Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) is an American internationally sold professional wrestling magazine that was founded in 1979. PWI is headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and published by Kappa Publishing Group. The magazine is the longest currently published English language wrestling magazine. The PWI publishes monthly issues and annual special issues such as their "Almanac and Book of Facts". The magazine recognises various world championships as legitimate, similar to The Ring in boxing.
PWI is often referred to as an "Apter Mag", named after its long time photographer Bill Apter, a term used for wrestling magazines that keep kayfabe. In recent years, the PWI has moved away from reporting on storylines as actual news and mixed in editorial comments on the behind the scenes workings.
Each year since 1991, PWI publishes every year their "Top 500 Wrestlers" in the world list. Since 2008, they also publish a "Top 50 Female wrestlers" list which changed to "Top 100 Female Wrestlers" since 2018.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated was started in 1979. The magazine is known for not breaking kayfabe. Some magazines will break kayfabe and tell the behind-the-scenes reality of pro wrestling; PWI has never done that, traditionally treating all "storyline" events as real. However, in more recent years, the magazine has taken an editorial approach halfway between kayfabe and "shoot" writing, for the first time using terms such as "storyline" and differentiating between "onscreen" feuds and real-life controversies.
PWI also does not follow only the "big" promotions, as they also cover some independent promotions. The magazine features stories about wrestlers and wrestling groups/teams. PWI also has monthly rankings for the big promotions, some select independents, and an overall rankings in singles and tag teams.
PWI declared it would recognize three World Titles when it started publication: NWA, AWA and WWF. When Jim Crockett Promotions, which controlled the NWA Title, became WCW in 1991, WCW earned World Title Status, and the NWA's world title status was dropped. ECW finally earned World Title recognition status in 1999, not long before ECW itself went out of business. The NWA title was restored to a World Title in July 2006 based on TNA's success. They also granted World Title status to two of WWE's World titles, referred as the "RAW World Championship" and the "SmackDown! World Championship". Despite the fact that ECW has been revived as a WWE brand, PWI has yet to recognize the world title status of the resurrected "ECW Championship".
Bill Apter, who can be seen at most high-profile wrestling events taking photos, was the senior editor of PWI for years. Stuart M. Saks is the current longtime publisher for PWI. Hunter S. Thompson-influenced Matt Brock has been PWI's most popular columnist. Brock, however, is actually a fictitious writer. Through the years, many different PWI editors have written stories as Brock. Likewise, columnist Liz Hunter is fictitious, as are oft-quoted WWF/WWE "inside source" Thomas Pilliard and "wrestling psychologist" Dr. Sidney M. Basil.
While PWI writers do conduct certain legitimate interviews with figures within the wrestling business, the majority of "in-character" quotes are penned by the magazine's staff. The rule of thumb: If a quotation is about real-life events (i.e., the people behind the characters), it was uttered by the quoted source. If the quote pertains to any angle or someone's in-ring persona, the response is typically "invented" by the feature's writer.
PWI is now headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and published by Kappa Publishing.
PWI's biggest competition is no longer from other wrestling magazines, but from the Internet. Results are reported faster online than the magazine can report, but PWI still has enough sales to stay alive.
PWI's family of magazines has given out annual awards since 1972. Unlike the PWI 500 which is voted on by the PWI Staff, the fans ostensibly vote for the winners of the year-end awards. A ballot is printed in the special year-end issue. A special PWI Awards magazine is put out annually, which shows not only the winners, but the first three runners-up with the number of votes. The wrestlers receive plaques for each PWI Award that they win.
The awards that PWI has given out are as follows:
- Wrestler of the Year (since 1972)
- Tag Team of the Year (since 1972)
- Match of the Year (since 1972)
- Feud of the Year (since 1986)
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (since 1972)
- Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (since 1972)
- Most Improved Wrestler of the Year (since 1978)
- Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (since 1972)
- Rookie of the Year (since 1972)
- Stanley Weston Award (since 1981)
- Comeback of the Year (since 1992)
- Woman of the Year (since 1999)
Discontinued awards are as follows:
- Manager of the Year (1972 to 1999)
- Girl Wrestler of the Year (1972 to 1976)
- Midget Wrestler of the Year (1972 to 1976)
- Announcer of the Year (1977)
The "PWI Awards" issue also serves as a "year-in-review" issue, with a listing of the top events, matches, angles, feuds and other news (both kayfabe and legit) of the preceding year, usually from January to the publishing deadline for the year-end issue (typically, early December). A listing of wrestlers who had passed away during the past year is also included, as well as a list of top superstars who had announced (legit) retirements. In addition to the voted awards in the established categories, readers are also invited to create their own "categories" and award them to a wrestler or other individual fitting that category, and make their predictions as to what they think will happen (or would like to see happen) during the upcoming year.
Starting in 1981, the "PWI Editor's Award," a legit award given to a wrestler, personality, promoter or other individual connected with the business for lifetime achievements in the industry, was created. The first recipient was Bruno Sammartino, who had announced his (first) retirement that year; later honorees were typically longtime wrestlers who had recently retired or top superstars who had passed away during the past year. The award was renamed in memory of PWI founder and longtime publisher Stanley Weston in 2003.
Special PWI Editions
Besides the special year-end edition and the special PWI Awards Edition, PWI also publishes other special issues. They have published the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestling Almanac & Book of Facts since 1996. It includes all of the PWI 500 rankings over the years, title histories, PPV histories, wrestler stats, top stories of the year, PWI Award Winners and a What's In/What's Out list.
PWI also publishes a Women of Wrestling magazine that has short bios of the divas of pro wrestling and includes lots of pictures.
From 1989 through 2000, PWI published a weekly newsletter entitled PWI Weekly. It had results from the previous week that included all wrestling shows, title changes, injury updates, wrestlers leaving/entering promotions, and obituaries. It was cancelled due to monetary and time constraints on the part of its writers.
PWI has published the list of the top 500 professional wrestlers each year since 1991 in an annual special edition magazine, the PWI 500. PWI writers choose the position of the wrestler following a designated evaluation period starting from mid-June; anything a wrestler accomplished before or after that period is not considered. They follow a criterion that includes win-loss record, championships won, quality of competition, major feuds, prominence within a wrestler's individual promotion(s) and overall wrestling ability. As of 2018, only Jushin Thunder Liger has appeared in every edition of the PWI 500. In 1993, Miss Texas (Jacqueline Moore) was the first woman to be ranked in the list at No. 249. Since 2008 men and women have their separate lists.
PWI Women's 100
PWI has published a list of the top female professional wrestlers each year since 2008 in a special edition magazine, the Women's 100 (formerly known as Female 50). Like the list of male professional wrestlers, PWI writers choose the position of the wrestler following a designated evaluation period starting from mid-June; anything a wrestler accomplished before or after that period is not considered. In 2018, after ten years of the list including 50 wrestlers, it was expanded to 100, and renamed from Female 50 to Women's 100.