History of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)

History of the WWE: The Beginning - The Rock-n-Wrestling Connection

WWE Ring
History of the WWE. Denis Apel (Stardado)
The split from the NWA & formation of the WWWF
The National Wrestling Alliance was a group of promoters who each ran their own geographic territories and shared the same World Champion. Because the Northeast promoters became too powerful and were making it hard to get the champion, Buddy Rogers to appear in other territories, the other promoters pulled a power play and voted for Lou Thez to become champ, a wrestler they knew wasn’t too popular in the Northeast.
In 1963, the Northeast promoters formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation. In one of their first matches, Bruno Sammartino beat Buddy Rogers to become champion. The most powerful promoters of this new federation were Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt.

The '70s
The first decade and a half of the WWF was dominated by Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales. Vince’s idea of having a strong ethnic champion that represented the nationalities of his customers was a very successful idea. During this time, Madison Square Garden in New York City became known as the mecca of professional wrestling. The fans in this part of the country loved to see big men fight each other while the other parts of the country featured a more amateur style of wrestling. After Mondt’s death in 1976, the company was renamed The World Wrestling Federation. Vince McMahon Sr. was very old school and believed his wrestlers should be wrestlers and avoid the limelight because of the inevitable questions about the legitamcy of wrestling.
He fired one of his stars for appearing in a movie. That star was Hulk Hogan. Hulk went on to fight for Verne Gagne and the American Wrestling Association, the only other rival to the NWA which was based in the mid-west.

The new boss and a new business idea
Vince Sr. sold the company to his son in 1983.
If his father knew what his son had planned, he might not have sold it to him. Vince knew that with the advent of cable TV, wrestling would not be a regional business anymore. He set out to conquer the wrestling world. In one of his first moves, he signed Hulk Hogan and used him as his ambassador for his brand of wrestling. Vince then started invading other territories by signing their stars, appearing in their local arenas and appearing on the local stations in their area. Vince saw the attention a small promotion in Memphis got when Andy Kaufman got involved in wrestling and he wanted that type of exposure.

The Rock-n-Wrestling Era
Wrestling manager Lou Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper’s video “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. McMahon took advantage of this publicity by involving Lauper in his programming. This led to a match being featured live on MTV between the Fabulous Moolah (with Lou Albano) and Wendi Richter (with Cyndi Lauper). As Vince was expanding, it was costing him a lot of money to get TV time and he needed to do something big. In a make or break event for the company, Vince got Mr. T to main event in the first WrestleMania in 1985 and the WWF became an unstoppable force. All this exposure led to incredible licensing agreements that were previously non-existent in the wrestling business and a show on NBC that broadcast on some of the weeks Saturday Night Live wasn’t filming. While critics of his brand of wrestling complained it was becoming too cartoonish, Vince was making money on a WWF based cartoon that featured Brad Garret as the voice of Hulk Hogan. Vince was putting the other promoters out of business and by this point only had one real opponent left to conquer, Jim Crockett , who had a show on TBS. This era of wrestling was highlighted by the 1987 event WrestleMania 3 which set a North American indoor attendance record with an attendance of over 90,000 people. Even more importantly, this event was the first truly successful event for the pay per view industry. Ted Turner Gets Involved
In order to compete with the WWF, Jim Crockett had to spend more money to keep his wrestlers and saw the pay per view industry as his way to make that money. His first event was to be Starrcade 87 on Thanksgiving night. However, Vince McMahon countered with his own programming called the Survivor Series and informed cable operators they could have either his show or Crockett's, and more importantly he might withhold WrestleMania 4 from any cable operators that showed Starrcade. Only a handful of cable operators showed the Jim Crockett PPV event. For Crockett's second PPV try, the WWF countered with a free program on the USA network called the Royal Rumble. Again Crockett was thwarted. The only shot he got on Vince in this war was when he broadcast the Clash of Champions for free against WrestleMania IV. Due in part to Vince's maneuvers, some bad business deals, and some worse booking, Crockett was going to go out of business. The only person who didn't want this to happen was Ted Turner. Wrestling was the top rated show on his network and he had a soft spot in his heart for the sport. In addition, he had a bad business deal with Vince over programming Vince showed on his network a few years back. Ted purchased the Jim Crockett's portion of the NWA and later renamed it World Championship Wrestling.

The Burst of the Wrestling Bubble
The first several years of Turner's reign of wrestling were marred by incompetence that would have put the company out of business if Ted did not let his executives know that wrestling would always be on his network.

The WWF couldn't take advantage of this because they had their own problems. In the early '90s, they were hit with both a sex scandal involving minors and a steroid trial that almost sent Vince to jail for a long time. During this time, the quality of his product suffered greatly. The only good thing to come out of this era was a new TV show called RAW that aired on Monday nights.

This show was different from the other wrestling programming on TV in that the matches were competitive. In the prior eras of wrestling, the TV shows were used to showcase the stars by having them beat up scrubs.

The Monday Night War Begins
After several bad executives running WCW, Eric Bischoff took over and decided to use Turner's money to lure away wrestlers from the WWF and most importantly, he was able to sign the retired Hulk Hogan. In 1995, he started a new program called Monday Nitro which aired against Monday Night RAW on Turner's station TNT. Having control of the network allowed Bischoff to time the segments of his shows to counteract whatever the WWF was doing. In a move of brilliance, he also would give away the results of Raw (when it wasn't) live right before the WWF show would go on the air. The best the WWF mustered up to counter this were some bad parody skits involving Billionaire Ted, The Huckster & The Nacho Man. Then things got even worse for the WWF when they lost two of their biggest stars, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. In 1996, they joined WCW and formed the New World Order with a heel Hollywood Hogan. The WWF was getting destroyed in the ratings as they countered this cutting edge programming with wrestlers with dumb gimmicks (ex: wrestling garbage man, wrestling plumber, wrestling hockey player).

The WWF need to make a change fast if they wanted to survive.

The Attitude Era
The WWF, with new booker Vince Russo, went to a more edgy and adult content to counteract the WCW. As part of the Time Warner family, WCW had to keep their programming family oriented after several bad publicity events for the company promoting things like the Ice-T song Cop Killer. There were several things Vince used to get this edge. He introduced the concept of the wrestling Diva, had a new stable called Degeneration-X that acted in a very crude manner, and most importantly allowed a former WCW star named Steve Austin to shine. Steve changed the line between a good guy and a bad guy. He acted like a bad guy, but people appreciated his blue collar resolve and when he feuded with Vince McMahon, it became the biggest angle in wrestling history. The tide of the Monday Night War changed when Mike Tyson appeared on Raw in his first appearance since biting Evander Holyfield's ear. People tuned in to see Mike, and were shocked by what they were watching. This was not the same wrestling people were used to and they were hooked. The WWF didn't rest on their laurels with Austin though, they also developed the Rock into a household name and allowed their young stars an opportunity to shine. In WCW, the old stars had guaranteed contracts and creative control of their characters which led to the stifiling of new talent with the exception of Goldberg. In a major turn, wrestlers were leaving WCW and joining the WWF. To stop their slide, WCW decided to spend heavily on famous people that just didn't bring any ratings. After the WWF got a new show on UPN called SmackDown!, Vince Russo left to become the new booker of WCW. The magic he had with the WWF failed to follow him to the WCW and the company wound up losing almost $100 million in 2000. The money losses combined with Ted Turner losing control of the company in the AOL-Time Warner merger led to the sale of WCW to Vince McMahon in 2001. Vince McMahon's dream of controlling the wrestling world had come true. In the process, he became a billionaire when the WWF became a publicly traded company

The Brand Split & New Name
At the time of his purchase, Vince was involved with the XFL and wasn’t as involved with the wrestling. The Invasion angle of WCW stars was a creative failure and after that angle the big stars of WCW started to appear but most were doomed to failure. As a way to get the feeling of the Monday Night War back, Vince split the company into 2 brands, Raw & SmackDown! In an embarrassing moment for the company, in 2002 they lost the rights to the WWF name to the World Wildlife Fund and were renamed World Wrestling Entertainment. Despite these failures, the WWE continues to make new stars and his hopeful that one of them can become the next Hulk Hogan to start another great cycle for the company.

ECW was a national wrestling company that went out of business in 2001. Vince bought the assets of the company in bankruptcy court. In 2005, the WWE brought back the ECW name for a hugely successful DVD and one time PPV event. Due to the demand for the ECW name shown by wrestling fans, the WWE brought back the name as a third brand of wrestling for the company in 2006.

(Source: Sex, Lies and Headlocks by Mike Mooneyham)