Stu Saks, a longtime editor for Pro Wrestling Illustrated, is retiring from the publication on June 5th of this year.
Stu began covering wrestling in 1971 and worked his way up to editor of PWI. PWI is famous for the PWI 500 and PWI 100 rankings for male and female wrestlers respectively, as well as covering wrestling from a kayfabe perspective.
Wrestling Inc.'s Raj Giri spoke with Saks on today's edition of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast about his time as a wrestling journalist and how he plans on spending his retirement. Saks also spoke about his relationship with Vince McMahon during the beginning of the latter's push for national wrestling dominance.
Saks said when McMahon decided to go national, he also decided to nix press access for wrestling publications at his shows.
"Shortly after (Vince McMahon) went on his campaign to nationalize professional wrestling, he decided that WWF was going to produce its own wrestling magazine, and that was a pretty lucrative business for a very long time, and his opinion, I would assume, is, 'why should they make money off of our backs, let's put out our own publication,' which he did, and in so doing he didn't want to cooperate with us anymore so he told us that we were no longer privileged to receive press credentials to shoot wrestling matches, not only at ringside, but ultimately in the arenas at all," Saks said. "He basically put the ban on all photography at arenas. Now you see people taking pictures all the time, and they welcome that. They don't like the idea necessarily of someone coming in with a professional camera, but we still needed pictures and this was a very, very hot time for wrestling in the early 80s, as the Rock N' Wrestling Connection grew, it was exploding at the time, so we needed to make sure we had material to put stories in the magazine.
"We did a few kind of semi-devious things to try and get our photographers into seats with long lenses to take pictures. There was a drop off in quality, yes, but we did the best we could with the materials we had."
Saks said while they weren't necessarily liked by the wrestling companies his publication covered, he doesn't recall any of them getting upset with any of the stories or angles they published.
"No, I don't recall anything like that," Saks said. "I think they pretty much laid down the law as far as credentials, and then we just did what we did and they ignored us. No I really don't recall a time when there was an angle that got them upset, there was some angles that got particular wrestlers upset on occasion, we made some bad calls on that, but as far as promotions, WWF, I can't recall anything. I'm sure that there was some build up of animosity because of the fact that we were still out there and putting out large numbers of magazines and still covering WWF. In the long run that worked out for everybody, and our relationship today is really excellent. We work with each other in various capacities, with us providing photos for them for some of their archival type of material, and them giving us access and supplying us photos when we need them, even taking special photo shoots for us for a special cover."
Saks elaborated on his comment that some wrestlers were upset with specific angles they ran in PWI. He gave a lot of credit to wrestling journalist Bill Apter for taking the brunt of the wrestlers wrath and plugged Apter's book Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken. Saks recalled Randy Savage once getting upset with an article Apter wrote for PWI.
"Bill was always the one on the front lines," Saks said. "I was very safe in the office, very rarely having to go out and face the wrestlers' wrath, but Bill was always there and I have to hand it to him. He's not the biggest guy, and these guys, they can get angry at times. We had a story in particular about Randy Savage and I think the headline was something like, 'Old Man That Taunted Made Randy Savage Young Again,' or something like that, I don't remember exactly. We knew it was controversial, and Bill actually called Randy and said, 'Hey this is what we are doing, the story is going to really put you over,' and Randy said, 'Bill whatever you want to do is fine with me,' well until the cover came out and he saw it, then he was not happy at all. I think he didn't remember giving Bill the okey dokey on the storyline and he was a little perturbed.
"Certain people like him and Scott Steiner, I know he had a little bit of a to do with Bill about something that was written. There have been several instances where wrestlers have been unhappy with our magazine, and Bill always took the brunt of it. Thank you Bill"
Continuing his glowing review of Apter, Saks told the story of how the writer helped Hulk Hogan get his role as "Thunderlips" in Rocky III.
"The story, as I remember it, is they were looking for somebody to fill that role as the big, blonde, tough wrestler," Saks said. "I believe, if I recall correctly, that it was down to Billy 'Superstar' Graham or Hulk Hogan. I think Bill said, 'Yeah, Hogan would be perfect.' I don't think Bill was in direct contact with Hogan at the time, I think he might have called his mother, and that all happened from that.
"So yeah, Bill was instrumental in getting that role for Hulk Hogan, and I don't think Hogan necessarily remembers it, but yes, Bill was the man."
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.