Flashback Friday: PWI January 1986

This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated that went to press on September 4, 1985 and sold for $1.95 in the U.S and $2.25 in Canada. With a cover featuring Hulk Hogan, we’re also teased with stories about Bruiser Brody, Magnum T.A. and Greg Gagne. Let’s jump in.

Writers Craig Peters (left) and Bill Apter (middle) with art director Ken Morgan (right) working on PWI.

We kick things off with The Mailbag, where David from Massachusetts says he enjoyed PWI’s recent story about Ric Flair, saying that Flair is a real wrestler and Hogan is just a brawler pretending to be one. He also says that Magnum was wrong to be offended when Flair offered him a suit, saying Flair was just trying to get Magnum to dress better. Michelle from California, however, says that Flair only believes in money and that he often hangs onto his title by cheating or getting disqualified. Geoff from Ontario says he’d like to read more about Canadian wrestlers, pointing out that Gino Brito, Dino Bravo, and Rick Martel are from the Great White North and that Canadian International Wrestling has provided the world with some of its best wrestlers. And finally, Private Tim from California wants to correct PWI’s assertion that the storied, deeply coveted America’s Championship is Sgt. Slaughter’s first major championship. Tim points out that Slaughter co-held the NWA tag team title with Don Kernodle in 1982 and held the U.S. Championship on two occasions around the same time.

Next, an advertisement for Remco’s wrestling figures!

These came out before LJN’s more successful line, and in fact I was collecting them around the time this magazine came out. That was back when I had to build my own toy wrestling ring out of a box, complete with ropes and turnbuckles. (Later, when I began collecting the LJN figures, I bought the LJN ring, the LJN steel cage, and I built a mini-arena to put them in, complete with an entrance ramp and guard rails.) But boy was it all worth it! I was suddenly the promoter, booker, and wrestlers all at once. (Yes, I’m somewhat crazy.)

Next, Ringside with Bill Apter. Brian Adidas lost his Texas title to Gino Hernandez, but the same day he teamed up with Kerry and Kevin Von Erich to win the six-man championship. (I always loved that six-man title.) Brian says, “You win some and lose some. I guess I did both.” Kendall Windham defeated Jack Hart for the Florida title. Negotiations are underway for a title for title match between the NWA and AWA champions, Ric Flair and Rick Martel. (I’ll have a report on this match next week.) Exotic Adrian Street recently won the Southeastern heavyweight title from Austin Idol. Doctors are telling Hulk Hogan he needs knee surgery. (Well, he’d certainly have plenty of those.) Jake Roberts has been wearing a new shirt that says “DDT: Cruel But Fair”. DiBiase has been working in Japan after losing his “loser leaves town” match in Mid-South. An allegedly drunk David Shultz had to be dragged off a plane by policemen when he refused to cooperate. Shultz denies he was drunk, saying he never drinks. And finally, Bill says he’ll be hosting a scouting report segment on WTBS’s The Best of World Championship Wrestling.

Next up, King’s Court, where Peter King fat-shames Andre the Giant.

Peter says new fans may laugh at Andre’s appearance today, but for those who knew him in his prime, his present weight isn’t funny, it’s sad. It’s also hurting his wrestling ability. “Recently, Andre wrestled King Kong Bundy in Madison Square Garden in a match entitled ‘The Colossal Jostle.’ Before he came to the WWF, King Kong Bundy was a washout in the Georgia area (where he was savaged by the Road Warriors) and the AWA (where he was so unsuccessful, he changed his name to Boom Boom Bundy.) A few years ago, someone like Bundy would have been too insignificant to attract Andre’s attention. But this is 1985, and Andre has perhaps degenerated to the point where promoters considered this a competitive matchup.” (Sidenote from me: Boom Boom Bundy was actually an awesome name, and I wish Bundy would have kept it.) King notes that wrestling isn’t worth someone risking his life and that the New York Athletic Commission shouldn’t have even allowed Andre to step foot into the ring at Madison Square Garden in his physical condition. He also says it’s time for wrestling to institute some minimum health standards.

Next, Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks

Stu is tired of wrestling promoters like Vince McMahon treating all wrestling fans like they’re stupid and dumbing down the product to play to those don’t know that Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo are brothers or that wrestlers have previously wrestled for other companies and don’t just show up on the WWF’s doorstep with no experience wanting to get into the business. He says McMahon should educate the fans who don’t know any better and recognize that there are some fans who know as much as himself. (Yeah, good luck with that.)

This month in “What They Are Saying”… Brian Adidas is ready to chase that half-breed Gino Hernandez to the border and defend the tenets of scientific wrestling. Tully Blanchard wants to face that fruity scumbucket Ric Flair. Nick Bockwinkel says the AWA is crumbling, Bundy says something but I’m too busy laughing at his glasses, Harley promises to win back the NWA title, Jake says being a fan favorite is kind of fun, Barry Windham is mad about being cheated out of the tag team championship again, and Buddy Rose explains, “There are two generic brands of fans in the Sunshine State. Heinekin-guzzling postpubescents in muscle shirts, and retired welders eatin’ cube steak in front of Family Feud and worryin’ about their wives with Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Next, Liz Hunter reflects on how much things have changed since Rick Steamboat and Jay Youngblood won the NWA tag team titles from the Brisco brothers on Thanksgiving of 1983. Streamboat has jumped to the WWF where he’s using a karate kid gimmick, Youngblood has passed away, and the Briscos have retired and run an autobody shop in Florida. Liz is particularly concerned about Steamboat, who seems to have lost his way and isn’t in any title picture. She thinks he might want to think about jumping back to the NWA or maybe even going back to the AWA.

Next up, Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner. He says fans think he’s trying to imitate deceased writer Dan Shocket, but Eddie assures them he’s his own man with his own ideas. Nonetheless, when a fan writes, “I hope you’re not going to agree with Shocket about the kind of wrestler Billy Jack Haynes is. You seem sane enough to at least comprehend the kind of ability a man like Haynes has. Within two years, he will be the NWA champion, and that’s a fact, Jack.” Eddie responds, “I would sooner bet on snow in July or on you to eventually get your high school equivalency diploma than on Billy Jack Haynes ever winning the NWA title. Haynes, the Magna Cum Laude graduate from the Hulk Hogan school of non-wrestling technique, is guilty of the three S’s: He’s too stupid, too sentimental, and too much of a sap to ever win a world championship.” Another fan asks him if Rick Martel might be the best wrestler of 1985. Eddie says “Not a chance.” And finally, a fan asks him if Randy Savage made a mistake coming to the WWF. Eddie says, “There can be no doubt Savage’s move to the WWF has set his career back 50 years.” He adds that “Savage’s credibility is now somewhere between Mr. T. and Sky Low Low and that it’s sad because Savage has true talent.” (Wow. I hope this Savage guy can figure out a new direction and find some kind a path to success. Sounds like he’s going nowhere in the near future.)

Next, In Focus with Craig Peters: this month, he publishes another round of questions from the fans: Will Jim Cornette participate in next year’s Wimbledon? Will the Von Erichs ever wrestle outside of Texas? Do they even know there are 49 other states? Can anyone take the name “Brutus Beefcake” seriously? (I used to use it to book hotel rooms.) Are Jesse Barr and Mr. T really needed in wrestling? Will George Steele make another commercial, this time for Stove Top Turnbuckle Stuffing? Why is Paul Ellering precious? If George Wells and Don Fargo teamed up, would they be Wells-Fargo?

Next up, Press Conference with Greg Gagne. Greg, encouraged by Sgt. Slaughter, has embraced a new look and a new attitude…

Bill Apter asks him what brought about this sudden embrace of American values, but Greg says it’s nothing new. He’s always been proud of his country. Eddie Ellner says that it’s obvious Greg lost his way when Brunzell left town and now he’s trying to cash in on Rambo but fatigues do not a patriot make. Greg says he’s not a bandwagon jumper, he just has been spending time with Sgt. Slaughter and finds his new wrestling gear gives him a new mental framework that enhances his concentration. And he says he needs every advantage he can get when he’s got people coming after him like Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens.

Stu pivots to talking about Verne stepping back into the ring and asks Greg how he feels about it. Greg says at first he was worried that his father might not be able to defend himself against monsters like Animal and Hawk but then he realized Verne’s tough enough to take care of himself, so now he’s all for it.

Now for a feature article on Magnum T.A.: Solving the Flair Puzzle. While on the road, a weary Magnum T.A. stopped looking at a red stoplight and directed his gaze toward the left lane where a young woman in the passenger seat of a royal blue Audi was hanging her body outside the window. “Ohhhh, Magnum, we saw your match tonight. I just knew you could have pinned Nature Boy! You came so close. You ought to be champion. Oh, uh, was it a fast count?” Magnum grinned, a little too sternly, and forced himself to be polite. The signal changed and the cars went their separate ways. Magnum loves his fans, but he just wasn’t in the mood to talk. He had a lot of mental notes to jot down and review before the night’s sleep. Magnum was a wrestler in a unique position. He had recently lost the U.S. Championship, but his initial anger had subsided. In fact, Magnum was ambivalent about Tully Blanchard’s capture of his title. Magnum’s lesser ambitions are shadowed by one all-encompassing objective. That objective weighs about 10 pounds and worth its weight in blood and doctor’s bills. And Tully didn’t have the belt. Magnum could barely keep his mind on the blacktop and its parallel lines. His tired eyes grew heavy at the lids and he was mighty glad he wasn’t driving a car with a stick shift and a clutch; the effort of reversing a figure-four leglock had rendered his legs temporarily powerless. Blinking, he caught a glimpse of blond locks in his rearview mirror. “Tough match tonight, Terry,” the man said. “You know, I’ve underestimated you for a long time. I thought you were another no-talent pretty boy with a big fan following who the promoters forced upon me to sell tickets. But you learn fast, kid. I’m gonna have to be…” Magnum suddenly lurched alert. He had fallen asleep at the wheel and had been listening to Ric Flair in his dreams. He realized he would have to stop for the night and rest before he could continue on to the next arena. “I’ve learned more about myself in the past year than ever before,” he said to himself. Magnum then squinted at the notes he had made for himself that night in the dressing room. “Figr 4 rvrsd 48 secs… fastest yet.. blckd Vsplx attmpt w/tripout. .. must find way t/ dfnse DU splx” Magnum read on. He liked what he saw. The voluminous notes he had taken of all his matches with Flair indicated he was coming closer to the 10 pounds of gold. It was only a matter of time before the referee would hit the three. The champion was no longer a mystery; T.A. knew how to beat him. (Good. Now maybe he should focus on the road.)

Gary Hart says Bruiser Brody is washed up and doesn’t have many years left in the sport. (Well, he’s not entirely wrong.) Hart thinks its silly for Fritz Von Erich to pay money for Brody while simultaneously having to pay armed bodyguards to protect himself from Brody. He says sometimes the Von Erichs make cattle seem smart. (Can’t argue with that one either.)

And now time for our feature story: the history of Hulk Hogan. Born Terry Bollea on August 11, 1953 in Georgia, he was nicknamed “Big Train” as a kid and eventually grew to love baseball, weight lifting, and music. After graduating high school, he studied business at Hillsboro Community College and the University of South Florida before getting into wrestling. Hulk, from cradle to throne!

 

In the space of three days, Jay Youngblood died of a heart attack in Australia and Mike Von Erich was hospitalized, suffering from fevers reaching as high as 107 degrees. Mike was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome, a complication from his shoulder surgery earlier in the year, and his prognosis is not good.

In other news. David Schultz is negotiating with the AWA and wants Rick Martel. Martel himself is apologizing to the AWA fans for missing a title defense in Florida when severe weather cancelled his flight. Meanwhile, in the Mid-South, a masked vigilante calling himself “The Midnight Rider” has appeared. (Spoiler Alert: It was Bill Watts. And yes, he stole the idea from Dusty.) In other news, New Japan Pro Wrestling has been negotiating with the Von Erichs to bring them there for a tour, and a consortium of businessmen have formed a new wrestling organization called the Trans-World Wrestling Federation that will present cards on the East Coast. (Have they signed Adrian Adonis yet?) Lastly, Mil Mascaras, frustrated at not being able to get a title shot against Hulk Hogan, is trying to get a title shot against Rick Martel.

Arena Report! At the Joe in Detroit, Ricky Steamboat and Hulk Hogan defeated Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji. At the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Jake Roberts and The Barbarian defeated Brickhouse Brown and Mark Ragin. (And good thing. Can you imagine if Jake lost in the coliseum named after his brother?) At The Arena in St. Louis, Ricky Steamboat and Junk Yard Dog defeated Muraco and Fuji. At the Sportatorium in Dallas, Kerry Von Erich defeated Gino Hernandez by disqualification. At the Cow Palace in San Fransisco (SIC), Ricky Steamboat and Tito Santana defeated Muraco and Fuji. At the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Tony Atlas and Lanny Poffo defeated The Hart Foundation. Also, Ricky Steamboat and Junk Yard Dog defeated Muraco and Fuji.

And that takes us to Ratings, where we have a special announcement: Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister publications will now recognize the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship (currently held by Hulk Hogan) as a true World Championship, equal in status to Ric Flair’s NWA Championship and Rick Martel’s AWA Championship. (Confetti) Oh, and just for fun, here are the ages of the top ten: 1: Ric Flair: 36, Hulk Hogan: 32, Rick Martel: 29, Tully Blanchard: 31, Dusty Rhodes: 40, Nikita Koloff: 26, Tito Santana: 32, Magnum T.A.: 26, Sgt. Slaughter: 37, Magnificent Muraco: 36

That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the next issue of PWI, a special double issue featuring PWI’s Achievement Awards, fans’ predictions for 1986, plus coverage of Flair and Martel’s title for title match, news about a shocking upset that gives us new tag team champions, and song lyrics penned by Eddie Ellner. And be sure to check out my books!