Friday, January 25, 2008
World Wide Wrestling Federation
The NWA recognized an undisputed NWA World Heavyweight Champion that went from wrestling company to wrestling company in the alliance and defended the belt around the world. In 1963, the champion was "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers.
The rest of the NWA was unhappy with Mondt because he rarely allowed Rogers to wrestle outside of the Northeast. Mondt and McMahon wanted Rogers to keep the NWA World Championship, but Rogers was unwilling to sacrifice his $25,000 deposit on the belt (title holders at the time had to pay a deposit to insure they honored their commitments as champion). Rogers lost the NWA World Championship to Lou Thesz in a one-fall match in Toronto, Ontario on January 24, 1963, which led to Mondt, McMahon and the CWC leaving the NWA in protest, creating the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in the process.
In April, Rogers was awarded the new WWWF World Championship following an apocryphal tournament in Rio de Janeiro. He lost the title to Bruno Sammartino a month later on May 17, 1963, after suffering a heart attack shortly before the match. To accommodate Rogers' condition, the match was booked to last under a minute.
Mondt left the company in the late sixties.
Although the WWWF had withdrawn from the NWA, Vince McMahon Sr. still sat on the NWA Board of Directors, no other territory was recognized in the Northeast, and several "champion vs. champion" matches occurred (usually ending in a double disqualification or some other non-decisive ending).
In March 1979, the WWWF became the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The change was purely cosmetic, and the ownership and front office personnel remained unchanged during this period.
World Wrestling Federation
In 1980, the son of Vincent J. McMahon, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, founded Titan Sports, Inc. and in 1982 purchased Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father. The elder McMahon had long since established the northeastern territory as one of the most vibrant members of the NWA. He had long since recognized that professional wrestling was more about entertainment than actual sport. Against his father's wishes, McMahon began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the sport.
The WWF was not the only promotion to have broken ranks with the NWA; the American Wrestling Association (AWA) had long ago ceased being an official NWA member (although like the WWF, they seldom left their own territory). But in neither instance did the defecting member attempt to undermine the territory system that had been the foundation of the industry for more than half a century.
Other promoters were furious when McMahon began syndicating WWF television shows to television stations across the United States, in areas outside of the WWF's traditional northeastern stronghold. McMahon also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast through his Coliseum Video distribution company. He effectively broke the unwritten law of regionalism around which the entire industry had been based. To make matters worse, McMahon used the income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to poach talent from rival promoters. Wrestling promoters nationwide were now in direct competition with the WWF.
Hulk Hogan, due to his appearance in Rocky III had a national recognition that few other wrestlers could offer, which is what led McMahon to sign him. Roddy Piper was brought in, as well as Jesse Ventura (although Ventura rarely wrestled in the WWF at that point due to the lung disorder that caused his retirement, moving to the commentator booth alongside Gorilla Monsoon). André the Giant, Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat and the Iron Sheik rounded out the roster. Hogan was clearly McMahon's biggest star, but there was debate as to whether the WWF could've achieved national success without him.
According to several reports, the elder McMahon warned his son: "Vinny, what are you doing? You'll wind up at the bottom of a river." In spite of such warnings, the younger McMahon had an even bolder ambition: the WWF would tour nationally. However, such a venture required huge capital investment; one that placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse.
The future of not just McMahon's experiment, but also the WWF, the NWA, and the whole industry came down to the success or failure of McMahon's groundbreaking concept, WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a pay-per-view extravaganza (in some areas; most areas of the country saw WrestleMania available on closed-circuit television) that McMahon marketed as being the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.