Thursday, May 5, 2016

WWWF Wrestling Action #2

Seeing as that Superstar Billy Graham was the WWWF Heavyweight Champion at the time of publication, it's fitting that he decorated the cover of the first Wrestling Action magazine. That leaves only one man to star on the second issue--"The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino. Since Sammartino already had his famous nickname at this point, the man that some consider to be the greatest of all-time has been a "Living Legend" for four decades now! On a personal note, this was the first issue of Wrestling Action that I was able to get autographed and also one of the first signatures that I ever obtained from Pittsburgh's favorite wrestling champion.

The inside cover contains information regarding the magazine including notices that six more pages have been added since the debut issue and that Wrestling Action will be published bi-monthly. Gorilla Monsoon gets the pen in the "As I See It!" column in this issue. The tidbits certainly read as if written by the beloved star, including a note that the WWWF will "bring the best in wrestling action to your local arena."

The first article is a three-page feature questioning the future of Bruno Sammartino in the wrestling ring. Not only are great color photos of Bruno battling Ken Patera, Baron Von Raschke, and Stan Hansen included here, but the entire issue is in color. This was a definite change from the other wrestling titles of the time. Following the Bruno story is a look at the non-wrestling hobbies of Chief Jay Strongbow and Tony Garea. Considering their individual ages at the time, it's not surprising that Garea was into running and hiking while Strongbow is shown to be "The 'Arnold Palmer' of wrestling."

Next up is one of the classic photos of Superstar Billy Graham and his manager The Grand Wizard. An accompanying article questions whether or not Graham will be able to fend off all of the fan favorite challengers gunning for the championship. Graham is shown battling Ivan Putski and High Chief Peter Maivia, but mentioned in the article are Dusty Rhodes, Mil Mascaras, and, of course, Bob Backlund. Graham's colorful array of tights is noticeable here, as purple, red, and green are all shown in the individual photos.

Speaking of "The American Dream," we turn the page to a small feature on Dusty Rhodes. This is his first feature in Wrestling Action and seems to have been after his first Madison Square Garden clash with Graham. Rhodes is certainly built up in the article. "The Cosmic Cowboy," as he's dubbed here, is noted to be an accomplished wrestler despite only recently debuting in the WWWF. His battles for the NWA championship as well as his Florida Heavyweight title win are mentioned, well before other areas and organizations stopped being recognized by "New York."

Flipping to the centerfold, we have the classic pose of Andre the Giant hoisting his tag team partner Chief Jay Strongbow into the air. If Northeast wrestling in the 1970's could be depicted in one photograph, this shot would definitely be in the running. While I'd venture to guess that George Napolitano snapped this particular photo due to his involvement with this title, it was also captured by Bill Apter and used for the Stanley Weston publications such as Inside Wrestling.

Stories on Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka capturing the WWWF Tag Team Championship as well as a blurb on Ivan Putski come before a feature on "The Man of 1,000 Masks," Mil Mascaras. Though his high-flying maneuvers are overshadowed these days, in the 1970's nothing like it had been seen before in the area. Mascaras also had a presence that many of today's high-flyers lack. No matter what has been said about his actions behind the scenes, Mascaras was unlike anything seen before and hasn't been fully duplicated since.

We end this issue with stories on Ken Patera and Bob Backlund. Patera was still the brash, blond former Olympian who absolutely terrorized fan favorites such as Monsoon, Strongbow, Garea, and Billy White Wolf. His act was completely different from the milquetoast babyface that many fans of the late-1980's grew up with. The Backlund article continues the subtle "push" that the WWWF was obviously trying to plant in the fans minds. Included is a shot of Backlund being interviewed by a young Vincent K. McMahon on the ring apron. This interview can still be seen on one of the Madison Square Garden shows taking place before  a Backlund match.

Wrestling Action sees changes from the debut issue, but the Bob Backlund build carries on. It has always been told that Backlund was planned to be champion well in advance by Vincent J. McMahon. Features in both this and the debut issue help to cement those tales. Will he be champion before the next issue rolls around? We shall soon see. How about Mil Mascaras and Dusty Rhodes? What impact will these "outsiders" play on the World Wide Wrestling Federation?

Tune in next week...

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