Flashback Friday: PWI July 1986

This week, we look back at the 1986 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated that went to press on March 7 and sold for $2.25 in the U.S and $2.75 in Canada. With a cover featuring The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, we’re also teased with a story about Scott Hall & Curt Hennig, who are said to be perfect. (And perhaps oozing machismo too.) Meanwhile, World Class drops a bombshell press release. Let’s make like Ricky and Robert and rock & roll.

We kick things off with The Mailbag, where Joe Burns from Chicago writes in to say he’s a Vietnam veteran who’d like to meet the Road Warriors and show them what’s it’s like to be a real man. He says they think they’re strong and brave, but he and his buddies would make them barf in fear. (And indeed, that sounds just like a letter you’d get from someone from Chicago.) Meanwhile, Juanita from Sunkist, California is upset that Adrian Adonis has tarnished his fine career by becoming an androgynous elephant. Then there’s Norbert Elmo from Green Bay, Wisconsin, who is mad that PWI miscounted the number of former world champions at the September Superclash. PWI said there were eight: Ivan Koloff, Ric Flair, Kerry Von Erich, Harley Race, Shohei Baba, Rick Martel, Jumbo Tsuruta, and Nick Bockwinkel. In fact, Nobert says, there were nine: they forgot Wisconsin’s own The Crusher. “You owe this man an apology, a cover story, and a full-cover centerfold as soon as possible. Forget Bruno Sammartino. The real living legend is Da Crusher!” (This sounds so much like a caricature of a wrestling fan from Wisconsin, I have to wonder if PWI made the letter up to cover its own mistake.) And finally, Bill Hartsfell from Hartford, Connecticut says that while Wendi Richter gave women’s wrestling a boost, it was the girls from the 50s and 60s who deserve the credit for bringing it to life. “Oh to see a barefooted leopard skin suited Ann Casey in action again!” (Thank you, Hartsfell from Hartford.)

Ringside with Bill Apter: Bill says Wrestlemania 2 looks like a dud. “Can wrestling fans really get excited over Mr. T vs. Bob Orton in a boxing match?” (Apparently not.) On the other hand, the first annual Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tournament, scheduled for April 19, is shaping up as the card of the year, and PWI gets to determine the seedings! The first eight are: 1. The Road Warriors, 2. Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A., 3. The Midnight Express, 4. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, 5. Rick Martel and Dino Bravo, 6. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, 7. Shohei Baba and Tiger Mask, 8. Ivan & Nikita Koloff. Similar to the Stanley Cup, the winning team will have its name engraved on a large cup and keep it until next year’s tournament. There will also be a million dollar prize. In other news that might impact the tournament, Ricky Morton’s hand was broken in three places by Jim Cornette’s tennis racket. Cornette says, “Too bad.” Meanwhile, in the WWF, Hulk Hogan had his ribs injured by King Kong Bundy on Saturday Night’s Main Event. He also sustained a concussion, but he should still be able to go at Wrestlemania 2. (Well, it’s not like there was any Dr. Bennet Omalu or Christopher Nowinski around to say otherwise.) Sgt. Slaughter is chasing Bulldog Bob Brown for the Central States title. Randy Savage defeated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental title, and now Paul Orndorff wants a shot at it, having recently pinned Savage in the middle of the ring. The Cuban Assassin captured the Florida title from Kendall Windham. Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Snuka are feuding in Hawaii and California. Krusher Khrushchev’s leg injury is heeling slower than expected, and he’ll be on the shelf for at least another two months. Joe Pedicino will host a 20 hour Wrestlethon on May 24 on channel 36 out of Atlanta. And finally, in a sad note, Bubba Douglas from Florida died of a heart attack at the age of 42.

Get your Remco tag team wrestling action figures at participating Woolworth stores!

Next, King’s Court with Peter King: this month, he responds to a letter from a fan who bills himself as “A Fan.” Fan wants to know why Ronnie Garvin is allowed to use closed fists when it’s clearly against the rules. King responds that if a referee disqualified a wrestler whenever he threw a punch, every match would end in a disqualification, and the fans would hate it. He says it’s more appropriate for referees to give warnings and adds, “I believe that A Fan expects scientific wrestlers to be whiter than white and purer than pure. Ronnie Garvin is trying to become NWA champion, not a saint.” (Ronnie Garvin as NWA champion? As if. And I think the real issue here is that the ref shouldn’t count a pinfall after an illegal maneuver. It’s not like Ronnie threw a punch now and then. It was his go-to finisher!) A Fan also adds that it’s stupid for Terry Allen to call himself Magnum T.A. just because Magnum P.I. is a popular show. “What’s he going to go by next, Cosby T.A.?” King says Terry Allen started calling himself Magnum early in his career when it was important that his name stick in fans’ and promoters’ minds. “It’s like this in many fields. Do you think that black star in The Color Purple was born with the name Whoopi Goldberg?” Finally, A Fan says he thinks Bill Apter is bias against wrestlers he hates, constantly interrupting Ric Flair in interviews while letting Dusty Rhodes ramble on as much as he wants. He suggests Eddie Ellner should take his place on television. King responds that if Ellner were to say on TV one-tenth of the things he says in the office, television would cease to exist by order of the U.S. government, and we’d all have to listen to MTV on the radio.

Moving on, it’s time for Dressing Room Confidential with Stu Saks, where Stu recounts meeting a young Mike Rotundo who barely had enough money for lunch and drove a 1968 Buick that sometimes wouldn’t start. Now he drives a Porsche and is riding high in the wrestling world. (Yeah, but at what cost? His taxes have to be through the roof.)

In Focus with Craig Peters sings the praises of Jesse Ventura, who has become one of the WWF’s biggest stars thanks to his commentary on Saturday Night’s Main Event. He also talks about how Ivan Koloff is brainwashing his nephew Nikita by showing him McCarthy-era books that portray Russia as the devil.

Next, On Assignment with Liz Hunter, where poor Liz has been asked by her boss, Peter King, to fly down to Texas and track down Stan Hansen in Borger for an interview. “I shot Peter an eyeful of woman’s scorn. Liz Hunter, alone, rubbing knees with the burros in some shanty town trying to interview the most homicidal man in wrestling? No way.” But Peter silenced her before she could protest. “If you get the story,” he said, “you’ll get something extra in your paycheck next month.” Liz says, “Yeah, workman’s compensation.” Peter responds, “Liz, this is a tremendous opportunity. No one has interviewed Hansen at home before. This could be the scoop of the century.” So off Liz went to Borger, an oppressive, stifling town composed of dust and sun and air crying out for moisture, situated as it is hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the nearest body of water. Two days later, she stood outside the sprawling 35-acre Hansen ranch staring at a crude handpainted sign with the omnious declaration “Get Lost Now.” In her handbag was a 35mm Nikon, a tape recorder, 20 lollipops, a can of beans, and a can of mace, the latter which she purchased at the hotel when the bell captain warned her, “There’s been many reporters trying to meet him, lady, and it hasn’t been good.” “What do you mean?” Liz asked. “Well,” the captain said, “A few were turned away. A few more fled in fear. A few more than that wound up in Our Lady of Good Fortune.” “A church?” Liz asked, somewhat surprised. “No, a hospital,” the captain replied. “And one real cagey reporter ended up in Our Brothers-in-Arms.” “Another hospital?” Liz asked, bewildered. “No,” the captain said, “A funeral home.” As she walked the dusty road toward the Hansen residence, Liz suddenly heard a shrill voice from behind. “What do you want, Lady? Are you from the IRS?” It was Harry Hansen, Stan’s eight-year-old son. “No, no,” Liz replied. “I’m a reporter who wants very badly to do a story on you and your daddy.” Harry, glowering protectively, said, “I would get out of here while you can. My daddy don’t like you.” “But your daddy doesn’t even know me,” Liz replied. “Daddy don’t like anybody,” Harry said simply. Liz pulled out a red lollipop and said, “Well, honey, I don’t want to hurt your daddy. I want to write a great big story on him millions of people will read. Can you help me?” Harry, grabbing the sucker, said, “My daddy ain’t home right now. But come with me and I’ll show you to Mom. And don’t call me honey.” As she approached the house, Liz thought that perhaps it was fortunate Stan Hansen wasn’t home. Perhaps her accessibility to his family might warm his heart. Shortly thereafter, she met Stan’s wife, Emmy Lou, and she was invited to sit in a high leatherback chair while the two had a pleasant conversation. Then suddenly, the door flew open, and standing at the entryway with dried blood clotted over his face and a pickax squeezed tightly in his hand was Stan Hansen himself. “You’re going to pay for this, you @#%-ing broad!”

“So you think you can come into my house snooping around like a goddamn cockroach, do you?! I’m gonna teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.” Emma Lou quickly jumped in front of Liz. “Stanley, don’t.” But Stan was in a rage. “Stay out of this, Emma!” And Emma retreated to the doorway. “You reporters think you own the goddamn world. You think you can snoop into everyone’s life. Well, you won’t be the first reporter who’s felt the back of my hand.” Like a mad dog, Hansen’s lip curled over his gray teeth as he spit out his threats. Liz, not knowing what else to do, reached into her purse for the can of mace… and pulled out the can of beans instead by mistake. “What the hell you doing with that?” Stan asked, examining the beans like King Kong examining Fey Wray. “Stanley,” Emma Lou interjected, “we’ve been trying to tell you. Liz here is from a famous cooking magazine. She’s been sent her to do a story on your world famous chili.” Liz, slipping Emmy Lou a wink, smiled and said, “That’s right, Mr. Hansen. I’m from Gastronomic Quarterly. May is Tex-Mex month at GQ and I’m on chili assignment. We have recipes from Roy Rogers, Tom Landry, and Larry Hagman so far, but everyone knows you make the best chili north of the Rio Grande.” “Whattya mean?” Stan said. “I make the best daman chili in the world.” “That’s right,” Liz said. “That’s why you’re going to be the lead, right in front of Bo Derek’s story about how mesquite changed her life.” Stan smiled, showing his teeth in friendship for the first time. “Why don’t we all sit down, and I’ll whip up some chili for everyone.” After everyone had had their fill, Emmy Lou saw Liz to the door, and after a heartfelt goodbye, Liz returned to the hotel, and then flew back to the office, where she was received a hero’s welcome. She was the one reporter who had visited Hansen at home and lived to tell the tale. “You’ll get that something extra in your paycheck, Liz,” Peter King told her. (It turned out to be a $10 gift certificate to K-Mart.) But what Liz didn’t tell anyone was that before she left Borger, Emma Lou had slipped her a note saying, “We’ll talk soon. I have a lot to tell.” But that’s a story for another time. (Okay, I just have to mention here that this is one of my all-time favorite PWI articles, and I can just imagine Bill Apter, Craig Peters, and company sitting around the office bouncing ideas off each other. “What if she reaches for the mace and grabs the beans by accident?” “Yes! That’s brilliant!” Fr all you from a different generation, back in the 1980s before we had all the backstage stuff available to stream whenever we wanted to see it, this is how we found out more about the wrestlers and how we entertained ourselves throughout the week on the days when there was no wrestling on TV—through these sort of articles in these sort of magazines. And it was worth every penny.)

For Jesse Ventura, the times they are a changin’. His former tag team partner is wearing women’s clothes, and the more manly Hillbillies are starting to take over the WWF. And Ventura is not taking it well. Dr. Milton Crenshaw, director of psychology of the Mandelbaum Clinic, has been observing the impact. “Externally, Ventura appears in charge of his faculties. His public image in the ring and the announcers’ booth remains truculent, aggressive, and imposing. But if you watch him closely out of the ring—at parties, on interviews from the other side of the mike—he appears shaken and ill at ease. He’s not certain who his friends are anymore and may yearn for a simpler life. I believe that he’s secretly jealous of the Hillbillies, who are insulated from the glare and pressures of professional sports by their simplemindedness.” Ventura’s problems are compounded by his dual role as wrestler/announcer. “As rulebreakers,” Dr. Crenshaw explains, “most of Jesse’s old friends are now suspicious of his journalistic instincts and feel uncomfortable around him, afraid that what they say in confidence over a beer may wind up on the air later on. Jesse’s only chance to vent is in his current series of matches against the Hillbillies. Yet if the Hillbillies are able to defeat him, he might have to leave the sport entirely. He’s not conditioned to cope with that scenario.” (Or he’ll sell like a pro for the Hillbillies and then embrace announcing as a fulltime position.) In any instance, PWI observes, the coming months will be crucial for Jesse Ventura.

Next, a Press Conference with Dusty Rhodes. He’s just a big bundle of love who has taken Baby Doll into his heart.

Bill Apter points out that Magnum T.A. still doesn’t trust Baby Doll and is warning Dusty to be careful around her, but Dusty says caution is just his nature. “Understand, Willie Apter, Magnum T.A. crosses at the green and not in-between. It is not in his heart to forgive and forget the misdeeds committed by Baby Doll in the past. But time will heel his wounds. He will come to love her as I do.” Eddie Ellner then points out that Baby Doll has already been intimate with Gino Hernandez and Tully Blanchard and wonders how far Dusty has gotten with her. (Jesus, Eddie.) “Willie and Craig,” Dusty says, “I fear I might have to pop this geek.” They then change the subject to tag teams, though Dusty says he has no ambition to go after a tag team title at this time. He does, however, enjoy teaming up with others for a common cause, such as ridding the wrestling world of the Russians. The press conference closes with Dusty saying he has no plans to retire and feels he’s in the prime of his career, and that everyone should learn to trust Baby Doll because she’s good, kind, and loyal.

And now it’s time for the cover story

In the record charts of Billboard Magazine, a bullet next to an album’s title indicates a sharp increase in sales. Well, The Rock ‘n” Roll Express are like pro wrestling’s version of The Beatles, with girls screaming every time they appear and fan mail pouring in every day. They’re number one with a bullet, baby! (That’s pretty much all there is to the article, which only runs about a page, discounting the photos.)

And now to our World Class bombshell…

World Class has issued a press releasing saying, “For years, World Class wrestling fans have increasingly complained about the NWA rules stating that a team or individual defending their world title could save their belt by disqualifying themselves during a tense moment of the match. This enabled Ric Flair to keep his belt on numerous occasions. Because of this increasing outcry, and the incredible influence that World Class wrestling currently possesses, it was decided that a new wrestling organization would be formed independent of all other wrestling affiliations. Officially declared as the World Class Wrestling Association, this occasional marks one of the most historic moments in wrestling history. American heavyweight champion Rick Rude will now assume the responsibilities as the World titleholder. And because of its present TV coverage in places like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Australia, and South America, the WCWA automatically became the largest wrestling organization in the world. Without a doubt, this decision is the most exciting announcement of the decade.

Now for questions and answers:

Will the WCWA champion lose his title if he is disqualified? Yes. According to statistics, disqualifications accounted for 65% of the finishes in Ric Flair’s matches in 1985. World Class wrestlers were especially stung by Flair’s predilection for the early exit, with Kerry, Kevin, and Lance Von Erich all winning by disqualification. In the WCWA, there will be no easy out for any title holder who has any other ideas besides wrestling a straight, legal title match. (So the future Honky Tonk Man probably shouldn’t go after this title?)

Will the WCWA recognize Flair as a champion? World Class recognizes four World champions: Ric Flair, Stan Hansen, Hulk Hogan, and Rick Rude.

Will WCWA wrestlers be able to wrestle for the NWA title? Only if the match happens in an NWA sanctioned territory. As of this writing, Flair will no longer defend the belt in World Class, which means the titanic struggles between Flair and the Von Erichs are over for the time being.

How will the World Class pullout affect the NWA? It will hurt the NWA. According to Inside Wrestling’s May 1986 ratings, three World Class wrestlers (Rick Rude, Kerry Von Erich, and Bruiser Brody) were ranked in the NWA’s top fifteen.

Now, on to Scouting Reports:

Curt Hennig and Scott Hall aren’t like the tag teams that have partners with the same skill sets. They fill gaps, with each possessing the attributes the other lacks. Hennig lacks size and power but has a great deal of experience and tremendous technical skills. Hall is just the opposite, with limited experience and technique but plenty of size and strength. By working together, they can cover each other’s weaknesses, as well as push each other to be better, which is why they are now sitting pretty as the AWA World tag team champions.

Breaking news!

Tully Blanchard defeated Dusty Rhodes for the National title when manager J.J. Dillion and Ric Flair, who was doing color commentary, interfered. Eddie Gilbert has announced his retirement and intends to focus exclusively on managing. Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo are back together and will wrestle on the AWA’s WrestleRock 86 card. David Sammartino would love to wrestle his father’s old nemesis, Larry Zbyszko, but he wouldn’t say no to a title match with Stan Hansen either. Superstar Billy Graham has plans to wrestle in Florida and has his sights set on Lex Lugar’s Southern title.

Next, Arena Reports:

Next, an ad The Wrestler, PWI’s sister publication

(“Use a backslide.”)

And that takes us to Ratings

That’s it for this week! Join me next week where we’ll look at the July, 1986 issue of Inside Wrestling, where Peter King calls out the WWF’s B.S. insistence that Hogan’s Wrestlemania 2 match will be the first time a world champion has defended his title in a cage, Eddie Ellner defends Hulkamania, and a fan floats the idea that some matches might be fixed. Meanwhile, thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my books!