DRESHER, Pa. (CBS) – A Montgomery County man has written a memoir based on his nearly 50 year career filled with headlocks, body slams and some of the largest personalities in the wild world of professional wrestling.
Dresher native Bill Apter spends a lot of his time helping those with disabilities find jobs for non-profit company AHEDD which has an office in Jenkintown.
“I’m a job coach and an employment specialist,” Apter tells KYW Newsradio. “Case load of 25-30 people and see how I can help change someone’s life.”
But if the name Bill Apter is mentioned around many long-time fans of pro wrestling, then the ring bell is likely to go off in their heads. For those who are not familiar, Apter does not pull any punches.
“I tell them the truth,” Apter explained. “I write stories, columns and interview people – half-naked men in bathing suits in entertainment form of combat. A lot of ladies too of course.”
And he is now sharing a lot of those stories, and his encounters with some of the biggest names in pro wrestling, in his first book, “Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken!” Apter has been a professional wrestling fan since he was a child and it was a question from a young fan that led to the fitting book title.
“Back in the late 70s I was in Marietta, Georgia. I had just finished photographing a match between Abdullah the Butcher and Mr. Wrestling II. And this kid came over to me, about 9-years-old, and he said, “Mr. Apter I read your magazines. Is wrestling fixed?” Apter recalled. “I didn’t know what I was going to say so I said, ‘I didn’t know it was broken.’ And his dad said, ‘Well you can’t fix something that’s not broken.’”
ECW Press (not affiliated with the popular, defunct-Philadelphia based wrestling promotion) first approached Apter about writing a memoir in 2004. He did not sign a contract until 2012 and after dealing with rounds of procrastination he finally put the finishing touches earlier this year.
In the book, Apter goes into detail about the times wrestlers would get carried away and manhandle him backstage or at ringside. One chapter recalls an encounter with one of the top wrestling executives of the 90s who called him a “parasite.” Another chapter is dedicated to Apter’s role in the infamous Andy Kaufman-Jerry “The King” Lawler feud which would bring mainstream exposure to professional wrestling. The feud would explode during an on-air fight between the comedian and wrestler on Late Night with David Letterman in 1982.
Apter earned the respect of many wrestlers and promoters who went to great lengths to keep the curtain closed and not expose the wrestling business. He reported on the matches and storylines as if he were covering a baseball or basketball game. It is a respect for the industry that he still has to this day.
“It is real because the people in the ring are doing athletic entertainment,” he said. “What they’re doing is very real – trying to entertain the fans. A lot of them get hurt. It’s not a perfect science.”
During most of Apter’s career he wrote pieces and photographed pictures for magazines such as “Pro Wrestling Illustrated.” He would also be the “face” of those publications during wrestling broadcasts and VHS tapes for various promotions – so much so that some fans would commonly refer to those publications as the “Apter Mags” even though he did not own them.
As this passion of his has evolved so has his work. He currently is the editor of 1wrestling.com. He posts Youtube videos of breaking news or special interviews and interacts with over 16,000 followers on Twitter. He also makes appearances on the WWE Network.
Apter acknowledges that there are many wrestling fans who long for, “the way it used to be,” and the days gone by of their favorite form of entertainment.
“I’m here to tell you, if you really watch it, in a lot of ways it is what it used to be. What happens in the ring is still there. However, the big change is the window dressing,” he said. “The way it’s marketed. More interviews, more storylines and they call it sports entertainment.”
“I am glad the business of pro wrestling/sports entertainment has exploded. When I was growing up it was weird if you were a wrestling fan. Now, it’s weird if you’re not.”