Thursday, October 7, 2010

WWWF Wrestling Action Magazine

Most wrestling collectors would agree that it is very hard to even make a shortlist of favorite collectibles. With the incredible array of items both current and vintage, it would be hard to even try and find a starting point. The five magazine issues that you are about to see and learn about will always, as a whole, make my personal top five.

Wrestling magazines are a unique breed of collectible. One can collect all issues of a certain title, focus on a particular star, or even a specific era. While the magazines have been produced en masse since around the time pro wrestling hit television and continue to fly off shelves today, the '70s through the '90s probably saw the widest variety of titles for the genre.

While the Stanley Weston (The Wrestler, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, etc.) and Norm Kietzer (Wrestling Revue, The Wrestling News) magazines were the first publications to rule the roost, the '80s and '90s saw in-house publications from the WWF, NWA, WCW, and even ECW.

There is one oft-forgotten in-house publication that was actually the first of its kind for the WWWF. While it's been claimed in the current incarnation of the WWE Magazine that the WWF's Victory Magazine was the first in-house WWWF/WWF published periodical, this simply isn't so.

The very first was the Wrestling Action magazine...


Published between 1977 and 1979, the magazine ended up only having a five issue run. While celebrated wrestling photographer George Napolitano provided much of the visual action, it was actually wrestling renaissance man Les Thatcher who held the title of editor.

Already holding the titles of wrestler, announcer, and trainer, Thatcher had been publishing the Mid-Atlantic and NWA wrestling magazines when Napolitano and Vince McMahon Jr. saw his work.

Similar to the aforementioned Mid-Atlantic and NWA titles, Thatcher brought incredibly designed covers to the WWWF publication as well. These covers, done by art director Cal Byers, visually set these magazines in a class by themselves. Billy Graham, Bruno Sammartino, and Bob Backlund are showcased on the first three covers while collages of stars are featured on the last two. Often you can even see the photos which inspired the cover art within the pages of the magazine itself.

Each issue contains two features that were not prominent in other wrestling magazines of the time, those being all "slick" pages and a good bit of color photos and graphics.

Packed with features on the stars both in and out of the ring, many articles were highlighted with special graphics and production techniques. Also impressive were the centerfolds in each issue, always featuring a top star or stars of the WWWF.

Reading these magazines, you can truly feel the excitement that legendary WWWF fans such as Mrs. Krieger or Georgiann Makropoulos (a wrestling publishing legend in her own right) probably felt while reading these back in the '70s. While wrestlers seldom need any help appearing larger than life, these issues certainly reinforced that to the WWWF loyal.

With the magazines produced over a period of two years, it is obvious that there was a great length of time between the release of each issue. A disclaimer even appears in later issues that apologizes to subscribers for the magazines not being published monthly.

Due to the fact that publication was stretched out for so long, the last issue gives us an automatic look at wrestling history. While the first four issues feature "World Wide Wrestling Federation" in the upper left corner of the cover, the fifth and final simply reads "World Wrestling Federation." Interestingly, that final issue is titled "Stars of the '80s" and among the cover collage is the man who would end up defining the WWF in the '80s--Hulk Hogan.

Sadly, Vince Jr. decided to pull the plug after that issue. With such a finely crafted magazine, it would be interesting to see how the beautiful covers and great content would've translated to the national expansion and even "Rock 'n Wrestling."

It's unknown how many copies of each issue were produced. All have become highly coveted by collectors, with the first issue usually gaining the most attention. When properly identified in an online auction setting, the inaugural issue has fetched as much as one-hundred dollars.

How about the original artwork from those fantastic covers? They are said to reside in the collection of photographer George Napolitano. He, and many of the wrestlers featured in the magazine, show great fondness for the issues when presented to them by fans. Graham, Lou Albano, Tony Atlas, and Ivan Putski are just a few who have enjoyed seeing the copies in my collection over the years.

I'd like to thank Mr. Les Thatcher for providing so much of the information about these classic collectibles. I recently had several opportunities to discuss Wrestling Action with the legend himself. When I began this blog nearly two years ago, this was one of my first ideas for a feature. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Thatcher for making it more informative than I ever could have on my own.

9 comments:

jjeffggordanfan2 said...

what do you think the value of these magazines are?

J\/\/ said...

For awhile the 1st issue was going for around $100 and the rest a bit less. Now I've seen them go for about $20-$25 so it's a buyers market. I totally believe the price will go back up.

Anonymous said...

I just bought the first 4 at a flea market for a total of $10! They are in near mint condition. I had never heard of them and was excited to get home and do some research. Thanks for a great blog!

J\/\/ said...

Great deal! I got my set very cheap as well. I think I'm the first person to ever really write anything about them, and they definitely deserve to be heard of.

Enjoy!

Will said...

The price of these magazines have creeped back up.

From my research the past few years... The hardest one to find is not the 1st issue. It is the 5th issue - Stars of the 80`s. I think it was the lowest published count.

I have only seen it posted on ebay once.. And I totally missed out on the auction.

Still looking for #5 BADLY!!!
I have doubles of every other one.

The most popular one and most published seems to be #2 - with Bruno on the cover. There are 3 of them on ebay right now.. and always for sale.

If anyone has any leads on #5.. post here, I will come back time-to-time, and update.

This collection is highly underrated. The price will keep going up, since these are now being recognized the WWF (WWWF) original FIRST issues of magazines. (instead of the highly overpriced WWF Victory mags)

Happy collecting :)

Anonymous said...

hey Will, I agree with you, the 5th issue is definately the hardest to find...unless there was another one on ebay, I am pretty sure i got the one you seen...i think it was about a year and a half ago, I was so glad I found it...but I havent seen any more anywhere which sucks...if i find anything i will let u know for sure

J\/\/ said...

At the time this was written, Number 1 was the one that sold for the most.

WWE, when trying to purchase my Victory mags a year ago, gave me a long winded response as to why they don't recognize these, but they should.

I've since completed getting the five issues signed, which is now impossible with Lou Albano's passing.

Will said...

Well, a few years have now gone by... Prices for these mags, are still going up.

Still looking for #5.

Would love to find a real publishing count for these mags. It would really gauge what I am up against.

Few issues have come up on e-bay here and there.. but no #5.

I have a feeling, if-and-when, it does come up.. I will have to pay a pretty penny. Or give my left leg.

These mags were truly ahead of its time.. the color, the photos are quite amazing, especially when most mags of the time were cheap black & white, and produced to the masses.

Cheers everyone!

J\/\/ said...

And the Hulkster does say that was his first magazine cover. I'm thinking some of his first program cover appearances may predate it, but I have yet to check. But as far as magazines, I think it may hold.