The story behind the photo

Bill Apter and me at the first WrestleReunion show

The photo above is one that I have posted on my Facebook page. A couple of folks have asked me about it so I guess here’s as good a place as any to tell the story behind it.

The gentleman in the photo is Bill Apter. Bill’s name is known to any fan of pro wrestling that is old enough to remember going to the local store’s magazine rack and picking up the old “wrestling magazines” that pre-dated the internet. These were usually filled with really good photos and the articles were written in what folks in the wrestling world refer to as “kafabe”. In other words, as if the plots and “angles” in wrestling were “real”. This was back in the day when a pro wrestler would kick someone’s tail for calling wrestling “fake”. Bill Apter was a photographer, writer and editor for “The Wrestler” and “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” and was so universally known for his part in the wrestling business in putting together those mags that they are today referred to by wrestling fans as “Apter Mags”.

I met Bill through my friend Ed Chuman, who recently passed away, and corresponded with him quite a bit during the time I was involved in pro wrestling and running a couple of wrestling websites (again, as an “amature” and for fun). I got asked by Ed and belt-maker Reggie Parks and Reggie’s protoge and my buddy Dave Millican to go to Tampa, Fl to help them with a vendor’s display at an event that Bill was spear-heading and hosting, the first WrestleReunion. Bill and his partners had a ton of former wrestlers, managers, valets and some of the best new talent in wrestling at the time (many of who have become big “names” today) for a two-day “wrestling geek fest” as one of my daughters described it. For a guy that grew up watching pro wrestling on WRAL TV at 11:30 every Friday night with my grandfather, it was like a lifetime baseball fan being at a Hall of Fame convention.

During that week I not only got to meet many of the biggest legends in wrestling, since I was with Bill, Ed, Dave and Reggie I was treated like “one of the boys”, a member of the club. It was like being a little kid again and sitting in the Dorton Arena in Raleigh seeing many of these people.

During that event I got to visit with several folks that I had already met working wrestling shows, including Dusty Rhodes, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, my buddy “Thunderfoot” Isley, “Gorgeous” Gary Royal, Abdullah the Butcher, Ricky Steamboat and George South. I also got to spend time with Nick Bockwinkle, Harley Race, Sabu and Bill Alfonzo, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Virgil, the late Sherri Martel, the Cuban Assassin, The Wild Samoan family (all relatives of The Rock, Dwayne Johnson), Roddy Piper, “Killer Bee” Brian Blair, Dr. Tom Pritchard, Tully Blanchard and Joe Blanchard, Adrian Street and Ms. Linda and a bunch of others. New talent there included now former WWE World Champion CM Punk, NWA and TNA Champion A.J. Styles, and others.

So, after setting up our display table with over $40,000 in real gold and chrome plated wrestling title belts (guess who was the security?) Bill Apter came over to visit with Ed, Reggie and Dave. Bill had his prized C.O.W. title belt with him. The title was the Corporate Office Wrestling Heavyweight Championship. The COW title started off as a joke during Bill’s days as a wrestling magazine editor. He had a paper/cardboard belt that he had in his office. It became a running joke that when wrestlers came by the office for photo shoots, etc. they could challenge Bill for his title. The thing was, as the promoter and booker for the C.O.W., Bill always won. Over the years, Bill “defeated” by pinfall or submission folks like Dusty Rhodes, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan to retain the C.O.W. title.

I couldn’t resist it. Since I had an NWA title (a gift to me from Ed, Reggie and Dave) and had managed some NWA champions, I challenged Bill for the C.O.W. title that night in Tampa in the ring of the first WrestleReunion. Since there were no matches that night, our match was the “Main Event”. Despite my best efforts, Bill hit me with an elbow and caught me in the dreaded “Apter-Lock”, Bill’s version Ric Flair’s Figure Four Leglock. I submitted to the “excruciating pain” inflicted on my already damaged leg and had to submit. The photo shows Bill Apter, having added the name of Redneck TaZ to the long list of challengers that he had beaten, posing above me with his precious title.

It was worth it to me to have many of the wrestlers, who were setting up their autograph and souvenier tables that evening, to complement my efforts in “fighting” Bill’s figure four.

When I get a chance, I’ll have to post another story from that show. It will be titled “Will Steamboat kick Chavo Sr.’s Butt?”.