If you came to know wrestling at any time over the past 50 years, you know of Bill Apter. If you don’t, don’t Google his name, read up on him on Wikipedia or ask someone else … buy this book. If you don’t understand the influence of the magazines, especially before the 1990’s, but also during that transitional decade, the significance of Bill Apter may be overlooked – but only if you have no clue about the industry.
Even the WWE has embraced Apter, using him as an eyewitness to history, placing him frequently on the Network, distinctly understanding his role over the past six decades.
Me thinks he doth protest too much a few times.
Magazines drove the business, sold tickets, fleshed out storylines, shaped feuds and kept names in the public eye; talent was always jealous of who got coverage on the covers and who got written about inside; insight and discussion with the players in the business made Apter
Bill Apter’s more modern involvement with professional wrestling includes 1wrestling.com and other web sites. His transition from the Stanley Westin era (a man he has the utmost respect for) to the decline of wrestling magazines and the rise of the internet as the vehicle of professional wrestling fandom is also of great interest and intrigue and Bill Apter’s influence obviously transcends technology.
More importantly, Apter’s insight and observations and interactions prove him to be a keen eye on the various personalities he knew. I’ve learned more about Buddy Rogers, Fritz and Doris Von Erich, Jimmy Snuka, Lou Thesz, Andy Kaufman and others by reading this book … and I’ve read most of them out there.
There are three sections of incredible insight:
- Apter tracked down Buddy Rogers, who was an early hero of his, around the time of the battle of the “Nature Boy” name. Buddy is one of the biggest characters of the history of this industry, but Apter’s take on Buddy is one I’ve not read before. Aside from the awesome “kayfabe” aspect of Buddy’s defenses of the business, there’s an aspect of Buddy Rogers’ personality that takes things to a whole new level.
- Apter’s visits to Japan provides incredible glimpses of a variety of names, where Lou Thesz guided him around town, the Funks pranked him, Jimmy Snuka was put in his responsibility and he began a long career of karaoke.
- There’s so much to the tragedy of David Von Erich that is said, put in context, and then again, is unsaid considering that the tragedies would continue to devastate that family. Pro wrestling politics and magazine business play out on various levels, the impact of the business on the family, and at the time, the intervention of an unexpected Apter ally saved him from who knows what…
- Anyone who wants to know the incredible story of Andy Kaufman and professional wrestling (minus, perhaps, some of Buddy Rogers’ influence) needs to know Apter’s perspective and participation. (I guess this more than makes up for him getting Hogan connected to Stallone).
There are books about professional wrestling – whether by Wrestlers or historians – that always seem to miss the mark. Talented wrestlers these days have their books controlled by the WWE. Experts and journalists seem to be more interested in salacious stories and repeating the same old history.
Insight into the business seems like a fantasy in most books, and I’ve read, seen and heard enough pro wrestling fiction from people calling it the truth that I am beyond jaded. It is professional wrestling, after all, and illusion rules the world. Along with working the crowd, pretending to be something you are not, and making a lot of money based on talent and ability and storytelling. Some people know the business, but most people pretend, and far too many books skirt the important while avoiding the personal.
This book does none of the usual, complain-able things.
Instead, Apter sheds light on pro wrestling – from promoters to talent to how they respected, envied and wanted to believe what they believed about the magazines. Apter’s insight on that aspect of the industry, and especially in regards to magazine publishing, photography, editing and other aspects of that business are incredibly telling.
His Championship Office Wrestling is a particularly fascinating series of tales, which on one had may lead to a lot of shenanigans at work (I’m hoping we don’t start hearing about an “office wrestling” boom … after all, Bill claims to be a forerunner of the backyard boom and we know how that turned out). That aspect of Bill Apter’s career shows a peculiar aptitude in playing out what he knew and learned about this insane entertainment form.
Overall, reading this book is interesting beyond expectations, and I had a lot of expectations.
Apter knows of, and has significant interactions with, guys ranging from Andy Kaufman, Jerry Lawler, Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Randy Savage, Eric Bischoff, Mil Mascaras, Fritz Von Erich, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Joey Styles and Taz … plus dozens more, plus anyone who main evented, was on a magazine cover, or was anyone in the business.
That Apter knew, talks about knowing and has positive things to say about virtually all of them (well, Bischoff?) speaks volumes about who is and what he knows about professional wrestling.
That Apter was considered for inclusion in the WWWF/WWF/WWE empire in various decades, often spurned those advances, and still has landed in good graces is an amazing tribute to his longevity, his understanding of this business and his talent.
(Let alone his personality).
That Apter was able to talk often with promoters of all shapes and sizes; was able to navigate the insane world of politics, hatreds and competition of all flavors; was able to be friendly with vastly different personalities and styles; and was able to write it all down in a down-to-earth and colorful manner makes— all that makes this among one of the best pro wrestling books written.
On the negative side, there’s something that could be said about “I Didn’t Know It Was Broken”, but I have a soft spot for grandfather stories and I’ll take the quaint story as a good one, and not go negative about why professional wrestling truly is broken.
Over the years, Apter has had two faces to the business, one of a humble, capable student who learned from those he covered and another one (Wonderful Willy) that ate up the accolades and played up his connections and was attracted to the spotlight.
I wonder now…. is Bill Apter a humble photographer with immense contacts and understanding of professional wrestling, who often works at being an egotistical equal to many of the biggest names he knows, or is it the other way around?
That’s a question for the reader to decide.