Met with a great response, it hit me that some of these issues could fill up an entire entry themselves. Until about a decade ago, there were tons of different wrestling titles to choose from on the newsstand. From those that treated the sport seriously to others that tried that either built upon or ignored kayfabe, they're all interesting and veritable time capsules of eras gone by.
I hope to present a wide variety of magazines and programs in entries such as this, but we will begin with a look back to forty years ago this month. Wrestling Revue claimed right in the title on the cover that they were "The World's Largest Selling Wrestling Magazine." This may very well have been true. While the ubiquitous Weston magazines like Inside Wrestling and The Wrestler were going strong, Wrestling Revue was widely known for worldwide wrestling coverage and excellent photography. The magazine also seemed to steer clear from stories that created angles and instead tried to cover wrestling as an actual sport.
The May 1972 issue of Wrestling Revue features two Hall of Fame legends, Cowboy Bill Watts and the late Chief Jay Strongbow, right on the cover. Wrestling Revue seemed to often alternate between action shots or portraits like these for their covers.
The editorial inside discusses an absence that many fans probably noted as soon as they opened the issue--wrestler rankings. A staple of most wrestling magazines to this day, editor Norm Kietzer explains that rankings or ratings lists were simply inaccurate and making it worse was the matter of which titles deserved "World" status. Many fans will remember when the latter became an issue regarding the WWF Championship in the Weston magazines of the 1980's. Across from the editorial is a full-page ad for the DynaPower bodybuilding supplements that Verne Gagne endorsed for years, complete with an iconic shot of the champ himself.
Page 15 features an article covering British grappler Billy Robinson's arrival in the United States. A great photo of Robinson with AWA announcer Marty O'Neill and "Miss Minnesota Universe" is prominently featured. In those days it looks as if Robinson was as styling as he was dangerous. As one of the true toughmen of the sport utilizing the infamous British style, Robinson to this day teaches that style as well as MMA to young students.The article goes on to note that Robinson had a variety of tag team partners in the U.S. including Gagne and Wilbur Snyder. Another is a very young and lean Don Muraco who appears remarkably different than he would a decade later in his NWA and WWF runs.
The cover feature on Cowboy Bill Watts is quite extensive and again features some amazing photography. It begins with a photo of Watts delivering his famous "Oklahoma Stampede" as well as one featuring Watts with fellow Oklahoma wrestling legends LeRoy McGuirk (father of former WWF ring announcer Mike McGuirk) and Danny Hodge.
Another name of note on the article is that of the author, Lil Al Vavasseur. You'd be hard pressed to find a wrestling magazine of the era that didn't feature Vavasseur's name. "Lil Al" was a well-known wrestling photographer of the day who created many of the most famous shots of wrestling's greatest legends. To this day, Al's photography is circulated among collectors, still with the unique "Lil Al" name stamp in the corner.
Another place that "Lil Al" appears in not only this issue but most others of the time is in the "Fan Club Chatter" section. Fan club's for wrestlers were all the rage at the time and you'll often be surprised as to the familiar names you will see listed as fan club presidents. Mike Tenay, AWA/AWF Announcer Mick Karch, Ken "Lord Zoltan" Jugan, and PWI Editor Stu Saks are all listed in this issue back when they were just fans and before they went on to make their own names in the business.
Losing your hair? Interested in girl wrestling pictures and movies? Wrestling Revue has the answers for you! These ads appeared in nearly every wrestling magazine of the day and are somewhat tame by standards of the day. Other wrestling titles, sold to all ages, featured ads of much more risqué products that would have no chance of being sold to anyone under 18 today. Even with ads like these for tamer fare, you'd probably have just as good of a chance of actually receiving these products today as you would've back then. Caveat emptor, indeed!
One feature that I really enjoy each time that I pick up one of these old magazines is a section called "Fans' Candid Corner." This section showcases shots taken by fans from all over the world and provides a fans-eye-view of the wrestling territories. In this issue not only do we get to see a great shot of a pre-Mr. Wrestling II Johnny Walker, but also a bloodied Bobby Heenan being led to the back by police. The latter photo fully illustrates a scene that we've heard described by so many stars from the era either in interviews or books: the hated heel relying on the local law enforcement to get them safely out of the arena before the angered fans are able to unleash their rage. If this photo doesn't make you sit back and realize how great the territorial wrestling days were, nothing will!
While it would be great if more footage from these days existed, it's comforting to know that we have so many publications like this so that the era will never truly be gone. The truth is that many of these magazines can still be purchased for under $10 per issue. Remarkable bargains for the amount of treasures that are hidden in each one. To see many more great wrestling magazines from the 1950's to now, be sure to "Like" our Facebook page which can be found here.