There are various uses for the word "icon" in the world of professional wrestling. Some have used it as an in-ring moniker. Others have truly earned it for their years in the profession. Still, a few more should have it used to describe themselves, yet would likely argue against it due to their own humility. The last example fits one man to a "T." He wasn't known for wrestling, managing, or even commentating. He had television exposure, but next to none with the powerhouse WWF/WWE. He resembled Jerry Lewis more than he did any hulking wrestling star. But despite all of this, Bill Apter had a major impact on wrestling fans from the 1970s to today. He is indeed a wrestling icon. Now, his expansive career is being opened up in the form of a book.
"Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken!" is the title of wrestling's latest autobiography. Planning a tour to launch the title, one of Apter's first stops was at the Legends of the Ring event in New Jersey. Apter is a familiar face at these events, greeting fans and wrestling stars with equal warmth. This time, however, Bill himself was given some of the spotlight. Usually, it is the famed wrestling journalist himself, running around and catching brief interviews and sound bytes from the greats of the squared circle. At this event, it was Apter being asked the questions in the form of both interviews and a question-and-answer session.
For anyone who is somehow unfamiliar with Bill Apter, the tale is in his accomplishments. For fifty years, the Queens, New York native has been covering pro wrestling. He is most closely associated with magazine titles such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, and Inside Wrestling among others. He appeared on various wrestling television broadcasts in the '70s, '80s, and '90s and continues to pop up today on the WWE Network. While he is no longer involved in any publications on a full-time basis, his regular wrestling outlet is 1Wrestling.com.
"Is Wrestling Fixed" is written in the style of what some call a "bathroom read." Although it is the tale of Apter's life and career, it is edited in a manner that allows you to really just pick up anywhere and start. Some don't care for books that skip around, but I wouldn't lump this into that category. You get exactly the info that you're wondering about when you want it, if you're reading it in order as I did. If you want to go back and re-read a certain story, the chapters are titled appropriately.
For fans of the famed wrestling magazines, the book is a dream come true. Though wrestling fans, especially from the 1980s, will always know them as "The Apter Mags," we're finally given a clear cut look as to why they should really be deemed "The Weston Mags." Apter's respect for the founder of the publications, Stanley Weston, comes across fully as does his loyalty to the man and the brand.
Common misconceptions and rumors about the ways that the magazines operated are addressed and clarified. Those infamous and often faceless writers whose words we hung onto like the gospel are finally fleshed out. Were Dan Shockett and Eddie Ellner really lowlifes who hated the fan favorites of the ring? Or did they really have lives at all? "Wonderful Willie" tells us for sure. How about the "Year End Awards" or the "PWI 500?" How were they compiled and how legit was the process? And why did Dusty Rhodes make the covers so often? Yes folks, it's a fun read, but Apter does not dodge the difficult questions that the magazine fans have been asking for so many years. And what about that "apartment wrestling" stuff that always made the Sports Review Wrestling title a bit more titillating? You'll learn all about that, too.
The true highlight for me was Apter's unflinching look behind the curtain of the mystery-shrouded World Wide Wrestling Federation. Even though he makes no secret of wanting to have more future work with the WWE Network, Apter gives a fair and balanced view of the often tumultuous relationship between the magazines and the WWWF. Vincent J. McMahon was guarded as to how his events and talent were showcased in the press. Apter openly demonstrates how this often put him, the public face of the magazines, in precarious and sometimes dangerous positions.
The book also contains many previously unheard tales of some of the biggest names in the industry. Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, the Von Erich, Hart, and McMahon families, Eric Bischoff, and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers just to name a few. Let us not forget that Bill Apter was also the main catalyst for the famous feud between Andy Kaufman and Jerry "The King" Lawler. What was it like behind the scenes of Letterman the night of the famous Lawler-Kaufman slap? Apter was there and tells all. Thunderlips, MSG, Bruno, the Parade of Champions, and even the beginnings of several "extreme" stars, pick your milestone. Apter covered it.
This isn't a dishy tell-all, and Apter goes out of his way to let you know that. If something uncouth takes place in the midst of a story, it is included but not dwelled upon. Apter is a positive person, no doubt a key to his many successes, and that certainly comes through in his stories. Instead of trashy backstage stories, we are given a great life story that just happens to take place in what was, at the time, a very closed and secretive industry. The fact that we simultaneously get to learn about a very interesting individual and have many longtime questions answered combines to make one helluva book.
As with any good book, you should always leave wanting a bit more. The problem is, Apter is such a good storyteller that I'm left wanting a lot more. Talking to him many times over years, I know that he is filled with an endless amount of tales that could span an entire of collection of books. That leaves me with the comfort that this may be just the beginning.
Apter ends the book by letting us know that he is busier than ever with various jobs and projects. I've seen the man in action and he is indeed the quintessential "whirling dervish." At press time, it is not long before Mr. Apter's 70th birthday. If you think that's going to slow him down, you don't know Apter. Whether you see it at retail, pick it up online or as an eBook, or encounter the author on tour, add this one to your shelf. It's one that you'll be revisiting over and over.
With all due respect to the master of wrestling impersonations himself, Bill Apter, I in turn steal HIS line...
I'll see YOU at the matches!