This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated that went to press right as Wrestlemania 2 was going on and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $2.75 in Canada. With a cover featuring Randy Savage, we’re also teased stories about Lex Lugar vs. Harley Race and why Tully Blanchard vs. Ric Flair will never happen. So let’s make like Macho Man and jump into the danger zone. Oh yeah!
We kick things off with The Mailbag…
Mitch from Atlanta adds that Hulkamania is indestructible and soon Hulk will have defeated everyone and have no one else to wrestle, and what will PWI do then? Cindy from Davenport, Iowa piles on, saying that after Hogan wins at Wrestlemania 2, he’ll be the biggest sports star of them all; bigger then Dwight Gooden, Larry Bird, and William Perry. (What was up with Davenport, Iowa in 1986? There seemed to be a letter from a wrestling fan from there in every wrestling magazine, and they even birthed a future WWE champion at the same time. Was Davenport some sort of hotbed for wrestling fans in the mid-1980s? Were wrestlers checking out their itineraries and getting excited whenever Davenport appeared on the schedule? “Woah, Dog, we got Davenport next week. Better juice up a little extra today!”) Meanwhile, Edward from Beverly Hills is a Constitutional lawyer and praises Adrian Adonis for publicly admitting he’s gay. “A most reliable barometer for measuring the level of tolerance and enlightened benevolence of a given society is the degree of magnanimity offered to those with sexual preferences that are at variance with the majority of people who compose society. Tolerance for and acceptance of gay rights is still desperately needed in American culture. Adrian is to be congratulated for his political and social courage, and as a lifelong wrestling fan, I’m proud that my favorite sport is at the cutting edge of social change.” On the other hand, an anonymous writer says gays should keep their activities confined to night clubs and their homes. (Personally, I think Adonis’s character worked best when he was portrayed as a straight man who liked to wear women’s clothes, and they ended up going wayward with the gimmick.) Lastly, Bill from New Orleans thanks PWI for recognizing Jim Duggan as one of the finest wrestlers in the world and points out that Duggan was standing up for America before Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan, and all these other Johnny-come-latelys.
Next up, Ringside with Bill Apter: After being blinded by the late Gino Hernandez, Chris Adams has regained 95% of his vision in his right eye and 50% of his vision in his left eye and is preparing to resume his career. Meanwhile, Paul Ellering is recovering from a neck injury sustained in a match where he was substituting for Hawk in a contest between The Road Warriors and Ivan and Nikita Koloff. In the WWF, Tito Santana is closing in on regaining the Intercontinental title from Randy Savage, and even forced Savage to submit in a tag team match in Florida. Elsewhere, Superfly Tui captured the Polynesian Pacific heavyweight title from Jerry Lawler in Honolulu, and Krusher Khruschev continues to be on the shelf due to injury, though he hopes to be back in June. In AWA/PWF/Japan news, Stan Hansen put both his AWA and PWF heavyweight titles on the line in a match against PWF International champion Jumbo Tsuruta in Tokyo. No titles changed hands, however, as both men were counted out. In more AWA news, Playboy Buddy Rose has returned to the midwest territory, now being managed by Sherri Martel, and is now insisting he weighs only 215 pounds. Meanwhile, The Mod Squad became new AWA Mid-Southern tag team champions via forfeit when The Fantastics failed to show up for a mandated title defense in Memphis. (That’s because The Fantastics signed with the UWF.) Wendi Richter has popped up in Puerto Rico, wrestling some matches there with Eric Embry’s valet, Sasha. In World Class, John Tatum suffered his first loss since promising his valet “Misst Hyatt” he would win every match. (To be fair, the t is very close to the y on the keyboard, and the proofreader probably had no idea what her real name was.) He was defeated by Kevin Von Erich. Ole Anderson is back in action and wrestling in Japan. And a couple of kids named Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels have been teaming up as, get this, “The Midnight Rockers.” Bill says, “I may not be crazy about their choice of name—imagine what The Midnight Express and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express think about this!—but I must say that they have been developing their tag team skills quite well.” (The Midnight Rockers were my favorite tag team back when they were in the AWA, and I was really disappointed when they dropped the “Midnight” from their name when they jumped to the WWF. I still think “The Midnight Rockers” sounds better than simply “The Rockers” and wish they could have kept it.)
King’s Court with Peter King…
King muses about which 10 guys/tag teams he would draft for a pro wrestling organization if he were starting one up in 1986. “You have to factor in who’s at the end of their career, who has long-term potential, and who might be rated high now only to just be a flash in the pan.” With that in mind, King lists his top ten in order.
- Lex Lugar, who is widely considered the can’t-miss next Hulk Hogan. Maybe better than Hulk Hogan, as he can actually see his toes. “I’d offer Lugar a 10-year guaranteed contract because I am that certain he is going to be wrestling’s biggest star someday.
- The Road Warriors, the Hulk Hogan of tag teams. “Like Lugar, the warriors are young and strong. They have also improved greatly the last few years and should get only continue to get better.”
- Hulk Hogan, the Hulk Hogan of Hulk Hogans. King says Hulk may be at his peak and might not be such a big star in just a few years, but like Dan Marino and Joe Montana, he’s undeniably a great cornerstone for a franchise and has what it takes to sell tickets and move merchandise.
- Ric Flair, who would add legitimacy to a wrestling organization and still has some good years left in him. King also likes the idea of making matches between Flair and Hogan and raking in the money.
- Magnum T.A., who reminds King somewhat of Lex Lugar in that he has his best years ahead of him. King doesn’t like his name, however, and would rebrand him. He also wants Terry to shave his mustache. “Hey, I never said I’d be easy to work for.”
- Nikita Koloff, who King thinks will be the biggest villain in the sport before too long.
- Sgt. Slaughter. King admits this would be a surprise pick because The Sarge’s best days are most likely behind him. But he thinks Slaughter has another good run in him that might be even more successful than his previous days with the WWF.
- Randy Savage, though King would like Savage to get his head on straight and become a fan favorite. King does worry that Savage might quit on him and change occupations, questioning whether he’s in wrestling for the long haul or not.
- Kerry Von Erich, who King says has grown stagnant in World Class because his family is always there to protect him and bail him out of trouble. He says that if Von Erich were to get away from Texas and learn to be responsible for himself, he’d be better off.
- The British Bulldogs, who King says are the most innovative tag team of the last 20 years. “Some people say their too small, but their size and speed is exactly why they could hold their own against anyone, including The Road Warriors.”
So with all that out of the way, here’s who, with hindsight, Peter should have picked back in 1986. (If you disagree or simply wish to share your own top ten list, don’t hesitate to use the comment section.)
- Hulk Hogan (A franchise player in the mold of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.)
- Ric Flair (Franchise player 1A: And like Hogan, he had more years left than people would have believed in 1986.)
- Randy Savage (Didn’t truly turn the corner in the WWF until 1987, but there was no holding him back.)
- The Road Warriors (The tag team of the 1980s.)
- The Hart Foundation (The hidden gem of the 1980s, and it gives you Bret Hart as a future singles star.)
- Mr. Perfect & Scott Hall (Good pick to have as a tag team in 1986, and it gives you two future singles stars.)
- Dusty Rhodes (A blue chipper who would have had an immediate impact in 1986 and still had enough in the tank for some years to come.)
- The Midnight Rockers (For the future.)
- Ricky Steamboat (One of the best and in his prime.)
- The Blade Runners (Who could have guessed what these guys would become?)
Next, Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks: Ricky Morton is expected to sign his name to wrestle Ric Flair for the NWA championship, and tag team partner Robert Gibson is helping to train him for the match. Stu wonders if this is a good idea, since Ricky has had limited singles experience and it leaves Gibson without an opponent. Robert, however, supports Ricky one hundred percent, though he admits everything is happening very quickly and he’s worried that Ricky won’t have time to be properly prepare.
This month’s installment of In Focus with Craig Peters shares a fictional account of a dream match between The British Bulldogs and The Midnight Express. The match ends at the 26:47 mark after Dennis Condrey distracts the referee and Jim Cornette whacks Dynamite Kid with the tennis racket, allowing Bobby Eaton to score the pin.
Next, Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner: Eddie wonders if a war will break out at Wrestlemania 2 between McDonald’s shill Refrigerator Perry, Burger King’s Herb, and Wendy’s Clara Peller. He also questions whether any of WWF’s fans, who range from 8 to 18, will have any idea who Cab Calloway is. He says that in the end, however, Wrestlemania will likely be better than WWF’s TNT show, so there’s that. Then it’s on to letters from fans. Teresa from Parts Unknown says Tully Blanchard is a future NWA champ, and he’ll win it before too long. Eddie says Tully’s friendship with Flair might interfere with that. (More on this momentarily.) Joe from Tulsa wants to know what Eddie thinks of Ted DiBiase and Steve Williams becoming fan favorites in the UWF. Eddie says this just shows that he recognized their talent before the fans. He does think, however, that Williams has let himself get out of shape and has a bad attitude. “I shall wear black whenever I watch him wrestle.” Big Steve from New York wants to know how to become a wrestler. Eddie says the guy should rent out Madison Square Garden. He also adds, “and never write me again.”
So next up, we dig into why the Blanchard vs. Flair match will never happen. It seems Tully and Ric have made an alliance along with Arn and Ole Anderson. In fact, they’re now calling themselves The Four Horsemen or something. Yet a match between and Blanchard and Flair would be a grandiose battle of wits, stealth versus cunning; a promoter’s dream. But don’t look for it. J.J. Dillon sees to it that both men are focused on other goals, and all four of the Four Horsemen take care of each other. “I understand Blanchard recently let Flair in on a stock tip that netted him almost a quarter-million dollars,” says one insider. “Besides, as long as Magnum and Dusty remain friends, so will Tully Blanchard and Ric Flair.”
Next, Press Conference with Rick Rude. His favorite movies are Porky’s Revenge, American Gigolo, and Amadeus, with Rude particularly being drawn to the latter, empathizing with a child prodigy who went through so much before passing away at the age of 35. But don’t expect an early end to Rick Rude. At 27, he’s battled many of the toughest men in the sport, and he’s no worse for wear. Anyway, Rude is asked if it bothers him that PWI and others don’t recognize him as a true world champion, and Rude says, “Hell yes it does.” He adds, “What a bunch of hypocritical dirtbags you are. You cry about Hulk Hogan not defending the WWF belt, and then you turn around and establish him as a world champion. Here I am, defending the belt every night against your favorites, like the Von Erichs, and you don’t recognize me. And Kerry was NWA champion.” Bill Apter says the problem is Rude and the Von Erichs don’t wrestle enough outside their backyard, and fans in New York and California don’t get to see them. Rude says he gets fan mail from 35 different countries and adds, “In five years, when my title is the most highly regarded in the world, you’re all going to feel very stupid.” The conversation then shifts to the new DQ rule, with World Class recognizing title changes when someone loses by disqualification. Eddie asks, “Does it make you less aggressive in your style?” Rude says, “I’m not like Ric Flair. I don’t go around getting myself disqualified. World Class hired out some consulting firm to do a feasibility study before they split from the NWA and they discovered that 65% of Flair’s matches ended in disqualification. He’s not half the champion I am. My only problem is the Von Erichs think they own Texas, and they might have one of their flunkies disqualify me. But I don’t take the easy way out. I’m the premier wrestler in the world. And the premier lover.”
Next, our Feature Article about Randy Savage. His inner self is full of turmoil, like Spock on Star Trek. On one hand, he’s the IC champ. On the other hand, he’s a world title contender. And his style changes from match to match depending on whether he’s defending for contending. Then there’s Miss Elizabeth. On one hand, he needs her admiration. He’s always asking her who the best is, and his ego would be shattered if she didn’t really believe it was him. On the other hand, he needs to know she fears him. He constantly watches her and corrects her actions to ensure she doesn’t stray from the narrow path of servitude he has drawn for her because if she were to leave, he’d be emotionally devastated. Beyond that, Savage has to walk another tight rope: he’s both a rulebreaker and yet a popular wrestler at the same time. And somehow he must continue to be both, or perhaps the fans would begin to feel indifferent toward him. Put it all together, and you have a man performing an incredible juggling act, keeping so many emotional balls in the air, it’s a wonder one hasn’t fallen. How long Savage can keep it up is anyone’s guess.
Next, we have a winner in the “Meet the Road Warriors” contest. Fans sent in pictures, artwork, and essays, hoping to be chosen to meet the Road Warriors. Let’s look at some entries…
Wait, I think they forgot one…
Anyway, the winner is 22 year old Laura Grippaldi of Eatontown, New Jersey who shared a story about how she rescued a friend from a lake by wrestling off an eel and dragging the friend to shore.
Next, Scouting Reports.
And now an article about two legends going in different directions: Harley Race and Lex Lugar, who recently wrestled each other. The match began with Lugar in control before a rookie mistake let Race dominate. But Lugar fought back before both men were disqualified. Despite the no contest, Race had proven he still had it. Lugar, meanwhile, continued to show he could hang with the best.
Next, PWI plugs its sister publications.
Breaking news! Wrestlemania 2 featured 12 matches and saw the British Bulldogs finally win the WWF tag team titles while Hogan and Savage walked away with their championships intact. More reporting to come next month!
Next, Arena Reports, with reports sent in by fans, with a footnote telling us to keep an eye on The Blade Runners.
And finally, ratings, beginning with a special category: top ten Wrestlemania 2 celebrities.
Ratings Analysis: Mr T is number one due to his involvement in last year’s event. And with his TV Show The A-Team rumored to be history, we may be seeing a lot more of him in the squared circle! Next, Ray Charles is a legend who deserves to be near the top. Herb is number three for milking a career out of such a ridiculous character, though he was recently fired by Burger King. Joan Rivers is Joan Rivers. Elvira is Elvira. Enough said. Cab Calloway should probably be rated closer to Ray Charles but he was docked a few notches because most wrestling fans probably don’t know who he is. G. Gordon Liddy brings his prison cred with him from the Watergate scandal. Susan St. James makes the list by virtue of being better looking than Cathy Lee Crosby. (Yikes. Susan is my pick for worst Wrestlemania commentator of all-time.) Ozzy is a rock legend, and Refrigerator Perry cracks the top ten because he actually looks somewhat like a legitimate athlete. Onto the real ratings…
And Lastly, The Last Word:
That’s it for this month. Join me next time for WWF Magazine, where we look back at Wrestlemania 2! And be sure to check out my book all about Star Trek.