It’s fair to say Bill Apter is the most recognisable Pro Wrestling reporter, journalist, photographer and interviewer in the world. Beginning in the 1970’s as an editor for renowned wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated, he has continued with the same passion and energy for being the face of 1wrestling.com and now appearing on many WWE network shows and DVDs. After such a long and successful time in the business of Pro Wrestling, last month saw the release of his book Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken! On his recent visit to the UK to promote the book, I had the opportunity to sit down with him and get his thoughts and feelings on Pro Wrestling past and present.
What is your book about and why should people read it?
The name of the book is, Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken! And I don’t. People say to me, you’ve been doing this fifty years how do you watch today’s product? And I always say the window dressing is a bit different but what goes on in the ring is still athletes trying to do their best to entertain us. The book is basically a compendium of when I started back in the days of Bruno Sammartino and even further back to when I was a fan back in the days of Buddy Rogers all the way up to the attitude era and the current reality era, and I love it. The book is in no particular order, it’s just a fun book, there’s no dirt it’s just the relationship I had with the people in the business. People say you wrote terrific columns and shot great pictures and did great stories and I always say I appreciate that but I was a part of many great teams putting the magazines out, but I was the guy on TV handing out the plaques and being interviewed and as an interviewer. But it’s a good inside look to what a wrestling reporter, one of the few who’ve done it this long, has done through his life. And I’m going to keep doing it, I’m never going to quit.
So it gives a great hindsight to how the core values have stayed the same throughout?
Every one of the decades I’ve been involved with starting with the pure wrestling era to the Hogan era to the attitude era to the reality era and now the NXT era, yes. If what NXT is doing is the wave of the future I hope I’m around another fifty years to cover it.
Do you think that’s the way things are moving?
I’m not sure, but I love what they do, I love the passion they show and the realism they bring to their matches. It’s almost like they’re an independent organisation divorced from WWE and they’re just a great indie company. And I love it, I’m very impressed.
While we’re on the subject of the current scene and what’s going on at the moment, is there anybody you’d say to watch out for, that they’re going to be the next big star?
I want to see Neville go to another level. I want to see Kevin Owens get back to where he was when he was starring with John Cena. Tyler Breeze has impressed me a fair bit; now he’s coming up from NXT. Dolph Ziggler, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of where he can be placed at this point and I still look for great things from him.
Do you think he’s been mostly directionless?
Yes, quite directionless but I think he’s a very exciting talent who looks like an old school type of wrestler, and he’s very exciting to watch. Paige here from the UK, I’m very impressed with where she’s gone from being a puppy here in England with parents being wrestlers. Roman Reigns I think when the fans figure out how they want to treat him and gets better direction. I think Dean Ambrose, I always tell people if Dick Slater and Terry Funk got married and had a kid that would be Dean Ambrose. There’s a lot of great things happening, you have to find the right people now to kind of replace the older generation that’s fading back a bit, and I think Triple H is an old school guy in a new school world and he’s trying to juggle what the fans want and what his father in law wants at the same time and I think he’s doing a really good job of that.
There’s always talk of Triple H being an NWA type guy.
It’s funny how he’s reaching out, he’s the guy who got Bruno Sammartino, after so many years of Bruno saying he’d have nothing to do with the WWE, he brought him into the fold again. He just did that with Superstar Billy Graham, who was very bitter about the WWE. During the magazine days our publishing company was banned for fifteen years, maybe longer, from shooting photos and reporting on them because they had their own magazine but last year Triple H, who was always a fan of the magazines, brought me down to Florida and had me shoot a pilot show for the WWE Network, and also I’m on the WWE Network as a talking head on some shows. So he’s opened a lot of boxes that were closed by the company, and I appreciate what he’s doing for keeping the tradition of the old school up.
So you think with the NXT style it’s as much about in-ring as everything else whereas in the past personality and talking maybe took over?
I think they’re finding more of an acceptable mix of the showbiz and the wrestling.
I know we’re getting toward the end of the year, so there’s a lot to choose from but is there a match you’ve seen that’s really stood out?
Sasha Banks and Bayley. It was incredible. John Cena and Cesaro I thought was brilliant. Talking about that, almost any John Cena match in the last few months has been a memorable match. He is such a hard worker in the ring. The fans don’t like him but yet when you go to the matches, and you see all the kids holding up Cena stuff, you think, they don’t like him, but they buy all his stuff. The ladies division is getting more respectable and not just T&A anymore, and they’re trying to be groomed to be Female Athletes and not just eye candy.
My final question, word is WWE has gone into relationship with Evolve and is getting more involved with independent wrestling, do you think that will affect things greatly, affect WWE’s style?
The WWE style is going to be more of a potpourri of the Indies and WWE. I think the powers of WWE see there is a market of people who like the indie style of wrestling, and they want to give them that as well as the showbiz type matches as well.
It’s come to light recently that WWE fed ECW in the 90’s so I guess they may be viewing it as another feeder league.
Absolutely, the WWE is trying to be a variety show of all wrestling genres at this point. A lot of people said NXT was going to be the big indie and put them out of business the way Vince and WWE put so many out in the territory days but when WWE does well, the Indies do well too. So I don’t think they have to fear. If people see wrestling on TV then see a Brian Dixon show or a 1PW show going on they associate wrestling with that, and they’ll go to the matches so I think it keeps everyone healthy when WWE does well.
Bill Apter’s book Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken is available from ECW Press and all good book retailers.