Stu Saks has a lot of experience covering professional wrestling.
He began covering wrestling January 18, 1971, the day his favorite wrestler, Bruno Sammartino lost the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship to Ivan Koloff. He took a break from wrestling during college, but began writing about wrestling soon after and turned into one of wrestling media's most respected members.
He is retiring from his longstanding position as editor of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, one of the preeminent wrestling publications. It is known for covering stories from a kayfabe perspective, as well as it's annual wrestler rankings.
Saks spoke to Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri about his experience as a wrestling journalist. He said, despite other wrestling publications gravitating towards covering more backstage and non-kayfabe wrestling stories, PWI always wanted to continue its increasingly unique style of coverage.
"We wanted to stay doing what we were doing for a number of reasons," Saks said. "One, we thought it was more entertaining than presenting straight news, and another reason is, because it's a monthly magazine, the news that we would have reported wouldn't have been in the hands of our readers for at least six weeks. That's just the way it is, the way the monthly magazine is. There's a whole process that has to happen, including a three week distribution period. Our news would have been so late, it wouldn't have been very useful to people.
"Another factor is the amount of magazines that we were doing, especially at the time. We were doing four monthlies, several quarterlies and just a whole slew of magazines, and if you are just going to be reporting just straight news, then you are going to certainly run out of material to fill out your magazines with.
"Then the final factor was, these newsletters, The Observer, The Torch, et cetera, were not well regarded by the wrestling promotions, and we needed them to produce magazines. We needed them to be able to produce magazines. We needed access for photography, that was crucial to our existence. We were not going to basically cut ourselves off from the promotions we were dependent on."
Despite PWI's propensity to report from a kayfabe perspective, Saks and the rest of the writers at the publication are also accustomed to covering straight news in wrestling and news of a sensitive nature.
Saks said PWI never had a problem covering sensitive news stories.
"If a real news story happens that we felt compelled to cover, we would do it," Saks said. "We didn't have any qualms about covering (Bruiser Brody's death). Two people can get into a disagreement, and if they're capable of violence then it can get to that level. We really were all over the Bruiser Brody murder. One of our reporters, Dave Rosenbaum, at the time was interviewing all the parties involved. He was talking to the prosecuting attorney and the promoters. We have the people who are capable of doing straight news and do it in a very thorough manner.
"If the situation calls for it, the death of a Von Erich, the murder of Bruiser Brody, (the backstage fight between Arn Anderson and Sid Vicious) you were referring to, we would cover it. It wasn't all just kayfabe storylines in the magazines."
Most of Saks fan base could be considered hardcore wrestling fans, an ever increasing portion of the fan base as wrestling becomes a more niche product. Saks said wrestling's increasingly hardcore fan base is not a problem for the industry, but the lack of a superstar everyone can get behind is.
"I don't think it really hurts it," Saks said. "It's commonly said that you can compare wrestling to a movie, and everybody who goes to a movie understands that what they're seeing is not real, but they allow themselves to get caught up in the moment and believe it for those few minutes that it's happening. I don't think that it really matters. I think that wrestling in itself is entertaining enough and gives you so many different things to look for whether it's the athleticism, whether it's brawling, whether it's looking at beautiful women, whether it's the pyrotechnics, the comedy.
"There's so many things now that are included in the entertainment form of professional wrestling that you don't have to keep kayfabe anymore. I don't think it's necessary.
"The decline in viewership is just something that happens from time to time, and I think things will come back when they come back. What's really needed, and has been lacking for a very long time, is one superstar, and I mean the word in the most literal sense and not in a WWE sense, one superstar that people can really get behind and really love. They don't have a Hulk Hogan from the 80s, they don't have a Steve Austin or The Rock from the 90s. John Cena was a fantastic performer, still is, but he was loved by some, hated by others. Same with Roman Reigns.
"They don't have one central figure that could make the whole sport boom."
Stu's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of today's episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.