Sunday, 24 August 2014

From the loft: WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998

WWE - WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sable collector's edition cover
From Sunny and Sable flashing the flesh in the centerfolds, to Hunter and Cactus tearing each other limb from limb, a bloody Shawn Michaels and more, it's all here in 1998's first edition of WWF Raw Magazine.

I'm still plucking up the courage to sit down and review WWF Royal Rumble 1995 which I sat through last week. Until I can clear enough of my schedule to face up to that task, I thought I'd head back into the pile of old wrestling mags I dug out of the loft recently and see what's in store.

Ready to join me? Here goes.

WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998

So, though the contents of this magazine were the same throughout the land, we had ourselves a choice of two different Collector Covers, one looking like the one above, the other featuring Sunny in a similar provocative pose.

To be honest, I was always a bigger Sunny fan back in the day, so I'm not even sure why I chose to throw my money in with Sable. Maybe it was that smoldering look in her eyes. Who knows?  

All I know for sure is that this magazine was well-thumbed by its 14 year-old owner, which more than likely accounts for the sorry state we find it in today. 

Anyway, that's more information than you came looking for on a wrestling blog, so let's turn the page, shall we?

DX - "You make the rules, we'll break 'em"

WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998 - DX magazine ad
Why bother with half-naked diva pics when you could spend time viewing pictures of Shawn Michaels and Triple H fellating bananas, flashing their behinds and generally acting like juveniles? 

There was a new version of WWF Magazine out which featured D-Generation-X in its initial incarnation, a version which would only actually last about another three months or so after the publication of these here magazines.

I pulled a copy of this magazine out of the loft recently too, so I'll get round to covering it here pretty soon.

Along with the DX piece, it's also got bold predictions for the year ahead, a profile on the Legion of Doom, and results from 1997's Bad Blood pay per view. 


World Wrestling Federation on America Online

WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998 - Sable WWF Online ad
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year....yes folks, before there was the WWE Network, before there was Classics on Demand, there was...drum roll please!...WWF on America Online. 

Featuring a cat-suit clad Sable in a pose far more tame than she would strike elsewhere in this publication, the ad tells us nonetheless that 'this might be more than you can handle.'

Don't worry WWE marketing men, more Sable I can handle, more of Shawn Michaels' rump I probably can't.

Alas, among the rolling list of keywords down the left hand side of this thing, HBK's ass is touted as one of the main reasons we should check it out. 

Don't believe me? Here, look closer:

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998 - Look at Shawn Michael's ass online

I don't know about you, but I think I'd rather check out the behind the scenes features. 

Vic Venom is your new Raw Magazine Editor-in-Chief

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998 - Vic Venom wrote a letter as Editor in Chief
You remember Vic Venom, right? The evil alter-ego of writer, booker and pole-aficionado, Vince Russo.

For reasons I can't figure out even after reading this grammatically-terrible letter three or four times, 'Venom' had been appointed as the top dog at the magazine, and used his new found authority to let rip with a scathing tirade against erm, 'lazer tag spots on Raw is War.'

Before that, Venom promises that he's not here to BS us. That's not his style, you see. What he's really here to do is:

'Slap you in the face with it...pick it up..then slap you again!'

He doesn't say what it actually is, but if it's anything akin to Shawn Michaels' behind, I don't know want to know. 

I'd read this again and give you some more details, but Russo -sorry, Venom- keeps replacing the 's' in plural words with Zs (as in folkz and KIDZ rather than folks and kids), pretty much rendering anything he has to say entirely ridiculous. 

Let's move on then.

World Wrestling Federation Travel Club

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sunny promotes the WWE travel club
Just about every WWF magazine in the late 1990s featured Sunny in horrible PVC tye-dye thing giving us the 'come-hither and join the WrestleVessel' look.

And hey, why wouldn't you want to take the lovely Sunny up on her offer? 

The WrestleVessel was apparently a five days/4 nights cruise around the Bahamas were you could enjoy "cruisin', dining, dancin' & jammin' with your favourite WWF Superstars." 

I'm not sure why 'dining' gets its full spelling and all the other verbs get the ever-so-hip replace-the-last-letter with an apostrophe thing. 

Regardless, as part of 'the hottest club going,' you could also get your hands on discounted airfare, access to special WWF autograph sessions and other such fun. 

I'd say this looks like a great deal for superfans who splashed a lot of cash following the 'Fed around the States, but honestly? The sign up form is so small I wouldn't be surprised if anybody had the patience to fill in their details in such small writing and actually join up. 

Hey ho, enough with the ads already, let's get down to some honest-to-goodness editorials.

Venom: Uncensored!!!

Look, I'm not saying Russo used this rag as a vehicle for self-promotion or anything, but it does seem pretty suspect that within the first six pages, the only stuff that isn't advertisements is Russo ranting under his pseudonym. 

This time round, Venom let's loose with his thoughts on note other than James E. Cornette.

WWE - WWF Raw Magazine - January 1998 - Vince Russo shoots on Jim Cornette

Remember when Russo tried to bury the hatchet with Cornette recently, and all James E. wanted to do was just bury Russo?

I have no idea what they fell out over in the first place (TNA perhaps? Somebody inform me please?), but it probably wasn't this article.

After claiming that he disliked Cornette at first thanks to his general Southernes, Russo goes on to call The Prince of Polyester a 'total !@#$%in' GENIUS! [who can] write and talk circles around yours truly - ANY DAY OF THE !@#$%in' week!'.

Again, I'd go into more, but I really dislike 'Venom's' writing style, which comes across like an immature highschooler on a sugar rush.

NEXT!

The informer: The 'Real' Story Behind the Signing of Jeff Jarett

Back in October 1997, Jeff Jarrett returned up north from a short-stint in WCW and cut a scathing promo on both Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff.

I seem to recall Jarrett stating pretty clearly back then why he'd jumped ship, though according to this piece from the informer 'only a few know the real reasons behind his decision.'

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - The 'real' story of why Jeff Jarrett came back to WWE


That is, until now of course.

We'd be here all day if I gave you the full summary of this feature, so let's just look at the key points here:

  • Back in the mid-90s, when everybody else headed to WCW for huge, multi-year contracts, Jarrett only signed with Bischoff for a year because he's a smart cookie who knew that his name value would be worth more once that year was up.
  • Throughout that year, Bischoff basically ignored ol' Double J, refusing to open negotiations with him until the last minute and misusing him on shows. 
  • When Jeff's contract came up for renewal, Eric finally offered him a good chunk of money to stay, then went right onto the Internet and buried the second-generation star (um, what?).
  • So ultimately, Jeff returned to the WWF because even though he could made more money with a man who supposedly trashed him online and withdrew the contract offer, what Jarrett is really all about is PRIDE, HARD WORK and OPPORTUNITY, things he could all find in the World Wrestling Federation.
So, yeah.

Letter's to the editor

In this month's edition, we get praise for Cornette's recent Raw shoot interviews (seriously, how much did Jimmy pay Russo for this edition?), praise for Taka Michinoku and his in-ring work, and a letter from some guy called Cagney.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Letters to the editor


In the same sentence, Cagney says that he's shocked and appauled that Shawn Michaels would beat up a cameraman at In Your House: Bad Blood, yet still loves HBK anyway and won't be changing his mind about that any time soon.

Right on, Cagney.

Russo blows his own cover

On the same page, we get the obligatory Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation for this magazine, signed by none-other than Editor-in-Chief, Vince Russo.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Vince Russo's signature

Hey, wait a minute! I thought Vic Venom was the editor now? You mean, they're one and the !@$#%in' SAME, FOLKZ?

Ragin' Ross!

Proving once and for all that a good copy editor can work miracles, Jim Ross presents his latest thoughts on the WWF product without all the spelling mistakes and dreadful punctuation which litter his otherwise fantastic blogs, tweets and Q&As. 

Hey, I know I'm not perfect, but still, a good proofreader can be a Godsend, and Ross is proof of that.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Jim Ross's report


In this edition, he heaps praise on Jim Cornette for being a great manager (seriously, what is going on here?), wonders if Ahmed Johnson will ever stay injury-free for long enough to become a top star (no), claims that The New Blackjacks would 'surprise us,' calls Jeff Jarrett a jerk, and suggests that Ken Shamrock take up Danny Hodge's offer of training assistance. 

Yep.

Hey, look! More Jim Cornette!

And so, after much hype by Russo, Ross and some fan whose name I can't bother flicking the pages back to look up, James E. himself puts pen to paper for his Shootin' From the....MOUTH column.

If you believe the rest of this magazine, Cornette is apparently the greatest wrestling mind, writer and all-round uber-talent that the business has ever seen. 

How does he choose to use those talents here? By scalding current fans for not knowing who Jackie Fargo, Harley Race and Lou Thesz are.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Jim Cornette hated that new fans didn't know who Harley Race was


Hey, I know who Thesz is at least. Isn't he the guy who took his name from that move Stone Cold used to bust out?

The Calm of the Cannon

OK, let's get serious for a second.

I was never the biggest Brian Pillman fan in the world, and I won't pretend otherwise. It's not that I held anything against the man, the wrestler or the characters he played on TV, it's just that, during his life time, I was young, dumb, and far more distracted by the 'bigger' stars of WCW and WWF.

That said, I do remember enjoying what he did on WWF television when he joined the Federation, and being saddened, when I woke up the morning after the morning after the Bad Blood pay per view, to learn that he had passed away.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - In memory of Brian Pillman


What we have here is less a glowing tribute of Pillman himself (that would come in other publications), but more an account, written by Russo, of what happened the day the 'The Loose Cannon' was found dead.

It's a look backstage at how the talents reacted, at how much Brian would be missed and how, despite all else, the show had to go on.

On a lighter note, though this piece does take on a rather solemn tone, I couldn't help but grin when the first paragraph praises not Brian Pillman, but yep, you guessed it, Jim Cornette. A guy died, but let's give Cornette props for creating the Hell in a Cell gimmick before we get to that.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - A report on the day Brian Pillman died


Why the inmates are running the asylum!!!

Getting back to the world of scripted wrestling, Vince Russo Vice Vennom pens a commentary piece claiming that Vince McMahon has lost control of his company.

We get reminders that Bret Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin and DX had all either physically or verbally attacked Vinnie Mac, followed by the insistence that McMahon himself was to blame for all of this.

Why? Because he signed all these prima donnas to big-money, guaranteed contracts, which inflated their egos, and now he can't fire them because they're all his biggest stars.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Why the inmates are running the asylum

Venom's suggestion to remedy all this? Fire 'em anyway.

Cactus Jack vs. Triple H

On an episode of Raw is War, both Mankind and Dude Love turned up on the Titantron to suggest that the only person suitable to deal with their arch-rival Triple H was none other than Cactus Jack. 

Here, WWF Raw magazine writer Bill Banks talks us through that match in words and pictures.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Triple H vs. Cactus Jack pictorial





















And you know, Banks is able to tell a great story here without resorting to randon !@#$% nonsense or switching the letter s for a z at the end of words. Russo take note, this is how you write.

Anyway, this is basically your standard play-by-play report similar to that which you might find scattered around the Internet, albeit with a bunch of cool pictures. 

Sunny and Sable Centerfold

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sunny and Sable photoshoot
Here's the part you were really looking for, right? Tantalizing shots of the World Wrestling Federation's biggest female stars parading around in a bikini and making horny teenage boys like your writer...then I mean, not now.

Of course, being a horny teenage boy, I ripped out most of the pictures and stuck them on my wall (and later in  a wrestling scrapbook I made.)

Much, I'm sure, to your delight, I did actually manage to track a few more of these pictures down when I pulled all my wrestling stuff out of the loft, so you lucky people get to see Sable and Sunny posing in photos far more innocent than you could find elsewhere on the web. 

And here's the weird thing too.

At the time this magazine actually came out, Teenage Chris would have chopped off his foot (and perhaps other appendages) to see both of these women in their birthday suits.

When, thanks to the marvels of the Internet (and whoever paid them to strip), when I finally did get to see the objects of my adolescent desires in the buff, it wasn't that big a thing. Far from relishing in the joy of realising a lifelong ambition, I think I just shrugged and moved on to the next thing.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sable with her nipples showing
Oh yeah, and did I mention that this pictorial was called Les Beaux Femmes?

Yes, I know it's French for The Beautiful Women or something to that effect, but I was am was an immature sort of guy, so of course I'm going to take this as to read, rather crudely, as Lesbo Fems! and imagine all kinds of racy girl-on-girl action going on behind the scenes between two women I suspect actually hated each other at the time.

But you've probably heard enough from me now, so I'm going to be quiet for a minute whilst you remember that yes, Brock Lesnar's wife and the woman who once did that weird porn thing with Missy Hyatt were once schmokin' hot.



WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sunny and Sable in their swimsuits

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sunny in a pink swimsuit
WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Sable in a tigerprint swimsuit

Sable ladies and gentlemen, with a crotch bigger than most men's heads.

An interview with Farooq

From teenage fantasies to tales of hardship and triumph in the face of adversity next as Kevin Kelly speaks to Ron Simmons or, as he was better known back then, Farooq.

In a candid interview, Simmons talks about growing up in a poor neighborhood, his football career, and that time he was hyped to the heavens as The First Black World Heavyweight Champion.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - An interview with Farooq


He also discusses Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff and the death of the territories, but sadly nothing about his time playing a Roman gladiator.

The Long Road Back

On June 15th, 1997, Doug Furnas was involved in a car accident that nearly ended not only his career, but his life. 

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - A report on the car crash that nearly killed Doug Furnas
As the story goes, Furnas was riding from Montreal to Ottawa with partner Phillip LaFon, Flash Funk and former WWF champion Sid. The latter reached up to fix the sunroof, and lost control of the vehicle, nearly killing Furnas in the process.

Here, Bill Banks talks to the Oklahoma grappler about the accident, and his long journey back to recovery.

It's a compelling read, detailing the crash itself, how wrestlers like the Legion of Doom and Savio Vega were the first at the hospital, and how the Rougeau Brothers' sister Joanne was sent to act as translator since barely a soul in the hospital spoke English, and how badly Funas' injuries were.

That said, for most of the interview, Doug only seems concerned with how badly his partner was cut up and covered in blood.

Speaking of which...

Hell on Earth

Up next, we got another words-and-pictures match report, this time looking at the bloody battle between
WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - A bloody Shawn Michaels from the first Hell in a Cell
Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker in the first ever Hell in a Cell match. 

You know the one, right? The one where Kane made his much-anticipated debut and beat the crap out of 'taker?

It was also the one where Michaels bladed lie a bastard and had his DX cronies HHH, Chyna and the late, great Rick Rude to help him backstage after a brutal match.

I always liked these match reports, they bring the actual battles to life in a much more vivid and visceral way than "HBK hit 'Taker with a chair, got a two count and carried on" never could.

From the present to the past next, as we go to one of RAW Magazine's regular features, profiling the stars of days gone by.

Yo, do you remember 'The Big Cat' Ernie Ladd?

If you don't, then Keith Elliot Greenberg has everything you need to know about the man "who could evoke as much fear on the football field as in the squared circle."

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Do you remember 'The Big Cat' Ernie Ladd?






















Here, Greenberg gives us the full account of 'The Big Cat's life and career, all the way up to his retirement in 1984 (hey, the year I was born!) and his induction into the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame: Class of 1995.

The Night the Belt Changed Hands: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Diesel

The Survivor Series which immedietly preceded this edition of Raw Magazine will perhaps live on forever for a little thing we've all come to know as The Montreal Screwjob. 

Yet the last of the WWF's annual Big Four didn't always have such bad memories for The Hitman. Just two years perviously, it was the site of his third WWF Championship win over Big Daddy Cool Diesel.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Bret Hart vs. Diesel Survivor Series 1995 recap






















Ignoring (as the mag's editors clearly did) writer Lucas Swineford's insistence on calling Bret 'The Hit Man', this was nonetheless another good piece looking at the history between both men and their battles throughout '94 and '95 leading up to the big one. 

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - More Bret Hart vs. Diesel coverage






















From there, we got another compelling blow-by-blow account of the action, all the way to Bret's title-winning inside cradle.

From actual warfare to fantasy warfare next, as Bill Banks pits Mick Foley against one of his heroes.

Fantasy warfare: 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka vs. Dude Love

You recall the story right? Mick Foley, once better known to WWF audiences as the deranged Mankind, bared his soul in a series of interviews with Jim Ross. On one of these, he talked about travelling to Madison Square Garden to watch 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka leap off a cage and flatten Don Murraco.

After that, Foley invented the wrestling persona named Dude Love and -in a move that would set a precedent for backyard feds everywhere- threw himself off his parents' garage. 

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Dude Love vs. Jimmy Snuka fantasy warfare


So, what would happen if Dude Love finally squared off with his role model? Who knows? This is just a look at each men's strenghs and weaknesses, their finishing moves and, of course, their strategy, which for Snuka meant hitting the Superfly Splash, and for Love meant, well, avoiding the same splash.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - More Dude Love vs. Jimmy Snuka fantasy warfare


Epic. 

'Til next time!

And that, dear readers, was pretty much all she (or Russo & Co.) wrote for the January 1998 WWF Raw magazine.

WWE: WWF RAW MAGAZINE - January 1998 - Steve Austin merchandise ad
Oh, apart from this advertisement for Stone Cold merchandise, which suggested that you "please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery." Seriously?

That seems like an awful long time to pop a vest in the post and get it to somebody's house. 

A couple more ads followed this, one for the 1998 Royal Rumble, and two more on the back page promoting Raw and Shotgun Saturday Night, but I'm sure I'll have pics of those the next time I decide to take one last look through a wrestling magazine that has been stuck in my loft for 14 years before ultimately throwing it in the bin. 

It does seem a shame to throw this away, but it's really not in much shape to do anything else with.

I'm hoping that my next post on Retro Pro Wrestling will actually be an event review, most likely of Royal Rumble 1995, but if you like these magazine reviews, join me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated the next time I post one.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.