Thursday, April 5, 2018


As the world gears up for WrestleMania XXXIV (we still use the Roman numerals around these parts), it feels like time again to look at the memorabilia of the big event. Instead of keepsakes sold to promote the show or at the event itself, these are items from after the fact. These are the vessels in which fans can take the show home themselves and treasure for a lifetime. These are the pieces of  physical media on which WrestleMania can be played over and over again. It's the entire WrestleMania event that you can hold in your hands.

If I had to bet, I would say that WWF WrestleMania hit more VHS tapes in Pittsburgh before anywhere else. Why? After the closed-circuit feed of the inaugural WrestleMania failed at the Pittsbugh Civic Arena (nearly causing a riot in the process), the WWF presented much of the show on the city's ABC affiliate WTAE around a week later. Surely many Steel City fans pushed the record button on their VCRs to capitalize on this momentous event. Vince McMahon's introduction for this broadcast, done from the set of TNT, recently surfaced on YouTube. A few more weeks would pass before Coliseum Video released the official VHS of the event, which also found its way to Laserdisc as one of four WWF offerings in that form of media. The Laserdisc, the size of a vinyl record, presents the famous Hulk Hogan and Mr. T cover art in a way that the smaller VHS couldn't.

Coliseum Video would continue to present the shows, albeit with some edits, on VHS through 1997. One show that saw few edits but featured a lot of added content on the Coliseum Video release was WrestleMania IV. The show was released as a double VHS set, but the box itself was not to be outdone. Housing these two tapes was a package which opened up into a cardboard "pop-up" of The Hulkster himself. Even thirty years later, few fans would be able to resist just how cool this addition was. The Coliseum Video exclusive interviews and features on this set also truly add to the shows and give it an even more epic feel.

1998 saw WWF Home Video take over for Coliseum Video, and the first thirteen WrestleMania events were re-released in a box set under the new label. The set featured dubs taken straight from the original pay-per-view broadcasts, often with portions of intermissions and merchandise commercials that had been long eliminated from home video versions. While the picture quality suffered in this release, there are zero music edits. Yes, even "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," "Easy Lover," and other unlicensed numbers are all there. I'm still unsure how they got away with that one, but I've always been proud to own the set.

In 1999, the WWF released its first DVD in the form of WrestleMania XV. A few years later came a DVD anthology that was released several ways. These sets were very disappointing thanks to intense, and often unnecessary, music edits as well as blurred WWF logos and a very bland packaging design. They are not unwatchable, but I largely ignored them for years, instead favoring homemade DVD transfers of the 1998 VHS anthology. A limited edition version with a leather outer box signed by Vince McMahon was just about the only decent variation on this otherwise bleak release.

WWE continues to release its biggest annual event on DVD and Blu-Ray. While physical media was supposed to be dead by this point in the digital age, it continues on. There will always be fans like me who enjoy having a tangible item in their hands. Is it any wonder that vinyl records have made a comeback? How about WrestleMania back on Laserdisc? Stranger things have happened...

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