On April 14. 2006 The Balrog’s Lair will celebrate its tenth birthday! Pretty amazing, huh? This site has been a daily part of my life for the past ten years and even though I normally shy away from these types of online celebrations, our tenth birthday is worth getting excited about! Over the next ten months, I will write ten columns on TBL’s roots, history, direction, employees, fans, and our self-chosen place in the internet wrestling world. If I had a better memory, I would prefer to write one column for each year of our existence, but the memory just doesn’t remember it all that well!
I hope that my attempt at telling you a bit about TBL’s history and success does justice to reality. If you don’t have one of your questions answered in the first columns in this series or if I write a leading statement in one of these columns, e-mail me and let me know. As I said above, I will attempt to give this endeavour my very best effort. TBL deserves it.
We might as well start at the beginning, huh? If I start too far back, well I am sorry. But understanding the whole story may be of some interest to a minority of you fine folks, so sit back and grab a cold one (that means soda for you kiddies out there) and take a trip down my memory lane…
I have always had an interest in computers. From as far back as I can remember, there was a computer in my home. From the old school Apple IIe (complete with extraordinarily loud dot matrix printer) to my own custom-built personal computer that sits beneath my desk as I type this, there’s always been a computer present. I’ve also always been tech saavy. I thank my Mother for that – she always felt that it was important to have a computer in the house while my brothers and I were growing up. From our old Manhattan apartment to our home up in North Jersey, we always had a computer in our home to fiddle with. And my Mom is pretty tech saavy herself, so it’s not like we were just left to try to figure out how to use these things. She taught us very well.
This part of the story is just to let you know that in 1996, at fifteen years of age, I was unlike many of the other kids my age who were learning about this burgeoning internet thing for the first time. I had a history of logging on to CompuServe, Prodigy, and AT&T WorldNet services to check out everything from football scores to current events to a few of my favorite hobbies – comic cards, sports (baseball) cards, and of course…wrestling.
Through my browsing on the internet I found out that one could actually get their OWN website at a place called GeoCities.com. “Imagine that,” I thought. “I could have my own internet and put things up on it that the guys in school could see. Cool!” Needless to say, it was time for Joe to get a website!
At some point, I’ll recreate that old website for you all to take a look at (dude, it was completely kick ass), but I would like to talk for a moment about the content of the original Balrog’s Lair. This was not the wrestling website that you’re reading right now. Oh no. This was Joe’s place to bitch and whine and complain, baby! I distinctly remember my first column that I ever put up on the internet (which I can’t seem to find for the life of me) being directed at one of my old high school friends who was moving in on the girl that I liked. It was called “About Rats.”
This kid was a rat, man! I will never forget the school dance where this prick just moved in while I was dancing with that girl (sadly, I can’t remember her name!). And this son of a bitch was supposed to be one of my best friends?!? So you get the point of the early TBL – Joe’s place to let everyone know what was going on. But wrestling did a find a way into TBL, even back then.
You see, back in my high school we had a bit of a celebrity as a substitute teacher. You may know him as WWE Hall of Famer Tito Santana, but we knew him as Mr. Solis. Tito was a great substitute and a good freshman football coach (I never had him as a coach, but some of my younger friends did). He never did anything worthwhile of getting posted on my website until that one day in the lunchroom…
There was a fight going on between two little bratty kids and…side note: how great was it in the high school cafeteria when dorky kids would fight like anyone cared? lol!…
So these kids were fighting and Tito came up and just ripped the two apart and held them like seven feet apart from each other. The entire cafeteria broke out into a “Tito, Tito, Tito!” chant that brought the biggest smile to Tito’s face. This, obviously, was TBL-worthy material!
That night, after track practice (I used to throw shotput in the offseason), I got to post my first wrestling related column on TBL. Well, folks, you responded in droves. Within a week I had something like 1000 hits. Disgusting, really. Most personal websites back then were getting 5 hits in a week – and they were usually from the kids who were making them. So when I get that insane amount of hits, I had to respond in kind.
I didn’t create TBL as a strictly wrestling website at that point, but I would integrate a column here and there on how wrestling was on TV and whether or not I thought it was good – you know, the same shit that you read these days!
We’re going to stop the Story of TBL at this point in time. Soon enough, though, another column will emerge with the missing parts of this story such as, what else was on TBL besides the occasional wrestling column if it wasn’t originally a wrestling website? Why did you go all wrestling, all the time? Who was the first TBL employee? What was the rest of the internet wrestling scene like those days? Who was the competition? When did TBL begin to expand?
All these answers and more in the coming editions of TBL At Ten!