Thursday, May 26, 2016

WWWF Wrestling Action #5

And as quickly as it began, it ended. WWWF Wrestling Action Vol. 1 No. 5 was indeed the final issue of the storied publication. It's hard to say whether or not this was planned to be the last issue, but as publisher Les Thatcher told me years ago, the McMahon's decided to pull the plug. Fittingly, the final issue is a look to the future and contains several "firsts" that would follow the company into the next decade.

The cover story is "Stars Of The '80s" featuring artistic renderings of
Bob Backlund, Ivan Putski, Tony Atlas, Tito Santana, Ken Patera, and Hulk Hogan. While autographing my copy, The Hulkster told me that this was his first magazine cover appearance. The claim may very well be true. This magazine predates his first Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover appearance by several years. There may be a program or two out there from this time or before with a Hogan cover, but as far as magazines I do believe this to be his debut.

Also of historic note is the change on the cover from the previous four issues. "World Wide Wrestling Federation" has silently become "World Wrestling Federation." There is still at least once instance of "WWWF" being used inside the magazine.

In the opening page we don't get any real indication that this would be the last issue. It is said that subscription balances will still be fulfilled. Just as with issue #3, issue #4 was a complete sellout as well. The $2.50 back issues of the first two editions were still available. Fill my cart. "Vince McMahon" pens the "As I See It!" column this time around, and there really isn't much to identify if that was supposed to be father or son.

Features kick off with a brief story and photos on the new and popular tag team championship team of Tito Santana and Ivan Putski. Putski is in a transitional phase where he isn't quite the clone of The Mighty Igor any longer, nor is he the slimmer and more cut undercarder that many grew up on in the '80s. Our next article is about "A Perfect '10'." No, it isn't Nickla Roberts. It's "The Incredible" Hulk Hogan. Even here, The Hulkster just simply looks different from anything else the wrestling had seen up to the point.

Another two-pager discussing Afa and Sika of The Wild Samoans is followed by a three-page story titled "Who Is The Real Living Legend?" It seems that Larry Zbyszko (now being misspelled "Zbyscko") is no longer the fan favorite tag team partner of Tony Garea as he was in the previous issue. At this point he has made his infamous turn on his mentor, Bruno Sammartino. This article is highlighted by a photo of a battered, beaten, and afroed Bruno struggling to get up off the mat. Blood is pouring off of Sammartino's face in a shot that rivals that of Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIII.

Our centerfold this issue features the WWWF Champion and Inter-Continental Champion, Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson, respectively. "Intercontinental" is spelled with the hyphen and this is the aforementioned instance of WWWF being used in this WWF issue. One wonders if this photo was taken backstage in Rio de Janeiro after the huge tournament to crown the first Intercontinental Tournament. Perhaps this is why the background of the photo was replaced by generic blue. The mysteries deepen!

Patterson is also the subject of one of our next articles in addition to fellow 1980's WWF official, Rene Goulet. "The Fighting Frenchman" is shown battling both Sika and Larry Zbyszko (here spelled "Zbyscho" in a new variant). Patterson is shown slugging it out with Ken Patera in a story that questions whether or not the blond from Montreal has completely changed his formerly "evil" ways.

Speaking of Patera, the next two-page story is all about the former Olympic great. A wonderful color photo of Patera, pictured with manager The Grand Wizard, reminds us that this is not the same Patera that many remember in 1987 and 1988. Patera was a vicious and feared heel at this point. Had this version of Patera picked up where he left off in his late '80s run, Hogan may have had another credible challenger to the WWF Championship.

After a two-page feature on Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas gets a photo and small blurb. When I had "Mr. U.S.A." sign the cover of this issue, he knew where his feature was inside. He turned to it, signed that photo as well, and briefly went over the column. Future feuds with Patera and Hogan are mentioned. Atlas press-slamming The Hulkster not only became the cover of an issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, but also one of the strongman's proudest moments.

We end with a college of five of the photos that were used to create the cover. In addition to the cover stars, Zbyszko (now "ZybscKo"), Tony Rich (likely a typo for Tommy Rich), Austin Idol, Mike Graham, the Von Erichs, and Ric Flair are also mentioned as those who will likely be the biggest sensations of the 1980's. While all shown or listed had some success in the decade, I think that we can boil it down to Hogan, Flair, and the Von Erich boys as those who truly reached superstardom.

We've now explored all five issues of WWWF Wrestling Action. As I said in the first issue entry, the set counts among my favorite pieces of wrestling memorabilia. It's a nice-sized set that contains a lot of history. WWE should celebrate the series, but it isn't going to happen. They recognize Victory Magazine as their first publication. The two issues of Victory are good, but aren't much more than two more issues of the regular WWF Magazine. Wrestling Action is a completely different take on a wrestling magazine. If you have one issue or all five, cherish them. If you don't have any, let the hunt begin!

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