This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of WWF Magazine that went to press in April of that year and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $3.00 in Canada. With a cover featuring some impressive artwork, we’re teased with coverage of Wrestlemania 2 and stories about signs, the Slammy Awards, and Terry Funk. So let’s Hulk up and jump in.
First, let’s give some credit to Tom Brenner and James Kritz, who did the cover art. The Mr. T portrait seems a bit intrusive, but overall, it’s a beautiful piece of work. And meanwhile, the magazine itself is much improved over earlier editions, being less of a photo book and including more information than previous issues. In fact, this issue gives us our first “Interview” article, which would become one of the magazine’s more popular features, as well as another new feature, Leaping Lanny’s poetry.
We kick things off with The Mailbag, where Paulette of Baltimore writes in to say that Jimmy Hart is the sexiest, smartest, and best damn manager in the WWF. Meanwhile, Eddie from Livonia, Michigan says he’s a fan of Roddy Piper and Piper is the only reason he watches Championship Wrestling (the precursor of Superstars of Wrestling). Debra from Waynesburg, Ohio shares similar sentiments, and points out that Lord Alfred Hayes is a hypocrite for being offended when Greg Valentine refused to shake his hand on TNT one night only to refuse to shake Roddy Piper’s hand later on. She adds that Hulk Hogan wants all our children to have rock ‘n’ roll heroes, but the last thing she wants is her children to grow up to be rock ‘n’ roll stars with chopped up hair. And finally, she says, “I know you won’t print this because you don’t want to rock the boat.” Then there’s Daryl from Seaford, Denver, who wants to see more LJN wrestling figures: specifically George Steele and Paul Orndorff. (And indeed, both were issued.) Meanwhile, Wilbur from Waterbury, Connecticut and Shelley from Rapid City, South Dakota have different opinions on Jesse Ventura. Wilbur says he’s outlandish and doesn’t know how to dress properly, but Shelley says he’s handsome, articulate, gorgeous, and clever.
Next, get your Ricky Steamboat video cassette! Also available, WWF Grudge Matches & The Best of the WWF Volume 6. Only $59.95 each!
We move on to an article about Terry Funk, who says to be wary of the so called “good guys.” Take Junk Yard Dog: he seems like a nice guy, but he’s a sneak who will slap you on the back with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. “How do you think he got all that gold?” As for Terry, he prefers to be thought of as a lawman, not a back shooter, and he has recently joined forces with his brother, Dory, who prefers to be called “Hoss.”
Hoss and Terry have been close since childhood, where they did chores together at the ranch run by their late father, Dory Funk Sr, and shared a bunkhouse as their sleeping quarters. “Every morning we had to fight the other boys to the outhouse.” Hoss remembers. “That’s when we began tag-teaming.”
The Funks in 1973
The Wild West, of course, has a rich tradition of brothers working together, from Jesse and Frank James to the Reno gang. Terry says it’s because they know they can trust each other. “Hoss and I have the winning edge,” he says. “We’re blood.”
Next, Around the Ring with Ed Ricciuti: he points out that Cowboy Bob Orton has long abused the privilege of wearing a cast to the ring.
(When did Ed become a doctor?)
Anyway, the esteemed WWF president Jack Tunney has had enough of it and has ordered that Orton must remove the plaster from his arm when he wrestles. (Well, that arm will never heal now!) Ed is relieved that no one will be bashed over the head with the cast again. (Yeah, tell that to The Undertaker.) Now, Ed says, Tunney shoud take away the canes from managers at ringside. (What do you want the managers to do, hobble around?) Moving to another topic, Ed seems perplexed that Barry O, a rulebreaker if there ever was one, seems to building a cult following, with fans showing up at the arenas to cheer for him and holding up their fingers to display “O” as a sign of support. (Maybe they like the guy, Ed!)
Moving along to Battle of the Titans, we get an article about how Jesse Ventura said Ricky Steamboat and Davey Boy Smith wouldn’t stick to the rules when trying to defeat each other to advance in The Wrestling Classic tournament. Instead, they put on a wrestling clinic that proved wrestling can be simply about wrestling before shaking hands at the end. Here, by the way, is Scott Keith’s review of the three star match: “Jesse is convinced that SOMEONE is gonna cheat here at some point. They trade hiptoss counters and Davey gets the move, and Steamboat bridges out of a takedown and into a backslide for one. Davey gets a nice press slam for two and goes to a facelock, then presses him up into another slam for two. Back to the facelock, but Steamboat suplexes him and then hits knee on a splash. Davey throws dropkicks, but charges and crotches himself on the top rope, at which point he’s like ‘Ricky, my bollocks are FOOKED!’ and the ref calls for the bell at 3:00. Hopefully I was able to convey Davey’s accent properly there. Match was pretty fun for the three minutes it lasted.” And for comparison, here is the WWF Magazine’s version: “Although the action was hot and heavy, neither attempted any untoward moves. Their eyes, in fact, held nothing but respect for each other’s prowess. They were two pros who were true men of honor. Moment by furious moment, the momentum seemed to be growing behind Smith. Steamboat, not quite as powerful as the massively muscled Englishman, appeared to be tiring just a bit. As Ricky let his guard down for a second, Smith moved in and attempted a suplex. But, with an incredibly quick move, the Dragon reversed it, and Smith thundered to the mat. Steamboat tried for the pin, but the downed man evaded it, then came up fighting, blasting Steamboat with two dropkicks. With Ricky staggering, Davey Boy went for a third kick, but Steamboat dodged, and the bulldog slammed into the ropes and went down hurt too badly to continue. The referee declared Steamboat the winner.”
What the article neglects to mention, however, is that Jesse was completely right later in the night when he said that Paul Orndorff and Tito Santana, two other goodie two-shoes, would throw the rulebook out when push came to shove. Scott’s call: “Tito escapes a figure-four and fights up again, so Orndorff backs off and lets him recover, and then WALLOPS him on the ropes to Jesse’s delight. Tito is also willing to play that game and they fight on the floor and scrap until they’re counted out at 8:08.”
Act now to Plastic Coat your car!
Next, coverage of a “Peace Match,” where there was supposed to be no rulebreaking, between Nikolai Volkoff and Corporal Kirchner, along with an analysis of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The magazine says the Russians suckered us all. “Americans always like to give a guy a second chance, so we fooled ourselves into thinking Volkoff just might wrestle clean and fight fair. But we got suckered, and Kirchner was pinned, dazed, humiliated, and defeated on national television.” The article goes on to say that Volkoff is actually a very talented mat wrestler who does not need to cheat to win, but he comes from the Soviet Union, where he served in their military, and they made him what he is. “Whereas America is trusting and somewhat naive, perhaps allowing itself to be initially vulnerable, the Soviet Union is what it is: plotting, deceptive, harshly responsive to any perceived threat, and willing to win at any cost.” (No wonder Trump loves Russia so much.) Unfortunately, the match’s after effects may reverberate into the future. “Volkoff’s tactics may have reinforced the perception of many Americans that the Russians break rules,” says Thomas Remington, PH.D., Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University in Atlanta. “And it might also lead people to believe that a strong, combat ready Russian is superior to his American counterpart.” But are they fighting for the honor of their country, or are they just two professional wrestlers in the spotlight? “They are not diplomats, after all, but simply fighters doing battle. But consider this: America’s man, Kirchner, has been humiliated, and his countrymen want revenge. We want to make it clear to the Soviet Union that we are angry about what has happened, and we intend to do something about it. We’ve been bloodied, and now we want to inflict some damage ourselves. And how do we get satisfaction without sounding the nuclear alarm? We might find it in the no-holds-barred world of professional wrestling.”
Next, a new feature: Leaping Lanny’s Poetry:
We move on to Grappling Glitter, where Luther Vandross talks about how much he loved wrestling growing up. “While everyone else was playing stick-ball,” he says, “I was watching Bruno Sammartino wrestle.” Today (1986), he enjoys watching George Steele and Hulk Hogan.
Next, Foreign Affairs: Bret has had many. (Sorry, sorry.) Actually, the article talks about Wrestlemania 2 being seen in more than two dozen countries, including the United Kingdom and France. Meanwhile, WWF Championship Wrestling has become a hit in Australia and is the number 2 rated show in its timeslot.
Lou Albano plugs his book.
Next, coverage of the Intercontinental title change in Boston. “Ringside pundits are still wondering why referee Danny Davis missed what many other close observers plainly saw — Randy Savage reaching into his trunks, withdrawing some sort of instrument and hammering it into Tito Santana’s head.” (Was the instrument a cello? Because that would have been fun to watch.) Whatever the case, Savage is now the champ. And he’s still going after World Champion Hulk Hogan’s belt. Meanwhile, challengers are already lining up for shots at the IC title, such as Paul Orndorff and Ricky Steamboat. But whether Savage won the belt legally or not, most fans agree: he’s very much a man to be reckoned with.
And next, we get this month’s installment of “let’s see what we can throw against the wall and get to stick.” Our contender this time, Ted Arcidi, who can bench press over 700 pounds. In fact, he set the record of 705.5 pounds in 1985.
Next up, an ad…
We move on to coverage of Wrestlmania 2! 12 matches. 3 locations. 1 event. Wrestlemania 2 had it all! We begin with New York coverage where leather flew furiously and the thud of fists could be heard coast to coast as Mr. T and Roddy Piper competed in one of the most thrilling boxing contests of all time. In the end, both men demonstrated they had mastered the sweet science, but T took the victory.
Later in Chicago, twenty of the biggest, toughest athletes in the world competed in a Battle Royal, with Andre the Giant taking home the trophy.
Also in Chicago, the British Bulldogs took home the gold when Davey Boy Smith pinned Valentine in a match for the ages.
In Los Angeles, Hulk Hogan defeated King Kong Bundy in the greatest steel cage match of all time!
Also, Randy Savage defeated George Steele, Jake Roberts defeated George Wells, Paul Orndorff and Magnificent Muraco battles to a double disqualification, The Fabulous Moolah defeated Velvet McIntyre, Corporal Kirchner defeated Nikolai Volkoff, The Funk Brothers beat JYD and Tito Santana, Adrian Adonis defeated Uncle Elmer, and Ricky Steamboat beat Hercules Hernandez.
Next up, coverage of the first Slammy Awards, which celebrated The Wrestling Album. Junk Yard Dog won best musical performance, the mysterious Mona Flambe won best producer, Gene Okerlund won best commentator (the first such award for a musical album, I imagine), Nikolai Volkoff was named most ignominious, and Roddy Piper won best personality. The magazine reports that there’s some speculation the Grammies and Slammys may merge into the Gram/Slam Awards in 1987.
We move on to Staying Fit, once again featuring Greg Valentine. He talks about the importance of warming up. (Just kidding, but that would have been great.) Actually, Greg talks about using dumbells and says he likes swimming and working out on the beach when weather permits. “If you see a massive blond huffing in the sand, it’s probably Greg.” He also likes working the punching bag.
Next, the WWF debuts its Interview feature, catching up with Jimmy Hart. He says he’s always been a fan of pro wrestling, and he loves being part of it, though the travel can be hell. As for his style, he gets his clothes at Chelsea Limited in Memphis, which orders everything from England. He started carrying a megaphone with him to the ring because his men were having trouble hearing him over the fans. His favorite wrestlers are those with dedication, and he says that starts before a match when they review tape of their opponents. He has a special room for this where he has thousands of tapes so they can study many matches and look for weaknesses. To sum up his life, he says his motto is “When you’re on top, let it rock!” He says sometimes his men may slip on a banana peel and lose a match, but most of the time he and his wrestlers are winners. (For those that don’t know, some wrestlers used to use “slip on a banana peel” as a euphemism for making a critical mistake and losing the match. Then there’s Rikishi, who as Fatu was the first wrestler I know of to literally slip on a banana peel and get pinned, which happened at the 1993 Survivor Series.)
Next up, an interesting article about the signs fans bring to the ring. (Kudos to whoever came up with this photogenic article concept.)
Signs have been around forever, but they seem to have really caught on during the television age. (Go figure.) Sometimes they can really get on a wrestler’s nerves, but it’s just a way for the fans to express themselves and have some fun. (Plus sometimes the wrestling organization itself gives the fans signs to hold. Wait, you’re not supposed to know that.) Most signs fall into three categories: name variations, poetry, and the perverse. Examples of name variations: “Brutus Fruitcake,” “The Iron Geek.” Examples of poetry: “Hart is a tart,” “Tito is neato.” Examples of the perverse: “Who’s in the skirt, Boy George or Piper?” “George Steele for Supreme Court Justice.” (I once brought a sign to a show that said, “Undertaker: this isn’t the stock market. You can sell on Sunday.”) Occasionally a group of fans will also favor an underdog. “You don’t know what kind of impact this can have on a young wrestler’s career,” says Arnold Skaaland. “Sometimes it can turn a preliminary wrestler into a main-eventer.” Anyway, here are some of the signs featured in the article. (No points to the kid who simply bought a “Beware of Dog” sign at the hardware store.)
WWF Wrap Up: March’s Saturday Night’s Main Event received a whopping 30 percent of the late night audience, the largest share recorded by a program since 1982. (I feel like we need to fact check that one.) USA Today had an interview with George Steinbrenner where he talked about his love of pro wrestling. Jesse Ventura, according to the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, is the city’s number top role model after rock star Prince. (And the magazine even mentions that he’s from Minnesota just ONE issue after saying he’s from California!) Hulk Hogan met with a Make-a-Wish kid from Ohio. Junk Yard Dog made an appearance at a festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut celebrating the 150th birthday of the city. “Thousand of people showed up to cheer the Dog. Some stood in line for hours to meet him. Others were literally hanging from the railings for a glimpse of the big wrestler.” (Was this article written by Gorilla Monsoon?) JYD has also been doing commercials for the Dairy Board of Canada touting the health values of dairy products. Hulk and several other WWF stars appeared at the Toy Fair in New York to promote the LJN wrestling figures as well as a new game called Cage Match Challenge. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and Ernie Ladd appeared at February’s National Association of Television Programming Executives convention in New Orleans. (Hopefully Ladd didn’t say anything about half-breeds.) And Tiger Chung Lee will appear in The Golden Child, a comedy film starring Eddie Murphy.
That’s all for this week! Join me next time for Inside Wrestling’s coverage of Wrestlemania 2 and the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup. Plus, Eddie Ellner calls out Gorilla Monsoon’s shameless hyperbole.
And be sure to check out my book all about Star Trek: The Next Generation!