Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wrestling Hits Home Video...Videodisc Style!

There are a few online forums that I check into on a regular basis. It's rare to find civil, intelligent, and friendly conversation on the Internet, but one place that holds those values is the forum on the Mego Museum site. Mego was a company that produced action figures and toys from a variety of genres, mainly in the 1970's. The Mego Museum forum is a great place to discuss those very collectible items, as well as most anything pop culture related. Recently, a discussion began regarding the failed "Videodisc" home video format from RCA. That topic reminded me of a seldom-seen wrestling item with an attached personal story of my own. Thanks to that inspiration, this is the story...

It was the Summer of 2011. The first and only NWA Fanfest to be held in Atlanta was fast approaching. Though it was further than even the already-long haul to Charlotte (the regular home of Fanfest), my friend Brian and I were making the trek. One of the star attractions that year was Rowdy Roddy Piper. It was also announced that Piper and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine would be available for a photo op with the original collars from their infamously brutal "dog collar" match at Starrcade 1983. What wrestling fan could pass that up?

One week before Fanfest, the wrestling Gods (not named Layfield) decided to shine a light in my direction. At a local collectible show I stumbled upon a pile of what I initially thought were oddly packaged LaserDiscs. Although we were a BETA/VHS family in the 1980's, I was still familiar with LaserDiscs thanks to my aunt who had adopted the format. Still, these looked a bit different. The cases were heavy and plastic as opposed to just a disc in a sleeve. As I browsed through the titles, one hit me like a ton of bricks: Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Lords of the Ring.

Most fans my age or older were familiar with the title as being one of the first wrestling titles to hit home video. Hosted by PWI's Bill Apter, the video featured some of the biggest non-WWF moments of the decade up to that point. For $5, the huge "cartridge" was mine. Unlike the VHS box art, this Videodisc featured a great action shot of the Piper-Valentine dog collar match as well as Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich and the Road Warriors. Was there any question? This thing was going to Atlanta.

So, WAS this thing a LaserDisc or not? In a word, no. This was software for an RCA Videodisc player, otherwise known as a CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc). There are discs inside of the cartridge case, but they're not intended for removal. Instead, the entire thing was inserted into the player. The discs inside are more along the lines of vinyl records with grooves that enable the program to play. According to a little research, the similarities didn't end there. Just as with a record, skipping and other similar problems pop up occasionally. No matter here, as this particular unit was about to become a very cool, and somewhat unique, autographed item.

Although I did have Piper and Valentine sign it, I think that the most fun was having it signed by Bill Apter. The former PWI editor is a staple at many wrestling conventions, and every collection should have at least one vintage issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated signed by him. Bill completely flipped, having not seen the Videodisc version in many years. After graciously signing it, he caught the attention of the surrounding photographers so that they could snap some shots of us holding the antiquated-yet-treasured piece. Briefly, I knew what it must feel like to be on a red carpet--blinding!

Wrestling did make it onto the LaserDisc format as well, with some Coliseum Video WWF releases. Those are just as fun to collect, but the Lords of the Ring Videodisc remains my personal favorite. It has the great autographs and my memories attached, but it's also one of those great "unknown" items that I so often talk about. Just when you think you've seen everything that exists in the realm of wrestling memorabilia, a gem like this comes about and leaves you wondering...just what else is out there?


Frank Australia said...

Love your blog,always look fwd to seeing your next entry.

Im a big wrestling memorabilia collector also and think this is the best site

keep it up champ!!!!

Love your stuff on the LJNs especially

J\/\/ said...

Thanks, Frank! Glad that you're enjoying it!