Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Long Lost WrestleMania Program

Early 1996 was a great transitional period for the World Wrestling Federation.  The company, although about a year-and-a-half away from the true start of the "Attitude Era," was beginning to become edgier with their content than they had ever been before.  Fans were anxious to see what the dominate monster of WCW, Big Van Vader, was going to do in his new WWF war zone.  Other newcomers such as Goldust, Sunny, and "The Ringmaster" Steve Austin were equally as intriguing.  Fan favorite Shawn Michaels seemed to be closer than ever to a run with the WWF Championship, despite obstacles both on and off-screen.  And before the first quarter of the year ended, it was known to Internet wrestling fans that stars Diesel and Razor Ramon would soon be departing.

WWF Magazine had seemingly not quite kept up with the changes.  The style of the magazine, including both graphics and writing, had become increasingly geared towards children.  With the change of the company's direction and the "knowledge" of the Internet wrestling fans, something had to be done.  Articles actually acknowledging the existence of WCW?  Photos showing the blood and violence that was creeping back into WWF matches?  Risque photo shoots of female stars?  Raw Magazine became the answer.

Debuting with the May/June 1996 issue, the magazine burst onto the newsstands with a double bang on the cover.  Not only was the iconic first Sunny swimsuit spread advertised, but the main photo was from a recent incident on Monday Night Raw where Vader had attacked beloved WWF President and icon Gorilla Monsoon.  Inside, in addition to the cover stories, were columns and features that appealed to the "new breed" of WWF fans.  From a story on Goldust's "stalking" of Razor Ramon to a full-color feature on the bloody match between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith of a few months earlier, this was not like the usual content of WWF Magazine.

Both magazines would continue to co-exist until the "brand split" of the following decade transformed WWF Magazine into "Smackdown Magazine."  Raw would keep its name and represent that particular "brand" of shows and talent accordingly.  Nevertheless, that first issue would never quite exit the memories of many fans.  Little did many of us outside of Anaheim, California know, there was actually a second version of that debut issue.  A version that, considering the content inside, makes it ten times as desirable to collectors.  It would, that is, if more collectors actually knew that it existed.

When the WWF ceased production of its separate "program" publication in the mid-1990's, the company would often produce a variant edition of the monthly WWF Magazine, print a $5.00 tag over the standard bar code, and include an unattached match sheet for each individual show.  The content inside was exactly the same, but many collectors, including myself, often bought the magazine at live events regardless simply for the match list included.

WrestleMania programs, however, have always been a different ball game.  Highly collectible and nicely produced,  'Mania programs are fun records of "The Greatest Wrestling Extravaganza of All-Time."  So, what happened when WrestleMania and the debut issue of Raw Magazine collided?  The WrestleMania XII program.  The LONG LOST WrestleMania program, that is.

Sold exclusively at The Pond in Anaheim on the day of WrestleMania XII, this magazine answers the question as to why there wasn't a specifically produced program for the event like most other 'Mania's had.  This is it.  The magazine's front cover is switched around a bit, most notably adding a $5.00 price, a "Tyco R/C Maximum Heat" sponsor logo, and moving the tease of Sunny's swimsuit shoot.  In place of the latter is a red corner label proclaiming that this magazine is indeed "SPECIAL" and the "EXCLUSIVE WRESTLEMANIA PROGRAM EDITION."  It doesn't get any bolder than that.

The Coliseum Video ad from the inside cover of the regular edition is replaced by one half of the two-page description of WrestleMania XII's main event, the Hart-Michaels Iron Man match.  This is followed by a two-page feature on Roddy Piper and Goldust's "Backlot Brawl" and one page dedicated to The Undertaker vs Diesel.  The photos used are nothing really unique.  They have been seen elsewhere, but that's a practice still used in programs to this day.

The paper used for these WrestleMania program pages is of a higher quality than the usual magazine stock.  They are very similar to pages used for other programs of the time such as SummerSlam 1995 and WrestleMania 13 the following year.  Following the Undertaker/Diesel page, the standard debut Raw Magazine is inside.  Nothing seems to be changed within these pages, and for the enlightenment of Sunny fans worldwide, her famous spread is completely intact.

Following the Raw Magazine we are treated to additional exclusive program
pages touting the other matches on the show.  The pay-per-view opening six-man match featuring Vader, Owen Hart, and Davey Boy Smith against Yokozuna, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and Ahmed Johnson.  This match is notable for including a final "cameo" appearance by Mr. Fuji.  The legendary manager appears during the match itself and, in a moment that crushed the memories of so many fans, begins waving the American flag.  It just wasn't meant to be!

Next up we have a page featuring the infamous return match of The Ultimate Warrior.  Hunter Hearst Helmsley was the victim that the Warrior quickly disposed of, but this match also marks a huge atrocity committed to the wrestling business: the debut of Sable.   It should be noted that the text on this page claims that this will be the Warrior's first WrestleMania match "since he toppled Macho Man Randy Savage for the belt."  Mistakes happen.

Savio Vega against Stone Cold Steve Austin, fresh off of being known as "The Ringmaster," is on the final photographic program page herein.  Below this match description is a note that on the "Free For All" before WrestleMania, fans will be treated to the finals of the WWF Tag Team Championship tournament.  Several teams involved in the tournament, including The Bodydonnas and The Godwinns who ended up in the match, are listed.  The other side of this page is a final text rundown of the pay-per-view matches.

The rarest WrestleMania program?  Maybe.  I prefer "long lost" as a more fitting description.  The WWF made a similar move with the WrestleMania XIV program, however that was a standard April 1998 WWF Magazine with a loose paper lineup for the event inside.  The $5.00 printed price is the only thing to differentiate the actual magazine, and that would've been sold at live events throughout the month.  Only the lineup sheet could be connected to WrestleMania XIV itself.

Although the main event of WrestleMania XII puts me to sleep and the show itself is not among my favorites, I think any collector would be excited to own this program.  It's a unique variation on an already memorable magazine and a special addition to the very collectible WrestleMania program lineup.


Andrew said...

Can I buy this?

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