This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of Inside Wrestling that went to press on January 29 and sold for $1.75 in the U.S and $2.25 in Canada. With a cover featuring Randy Savage, we’re teased with stories about the Macho Man, Stan Hansen, Lex Lugar, and Chris Adams. Plus, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express is apparently here to stay. Let’s make like Dynamite Kid and dive in.
We start with The Mailbag: Martha Mabe from Virginia writes in to rebut David Crockett’s claim that Magnum T.A. is every woman’s dream. She says Magnum is more like a nightmare, and her dream man is Slick Ric Flair, who is 10,000 times better looking.
Meanwhile, Mike from Pennsylvania is upset that the WWF has replaced Jimmy Snuka with King Tonga on their recent cards, saying that’s like substituting a lump of coal for a diamond. He adds that he hopes Snuka’s WWF days aren’t over, but if they are, Snuka should seek out the AWA or NWA, where he could probably win either championship. Also writing in from Pennsylvania about a wrestler who is MIA is Gary, who misses Bob Backlund. He thinks it was wrong for the WWF to run Backlund out of town and is upset about Backlund’s recent retirement. (With hindsight, I think there was a spot for Backlund in the WWF in 1984/85. He could have teamed up with Hogan only to double-cross him and turn heel, saying there’s no place for rock ‘n’ roll and weddings in wrestling. Sure, they had Piper for that, but Bob would have been great in the role. But who knew in 1985 that Backlund could be such a great heel?) Cyndi from Oregon writes in about how she misses seeing Ricky Vaughn in the Pacific Northwest, but she hopes Ricky—”oops, sorry, Lance,” she says—will take advantage of his new opportunity as a long-lost Von Erich and defeat Ric Flair the NWA title and come back to Oregon to defend it. Suzanne of New York is happy Barry Windham is wrestling in Florida, but Chazbo from Florida says Barry should go back the WWF and reunite with Mike Rotundo to chase the tag team belts. And finally, Kent from New Jersey says Randy Savage is a future WWF champion and that he and Elizabeth remind him of John and Jackie Kennedy. (Savage as champion? Elizabeth as the “first lady of wrestling”? That’s crazier than Mike Rotundo being a tag team champion again. What next, Bob Backlund comes back in the 1990s and regains the WWF title? These people are all crazy.)
Next, learn to upholster furniture and you can make money from your own home!
Next up, Editor’s Notebook with Peter King: now that Magnum T.A. is U.S. champion again (having defeated Tully Blanchard at Starrcade in an “I Quit” match) and now he’s bracing for the toughest opponent of his career: Nikita Koloff. The Soviets know it would be a major embarrassment for Americans everywhere if a Russian were to hold that belt, and Koloff’s braintrust is hard at work putting together a strategy so he can win it. “The awesome specter of Nikita Koloff looms like a giant shadow. Magnum T.A. says he’s fit and ready. It’s going to be one hell of a fight.”
Meanwhile, in Behind the Dressing Room Door, with Stu Saks, Stu reports on a feud like no other. It’s not being fought in a ring or in a cage or on a scaffold. There are no holds or no holds barred. There is no referee. No timekeeper. It is a private feud between a wrestler and himself. Krusher Khrushchev, disabled because of a severe leg injury inflicted by the Road Warriors, is having an existential crisis as he recuperates. You see, while he wears a hammer and sickle on his wrestling tights and teams with Ivan and Nikita Koloff, he’s really an American from Minnesota. (As opposed to Nikita?) And while he sincerely believes in the superiority of the Soviet system, there are moments when he thinks about the beauty of America and its guarantees of freedom. Even Eddie Ellner has noticed the difference. “Expounding on the virtues of communism and the deficiencies of the American culture, he sounded extremely sure of himself. But when he spoke to me about how his relationship with his father had deteriorated after he had changed his allegiance, his eyes welled up and his voice softened a bit. He had to gather himself before he could go on with the rest of the interview. For that short moment, he had become a Darsow—an American—again.” Craig Peters compares him to Spock from Star Trek, with two halves battling each other: Krushchev vs. Darsow. (Maybe he should fight himself like Superman and Clark Kent in Superman III.) Stu also wonders if the relationship between the Koloffs and Krushchev might be deteriorating, with Krushchev becoming the odd man out, and how that will affect Krushchev’s future. For now, we can all just sit and watch. (He could always just bill himself from parts unknown and form a new tag team.)
In On the Road with Craig Peters: Craig takes the title of his column literally, talking with Dr. Death Steve Williams about a situation Williams and young Rob Ricksteiner found themselves in while driving from Texas to Louisiana.
“Rob was driving,” Williams says, “and we were on our way to Alexandria when we saw what looked like a bonfire coming up in the distance. Only it wasn’t a bonfire. It was an automobile accident.” A car had collided with a pickup truck, and the two vehicles were engulfed in flames. Rob pulled the car over, and the two wrestlers tried to help out. “There were three men in the car and two men in the truck. Me and Rob went over to the car, and we could see the driver was already dead. But there was one guy alive in the front seat and another guy alive in the back seat. So we tore out the window, got a grip on the door, and yanked the the thing right off the car. Then we pulled the two guys out of the front seat, and Rob pulled the guy out of the back seat.” Then bullets started whizzing by. “There were guns and ammo in the pickup, and when the fire got to it all, the ammo started flying. It was like being in a war zone. We had to stay low so we didn’t get hit. Rob took a look into the pickup truck, but the two guys there were burned beyond recognition. It was pretty frightening.” Of the five men in the accident, only one survived. Williams adds one last message: “Please, everyone, if you’re driving, buckle up those seat belts. For God’s sake, please buckle up.”
In other news, Craig says the WWF’s promotional agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling has been terminated, so the WWF’s International champions are no longer recognized as title holders for the WWF in The Roll Call of Champions.
Next, Names Makin’ News with Bill Apter: Rick Martel was defeated for the AWA title by Stan Hansen, submitting to the Brazos Valley Backbreaker, Hansen’s version of the Boston crab. Meanwhile, Jim Garvin and Steve Regal didn’t last long as AWA tag team champs. They were dethroned by Curt Hennig and Scott Hall in a 58 minute match held in Albuquerque. All of wrestling is saddened by the unscrupulous deal struck by the Koloffs and Baron Von Raschke. With Krusher Khrushchev unable to wrestle, he’s filling in. (I thought the Nazis and Russians hated each other?) The feud between former tag team partners Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez took a tragic turn when Hernandez squirted some sort of liquid into Adams’ eyes, blinding him. (Hopefully we don’t see this sort of thing happen again.) The Fabulous Freebirds have returned to Texas, with Buddy Roberts already snagging the World Class TV belt from Mark Youngblood and all three birds winning the six-man title from Kerry Von Erich, Kevin Von Erich, and Brian Adidas. Elsewhere, Tom Zenk is back from injury and is wrestling in the Pacific Northwest after recovering from a piledriver. Southern Champion Lex Lugar is being compared by fans and insiders alike as a rulebreaking version of Billy Jack Haynes in terms of strength and potential. (Is that supposed to be a compliment?) Mammoth King Kong Bundy has challenged the Chicago Bears “equally porky” lineman William Perry to a charity contest in any sport. The Midnight Express has been wrestling the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express in a number of memorable battles for the NWA World tag team title. Sgt. Slaughter has been wrestling Stan Hansen for the AWA title and would be willing to eat the Stars and Stripes if it would bring him a world championship. (You don’t say?) In the Central States, Bulldog Bob Brown has been terrorizing Marty Jannetty. Jimmy Snuka is no longer in the WWF, but fans at Madison Square Garden keep chanting his name during matches. And finally, Paul Boesch had triple-bypass heart surgery. (And he would live another four years.)
The Insider with Eddie Ellner: Eddie says his bosses told him he had to go a WWF show at Madison Square Garden and bought him two fourth row tickets. He sold them on the street for $100 and bought a cheap ticket for $6 from a scalper. He ended up enjoying Hogan vs. Savage but feels that Hogan’s act is becoming stale and the fans are catching on. He says he’ll come back for the next month’s show to see Hogan and confirm if Hulkamania is waning.
News from the Wrestling Capitals: Flair defeated Dusty Rhodes by countout in Atlanta, Hillbilly Jim pinned Brutus Beefcake in Norwalk, Slaughter defeated Stan Hansen by DQ in Chicago, youngster Carlos Colon defeated Kamala by DQ in San Juan, Dick Murdoch and Bruiser Brody were both DQed in Koriyama, and Iceman Parsons defeated Rick Rude by DQ in San Antonio.
Next, Matt Brock’s Plain Speaking: Brock first says he’d like to respond to the ugly rumors that he’s too ill or too decrepit to handle the hard life of a journalist constantly driving from one wrestling capital to the next. “Nuts!” he says. He’s here to stay and will continue to log more miles than any other reporter in sports and continue to pound out more stories on his trusty typewriter, maintaining a pace the kids can’t handle. He then moves on to say that while some are claiming Stan Hansen won the AWA title by beating Martel fair and square, he was there and saw the fat slob break the rules. When he had Ricky in the Boston Crab—er, the “Brazos Valley Backbreaker,” as he arbitrarily calls it, Hansen illegally pressed his head against the turnbuckle for added leverage in order to push an escaping Martel back down the mat. “I spot the details,” Brock says. “I noticed.” Brock moves on to say he’s impressed with Tom Zenk and is glad he’s back from injury. He says he might want to consider wrestling for World Class or Mid-South. Lastly, he says some fans think Bob Backlund quit pro wrestling because he doesn’t want to wrestle. Hogwash! Backlund doesn’t feel like he’s being treated fairly, and while he loves to wrestle, he’s going to do it on his own terms or not at all. Nothing in Backlund’s life takes a backseat to his conscience.
Where are they now? Brett Sawyer has been moving from territory to territory. (Enjoy it while you can.) Killer Khan is in Australia. Terry Garvin recently finished a tenure in Kansas City working in the NWA offices, and he’s now working for the WWF as an assistant booker. (I heard he backed into that position.) Humongous has completely dropped out of sight, with Inside Wrestling speculating that he disappeared when people were getting close to discovering his true identity. (This incarnation of Humongous was Jeff Van Camp Sr. Jeff retired in 1985 and became a police officer in Florida, where he still works today. As for the rest, Sawyer retired in 1998 and opened a wrestling school and is still around. Killer Khan would go on to wrestle Hogan for the WWF title before fading away, but he’s also still around. And Terry Garvin would go on to be fired by the WWF in 1992 before dying of cancer in 1998.)
This month’s Capsule Profile: Jake Roberts, who’s still going on about how he can control exactly what kind of DDT his opponent gets. “I can stun a man senseless or crack his skull, depending on what kind of little twist I want to put on it.” Roberts reportedly plans to begin competition in the WWF, saying there’s nothing more for him to accomplish in the Mid-South.
Next up, The Rock ‘n Rolls are here to stay! The NWA World Champions are playing Russian Roulette and winning, frustrating the Koloffs at every turn. (They might want to look out for The Midnight Express.)
Next, Official Ratings and Roll Call of Champions: (You’ll notice a certain Irishman has cracked the AWA’s top fifteen.)
Next, our feature article: Randy Savage— WWF Champion: What Would This Mean To Wrestling? The article opens by painting a picture of a Randy Savage title victory. “Hogan tries to kick out, but it’s too late: Randy Savage is the new WWF Champion. Hulk Hogan is now merely one name in a long list of championship contenders. Hulkamania is no more.” Or is it? The article then pivots into speculating what would change and how things might play out. On the one hand, they say Hogan could be forgotten like Backlund or even become a rulebreaker, and all the attention he’s been enjoying would transition to Savage. It could also revitalize the careers of some of the WWF’s popular scientific wrestlers, like Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana, and the Junkyard Dog.
On the other hand, a Savage title reign might make Elizabeth even more popular, making Savage jealous of the attention she’s receiving. Worse yet, Hulkamania may survive and the media could continue to focus more on the Hulkster than the Macho Man. This could all make Savage resentful and angry. And who knows? He could end up losing the title to back to Hogan, finding himself back at the proverbial square one. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Next, No Friends, No Future: Chris Adams Deserves What’s Coming to Him! Since Adams started wrestling in World Class, he’s been burning bridges. His friends. His valet. His manager. His tag team partner. The fans. He’s turned his back on all of them. “Anyone who has ever extended their hand to Adams in friendship has gotten a slap in the face and a superkick in the chin for his trouble,” observes Senior Editor Bill Apter. Associate Editor Craig Peter says, “Adams has reached a point in his career where he’s got to have some sense knocked into him.” Managing Editor Stu Saks says, “It’s Adams alone against everyone in World Class, and it’s time for everyone in the World Class area to treat Adams like the spoiled brat he is and give him a spanking.” Even Eddie Ellner agrees: “Yeah, Adams does deserve what’s coming to him. But when it finally comes his way, and some good sense is shaken into his head, I’ll bet we see a Chris Adams whose talents and attitude leave everyone else in the World Class area in the dust.”
New AWA champion Stan Hansen isn’t just another pretty face. He says he’s willing to take on all comers, including Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. He says he’s not afraid to hit anyone and adds that he just smacked his wife because she likes to walk with “a wiggle” that attracts other men’s attention. “Aah, I clipped a backhand across her head. She’s seen worse, believe me.” When asked if he considers himself a good husband and good father, he says, “I didn’t get me nine kids by praying to the tooth fairy. I spoil my brood rotten. But I demand respect.” When asked why he has so many children he says, “I like my wife to be preg-a-nant. A big belly keeps her home where she belongs. Barefoot and pregnant, that’s what the Japs always say. And they got themselves damn fine wives.” He then goes on to talk about money being more important than the title, and that he’ll take on anyone if the price is right. He says when the boat and the house are paid for, he’ll drop the belt in a sewer somewhere. “I’m just a humble, family man. Remember that.” (Is this a shoot interview? Anyway, Hansen is now married to Yumi Hansen, who was born two years after this magazine was published.)
Barry Windham has begun wrestling newcomer Lex Lugar in Florida. Insiders say it could be the best feud in Florida in years. The article then meanders into a story about Kendall and Barry watching Lugar work out and being in awe. (Kendall was probably like, “Working out? What’s that?”) Hiro Matsuda, Lugar’s manager, says Lugar’s physique “is largely a matter of nutrition” before dismissing all further questions on the topic. “School is in session,” Lugar says. “And when I’m through with Barry Windham, Blackjack Mulligan is going to have one less son.”
In One on One, Baby Doll and Tully Blanchard trade insults on the phone. Back in 1985, Dusty Rhodes won Baby Doll’s services in a cage match against Blanchard, and now Rhodes and Baby Doll are like peanut butter and jelly.
That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the June, 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, where we learn about a major title change in the NWA, we get shocking news about a wrestler in his prime who was found dead, and we hear from Scott Hall, who has drunk from wrestling’s silver chalice and likes the taste. And be sure to check out my books!