Thursday, September 18, 2014

WWE Magazine Bids Farewell

Two weeks ago on this page we were celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of one wrestling magazine.  This time we are lamenting the loss of another.  The issue cover dated October 2014 is indeed the last installment of WWE Magazine. Though it barely resembled the magazine that many of us grew up with, seeing it on the shelves was almost comforting.  Along with the main monthly title, the WWE Kids title and special titles released periodically will also be seeing their end.

WWE Magazine officially considered their first issue to be the WWF Victory Magazine.  Victory lasted two issues before it evolved into WWF Magazine.  Despite the company not really wanting to acknowledge it, their first in-house publication was actually Wrestling Action.  Five issues were produced in all in midst of the transition between WWWF and WWF.  I was once offered an explanation as to why they did not consider it part of WWF/WWE Magazine, but it didn't amount to much.  If you want to see the true evolution of WWE Magazine, you start with Wrestling Action.  It captures an amazing time in the history of the company and the fifth and final issue features the first magazine cover of Hulk Hogan, or so The Hulkster himself told me.

Whereas the Wrestling Action issues showcased amazing cover art, the first Victory/WWF Magazines had great photography of the "Rock N Wrestling" era stars.  Jimmy Snuka, Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan, Wendi Richter, Captain Lou Albano, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Cyndi Lauper, and even Mr. T shined on those early covers. Inside was an interesting mixture of features on WWF action and some stories that might surprise readers today.  Articles on wrestling's past were not uncommon, and despite being well into the WWF's national expansion, even the first WCCW David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions was covered.

As the WWF grew further and further away from anything aside of their own bubble, so did the magazine.  In fact, the magazine began to almost directly reflect the formats of WWF television programming.  These days, WWE pay-per-view lineups often don't seem settled upon until the weekend or day of.  In the early days of the magazine, lineups for WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and other events were often included, in print, months in advance.  In the instances where bits and pieces of shows were changed, those magazines offer an interesting glance at what could have been.

The magazine also helped with the company's direct merchandise sales long before Shop WWE existed. Most every issue included a merchandise catalog full of items that weren't usually available outside of attending an event.  Shirts, posters, caps, and teddy bears were just some of the items featured, often modeled by young Stephanie and Shane McMahon.  That shirt of "The Rebel" Dick Slater?  Here.  The poster of Miss Elizabeth actually donning bikini?  Here.  Mine?  Yep, he was here, too.

As the WWF steered more towards an adult slant, the magazine followed.  Edgy covers and content eventually led to the spin-off of Raw Magazine.  When the brand split and change to WWE occurred, the original WWF/WWE title was switched to Smackdown Magazine.  In 2006, the title was finally amalgamated back to WWE Magazine.  This version tried to be a cross between Maxim and a wrestling magazine.  It included seemingly "shoot" interviews, "Best of" lists, and features on fans both male (even me!) and female.

One of the coolest issues in this final form of the magazine was April 2010.  In honor of WrestleMania XXVI, twenty-six different covers were produced, each featuring a different WWE Superstar.  John Cena, CM Punk, Bret Hart, and Santino Marella are just a few of the stars featured, and others like Drew McIntyre and Evan Bourne may have received their only cover thanks to this gimmick.  Distribution was not even as far as the variant covers upon their initial release.  Since then, various back issue sales have evened up the ability to acquire certain covers.

Although Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns all have a great shot at making the cover of Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the future, the final issue of WWE Magazine is their cover debut. It's a great shot, and the issue itself makes no secret that it's the end.  Budget cuts have been the reported reason as to why the title is ending. There were rumors that an outside company would pick up the publication, but that does not seem to be the case.  With the great characters that continue to churn out of WWE, it's a shame that they will no longer have this sort of exposure that once meant so much to the warriors of the ring.

A 30 (or 37...depending on your belief) year run is nothing to sneeze at.  Thanks for the covers, the articles, the merch catalogs, the Sunny centerfolds, The Informer, Scoop Sullivan, and...the memories.

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