The day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 22, 2023, I received a text from a friend notifying me of an estate sale that coming weekend. Tim was a record collector, so that was how this sale got on his radar, but he was telling me because the sale was advertising “wrestling ephemera, posters, shirts, magazines and hundreds of homemade VHS of televised events.”

“Oh wow, jackpot!” I texted in reply to Tim, and we made a plan to meet up before the first morning of the sale.

The sale began on Black Friday, at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 24, 2023, and I arrived at the Southfield, Michigan residence before 9 a.m. Tim was already there, and put our name on the list. We were numbers 36 and 37. I was stoked about our place on the list, but Tim was a little disappointed that he wouldn’t be among the first 10 to enter. It was safe to assume there would be more record collectors than wrestling collectors, so Tim expected to be up against stiffer competition than I. We still had an hour to burn before the doors opened, so we drove to a local coffee shop, but we returned with time to spare. The crowd was smaller than expected, but Tim recognized many of the faces from other estate sales, especially the other record collectors. I kept my eyes peeled for any other obvious wrestling fans, but nobody stuck out with the telltale signs of a degenerate Hulkamaniac.

At 10 a.m., the door opened, and the woman with the clipboard began to call names from the list, and one by one, the estate sale hunters dashed in after their preferred prey. The group was small enough that Tim and I got called in among the first group of shoppers, and while Tim jetted right for the crates of records in the living room, I began to scan for wrestling items. Through the dining room, and around the corner towards the bedrooms, was a display of assorted wrestling merchandise that was shown in the estate sale listing. It was like a small shrine to Batista, with Batista posters, toys, magazines, and books, and while I’ve grown to appreciate Batista now more than I ever did when he was an active professional wrestler, this wasn’t really what I was looking for, so I grabbed a few magazines and asked someone who was working at the sale where they had the wrestling tapes.

batista estate sale

Celebrating all things Batista.

I was directed to the basement, where the smell of cats was even stronger than it was upstairs. The estate sale listing warned in all caps, “IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO OR BOTHERED BY CATS THIS IS NOT THE SALE FOR YOU,” and they weren’t exaggerating. The basement consisted of multiple rooms, and in the center of one room was a box full of wrestling magazines. These were mostly modern wrestling magazines, published after the year 2000. Most of them were pretty well read, so for $1 each they didn’t seem to be too great of a deal, so I picked out a couple new, sealed magazines, and explored the rest of the basement.

wrestling mags

Need a wrestling magazine?

Finally, I found what I was looking for. In a corner of the furthest room of the basement, there were multiple plastic storage bins full of VHS tapes. Many of the tapes were commercial releases of motion pictures, like what you might buy in a store, but just as many of them were tapes of movies, television shows, and wrestling programs recorded at home with a VCR. It truly was the jackpot. They were selling all VHS tapes for $1 each, so I decided to grab as many as I could carry. I had brought a milk crate with me, but I quickly filled that and began to fill one of the plastic bins already in the basement. I took anything that was labeled as wrestling.

Clearly, whoever this person was, they loved wrestling, and they kept good records of what they taped. Most were labeled with the specific show or event and the date of airing. Most tapes consisted of WWE programming, Raw, Smackdown, and various pay-per-view events from the mid-2000s, but there were other random shows mixed in, like ECW, TNA, and even OVW. There were also tapes labeled simply WWE or wrestling, and I grabbed those without hesitation. Of course, the risk of buying these tapes is that the label and the contents of the tape might not match, but I was willing to take the risk.

wrestling vhs bin

A mass of VHS tapes.

Tim eventually came down and found me in the basement, kneeling in kitty litter, I presume, just as I was counting how many tapes I had in each bin: 19 in the milk crate and an even 50 in the plastic bin I took from the basement.

“69? Nice!” the guy taking payments upstairs remarked. A great haul, but I was leaving a lot behind. Tim reminded me that by Sunday, whatever was left would be half off, so I decided to take what I had for now, and come back on Sunday for whatever remained. And that’s exactly what I did. On Sunday, I returned to the estate sale with my son and my nephew, who was visiting for Thanksgiving, and I left with another plastic storage bin full of tapes, at 50 cents each. I officially had a new project on my hands.

wrestling vhs trunk

Double up on VHS tapes.

Before I brought my new collection of wrestling VHS tapes into my house, I let them sit in the trunk of my car for a few days, to make sure they didn’t smell like cats. No offense to cats, or cat owners, being the owner of two stinky dogs myself, but the house they came from was rather fragrant, so I didn’t want to risk it. After I finally brought them into my house, and briefly freaked out my dogs, who couldn’t stop sniffing and drooling over the bins, I stacked the bins in my office, where they sat for a week until I had some time to begin assessing what I had bought.

My plan was to organize and take inventory of the tapes, and after that, who knows. I figured I would eventually try to sell or trade some, if not most, of the tapes, and save the cream of the crop for myself, but I wanted to take my time with it. After all, two storage bins full of VHS tapes is a lot of content. My biggest concern was that I felt a real obligation to not just allow these tapes to be thrown away, as I feared would have happened if I hadn’t bought them at the estate sale. Granted, I assumed most of what was on these tapes was readily available elsewhere, like on Peacock for example, but the real joy of a wrestling show that was taped off TV isn’t the actual wrestling.

wrestling vhs office chair

Sorting the VHS tapes.

People who buy, trade, and collect “sold as blank” wrestling tapes want all the stuff we used to avoid back when the shows originally aired. They want the commercials and regional promos. They want the things that WWE has revised or censored in the interim. The wrestling is great, of course, or at least it’s usually entertaining, but what they (or we) really want is the full, unpolished time capsule, in all of its tangible glory.

Perhaps it’s ironic that I’m writing this on the day that “Freemantle announced that they will no longer be producing WWE physical media,” and the final WWE UK DVD release will be Crown Jewel 2023, so VHS is already a long gone, mostly obsolete format, and it looks like DVDs might be on a similar trajectory. With that in mind, I began to sort the one of a kind collection of wrestling tapes filling my home office.

I’m a librarian by trade, and a comic book and trading card collector, so I actually enjoy the process of sorting collections like this, and the fact that the previous owner clearly labeled most of the tapes made the process relatively easy. I decided to start sorting in chronological order, grouping each tape by the year written on the label, so all tapes from 2005 went in one pile, all tapes from 2006 in another, and so on. If the tape was labeled as wrestling but didn’t have a year, those went in another pile, and I kept separate piles for the non-wrestling tapes I bought, as well. Some of the VHSs were labeled “Fight Tape,” with the names of various boxers on a few of them, so I bought some of those, too. Then there were some tapes labeled “JJB,” so at the discounted price of 50 cents each, curiosity got the best of me.

wrestling vhs office

Pick a pile, any pile!

After a few rounds of sorting, organizing, and lots of rewinding (thank goodness I was gifted a vintage VHS rewinder this past summer), this is what I had in my possession:

  • Eight “fight tapes,” including Mike Tyson’s first title fight, against then champion Trevor Berbick, recorded off HBO, and one with the 1993 ABC movie The Amy Fischer Story recorded on it, which I specifically picked up to watch with my partner.
  • Five tapes labeled “JJB,” which I discovered stood for the reality show Judge Joe Brown.
  • Eighteen unspecified and/or undated wrestling/WWE tapes.

Labeled and dated wrestling tapes:

  • The earliest labeled wrestling tape was from November 2000, and it was four episodes of OWV weekly TV. This is the tape I was most excited to watch.
  • Three wrestling tapes dated from 2003.
  • Seven wrestling tapes from 2004, including WrestleMania XX, recorded off PPV.
  • Eighteen tapes from 2005, including Great American Bash, Unforgiven, Backlash, Judgement Day, and the Eddie Guerrero tribute episode of Raw.
  • Twenty-five tapes from 2006, including SummerSlam.
  • Thirty tapes from 2007, more than any other year in the collection, including Backlash, One Night Stand, and another, more cursed tribute show.
  • Fifteen tapes from 2008.
  • Five from 2009.
  • Three from 2011.
  • Finally, two tapes from 2012, including a local taping of Raw in Detroit, Michigan, on April 23, 2012.
wrestling vhs labels

Meticulous listing of episodes helped with sorting.

If my math was correct, I had a grand total of 140 VHS tapes, 127 of which prominently featured professional wrestling, that collectively painted a picture of one family’s wrestling fandom that, according to these tapes, hypothetically began in 2003, grew to a peak in 2007, and more or less concluded in 2012. One can likely assume that perhaps this family’s fandom didn’t end in 2012, but evolving technology, like DVDs, and the eventual launch of the WWE Network (the best $9.99 in the biz!) in February 2014, may have played a role in why they stopped recording wrestling off TV and PPV. In addition to that, the collection of tapes seems to follow the in-ring trajectory of the individual who was clearly their favorite wrestler, according to the other wrestling merchandise in their house, Batista.

But no matter the reason, or reasons, this family stopped making wrestling tapes, and how conscious of a decision this was, I was now in possession of their collection, and I had a lot of wrestling to watch, so it’s a good thing I have three VCRs.

If you’re interested in buying or trading for any of these VHS tapes, please reach out to Josh Olsen at