Is Wrestling Fixed? Bill Apter’s Surprising Wrestling Journey

As a child of the 1950s, New York’s own Bill Apter loved pro wrestling. Yet he never dreamed he’d become wrestling’s foremost photographer and journalist famed for the “Apter newsstand mags.”

Bill Apter over the years. He certainly has had an incredible journey in wrestling!
Bill Apter over the years. He certainly has had an incredible journey in wrestling!

Working hand in hand with the greatest legends in the game, he had an incredible journey. But how does his autobiography “Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It was Broken!” fare in chronicling his story? An award-winning author gives his take.

Bill Apter: Just A Fan

Famed wrestling journalist and photographer Bill Apter.
Famed wrestling journalist and photographer Bill Apter. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

Like so many who came into the wrestling business, Bill Apter, out of Maspeth Queens in New York, started as a mere fan.

In the late 1950s, he avidly attended shows with his beloved father at the now-defunct Sunnyside Garden Arena. He saw all-time legends like Mark Lewin and Don Curtis, Antonino Rocca, Miguel Perez, Karl Von Hess, Bill and Dan Miller, Johnny Valentine, and even Bruno Sammartino.

How could he not fall in love with the sport?

Growing Up With Wrestling

For over fifty years, Bill Apter has proven to have a great mind for the wrestling business.
For over fifty years, Bill Apter has proven to have a great mind for the wrestling business. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

Young Bill Apter religiously watched weekly TV wrestling shows from Sunnyside Garden, Washington, D.C., and Bridgeport, Connecticut, all under Vince McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Sports banner.

Devouring the wrestling magazines of the day like Wrestling Revue, he sensed that he wanted to be part of them.

Too young to open that door, he put out an early sheet/fanzine. He typed the “news” he got from his favorite wrestling TV programs.

With a massive circulation of ten friends, whom he handed them out gratis, his career in wrestling journalism got its humble start.

Opening Doors

A young Bill Apter interviews J.C. Dykes, manager of the Masked Infernos tag team, during Apter's first time covering wrestling in Florida.
A young Bill Apter interviews J.C. Dykes, manager of the Masked Infernos tag team, during Apter’s first time covering wrestling in Florida. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

As the 1970s hit, Apter bought time on the New York radio station WHBI where he covered professional wrestling.

In a bold move, he called promoter Mike Rosenberg at Sunnyside Garden requesting dressing room access which was rare in those days for an “outsider.” In exchange, he’d promote their cards.

With his dad working the camera, he interviewed all-time legends like Victor Rivera, Tony Marino, and The Mongols.

The door was now open, and he started writing press releases for the venue and finally braved sending an interview with Mongols manager Tony Angelo to Wrestling Revue.

In the January 1971 issue, he saw his first piece in print, and the young man received the heady sum of $35 for his article and photos.

Comically, he reported that the Mongols were from “Crow Asia” rather than Croatia.

Ironically, for a man who was about to travel the world covering wrestling, geography wasn’t his strong point.

A Job in Wrestling

Bill Apter covering wrestling for Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the 1980s.
Bill Apter covering wrestling for Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the 1980s. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

Bill Apter forwarded subsequent interviews to G.C. London Publisher Stanley Weston, who ran a plethora of wrestling and boxing mags out of his Rockville Center, Long Island house.

Young Bill was subsequently offered a job there.

He’d initially be paid the Herculean sum of $25 three days a week. He did everything there, from writing columns to compiling wrestling ratings after speaking with promoters throughout the great territories.

He even began shooting live cards around the country and Canada.

Bill Apter was soon a full-fledged professional wrestling journalist and, in so doing, became a confidant to some of the most prominent power players in the game.


"Wild Bull" Curry
“Wild Bull” Curry was a wild heel back in his day.

In his engaging autobiography, one of the highlights is Apter’s tales of being physically and verbally attacked by various legends.

And sometimes, the line between shoot and work got quite blurred.

At Cobo Hall in Detroit, for example, he tells of a scary encounter with “Wild” Bull Curry, who more than lived up to his name.

Shooting Curry vs. the original Sheik in the main event, Apter remembers, “I climbed onto the ring apron to get a photo of him snarling at the fans. I figured it would be a great perspective. Moments later, Curry charged at me and began pulling my hair.”

He continued, “My camera dropped to the floor with a thud, and he started punching me in the face. Next, he pulled me through the ropes, and I thought I was going to die.

“All of a sudden, babyface Tony Marino came to my rescue. As soon as Curry saw him head to the ring, Curry shot back to the locker room like a lightning bolt. Fans cheered as Tony raised my arm. I was over in Detroit.”

Enraging Macho Man Randy Savage

Bill Apter Opens Up About Being Spit On By 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
Bill Apter opens up about being spit on by Macho Man Randy Savage. Photo Credit: WWE.

Bill Apter also faced a different kind of fury years later when a well-intentioned magazine article on then-aging WCW legends enraged Macho Man Randy Savage.

When Bill tried to hand Randy a PWI (Pro Wrestling Illustrated) 1995 “Comeback of the Year” plaque backstage, he was shocked at Randy’s response.

“He took the plaque from my hand, glanced at it, and slammed it into the concrete wall, repeatedly smashing it. Then he tossed it a few feet and looked me in the eyes, saying nothing. He was seething and looked like he was going to do to me what he had just done to the plaque.”

It turns out Savage was worried the aging athlete tag might ruin his Slim Jim deal.

While they eventually made amends, it proved how volatile the wrestling business can be, even for the mild-mannered, affable Apter.

Listen to Bill Apter’s heartfelt interview with Randy Savage’s brother, the late-great Lanny Poffo, on Pro Wrestling Stories’ own The Genius Cast with Lanny Poffo:

YouTube video

Keeping Kayfabe

Bruno Sammartino and Ivan Koloff | The Night They Shocked the World
Bruno Sammartino and Ivan Koloff square off at Madison Square Garden, January 18, 1971. Photo Credit: WWE.

One of the most memorable tales in Bill Apter’s book involved publisher Stanley Weston informing Apter that Bruno Sammartino would lose his belt at Madison Square Garden to Ivan Koloff.

Bruno had held the strap eight years back when a world title meant everything.

Thus, this passing of the torch and not letting a single soul know became top secret number one.

Poor Bill couldn’t even smarten up his dear old dad in an era when keeping kayfabe was the rule of the day.

This incident nostalgically brings the reader back to a more innocent time before wrestling’s deepest, darkest secrets became widely covered fodder and public knowledge.

Tales of Loss

Von Erich Family: Father Fritz with sons Kerry, David, Kevin, and Michael.
The Von Erich Family: Father Fritz with sons Kerry, David, Kevin, and Michael. Photo Credit: Jan Sonnemair/The Dallas Morning News.

Much of the book is light, fun, and funny, with the humble and appreciative Bill Apter chronicling his colorful life.

However, he doesn’t shy away from wrestling’s tragedies either.

Whether it’s David Von Erich, Curt Hennig, Chris Benoit, and Nancy/”Woman,” Apter knew them all and tackled these and more with admirable openness and honesty.

He writes of attending the sobering David Von Erich funeral, made even more painful as patriarch Fritz Von Erich was furious about a piece he deemed disrespectful of his grappling boys in one of Bill’s “Apter mags.”

How this awkward scenario was resolved makes for powerful and poignant reading.

Bill Apter Has Got the Hook-Up

Actor and comedian Andy Kaufman found an ally in the wrestling world with Bill Apter.
Actor and comedian Andy Kaufman found an ally in the wrestling world with Bill Apter. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

When a straightlaced Vince McMahon Sr. showed no interest in the antics of wrestling-crazy Taxi star Andy Kaufman, Bill Apter created history.

Seeing the potential of Kaufman in wild and wooly Memphis, he connected the brilliant comedian and performance artist with “King” Jerry Lawler.

And Bill was right there recording history when the two taped their outrageous classic David Letterman Show confrontation.

Yes, one of show biz’s most extraordinary moments would never have occurred without Bill Apter.

“How Come I’m Not on The Cover?"

Bill Apter with Vince McMahon.
Bill Apter with Vince McMahon. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

Back in the day, a magazine cover meant you had "made it."

And throughout his career, various peeved wrestlers pestered Apter with the same question.

“Hey, Bill- how come I’m not on the cover?”

Well, let’s continue that proud tradition, but in this case, we’ll question his book’s cover.

Apter took thousands of classic action shots, so why use posed ones with the author next to controversial corporate kingpins Vince McMahon and Triple H?

Wouldn’t his beloved friend Curt Hennig or a hero like Bruno Sammartino have instead been far more worthy photos?

Yes, the eternal “cover complaint” rages on.

“Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken!” Book Review

Bill Apter advertises his book "Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn't Know It Was Broken!"
Bill Apter advertises his book “Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken!” Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

“Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken!” is an illuminating and even inspirational read about a regular Joe from modest beginnings who followed and has lived his dreams.

A mat fan from Queens could have done far, far worse.

And this renaissance man’s career transcended wrestling with forays into boxing journalism, education, charity work, public speaking, stage shows, and so much more.

You can read about all his adventures and misadventures in this wildly entertaining tome.

Nothing but respect for Bill, who is still going strong after so many years.

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Evan Ginzburg is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. He's a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" and acclaimed wrestling documentary "350 Days." He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring.