Although @TurnbuckleMag came first, @OldWrestlingPic has nearly tripled its followers, gaining support from reputable names like Lance Storm and Jim Ross, and even photo submissions from Tommy Dreamer and Kevin Von Erich.
“There are a lot of assholes on Twitter, but there are also big fans who want to put good information out,” Matejko says. “It’s definitely appreciated by people who notice it.”
He scours the internet for rare and classic pictures of old-school wrestlers, posting them when they relate to current events. Instead of tweeting “Happy Fourth of July” to his over 34,000 followers, he posts an old photo of Paul Heyman dressed as Uncle Sam. It’s highly unlikely you’ll see him recognize a death anniversary, as he tries to keep it light and fun. Instead, he’ll celebrate birthdays of his favorites like Randy Savage, posting a photo and recalling how kids used to take sides between Macho Man and the Hulkster.
“If you put things in context, it adds a little more value and meaning and people consume it as educational content,” Matejko says. “If you share something about yourself, then people start interacting, sharing it and share a little bit about themselves. It creates this community of wrestling fans.”
That community means a lot to Matejko because he didn’t have it growing up. He discovered pro wrestling while flipping through TV channels at night, stopping at Blackjack Mulligan locking Andre the Giant in his famous claw. Then he found WWF programming every Saturday at 11 a.m. on WOR Channel 9 in New York, and Championship Wrestling from Florida every Saturday at midnight on a UHF channel. His passion grew as cable expanded and WTBS finally aired in the Northeast, offering World Championship Wrestling at 6:05 p.m. on the Superstation. In addition, he’d catch World Class Championship Wrestling and monthly events from Madison Square Garden.
But as a New Yorker coming of age in the Eighties, his two favorite hobbies – wrestling and comic books – were staples of “nerd culture.”
“You were afraid to get mocked if you liked that stuff,” he says. “You didn’t really want to openly admit it. When I’d go to supermarkets back when there was a newsstand, I’d ask my mom to buy the wrestling magazine for me because I was too embarrassed to go up to the cashier.”
Nowadays, nerd culture has become mainstream as comic book movies dominate the box office and wrestling shirts fill the shelves at Hot Topic. As a matter of fact, Matejko just bought his first couple of shirts a few years ago, a Mick Foley tee and of course, Macho Man.
“Now I can care less,” he says. “I’ll go to a local indie show and wear it. It’s like I’m coming out of the wrestling closet.”
No Gimmicks Needed
An Arizona State University grad, Matejko has worked in the media for over 20 years, editing and writing for several outlets, including a three-year stint covering hockey and baseball for ESPN. Currently, he’s the director of marketing at Cities West Publishing, and the president of MVP Media, an award-winning multimedia company specializing in digital publishing for the iPad.
When the iPad hit the market, the magazine industry realized the future of print was bleak, and developed software to create digital magazines. In 2015, Matejko used his resources and experience to launch Turnbuckle Magazine, the first digital and interactive pro wrestling magazine. Three issues were released in total, and although they were well-received, the market never took off. Mobile had taken precedence and Matejko felt launching a website was too much work.
“I was always of the mindset to put quality over quantity,” he says. “So I didn’t want to get caught up in that game of feeling like I had to be a content machine chasing those page clicks.”
Instead, Matejko has shifted his focus to social media and video, a combination on the rise. Social video ad spending is expected to double this year to $4 billion, according to marketing consulting firm Magna, accounting for one-third of all U.S. digital ad spending in 2017. Additionally, companies are focusing on streaming live video, which Facebook says people watch three times longer than prerecorded video.
“Even though I love magazines, until that segment of the media settles down and I can get more confident in which direction people want to consume that content in, video is going to be a strong play,” Matejko says.
With so many streaming options and distribution channels, opportunities are ripe for content creators. Matejko believes there is a large audience for quality wrestling content, pointing to the smashing ratings success of ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Ric Flair. “I want to focus on the storytelling side of pro wrestling, whether that’s through the written word or short video documentaries,” he says. “I want to bring the quality of content creation that I’m able to do in other aspects and bring it to wrestling.”
For the past few years, Matejko has been working on telling the story of the late Chris Candido. He reached out to Chris’ brother Johnny after seeing him tweet photos of Chris, and as they chatted about all the memorabilia, home videos and connections Johnny has, Matejko envisioned the makings of a documentary. To date, he has recorded 20 interviews with Chris’ friends, family and peers, needing only three more: Lance Storm, Tom Prichard and Jim Cornette. He also has the distinction of being the last to interview Balls Mahoney before the ECW icon (and childhood friend of Chris) passed away.
“It’s a mix of a heartbreaking story,” Matejko says. “Hometown guy who does good, gets in trouble, makes good again but then meets his tragic end. If he didn’t pass away when he did, it was only a short time after where guys of a smaller size who could go started getting more respect. He’s one of the early pioneers which lead to smaller guys being accepted. Twenty-five years ago, AJ Styles would have had a hard time making it as a single. Guys like Candido opened the door for these talented performers to not only star but make amazing livings. Plus, he was universally loved.”
Still To Come
While he’s still enjoying working on the Candido doc, Matejko can’t help but ponder his next project. Fascinating figures like Flair and Bruiser Brody have already had their story told, but what about a legend like Rick Rude? Anytime he posts photos about the Ravishing One, his Twitter blows up. But Matejko doesn’t want to be known as the dead wrestler documentary guy, he fears that morbid connotation. Plus, he’d love to interview some of these subjects themselves, perhaps a guy like X-Pac, who is pretty open and has an interesting story to tell.
“I’m hoping this gives me street cred within the industry,” Matejko says. “They’ll see how I treat these individuals and their stories. I don’t get star struck. While interviewing wrestlers is fun, I still see them as a guy or a gal, with a story to tell.”
Until then, Matejko will be manning his Twitter accounts, occasionally kicking himself for no longer having his vast wrestling magazine collection. In a horror story similar to many older fans, his parents tossed the magazines away, never imagining their worth to a son who would eventually share old photos on a daily basis. Pro Wrestling Illustrated was his favorite, to the point that one of his professional goals is to buy the brand.
“It seems like one of those historic brands that at one point were really celebrated, and for various reasons, just don’t hold the same stature that they used to,” Matejko says. “And it’s probably money. The company that owns them probably doesn’t put the type of investment in that they should. I’d love to bring PWI back to its high level of status. You know it still exists because when the PWI 500 comes out, it’s such a topic of debate.”
He says PWI should be more active on social media, posting more content aside from its podcast and truly utilizing the brand equity and access the outlet has. It’s a shame that PWI doesn’t take advantage of its legacy, because there are so many up-and-coming outlets that would kill for that kind of recognition. While Matejko was able to build his brands quickly thanks to help from established wrestling names, he knows that for any brand in any business, it simply takes time to build trust with your customer.
“You have to constantly put out quality and be timely, relevant,” he says. “The act of putting pen to paper is simple, but creating something with that pen and paper that is going to grab people’s attention, especially in an era where we’re consuming more content than ever before, is a skill.”
For wrestling outlets just starting out, but without the wherewithal or expertise to produce their envisioned goal, he recommends following Nigel McGuinness’ footsteps. When the former ROH World Champion was forced to retire, he filmed a documentary on his final days titled The Last of McGuinness. He didn’t have fancy production capabilities, but he figured it out as he went along.
“If there is something you’re passionate about, don’t let things hold you up,” Matejko says. “What’s the alternative – not doing it and then getting older and looking back with regret? Who cares if you fail? You tried. If that means taking on some tasks you might not be adept at, and getting outside your comfort zone, well that’s how you grow as an individual and as a professional.”