Getting a genre named after you is a pretty big deal.
Decades before the WWE Network, when pro wrestling consisted of regional fiefdoms and New Yorkers couldn’t change a channel to keep up with goings-on in places such as Texas or Florida, they turned to the “Apter Mags.”
Magazines such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated spread news across the country, with Bill Apter taking the lead in writing the words and snapping the photos for fans who couldn’t get enough of a fix.
Fifty years after jumping into the wrestling business with both feet, Apter, a former Long Island resident, isn’t slowing down. His schedule in the New York area leading up to Sunday’s WrestleMania XXXV at MetLife Stadium says as much. On Friday and Saturday, he’ll be entertaining fans during WrestleCon at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan. On Sunday morning, he’ll be at Markout at the Meadowlands, taking place at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel.
Pro wrestling’s new era hasn't passed Apter by. Far from it, in fact: Apter has benefited greatly from the WWE Network. At conventions these days, he’s as much of a dignitary as the stars he covered back in the day. Network subscribers get a regular helping of his insight, like the headaches a 15-year-old Paul Heyman gave Apter while jockeying for space to take ringside photos at Madison Square Garden in the early ’80s — long before Heyman became the Svengali mastermind of Extreme Championship Wrestling and now the mouthpiece for WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
“[WWE] took a big gamble on creating their own streaming network and it's become a must-have for current fans as well as fans who love nostalgia — like me,” Apter said in an email interview. “It's benefited my career not only due to the fact I am on a lot of the shows as a ‘talking head,’ but also all the years I spent doing interviews and handing out awards on various wrestling TV shows are there as well. Many fans tell me they got to know me from the old-school shows on the network.”
Apter says he’s always made it a point to keep up with new ways of communication, which is why he’s entered the podcast arena. His initial foray in 2017, “Is Wrestling Fixed: The Bill Apter Podcast,” was based off his 2015 book, “Is Wrestling Fixed: I Didn’t Know It Was Broken.” He launched his current podcast, “The Apter Chat,” last year with co-host Josh Shernoff.
And it’s a good time to be talking wrestling. WWE by far remains the industry’s top dog, but they’ve got company. The recently formed All Elite Wrestling — which is backed by the family that owns the Jacksonville Jaguars — has inked the likes of former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho and Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross. Ring of Honor has teamed with New Japan Pro Wrestling to run the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
“The landscape of the wrestling business is undergoing a huge change,” Apter said. “Years ago it would have been impossible to fathom that another company — not WWE — is running at Madison Square Garden, but it's happening on WrestleMania weekend on the WWE's home turf, New York City. All Elite Wrestling has created a huge cult following and, who knows, maybe they are next at the Garden. It's all very exciting.”
Apter, who was born in the Bronx and grew up in Maspeth, Queens, lived in several Long Island communities and worked in magazine offices in Freeport and Rockville Centre before a publisher in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, bought the franchise. Apter now lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia and is editor of 1wrestling.com and 1wrestlingvideo.com. He also works for a non-profit in Pennsylvania, AHEDD, which helps people with various disabilities find competitive employment and offers job coaching.
Apter says he still considers himself a New Yorker. A favorite memory of his came at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury — known back then as Westbury Music Fair — while working in one of his other pop-culture passions as co-editor of Country Beat Magazine. He was there for a Billy Ray Cyrus concert and recalled, “Billy Ray called me on stage to take photos of him with some of his fans and let me sing a bar of his hit song ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’"
Apter will be inducted into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in June, which he counts as his 16th hall of fame induction.
“People ask, ‘When are you going to retire from the business?’ Apter said. “I say, ‘Never!’"