Under The Mat-tress: A Look Back At Playboy Magazine and Pro Wrestling

Brian Damage

Playboy magazine…one of the most iconic of all gentlemen’s magazines has announced it is shutting down in March of 2020. The Hugh Hefner periodical started in 1953 and was the worst kept secret for many men both young and old for generations. Who didn’t have a Playboy mag hidden under a mattress or stowed away in a closet at one point or another in their lifetime? With the advent of the internet…sales of the nudie mag fell drastically throughout the years. At one point, Playboy got rid of their nude pictorials and tried to be a magazine of articles. When that failed, it returned to its wheelhouse of showing naked women…but it was all for not. And now, after 67 years in business it is all over.

In the time of their heyday, Playboy magazine sold millions upon millions of copies with many female celebrities gracing the cover and in the centerfolds. Larger than life starlets from Marilyn Monroe to Farrah Fawcett to the cartoon Marge Simpson have all posed (or drawn nude). While Hollywood has had its fair share of actresses and personalities that have gone in the buff…the world of pro wrestling has also had its own history with the magazine.

As most wrestling fans already know…WWF/WWE has had a history with Hugh Hefner and Playboy. The list of WWE stars/Divas that appeared on the cover and within the pages of the magazine include women like Sable, Maria Kanellis, Ashley Massaro, Candice Michelle, Torrie Wilson and ‘The Ninth Wonder of the World’ Chyna. All were featured in nude pictorials whether it was solo or together as a pair. Sales for issues with WWE stars were…as you could imagine…some of the highest selling issues of all time. Not really a shock, when you factor in the WWE’s hype machine behind many of them.

For example, the 1999 issue featuring Sable sold over one million copies…placing it seventh on Playboy’s all time sellers list. Chyna would surpass Sable’s sales by over 200,000 when she was featured the first time in 2000. WWE Divas like Maria Kanellis, Candice Michelle and Ashley Massaro did okay sales also. Some fans and wrestling critics believed that there was a “Playboy Curse’ with the WWE women who posed nude for mag. There were those who believed that some of the ladies developed massive egos after the publication of their issues and it caused problems with their “day jobs.”

Both Sable and Chyna wound up leaving the company on not the best of terms. Sable sued the company for sexual harassment, while Chyna allegedly refused to wrestle other women as she felt it was a demotion for her. Of course, when her then boyfriend Triple H cheated on her with the boss’ daughter…it was the end of the road for Chyna in the WWE.

In 2001, WWE CEO Vince McMahon did a very revealing interview with Playboy talking about his rough childhood that involved abuse and possible incest and his life with his wife Linda that involved several extramarital affairs.

The WWF’s Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch was once voted AOL’s Most Downloaded Celebrity. In 1996, it was revealed that Playboy magazine offered a chance to pose nude for their magazine. An offer, Tammy says she turned down in less than five minutes. She cited that she simply was too reserved at the time to pose nude for the popular magazine. She later admitted to regretting that decision.

The tables were somewhat turned when the WWF hired former Playboy Playmate Ashley Allen in 1996. She was used very sparingly.

While WWE has had the most visible relationship with Playboy….they weren’t the only wrestlers and wrestling personalities that have had opportunities with the magazine. Wrestlers and wrestling valets from other promotions also have had their moment to showcase their…um…assets.

Magnificent Mimi a wrestler from the 1980’s with the AWA among other organizations posed nude for the mag.

Missy Hyatt had a nude photo shoot with the magazine, but the pics were never published.

Madusa/Alundra Blayze did a nude photo shoot for the publication early in her wrestling career, but put a stop the pictures being printed when she got a gig working in Japan.

In WCW, Diamond Dallas Page’s then wife Kimberly Page posed nude for them, as did former Scott Steiner ‘freak’ and independent wrestler April Hunter.

Eric Bischoff’s wife Loree posed in 2005…for their “Hottest Housewives” edition.

Former WWE and TNA personality Christy Hemme graced the cover and inside the mag in 2005.

Speaking of TNA wrestling, the promotion signed a deal with Playboy in 2009 and TNA Knockout Traci Brooks was chosen to pose nude. The pictorial was never published in the actual magazine, but their online division.

Former wrestler/valet and wife to Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin….Maryse posed nude for Playboy before her wrestling career and marriage to the Miz took off.

All in all, pro wrestling has had a long illustrious history with Hugh Hefner’s once popular Playboy magazine. The magazine has run its course. It truly is an end of an era.

4 thoughts on “Under The Mat-tress: A Look Back At Playboy Magazine and Pro Wrestling

  1. That is sad though it was inevitable considering not just the rise of the internet but also the growing disconnect between the magazine and its readers. Honestly, did anyone really read Playboy for its articles? Yes, they had an article that was worth reading once in a while but a lot of it was pretentious fluff. Plus, it tried to give men the idea of a lifestyle that is un-affordable to regular guys as it really served as the prototype for the ultimate douchebag. When it tried to remove nudes to cater to millennials, I knew it was going to flop and then they went back to nudes but it wasn’t the same. The women didn’t become interesting as I grew out of it in favor of other things. It’s just not the same anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An American Icon ends. I know, I know, we have the old joke that “I only read it for the articles.” But back in the day, you really could read it for the articles. Once upon a time they had excellent editorial content. They had in depth interviews with celebs and politicians that were huge and went on for many pages. They had top cartoon content from the likes of Gahan Wilson and Harvey Kurtzman. Seriously doubt the website will have any of that. Print is pretty much dead. All signs point to the comic book industry following suit. So long Bunnies, Playmates, and centerfolds on paper. Tell Hef we said Hi.

    Liked by 3 people

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