For those of us who grew up reading the Apter mags, it’s a sad day

One of my favorite wrestling blogs, Midnight Logic, had a sad post about the decision of the publishers to discontinue the combined magazines The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling.

It’s not surprising, given the general decline in print publications over the last two decades. I started my journalism career in newspapers before moving to the B2B trade press, and I can tell you just about anything print-related is part of a dying industry.

The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling used to be separate magazines, and along with Pro Wrestling Illustrated, they comprised what were known as the “Apter mags,” named after their most well-known writer at the time, Bill Apter.

It’s hard to explain now, but without the Internet and better communication, back in the 1980s, the Apter mags were the only way you could keep up with what happened outside your home territory, which for me here in the Boston was the WWF and World Class Championship Wrestling (which was based out of Dallas, but aired on what is now Fox 25 in Boston). I learned about the NWA, AWA, Florida Championship Wrestling, Memphis, Portland, and other territories from the Apter mags.

I found my first copy of The Wrestler stuffed into my stocking on Christmas morning in 1981. It featured a cover story about Ric Flair and Tommy Rich, guys who, at the time, I had never heard of.

The Wrestler

My very first wrestling magazine – The Wrestler featuring Tommy Rich and Ric Flair on the cover in 1981

The magazines did a good job keeping you up to date on title changes, and their rankings were cool, but a lot of their feature articles were complete fabrications designed to promote current programs the territories were pushing.

The Apter mags fell out of favor me after I started reading Dave Meltzer’s column in The National while in college in 1991, which reported on the real-life workings of wrestling. Shortly after, I started subscribing to the Wrestling Observer and never looked back.

But for a good 10 years, The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling were my prime pipeline for wrestling info, and I loved reading them.

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11 comments

  1. Michael Libman

    Seemingly every day, we lose a part of our youth. I will be 43 in April and I remember going to my local pharmacy (pre-CVS and Walgreen) to check out the myriad of pro-wrestling magazines. In retrospect, I don’t think the owner really cared because he saw I was interested and reading each one of them. Those were truly simpler times when I would tell my parents I would go to ride my bike and check out the local stores in my area. Then, for .10 or sometimes .25, I would find a pay phone and call my mom to tell her I’d be running a little late. It’s not the actual item, but the memories associated with it that are truly the cherished things!

  2. Roddy Piper

    I can’t tell you how sad I was to hear this news…. as said elsewhere, more vestiges of your youth swept away. I could not wait for that one time a month I pedaled my bike down to the local news/soda fountain store to pick up the newest issues of both of these magazines. They certainly give one a nostalgic feeling…… a longing for the good old days.

  3. Evan J Rodgers

    This is a sad day for old school wrestling fans.I collected and read all the Apter magazines, also Wrestling Revue and others. I was in elementary school and I think these magazines were part of my education!! It helped me become aware of the terriotories, giving me a better sense of our country and the world. When someone came to the WWF, I already knew them through the magazines.The writers were good writers, I think reading these magazines expanding my vocabulary and reading and speech skills. Even at my young age, I could tell that there were plenty of fabrications.I knew that wrestling was a “work”, but I also knew that the commitment and dedication of the atheletes was very real. Anything that encouraged kids to read was good.These magazines did me a world of good. I remember my sunday school teacher at church being very impressed by my vocabulary. I think hearing me use words like “Intercontinental Champion”, etc. impressed him!! He even told this to my parents. These magazines and pro wrestling in general really enhanced my learning experience as a child. These magazines will be missed. I just found out about this today, and it is hard to accept.

  4. modew's manager

    The magazines were decent for their day, but I never got Apter’s fascination with Mil Mascaras being on the cover regularly

  5. J.Cee

    I agree wholeheartedly about losing vestiges of our youth over time. Though I must admit to being surprised that these publications have lasted this long given the Internet and PPV. I lived on these 2 pro-wrestling magazines, the Victory Sports Series, earliest PWI, Ring Revue and The Ring Wrestling from the early to late 1970s. If I can make a suggestion for everyone’s consideration, there remains a few websites such as the Wrestling Emporium, RF and Vicious Verne Siebert’s website in Vancouver, where one can select VHS or DVDs from the various territories from the 80’s, 70s and some go back even further. Yes, I know that YouTube is another available resource as well. My point is that you’ll be pleased to relive your sense of nostalgia as you see people from the other territories that you learned about with each passing month from these magazines. They might be gone, but our memories of its articles won’t leave us as long as we’re alive to relive them whenever possible. Don’t be too turned off by VHS because they can be burned onto a DVD for a relatively small investment of a unit from places like Best Buy. As always, beware of Internet trade scams in lieu of an actual purchase. I can only hope that these tapes & DVDs can deliver the same reminiscense that they’ve provided me in the past few decades.

  6. Frank

    Yes the Apter mags were good but very prejudicial against WWE after `83. I miss the “Melby” or “Keitzer” mags “The Wrestling News” & “Sports Review” which to me were more informative covering the entire world of wrestling even the smallest jobbers i.e. Frank Williams, Pete Daugherty, JoJo Andrews, Charlie Brown etc. were all covered monthly. Thank God i saved them all

    • Joe Lowry

      Remember when they abandoned the WWF Championship from World Title Recognition for a short time because they felt Bob Backlund only defended his belt against bad guys and never left the Northeast Region? I was very upset about that but boy did that change when Hogan won the strap. Right back to World Title status and then some..

  7. Atlee Greene

    Thank you for the kinds words. Nice touch with the image of your first magazine. I couldn’t find mine or an image of the cover online. The Wrestler magazine was the first time I had ever heard of ECW and found out about their shows at Wonderland.

  8. rl reeves jr

    Grew up on these magazines. In Southeast Kentucky we got Poffo’s Lexington promotion on TV as well as Les Thatcher’s Knoxville promotion but to get the national news you had to buy the magazines. Stu Saks, Dan Shockett et al were my view into the national wrestling world. RIP

  9. Michael

    Wow, this is truly sad news. It seems that every day that passes, we lose a little bit of our childhood in some fashion. Thinking back, it was so fun to have been a mark at the time, believing the fabricated stories Bill Apter, Stu Saks, and others cooked up. These guys were absolute experts at writing in a convincing manner (well then again to a pre-teen, teen anything sounded legit). As mentioned, the best thing Apter mags gave us folks (such as myself here in Philly) was the exposure to other wrestling promotions around the country and even around the world; the WWF was not the only wrestling promotion as Vince McMahon wanted us to believe!

    This reminds me of something; I think Vince should induct Bill Apter into the HOF at some point for his contributions to the business.

  10. Joe

    Wow it truly is a sad day for anyone who used to read these magazines. I was a pro wrestling magazine junkie. I have had several letters published in those magazines. I remember it like yesterday running home from school on the second Tuesday of every month to pick up each and every edition. The Wrester, Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated each of these magazines defined the moments of Pro Wrestling. Bill Apter, Dan Shockett, Liz Hunter were the usual mainstay of writers. Of course, the legendary Editor Matt Brock was everything you expected in a magazine devoted to this crazy sport of pro wrestling. From the arena reports to the full color pin ups to the Q & A segments of these publications, these were the only media outlets to use to keep up with the rest of the Wrestling world. And on the other side of this sport. If you made it into these mags, then you were made it. Personally, I will miss the year end awards in the always popular Pro Wrestling Illustrated Year End issues. I have several of these magazines still in possession. I always will treasure them as I will treasure the times I bought them.

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