Flashback Friday: PWI August 1985

This week, we look back at a summer 1985 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated which went to press shortly after the inaugural Wrestlemania and sold for $1.95 in the U.S. With a cover featuring the Von Erichs, we’re also teased with stories about Sgt. Slaughter and the Tonga Kid. Let’s dig in.

We begin with fan-mail, with Curt Chaplan of New York upset that Dusty Rhodes was on the last cover and hoping Tully Blanchard will put Big Dust in his place. (Well, okay then.) Roger of Hawaii, however, commends the editors for their choices but points out that a Dusty trivia question in the last issue had an incorrect answer. Dusty did not, in fact, wrestle his first match in Dallas but wrestled his first match in Toronto. Tim from Texas predicts that if Jerry Blackwell gets a shot at the AWA or NWA championships, he’ll win in his first attempt. (Spoiler alert: he gets many shots at the AWA title and doesn’t win it.) Dale from Tennessee is sick of reading about the Von Erichs and Ric Flair and wants to read more about Jerry Lawler. Ruth from New Jersey says John Studd is no Studd and doesn’t honor his $15,000 bodyslam challenge. (Good point) And finally Ole and Gene Anderson from Minnesota point out that PWI keeps referring to the Road Warriors as the only team to ever capture the PWI tag team of the year award twice when another team did as well.

Next, In an advertisement, Famous Xenox promises to beam his mighty powers straight to you every evening to elevate your good luck through his metaphysical, computer generated mystic forces if you purchase his special Xenox brainwave receiver for $7.00.

Ringside with Bill Apter: he says Wrestlemania was a huge success, equal to Starrcade and World Class’s Parade of Champions. However, some fans who went to see it on closed circuit ended up seeing a blank screen at times due to technical issues. (For some reason, WWE doesn’t mention this very often in their Wrestlemania retrospectives.) Fans in Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Dallas, and Long Island received refunds as a result. Meanwhile, Magnum T.A. is settling into his U.S. championship reign, reviewing contracts to defend the belt against Wahoo McDaniel, Ron Bass, Black Bart, Superstar Billy Graham, and others. (He might want to look out for Tully Blanchard.) And Buddy Landell is telling Bill that he’s better than Ric Flair and has perfected a more effective version of the figure four leglock. In other news, the WWF is negotiating with Bruiser Brody, Randy Savage won the Mid-Southern heavyweight title from Jerry Lawler, and Mike Von Erich sustained a hairline fracture in his right hand—his claw hand—when Rip Oliver slammed it in a door after jumping him in the dressing room area. Also, Ted DiBiase has been banned from Mid-South for thirty days after losing a loser-leave-town match to Jim Duggan.

King’s Court with Peter King: he says Wrestlemania wasn’t the overwhelming success the WWF was looking for, but it did well. On the one hand, lots of people saw it because of the closed circuit technology, but on the other hand, 35 buildings were cancelled due to low ticket sales. King says that if the WWF chooses to run another event of this magnitude, he hopes they learn from their mistakes. (Or they could run Wrestlemania 2 from three different locations and run into more technical issues as a result.) In other news, the NWA Board of Governors is considering a proposal to add two outside referees to tag team matches and all title matches so that the three refs can work together as a team. King thinks it’s a bad idea because will lead to disagreements between the refs and slow down the matches. Look at MLB: the umpires have different strikes zones, right? Well refs have different ideas of what should be a DQ. Meanwhile, Vince McMahon, who had disagreements with Ted Turner, has sold his stock in Georgia Championship Wrestling to Jim Crockett and NWA wrestling has gotten back its timeslot on TBS.

Now it’s time for Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks, who writes about how wrestling for many years was able to live in its own bubble but is now being forced to be part of the real world thanks to mainstream attention. The result is incidents such as David Schultz slapping around 20-20’s Jim Stossel and Hogan injuring Richard Belzer. Saks says dealing with the mainstream media is something pro wrestlers are going to have to learn how to deal with.

Next, “What they are saying,” featuring quotes from various wrestlers.

Among the comments, Flair says he’s a limousine-riding, Lear jet-flying, wrestling champion. Kevin Von Erich is proud to have a shot against Flair at the second annual Parade of Champions. Jim Garvin says Rick Martel is the wimpiest champion in all of wrestling. Ronnie Garvin is proud to be on top of Georgia and is looking forward to wrestling the Mid-Atlantic boys.

Next up: Off the Top Rope with Dan Shocket. Shocket was an innovative heel columnist who brought a lot of life to PWI. Sadly, he was dying of cancer when he wrote this column and wouldn’t be around much longer. Anyway, he answers hate mail, responding to a gripe against Moolah by saying that Moolah was doing the music world a favor by choking Cyndi Lauper, and responding to a fan who loves Windham and Rotundo by claiming they aren’t really athletes and that Lou Albano is wasting his genius on them.

On Assignment with Liz Hunter: Liz has discovered a photo of Randy Savage piledriving Adrian Street’s valet, Miss Linda, and wonders if there might be legal action taken against male wrestlers who do likewise to the women in the wrestling world.

In Focus, with Craig Peters: he has several rhetorical questions. If Hogan was sorry about what he did to Richard Belzer, why did he make fun of the incident days later on Saturday Night Live? Where does Vince McMahon buy his three-piece suits? Why did ABC schedule Wildside, featuring Terry Funk, against The Cosby Show and Magnum P.I.? Why is Tommy Rich wasting his time feuding with Rip Rogers?

Press Conference with Tonga Kid (later Toma/Tama of The Islanders): he’s only 19 but he’s looking to follow in his cousin Jimmy Snuka’s footsteps. He also talks about his brother, who he hopes will be successful as well. (And indeed, there’s even a photo of Tonga Kid with his twin brother, young Rikishi.)

Next, photos from Hulk Hogan vs. Brutus Beefcake, with a description of the match. Hogan technically won, but it was by disqualification and nothing’s been settled yet.

We then move to an article about Sgt. Slaughter and Wahoo McDaniel, as both men brawled to a double DQ before Wahoo decided to turn over a new leaf and become a fan favorite once again. Slaughter is elated, “I’m relieved that something decent came of that horrible match. I straightened out Wahoo. It’s nice to know something so good could come from something so bad.

And now for the cover story, an article all about the man who will lead wrestling into the 21st century and who fans will look back at as a legend come 2015: a stone cold Texas rattlesnake… Chris Von Erich.

Yes, he may be only 15. He may stand only 5’3, but Chris has all the best training and all the best know-how from his brothers to transform himself into the next Bruno Sammartino. (Did Fritz ghost-write this article?) Anyway, Chris started amateur wrestling when he was six and is now beginning to train for the professional level. He says Kerry is the model he is trying to follow and he’s working on getting a similar build. “I wanna be world champion,” Chris says. “I’m pretty sure I will be, cause I’m gonna keep working hard.” PWI adds, “With the kind of brotherly guidance Chris receiving now and the enthusiasm for training that he’s already exhibiting at age 15, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Chris realize his dream.”

Next, scouting reports. This month, PWI covers the NWA. Of note: Billy Haynes’s weakness is his instability and unwillingness to commit to a course. Magnum T.A. has no finishing maneuver. Tommy Rich is out of shape. Dusty Rhodes is susceptible to cuts.

That takes us to breaking news…

Also, Bill Curry has died, Butch Reed is negotiating with the AWA, and Ole Anderson and Thunderbolt Patterson are about to split.

Matt Brock shares a story about meeting Jesse Barr as a kid and says to keep an eye on him.

And finally, we get the Official Wrestling Ratings, which I am including below. PWI notes that they do not yet consider the WWF title a “world title,” such as the AWA and NWA titles, but they are thinking about doing so in the future because of the rapid expansion of the WWF. However, they would like reader input on the matter before making a decision.


Next week I’ll be back with the next issue of PWI where we’ll find out why Magnum T.A. is lonely, look at Kerry Von Erich vs. Chris Adams, get an interview with Hacksaw Duggan, get a scouting report on the AWA, and learn about a new way Inside Wrestling will be handling ratings and listing champions that’s sure to please Darryl Stewart. Meanwhile, if you’re a Star Trek fan, be sure to check out my book, The Trekker’s Guide to the Kirk Years, which covers every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, plus every film featuring Kirk and his crew.