In the digital age, few individual people have done as much to try to preserve classic wrestling’s video history as Roy Lucier. For the last several years, Lucier has diligently uploaded individual matches and entire shows spanning decades of wrestling history worldwide to sites like YouTube.
Among the various styles of wrestling history that Lucier has worked to preserve is that of shoot wrestling, a style that was the forbearer to modern MMA.
Recently after trips to attend the famed Cauliflower Alley Club reunion, and Starrcast, Lucier spoke to MMAWeekly.com about his preservation efforts and what it takes to be an independent source among corporate interests in distributing video content online.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Roy, tell us how you got into collecting wrestling videos and then later cataloging and uploading them online to sites like YouTube.
Roy Lucier: I have been a fan since 1981… and then in the early 90’s I finally got my hands on the Wrestling Observer, and in the Observer (Dave) Meltzer used to list where you could go to in order to rent Japanese videos and watch Lucha Libre on the satellite dish.
There was All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Women, but there was also UWFi, Pro Wrestling Fuijawara Gumi and RINGS. Those were some of my favorite things to watch, so I compiled a pretty big collection throughout the 90’s. I would say it was about 7000 tapes that I ended up compiling from different organizations and promotions around the world.
I think it was around 2010… and I just started to think of ways I could transfer everything to DVD and upload them to YouTube. That was like the prime way to get it out there. I started making YouTube accounts and got a burner and started doing it by myself, getting it a little bit out at a time.
MMAWeekly.com: Obviously one of the issues with uploading video content to YouTube is potential strikes against the channel for copyright reasons. In Japan it’s the broadcasters that tend to own the video rights rather than the promotion themselves. With that said, who is possibly the most stringent when it comes to copyright issues?
Roy Lucier: The main network out there that hits people with copyright claims is Samurai TV. They used have a 24-hour wrestling network in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. They would show a program and if you try to upload it nowadays they’d hit you with a copyright strike. Other things that kind of strike you nowadays too is the entrance music that somebody comes to the ring to. Luckily YouTube has an option now to where you can click it out and you can mute out a certain section of music so you can upload it without music.
MMAWeekly.com: What makes perseveration of the history of shoot style wrestling for fans of modern day MMA?
Roy Lucier: Several of the big name MMA guys that we have known over the past 20 years (started out in shoot promotions) starting in 1984 with the first version of UWF, and the second one that came in 1989, and all the other ones that came after that.
There’s so much history there with great fighters like Minoru Suzuki, Masakatsu Funaki, the early days of Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and the random gaijin that would show up like the Iron Sheik, Dutch Mantel, Bad News Allen/Brown, a lot of that stuff is great to just catch up on and learn on. To see the early days of how the style evolved over the years. It’s a great history lesson (and important) to be able to preserve all that historic footage.
MMAWeekly.com: Aside from Suzuki, Funaki, and other wrestlers turned MMA fighters like Kazushi Sakuraba and Kiyoshi Tamura, who from the shoot wrestling world do you feel deserves looking into?
Roy Lucier: I would personally love people to see Volk Han. To me he is amazing. It’s kind of sad when he retired and not later when the UFC was getting popular. I think he would have been a major international star with his techniques and things he was doing that so many people weren’t. Every time you’re watching a Volk Han match you’re taken for a loop and can’t believe half the stuff he did was possible.
MMAWeekly.com: Someone else who started out in shoot wrestling who made a brief, but highly memorable, run in MMA was Yoshihiro Takayama. Following his accident in a match where he became paralyzed, others and yourself did some fundraising for him. Tell us about that.
Roy Lucier: Originally in late 2017, a very close friend to me, Eric Cholminski, created a Takayama Drive where he did a PayPal account and almost raised $8,000, and personally handed it to Minoru Suzuki with the help of the New Japan ring announcer Kevin Kelly on January 5 of 2018 (to donate to Takayama).
Following those footsteps, what some friends and I did was a fundraiser at a bar in Long Beach (California) on the same day as the New Japan Strong Style Evolved show that took place in March of 2018. People donated at the event, bought drinks at the bar, and raised money; we raised about $1,000. After the event was over we took a taxi to the hotel where he was staying and were able to give it personally to Suzuki, who was able to switch it over to yen and give it to Takayama for his medical bills.
It’s something honestly that I’m really proud of. Besides raising a kid, helping a man who is down on his luck and out medically, to be able to able to raise money for his bills and necessities is something I’m really proud of.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Roy. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Roy Lucier: Aside from my Twitter, I have a website, RoysWrestlingVault.com. On there I list all the DVDs that I currently have, at least 80 percent, and if I upload them to YouTube, I share the links to them. I update it every day.
If anybody out there has a VHS collection that they’re looking to transfer over to DVD, please get a hold of me. Me and my friend Chad Austin, who used to wrestle in ECW 20 years ago, we’ve got a project going where we transfer several thousand VHS tapes to DVD, so we can get historic footage out there and put up on social media and YouTube for everybody to see.
Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for reading this interview. If you want to get ahold of me, my email is on the website. Feel free to reach out to me. I love discussing MMA and wrestling. This is something I’ve been passionate about since 1981.