, an article about the beginning of a million dollar angle, George Steele’s infatuation with Elizabeth. (I don’t think they even knew what they had at this point.)
It all started on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Elizabeth was innocently holding the ropes open for Savage when The Animal, preparing for the match, spotted her and became enraptured by her beauty. Unfortunately, in the match itself, Steele was distracted by her lovely visage and lost the match. Not even color commentator Jesse Ventura could debate Vince McMahon when he told the television audience, “The Animal lost the match, but I think he fell in love.” Savage, for his part, is still chasing Hogan for the world heavyweight championship.
Next, Staying Fit with Greg Valentine. Greg learned the importance of physical fitness from his father/brother, Johnny Valentine, at an early age. In fact, Johnny was in an airplane crash and only survived because of his superior conditioning. Greg himself likes pushing exercises, like the bench press, to work his arms, though he keeps the weight low due to shoulder injuries. He says this helps him “get pumped” due to the blood rushing to the aid of his muscles, giving him a feeling of strength and firmness that drives away the blahs. “I can really be dragging, go into the gym, do a few sets of bench presses, and I’m ready to go on with my workout.” The article promises to reveal more of Greg’s secrets in the next issue.
Next, an article about Valentine and Beefcake getting cheered. Freddie Blassie felt his boys, The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, where cheated out of the tag team title by a nationalistic referee. He therefore offered Johnny Valiant, manager of current champs Valentine and Beefcake, a “huge financial guarantee” if Valiant would give Sheik and Volkoff a shot at the title. Valiant signed on the dotted line, and the match became reality. At first, the fans booed both teams. But as the match wore on, the fans began chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” and began siding with Valentine and Beefcake. In the end, both teams were disqualified, but “perhaps the champions came out of the ring with one prize. For once in their devious and violence-marked ring-careers, they knew what it was like to be cheered instead of jeered.”
And now, onto our feature article: Jesse Ventura is wrestling’s reigning anti-hero, and a fashionable one at that.
The article talks about Uncle Elmer’s wedding on Saturday Night’s Main Event providing Jesse with a break-out moment that connected with many fans, with his commentary being the highlight of the night. (In later shoot interviews, Jesse said Vince told him to bury Elmer and that Bill Murray called afterward to say the line about Elmer and his wife kissing looking like “two carp fighting” was the greatest live line he had ever heard on television.) Now, fans are showing up wearing “Jesse the Bod Squad” shirts and cheering him in matches against Tito Santana, Hillbilly Jim, Barry O—especially in the big cities. Ventura says, “I think there’s a whole under-society today, a society that doesn’t go for mom’s apple pie. I consider myself the leader of that society.” He notes that wrestlers like Randy Savage and Roddy Piper also have their fans, as do the Oakland Raiders, who wear black and sometimes take cheap shots but know how to win and have fans that love them for what they’re willing to do.
Then Jesse gives his opinion on various wrestlers. On Ted Arcidi: “He’s awesomely strong. The first guy to benchpress 705 pounds. But strength alone doesn’t win titles.” On Danny Spivey: “He has a good future. He’s strong and eager to learn. The best move he made was to get rid of those fur ring boots.” On Hercules Hernandez: “He’s young, aggressive and has all the credentials. The only problem is that I think he’s a little thin upstairs.” On Brett Hart: “He’s mechanically sound as you get in the ring. He was taught by his father, Stu Hart, who’s been in wrestling at least 40 years. Up in Calgary, they’d say you either made it when you trained in Stu Hart’s basement or you were broken. Brett’s alignment with Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Hart is a great thing. It’s brought out an inward aggressiveness that’s going to help him win big.”
Next, Foreign Affairs, where we learn Junk Yard Dog, The Killer Bees, Adrian Adonis, Tiger Chung Lee, Tony Parisi, Les Thornton, Tiger, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and S.D. Jones just completed the WWF’s first tour of Australia. Looks like everyone had a good time.
Then we move on to Grappling Glitter with Keith Elliot Greenberg, where we learn that Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter were big pro wrestling fans, and Abraham Lincoln was a backwoods wrestler himself, somewhat like Hillbilly Jim, proof that the love of wrestling penetrates all strata of American society. Now days, everyone imitates wrestlers, from four year old kids to drunk guys at bars. Greenberg even relates a story about a guy pretending to be “Macho Man” Randy Savage who got tossed out of a tavern by a bouncer. “Intoxicated or not, he apparently realized that while imitating wrestlers outside the ring is fun, reenacting the rough stuff between the ropes isn’t.”
Carter with Mr. Wrestling II
Next, we meet newcomer Hercules Hernandez. He says he really is Hercules. He knows because a renowned hypnotist took him back through his past lives.
“Just remember that I am going to be WWF World Champion. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. I will be the World Champion. I might not be as soon as I want. It might take some time. But it will happen. I’m pretty confident about myself. I know what I’m doing.” (And if not, there’s always the American Wrestling Federation.)
We move on to A Match to Remember with Jeff Walton. This month, we look back at a Texas grudge match between the masked Destroyer (Dick Beyer) and Rocky Johnson. The match ended when the Destroyer ran back to the dressing room and refused to return. “It was not what Johnson wanted, but it was all the fight Rocky would see that night from the Destroyer.”
Next, we meet King Haku… er ah, King Tonga. “On any given night, the World Wrestling Federation dressing rooms can be a United Nations of sports. Athletes from around the globe gather to test their mettle against one another: Andre the Giant from France, Roddy Piper from Scotland, Nikolai Volkoff from Russia, Mike Sharpe from Canada, and many more. Now, a newcomer has bought a touch of the South Pacific to the WWF, and he has hit the ring like a South Sea’s typhoon. He’s King Tonga, a burly but soft-spoken gladiator from the Island of Tonga.” (Whatever. I’m sure he’s just another phony wrestler that even I could beat up.) Anyway, King Tonga, who prefers to wrestle barefoot, has been scoring some impressive victories and has been teaming up with fellow Pacific Islander Ricky Steamboat on occasion. “Teamed up with the Dragon or on his own, King Tonga has arrived in the WWF like the storm winds that sometimes rake his native land.” (Yeah, he’s from the South Pacific. We get it.)
And finally, we get WWF Wrap Up, where we learn that Paul Orndorff was interviewed for an article in USA Today. (Orndorff talked about the difficulty of finding shirts that fit him.) Meanwhile, Ernie Ladd will now be representing the WWF as its Ambassador-at-Large. (Beyond a shadow of a doubt.) Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff recently chatted with Bryant Gumbel on NBC for his monthly show aimed at youngsters. (Like Tony Atlas?) And JYD and Vicki Sue Robinson recently appeared on ABC’s American Bandstand to perform “Grab Them Cakes” from The Wrestling Album. “Speaking of The Wrestling Album, this collection of songs by WWF stars has captured the country’s fancy and is nearing Gold Record status.” (Yeah, no.) And finally, Lou Albano, who lost his brother to multiple sclerosis, is serving as fund-raising chair-man for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the July, 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, where World Class releases a bombshell press release that reshapes the landscape of professional wrestling and Liz Hunter shares a story about barely escaping with her life after meeting AWA champion Stan Hansen in Borger, Texas. Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my books!