Flashback Friday: PWI June 1986

This week, we look back at a 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated that went to press on February 5 and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $2.75 in Canada. With a cover featuring Hulk Hogan, were teased with stories about the Chris Adams, Jim Duggan, and Scott Hall. So let’s make like JYD and thump this one out.

Let’s start with a little side-story. Back in the day, PWI’s Bill Apter was visiting Niagara Falls with his wife when he bumped into Tony Parisi, a former WWF tag champ who was basically enhancement talent by 1986. Tony said, “What are you doing here?” and then immediately had what he thought was a brilliant idea. Bill could take some photos of him by the falls and use them in PWI. In fact, Tony insisted he be on the cover. “Be here around nine tomorrow,” Tony said, leaving no room for debate. Bill knew there was no way PWI would ever put Tony Parisi on a cover, especially at that point in his career, but he figured he’d take the photos anyway. So the next morning, he grabbed his camera and reached for some film… only to find he was out. He showed up with his camera anyway and pretended to take photos while Tony engaged in various poses. “Don’t forget, I would like one of those shots on the cover!” Tony said as they parted ways. Later, when Bill ran into Tony again, and the wrestler wanted to know what happened to the photos, Bill said, “I’m sorry, Tony. The developer lost the film.” Tony said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

Of course, it wasn’t unusual for wrestlers to ask to be on the cover. These magazines were distributed all over the U.S. and to be on the cover was a huge deal. So Bill and the others at PWI had wrestlers asking all the time when it would be their turn. But the truth was that the covers had to check a lot of boxes. They had to feature perfect photos. They had to feature someone with national appeal. And they had to lead to a story. The latter part was almost always concocted based on the photos themselves. For those of you wondering why they would do the Chris Von Erich story back in August of 1985, it’s because they had a great family photo of the Von Erichs they knew could sell magazines and needed a story to go with it.

Usually, once they had that kind of idea, they would contact the people it was about and make sure it was okay to run with it. Even that, however, didn’t always work out well! In January of 1996, after Randy Savage regained the WCW championship, Bill shot some really good photos of him, and the staff saw one they thought would be perfect for the cover. They then began to toss around ideas for a story. Bill said, “You know, everyone keeps talking about how old Randy and Hulk are. So why don’t we acknowledge that somehow?” And Stu Saks said, “Well, we don’t want it be negative. How about we write about Savage walking down to the ring and hearing a fan call him an old man and how it ultimately gave the Macho Man the motivation to turn back the clock?” Bill loved it and called up Savage to clear it. Savage, not really listening to the details, just said, “Yeah, sure, whatever.” A while later, the magazine hit newstands with the headline, “Give it Up, Old Man! The insult that made Randy SAVAGE again!”

Well, as it turns out, age was a sensitive topic with Randy, and as soon as he saw the headline, with “OLD” in oversized letters, he threw a fit. (You could almost say the cover was a work that turned into a shoot.) Later, when Bill tried to present Randy with PWI’s “Comeback of the Year” achievement plaque, Randy took it and slammed into the concrete wall repeatedly until it was smashed to pieces. He then went off on Bill, chewing him out. Bill, who was a bit scared, mentioned the incident to Hogan, but Hulk told him not to worry. “The guy really wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Some time later, Bill visited Tampa to meet with the Hulkster for an interview when Hogan asked if they could stop by the gym to take care of something. Bill said, “Sure.” And when they went inside, there was Randy Savage. “Hey, big man,” Hulk said. “We’re here.” Savage then gave Bill a hug and said, “Hey, man, I’m really sorry. I was in a bad place back then. I’m sorry and I hope you can forget all that.” Bill said, “No problem, Randy. It’s all water under the bridge.”

Anyway, this issue begins with The Mailbag, where Judy from Washington warns fans not to throw things at the wrestlers in the ring. She points out that fans don’t always have the best aim and often hit the wrong person or come up short in their throws and hit the fans at ringside. (Which I can confirm is true.) Stan from California doesn’t understand how Larry Zbyszko could be suspended for being too brutal in a no disqualification match with Nick Bockwinkel. “It was no DQ!” (Stan’s got a point.) Peter from California wants everyone to know Hogan is more of a technical wrestler than people think. “Hogan knows how to give great suplexes, clotheslines, atomic kneedrops, and, if this isn’t a crippling finishing maneuver applied by the big man from Venice Beach, then nothing is: the abdominal stretch.” (Cue Gorilla Monsoon.) Bolinda from Illinois says she’s happy Wally Karbo suspended Larry Zbyszko because he’s a sadistic thug. (Personally, I’d just like to see Larry Zbyszko’s name as the puzzle on Wheel of Fortune.)

Ringside with Bill Apter: The Midnight Express have defeated the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express for the NWA tag team title. After the referee was knocked out of the ring, Dennis Condrey hit Ricky Morton with Cornette’s tennis racket, and Bobby Eaton scored the pinfall. (Sounds clean to me.) Cornette says there’s a reason he was PWI’s 1985 Manager of the Year. Meanwhile, Chris Adams is back in England trying to recover his sight after Gino Hernandez squirted something into his eyes. However, where he was once given only a 25% chance of recovering his vision, doctors are now giving him a 40% chance of seeing again. In the WWF. the Bulldogs are still chasing The Dream Team for the tag team title, but Bill thinks they’re running out of chances, and it might already be too late. In the Pacific Northwest, Tom Zenk defeated Bobby Jaggers for the PNW title. In other news, Steve Williams is going to do a tour of Japan, and Giant Baba might do a tour of the U.S. Baba says he wants to win the NWA title again, which he briefly held in 1974. (Good luck with that.) In prison news, Ken Patera and Mr. Saito, who had been sentenced to two years in my home-state of Wisconsin for their involvement in a brawl with police officers, were sent to Flambeau State Camp where they were supposed to help with forestry work. But Patera said he had a bad back and refused to cooperate, so he was transferred from the minimum security prison to the state’s maximum security prison in Waupun. (I mostly know Waupun for having signs all over the place warning people not to pick up hitchhikers wearing orange jumpsuits.) In the WWF, Bruno Sammartino came out of retirement to wrestle Roddy Piper after Piper hurled ethnic slurs at him. Elsewhere, Jesse Barr defeated Lex Lugar for the Southern Belt when Lugar was distracted by his own manager. Lastly, Bob Backlund is enjoying his duties as wrestling coach for Central Connecticut State University and says he’ll never wrestle again unless he can wrestle Hulk Hogan.

In an advertisement for some merchandise, PWI shares a picture of what would have been my dream room in 1986.

In King’s Court with Peter King, we catch up with Rick Martel, who recently lost the AWA championship to Stan Hansen. Martel has a bad back and is recovering in Quebec City. He says he just needs some time alone but promises he’ll be back in the AWA soon. (Or maybe he’ll just go to the WWF.)

Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks shares fantasy matches written by fans. The idea here is that fans vote on winners of preselected dream matches, and then Stu chooses a fan’s description of the match that’s consistent with the results. Mike writes about a match between the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and the Freebirds with Gibson getting the hot tag and pinning Michael Hayes. Jason writes about Jimmy Snuka defeating Bruiser Brody in a steel cage match when Jimmy does the superfly from the top of the cage. (How original.) Jill writes about a match between the Road Warriors and Kerry & Kevin Von Erich where Animal catches Kevin diving off the ropes and powerslams him for the win. Robert writes about the U.S. Express defeating Ivan & Nikita Koloff after Barry Windham bodypresses Ivan to the canvas.

In Focus with Craig Peters reports that the WWF is teasing Wrestlemania 2, though no details have been announced yet. Craig, however, got a letter from Mark of Ohio who jokes that he has a source from the World Wrestling Federation with insider knowledge. Some ideas they are considering: having Dr. Sigmund Ziff as a guest gynecologist, having a woman’s title match between Moolah and Adrian Adonis, and getting Bob Uecker involved somehow. (Haha, good ones! Could you imagine?) He also suggests a “loser has to stay in town match” between Bruiser Brody and Billy Jack Haynes. (That’s actually kind of funny.) Craig then moves on to “Just the kind of woman you’d like to take home to meet the folks,” where he talks about one of wrestling’s fun couples. He says to keep an eye on them.

Next, The Steel Cage with Jim Schuermann: Jim is upset that Larry Zbyszko has been suspended for his actions in a no-DQ match with Bockwinkel. (Sounds familiar.) Jim says that if you’re in a no-DQ match, there’s no point in trying to wrestle by the traditional rules, and you might as well just take the quickest path to victory. (No argument here.) He thinks if anyone is to blame for Bockwinkel being beaten to a pulp, it’s the AWA, the organization that sanctioned the no-disqualification match. (Darn straight.)

Next up, On Assignment with Liz Hunter, where Liz is distraught. In fact, she cried herself to sleep on November 25. That’s the day Wendi Richter was unfairly robbed of her title. Wendi’s shoulders clearly weren’t down for the three, but the referee counted it anyway because the WWF wants Wendi gone. Heck, the person who pinned her, The Fabulous Moolah, wasn’t even the one who signed the contract for the match. “Substitutions are fine for non-title bouts and Chinese menus, but any title match should involved the participants who signed their names on a legally notarized contract.” What makes Liz so sad is that if Wendi retires, this leaves women’s wrestling in shambles. Moolah, well past her prime, is now the only female of note in any organization. The NWA doesn’t even have a women’s championship, and the AWA calls theirs the “Girls'” title. And with no challangers for Moolah, Liz suspects the WWF will begin phasing out women’s wrestling as well. (Don’t worry, Liz. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is coming to the rescue!)

Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner: Ricky from Louisiana writes in to say Kerry Von Erich has horse teeth and asks Eddie what that makes Kerry’s face look like, but Eddie says he doesn’t want to get drawn into another Von Erich brouhaha. Sean from Pennsylvania writes in to ask what’s up with Dusty Rhodes teaming up with the Road Warriors, and Eddie says he doesn’t know what’s going on with the Warriors, but he can only hope they don’t grow out their hair and dye it blond. (Today if they were teaming up, we’d have to call them The Rhode Warriors or something witty like that.) And finally, Jerry “Mouse” Wiseman, wrestling journalist, writes in to insult Eddie’s unrefined writing. Eddie responds with a letter to Jerry’s parents, saying they might want to look into getting him professional treatment.

Next, Official Wrestling Ratings…

And here’s the Ratings’ Analysis. I wonder if Rick Martel was using this to scout future tag team partners?

Next, order your Michael P.S. Hayes Badstreet merch! You can get a 45 RPM record of “Badstreet USA” for $2.00, a bandana for $6.00, a T-shirt for $10.00, a jacket for $50.00, or a bumper sticker for $2.00. Limited offer, order now!

Next, an article by Matt Brock about Dusty Rhodes getting brutalized by Tully Blanchard… with Baby Doll conspicuous by her absence. So to recap how we got here, Baby Doll used to be Blanchard’s manager. Then he lost her to Dusty Rhodes for a month due to a stipulation in a match the two guys had for the television championship at the Great American Bash. Well, it turned out she took a liking to Rhodes and wanted to stay with him. But recently, she failed to show up for a big match between Rhodes and Blanchard. Brock met up with Tully at a coffee shop, and he said he misses her, and deep down he knows there’s no way she can stay with Humpty Dumpty. So she’ll come back to him sooner or later, and he hopes it’s sooner. Matt is astonished that Blanchard seems to have developed a sensitive side with a soft spot for a woman.

Next, a Press Conference with some permed bozo named Scott Hall.

Apparently, Scott has been drinking something and likes the taste.

(Perhaps Scott and Curt should avoid long flights.) Bill asks Scott how it feels to be a superstar, and Scott, ever humble, says, “Please don’t hang that label on me. I’m certainly no superstar. I’m just a hustling kid trying to make a living.” He then goes on to talk about Stan Hansen, saying he has a strategy for wrestling him but doesn’t want to reveal it. They then ask him about his personal life, and he talks about attending St. Mary’s College and mentions he is still considering pursuing a medical career someday, perhaps opening up a general practice in Florida or working at a children’s hospital.

Next, our feature article

The story here is that after five months away from Madison Square Garden, Hulk Hogan returned there only to lose twice in a row (by countout) to Randy Savage, who declared Hulkamania dead. There’s now serious speculation that he’s in more danger than ever of losing his title. Additionally, Hogan’s style, or lack thereof, has come under scrutiny and criticism by many wrestling fans, and his name is no longer drawing the loud cheers it once was in arenas around the country. If Hulkamania isn’t yet dead, it’s condition is serious. Another blockbuster match may be the only way to save it, and with Wrestlemania 2 conveniently around the corner, Randy Savage’s claim could shortly be proven true or false.

Next an article about Jim Duggan, who just wants to do his job in the ring and let his work speak for itself. Recently, he met with Terry Madigan of New York, a representative for the public relations company that had sought him out. “Let’s get right down to the point,” she said. “We engage in the services of the most up to date market analysts in the field, and we’ve done research on the future mega-trends of American culture because we want to be on top of the wave before it crashes. Get my drift? And our research indicates that one of the biggest trends today is professional wrestling. So we’ve studied videotapes of thousands of wrestling matches, and we found you. You’re hot property! You’re physically attractive, articulate, and you’ll look god-like in the glossies. And if you sign with us, we’ll make you bigger than wrestling itself.”  Duggan would have none of it. “I don’t know what the hell this market stuff is about lady, but wrestling fans don’t care beans about whether I’m ‘hot property’ or not, and neither do I!” Terry responded that she’s offering to make him millions, and when the wrestling fad turns cold, or he no longer wants to put his gorgeous body on the line, he’ll still be set for life. Duggan, however, says he’ll keep wrestling no matter what until he can no longer crawl through the ropes. What’s important is the fans, not his bank account.

Next, scouting reports…

Next, an article about Chris Adams, who was recently blinded by Gino Hernandez, his former tag team partner.

Hernandez was actually winning the match when either impatience or hatred caused him to scramble to the timekeeper’s table, grab a bottle of an unidentified black liquid substance, and hurl it at Adams. “My God, help me!” Adams cried, his eyes burning. A ringside physician attended to him, but the damage had been done, and now he’s back in England, hoping to someday see again. For now, he sees the faces of all those he’s wronged over the years—the Von Erichs, Gary Hart, Sunshine—looking down upon him gravely. Meanwhile, he sees the face of Gino, laughing. “You know, being blinded has opened my eyes in a way,” Adams says. “I’m beginning to realize that maybe going it alone just isn’t the right thing to do. I know I don’t have any friends anymore, but maybe that can change. Maybe next time, I won’t make the same mistakes I did last time. That’s a promise.”

Next, an advertisement for sister-publication The Wrestler: will Lance Von Erich come between his cousins Kerry and Kevin? Find out in the next edition!

Breaking news…

Gino Hernandez, 28, was found dead in his apartment just three days before this magazine went to press. Meanwhile, Lex Lugar will attempt to regain the Southern title from Jesse Barr on February 14, Jake Roberts is signing a contract with the WWF and insists he does not want a manager, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express will be appearing in the Mid-South area, and the Road Warriors are negotiating with World Class.

Arena Report! PWI speculates that The Killer Bees may soon supplant the British Bulldogs as top contenders for the WWF tag team title.

That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the April, 1986 issue of WWF Magazine, where Jesse Ventura tells us what fashion is trending, we learn why Beefcake and Valentine were getting cheered in a recent match, and find out who George Steele has become infatuated with. And be sure to check out my books!