While growing up in Rockville Centre in the ‘80s, Brian Shields would ride his bicycle up and down Maple Avenue in search of the Pro Wrestling Magazine office building.
At the time, the publication’s offices were located in the village. Shields, a longtime World Wrestling Entertainment fan, was never able to spot the building as many times as he tried. However, he did see then-editor of Pro Wrestling Magazine, Bill Apter, around town — and Shields had no problem approaching him on the street to ask his burning WWE questions.
Is Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat OK from his injury? How could Andre the Giant turn on Hulk Hogan? He, and many other die-hard fans, just had to know.
“[Bill Apter] could’ve been walking out of Miceli’s Pizza or Park Avenue Deli or George Martin The Original, any of these places, and been approached by a 9-year-old me,” Shields recalled fondly. “He always made time and answered my questions.”
Fast forward three decades later, and Shields, 42, is now, himself, an expert on all things WWE and shares that knowledge with the world. He has written eight books over the past 13 years for the organization, including the New York Times bestselling “WWE Encyclopedia.”
In July, Shields received one of the highest honors in professional wrestling — the Jim Melby Award and a spot in the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Jim Melby Award reocgnizes journalists or historians for excellence in preserving the history of professional wrestling. Shields is the first official author of the WWE to win the award.
“It took me a little while to wrap my head around the honor, given the work that Mr. Melby and past winners amassed over the years,” he said. “To be recognized by the Hall of Fame and receive the award is an incredible honor.”
Shields was inducted with several others, including former WWE champion Sgt. Slaughter and current UFC champion David Cormier. The weekend entailed a tour of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, I.A. and an awards ceremony at Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.
“If you would have told me when I was a kid, sitting on my couch watching wrestling on TV in my mother’s house in Rockville Centre or riding around on my bike…,” Shields said. “I’d [be happy] to even be attending this event. It just makes it extra special to receive this award.”
As a child, Shields attended St. Agnes Cathedral School, and then graduated from Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville. He grew up watching WWE, among other sports, religiously, but WWE is not where he began his career.
Shields received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University, as well as certification in sports, entertainment and live event marketing from New York University. Afterwards, he spent many years working at Acclaim Entertainment, a video game company based out of Glen Cove, before it closed in 2004. He was the company’s brand manager and worked on licensed products with the NFL, NBA and MLB.
“Getting my career started like that was incredible,” he said. “That’s where I started writing professionally.”
In 2006, Shields published his first book with WWE, “Main Event: WWE in the Raging ‘80s.” Since then he’s written “Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte” and “30 Years of Wrestlemania,” among many others.
“I’m thankful to WWE for the opportunity to work with a company that I’ve admired since I’m a kid,” Shields said. “When you get the opportunity to work with a company like that, you can’t say yes fast enough.”
He’s written about all the “larger than life personas and athleticism in the ring” that captivated his imagination all those years ago — that same ones he picked Apter’s brain.
“In order to do that at the highest level night after night in an industry with no off season,” he noted, “men and women need to have physical conditioning of a pro athlete and a variety of different skills that an entertainer would.”
Now, Shields owns his own digital content and copywriting agency and teaches classes in digital marketing and social media at LIU Post. There, he uses his career with WWE as a “springboard” for the course.