Channel Surfers – World Wresting Entertainment Part 1: A History of the WWE

“Why do you watch wrestling?” I get asked this question a lot, whenever people realize I’m wearing a WWE t-shirt or I start talking about it as passionately as I do. Even when I try to briefly explain it I don’t think I get what across what I want to those people. Now, I don’t just watch WWE, I’m a fan of all professional wrestling, TNA I’ll watch whenever I catch it and I love supporting my local wrestling promotion PWA. My hope here is that within the space of this blog post I can tell you why I love professional wrestling. Note: This is going to be a long post, I’m going to go into the history of the WWE before I go into my love for it, please stay with me here.

Let’s start with some basic history of the WWE, I’m going to focus on the biggest name in sports entertainment as they are the most well known, I say TNA and you might think I’m talking about some fasion company, so I’m gonna go with the default wrestling company. WWE stands for World Wrestling Entertainment, up until 2002 it was known as WWF, the F standing for Federation, when the World Wildlife Federation, a company that did some advertising with them previously, got angry at them having the same initials as them. But way back before it was even WWF a boxing promoter by the name of Roderick James McMahon created Capital Wrestling Corporation (CWC) with pro wrestler Joseph Raymond Mondt and in 1953 CWC joined with the Nation Wrestling Alliance. After MacMhon died Roderick’s son Vincent James MacMahon was brought in to run the company, with Mondt, in place of his father. In 1963 McMahon and Mondt split with NWA and took CWC with them in protest of some less than fair play on NWA’s part concerning on of CWC’s champions. This caused the creation of the World Wide Wrestling Federation by the two men. The WWWF did pretty well, they sold shows and made good money but they only held shows once a month rather than weekly or bi-weekly like other promotions did, so slowly they started loosing views for that reason and the reason that there was no air time on tv for them so a lot of the Madison Square Garden fans stopped coming to the shows. In the late ’60s Mondt left WWWF and Vince McMahon, Sr. joined back with the NWA but kept his own roster, not using any of the NWA’s stars. In 1979 Vince changed the name of the company to WWF for “marketing purposes”.

In February of 1980, Vincent K. McMahon, son of Vincent James McMahon, created Titan Sports and in ’82 he bought CWC from his father and other shareholders. This marked a huge change in the industry because, unlike his father, Vince Jr had started seeing pro wrestling as being more about entertainment than actual sport and this began the creation of the WWE that we know now. Once Vince broke away from the NWA nothing could stop him from turning WWF into the giant it is today. Vince started syndicating the WWF to tv companies so that they could get air time and he started selling taped events. He used the money he made off of the TV broadcasts, tape sales and advertising to do something unheard of at the time, poach talent from rival promotions and bring them over to the WWF. Because of this money Vince was able to make a roster of very talented people including Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Iron Sheik and many more. This is when the WWF started doing nationwide tours of their events and it all led to the first WrestleMania in 1985, this massive live event was a huge success and is now credited as the official debut of “sports entertainment”. The early and mid 90s where not a great time for the WWF, allegations of steroid abuse and distribution was everywhere and even worse were the allegations of sexual abuse in the WWF. McMahon cut all the wrestlers and the office management’s pay by 40%, including his own, in order to pay off a $5 million steroid trial, this pay cut caused a lot of wrestlers to leave the company and go to WWF’s only real completion, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and this is what effectively began the Monday Night Wars.

When WWF introduced Monday Night Raw in 1993 it was a runaway success and this caused WCW to start up Monday Nitro, which aired at the same time as Raw, to keep up with the competition. For the next two and a half years WWF and WCW would go back and forth in ratings, one week one would be higher with more viewers, and one week the other, until 1996 when WCW introduced the New World Order (nWo) and this began WCW’s domination of the Monday Night War. By the end of the 90s a new era was born, The Attitude Era, a half decade of anything goes and blood everywhere, in an attempt to bring back viewers from WCW and get better ratings through shock value. Wrestlers who had left WCW were now getting signed by WWF and they continued to struggle to regain popularity. During this time legendary things happened for WWF like Bret Hart’s controversial departure from the company now known as The Montreal Screwjob and so many other great moments. WWF started going for broke in 1998 when they brought more blood, swearing and edgier angles to the story lines, this eventually led to the Mr. McMahon character everyone now knows him for. For the first time in 84 weeks, the WWF beat WCW in ratings when Mr. McMahon made his in ring debut against Stone Cold Steve Austin and things kept going up from there. More brutal matches were added (Hell in a Cell and the Inferno Match for example) and viewership kept increasing, until WCW signed over people like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and more all of whom said the structure at WCW was much better than that of WWE.

All of that led to the end of the Monday Night Wars in the late 90’s. Wrestlers were reinvented, such as Rocky Maivia becoming The Rock, and more superstars were being signed. Finally the Wars ended when Mick Foley won the WWF Championship from The Rock. Eric  Bischoff instructed the WCW announcer to announce WWF’s main event and that had the reverse effect that I think Bischoff wanted, everyone changed the channel to watch WWF and see Mick Foley win the championship. That episode of Monday Night Raw pulled in 11 million views and never again did WCW beat WWF in ratings or views.

Jump to 2002, WWF has bought out WCW and saved ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) from bankruptcy and is now pretty much the only name in the business. They’ve faced problems with the World Wildlife Fund and were only allowed limited use of the WWF logo, this was especially monitored in the U.K. It’s now early 2002 and the WWF has decided to split up its roster into two brands RAW and SmackDown! Two months later, around June or July WWF changed its name to WWE.  In 2006 WWE brought back ECW but it only lasted until 2012. RAW remains the WWE’s biggest show, known as “where the big boys come to play” and SmackDown! still has some great wrestlers but has a lot less talent the RAW that’s for sure. In fact in two weeks time, on the 23rd of July Raw will have reached it’s 1000 episode, making it the longest running episodic television program ever.

So that ended up being longer then I meant for it to be so what I’m going to do is split this post into two parts, I’ll put up Part 2 tomorrow and that will talk about why I love wrestling so much. I hope you enjoyed this history, I know I enjoyed writing about out because I’ve known a lot about this before but I got the chance to learn a lot more about the WWE then I have. It’s been a learning experience for me that’s for sure, and I hope you’ll join me tomorrow as I wrap up this two part post.

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Follow Nathan on Twitter @Nait93.


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