When I was a kid there was nothing more fun than going to the video store or the local library and picking out a movie or two. The crazy amounts of tapes on the shelves, the variety of everything, the cool looking VHS boxes. I have fond memories of browsing the aisles of not only the local mom and pop video stores but also bigger chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. While I’ve never really been a movie person, despite working in cinemas for the last 15 years, the main reason I always went to rent tapes was one thing: wrestling.
Without having access to streaming services back then like Peacock/WWE Network, ROH Honor Club, New Japan World etc, I was subject to the mercy of whatever was on the shelf at the video store and at the library. Also not having a smart phone back then, I had to check the back of each tape to see what the matches were. And the front of it was also imperative to draw the person in, and that’s what this series will be about: the VHS box art.
This will be an ongoing series, starting with my own collection and then moving from there. I’ll pick four tapes at random and then chat a little about the box art, front and back, give a brief summary of the event/tape in question, and have a little bit of fun! Let’s dive in!
WrestleMania VII (1991)
This isn’t my favorite WrestleMania ever but I felt it was right to start off with a classic WrestleMania event. This one took place in 1991, right about a month after a ceasefire in Operation Desert Storm, part of the 1990-91 Gulf War, had been called. Its got the whole stars and stripes theme going on because of that reason. The main event here was the hateful Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter defending the WWF Title against Hulk Hogan. And the cover showcases that full-force. Both guys mean mugging each other with the American flag in the background. The back has the full match listing and studio photos of select stars on the card. My favorite of those photos has to be the one of the Ultimate Warrior, as he’s just screaming for no reason. Not only is there the main event, there’s the legendary career match between Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior, the final pay-per-view match of the Hart Foundation as a team, the infamous Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick Martel blindfold match, and the WrestleMania debut of the Undertaker. As for the tape itself, there’s two kind of weird things. First, the box isn’t a standard size VHS box like most movie studios (save for Disney) used. This is a bigger oversized style box slipcase that Coliseum Video used until late 1992.
The WWF’s Even More Unusual Matches (1987)
A lot of the non-PPV event releases were compilation tapes such as this. In this particular video, the theme is the “most unusual matches” even though by today’s standards matches like a chain match, lumberjack match, and a Texas death match wouldn’t be classified as unusual. Looking at the design, the case itself is a black, clamshell style box. The cover definitely has an 80’s feel to it with neon letters and bright colored borders around various pictures. The back as usual lists what type of content you’ll see. The things that really stick out to me on this particular tape are “Leaping Lanny Poffo in a suit of armor” and “midget tag team wrestling” listed on the back. Also, the “WWF’s Best Beasts?”. What is that?
Here is a tape I have very fond memories of as a kid. I remember distinctly going into a store in the local mall called Record Town and looking through the wrestling tapes. This was probably late 1998/early 1999 and it was mostly tapes that had been released within the last two months. I distinctly remember seeing this tape right in the middle of the shelf. The cover with the big yellow letters that spelled out “Slamfest” and Bret Hart diving onto his brother Owen just drew me to it. Without even looking at the back, I bought the last copy they had of it. As soon as I got it home, I unwrapped it and popped it in the VCR. Since then, it’s become on of my favorite tapes. While there’s only five matches, those five matches are all pretty good. The thing that makes this tape special though is that is has the classic Shawn Michaels & Diesel vs. Razor Ramon & 1-2-3 Kid match from the October 30th, 1994 episode of Action Zone which is a fantastic hidden gem of a match. I don’t think the match has popped up on the Network/Peacock anywhere and was featured on maybe one other tape or DVD since then.
Hulkamania Forever (1990)
The last tape for this entry and it’s one where the box is mangled. This type of thing was all too common back in the day at places like video stores and libraries where the box would get cut up to fit into a clamshell-style case. However, I find that to be pretty unique and interesting. Let’s look at the cover. The “Hulkamania” series was basically an ongoing best of Hulk Hogan series. This was the next to last tape in the series. The front cover is pretty much just Hulk Hogan on a blue background. Also, note the “sports” sticker that the video store stuck on the cover when they cut up the box. Not really a lot to talk about. However, I really like the back of this box. Here’s where we’ve got Hogan wailing on Dino Bravo with a board and also pictures of Hogan in action. The match listing sounds pretty interesting too, especially the match of Hogan & Tugboat facing Earthquake & Dino Bravo. I’ll be honest, if I was a kid and Hogan fan back then and I saw this, I’d totally rent it!
That wraps up this first entry in the “Wacky Wrestling VHS Boxes” series. This was a lot of fun to write and put together. Stay tuned for more and don’t forget……be kind and rewind when you return your tape!