This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of WWF Magazine that went to press in September of that year and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $3.00 in Canada. With a cover featuring the lovely Miss Elizabeth, we’re teased with stories about Liz, Billy Graham, and Piper vs. Muraco. Let’s dig in.
We begin with Around the Ring with Ed Ricciuti, which has merged with The Mailbag and will now feature a new topic of discussion each issue. This month’s topic is dirty tricks. Dave from Surrey, British Columbia points out that the Funks cheated to win at Wrestlemania 2. “Jimmy Hart threw his megaphone into the ring and one of the Funks grabbed it and hit Junk Yard Dog across the head when his back was turned.” Kevin from Parts Unknown says the dirtiest trick he ever saw was when Hulk Hogan was Pearl Harbored by King Kong Bundy during a title match with Don Muraco on Saturday Night’s Main Event. An anonymous reader claims The Killer Bees cheat when they put on masks and the referees can’t tell them apart. (Note from Ed: no more anonymous letters will be published.) Finally, Chris from Franklin, Pennsylvania says the worst travesty he ever saw was when Jake Roberts DDTed Ricky Steamboat on the cement floor in Rhode Island.
Next, coverage of the latest winner of the Lunch with a WWF Superstar contest. Our latest winner is 11 year old Luis Roma from Miami, who chose Elizabeth as his lunchmate of choice. WWF Magazine points out that he wasn’t alone since 40 percent of the fans who have submitted entries have chosen Elizabeth. Anyway, Randy Savage tagged along, which was fine with Luis because he’s a big Savage fan too. “He’s my favorite wrestler,” Luis said. The remark brought an uncharacteristic smile to Savage’s face. And believe it or not, he was actually almost nice during the meal. “You know,” Randy said later, “The Macho Man is world class. And he recognizes class when he sees it. This kid has class.” Luis got to attend a WWF event at Miami’s Knight Center where he saw Savage wrestle Ricky Steamboat and also received a jacket, a T-shirt, and a duffle bag.
Next up, our feature article about the lovelyMiss Elizabeth, with comments from her friends and family. “On Friday nights during high school, Elizabeth and her mother used to go to the movies together,” recalls a chum of the curvaceous manager of World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion Randy “Macho Man” Savage. “They always went for the action pictures—westerns, war movies, kung-fu—filled with nasty men. But the situation she’s in now… well, that’s nastier than 100 of those guys on the screen.” Friends of the former home-body are stumped by Miss Elizabeth’s association with one of professional wrestling’s most brutal men. “They’re polar opposites,” says an ex-classmate. “She was always bright, sweet, and a pleasure to be around. Just look at him. He’s a beast. And the way he treats her at the arena, demanding that she hold open the ropes for him and kiss him on the cheek… she might just be the most victimized woman in the sport.” To the few who have had a chance to talk to her about her status, Miss Elizabeth has said, “Randy Savage is the meanest man I know. He’s tough. Sometimes, he seems inhuman. But he has to be heartless. He can’t show mercy. So many men are trying to destroy him in the ring, and he can’t afford a weak moment. You don’t know him like I do. That’s all I can say.” These days, Elizabeth is rarely given a chance to say much. Not only is she naturally shy, but whenever she begins chatting, her unruly charge usually materializes to stifle her. “She’s a cordial person,” say a friend. “But Savage is so possessive that he views any communication she has with anybody else as too forward.” If associations reveal your personality, Elizabeth’s former friends depict a sensitive woman. Most of her high school pals are industrious professionals. Some are homemakers. “She was always with her books,” remembers one companion. “She wanted to get accepted by a top college. A lot of boys had crushes on her, but she never made time for them. In fact, I can’t remember her ever having a date.” No one questioned knows how Savage and Elizabeth met, but most recall the aftermath. One remembers Elizabeth’s mother saying, “The worst feeling in the world is having my Liz hooked up with him.” Word is, Elizabeth’s mother even received a phone call from Elizabeth’s grandmother, who saw Savage wrestle on television and was shocked by what she saw. “We had more faith in your ability to raise a child. How could you let this go on?” Holding back tears, the mother replied, “My daughter’s greatest wish in the world is to be with this man, strange as it may seem.” Infuriated, Elizabeth’s grandmother called Elizabeth, only to reach the Macho Man himself. “You give me my granddaughter!” she said. For a brief moment, Savage was intimidated and handed the phone over. “You know, Liz,” the grandmother began, “normally a woman would be proud of her granddaughter being associated with a celebrity. But I’m not. I’m ashamed. I’ve worked hard to get everything I have. All if it came through honest means. But this man you’re going around with only knows how to get ahead by cheating. He’s a disgrace.” Elizabeth thought a few seconds before answering. “I don’t know, Grandma. he just does something to me. Maybe he won’t be mean forever.”
Next up, Best Dressed and Worst Dressed. In the Best Dressed category we have B. Brian Blair, Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Freddie Blassie, and Corporal Kirchner. Commenting on the latter, the magazine says, “You may disagree with this selection until you remember that Kirchner wears the uniform of an American fighting man. And whatever your branch of service, there’s nothing you can wear with more pride.” Worse dressed? Adorable Adrian Adonis, Captain Lou Albano, The Iron Sheik, Brutus Beefcake (“his tights are too tight”), Jimmy Hart (“a hodgepodge of the 60s, 70s, and 80s”), George Steele, The Moondogs, and King Kong Bundy (“if any wrestler would improve his looks by wearing a mask, he’s the one.”)
Next, A Talk with Bobby Heenan: he begins by comparing and contrasting King Kong Bundy with John Studd. They’re both big, but Studd has height and Bundy has bulk. Studd is quicker but Bundy is better at cutting off the ring because he’s harder to get around. (Studd is quicker?) As for who has a better shot at defeating Hogan for the title, Heenan says Studd has the inside track because Hogan already defeated Bundy at Wrestlemania. (Or Heenan could focus on acquiring a different giant, leaving Studd in no man’s land.) But Studd & Bundy, “The Team that Can’t Be Slammed” (catchy) could become the tag team champions before then if they get The British Bulldogs at the right place at the right time. The interviewer than asks if anyone has ever outsmarted “The Brain,” and Bobby says “If I admitted somebody outsmarted me, I wouldn’t be that smart, would I?” As for which people Bobby would like to meet the most, he says, “I would probably say Albert Einstein or Mark Twain. But if you mean someone living, I’d say Jack Nicklaus because he’s won the Masters seven times. (Six.) Everyone keeps counting him out, but he seems to outsmart everyone on that golf course. The man is a winner. And he has blond hair, like me.” (This interview, of course, came out a few months after Nicklaus, at age 46, came out of nowhere to win the Masters with a −6 on the back nine, his first Masters win in over ten years. He’s still the oldest to ever win the tournament, and won it in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, and 1986.) Bobby is asked if it’s true that he lives a life of elegance and extravagance. “Well, I live in Beverly Hills,” he says. “If money was made to hold onto, it’d have handles.” He also says he loves California because of the weather. “I don’t like galoshes, big coats, earmuffs, or sitting in a cold car. People on the East Coast say they love the four seasons. Well, if they love Four Seasons, they should have bought their albums.” (rim shot) Bobby is then asked whom he would come back as in another life. “Bobby Heenan II.” His best advice? “Don’t trust anybody.” The interviewer says that’s sad. Bobby responds, “We trust all these nations, and we send them all oil and guns, and what do they do? They hold our people hostage. We trust all these big companies to give us time off and gives us a good paycheck. Then when it comes time for retirement, they fire us a week before. Don’t trust anybody. Never do business with a relative or a friend. Don’t ever lend anybody anything you wouldn’t give him. That way, if he never returns it, it can’t bother you.”
Next up, Battle of the Titans covers the matchup of Roddy Piper vs. Don Muraco at the Second Annual King of the Ring elimination tournament at Sullivan Stadium in Foxborough. It was a titanic struggle that pushed both athletes to the limit.
Uh oh: Gorilla Monsoon’s probably going to be complaining about this move in the comment section.
Amazingly, as the match went on, the fans sided more and more with Roddy Piper, a once hated villain, chanting, “Roddy, Roddy!” Unfortunately, he was not able to pull out the victory. The 20 minute time limit expired, and both men were eliminated from the tournament.
Next up, a new column called Sounding Off: Hulk Hogan says a real American is someone who is true, loyal, and loves freedom. One that plays fair, but when things get rough, you can take care of yourself. One that doesn’t let anybody mess with his friends. (Now he’s just paraphrasing his theme song.) Meanwhile, Giant Machine says that, rumors to the contrary, he is definitely not Andre the Giant. He and his partner come from Japan and are proud of their Japanese heritage. Lastly, Freddie Blassie says he’s sick and tired of hearing about Lou Albano and how he’s in the movies and helps good causes. “What rattles my cane the most is that lousy book that Albano and the editor of this crummy rag of a magazine wrote.” (Available at bookstores now!) “Let me tell you something, they USED me to get that book across. They’ve got my pictures plastered all over that book. Albano says HIS book is selling big. I say its because I’m in it.”
Next, a Superstar Comeback! Former WWF Champ Billy Graham is back after being out of action a few years. (Wait, wasn’t he just in the AWA and Mid-Atlantic?) During his respite from the ring, he spent his time testing himself in the rock-studded, sun-baked desert of his native Arizona. “You’ve got to learn to live off the desert,” he whispers. “If you can survive in the desert, you can survive anywhere.” In his absence, many of his disciples have appeared. including Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura, each of whom represent alternate sides of the Superstar. But now, renewed by the desert, the original is back.
Hey, it’s the 1986/87 Merchandise catalogue!
You know, it just occurred to me that the one LJN doll I never played with was Bundy. I never could find him. I would not have liked his pose, however. How can you play with a wrestling doll that can’t punch, clothesline, or slam anyone? (Also, suggestion to the WWF: maybe start selling T-shirts tied to specific WWF superstars. Also, everyone loves ice cream bars. Just be sure to overprice them.)
Next up, Staying Fit with the Iron Sheik. We begin with a bit of history: at age 14 he had to choose between soccer and wrestling. He chose wrestling and wrestled for Iran in the 1968 Olympics. (Except he didn’t really.) He went on to win the bronze medal. (I’m looking for his name on the Wikipedia page listing the medalists, but I can’t find “The Iron Sheik” or “Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri” listed amongst the competitors from Iran. Now I have to figure out which source I trust more: WWF Magazine or Wikipedia.) Anyway, after defeating all his opponents in Europe, he came to the U.S. to wrestle professionally and quickly rose the top, winning the WWF title in 1983. He now works out with his tag team partner, Nikolai Volkoff. They believe very much in building burly necks, as the neck supports the head and is important in almost every move from the waist up. To do this, they use neck machines or neck straps at the gym. They also practice “bridging,” where they lie on their backs and arch their bodies before rotating their bodies to gain their feet. The Sheik also says diet is important and says he never eats American junk food, instead ingesting only healthy Iranian food.
Next, an article about the most treacherous act since Benedict Arnold sold the plans of West Point to the British. WWF Magazine says the true story can now be told. “Unless you’ve been living on another planet recently, you know that Paul ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Orndorff has stabbed his old friend and benefactor, World Wrestling Federation Champion Hulk Hogan, in the back, has taken on Bobby Heenan as manager, and is hopeful of knocking off Hogan’s crown.” The magazine goes on to run down the betrayal before saying, “Deep down, Orndorff is said to be a selfish, self-centered man who is really interested in one person and one person only—himself. For a long time, Orndorff has nursed a hidden envy of the champion’s immense popularity with fans, his towering ring ability, and his great material success. It was not enough for Orndorff that arenas rocked to applause when he headed for the ring. Nor even that he had become wealthy because of ring achievements. The fact that Hogan had more of these things ate at Orndorff. He brooded about it. Envy built up and grew into hatred and, under the ring lights, he finally snapped. Looking back again, the seeds of Orndorff’s scurrilous transformation started months before the attack on Hogan. Some, it seems, were sown by a Hogan foe, the Adorable Adrian Adonis. Orndorff appeared on Adrian’s television program, The Flower Shop, to promote a match with The Moondogs. When Adonis criticized the champion, Orndorff let slip that Hogan had not returned a telephone call to discuss an upcoming match. That was all Adonis needed. Subtly, he began to needle Orndorff, suggesting the champion was taking Orndorff lightly. When Orndorff denied it, Adonis craftily insinuated that Hogan was too busy with personal appearances and other glamourous, lucrative activities to care about his partner. At the time, it didn’t seem to have any impact on Orndorff, but we now know it did. And finally, the seeds Adonis helped sow bore bitter fruit.”
Next, another article about arena food. “Wrestlers are prisoners of their environment. With their hectic schedules, it’s difficult to track down the best health food stores in every city.” (There was no Google then, kids.) Gorilla Monsoon likes visiting Cleveland because they have the best sausage and pepper sandwiches in the world. He also likes Philadelphia because The Spectrum has exquisite boneless rib sandwiches and Pittsburgh because The Civic Arena serves the best Polish kielbasa sandwich south of Buffalo. And don’t forget The Erie Civic Center which boasts chicken fried in a wonderful way that you don’t find in many arenas. (Are you through, Monsoon?) As for Bundy, he’ll eat anything. “I ate 27 hot dogs before a match and won, then went out and ate two large pizza pies.” By contrast, Randy Savage won’t eat anything at the arena because he doesn’t trust his opponents and worries his food might be poisoned. (Especially in Utah.) Photographer Steve Taylor likes roast beef sandwiches in Philadelphia and burritos and hot dogs at the Phoenix Sports Arena. “A good arena is one that serves onions,” he says. Ring attendant Mel Phillips and Lou Albano are united in their love of Madison Square Garden’s hot dogs. (If only that was the extent of Mel’s Garden delights.) The Garden’s employees are equally proud of to admit Albano through the arena’s fabled gates. “We love the Captain and treat him like a big piece of roast beef,” says MSG head coordinator Tony Avallon. (Huh?) Meanwhile, Nikolai Volkoff is homesick for feasts available at Russian sports palaces where fans drink vodka and beer while gobbling down corn on the cob and pyrogi. “In America, all food is frozen, and there are chemicals,” Volkoff sneers. “In Russia, food is delivered to arenas fresh every day. That’s why Russian people are healthier, stronger, and live longer.” Then there’s George Steele, who simply eats sacks of oats. The article concludes by saying, “You are what you eat.”
Next, an article about Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The 249 pound Roberts is famous for the DDT and his pet, Damian. By observing snakes in their own habitat, Roberts has gained a profound insight into reptile defense systems and the economy of reptile motion. The rattlesnake will strike if you’re within three feet of it, uncoiling in one sharp snap at an average speed of 8.12 feet per second. “That’s fast, but my fist is faster,” Jake says. Another serpent Jake models his moves after is the African black mamba. “I admire the mamba for its aggressiveness. They’re bad dudes.” He also respects the Indian cobra and its beady stare, which he likes to copy. And he takes inspiration from the colorful coral snake, with tail movements that imitate the movements of the head. While you’re looking at the tail, waiting for it to bite you, the head swoops in and delivers a dose of death. “Jake creates similar diversions with his hands.” But his favorite move, the DDT, is borrowed from his favorite snake, the python. “You can applaud the poisonous snakes for their speed and lethal venom, but the python has my vote for best utilization of the abilities nature gave it. What does it do? It squeezes its victims.” When Jake puts all of his serpentine tactics together, he’s a deadly opponent. Take a recent match against Ricky Steamboat: Beady eyes unblinking, the Snake effortlessly changed direction and slithered counterclockwise, hypnotically raising his left hand like the fanned hood of a cobra. The Dragon prepared to deflect the blow and, just as he did, he realized Jake was employing the strategy of a coral snake trying to distract his victim. The Snake’s unobserved right arm came in over the Dragon’s head, looping around his neck with the crushing strength of a python. Then Roberts dropped the Dragon to the mat with all his weight, a perfect execution of the DDT. “When I enter the ring, I am the snake,” Jake whispers. He’s is as cold blooded as they come. Pity has no meaning to him. For Jake, there is only one way to survive in the ring, and that is by striking down his opponents with chilling, deadly efficiency.
Next up, Harley Race wins King of the Ring! The outcome of the 14-man elimination tournament was a downer for former WWF Champion Pedro Morales when he lost to Handsome Harley Race in the finals. Morales actually had his foot on the rope, but the referee didn’t see it. The tourney, sponsored by Boston radio station WZOU, also featured such superstars as Bruno Sammartino, Paul Orndorff, Junk Yard Dog, Danny Spivey, Nikolai Volkoff, Rudy Diamond, Mr. X, and The Designated Hitman. In the end, however, Race walked away with the crown after defeating George Steele, Billy Jack Haynes, and Morales.
Next an exclusive WWF Magazine analysis: Can the Bulldogs beat the Big Guys? Recently, the Bulldogs eked out a victory over Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy, but only because of a mistake by their two giant adversaries. The finish came after Studd and Bundy illegally double-teamed the Dynamite Kid’s partner, Davey Boy Smith. As Studd set up Smith for an avalanche by Bundy, Davey Boy slipped out of the way, and the two monsters collided. Moving like a flash, Smith hit Studd, who was legally in the ring, with a flying dropkick, then pinned him. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs give away a lot of weight when they wrestle Studd & Bundy or even Sheik & Volkoff. The only advantages the have are their extremely intelligent ring strategy skills plus their speed and agile movements. To keep their title against massive opponents, the Bulldogs will have to constantly keep their heads. They must never stop moving once the bell rings, be able to stand up to the most devastating punishment imaginable, and come back for more.
Foreign Affairs: The WWF is continuing its explosive popularity in Australia, with 13 additional stations televising WWF bouts on Down Under’s Ten Network. Testimony to the way WWF grapplers have wowed Aussie fans is the fact that a bevy of WWF ring warriors are the local point of a major new sales campaign by Toyota’s Australian distributer, Theiss Toyota. Among the wrestlers featured are S.D. Jones, Paul Roma, Steve Lombardi, Dave Barbie, and A.J. Pitrizzi.
And we get an article about a new tag team, The Machines from Japan. Years ago, when Japan was on the brink of emerging as an industrial giant, WWF Magazine writer Ed Ricciuti accompanied a group of Japanese businessmen touring a large American pharmaceutical plant. They watched studiously as plant managers explained how antibiotics were produced, but that was not the process that drew their keenest attention. Instead, it was a machine that dispensed soft-drinks. They requested the machine be opened and intently poured over its innards. As the Japanese took multitudes of notes and made profuse sketches of the device, another American bystander commented, “They’ll make a duplicate that’s a better machine than that one.” Since that time, Japan has become a source of the world’s best machinery, automotive and otherwise. Now, a new Japanese machine has been imported to these shores: the Giant Machine, an immense grappler who, with his equally disguised partner, Super Machine, has come to the World Wrestling Federation geared up to outdo the competition in the WWF tag team market. Like many other imports that threaten domestic competition, the Giant Machine has sparked a heated controversy. Typical of Japanese products, the Giant Machine seems to be patterned after an existing model: Andre the Giant, who has been suspended by Jack Tunney for failing to show up for a match. There are some who even believe Giant Machine and Andre are the same person. Heenan, talking about the newcomer, says, “He’s no more Japanese than I am!” However, Super Machine, attempting to put the issue to rest, readily provides verbal biographies of the Japanese tag team. They are from Sapporo, on the northernmost large Japanese island of Hokkaido and Fu Yu Tu, a tiny island north of Hokkaido that was part of Japanese territory but has been occupied by the Soviet Union. (Wait, the Russians just took it over? That’s not right.)
Lastly, we get WWF Wrap Up. Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan hosted a segment of NBC’s Friday Night Videos. Hulk, of course, talked about the virtues of playing bass, having played it on his theme song, Real American. “Man, when you get down on that bass, you’re bad to the bone. When I pick it up, it takes me back years ago when I was a rock ‘n’ roller, playing under those hot lights with the women standing up in their seats. Only another bassman can know what I’m talking about. It makes your knees freeze, your back crack, and your liver quiver!” Hulk, however, says he’s glad he got into wrestling, even if he could have signed with a major record label or played baseball instead. “I played little league baseball and hit 162 home runs. And that was in my first five games, man. They thought I was 20 when I was 11. I knew I was a man on a mission then, that there were big things ahead for me in the ultimate of battlefields—the squared circle.” (How many at bats did he get a game?) Lastly, there’s a new face behind the host’s microphone on the WWF’s hot USA Cable Network Show, TNT. Mean Gene Okerlund has taken over hosting duties from Vince McMahon. TNT is the top rated show on USA Cable.
That’s all for this week. Join me next week where we’ll look back at the December, 1986 issue of WWF Magazine. And be sure to check out my new book, Chasing the Eclipse, all about my adventures in 2017 trying to see The Great American Solar Eclipse along with tips for seeing the 2024 Great American Solar Eclipse.