Thursday, August 30, 2012

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--WWF Magazine August/September 1985

This month we've explored the era of the "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection" quite a bit.  From the 1985 Topps WWF cards to the Rock 'n Wrestling cartoon, I think that we've covered the fun and "mania" that surrounded this time period in professional wrestling.  Although the mid-'80s "boom" period for wrestling seems to be universally accepted as stretching from Hulk Hogan's title win to just about early 1988, the Rock 'n Wrestling Connection itself was only about a year long.  The time when Cyndi Lauper seemed to disappear from the WWF, Wendi Richter herself vanished for obvious reasons, and WWF programming stopped appearing on MTV seems to be the cutoff point.  The WWF Magazine cover dated August/September 1985 is probably a good cutoff merchandise-wise, and that is what we're exploring today to top off the month of '80s glory.

Probably due to their own licensing deals, Lauper and Mr. T didn't appear on all that much WWF merchandise.  The cover of WWF Magazine is an exception for both.  Lauper appears here in a picture from the shoot for her "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" music video along with Rowdy Roddy Piper, Nikolai Volkoff, and The Iron Sheik.  With a bright orange background inserted behind the "fearsome" foursome, you can't miss the cover.  The first actual page (the inside cover is the letters page) starts right off with the WWF marketing machine.  Coliseum Video Presents WWF WrestleMania--The Greatest Wrestling Event Of All Time!  $39.95!  $39.95?  Yes, kids.  Videos were not usually "priced to own" until a few years later, but forty bucks was actually affordable compared to the normal price of WWF videos of the era, a fact that we will revisit in a bit.

Feature articles cover such stars as Hillbilly Jim, wrestlers such as Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat who hail from "The Islands" as well as Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  Ventura had just begun his transition from wrestler to commentator and the article does a good job of putting it over.  You notice in this and other articles that the photos used are much less polished than ones used in the future of the publication.  The photos are good, but ones such as a photo taken of Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon commentating ringside at the first WrestleMania are almost candid and not the "slick" style of photo used as the company got bigger and bigger.  Two WrestleMania programs sitting on the table probably make the picture even more appealing to me.

In his nearly decade long WWF-stint, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was always a large part of WWF Magazine.  From having his own column to many articles about the Heenan family and his other devious antics, Heenan was as much a heat machine on the newsstand as he was at ringside.  Although he would get his own cover two years later, Heenan shines in an article examining his connection to his fan-given nickname of "Weasel" as well as the animal itself.

Keeping with the trend of profiling managers, another article focuses on one who had been with the company for quite awhile--Captain Lou Albano.  The Captain was appearing in the feature film "Wise Guys" with Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo and the article includes behind-the-scenes photos.  A one-page article about WWF and Coliseum Video, a fluff piece discussing the latest releases, follows the Albano feature.

The cover article is next, with the photo-packed feature on Lauper's "Goonies" video that featured a plethora of WWF stars.  In addition to noting how massive the pirate ship set used in the video was, a particular photo of Freddie Blassie always stuck out to me.  This absolutely had to be one of the reference photos used by LJN when they created his figure.  The pose is identical down to the placement of the rings on his fingers.  The "Hollywood Fashion Plate" never looked better!

The marketing machine is back again with a page full of items that would command a high dollar today--early posters.  These would be even scarcer than the ones shown in the later merchandise catalogs which themselves are in high demand these days.  Posters of Hogan in three of his color combinations (blue and white, all white, and red and yellow) and Richter from her bikini shoot are particularly memorable.  The following pages feature early WWF logoed apparel.

$59.95!  There's the Coliseum Video price that most of us remember.  The "Andre the Giant," "Most Unusual Matches," and "Best of the WWF Vol. 2" tapes are showcased in a full page ad urging fans to order.  Although there were even some budget WWF videos released at the time, until WWF Home Video took over in late 1997, this was the price for most tapes.  Of course there were ways around this for fans to "bring home the action," but that's another story for another time.  The opposing page is the beginning of an article chronicling the feud between Freddie Blassie and The Sheik.  The Sheik, not the Iron Sheik.  This is a fact that the article points out.  Many of the early WWF Magazines not only feature stories on wrestling history, but also stars who were not in the organization of the time.  Jeff Walton, a name familiar to many wrestling fans, is the author of this article which is accompanied by several classic photos.

While the back cover is an advertisement for Tuesday Night Titans, it's the inside back cover that is memorable to so many fans.  "How Do You Get A Wrestler In A Mailbox?"  This is the ad to order the first five LJN WWF figures directly from the WWF Merchandise Department.  At only $10 each, how could anyone pass it up? 

This was the 1985 WWF.  These pages lavishly illustrate just how far this company was coming in both the fields of professional wrestling and entertainment.  An all-color, all-slick magazine was just the kind of publication that the progress of the rest of the company demanded.  I think the voice of the WWF at the time, Gorilla Monsoon, would've summed it up something like this...

"This magazine would be a best seller at any newsstand anywhere in the world!"

As usual where Gorilla is concerned, I would have to agree.

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