Our first installment of this new recurring column brings us to my first-ever purchase of a wrestling magazine: the June 1995 issue of WWF Magazine. I remember getting it at Kroger when I went with my dad on a grocery trip on a Sunday. We passed the magazine section and I wanted it, so he bought it for me. I clearly read this issue a lot as a kid because the cover no longer exists. For example, this is what the cover looked like:
The first page shows that we are definitely in the Dark Ages as there is a “Can You Guess the Secret Superstar” feature. This shows a childhood picture of a wrestling star and you have to guess who it is. With so many youngsters depicted, it is a shame they did not get Gorilla Monsoon to lend his stamp of approval to it. This month’s superstar is clearly The Roadie, with such hints as “This Secret Superstar sincerely believes that Willie Nelson recorded the hit song ‘On the Road Again’ in his honor!” and “This Secret Superstar claims to have been affiliated at one time or another with such legends as Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, and Garth Brooks!” So, our picture of the future Road Dogg:
The next quick feature is “Federation FANatics,” which shows some pictures of WWF fans talking about what they like and dislike. Normally, you would think this feature would be for younger fans, but oh no, we have a pretty old dude by the name of Louie Payan that wants to share his thoughts!
While telling us that he loves working on his yard (and presumably keeping young heathens off of it) when not watching the WWF, Mr. Payan, seventy-five years young, lets us know that he loves the excitement of the WWF (in 1995?) and that if he were WWF President he would suspend those who interfere in other people’s matches! Unfortunately, he does not gripe about not seeing Lou Thesz lace up the boots for one last WrestleMania because if 1995 WWF was like today, that might just happen!
This month’s letters to the editor features a small gem from a quasi-smart fan from Israel by the name of Ilan Zilbershtein. He demands to know why Shawn Michaels, and not Diesel, was named number one contender after Survivor Series and got to wrestle Bob Backlund in the Garden for the WWF title. The response given seems to come straight from Vince McMahon’s mouth, saying that Diesel is a worthy competitor because he is “7 feet tall and weighs well over 300 pounds!” There is also something thrown in there about how Diesel shows better sportsmanship, but I think that is a distractor. Another fan gives us ten reasons why the Undertaker is called the Undertaker:
We are then treated to a few music and video reviews by Man Mountain Rock and Jerry “The King” Lawler for the “That’s Entertain MAT” feature. Rock highly recommends Bush’s Sixteen Stone album, while Lawler bashes The Brady Bunch Movie by likening it to the Hart family. This was during Lawler’s feud with Bret Hart, which had been ongoing for two years, so that was to be expected.
This month’s “Rookies to Legends” column actually does talk about a future WWF legend: Sid.
Speaking of Sid, why isn’t this guy in the Hall of Fame? Does the induction not coincide with softball season? The piece predictably glosses over Sid’s popularity in the 1992 Rumble, saying that he became a full-fledged rule breaker after SummerSlam 1991. Any mention of him wrestling down South, even in a tongue-in-cheek manner, is disappointingly not used. The article just recaps how Sid came in as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard before WrestleMania, how he has turned on him, and warns us that the WWF will never be the same again!
In sadder news, this month’s magazine provides a small obituary for Big John Studd, who had recently passed away from Hodgkin’s disease. It gives a few facts about his battles with Andrew the Giant and highlights his 1989 Rumble win. I remember being shocked that this guy won a Rumble because that was during a phase of my fandom when I thought that Hulk Hogan would win everything, so the fact that this guy I had barely heard of won the Rumble was pretty shocking.
We also get an ad reminding us of the new In Your House pay-per-views, which will begin in May. You see, the WWF HAD to do this in order to “meet the demand of our millions of loyal fans.” The magazine promises that In Your House will provide “seven action-packed, bodyslammin’, sharpshootin’ pay-per-view events to air in those months between the BIG FIVE.” Yes, those of us who had the privilege of watching In Your House IV can attest to this!
The magazine keeps giving us lots of lists, this time giving us five reasons why King Kong Bundy is bald. I bet Vince loved this stuff. In fact, I can see John Cena using this material if he had to feud with Bundy today:
And Lex Luger wants your letters so that he can tell you how to improve your “Body, Mind, and Spirit.” Lex is all about educating the youth of America about fitness, health, and drugs! With such an awful gimmick like this at the time, no wonder Lex headed for the greener pastures of WCW.
One of the really cool columns of the magazine is “Fantasy Warfare,” which breaks down the attributes of two WWF superstars that have yet to face off in the ring. This month talks about the 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly, who had a one-day reign as tag team champions in January 1995. Bob Holly in 1995 was a big superstar in WWF Magazine as they ran several pieces prior to this hyping how all the big managers in the WWF were wanting to take Holly under their wing. What is humorous about the piece is that it tries to make Holly look like less of a jobber, saying that he lacks many key wins, but that is “due to the lack of competitive matches he has received.” Of course, in the next paragraph under “Key Losses” it tells us that he recently lost to Bam Bam Bigelow. Despite the evidence moving in the Kid’s favor, the Editor (Vince Russo) predicts that Holly would win because of his weight advantage. I actually included my own handwriting in the “What’s Your Prediction” part of this piece which embarrassingly reads “Holly would win because he is quick and more heavy.” Yes, sound analysis from nine-year-old me.
He hopes to win the next King of the Ring and says that he would not mind facing Diesel for the WWF title. There is a heel vibe to this interview, as Ramon continually makes fun of the interviewer and says he would not care if he was booed by the fans, thereby feeding into the idea that the WWF was flirting with a Ramon heel turn in 1995. That would have been the ideal booking strategy since the roster was too heavily loaded with faces.
Since Russo is the editor of the magazine, one is not surprised to see a lengthy piece about Jeff Jarrett because everyone knows the country music gimmick he was sporting in 1995 screamed “next big thing.”
In this five page article, Russo discusses how Jarrett made him wake up at two in the morning and immediately fly out to the West Coast so he could hear about the shooting of “Ain’t I Great: The Motion Picture!” Everything about this Jarrett gimmick screamed small time Memphis because let’s face it: how much credibility is a heel going to have if we are told he is doing all these big projects and yet we see none of them? At least the Miz has that lousy direct-to-video WWE film. Anyway, we find out that Hollywood threw a big parade in Jarrett’s honor and they proceed to deface a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Jarrett:
And you think the magazine’s writings about the Hollywood aspirations of superstars are over? Well think again as the next piece talks about Bret Hart fielding offers as well! Seems funny that the WWF was all about getting their wrestler’s side projects in 1995 but is scared of them doing anything outside of the company today. We are told that Hollywood is facing “an endangered species” of leading male action stars and we are reminded that “women sometimes refer to them as…HUNKS” and that Bret might be able to fill that role. Russo’s writing in this magazine can be entertaining, but he clearly has very slanted views about women. Well, the purpose of this piece is to breakdown Bret’s venture into TV drama by serving a role on Lonesome Dove: The Series. Bret played the character of Luther, who was a wandering trapper. We are told that Bret’s performance was as flawless as “Arnold transposed into the Terminator and Stallone became Rambo.” This is a picture of Bret in the role:
Bret wrote in his autobiography that he hoped his role on Lonesome Dove would let him get out of wrestling, but the series was short-lived and he had to return. He did get an appearance on the Simpsons and did have an entertaining angle on Mad TV with Will Sasso, but that was really it for the Hitman, despite the article promising that he was getting lots of offers in 1995 and was just waiting for the right project!
We are treated to a breakdown of the results of WrestleMania XI. Now compare this write up and detail with last week’s magazine:
It just does not compare. One of the nice touches was that you got quotations from the participants in the matches. Ted DiBiase rips Bam Bam Bigelow, bordering near burial, by saying that he is embarrassed that Bigelow just lost to a football player. I remember going to a Thunder taping where Bigelow wrestled in 1999 and he was STILL getting LT chants. We even get some delusional responses, as Bob Backlund proclaims that “We won! The chicken-wing prevailed!” following his disappointing “I Quit” match with Bret Hart. And of course, we have to be reminded of all he celebrities that attended to try to disguise a lackluster show. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, remember that guy? And Salt-N-Pepa needs to return to a WWE booking meeting, if only to tell them to “push it” regarding Daniel Bryan:
A recap is provided for the night after WrestleMania show as well, which featured Sid turning on Shawn Michaels, Diesel making the save, Alundra Blayze regaining the WWF Women’s title from Bull Nakano, and the debut of Bertha Faye. Well, at least three of those things were significant. The facial expression of Vince in this action shot is priceless:
And remember the WWF Superstar Line? Well, these were all the cool features in the summer of 1995! I wonder what the valuable prize was on the WWF trivia, and I have a hard time believing people would call to hear Stephanie Wiand’s thoughts on the company.
“The Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama gets the most over the top feature in this month’s magazine as Russo talks about how he would fare against TJ Combo, a character in the video game Killer Instinct. In fact, seeing these two side-by-side sort of screams “gimmick infringement,” no?:
There are a few gems in this piece. One talks of how Killer Instinct will be released as the first game for Nintendo’s 64-bit game system due out in the fall of 1995 called “Project Reality.” Of course, it would take until the fall of 1996 for the eventual Nintendo 64 to hit US stores. We are also treated to a Kama promo about TJ Combo, with Kama saying that “Not even this…cartoon character” could withstand his arsenal and he is insulted that Combo would be any match for him! Kama promises to bring some kick boxing, judo karate, and good ol’ fashioned wrestling to a future bout, but he did not say jiu-jitsu, so I am not sure how good his chances are. Russo says that he figured out who would win by feeding all the statistics for both men into the “World Wrestling Federation’s Cray Computer” and although Combo beat the tar out of Kama in the fight, Kama knocked him out with an uppercut to win. What else did the WWF run on this Cray Computer in 1995?
The back of the magazine features our usual “smart fan” features, this time from the “Informer.” It teases the return of Barry Windham, who it says had a previous alliance with “Irwin R. Schyster.” It says that they may team together again and it is amusing to think of the US Express 2.0 coming back under a tax gimmick. I guess that could work, a pair of heels who are patriotic but couch their patriotism in paying taxes to the state, thereby making them the heels of every man, woman, and child in the good ol’ US of A. Of course, Windham would not return for another year so that point is moot. We are also informed that Sid is looking for a manager and may turn back to Harvey Wippleman. The most hilarious comment is that “Jean Pierre Lafitte got into the face of Tatanka and accused him of being just as responsible for the neglect of his grandfather Jean Lafitte as the white man” thereby prompting a locker room scuffle between the two.
Another “smart” feature was Vic Venom’s “The Bite,” this time written by him and not a guest writer, which is what the column turned into by 1999.
He rips Roddy Piper for calling for the bell at WrestleMania XI because Backlund never quit. He alleges that Bret “Drip Man” Hart got his “bagpipe-wielding, skirt-wearing friend” to rig the match in his favor. Aldo Montoya’s upset of Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett is also blown off because clearly the referee missed one of Jarrett’s shoulders from coming off the canvas! It also fawns over the sexiness of Bertha Faye and lets us know that “she is definitely Vic Venom’s kind of woman!”
This month’s “Private Eye” piece showcases the Headshrinkers going to get a haircut. You see, it is all part of Captain Lou Albano adapting them to American culture. The WWF ran this angle so many times during the 1990s with this, Barry Horowitz and Hakushi, Bradshaw and Taka Michinoku, etc. and it met with failure EACH TIME. It was like if you saw someone involved in an angle like this it was immediate death. I mean, who is going to root for guys that are afraid of getting their hair cut and holding stuffed animals?:
In our letters to the superstars segment, Alundra Blayze tells a fan that if she had to date a superstar it would be Diesel or Bret Hart, but you see, she cannot because they are married! Well, we know that was not something that stopped Bret on the road. Bob Backlund blasts a fan for not picking up a dictionary when the young man questions where Backlund gets his big words from. Shawn Michaels tells a fan that if he had to do it over again he might have chosen Bret Hart as a bodyguard because he “could have done a much better job.” Oh, I am sure he could have!
Lastly, we get our Scoop Sullivan cartoon, about a young fan who can morph into a federation superstar. This time, Mantaur keeps cheating against Doink, prompting Sullivan to go underneath the ring and make a run-in. This feature would not last much longer in the magazine and the cartoon did a good job showing how few people were attending WWF events in 1995 as NO fans can be seen! Some of the rhetoric in this magazine, such as Sullivan’s character telling Mantaur “Back off Furball!” is also eerily reminiscent of the awful language we get in promos today. Coincidence? I think not. Unfortunately, my magazine is in such bad shape that it is hard to see the full cartoon:
Next week we will look at the December 1999 issue of WWF Magazine, allowing us to look at all of the great merchandise WWF fans were able to purchase at that time and how Chris Jericho wants to square off with Steve Austin!