Every now and then, Culture Crossfire’s Connor McGrath digs through his attic and finds some of the useless stuff he’s accumulated over his twenty years of being a wrestling fan. Occasionally, he shares his thoughts on them with the readers of this fine website.
Yes, I recently uncovered a pile of old PWI and WWF Magazines while doing some spring cleaning and thought some of my readers would enjoy a stroll down memory lane. I start off with the cream of the crap… an issue of World Wrestling Federation’s official magazine from what I would consider the creative nadir of the company—the Spring and Summer of 1995.
Just one look at the cover of the issue shows the state of the company at the time. WWE Hall of Famer and undisputed wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler has had many great moments in his career. Countless battles with fellow ring titans that are permanently etched in the optic membranes of sports entertainment fans across the world. His feud with Bret Hart in 1993 is one of many classic feuds that Lawler had—the reprisal of the feud with Bret Hart in 1995—not one of Lawler’s better moments. And this month’s cover story is focused on Lawler’s plans to stop The Hitman. On the cover, we see Lawler at the head of a roundtable conspiring with other famous Kings (Kong Bundy, members of the Los Angeles NHL team, and of course, impersonators of Elvis Presley, Don, and Arthur) over what is surely some dopey plan to take out the Excellence of Execution. Jerry Lawler has a shit eating ‘Well, as long as the check clears, I’ll do whatever’ facial expression and for some reason, King Kong Bundy is blinking during this picture and almost looks like he’s yawning while he holds a turkey leg. This combination of goofy cartoonishness and half assed commitment to storylines really sums up WWF in 1995.
And on our opening page, we see an advertisement to mail order the first In Your House PPV and King of the Ring 1995 on VHS for the mere price of $39.95. While you may recoil reading those prices in 2013, you have to consider that $39.95 also gets you a free pair of Big Daddy Cool sunglasses and free, secret codes and strategy tips to Acclaim Video Games! What a bargain!
We take a look at this month’s contents. The features include an interview with Harry Smith (The British Bulldog’s Puppy!) experience at WrestleMania XI Fanfest, what’s sure to be a hard hitting interview by Vince Russo with The Allied Powers, a preview of King of the Ring 1995 with an exclusive, in depth look at the secret crests of WWF Superstars, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s thoughts on the New Generation of the World Wrestling Federation.
The Secret Superstar of the Month, which shows a picture of a then current WWF Superstar as a kid and gives you several facts about them to try and get you to guess who they are, is Doink The Clown. For some reason, I’m mildly surprised they would show a picture of Doink without his makeup… even if it was a picture of him as a five year old.
The WWF Fan of the Months and Letter to the Editor features really don’t have much of note. Even in a day before the age of the internet, I’m surprised kids took time out of their day to send a letter to Vince Russo about how they thought Kama Mustafa was a jerk for stealing Paul Bearer’s urn and making a necklace out of it. But I guess things moved a lot slower in the ’90s.
There is one item of interest, a poem entitled “The New Generation”. Featuring such stirring words of wisdom as;
“Mabel, Oscar, and Mo
When they rap,
they steal the show.
Jeff Jarrett or Double J,
what more can one say?
Billy and Bart, the Smoking Gunns,
always know how to get the job done.”
And that was how a young Connor McGrath made his writing debut.
No, sorry, that was from Sarah Wiltshire from Middlesex, England. WWE Magazine still won’t publish my letters to the editor!
Next we get, “That’s Entertainment!”, a column dedicated to pop culture. Which is an excuse for heels to lamely insult whatever’s popular with the kids I get. I thought it was a bit weird that Jerry Lawler reviewed The Lion King, a movie that was a year old but then Mr. Bob Backlund reviews King Arthur and “Double J” Jeff Jarrett reviews an Elvis Presley boxset. I did get a laugh out of Backlund finishing his review by advising readers to throw out their chewed up gum into the nearest trash receptacle and not out of a car window and Jeff Jarrett saying that Elvis would never make it in the ’90s because he’d have to compete against Daddy Jeff.
Next up is “Rookies to Legends”, a column highlighting the stars of tomorrow and the stars of yesteryear. This edition chronicles Mantaur, half man, half beast from the Isle of Crete who is set to trample a path of destruction across the World Wrestling Federation. Yeah, well, that didn’t go quite as planned.
We get “Tales from The Turnbuckle”, a quick hits type column that covers some of the comings and goings in WWF. We get a behind the scenes look at the cover photo which reveals it was shot at a Medieval Times (obligatory plug). Of course, Jerry Lawler loves the place and King Kong Bundy is mad because they take too long to get the dozen roast chickens he ordered to his table. WWF then gives us information on all of Medieval Times locations. Then we get “Five Reasons Jean-Pierre Lafitte Has To Wear An Eye Patch” and believe me the list is hilarious as it sounds (IE: Not at all). We get a brief story about WWF sponsoring Olympic weightlifting hopeful Mark Henry. His WWF career would turn out a bit better than Mantaur’s. We finish off with a look at WWF’s attempt to compete with Stretch Armstrong, Stretch Ems (complete with a shot of a stoned looking Diesel and Razor Ramon doing a tug of war with a Diesel stretch em), an update on “Spark Plugg” Bob Holly’s racing career, and an update on Alundra Blayze’s recovery from the broken nose she suffered at the hands of Bertha Faye. All endlessly riveting stuff as you can imagine.
Our first feature of the magazine is dedicated to Harry Smith, son of WWF great “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Boy, you can’t say WWF wasn’t thinking about the stars of tomorrow when they decide to donate a feature to a damn 11 year old kid. This is about as fascinating as a kayfabe interview with an 11 year old kid sounds. Harry reveals when he’s not watching his dad and uncles, he collects POGS and plays Sega CD (which even by ’95 was outdated. Get your kid a damn 32X, Bulldog!) The best part of this article is there are photos of prepubescent Harry (with a bowl cut!) posing with the superstars of WWF and one of them is Harry looking bored out of his skull as a miserable looking Bob Holly shows him his WWF race car.
Our Interview of the Month sees WWF Magazine writer Vince Russo talk with the latest super-team, The Allied Powers. Again, not much of note happens here. I get a laugh out of Vince Russo asking the Allied Powers why they don’t do more high flying moves and a bigger laugh by Luger saying that the high flying style is dangerous and that those guys don’t understand sound, fundamental wrestling like he does. Lex Luger: Scientific Wrestler… oh I’m dying at the thought of it.
To end things, the Vince Russo interview parade rolls on as he talks to Home Improvement star (and WrestleMania XI) ring announcer Jonathan Taylor Thomas. JTT says his least favorite WWF superstar is The Undertaker. Explains why he never got invited back to WrestleMania!
Then stupid eight year old Connor ripped out some pages to get a “Spark Plugg” Bob Holly book mark or something and we miss the best article! And that’s about the participants of the 1995 King of the Ring Tournaments Royal Crests. I do get the last page explaining the Legend of Yokozuna. It’s mostly about the royal descendant of Owen Hart, King Us throwing some magical tablets into a moat and creating the monstrous creature known as Godzillazuna, Yokozuna’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother and King Us using Oreo cookies to lure Godzillazuna into destroying his older brother’s castle. Now if electric writing like this doesn’t make you want to watch WWF action—well, that makes sense.
Now the preview of King of the Ring 1995. The preview foreshadows Undertaker losing in the first round by saying he’s overlooking Mabel and thinking about the potential second round match up with Kama Mustafa. Boy, even the WWF hype machine had a hard time mustering even the falsest of enthusiasm for a Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Sid and Tatanka main event. That’s still my choice for my most lackluster WWF main event ever.
Onto our cover story about Jerry “The King” Lawler’s quest to destroy Bret “The Hitman” Hart. This whole story is done in the style of a fairy tale. This really demonstrates my problem with Mid ’90s WWF. They skewed way too young. I mean, hey, fairy tale parodies can be fun for all ages (look at Shrek! But just the first one) but this article is obviously targeted for readers between the ages of 4 to 6. Which is emphasized by the big picture of The King stepping in horse dookie!
Then we get one of the quasi shoot interview articles that WWF Magazine would trot out on occasion. This time Vince Russo interviewers Roddy Piper. Piper puts over The New Generation but says that they don’t pay him enough respect. Vince Russo puts over Piper for being able to stay out of the ring unlike other “Original Generation” stars. HAH! I think the last match Piper wrestled was after the last match Hogan wrestled but don’t hold me to that. This was the brief period where they tried to put over Piper as “The Babe Ruth of WWF” because he was the 0ne ’80s boom era star left. Then he left and they realized all of their ’80s stars were either in WCW, retired, or dead and decided to be like “Hey! Let’s remember the stars of ’60s and ’70s!” all of a sudden. This article inexplicably made me bummed out Piper didn’t stick with WWF during the Monday Night Wars. Out of all of the ’80s wrestling boom dudes who jumped over WCW during the mid ’90s, I think he’s by far the one who would have fit in best with the Attitude Era. Then again, maybe he would have just made a bunch of lame Viagra jokes like he did in WCW so who knows?
Vince Russo shares his predictions for the 1995 King of the Ring. His picks for those who are curious;
Undertaker-Mabel: Undertaker (Nope)
Shawn Michaels-Kama: HBK (Nah)
The Roadie-Bob Holly: Roadie (hey, he actually got this one right!)
Yokozuna-Razor Ramon: Yokozuna (No. Razor got injured and replaced by his buddy Savio, who won)
The Undertaker-Shawn Michaels: Shawn Michaels (Obviously wrong but Russo did say a Shawn Michaels-Undertaker match would be undoubtedly one of the greatest matches of all time so I’ll give ’em a half point)
Yokozuna-Roadie: Yokozuna (Wrong again, obviously. The idea of a Yokozuna-Roadie match is too bizarre for me to comprehend.)
Shawn Michaels-Yokozuna: Shawn Michaels (I thought this was the obvious finals choice at the time with maybe an outside shot of a Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon rematch in the finals. King of the Ring 1995 was about as poorly of a booked tournament as there ever was. I get they were trying to go for an “Anything Can Happen” vibe that put new stars over but they did in the laziest, most half assed fashion and in the end, no one really got more over during that tournament. Obviously, I think Shawn Michaels Vs Razor should have been the route they should have went for the Finals. They could have even used it to set up the lazily built but awesome Shawn Vs Razor Ladder Match II)
Next up, we get Lex Luger’s Fitness Advice to the Kids of Today…again, about as interesting as it sounds (IE not at all)
After that is my favorite part of mid ’90s WWF Magazines, The Informer With Vic Venom. Vince Ru—errrr…Vic Venom discusses all of the hottest backstage gossip going on WWE. He talks about the out of control tension in the company following the announcement of the King of the Ring brackets. A Men on a Mission EXPLODE angle is teased…thankfully, it never happened (unless you count Memphis). They also hint at a future Roadie-Jeff Jarrett feud, which sort of, kind of NOT really happened. A Yokozuna-Owen Hart feud is also teased and they try to get King Godzilla over as a nickname for Yoko. Maybe the Toho Studios folks got wind of it and put the kibosh to it. The Informer also says there’s tensions in the Million Dollar Corporation and Sid and Kama are beefin’. Maybe Sid’s still resentful over Kama costing him the main event at WrestleMania VIII. Million Dollar Man’s also upset that newcomer Hunter Hearst Helmsley allegedly has more money than him. This Helmsley guy is going to go the same way as Mantaur. Russo hints that two former WWF Champions are going to jump ship from WCW once their contract expires. Hmm mm. He closes the column by challenging Magic Johnson to get in the ring like LT did and compete in WWF. Well, it couldn’t have been more embarrassing than The Magic Hour.
Next up is another Vic Venom column “The Bite” (which would later transform into the mildly more famous “Byte This”). These columns are not as good as The Informer as they’re basically kayfabe, G-rated written versions of Vince Russo promos with a lot of Vince Russo calling people morons for not agreeing with him. I did laugh at Russo predicting The Roadie would go all the way in the King of the Ring Tournament. Hey, it’s better than the Shawn Michaels prediction surprisingly.
Then we got to a feature about the WWF Superstars guest appearance on MTV Sports. Apparently, during a WWF house show in San Bernadino (which shows you how far WWF had fallen when they’re doing shows there instead of Los Angeles or Anaheim or even Irvine!) where Dan “Dan The Whopper Man” Cortese showed up and Diesel, 123 Kid, and Aldo Montoya taught him a little bit about being a rassler. What are the chances that Dan and The Clique smoked weed together? 95%? There’s a picture of Diesel and Dan The Whopper Man chilling backstage where their eyes are glazed as fuck. Dan also helped Paul Bearer manage Diesel and The Undertaker against Jeff Jarrett and Bam Bam Bigelow (what a random ass match) in the main event of the show. Dan Dan The Whopper Man looked like he was about to go on midnight raid of Burger King at ringside. Maybe the embarrassment of this memory caused Paul Bearer’s death.
Finally, it’s time for WWF Magazine‘s comic strip, “Scoop Sullivan: Squared Circle Superhero”. Even as an eight year old, I thought these cartoons sucked and were my least favorite part of the magazine. In this month’s edition, Jerry Lawler and the managers of WWF conspire to destroy eight year old WWF fan Scoop Sullivan. Except Harvey Whippleman, who is distracted pining over Bertha Faye. And the magazine ends just as it began. Shittily.
Wrap Up: King of The Ring ’95 would go down as one of the worst pay per views in company history, with no matches standing out. Adding insult to injury, the show took place in smark friendly Philadelphia, where the fans deservedly treated the show with scorn and spent most of the time chanting for their hometown promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Mantaur’s push was over by the time this magazine was published and he’d be released later in the Summer of ’95. His gimmick would be derided as one of the worst of all time. In the past few years, he’s been a good sport about having the goofiest gimmick ever and has done occasional comical appearances at indy shows and wrestling conventions.
Jerry Lawler’s feud with Bret Hart would end at King of the Ring ’95 when Lawler lost a “Kiss My Foot” match to Bret and was forced to kiss his own disgusting foot. This immediately led to an even more absurd feud where Lawler enlisted his sadistic dentist Issac Yankem DDS to enact revenge on Hart.
King Kong Bundy’s last run in WWF would end not long after this issue.
Young Harry Smith would follow the family tradition and enter the squared circle. Though his run in WWE was somewhat of a disappointment, he’s currently a star in Japan and seems like he’ll be a fixture in the world of wrestling for some time to come.
The Allied Powers tag team was one of the more forgettable moments in the career of both Luger and Bulldog. The team would end quietly when Bulldog turned heel and Luger left for the greener pastures of World Championship Wrestling.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas would leave Hollywood at the age of 18 to focus on academics. He’s made sporadic guest appearances on television since then but hasn’t reappeared in WWE since WrestleMania XI…but, hey, there have been stupider inductees into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper would return to WWF in early ’96 to serve as interim President of the company after President Gorilla Monsoon was injured by newcomer Vader. Piper would feud with Goldust, culminating in the controversial “Hollywood Backlot Brawl”. He would apart for big money and another shot at the main event in WCW.
MTV Sports would air until June of 1997 when it was quietly canceled. ’97 was around the time I started watching MTV and I have no recollection of the show at all. Dan “The Whopper Man” would go on to earn a living as a C list actor, doing a lot of TV guest appearances. He’s currently the host of Guinness World Records Gone Wild on TruTV, which is a show I didn’t know existed till now!
The Scoop Sullivan comic strip would be taken out of the magazine sometime around the start of the Attitude Era. Big Daddy Dog would pass away after being accidentally hit by a car driven by Harvey Whippleman in October of ’02.
Thoughts: This was an interesting capsule of WWF at its low point—both creatively and popularity wise. The company was intellectually bankrupt at this point but at least, some of their ideas were so bad that they’re entertaining as hell. It’s also interesting that these magazines were written far in advance with little knowledge of upcoming storylines. From what I understand, the writers sometimes basically just had to guess what was going to happen 3-4 months from now. The current WWE Magazine is quite different. It’s only somewhat kayfabe and it focuses mostly on recaps/human interest type stories rather than trying to keep up with current news, which is probably the smart thing to do. It’s kind of unbelievable that wrestling magazines are still in existence anywhere but I’m glad they’re there for the times where I’m going to go on a long bus ride and I need something ridiculously embarrassing to read!