Japanese Tape Trading is the Vinyl of Professional Wrestling

Japanese Tape Trading is the Vinyl of Professional Wrestling

Longtime Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online contributor Alan Counihan started buying Japanese wrestling footage from IVP Videos in the early 2000s. Despite being in an age where DVDs are starting to become less relevant than ever before, he still buys footage from the long-running website, a successor to the tape trading era of yore.

"I still use them today mainly for the tradition," he tells Motherboard. "I don't need them for anything current, as the internet has everything so available, but I like to order random old DVDs from time to time and IVP is my go to. I always avail of their Black Friday sale. Again, for tradition."

IVP Videos is one of the last bastions of pro wrestling tape trading. Starting their online store in 2002, they mainly have footage of Japanese pro wrestling (or puroresu) and Japanese women's pro wrestling, also known as joshi. They also have footage from lucha libre (the form of wrestling popular in Mexico) and older footage that WWE doesn't own, such as the St. Louis and Portland territories.

"I was big into tape trading in high school, around 1998-2001," IVP Videos, who prefers not using this name online, tells Motherboard. "I always enjoyed Japanese wrestling, but I mostly traded [WWE] stuff. Kind of fell into selling Japanese wrestling as I was one of the first with a DVD recorder."

The way people consume wrestling, and all media for that matter, has dramatically shifted over the last few years. After all, the way people are consuming television has changed in recent years, eschewing traditional TV for services like HBO Now and Netflix. Even older alternative viewing habits like DVDs have fallen over the last several years.

And while this decline in DVD sales helped spur the likes of WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling (Japan's biggest promotion) to launch their own Netflix-like streaming video services in recent years, the rise of affordable broadband and streaming video still hasn't severed pro wrestling from its tape trading past.

One of the biggest problems that Japanese pro wrestling fans face is the lack of complete archives. IVP Videos has remedied this in recent years with their website, providing a mixture of official VHS releases, footage from cable TV recordings, and other compilation footage that has been roaming around the internet and other places for years. Without this footage, a lot of Japanese wrestling footage would be lost.

For example, lots of joshi, or women's wrestling, content from promotions such as All Japan Women or GAEA would be super tough to find nowadays on the Japanese market, which is a shame because matches held in those promotions have been revered in the past for their extraordinary athleticism. And with Japanese TV networks reluctant to release or stream old footage, IVP Videos is the only resource for them.

"So much old Japanese footage is owned by TV companies who don't care about it and have it collecting mothballs with no interest in releasing it or monetizing it" Counihan says. "So having that source (IVP Videos) there is invaluable."

With only around 45,000 domestic subscribers, New Japan World can easily be described as a niche service, not exactly giving Japanese television stations that carry older footage incentive to follow suit. But that's a good thing—having uncensored, unfiltered Japanese pro wrestling footage is important to those who want to preserve and remember an important part of pro wrestling history, and IVP Videos is one of the last.