Monday, September 25, 2006

Old-school mags are new again

I DON'T know what Brocky and Shocky would make of the poor state of newsstand rasslin' mags in the 21st century.

Back in the old days - when me, Matt Brock and Dan Shocket shared car rides from one seedy small town to another, covering grassroots wrestling action in smoke-filled arenas for the likes of WRESTLING REVUE, THE WRESTLER and RED HOT - there were more publications than you could shake a foreign object at.

We never imagined that one day the bottom would fall out of the market due to that newfangled Internet.

As many of those great publications bit the dust, we couldn't have guessed the future of wrestling periodicals would be...WWE Magazine.

I picked up a couple of issues the other day and, y'know, I wanted to hate the new-look, "Maxim-lite" publication, I really did.

I'd read how Vince McMahon wanted to take the old RAW and Smackdown rasslin' mags (which were struggling sales-wise) in a new direction - that was more focussed on the activities of the WWE "superstars" outside the wrestling ring. Seems he wanted to give the mag a cocky new attitude to appeal to teenage males.

And I'd heard from that young whippersnapper Meltzer how the oh-so-hip writers for the revamped mag had run a feature in the first issue mocking the likes of Mistico and Kenta Kobashi just 'cos they were foreign and therefore deemed worthy of ridicule.

I wanted to hate the mag. I really did. But...

I flicked through the first two issues and, guess what? They're not that bad.

Oh, sure, they're not the wrestling mags me and Brocky and Shocky worked on - for one, the newsprint doesn't rub off on your fingers while you're turning the pages. No, it's slick'n'shiny colour paper these days.

But WWE Magazine worked for me - it really is a lads' mag for wrestling fans. Ralph-meets-Inside Wrestling, if you will.

The initial "summer special issue" (with Torrie Wilson's pictorial ode to Jenny McCarthy on the cover) was a fun little read - great photos of the WWE "superstars" relaxing at a BBQ, lots of action photos, quirky stories and tidbits. All very readable in easy-to-digest pieces. I liked it a lot.

The first "real" issue of WWE Magazine - August 2006, with Batista screaming "I want my title back!" on the cover - was pretty damn good, too...despite the cheap shots at Kobashi et al.

There's a nifty interview with Ric Flair, "10 Things That Are Difficult For Big Show", a great feature/poster on the shortest-to-tallest competitors in WWE history, a hard-core history quiz and much more. Plus all the usual reviews, fashion and health tips, etc that you come to expect from men's mags of this type.

All in all, not a bad package...even if it doesn't resemble any wrestling periodical I used to work on. However, for the sake of the biz, I hope it's successful and encourages more publishers to produce more rasslin' mags.

Still, despite my unexpected (for me, anyway) thumbs up for WWE Magazine, I have to wonder what Brocky and Shocky would make of it all. Knowing them, there'd probably spit out their cigar butts and down another glass of whiskey, shake their heads and hop into the car for another long road trip. And I'd be riding shotgun.