I think by now it is quite evident that I, Jamie Hemmings, love to read! But here’s a little secret tidbit – I don’t just read books, I also read magazines! And like many wrestling fans before me, I have fond memories of reading pro wrestling magazines… when I could find them, that is.
You see, I grew up in a small, Canadian hamlet. We had one grocery store and in the half aisle behind the cashier was a very meager magazine rack. We’re talking about one metre in width. (For our American readers, that’s about three feet!) Every time my family would go to the store, I would cross my fingers and venture to the magazine rack hoping that there would be some wrestling magazines amongst the limited variety of literature the store would bring in. Some times there would be none. Sigh. Those were sad days. Other times tucked beside the tabloids and satellite television guides, there would be random issues of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Inside Wrestling and The Wrestler. I didn’t care so much about the date or even the year for that matter. I’d buy as many as I could afford!
You have to remember this was before the days of internet, social media and streaming services. Pro wrestling magazines were integral to pro wrestling fans. It was our only source for news, reviews, new stars, legends and other pro wrestling promotions beyond the WWF/WWE and WCW.
But as the years went by and I had access to much better magazine racks when I left the family home, more and more pro wrestling magazines stopped publishing. Even the WWE stopped its magazine in 2014. And thus, the world turned very dark.
Sorry, I think I’ve been watching way too many classic dramatic shows during this Covid-19 outbreak. But I digress and I bring good tidings to my fellow pro wrestling magazines enthusiasts: there is a new pro wrestling magazine set to launch into our midst with its first issue being released on September 17, 2020. Inside the Ropes, the UK-based folks behind the highly engaging podcasts since 2012 and the often hilarious and always informative spoken word events with various figures in pro wrestling (including Diamond Dallas Page, Sting and Paul Heyman to name a few) since 2013, are now launching the monthly Inside the Ropes Wrestling Magazine. Subscriptions to the magazine are available exclusively on its website.
SlamWrestling.net recently sat down with owner Kenny McIntosh, who resides in Glasgow, Scotland, and was fresh off a walk with his dog, Hulk, for a Zoom interview to discuss the launch of the magazine, wrestling nostalgia and what he’s dubbed as the “Mount Rushmore” of pro wrestling journalists he has assembled for this project. With McIntosh promising that the magazine will feature both modern and retro content, it seemed only fitting to present this conversation in the style of my favorite old school wrestling magazine feature, the Q & A interview:
SlamWrestling.net: Do you have any favorite memories from the early days of Inside the Ropes with your podcasts or the spoken word events?
Kenny: Well, I remember when we first started doing the podcast, and it was part of a university radio station, and sometimes they would lock the building. And we did it live. So sometimes we couldn’t get in! We would have to go downstairs to the Muslim center, and go through the Muslim center to get to the back stairwell to get in to record these podcasts. And I remember one day that we had to break into the Muslim center to get upstairs to interview Vince Russo. This was just the strangest experience.
One of my favorite stories was doing a tour with (Paul) Heyman in 2016. I got this call the morning of the first Paul Heyman show. And it was an unknown number so I said, “Hello?” (And the person answered:) “Hi, it’s Juventud Guerrera.” How does Juventud Guerrera have my phone number? I have no idea what he’s calling me for and he said, “I want to come to your Paul Heyman show tonight.” And in my mind, I was going, “I’ve got so much going on and I don’t really have the time to navigate if this a good idea.” So, I just was like, I’ll just ignore him. And then he turned up. And he turned up as the most wacky dressed guy I’ve ever seen. He had denim jeans, cowboy boots, suit jacket, a luchador mask and a fedora.
Slam: As one does.
Kenny: (laughs) As one does! And, so anyway, so the show happens and then he wants to come back stage and meet Paul Heyman. So I go through to Paul, and I explain that Juventud Guerrera is here. And he said, “Yeah, bring him in, but let’s aim to leave in five minutes. Bring Juventud in. We’ll have a quick chat. And then I’ll head back to the hotel.” I didn’t realize I’m being worked here as this is going on. Because what happened is, Juventud Guerrera comes in and Paul’s like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this!” I leave for a couple of minutes. I got the car out back ready to go. And I come back and I go, “Paul, the car is outside.” And he goes, “Kenny, let me stop you there. This is Juventud Guerrera. I’ve not seen him in years. We have a lot to catch up on. We will not be leaving right now!” He orchestrated this thing that makes Juventud Guerrera feel like a million bucks because he’s been told (Paul is) not leaving yet. I need to catch up with him and he gets to dress me down a little bit. And that’s the magic of Paul Heyman. He knows what he’s doing the whole time. That’s the kind of stuff that goes on.
Slam: Kenny, were you an avid reader of wrestling magazines and if so, which ones were your favorites?
Kenny: So in the UK, you didn’t get quite as many options as there were in the U.S. But we got WWF Magazine and RAW Magazine. And then I remember one day seeing Power Slam magazine sitting on the shelves and I must have been, this was ’97 so I would have been 12 (years old), and I remember opening it up and it was talking to me out of character. It was telling me real behind the scenes stuff and I’d never heard that before. So you go from reading this kind of kayfabe magazine to non-kayfabe.
Without wrestling magazines, I wouldn’t have been able to be an educated fan. I remember watching the Montreal Screwjob on TV (at WWE’s Survivor Series in 1997) and being really confused. I couldn’t work out what happened. It was only when I picked up Power Slam and they told you the full story of what happened. Without Power Slam, I would never have known what that was and I would just have been like, “Oh Bret Hart left and I don’t know what happened.” And so I remember Power Slam being like my Bible that I had to buy every month to keep up. Because we didn’t have the internet, so I didn’t know anything about The Wrestling Observer or anybody else or newsletters. So Power Slam was really my one thing that I bought. And then later on Fighting Spirit Magazine (FSM) came around so I bought that one as well.
Power Slam, to this day, you know, we’re sitting here right now and I have an old Power Slam here. (He holds up one with Edge on the cover.) This is the September 2006 issue. I have these lying around. I still read them today. And I think there’s that thing where you get the magazine, you read through it, and then you pick it up like two or three more times in the month and re-read stuff. And I think that’s kind of what’s missing (today). And I think that there’s a massive market (out there) who want a magazine like this today, which obviously leads to what we’re doing now. Because I still think that there’s a large portion of people who want that type of content. They want the physical magazine. They want the long form analysis. And yeah, I think there’s definitely a market for it.
Slam: So many print magazines, and not just pro wrestling, but other genres of magazine as well, are no longer in print, or they’ve had to cut down on the number of issues they put out each year. It’s pretty risky to launch a pro wrestling magazine. How did the project come about?
Kenny: It’s very risky.
Slam: My apologies for being a Debbie Downer!
Kenny: No, it is a really valid question. I think that if we were to launch a wrestling magazine today that was just a straightforward wrestling magazine, it would fail. I don’t think it would work. I think the reason that what we’re doing is going to work is because we are covering modern wrestling with a retro vibe, aesthetic and feel which nobody really does. I think there’s a lot of people who are maybe in their 30s or 40s or 50s and up right now who don’t watch wrestling anymore, whether it’s because they have kids, or they don’t want to watch three hours on a Monday night. But I think there’s a lot of people who if they could pick up a magazine once a month and be kept up to date with what’s going on, with little nods to their past, and the detailed analysis they had before, I think that’s still something that people want. So, I think that we are focusing in on a market; we’re focusing in on the retro market, and that’s where magazines are going now is retro. So we want to give them retro in a magazine form.
We’re very aware that most 21-, 22-year-old people are not going to buy a wrestling magazine, because they didn’t grow up buying magazines. They didn’t grow up with that physical thing. Now, it will be great if we pick some of those people up along the way. But we’re in this for people who are maybe 25 and over who remember buying a magazine. They remember what that feels like. And they want that feeling again. And the reception that we’ve had so far has been unreal, from sales to subscriptions. I’ve been blown away. The projections that we had hoped for, we have already surpassed before we even got issue one out the door. And that to me says that is there is something there.
Even if you look at the cover of our first issue with Ric Flair on the cover, most people will know that that aesthetic is very similar to the early ’90s WWF Magazine. That’s very deliberate to give people that feel. For example, in the first issue, we cover SummerSlam. If you’re a fan of the old school SummerSlam aesthetic, you’re probably going to mark out a little bit on how that review will look. And I’m very confident and I’m very hard on myself, and I wouldn’t put something out unless I thought it was great. And I honestly think when people pick up that first issue with the Ric Flair interview and all the other people in it, I think people are going to love it.
Slam: Have you heard any reactions from pro wrestling promotions like WWE or AEW? And are you expecting to be able to have access to superstars from a variety of promotions?
Kenny: Yeah, we have great relationships with the WWE and with AEW. You know, we worked with WWE on the first issue to get Ric Flair for the magazine, I’m sure that there will be an AEW talent interviewed in the magazine coming up. I think that the reception has been really good. And I think once the magazine is out and people can read it, and they can see what it’s like, that’s when things will start to get better.
What we want to do is, this magazine is about a celebration of pro wrestling past and present. Because I think a lot of times there’s the kind of people who want to go negative or they want to be tacky and we want to just do intelligent conversation. We’re not going to just go write that everything in wrestling is amazing but it is a bit of a celebration. And I feel like something you don’t see often is the celebration of wrestling and we want to try and make the magazine about that.
Slam: How much of a financial commitment/risk are you and your team investing in this project?
Kenny: I am making a financial risk to make this happen. But already it appears that risk was worthwhile. From you know, like I said, we’re not even at September yet and the projections that we’ve had, we’ve already gone way past what we thought we were going to get to. I’ve always tried to take calculated risks. At the beginning, when we were first starting to do the tours (the spoken word events with Inside the Ropes), we would pay these wrestlers and we had to hope people were going to show up. I’m always a kind of gut person. And my gut said that this was an idea that would work. And I’ve done a lot of research into wrestling magazines and sales of wrestling magazines and how they’ve done and when they’ve declined, and why they declined. I think the key here is that there’s a whole team here who have all worked in magazines before. They’ve seen the highs and the lows.
We might put out four issues. And then it may be like, well, we need to change this. We’re all going to be aware that if that happens, it’s fine. I think that having that awareness and having people from all these different eras, for example, to give him some credit Bill Apter (who is one of the magazine’s contributors), when we first spoke we had sent him a mock cover of the magazine. And he very quickly went, “I think that you need to have Inside the Ropes WRESTLING Magazine.” Because even though that sounds like it’s a given, you never know. People need to know it’s got wrestling in the title. So even having little nuggets like that, that I maybe wouldn’t have thought of as important.
I took a (financial) risk that if it didn’t work, it will be difficult for me to claw back. But again, I remember Paul Heyman, had a line in The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, where he said, “If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never succeed.” So that’s what I’m trying to kind of base it off.
Slam: Let’s talk about the team you have assembled for the magazine. You have referred to them as the “Mount Rushmore of contributors.” Let’s go through the names and you can tell me what they’ll be doing with the magazine and why they’re an asset to the magazine. We’ll start with Dante Richardson. (Richardson, as James Dixon, is the author of Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners and Screwjobs, The Titan Trilogy: The story of the WWF from 1995 to 1997, Titan Shattered: Wrestling with Confidence and Paranoia and Titan Sinking: The decline of the WWF in 1995. He is also the former editor-in-chief of WRESTLETALK Magazine and WhatCulture.)
Kenny: Dan Richardson used to write under the name of James Dixon. That was his pseudonym, so it’s always very awkward to say his name is Dan. (laughs) He’s been doing magazines for the last couple years and he also has written best-selling books on the WWF called the Titan series. Dan’s had a lot of connections over the years. This magazine would not happen without him. He’s the editor and he and I share a love of pro wrestling magazines, and we share the idea that they still have a place today. So, I think the important thing is we have that passion for it, and which is why I think it’s going to work. He’s a crucial, crucial element.
Slam: Findlay Martin. (Martin is the former editor of the UK publications Superstars of Wrestling and Power Slam.)
Kenny: I wouldn’t be here without Findlay Martin, because Power Slam was really that important to me as a wrestling fan. Fin decided to stop Power Slam in 2014. He didn’t have to but, he saw a decline in the industry, and with the way he was doing it, he thought, that’s it. So for him to be involved in this is just, he’s going to be bringing back concepts he used to do in Power Slam. He’s going to be one of our sort of head writers. And I couldn’t imagine doing it without him because I’ve podcasted with him now for over two and a half years and there’s nothing like reading Findley Martin and him giving you long form analysis on something. I think he’s one of the best writers out there. He had to be included.
Slam: Bill Apter. (What can one say about Apter? He’s been the writer and editor of publications including Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, WOW Magazine and Tutto Wrestling.)
Kenny: I feel Bill Apter just paved the way for everybody else. Bill’s got all these stories from all these different decades through everybody he’s worked with, and it just felt like Bill doesn’t get as much recognition sometimes as I think he should. And we absolutely wanted to put the call out to him and he was very excited. And I think he’s excited to be a part of it, because I think when you’ve worked in wrestling one of the things that’s really difficult is to not be involved in something you know you’d be good at. Bill brings a lot of cachet as a name, as a contact and as a writer. I think he is kind of like the grandfather of wrestling magazines. It just felt right for if we’re steering into retro, Bill Apter has got to be one of your guys. (Slam Fun Fact: Apter is fondly referred to as “Wonderful Willie” at SlamWrestling.net.)
Slam: Keith Elliot Greenberg. (Avid pro wrestling readers will recognize that Greenberg worked with Ric Flair, Superstar Billy Graham and Classy Freddie Blassie on their autobiographies. He’s also the former senior writer for WWF/WWE publications including WWF Magazine, RAW Magazine, WWE Magazine, and SmackDown Magazine.)
Kenny: Keith and I became good friends a few years ago. Keith worked for WWE for 22 years. I remember when we were at (AEW’s) Double or Nothing last year together and you could see that he was excited about being involved in wrestling in the present day. Because I think sometimes when you get older it’s like, do you just rest on what you did in the past? Keith’s very keen to not do that. He’s written this book on indie wrestling (2020’s Too Sweet: Inside the Indie Wrestling Revolution) so to have him involved, he carries so much (knowledge) in the past that you can talk about. He’s keen. He’s excited about wrestling today. He brings the past and present together really well. It also doesn’t hurt to have a New York Times bestselling author on board. (laughs) (Yet another Slam Fun Fact: Greenberg once had to autograph every WWE-related book he ever wrote at SlamWrestling.net producer, Greg Oliver’s, house.)
Slam: Brian Elliott.
Kenny: Brian Elliott was the editor of FSM which is a magazine based out of the UK, in the 2010s. And he did some great work. And he basically was keeping wrestling magazines alive for a few years more in the UK when nobody else was able to. He’s still got a lot to say about wrestling and I think that he will be happy to be involved in a wrestling magazine that he does not have to be the editor of and does not have to spend a lot of hours a week (working on). I’m hoping for him, this is a fun project. (Yep, I’ve got another Slam Fun Fact: Elliott has contributed over 50 articles to SlamWrestling.net. And they have all been reposted to Slam’s new site!)
Slam: Scott Keith. (Keith is the writer of the online blog Scott’s Blog of Doom and the author of The Buzz on Pro Wrestling, Wrestling’s One Ring Circus, and Dungeon of Death.
Kenny: Scott Keith is a very popular internet writer from the early 2000s. He’s got a really fun writing style. We wanted to try and bring in a little bit of everything. We’re trying to create the perfect meal. We thought he was just another great addition to check all the different boxes.
Slam: Justin Henry.
Kenny: Justin has worked with Dan before on one of the Titan books. He’s with Cultaholic, he’s involved with WrestleCrap. Justin has made a really big name for himself over the last few years by being a part of different companies and doing different things. And I think he’s got a good perspective. He’s somebody who is kind of like my age as well, who longs for that past of great wrestling journalism and still loves wrestling today.
Slam: And finally, Sondra Ruth.
Kenny: Sondra is actually a podcaster with myself at Inside the Ropes and she started watching wrestling in 2010. So, she has no nostalgia for The Undertaker, like everybody else has. (laughs) She has, and I’m sure you’ll agree here, what there’s not enough of and that’s female voices talking about pro wrestling and we wanted to make sure from the very beginning that we had a strong female voice on the team. Sondra has very, not controversial, but she has very wacky opinions that maybe I wouldn’t share. And that’s really important because there’s a lot of people who maybe don’t have nostalgia for the attitude era or whatever.
Sondra loves independent wrestling. She goes to a lot of indie wrestling shows, with her mask now obviously, but she goes to the independent wrestling shows and I think she just adds a completely different dynamic to everybody else in the team because she’s not dipped into the nostalgia like the rest of us are. She comes at things from a different angle. And I feel like I don’t want to make this a weird we are women, hear us roar kind of thing but at the same time I think it’s really important that women feel represented in wrestling and we wanted that in the magazine.
Slam: So I have to point out that Sondra is the lone female voice on the team. I’m wondering if you’re going to be looking for contributions from other writers and not just females, but other pro wrestling journalists with diverse voices? Is that part of the plan?
Kenny: Yeah, 100 per cent. The plan is once we get this up and running, we absolutely are going to be looking for more (contributors). We’re in the process of getting email address set up for different things. Dan (Richardson), the editor will have an email address and if people want to send him something, then you know the more the merrier. Because to keep this going, you have to keep evolving. We would love to hear from everybody.
Slam: What kind of content can readers expect? Are there going to be regular columns? What kinds of things are going to be in each issue?
Kenny: Sondra is going to have a monthly column where she just shares some of her pro wrestling opinions as a sort of newer fan. And Keith Elliot Greenburg is going to be doing an article called “Color Commentary,” which was an old Power Slam feature, where basically he has the book; whatever he wants to write about, he can write about. I’m sure he’ll be talking about indy wrestling and I’m sure he’ll be talking about stuff he’s done in the past and events that have happened in wrestling from those times. I’ll be telling stories from tours or podcasts or my interactions with people in wrestling. And we’re going to have a game review section. We have a guy called Stevie Aaron. He’s going to be doing a video game review every month. He knows more about video games that I think I could ever learn in my lifetime. And Findlay Martin’s going to be bringing back a very, very popular concept from Power Slam called “What’s going down?” where he recaps all the stuff going on in pro wrestling. There’ll be a long form interview every month from either myself or (Martin). And there will be Q&As and long form articles. We’re just trying to make sure there’s something for everybody.
Slam: But you won’t have any of the infamous apartment wrestling pictorials that frequented some pro wrestling magazines in the past, right?
Kenny: No, I promise. (laughs)
Slam: This is really nerdy, but will you have posters?
Kenny: We want to get into posters. We do want to do it. We’ve got some ideas about stuff that we want to do. And we actually would like to at some point ask people to send in fan art to have in the magazine.
Slam: What do you want readers to take away from each issue?
Kenny: This is not an article that’s happening, but as an example: say there was an article on Bray Wyatt, about The Fiend. And if we’ve done our job, then you walk away from it going, “What do I think about the Fiend’s longevity in wrestling? Do I think The Fiend has benefited Bray Wyatt?” And the idea is that we are causing opinions that will make you think. It may change your mind about something. It may make you think the writer is crazy. But the idea is that it should make you think. You want it (the magazine) to be something where you read something and then when you re-read it, you get something else from it the second time. So, it has to be intelligent. We’ve got on the cover: “The wrestling magazine for real wrestling fans.” And the idea behind that is just simply, this is what we think wrestling fans want as a magazine.
Slam: What are you going to be doing on September 17 (the date when the first issue launches)? That’s going to be such a big day for you.
Kenny: Yeah, it’s a very strange situation because it’s not quite sunk in yet that this is happening. I was walking back for this interview and I said, “I used to read Slam Wrestling when I was like, 17. And now somebody from Slam Wrestling is asking me about a magazine that I am doing. And Findlay Martin will be writing for it!”
I think that this is kind of a natural progression of all the stuff that I’ve done. I trust in Dan (Richardson), the editor completely. But I’m going to try and pick it (the magazine) up on September 17 and read it cover to cover. I’m probably going to cry briefly because it’s just a big thing, and then I’m going to just read the feedback. That’s important. Read the feedback.
It’s funny, I feel very relaxed about it, which is strange. You’d think I’d be more stressed about it, but I’ve seen most of what’s going to be in it (the first issue). I’ve seen the layouts. I’ve seen the pictures and it looks great!
Slam: Kenny, those were the questions I had, but if there was anything you wanted to add, or maybe something I missed
Kenny: I would say to readers in the U.S. and internationally: we wish the shipping rates were cheaper than they are. But we are trying. Basically, we can only send it one way but we are trying to find a way to make it a little bit cheaper. And if we can, we will! We will make that happen for people who have already subscribed and people who haven’t and we are getting a digital copy every month (available on their website on the release date each month) so people who don’t want to spend the shipping money, you can get the digital copy. They’ll be really high quality. And if you’re not someone who is as precious about physical magazines as I am, you can get it on your device. We’re trying to cater to everybody.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This content has been edited for clarity and length.