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Wendell Cooley

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My first fanzine was Suckerpunch, just as Rob Butcher was handing over the reigns to Ross Hutchinson. I also subscribed to Hulk Who? and Oliver Hurley's Crunch. Then when they stopped I moved on to the Observer and the Wrestling Lariat (distributed by the lovely Grant Lowrie). I was about 15 and it was terribly exciting getting these things in the mail. I used to harbour dreams of being a writer and I'd often have weird conversations with the editors on the phone about ideas for articles and whatnot. I remember getting one piece published in Suckerpunch about my predictions for the future - it was the mid-90s and I, in a very serious manner, suggested that The Giant and Eddie Guerrero should be pushed as the top guys. Well, we all know how that worked out...


What did you you chaps used to read in the pre-Internet days?

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Funnily enough, I've been thinking for a while that we should try to put together a comprehensive list of fanzines. Here's what I've got on my shelves:


Arene Report, Dave Wright, (I have one edition from 1994 but it was running long before that and may have been the first kayfabe breaking/newsletter style


Crunch, Oliver Hurley, 1995-7


God Made Hulkamania Extreme, ?, 1997


The Grappler, Chad Mayne, 1989ish-2000


The Grappling Times, Dean Baker, 2002-3


Hardcore Heaven, Lewis Blain (?), 1995


Hart & Soul, Tracey O'Sullivan, 1998ish (dedicated to the extended Hart family)


Hulk Who?, John Lister/Matt Brannigan, 1994-7


Mat Digest, Kenny McBride, 1998ish (preview edition only)


Moonsault, Mo Chatra, 1997-2000 (then became a two-page monthly bonus with the UK version of the Observer)


Piledriver, Glenn Radford, 1988-94 (first fanzine as such I think)


Piledriver, Steve Ashfield, 2004-5ish


Pro Wrestling Press, Greg Kelly, 2001-4


Quebrada, Martin E Cox, 2000 (part fanzine, part catalog for GWI imports)


Shootfabe, Mo Chatra, 2003-4 (Name taken from Antony Howell's tape trading service)


Shooting Star Press, Phil Austin, 2002


Spiked Piledriver, David Perkins, 1990-2. (Until the last issue this wasn't mail order but instead was sold by local newsagents around Stevenage.)


Suckerpunch, Rob Butcher/Ross Hutchinson, 1993-8


Suplex, Robert Higton (brother of Nick), 1993


Tape Trader's Review, Bryan Tucker, 2004


Wrasslin Monthly, Peter Gregory, 1999


Wrestling Insight, Phil Jones, 1992-98ish


Wrestling's Last Hope, Stu Rogers, 1999ish-2001ish


Wrestling Opinion Premier, John Hudson, 1996


Wrestling News for a Wrestling Fan, John Barratt, 1993


Wrestling Whirl, Jack Taylor, 1998ish (more a promotional thing for his training school)


WrestlerMania, Gerald Flemming, 1991-at least 1999 (Largely British based)


Wrestling News N' Views, Peter Gregory, 1996-7


The Wrestling Press, John Lister, 1998 (1/2 a pilot issue only, I got a job instead)


Wrestling Wrap-up, D(ean?) Woffiden, 199ish-2003ish

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Moonsault, Mo Chatra, 1997-2000 (then became a two-page monthly bonus with the UK version of the Observer)

Didn't Mo hand Moonsault over to someone else to run, but then they had to call it quits (the guys name has slipped my mind), so Mo just did it as a supplement to the Observer with most of the regular columnists (Barnett, yourself, Martin, Grant etc) still on board?

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Looking back, Moonsault was a standalone fanzine for a few issues then became a weekly supplement to the Observer in the UK. Mo dropped it (though there was a special standalone farewell issue), then a couple of months later he started doing a two-page supplement for the last issue in every four-issue set. This was later rebranded Observer Xtra. Somebody else then took over the UK Observer distribution in 2000 and did a few Observer Xtras before dropping it.

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This will sound ridiculous but I think God Made Hulkamania Extreme was an old fanzine/newsletter I did and gave away for free at Croydon a couple of times.


At the time I was also doing a hardcore punk fanzine that included a wrestling section which was always well received at gigs.


1997 you say, jesus I'm old.



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I used to read Wrestling Insight, Crunch and Suckerpunch.


In those pre-internet (I know it was around, so don't slaughter me for that comment. You know what I mean.) days it was like being part of some sort of underground scene, finding other people who were also into the same non-mainstream wrestling you'd read about in magazines and seen on videos from traders. I can't describe my excitement at seeing someone wearing an ECW t-shirt at a WWF show in Birmingham in 1996. Everything is far more freely available now, which takes away any intrigue I think.


Fanzines, Superstars of Wrestling and Wrestlecall was how I kept up with all the news and gossip in those days.


"Welcome to Wrestlecall on 0336 404531. This is our results and news line...."


Yes, I know I'm sad for remembering the number (previously 0836 404531), but I dialled it so often in the early 90s I'll probably still remember it on my death bed.

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Looking back, Moonsault was a standalone fanzine for a few issues then became a weekly supplement to the Observer in the UK. Mo dropped it (though there was a special standalone farewell issue), then a couple of months later he started doing a two-page supplement for the last issue in every four-issue set. This was later rebranded Observer Xtra. Somebody else then took over the UK Observer distribution in 2000 and did a few Observer Xtras before dropping it.

Steven Carroll was the guy I was thinking of who took over as editor of Moonsault after Mo stepped aside. Sadly bar your three Hulk Who? specials which I kept, I flogged my collection of fanzines to Glen Radford.

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Just remembered this piece I did for the final Moonsault in 2000:


There aren't many areas where a 23 year old could be a grizzled veteran, but the world of wrestling writing is one of them. It's scary to realise, but this final issue of Moonsault coincides with the 10th anniversary of the first piece I had published in a wrestling magazine, the long forgotten Spiked Piledriver. This was a big affair, 60 A4 pages with the then-controversial selling point of refusing to use ring-names and referring constantly to 'Bossman' Bubba Rogers and 'Undertaker' Mark Callous. Ahem. For what it's worth, we outsold the WWF magazine in our local shops, though our sales outside Stevenage could be counted on one hand of an unfortunate leper.


Something that shows how this business had changed over the years came a few months later in the summer of 1991. Just as our quarterly magazine was going to press, our 'sources' (in other words, Wrestlecall, 39 pence a minute to hear somebody read the front page of the Observer but protecting kayfabe) informed us that Ric Flair had quit WCW. I'm proud to say that, just three weeks or so after it happened, we had a stop press sheet in the magazine with the important news that Lex Luger had beaten Barry Windham for the vacant world title.


How times change. Now, not only is the idea that a title change was important somewhat laughable, but you can get Battlarts results live from Japan on a mobile phone (possible the worst use of new technology I've ever made).


I hope this doesn't sound too much like a science fiction novel, but it seems fair to say in this look back at wrestling newsletters that technology has played a big part in the boom and collapse of the British sheet scene. Desktop publishing helped many of us veterans (there I go again!) to produce newsletters with a professional look relatively simply. Anyone who has seen the early editions of Glen Radford's Piledriver (which launched in 1988) with its stencilled headlines and typewriter text with Biro amendments will know what a difference computers made.


Back in the early '90s though, the only time 'the web' was mentioned was in Brad 'Arachnaman' Armstrong's squash matches. (Yes, the Road Dogg's brother once had the gimmick of a human spider. No, it didn't work.) Since then, the Internet may not have changed the world forever, but it's sure told a lot of people a few secrets about the world of professional; wrestling. When Rob Butcher launched Suckerpunch in 1993, he had to decide whether or not to write the magazine on the premise that pro wrestling was not a legitimate contest. Back then it was actually an issue. Feeling old yet?


The difference, and what I now consider a major reason why the sheets have largely died out, is that discovering the inner workings of the wrestling business was once a voyage of discovery. Fans would uncover the secrets step by step. You certainly didn't go down your local cinema and see Rock and Mankind planning a finish. By learning gradually how the business worked, the 'smart' fans of the 90s grew to appreciate the profession more, rather than coming straight in with the idea that it was all just a show. Why read speculation about the backstage dealings of the industry when the promotions are virtually forcing reality down your throat? What chance does a newsletter stand when you can read all the same 'inside' information in RAW magazine... and get some hot pictures of scantily-clad women too?


The nature of the Internet affects the sheets in other ways too. One is the sheer speed of news. The idea that electronic media would kill off newspapers has been proved false, but newspapers are part of our daily culture. When it comes to the relatively closed world of wrestling, timeliness and print just don't go together. Nowadays, a new WCW champion wouldn't just be old news by the next issue of a weekly magazine; he would probably be an ex-champion.


There's also the sheer scale of the web. There is more wrestling information available on-line than anybody could ever hope to read. It's like walking into a newsagent that stretches as far as the eye can see and being told that you never have to pay for anything. Quite frankly most of us old hacks spend so much time trying to keep up to date, we never have a moment to step back and write anything anymore.


And that, perhaps even more than new technology, is the reason the sheets have trickled away. We are at or just past the biggest peak this business has ever seen. It's no coincidence that the heyday of newsletters in Britain was the mid-90s: the last wrestling recession. We are all devoting pretty much the same amount of time to the business as then, but in different ways. Waiting for an ECW tape to come through the post was once an exciting event. Now a fan with a satellite dish can see ECW every week, not to mention WCW on TCM and Channel 5 and the WWF on Sky and Channel 4. In a WWF pay-per-view week, you are looking at something like 16 hours of first-run television a week. Add in on-line radio shows, daily news updates on the web, a couple of hours reading the Observer and there's not much time left over for journalism. And can you really show that much interest in Japan, Mexico and the indies when you hardly ever get a chance to watch the tapes?


Still, we shouldn't mourn the sheets too much. After all, we newsletter veterans have got pretty much everything er ever dreamt of. We can hear wrestlers discussing the business in-depth every night of the week. We can get ECW pay-per-views within a few days of the show. We can tune into Sky and see Benoit vs Guerrero on regular TV. We can even get Battlarts results on a mobile phone.


When it comes to the death of the British sheets, I can only quote my dear old Mum: "In my day, we had to make our own entertainment."

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