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Posts Tagged ‘Apter mags’

The King and the Claw: Jerry Lawler and David Von Erich double-down against the Blackjacks

October 27th, 2011 1 comment

Troubled waters: Von Erich and Lawler prepare to apply the dreaded "rowboat" maneuver to Blackjacks Mulligan and Lanza.

Although I was a huge Memphis fan since 1977, I was excited to see a new wrestling show air locally with the addition of World Class Championship Wrestling to the lineup of debuting channel 30 in fall 1982. I was an avid reader of the newsstand Apter mags, so I was familiar with NWA champ Ric Flair and the Von Erichs, while the Freebirds had worked Jerry Jarrett’s territory in 1979.

With superior production values and camerawork and marquee match-ups, I was immediately hooked on the World Class show, which came to the viewing audience from the “world-famous” Sportatorium in Dallas. Credit the genius of World Class producer/visionary Mickey Grant, who somehow convincingly presented the Sportatorium as a major sports arena–in fact, it was a dump without air conditioning; however, it made for a heated environment (in more ways than one) and, more important, great television.

During the same time period, Jarrett’s Memphis TV was producing music videos featuring young heartthrobs like the Fabulous Ones and Terry Taylor, with the Rock ‘n’ Express to debut in 1983. World Class and Memphis were two of the most innovative shows in the country and wildly popular with not only the traditional male audience but also the growing demographic of women and teenage girls and boys. As good as Mid-South TV was, they wouldn’t expand their demographic until the end of ’83, when Dundee took the booking job and recreated that Memphis magic focusing on younger, smaller talent who could work a fast pace like the Express teams and Taylor in place of the methodical big men who had dominated the territory previously.

Eat your hearts out, Midnight Express.

So I was thrilled when I saw the headline at the top of the cover of the January 1984 of The Wrestler, which declared that the unlikely duo of David Von Erich and Lawler were on a mission to stop Blackjacks Mulligan and Lanza “before they rule again.” The match took place on the August 26, 1983, lineup at Kiel Auditorium in St Louis, which was headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Crusher Blackwell.

According to the Apter mag “account,” the St. Louis promoter (Larry Matysik?) was concerned that the reuniting Blackjacks, former WWA and WWF tag champions, would run roughshod over the territory unless a team stepped up to cut these outlaws off at the pass. No established teams would dare take the challenge, so David Von Erich, in his youthful exuberance, volunteered his services. (Undoubtedly, the master of the Von Erich Iron Claw wanted to test his grip against that of the famed Blackjacks.) When the desperate promoter recommended Lawler (who had been booked sparingly early in his career as a ’70s TV jobber by longtime St. Louis-based NWA godfather Sam Muchnick before the promoter retired in 1982), Von Erich got on the phone to convince the King to join his side. Impressed by the young man’s fire, Lawler accepted; after all, the King knew a thing or two about fire. While no footage of the bout exists, Lawler and Von Erich defeated the Blackjacks, ending their new reign of terror before it even began–mission accomplished!

Although he was a heel on that night in St. Louis, Mulligan’s babyface son Barry Windham also worked the undercard that night. Speaking of Windham, one of all-time favorite performers, the Wrestling Observer is reporting that Barry is currently in intensive care in Florida after what is believed to have been a heart attack. Mulligan describes the condition of the 50-year-old Windham as “near death.” A former NWA World champion, Windham is the brother-in-law of former tag partner Mike Rotunda, who found Barry collapsed at his ranch yesterday. I hope Barry makes a quick recovery.

On that August evening in 1983, most fans didn’t realize that the balance of  power in wrestling would shift from the crumbling National Wrestling Alliance to the World Wrestling Federation, with Hogan winning the WWF title from the Iron Sheik in January 1984, and possible future NWA champ David Von Erich dying in Japan in February 1984.

By March 1984, Mulligan and Lawler were able “to settle their differences” to form yet another unlikely combination for this tag bout in Chicago, challenging Ken Patera and Crusher Blackwell for the AWA World tag titles. Mulligan is one of those guys, along with Roddy Piper, who I think would have been an incredible heel opponent for Lawler during the King’s babyface Memphis heyday.

Classic Wrestling Magazine Ads: You Don’t Need A Gun!

August 11th, 2011 1 comment

Looking back, the ads featured in the Stanley Weston wrestling publications of the ’70s and ’80s (affectionately known by some fans as the “Apter Mags” in honor of managing editor Bill Apter) were often just as sensationally entertaining as the fictionalized accounts treating the business as sport. Case in point, this ad featuring the Kiyoga Steel Cobra,™ billed as providing an “impenetrable steel shield” against “muggers, rapists and maniacs.” I love the expression of the empowered dude raising his fist into the air in the lower left-hand corner, clearly after he knocked a would-be mugger senseless. (Ironically, he looks a little like the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.) Then there’s the businessman cracking the jaw of a biker, while the classy broad belts an apparent rapist–and you don’t even need a license to carry it!

Personally, I ordered one of these and used it to beat the shit out of a schoolyard bully–the ultimate foreign object for a kid, with the possible exception of an Aladdin®-made metal lunchbox.

Behold the power of the Kiyoga!

Send your attacker HOWLING with UNBEARABLE pain! Best of all, it's absolutely FOOLPROOF!

Art foundation: Jerry Lawler’s artistic talents led to wrestling career, magazine features

January 6th, 2011 No comments

As I’ve well-documented, I was a huge fan of the Apter wrestling magazines growing up. While I understand some fans’ disdain for the fictional interviews and fabricated stories, they were largely well written for what they were, in addition to the great photography. Ideally, they helped complement the story lines and major angles/programs of the era and could help a star’s shine even brighter nationwide in the days before everyone had cable TV access.

Lawler sketches referee and softball buddy Jerry Calhoun in the mid-'70s.

Nick Gulas for years wouldn’t cooperate with the magazines as he didn’t want publicity, and the magazines weren’t big sellers in Tennessee anyway. That all changed when Jerry Lawler became a star in Memphis, as he immediately reached out to Bill Apter, frequently sending him photos taken by local photographers and suggestions for story ideas–the most infamous example being the infamous Andre Giant article that left Vince McMahon Sr. furious.


In 1983, Lawler agreed to draw a series of sketches of wrestling’s top stars for the Wrestling SuperStars publication on the condition that the first subject had to be that of his favorite wrestler. Years earlier, it was Lawler’s artwork of local Memphis wrestlers that earned him his first appearance on the local wrestling show as a guest of announcer Lance Russell, leading to his break into the business. In the ’70s, shortly after his debut, Lawler wrote and drew “The Patriot” (a masked wrestlers whose finisher was the Uncle Slam) comic strip for Wrestling Revue.

As a heel, Lawler offered a less-than-flattering picture of referee Calhoun for the Memphis territory program. (Scan courtesy of memphiswrestlinghistory.com.)

When the next issue or SuperStars finally came out (quarterly publication), I was disappointed to find Lawler’s feature nowhere to be found. Not long after, I paid $3 to see Lawler’s Army softball team play at Ellendale Park. My friend Greg Grimes and I peppered the King with questions every time he was in the dugout, including me inquiring about the missing SuperStars feature. Lawler sheepishly replied, “Uh, well…I didn’t get the drawings finished on time. But the next three are Hulk Hogan, Tommy Rich and Jimmy Snuka.” The following issue, Lawler’s feature had been replaced with a full-color photo spread of Hogan. The next two issues featured Rich and Snuka in the color spread but no Lawler artwork. A shame–would have been interesting to see more of Lawler’s comic-book-style renderings of the stars of the ’80s.


For more Lawler artwork, check out the collection over at Memphis Wrestling History.