Monday, March 27, 2023

Your Guide To WWF WrestleMania IV!

As of press time it is exactly thirty-five years to the minute since WrestleMania IV began. If you enjoyed the previous blog entry then you already know of my love for the show and its significance. A highlight of the golden age of the World Wrestling Federation and an underrated one at that. Today, on the actual anniversary day, we're taking another look. This time we're diving through the media guide from the event. Will it be more hype? Will we uncover something new and exciting? This ain't Al Capone's vault and I'm not Geraldo -- we're gonna find something!

If you've read my previous tales of the coveted WrestleMania press kits you know that I have a belief: not every item was packed into every kit. Some may have had more press releases than others. Some may have more photos. Others may have had a unique lineup sheet or other item. This wasn't a science and as long as the WWF was getting the word of their event out they didn't really care who got what. As big and global as the WWF was getting, wrestling was still not the MLB or the NFL. Heck, no one even wrote about these kits until I did over a decade ago and I must say that I'm proud of that. One thing is for certain and that's that the media guide was only packed into kits given out to press members on WrestleMania weekend.

The front and back covers of the guide have the exact same graphics as the press kit folder itself. It has a plastic black binding that allows easy page turning. WrestleMania V has a very similar guide. The first page closely resembles the much used WWF corporate stationary of the time and features a welcome note from Michael Weber, WWF Director of Media Relations. A fact sheet page sets the scene as to what rooms the press was able to use during the event and where certain news conferences would be held. Despite the Boardwalk Hall facility being very old and rather cavernous looking in the arena itself, most everything else was going on just behind the curtain that you see on the show. Even the "locker room" was right back there.

A second page to the fact sheet lists all of the ways that WrestleMania will be distributed including closed circuit (still truly the bread and butter as far as viewing outside of the arena), pay-per-view, International broadcasts and the VHS cassette (no mention of the double set) to be released on May 11, 1988. A page detailing the television equipment notes that sixteen cameras, thirteen recorders (more than ABC used for Super Bowl XXII), three mobile production trucks, miles of cable and over 125 technicians would be used. More than $20 million worth of equipment in all.

We get a short page of WrestleMania history (only three to talk about at that point) and then we get to my favorite, the "WWF Television Network." I've said it before, but I'm sure that I'm not the only kid who, back then, thought that I was missing out on some sort of all-WWF, all day channel any time that the "network" phrasing was used. It makes sense, now, that they were referring to a "network" of shows and outlets on which to watch WWF programming, but it wasn't obvious then. I'm sure the illusion was something that they strived for. Listed are various ways to watch standard WWF programming in the Atlantic City area.

We get several pages dedicated to the card itself. While these pages regarding the matches don't divulge anything new, it's fun to see just how detailed they were. Weights, hometowns and even managers are all listed. All of the battle royal participants get acknowledged as well. When a battle royal miraculously makes it these days the wrestlers don't even get introduced on television. The last page of the card rundown is the most special. We get a listing of "Celebrity Guests" and "Other Participants" and it is here that we learn that none other than Vince McMahon was originally scheduled to welcome us to the show and introduce Gladys Knight. As we all know, this task eventually fell to Mean Gene Okerlund. McMahon, who introduced us to WrestleMania 2 and III, would not end up on camera at "the big show" again until X in 1994. No, that terrible pre-tape at VII does not count. I'm not sure who "Jessie Ventura," "Jim Koderas" and "Joey Morella" are, but they somehow made it onto the page. I guess getting the celebrity names right is more important than actual company folk.

Before we wrap it up with a look at the tournament bracket on the last page we get a "M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y" page (hey, that's how it's spelled out...) which details how highlight packages will be released post-show. Mean Gene will narrate this package and ONLY this footage can be used. Five seconds of video courtesy credit MUST be given in the form of "Courtesy: World Wrestling Federation." Don't you DARE just use "WWF."

Well, that was fun. The guides just don't show up often. Sellers often like to gush and overprice the WrestleMania-branded promo photos, but they aren't that uncommon. They're out there. Get you a media guide and you're in business.

Join us next year for V?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

My Favorite Events--WWF WrestleMania IV

 “So sit back and relax, or if you’re like me get on the edge of your seat, because WrestleMania IV is next!”

– Craig DeGeorge, Coliseum Video

It's been thirty-five years since the WWF invaded Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall which at the time was somewhat enveloped as part of the Trump Plaza complex. A polarizing event since the day it occurred, WrestleMania IV has always been one of my favorite editions of Mania. For this "coral" anniversary let's go back to "Atlantic City's Centerpiece" and see why I'm not the only fan with endless love and memories for the fourth installment of WrestleMania.

WrestleMania IV did huge business and it's easy to understand why. The company was riding high on its success at the Pontiac Silverdome with WrestleMania III one year earlier. Hulk Hogan was as recognizable as any sports star in the world and, while I feel the true "Rock 'n Wrestling era" saw its end at WrestleMania III, the mainstream inclusion was still there and thriving. It's part of why I'll never agree that Stone Cold Steve Austin eclipsed The Hulkster as the biggest star in wrestling history. Did Austin sell a few more shirts? It's possible. They were also a helluva lot easier to purchase. In the mid to late '80s almost anyone of any age knew who Hogan was. At the peak of Austin a decade later there were many people who still thought "Steve Austin" was "The Six Million Dollar Man." Trust me when I say that Austin was not the household name that Hogan was. There will never be anyone bigger in professional wrestling in the United States than Hulk Hogan.

Up front I will admit that I did not watch the event live. The first WrestleMania that I remember seeing from start to finish was WrestleMania III on VHS on my birthday in 1987. I do recall seeing highlights of IV on "The WWF Television Network." Despite being a child, I have more memories of wrestling in prime time than the traditional weekend morning slots. Therefore I likely saw highlights on Prime Time Wrestling. Another interesting memory is that, despite never being much of a boxing fan, for whatever reason my mind associated the look of WrestleMania IV with boxing. It makes sense, I'm just not sure how I picked up on it at the time. Personal memories for me also revolve around the build and the aftermath. My dad and I watched both the January 2nd, 1988 Saturday Nights Main Event (Andre's attack on Hogan) and The Main Event on February 4th as they happened. After WrestleMania, like legions and legions of other kids, I was fascinated by the VHS release. A pop-up box featuring The Hulkster? A double tape set? WWF marketing magic at its best.

Speaking of that VHS, this is one of the few Coliseum Video WrestleMania releases that completely trumps the original pay-per-view version. Very little is edited out (I do believe a bit is missing from the Rick Rude-Jake Roberts match which, as you know, is not a big loss) and a bunch of extra content is included. An extended intro, a brief rundown of "WrestleMania Weekend," and special backstage promos. It's a surprise to some that the legendary sequence of Bobby Heenan receiving his "special package" was a Coliseum Video exclusive. It's so memorable, and important to the event, that many figure it was part of the pay-per-view. Speaking of the "WrestleMania Weekend" footage, what you're seeing is actually what turned into what became known as WrestleMania Axxess years later. Look for Brian "Blue Meanie" Heffron in the sequence showing Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat signing autographs!

I know that I'm not a product of my own era and my tastes skew very differently from others around my age, but I never got the need for modern rock music in virtually any event from any wrestling promotion in the past twenty-five years. Other sports don't always go with it, yet wrestling inexplicably feels the need to be "edgy," or something, and shoves "modern rock" down our collective throats. That being said, I love the simple sax intros for Mania 2 and III and the extension of the classic "What The World Is Watching" music intro for IV. Remember, less is more. I recently uncovered info about what seems to be a last minute change in the opening minutes of WrestleMania IV. If you're a follower of the blog on Instagram, you already know what it is! If you don't have a clue, all that I can advise is to stay tuned for the next blog entry.

Back then everyone knew who the celebrity guest were, too. The world recognized Vanna White, Bob Uecker, Robin Leach and Gladys Knight. It isn't like today where people are actually labeled "racist" for not knowing certain WrestleMania celebrity guests. Yes, folks, it's happened. In watching the hype and at the event itself, it's interesting to note that Vanna is rarely mentioned without the full "Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White" title. It had to be something in her contract. There's even a match on a pre-Mania edition of Wrestling Challenge where Gorilla Monsoon corrects Heenan into saying "Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White." It continues many times throughout IV until Uecker suddenly decides that she's "some guy named Vance White."

Speaking of Gorilla, I've made it no secret over the years that I prefer his broadcast booth partnership with Jesse "The Body" Ventura. They tended to be brought together only for special events and to this day I find their commentary somewhat comforting. It felt real, unrehearsed and natural unlike anything you'd hear on WrestleMania today. I'm not putting down the modern product, I'm just pointing out things that even the staunchest of modern day supporters are forced to agree with.

The show itself is long and the crowd is admittedly not as responsive as a WrestleMania audience should be. The reasons for this have been discussed ad nauseam, but I will say that if this same exact show, tournament matches and all, had been held at the Pontiac Silverdome with that size crowd consisting of true wrestling fans, WrestleMania IV would be remembered far differently. I'm not saying that it was the most perfectly booked show ever put out by the World Wrestling Federation, but it definitely holds a reputation in some circles that it simply does not deserve.

I'll go as far as to say that WrestleMania IV frankly wasn't the place for the "five star matches" that many of the shows detractors wish would've happened. Yes, you occasionally did get your "mat classics" like Steamboat-Savage and British Bulldogs-Dream Team at the early WrestleMania shows, but that's not what the name nor the company were built on at the time. It was glitz and glamour, stars and spectacle. What I call the "What The World Was Watching" era began at WrestleMania IV and it was never more true of a motto than at this time.

As far as storytelling in wrestling, it's never been better than right here. One of the single most memorable storylines arguably took off at this very event and culminated one year later in the same arena. That, of course, is The Mega Powers exploding. In addition you had a cast of dozens who nearly all qualify for "legend" status all these years later. I find it very hard to believe that the same will be able to be said about many stars of the modern product. I word it that way as I don't believe it to be the fault of the current talent as much as it is the presentation that they're forced to deal with. Eh, the scripted promos could go, too.

Thankfully we're left with more than just memories three and a half decades later. The WrestleMania marketing machine seemed to really take off with IV, again building off of the success in 1987. Posters, apparel, press materials and other souvenirs are aplenty. The aforementioned VHS tape is arguably the most beloved and remembered release in the entire Coliseum Video WWF library. Back then and even now I also most associate the WrestleMania VCR game with WrestleMania IV, especially since it was released the same year and featured footage from the event.

Lost media has become a big deal in recent years. The definition of such being film, photographic or print content that was known to exist at one time but is no longer readily accessible. There are two forms of "lost media" pertaining to WrestleMania IV that seem to have disappeared. The first was an amazing photo gallery of fan-taken shots during the weekends of WrestleMania IV and V. Most of the pictures were of the wrestlers in and around Trump Plaza. They were truly fascinating photographs and I lament not saving them. The other was a video which was available on YouTube just a year or two ago. It was a press conference, held seemingly the day after IV, in a room likely somewhere in the Trump Plaza hotel. Mean Gene Okerlund interviewed The Macho Man, Elizabeth and The Hulkster in front of dozens of press members. 

As for additional content that is still out there to view, it's actually fairly plentiful. YouTube has collections of 1988 episodes of Wrestling Challenge surrounding Mania IV. The post-event shows feature promos in front of the "glittery globe" interview backdrop with not only the celebrities but also the wrestlers themselves highlighting upcoming feuds-some of which happened and others that didn't. Also on YouTube is a nearly nine minute radio segment off of New York's WFAN featuring early "smart mark" speculation and a call-in from someone in Atlantic Coty the night before. For those without a VCR, DailyMotion has the Coliseum Video extras currently uploaded in amazing quality. As I alluded above, I feel that those extras are essential for full WrestleMania IV enjoyment. Also readily available via Peacock/WWE Network is the last episode of Prime Time Wrestling before the show. Gorilla and Bobby bring the laughs from all areas of the Trump Plaza hotel and casino complete with great glimpses of some amazing Mania advertising.

Although there are a few gems hidden inside of it, I don't highly recommend Bruce Prichard's podcast review of the event. Despite the show being his first WrestleMania he doesn't have much good to say about it. He DOES offer a good reason as to why Savage-Steamboat II didn't happen at the show and it's reasoning that this fan agrees with. Lance Storm, who attended the show, offers a few fascinating photos that he took (including a GREAT WrestleMania IV billboard shot) however his written commentary and review of the show impress me about as much as Prichard's reflections. 

I don't know that anyone has written as much about this show as I have and next time, to celebrate the actual day of the event, we're giving you even more IV! How about an inside look at an actual artifact from the show? You've seen the press kit. Now we're going to go through the actual WrestleMania IV media guide which was only included in the press kit at the show itself. You saw a bit of it on Instagram a few weeks ago, now it's time to see What The World Was Watching just as if you were there covering the show yourself! Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 16, 2023

“Hey, do you know who you are???”

Pro wrestling is a completely different world these days and in more ways than one. Not only is the in-ring product and presentation completely different from what many of us originally fell in love with, but fandom outside of the ring has changed, too. The stars who were once “larger-than-life” occasionally appear less than so these days and it isn’t always their physical appearance. It’s accessabilty. The ease of meeting your favorite stars. Heck, I’m sure some fans try and engage their wrestling heroes on a daily basis via social media. Of course, for many of us this means that obtaining the almighty autograph has become an easier task, even if those signatures don’t necessarily look as nice anymore. What’s with this signing initials trend among the young wrestlers? Anyway, let’s go back to the days when wrestling conventions and fanfests weren’t a thing, meeting your grappling heroes was a rare occasion and getting an autograph was something you remembered for years.

Keep in mind that no one is discounting the ease of meeting wrestlers of today. Technology has made it a smaller world and less and less can be kept mysterious or even secretive as the wrestling business used to be. While organized ways of hobnobbing with wrestlers weren’t as prevalent years ago, adventurous fans could find ways to do just that. Mileage would vary, especially depending on if your favorite wrestler was a “good guy” or a “bad guy,” but I know of very few wrestlers who don’t have at least a couple of fan stories out there. Getting an autograph on a program or an index card outside of a locker room or in a nearby all-night diner is probably the basis for most of the stories that we’ve all heard. Remember that fan clubs were a huge deal in the ‘60s and ‘70s. If the star or stars were particularly engaged with their fan club, organized meetings were not unheard of. Considering that this was the age of the wrestling territory, a quick meeting with fans in one of the local towns was probably music to the ears of those in the local office. This was before charity become the name of the game, so going out and becoming even more engaged with your weekly paying fans could only help.

Perhaps the biggest fan club of the time was also a governing body of sorts for those groups. It spawned what many would consider to be the original wrestling conventions. This group was the W.F.I.A. – Wrestling Fans International Association. I’ve written about the W.F.I.A. before both here and on social media. The glory years of the group were roughly the late ‘60s to the mid ‘80s. The organization (which counted Jim Cornette, Candi Devine and Juanita “Sapphire” Wright among its members) would annually partner with a wrestling territory and hold a convention in one of the cities that the promotion ran. A wrestling show, banquet and awards ceremony were among the activities. Wrestlers of both “allegiances” would attend and pictures from these events are often mind-blowing considering as how “kayfabe” was in full effect at the time. Stories from these events are still widely told by those who were there and I’ve long pushed the idea that a book chronicling the W.F.I.A. needs to be written.

The territory which seemed to promote the most fan interaction may well have been Memphis. The book “Rags, Paper and Pins: The Merchandising of Memphis Wrestling” by Jim Cornette and Mark James is not only one of my favorite wrestling books but is required reading for anyone fascinated with the early days of wrestlers outside the ring. Wrestlers actually signing photos sold at gimmick tables? No, this isn’t ‘90s indy wrestling – it’s the legendary Memphis territory! While other areas also did this I’m sure, Memphis surely deserves the most credit for pioneering it. Every so often you will hear of other areas having a wrestler appear to sign autographs before the show, but I do wonder how often they really happened as advertised? I can’t imagine it being a deal breaker back then if it didn’t take place. Nowadays grown men would be throwing fits. You can read more about this great book here and it’s still available to purchase, as well!

As we went into the ‘80s and the “Rock n’ Wrestling” era boom, appearances seemed more and more prevalent. Our favorite stars began appearing at store grand openings, car shows and pretty much anywhere that you’d see a star of another sport, actor or plain old celebrity make an appearance. It was mainstream and fans no longer had to crowd into a dank hotel ballroom or wait on a chance encounter at Denny’s after a show. Fans had the chance to schmooze with the likes of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth at video store signings, Big John Studd at The World of Wheels car show or even sit on Sgt. Slaughter’s lap at a local electronics store. You didn’t think that I’d pass up the chance to throw one of my favorite pictures up on the blog yet again, did you? By the early ‘90s the fabled conventions run by John Arezzi began to get coverage and featured appearances that fans can only dream of today by names like Buddy Rogers, Kerry Von Erich, Woman, Lou Thesz and even The Sheik!

In modern times there are virtually endless ways to get the autographs of your favorites. WWE Axxess (which we should be discussing the beginnings of in a few weeks here…) and various conventions are obviously the biggest, but these days you can even just log into Facebook, watch a virtual signing and purchase an autographed photo right from the comfort of your chair. I’d argue that the “golden age” of wrestling conventions is over. I’d say that it ran for about five years roughly 12-15 years ago. While there are still many conventions and similar events, with so many of the legends now gone it just isn’t the same. That era is a book in itself and I know who the author will be. Heatseeking missiles will be incoming for me, no doubt.

People have often asked me to write more about meet and greets, conventions and other similar entities. I don’t  do it often, but when I do it’s fun to integrate it with advertisements for such things which are now pieces of memorabilia all their own. I can also say that it’s a pleasure when wrestling, maybe more than any other sport, has so many stars who truly appreciate their fans. There are some bad apples as in any bunch, but there have been countless times where I’ve seen joy on wrestlers faces when hearing stories, looking at old memorabilia or just being thanked for their work. Even for people who are used to thousands of fans cheering for them, the words of just one person can mean the world. I also think that wrestlers can often relate to their fans better than any other kind of celebrity. After all, we’re all just crazy people caught up in the same crazy world of professional wrestling.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Coliseum Collection Vol. 2!

Timing is everything! As if you don’t already know by now (thanks to following me), we’re mere weeks away from celebrating thirty-five years of WrestleMania IV! Today we’re looking at two wrestlers who battled in the first round of that legendary tournament due to their two newest figures being fresh from the Mattel factories. That being said, as much as I love any show there’s always a match or two that I don’t care for. We can all agree that while Ravishing Rick Rude versus Jake “The Snake” Roberts certainly evolved into one of the more memorable feuds of 1988, it isn’t one of the highpoints of WrestleMania IV. In fact, it wasn’t even originally intended to become a feud following the event! Just who was “The Snake” scheduled to feud with into the summer? Stay tuned for a “flashback” or even a “greatest hit” following the latest from the Coliseum Collection.

It feels like I just reviewed Hulk Hogan and Terry Funk from the first Coliseum Collection release. At the time, Roberts and Rude had been announced as the second installment in the series and I was less than enthused. The Jake felt like a near redo from a Mattel Legends release of not long ago and, while I understand the LJN-esque style choices, there were so many other Rude tights designs that I would rather have had. That being said, as time grew closer to order I became more and more excited for this one. Again, timing is everything and I think it hit me right where it needed to. Right in the WrestleMania IV “feels,” as the kids would say. The price point for what debuted as such a quality product really isn’t arguable, either. When you look at more detailed figure releases in this day and age, the price that these Coliseum Collection releases currently sit at isn’t bad at all. And I’m cheap!

We once again get the dynamic and rather impressive packaging here as we did with the first Coliseum Collection set. The figures are posed as close as can be to the LJN Wrestling Superstars releases with all of the non-LJN accessories packaged in a box below the figure. Longtime readers will know that I love this. Nothing aimlessly floating around. It should be noted that the SDCC Sgt. Slaughter figure, which was released before the Coliseum Collection and wasn’t named as such but was included on the first CC cardback, is no longer shown. Perhaps they’re only going to display the latest releases? If this series goes long enough it would certainly be impressive for them to do a cardback with a few dozen figures like the well-remembered later LJN cardbacks. And if they don’t, I’m sure someone will whip one together for an impressive Instagram pic, at the very least.

I admit when I’m wrong and Mattel did in fact prove just that. I really like the Jake figure. Granted, I feel like the Legends version of this figure is somewhat of a waste now, but this “Ultimate” version improves upon it immensely. The Jake body type is great. I wasn’t sure how well it would translate into “Ultimate Edition” style, but it definitely works. Damien will be the highlight for most as I don’t think we’ve ever received a better version of Jake’s famous companion. It’s bendable, like the original LJN version (remember when Jimmy Hart called it a green bean on the Coliseum Video Hart Foundation release?), but the detail is just amazing. It looks as if it could slither away. The highlights for me are definitely the heads. The cocked eyebrow and you-know-what-eating grin heads are out of this world. The tights are, of course, designed to match the LJN but regardless they’re generic enough to really fill any Jake needs up until ’91 or so.

You knew I’d love Rude. We all love Rude. And I don’t think Rude’s had a bad modern figure. It’s deserving seeing as his LJN and Hasbro figures, while beloved and collectible, were not ideal to play with by any stretch of the imagination. This Rude is right up there. While there are so many different versions that I still want to be produced (short-haired WCW era, “traffic sign” tights), this is another great addition to your Rude shelf. Who doesn’t have a Rude shelf? I’d prefer that the robe had been in a color such as blue that wasn’t already released, but another red won’t hurt. Again, the heads here are what make the figure. And oh yes. The kissy face. This figure is ready for a Rude Awakening. Thanks to the “Ultimate Edition” shoulder joints, Rude can dance as much as he wants…until Jake slaps on the DDT. This one also works well for pre-WWF Rude representation.

Any complaints are few. Rude's robe feels a bit thinner than the original release of the red robe, though I didn't have a chance to compare. The lettering on the back also seems a bit light. The heads weren't as easy as some have been to change out. While I had no problem removing them, at times they felt as if they were a bit high off the peg when putting a new one on. I still don't feel the need for each and every figure to have the "butterfly" shoulder articulation as it's called, but it is pretty handy here. Rude can "dance" as mentioned above and it absolutely lends itself to poses with Jake and Damien.

I must say, like most of you, I’m becoming a big fan of the Coliseum Collection. Any time that a company can make me want figures that I don’t have much desire for…well…you know they must be good. Another thing that I like is that they aren’t selling out immediately. Mattel Creations is making them available to all and to me that’s what collecting should be all about. Who’s up next? Fast predictions? Macho Man/Liz? Heenan/Albano? (Captain Lou is heavily rumored to be joining the Mattel lineup) Andre/Piper? I’d love to throw out something like Hercules/Billy Jack or Adonis/Hillbilly, but I try to stick to the parameters of what we’re aware is available to them. In fact, the person that Jake was originally slated to feud with post-Mania IV is within Mattel’s boundaries again, but seeing as that we’re getting a “Greatest Hits” release of him, I’m not sure how soon he’ll be entering the Coliseum Collection. Then again, Mattel, he is a favorite LJN of mine and I’d buy any Harley Race you threw at me…

Thursday, March 2, 2023

From The Musty Yellowed Pages—Wrestling’s Main Event March 1984

When thinking of ‘80s wrestling magazines certainly the Weston/Apter mags and the official WWF Magazine come to mind, but they weren’t the only boys on the block. Often you would find other titles with some great photography and perhaps even peeks at wrestlers that you didn’t see in the other publications. Most of those are discussed nowadays as “The Napolitano Mags” as their editor was legendary photographer George Napolitano. These titles were often just as visible at the newsstand as Pro Wrestling Illustrated or The Wrestler and were even perhaps a bit less “kayfabe” than those books. In this look back we’re going thirty-nine years into the past to March of 1984 with Wrestling’s Main Event. Ric Flair following his NWA Championship win at Starrcade 1983 is our lead story and cover picture.

The magazine, published by Pumpkin Press in NYC, was a mere sixteen bucks for a full year subscription back in 1984. Not even $2 an issue! No wonder Haku himself, King Tonga as he was known then, is letting us know that this publication is numero uno. I wouldn’t disagree with the man, even being the true sweetheart of a guy that he is. It should be noted that Les Thatcher is listed on the staff here. In addition to wrestling, announcing and training, Thatcher helmed many wrestling magazines of the ‘70s including Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine and WWWF Wrestling Action. Both of those titles have been covered extensively here on the blog over the past near-fifteen years. Les has always been kind enough to share memories and stories of these magazines both for publication here and in comments on social media.

The official rankings are a bit different and less extensive than in other wrestling magazines of the day. One page covers what seems to be the contenders for four major championships, listing those champions above all else. The NWA, WWF, AWA and WWC Championships are the titles featured. WWC action featuring Carlos Colon, Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody and others was featured more than once on the covers of these titles. Unlike the other magazines which tended to shy away from bloody covers as the ‘80s dawned, the Napolitano mags still seemed to go by the old adage that “red equals green.” Still, it wasn’t as prevalent as the blood-soaked covers of the ‘70s were. I love going through old rankings sections and counting who all I’ve been lucky enough to meet over the years. Counting all of the champions and contenders on this page only four eluded me. That number may go down to (and stay forever at) three soon, but I never count my chickens.

Up-and-comers who weren’t getting much press at the time were often featured in these pages. A great write-up later in the issue features a very young Dr. Tom Prichard, but early in the pages we get an article on someone who’s a favorite of many, The One Man Gang. The OMG is obviously not too far removed from his early incarnation as Crusher Broomfield. The long hair was a great look and possibly made him look even more maniacal than he did with the later mohawk. Of course, I’m partial to Akeem The African Dream, but I’ll take George Gray in any shape or form. He’s a great guy and was a great big man wrestler. The article tells of how he’d recently been managed by both J.J. Dillon and the sort of lost-to-time “Gentleman” Jim Holliday.

The Gang is shown in an epic battle with Florida hero Mike Graham. Are you ready for your centerfold? Feast your eyes on more Graham than you thought you could handle. In all seriousness, Mike Graham gets bad talked these days for no good reason. It seemingly stems from his appearances on the old WWE Legends of Wrestling roundtable shows, but come on. He acts just as braggadocios as virtually anyone else on that (great) show did. In my meetings with Mr. Graham I found him to be nothing but kind, humble and engaging. I treasure the autographs and memorabilia that I have from him and was saddened by his untimely passing and its circumstances. If anyone says that he wasn’t over, they know nothing of the Florida wrestling legacy. I wish that he were still here to celebrate it.

Next we have my pin-up. No, not Jimmy Garvin. Sure, we all love Precious and her Remco AWA figure. There was even the original Precious (yes, before Jimmy’s wife, Patti) for a spell. But the best of them all, in my view, was Sunshine. If there was ever a “girl next door” look, she had it. Sadly, for various storied reasons, she wants nothing to do with the business today. She should be out there milking it like some who had far less visibility than she did, but we have to respect her decision. Nevertheless, here she is flanking Gorgeous Jimmy himself. The article discusses Garvin’s feud with David Von Erich, a World Class Championship Wrestling classic, for sure!

As with most old magazines when chronicled here, we have to dive into the seedy side. This is usually near the back pages, in black and white, and somewhat hidden. While there are plenty of black and white pages in this title like most magazines of the day, they’re all slick. These magazines also seemed to feature much more color (and not just blood…) than their rivals. While the ads are much tamer than some from the ‘70s that have been featured in this blog, they’re really no less shady. Mail-order brides? 8mm film? Wholesale fishing equipment? Don't threaten me with a good time, right? The last listing is probably the most amusing. For only $3.95 you could get your hands on a newsletter with information on a certain infamous viral infection. Who did you write to in order to receive this fountain of information? “ROH.” See, decades before Ring of Honor was making wrestling magazine headlines you had yet another ROH getting print in the back pages.

What better way to end this than with a hoe down? But this isn’t just any hoe down. This is Scott Casey’s Texas Hoe Down in San Antonio. Casey hosted droves of Southwest Championship Wrestling fans in addition to Bobby Jaggers, Buddy Moreno, Alex Perez, Mando Guerrero, Ricky Morton and El Santo Negro. If the pictures are to be believed, there was music, dunk tanks, Hoe-Down Queens and smiles all around. I can only imagine the stories that could be told out of this one. On second thought, maybe those stories best go untold. Just call it a hunch. I must say, though, that there is a definitely a joke to be made when “Scott Casey” and “Hoe Down” are used in the same sentence. I’m sure that a good time was had by all.

Like with all of the magazines shown here on the blog we can’t show every page. Check out Instagram (@JWs_Wrestling_Memorabilia) this weekend for even more goodness from the issue and while you’re at it, give a follow!