This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated that went to press in early July and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $2.75 in Canada. With a cover featuring The British Bulldogs, we’re teased with stories about Lance Von Erich, The Four Horsemen, and Stan Hansen. We also have some late breaking news regarding a title change and a heel turn. Let’s jump in.
We begin with The Mailbag, where Richard from Cleveland praises PWI for its coverage of the spring supercards. He says that just to add on, some of the things he’ll always remember from the events are Susan St. James admitting to Vince McMahon she’s never been to a wrestling match before, the ovation Chris Adams received at Texas Stadium, and the dream matchup between The Road Warriors and Magnum T.A. & Ronnie Garvin. Meanwhile, Scott from New Orleans says he attended both the afternoon and evening sessions of The Crockett Cup, and he was impressed with the low ticket prices, with 10 bucks getting you any seat in the house.
On another topic, Richard from Knoxville says he’s fed up with the NWA’s double standard when it comes to good guys and bad guys. When a bad guy does something bad, such as breaking Dusty’s ankle, he gets a pass. But when a good guy, such as Magnum T.A., does something bad, he gets stripped of his title. (This was after NWA president Bob Geigel issued a public reprimand against Magnum for “conduct unbecoming a champion” and Magnum replied, “Reprimand this!” while punching Geigel. Interestingly, I just read a similar op-ed regarding Trump and Biden. The writer made the point that Trump gets a pass on much of his conduct because it’s expected of him, whereas when Biden gets caught being less than polite, he’s called out on it because he’s supposed to be better.) Ben from Johnstown, PA writes in to say that Tony Atlas, Paul Orndorff, and Pedro Morales might want to think about leaving the WWF and wrestle in the NWA if they want to revive their careers. (Or one of them could turn heel and make more money than ever before.) And finally, Kim from Picayune, Mississippi wants to know why PWI seems to ignore The Fantastics, pointing out that Tommy Rogers was once ranked number four among junior heavyweights and even held the Southeastern junior heavyweight title.
Next, in Ringside with Bill Apter, Bill says he’s receiving hate mail after saying Bob Geigel was right to strip Magnum T.A. of the U.S. title, but he stands by his position. (So, to catch you up, Magnum attended a press conference where Nikita and Ivan Koloff insulted his mother, and Magnum responded by attacking the Koloffs. After this, Bob Geigel demanded an apology, and Magnum responded with his right fist, Bob then stripped him of the title, setting up a best of seven series between T.A. and Koloff for the belt. For some reason, PWI messes up the chronology of all this in the caption of the photo above, but to be fair, there was no WWE Network back then.) Bill questions why Magnum brought his mother to the press conference in the first place, and says that under no circumstances is it appropriate for a wrestler to hit a president. He points out that if Pete Rose struck Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, he’d probably be banned from baseball for life. (Umm…) He says he doesn’t condone the Russians’ actions, but Magnum’s actions were reprehensible and Bob Geigel made the only decision he could.
Bill moves on to the WWF, where he writes about a new masked wrestler, which Bobby Heenan claims is the suspended Andre the Giant. Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino disagree, pointing out that he has come from Japan and is most likely Shohei “Giant” Baba.
(Above: Giant Baba, Giant Machine, and Andre the Giant.)
Bill suspects that Giant Machine might make a run for Hulk Hogan’s WWF title. Over in World Class, Kerry Von Erich has been healing slower than expected from his motorcycle accident, and it looks like his initial hope of returning after only three or four months might be overly optimistic. He’s presently on crutches and has only recently begun light weightlifting. Gary Hart laments that after he vowed to wipe out the Von Erich family, the family began doing it on their own without him. Over in the UWF, The Fantastics and The Sheephearders are engaged in what might be the tag team feud of the year, with each match being bloodier than the last. In the AWA, Sherri Martel regained the women’s championship from Candy Divine (the latter of whom passed away just last week). Martel will continue to serve as a valet for Playboy Buddy Rose, who shares the AWA tag team titles with Doug Somers. Lastly, there’s a new masked tag team in the Mid-Southern area comprised of “The Fire” and “The Flame,” and everyone is wondering who they are. Bill has heard from a source that they might be The Assassins. (They were actually Don Bass and Roger Smith, formerly The Interns in the CWA. And personally, I think it’s a crime that The Interns were a male tag team of yesteryear as opposed to a female tag team of today.)
In King’s Court with Peter King, he breaks the summer’s hottest story: Paul Orndorff has turned on Hulk Hogan! According to sources, Orndorff has been frustrated with Hogan for months, but things really began to boil over when during a televised phone call to Hogan, Orndorff was told Hogan was too busy training to come to the phone. Then, during a tag match where Hogan and Orndorff faced the massive duo of Big John Studd and Bundy, Hogan and Orndorff accidentally collided and Hogan knocked Orndorff off the apron. Eventually, Orndorff got into the ring and helped Hogan to his feet, only to give Hogan a clothesline followed by the piledriver heard round the world. Peter says it’s still too early to fully comprehend Mr. Wonderful’s actions, but they are certainly inexcusable. Peter says many wrestlers are now saying that Orndorff might have been pretending to be Hogan’s friend the whole time since Wrestlemania 1 to learn the champion’s moves, and Orndorff was just waiting for the right time to turn himself into the number one contender for the belt. Peter says the problem with this theory is it takes only about ten minutes to learn all of Hogan’s holds because Hogan has less moves than The Iron Sheik has hair. He suspects Orndorff really did try to be Hogan’s friend, but Paul’s inner demons got the best of him. Nonetheless, “Orndorff couldn’t defeat Hogan a few years ago, and he won’t defeat him now.”
In one other piece of news, PWI has added a new writer: Dave Rosenbaum. He’s a lifelong wrestling fan who wrote his college thesis on “Wrestling and 20th Century Politics: How They Compare.” (Oh, you just wait for the 21st century, Dave.)
Next up, Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks. He says Wendell Cooley loves to talk about Rick Casey. And Rick Casey loves to talk about Wendell Cooley. They both think the world of each other because they’re the same man. Wendell and Rick wrestle in the Mid-South and Southern areas, with Wendell experimenting with a new gimmick in an attempt to redefine his style. Wendell compares it to a pitcher in spring training trying to develop a new pitch. He says if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. It’s just preparation for the regular season.
In Focus with Craig Peters speculates about Wrestlemania 3. Perhaps it will be held in 12 different cities with one event originating from each city. “Don’t worry, the WWF, the recognized symbol of exasperation in sports entertainment, will be hiring more commentators than it currently boasts to handle the event.” Craig goes on to say the main event could be Hulk Hogan taking on Abdul Khadafy in “The Battle to Save the U.S.A.” where the loser gets his flag burned. (So we have Craig to blame for Wrestlemania VII.)
In this month’s On Assignment with Liz Hunter, Liz shares some of the letters she got after asking female fans to write in with their wrestling turn-ons. Marylin Rundle of Modena, New York says she’s worn out her VCR tapes watching Brett Hart. “His strut, his grin, his scowl, his moves, the way he runs his hands through his hair. EVERYTHING! How long do these hot flashes last, Dr. Liz? How would I spend a day, an hour, a moment with him? I’d show him the sights here at Lake Mohonk, and then I’d invite him over to my place to see my Brett Hart tape collection.” Then Jon from Knoxville shares a story about taking his three month old daughter, Kelly, to an AWA show in Iowa and seeing The Road Warriors. “Hawk came to our side of the ring and caught sight of the baby on my lap. That was the first time I ever saw the man smile. Before puffing out his cheeks, he gave her the tiniest wave, then went about his business of destroying Mr. Saito and Steve Regal. Meanwhile, during the match, Paul Ellering would make cute faces at Kelly, and each time she would giggle and laugh. It was nice to know that big, tough guys can have their hearts melted just the same as anyone by a little kid.” Liz ends her column by saying space doesn’t permit the loving treatises on Dusty Rhodes and Rick Morton to be published, but she commends their respective authors, Phylis Kerns and Johnnie Barry.
Next, Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner. Eddie happened to be walking by Liz’s desk when he saw one of the letters she received: a three page ode to Dusty Rhodes by Phylis Kerns. It said, in part, “Liz, you want to know what I would do alone with Dusty? I’ll try to contain my emotions. First, I’d wrap my arms around all 300 pounds of him and hug him until my arms grew weary. Then I’d take him and kiss him tenderly and softly until my lips went numb. Would I make love to him? You bet I would! Then I’d curl up as close as I could get and tell the big guy to just talk to me.” (Now we know where Cody Rhodes came from.)
Eddie says, “Having never met Ms. Kerns, I can only guess at the terminal malady she must be suffering from. For her sake, I hope the end comes quickly before she realizes her fantasy.” Eddie then moves on to a letter asking what happened to Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura. “Was Piper suspended for slamming Mr. T at Wrestlemania 2? Was Jesse banned for telling it like it is?” Eddie says, “This isn’t a gossip column,” but adds that it’s possible Ventura’s contract was not renewed. (Actually, Jesse took off part of the summer to shoot his scenes in Predator and was back right after.) Reis from Detroit predicts that Ric Flair will successfully defend his NWA title through the coming series of Great American Bashes, making him the greatest world champion of all time. Eddie says defeating Dusty Rhodes, Robert Gibson, and Rick Morton doesn’t mean very much, but if Flair conquers Hawk, Animal, and Nikita Koloff, Flair’s place in history is secure. And finally, Glenn from Philadelphia wants to know why great men like The Road Warriors, Lex Lugar, and Chris Adams are willing to become such pansies. Eddie says, “Like a beautiful woman, the fans’ cheers seduce these men, weakening them, and, in the end, controlling them.” But he adds that all is not lost, as there’s always a chance guys like Lex will turn on his new friends. (Say what?)
Next, afeature article on Lance, the Lone Von Erich standing in the Lone Star State. Gary Hart is thrilled at the situation. “Look at me,” he says. “The Master of the Universe. Tell Pits Von Erich to pack up his bags. I have Abdullah the Butcher honed to a murderous edge. My esteemed colleague, Percival Pringle, has agreed to enlist the support of his men, Rick Rude and Blackjack Mulligan, to ensure the destruction of the Von Erich family is swift and final, and then Texas will belong to me, as it was fated to from the beginnings of time.” The article goes on to say Gary has reason to boast. David is in Heaven. Kevin, Mike, and Kerry were supposed to carry the torch, but illness and injury have joined death in decimating the family. Mike was stricken with toxic shock syndrome. Kevin went down with a shoulder injury. Kerry was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. The lone representative of the clan still healthy enough to grapple is Lance Von Erich, and he is now all that stands between a half dozen blood-lusting rulebreakers and the destruction of one of the greatest families in wrestling history. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment,” Lance says quietly. “This is what being a Von Erich is all about.” Lance then points out that he’s not really alone. He has the support of wrestlers such as Chris Adams and Steve Simpson. Lance, however, may be premature in diagnosing his support. Recently, Chris and Gary Hart were seen exchanging cordial words. And Simpson, though he denies it, may still be smarting from the blatant snub when World Class officials denied him of his share of the Six-man title, giving it to Kevin Von Erich. Both men also understand that the eradication of the Von Erich family would open the area up, giving them more opportunities at Rick Rude’s heavyweight title. Regardless, it must be remembered that Lance is still a Von Erich, and the only way a Von Erich goes out is fighting.
Next up, strap yourself in. We have another Press Conference with AWA champ Stan Hansen.
Hansen boasts about beating up Nick Bockwinkel, but Eddie Ellner points out that defeating octogenarians doesn’t say very much. Hansen says a victory is a victory, and that when he was younger he didn’t consider it a victory unless he broke somebody’s neck. He’s since learned that all that matters is getting his hand raised. Bill Apter asks if rumors are true that Stan is considering a move to Japan. Stan says, “Are you crazy? Move to Japan? Live with those little algae-eating, scurvy, octopi-loving repulsive little nipheads? I’m a banzai basher. The Japs pay me ten times as much as anyone else to go there and act like population control. I destroy those reeking, sushi-smelling, slanty-eyed midgets. I’ll work Japan forever. But live there? You gotta be bleeping kidding.” (Today’s cultural sensitivity training brought to you by John Stanley Hansen.) Stan closes the interview with a prediction that he’ll be AWA champ for another five years, and he’ll go out the same way he came in, kicking and screaming. “Stan Hansen will be around a long time. You can count on that.”
Next, our Cover Article: Bulldog vs. Bulldog
So here’s something interesting: that new, hot team, The British Bulldogs? They used to wrestle for a little Canadian promotion called Stampede Wrestling. They even wrestled each other, and PWI has the photos to prove it!
“The time was 1981 and both Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith were still green with inexperience. The Kid was managed by J.R. Foley, a notorious rulebreaking manager, who had convinced Dynamite to defy the rules and preach a ring gospel of physical violence. Davey Boy, though not quite the muscle-man he is today, was nonetheless a crowd favorite who wrestled in a starred muscle shirt, and all the young girls loved him. These photos are from June in Regina, Saskatchewan. After 30 minutes of non-stop aggressiveness, Davey Boy intercepted the Kid, who had scaled the ropes and was ready to launch an aerial assault. Smith grabbed the kid and hurled him to the mat. With such intensity did the maneuver take place, the crowd actually was stunned into silence before they exploded when Smith covered Kid for the pin.”
Next up, a feature article about The Freebirds, with Terry Gordy’s surprising victory in the UWF championship tournament threatening to test the bind of the Freebirds. Can Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts control their jealousy? According to legend, the long lost Arcasian tribe of Southeast Antarctica had a tradition that was followed for thousands of years. What belonged to one belonged to all. (It’s like the old guy’s marbles in Squid Game!) If one person went out and trapped a giant wildebeest, the creature would be roasted and shared by all in the Arcasian community. Some historians, in fact, trace the origins of communism back to the Arcasians and their ideals. The Arcasians, however, are long lost for a very good reason. One day, Wapiti, an arrogant young hunter, left his mates behind and went out on his own into the frozen wilderness of the Antarctic. Suddenly, the biggest wildebeest he had ever seen charged at him. Wapiti, quickly thinking, buried 10 spears into the creature’s heart, bringing him down with an earthquake-like thud. Using his great strength, Wapiti lifted the beast upon his sled and dragged him back to the village. Upon arriving, Wapiti was given a hero’s welcome and was the talk of the town. Following tradition, Wapiti was obligated to share his prize, and the village people had a feast the likes of which had never been seen in the storied history of the Arcasian tribe. Wapiti would certainly have become a legend. There were vast amounts of food, and the Nekenieh, a highly alcoholic drink that the Arcasians reserved for special occasions, flowed freely. Young Wapiti was showered with attention. All the men wanted to shake his hand. The women gathered around him, hoping to win Wapiti’s favor. The party lasted for three days and three nights, but afterward while Wapiti was relaxing with his two best friends, something strange happened. Wapiti began to brag about his great kill and his two friends expressed extreme resentment. They wanted to know why Wapiti left them behind. If the two friends had joined Wapiti, they could have shared in the glory. The three friends began to fight and the noise they made awakened the rest of the village. Before long, people were taking sides, and suddenly the festive atmosphere had turned ugly. Leafar Anatnas, the oldest Arcasian, managed to cool things down, but the damage had been done. Days later, the Arcasian Civil War broke out and within three weeks, every man, woman, and child was dead.
“That’s the stupidest story I’ve ever heard,” said Michael Hayes while downing a shot of Jack Daniels. “I’ve never heard of no Arcasians, and besides, what does that have to do with The Freebirds?” Terry Gordy was confused as well. “A wild beast? Are you saying Hacksaw Duggan is a wild beast?”
Will history repeat itself nonetheless? Only time will tell.
Next up, Scouting Reports!
Next a feature article about The Four Horsemen. (Bulldogs, Freebirds, Horsemen? Take my money!) “Hey check this out,” said Ric Flair, reading a magazine. “It was May 9, 1879 that the three McLean brothers, together with another young man named Alex Hare, rode into a small town with their guns blazing. Residents were terrorized and ran in all directions. The desperados rode away with all the loose cash, a supply of food, and a number of bottle of whiskey. Sounds like The Four Horsemen!” Flair was reading from a recent issue of Western Frontier Outlaws And Gunslingers, The Four Horsemen’s favorite magazine.
The Four Horsemen have little respect for the rules or just plain common decency. Their vast skills are only matched by their incredible arrogance and sense of self-importance. “We’ve proven time and time again that we can dish it out and take the heat,” Flair said.
But there’s more to the story of the McLean brothers and Hare. Soon, the four outlaws became victims of their overconfidence. They were convinced they could do no wrong and would never be captured. Their recklessness proved to be their undoing. After leaving behind a bloody trail of murder, the McLeans and Hare were tricked into surrendering. Finally, they were hanged on the morning of January 31, 1881. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and perhaps The Four Horsemen should take heed.
Next, we get Arena Reports…
Yes, Nick Bockwinkel, just north of 50 years old, has won back the AWA championship! After a controversial series of events, Bockwinkel was awarded the belt by default when Stan Hansen did not show up in the ring for a title defense on June 29th at McNichols Arena in Denver.
So here’s what really happened: Hansen had a tour booked in Japan, and Verne thought it best that Hansen drop the title to Bockwinkel before he left. Hansen didn’t know this until he showed up for the show in Denver, and he didn’t like the idea one bit, since he was booked in Japan as the AWA champion, and if he were to show up there without the belt, it would devalue him. So he said, “Screw you guys,” and left the building with the belt. The show carried on, and when they got to the Hansen/Bockwinkel match, Hansen lost by virtue of a “no-show” and was immediately stripped of his title. Bockwinkel was then given a tag team belt to use as the heavyweight championship. Meanwhile, Hansen went to Japan and continued to bill himself as the AWA champion. Eventually, the AWA threatened legal action if Hansen continued to call himself the champ and Verne demanded the belt be returned. Hansen then drove over the belt with some vehicle—long assumed to be his pickup truck, though he later said, “I wouldn’t say it was a pickup truck, but it might’ve been some other kind of motorized vehicle”—and then sent the pieces of the belt, complete with skid marks over the top, back to the AWA. So, for those of you scoring along at home, we have…
- Texas wrestler is told to job but takes his ball and leaves instead
- Wrestler walks out of a company with the belt, shows up elsewhere claiming to be the real world champion
- Company threatens legal action and asks for the belt back
- Belt is destroyed
- Former champ gets title back because the promoter doesn’t trust anyone else
(I’m just one box away from bingo.)
In other news, the NWA will unify the U.S. and National heavyweight championships. The National title was formerly the regional championship of the Georgia area while the U.S. title was the regional championship of the Mid-Atlantic area. Over the past few years, the areas have overlapped to form World Championship Wrestling, making the titles redundant.
Meanwhile, Antonio Inoki has issued a challenge to International Boxing Federation Heavyweight Champion Michael Spinks and former champion Larry Holmes for a wrestler vs. boxer clash. (Inoki would end up fighting Michael’s brother instead.) And Kerry Von Erich has been discharged from the hospital after a three week stay due to his motorcycle accident. Doctors have allowed Kerry to do mild weightlifting in areas away from his ankle, which was injured most severely. There is also some concern that Kerry might have problems performing specific exercises that would involve the use of his right hip, which was dislocated in the accident. As long as Kerry is smart, however, everything should be fine. (Uh…)
And now it’s onto the ratings, where the Road Warriors have been displaced at Number 1 for the first time in nearly two years!