I had this idea few weeks ago to try to make things more interactive here at TJRWrestling.com and now that we have the Disqus commenting system in place (cheap pop) I think this is something we can do on a more regular basis. This is not a column full of unique thoughts about the wrestling business. Instead it's about sharing some memories.
This column is about tape trading - specifically wrestling tapes. Now I know that in today's Youtube driven world the idea of trading videotapes is a foreign concept to all of us, but there was a time when it was something that a lot of wrestling fans did.
I'm sure there are people who have stories of tape trading in the 1980s when VCR's were becoming a staple in everybody's home (they lasted about 20 years it turns out), but for me it was the late 1990s.
I can remember my first ever eBay order was a package of wrestling tapes. It was 1998 when I got my first credit card as an 18-year-old and I jumped on there to see what I could find because I had heard from some friends that they had got tapes on there. I had no idea what I was doing. Even eBay was pretty new since it started in 1995.
I did a lot of searching, but eventually found something I liked. It was a bundle of about 20 tapes, most of which were 6 hours long but there were some 8 hour tapes there too. I can't remember the exact price I paid for it although I believe it was around $50 or so.
What was on the tape? I don't recall exactly although I know I there were some Japanese matches because I was really getting into watching Japanese wrestling at the time. It had stuff like Best of Mitsuharu Misawa (RIP), Best of Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid series in Japan and I believe the Super J cup from 1994 or 1995 There were three 8 hour tapes that were Best of the 4 Horsemen, Best of Ric Flair, plenty of ECW (wasn't on TV here in Canada until it was on TNN/Spike) and things of that nature. I also remember that I wasn't home when it was delivered a week or two later, which led to my mom yelling at me for wasting money on "that garbage" as she called it.
I was fortunate that my family had an illegal cable box through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, which meant we got every pay-per-view for free. It also meant movies free and basically anything you wanted to watch free. It certainly made me popular with my friends especially during WWF and WCW PPVs. I recorded everything. Over the years I ended up getting rid of the tapes and have every PPV on computer hard drives.
It's pretty funny to look back on things 15 years ago and where things are now. Because of Youtube, Dailymotion and sites like that there's obviously no need for tape trading. If you want to watch some random wrestling match from 1996 you can probably find it within ten seconds.
Getting back to the tape trading thing, I made a post about this on my Facebook account (link works even if you don't have FB) on Sunday morning just as a way to start a discussion like I always do. There were some really interesting responses when I asked if anybody had some tape trading stories.
The rest of the comments below come from wrestling fans just like you and me. Not all the comments are about tape trading, but there are some cool stories about fans that I'll put the went to great lengths. The comments are in italics with the names and then if I feel the need to comment I will after a "JC:" part.
I tape traded hard and I still have a MASSIVE tape library. Being someone that was able to get a direct tv and dishnet access, I did some taping myself and then of course, would trade with other fans for stuff I couldn't get my hands on like NJPW Super J Cup etc. My first ECW experience was on VHS until I was able to figure out how to point my dish so I could get Philly stations. - Jeff Goodridge
Have every episode of 'Hardcore TV' thanks to tape trading. Hard to come by in England. Still got them at my mother's house. - James Toft
JC: Pretty dedicated fan to send it all the way to England. Must have been pricey with the shipping costs.
In the mid-1980s (pre-eBay, pre-internet!), I used to tape-trade around the world. Probably amassed about 400+ tapes. I remember recording WWF weekly shows for a guy in Japan, who sent me weekly Japan TV in exchange. I sold most of the collection years ago, but did keep some of the rare stuff. - Bob S.
JC: That must have been extremely difficult. Yes kids, there was a world pre-internet. It was a cold and dark place, but it did exist.
I was stationed in Okinawa Japan and back in 98 my uncle would tape raw and nitro for me every week and mail them to me. All the guys would gather in the community room and every week we had big ass wrestling watch parties. It ended up being some of our most fun and memorable times being stationed overseas lol. We did that from 98-2000 and when I got home I had a huge tape collection. Now I wish I still had them. - Heath "Bignoog"
JC: This one really made me smile because it can't be easy to be living so far from home, but then to read about all these guys getting together to watch Raw & Nitro while in Japan is pretty damn great. You have to love that passion as wrestling fans.
I had to buy tapes from 87 until the early 90s to get my PPV fix. Then I got the box and started stealing, er...I meant "borrowing broadcasts" and recording them. I have a closet filled to the roof with shit ranging from PPVs and stuff from WWF Superstars, WWF Wrestling Challenge, WWF Sunday Night Heat, WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, NWA Wrestling, WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder. - Brian "Don't Print That" White
My first wrestling memory was through tapes. I was 5 and at the Boys and Girls Club and the first tape I watched was Survivor Series '87. I've been hooked ever since. Later in high school, my friend had a nice tape collection of ECW and NJPW and we would watch after school.
I also remember staying up late on Friday nights in my early teens and watching ECW on a small black and white TV with the antennas just in the right angle to get the best picture. First match I remember was a barb wire match with Cactus Jack and New Jack. Crazy how I remember this stuff. - Michael Fernandes
JC: We remember because it mattered to us so much at the time and those memories stay with us forever. If I do another of these "Wrestling Memories" it will be asking for stories from our youth.
I am from India and have been watching WWE since 1992. During 2000/2001, WWE was taken off air as their contract with channel STAR SPORTS ended and this was just before WM 2000. I became so angry that I went to WWE Corporate website and mailed some VP. To my surprise, he directed me to CEO of a company called Total Sports Asia which handled WWE television rights deal in Asia. The CEO at that time replied to me that WWE would be back soon and negotiations were ongoing (it was almost one and a half year before we got WWE back on TV in India). However, I was angry and replied that I missed Wrestlemania because of your stupid negotiations. Again to my surprise, he asked for my address and told me that he would send me a VHS tape of WM 2000 free of cost from Hong Kong and he kept his promise. I had to rent a VCR as I had sold my VCR by that time. The story doesn't end there. I exchanged the tape with another WWE nerd from Mumbai whom I had met online. He came to my home and he took the tape and in return he gave a recording of some WWE themes. But I never met him as the exchange happened while I was in college and my mom did the exchange... I left Mumbai soon after that. Six years later I joined a college in Mumbai for MBA. During introduction, one guy introduced himself and his name sounded familiar as the same guy with whom I had exchanged the tape. I confronted him after the class and to my surprise he turned out to be the same guy. - Nishant
JC: Now that's a diehard wrestling fan right there! Awesome story. I can totally understand why you were frustrated that WWE was taken off the air especially in 2000 when they had their best year ever (in my opinion).
I remember buying Wrestlemania IV at the Tower Records Outlet store on Ventura Blvd here in California, and watching the tournament over and over. I think I paid like $5, and wore that thing out. I also remember "watching" the Royal Rumble through the cable static because we didn't pay to see it, so we could only hear it. - Eric C.
JC: See that? Another diehard fan. If you didn't pay for the event what you got was a scrambled television meaning you couldn't see it. He heard it.
I was born in 1982 and when I was small there was a small video store within walking distance to my house. They had several WWE/WCW VHS...I rented them so often with my allowance that the lady who worked there just started letting me have them for free as long as I brought them back. I saw Wrestemania 2-5 so many times, saw the early Summerslams and Survivor Series too...was a fun time when I was a kid. Almost every Friday after school if I was not going somewhere I would walk to the Act I rental store. Good times. - Wayne P.
John, I moved out of my house in 1997 after graduating high school. The place I moved into had basic cable but I realized that the channels WWF PPV's were on, the picture was blurry, but the sound was clear almost as if you were listening to it on radio. I remember listening to the King of the Ring that year. My cousin actually attended the event which was held in Providence. List of matches: HHH winning King of the Ring, Undertaker vs. Farooq (with a surprising Ahmed Johnson heel turn), and Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin. I listened to every PPV that year and the first 2 of the following year before buying my first PPV on my own Wrestlemania 14. - Tony L.
JC: There's another guy listening to the shows. More dedication.
Between 1998-2001, I would go to NYC every few months to go to the Big Apple Con, a comic book/pop culture convention held at the Penn Plaza Pavilion (the hotel directly across the street from MSG). There I would get my usual back issues of comics, trade some old stuff for different old stuff, and other fun convention stuff. But there was also a subsection to this con that was all wrestling. They would bring in legends like Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Taz (this was a con that ran for over 30 years and Paul Heyman was a regular as a fan; then as a celebrity). Long story short, for many moons I would go and buy, trade, and borrow 20-25 tapes every four months. This way I had access to Japan, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and all the fun territories in the US. My best deal was a VCR taped set of 97 rumble, mania and summerslam for a ECW cyberslam, Heat Wave 98 and guilty as charged and Hardcore Heaven 97. I was lucky enough to have ECW broadcast to my home on MSG network, but it aired at 1 am on saturday nights. So this was my first chance to see a ECW PPV. Great times. - John Marr
JC: That sounds pretty awesome that you could meet these guys and also able to get access to wrestling shows all around the world.
I remember getting up early (being woke up by my uncle who's a year older) and my first match I can remember is the BushWhackers vs the Brain Busters and a Zeus Interview. After that I was hooked. I caught as much as I could, even when I was grounded for 9 weeks due to some bad grading period. My dad's navy buddy used to go home from Maryland (where we were stationed at the time) to Philly and his dad was a huge fan still and ordered the 1989 Survivor Series and brought it back for us to watch. I remember eating leftover turkey and watching the event that same Friday, and then again the next day when we put up our tree. As much as Survivor Series wasn't always the greatest PPV, that one has always been a favorite of mine.
Strangely enough, my brother and I befriended the granny who drove the ice cream truck and found out she loved WWF as much as we did (even dated a regional promoter back in the 70s) and she would get the PPVs and record them and loan them to my brothers and friends for free as long as we bought ice cream when we did borrow. When she left, my buddies who had left to parts unknown and I would trade tapes over mail and write to each other about the events, pseudo spoiler style. Once I got older and lost contact with people due to military moves, I had to beg my folks to order at least my favorites. My brothers and I made new friends who also watched, and we traded turns ordering events and having viewings at our houses. In military school, me and a buddy would get tapes from friends and my brothers. We also managed to convince the Corps Commander to watch RAW in his room and let us watch, when tvs and video games were considered contraband. Nowadays when I'm deployed I'm lucky to get them free on AFN and have an understanding wife who allows my daughter and I to order the big events (the ones I want to see most). - Josh Richey
JC: Getting tapes off a granny selling ice cream? Haha that's awesome. Thanks for your service, Josh!
When I was in boot camp in 98, I convinced my parents who thought wrestling was stupid to tape the nitro's and mail them to me when I graduated lol. My graduating weekend was the 4th of July weekend Goldberg beat Hogan for the World Title. We had a few days after where we were still at boot camp but graduated. A few other wrestling fans and I convinced our drill instructor to let us watch that Nitro; it was pretty awesome. - Philip Doss
I use to have the black scrambler box and was able to see all PPV's for years it was awesome. I also watched ECW even though it came on at like 2am on a Sunday Morning in NY. I have so many tapes of recorded wrestling shows going back to around 1987. Whenever I had even a little money I usually spent it on something wrestling related whether it was WWF Ice Cream bars, WCW Action Figures, WCW Comics or renting videos from my local video store which had a ton of wrestling tapes. Thanks to my mom I also had a subscription to WWF and WCW magazines. I would also buy Pro Wrestling Illustrated whenever I had the chance. Boy do I miss those times. - James Williams
JC: Oh the glory days. I used to get the magazines once in a while, but never had a subscription. I liked WWE's Raw magazine more than the others.
Parents had a de-scrambler and I wanted to record The 92 Rumble, so I did......onto a rented porn my dad brought home and left in the VCR!!!! The video store was pissed and made my dad pay for it, but let us keep the tape. I still have it somewhere! - Bryan S.
JC: I think ending it on a "recorded wrestling over my dad's porn tape" is a good spot to end it. There's really no way to top that one haha!
It was fun to read those stories and to also share mine. I think this is something we'll do again whether I do it on my Facebook account, the TJRWrestling.com Facebook page or maybe through Twitter possibly too. We can do a lot of fun stuff like favorite live wrestling memory, how you became a wrestling fan or maybe an internet fan and things of that nature.
What I'd like to have right now (is this a Rick Rude promo?) is for you to comment on the article below with any of your wrestling fandom stories. Since I talked about tape trading that's what I'd like to read about. I realize anybody under about 25 years old thinks us "old" people are insane for this stuff, but trust me we did what we had to do. It's much easier today to find wrestling shows and that's a wonderful thing for all of us.
For what it's worth, you can still find tapes to buy on eBay and other sites. It's obviously not as busy as it used to be. The picture I used at the top of the column was a random fan picture I found. I don't have a picture of my original purchase.
If I want to watch Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask from 30 years ago it's right here after three seconds of typing it into a search.
Watch it. Great stuff.
That's all from me. I'll be back tonight to write my WWE Raw Deal column. Two weeks until SummerSlam. Things should heat up. Looking forward to it.