Thursday, September 19, 2019

Forty Years of PWI

September 1979. Were you alive? I was a few years away from arriving, but it had to be a great time to be alive. A great decade was ending, another good one was on the way and those nasty '90s were a good ways off. Bias towards eras aside, I will always be partial to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Beginning this month some forty years ago, PWI became the standard in wrestling magazines. In 2019 it's the only wrestling magazine still regularly on the newsstands. Have you ever peeked into that first issue? You're about to.

Is it any surprise that the cover of that first issue features '70s wrestling icons? "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and Mil Mascaras are nicely photographed by editor Bill Apter with an inset action shot of Nick Bockwinkel. Mascaras was always billed as the favorite wrestler of Apter and neither the masked luchador nor Dusty were strangers to the covers of this family of magazines. I had the opportunity to witness a reunion between Mascaras and Apter this summer. When the legendary photographer and editor is present with "The Man of 1,000 Masks," he tells me that he suddenly becomes "Mil Moscawitz."

Speaking of Apter, in this first issue we get his well-remembered "Ringside" potpourri column as well as "The King's Court" with Peter King, "On Assignment" with Steven Farhood, and "Dressing Room Confidential" with Randy Gordon. The first letters section, "Between Falls," is a star-studded affair for this first issue with correspondence from the stars themselves! Dusty, Rick Steamboat, Bruno Sammartino, Johnny Valiant, Ric Flair, Captain Lou Albano, The Grand Wizard, and Andre the Giant have all sent their thoughts on this new publication! A worthwhile read if only to see how eloquently Andre pens his congratulatory letter. And just how are the legends shown reading this first issue that we're reading? Hmmm...something's fishy here!

Speaking of fishy, we come to none other than Matt Brock. Brock was already known to the readers of the Weston wrestling magazines and here he is "Looking At..." Jerry Lawler. Brock was always described as a grizzled, tough-as-nails, veteran wrestling reporter who shunned computers in favor of a vintage typewriter. This was forty years ago. Last I checked, ol' Matt was still plugging away as if time has stood still. It's as if he was a special being living in a world reserved for unique people such as himself, fellow wrestling writer Liz Hunter, Little Jimmy, and Sister Abigail.

Next up we get articles featuring some of my favorites such as Harley Race, Rick Steamboat, and our cover boys Dusty, Mil, and Bockwinkel. Steamboat is also shown in the "heel" column "Off The Top Rope" written by Dan Shocket. Unlike with Matt Brock, there's no question that Shocket was true blue. As was reported in the magazines several years later, Shocket tragically passed away from cancer. Eddie Ellner and Brandi Mankiewicz would carry on the "bad guy" writer legacy in a way that corporate pretenders like "Vic Venom" in the WWF Magazine couldn't quite match.

We also get our first "edition" of Wrestling Enquirer. This feature was two pages set up to look like the front page of a newspaper. Included were blurbs from around the wrestling world, written in a breaking news style. In the lower right corner we even get some upcoming event dates from around the country. Following that is wrestling's answer to "The Playboy Interview." Yep, it's the PWI Press Conference. And just who was the first subject? "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino. Among the topics covered are his title loss to Ivan Koloff and whether or not Bob Backlund will be an unforgettable champion.

Florida star and eventual gator breaker Steve Keirn gets a good write-up, as does the legendary Chief Wahoo McDaniel. While we get plenty of ads for back issues of other wrestling titles, ways to get stronger, ways to retire before 50, and other mail-away offers of questionable authenticity, the somewhat un-PC items shown for sale in other publications of the '70s are all but gone. Need a vinyl "friend" for those cold lonely nights? You will just have to find an older copy of Sports Review Wrestling to fill that need.

If your need in 2019 is to add this magazine to your collection, it may cost you. Selling prices have varied over the years, but most recently a copy sold at auction for $129.99. Also be aware that a "replica" issue from 2004 that came polybagged with the 25th anniversary edition of PWI is out there, though it has markings to indicate as such right on the cover.

For those of us who grew up with the title, the memories of articles, photos, and covers should come flooding back. It is an absolutely true story that upon my first PWI magazine purchase I knew what I wanted to do in the wrestling world. While it was only for a few issues, I am immensely proud that I was able to live that dream and can count myself among the names of writers who have been able to contribute to this long lasting publication.

While we couldn't fit every picture and page here in the blog entry, be sure to follow @JWs_Wrestling_Memorabilia on Instagram to see more of the issue, including the very first PWI Ratings page. Happy Birthday, PWI!

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