World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, is a professional wrestling organization. It was formerly called the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF. Following a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund, the Federation changed its name to WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment (see below for details).
WWE is a publicly-traded company owned by Vince McMahon and his wife Linda McMahon, son Shane McMahon, and daughter Stephanie McMahon . As of 2005, the headquarters of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. are located in Stamford, Connecticut, USA.
In 1915, Roderick James "Jess" McMahon (the grandfather of current WWE promoter Vince McMahon) co-promoted a boxing match between Jess Willard and Jack Johnson. In the fight, on April 5, 1915, Johnson lost his title to Willard in Havana. A decade later, in 1925, McMahon joined Tex Rickard in promoting boxing events from the old Madison Square Garden Arena, in New York, starting with the December 11, 1925, lightheavyweight championship match between Jack Delaney and Paul Berlenbach. Jess McMahon's enterprise focused on boxing and live concert/music promotion.
It was not until 1935, the same year Jim Crockett Promotions was formed, that the McMahon family moved into the wrestling business. His son, Vincent Jess McMahon, began to take an increasing role in the running of the business - especially on the wrestling side. However, the McMahon family was not able to promote wrestling matches at Madison Square Garden due to Rickard's dislike of the sport.
This "no wrestling at the Garden" policy ended in 1948, when Joseph Raymond Mondt (known to many as Toots Mondt), backed by millionaire Bernarr McFadden, managed to promote a wrestling show at the famous arena. Mondt doing so was facilitated, in part, by the elder McMahon. Ray Fabiani, who helped Mondt take control of the New York territory after the death of Jack Curley, was influential in drawing the younger McMahon into an alliance with Mondt.
In January 1953, Jesse's son Vincent J. McMahon and wrestling promoter Toots Mondt took control of the Northeastern United States wrestling circuit as part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). This group recognized an undisputed champion that went from wrestling company to wrestling company in the alliance and defended the belt around the world.
McMahon's company was called Capitol Wrestling Corporation - or CWC. While originally running shows from the 2,000 seat Turner's Arena, the CWC would eventually control the territories of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was able to do this after signing an agreement with WTTG Channel 5, in 1956, to air live CWC wrestling shows. These shows were then syndicated. Capitol dominated pro wrestling in the Northeastern United States during the mid-20th century, when it was divided into strictly regional enterprises.
In 1963, Buddy Rogers was the NWA champion and his bookings were controlled by Mondt. The rest of the NWA was upset with Mondt because he rarely let Rogers wrestle outside of the Northeast. It was decided that Mondt and CWC would leave the NWA, and they founded the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Both wanted Rogers to keep the NWA title, but Rogers didn't want to lose his $25,000 deposit on the belt. Rogers lost the NWA title to Lou Thesz in Toronto on January 24, 1963.
In mid-April, Rogers was then awarded the new WWWF title after the WWWF claimed he won a (fictitious) tournament in Rio de Janeiro. He lost the title to Bruno Sammartino a month later on May 17, 1963 after supposedly suffering a heart attack shortly before the match.
The WWWF rejoined the NWA in 1971 and their world title was dropped to the status of a regional title.
Mondt (born in 1886) died in 1976.
The WWWF became the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in mid-1979. The name change was purely cosmetic and the ownership and front office personnel remained.
WWF goes national
In 1983, Vincent K. McMahon, and his company, Titan Sports, Inc., took control of the WWF from his father, Vincent J. McMahon. The older McMahon had already established the northeastern territory as one of the most vibrant members of the NWA by recognizing that pro wrestling was more about entertainment than sport. Against his father's wishes, McMahon began an expansion process that would fundamentally change the sport, and place both the WWF - and his own life - in jeopardy.
Leaving the NWA for a second time in itself wasn't that big a step; the AWA had long ago ceased being an official NWA member, and just over a decade earlier the WWWF itself had rejoined the NWA. But in neither instance did the defecting member attempt to undermine, and destroy, the Territory system that had been the foundation of the industry.
Other promoters were furious when McMahon began syndicating WWF shows to TV stations across America. McMahon also began selling video tapes of WWF events outside the northeast. He effectively broke the unwritten law the entire industry was based around. To make matters worse, McMahon would use the income generated by advertising, TV deals, and tape sales to poach talent from rival promoters. Wrestling promoters nationwide were now in direct competition to McMahon, and the WWF.
According to several reports, Vincent Sr. 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 in mind: the WWF would tour nationally. However, touring a wrestling federation nationally takes a huge capital investment; one which 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 WrestleMania I. WrestleMania was a pay per view extravaganza that McMahon marketed as being the Super Bowl of pro wrestling. If it was a financial success, many NWA member territories would go out of business, and most of America's wrestling fans would be united in watching the WWF. A failure would have seen McMahon go bankrupt, and the second golden age of wrestling may never have happened.
WWF: The Next Generation
Under Eric Bischoff, WCW began stealing talent from Extreme Championship Wrestling (Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Raven, Sabu, Psicosis, and many others) and the WWF. McMahon responded by stating he could create new superstars to regain the ratings war. The WWF began a campaign to promote the next generation of WWF superstars, such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), and Diesel (Kevin Nash). However, WCW eventually poached most of these wrestlers.
While McMahon tightened contracts to make it harder for WCW to raid WWF talent, the WWF was losing money at a rapid rate. The WWF's flagship Raw Is War show was forced into a head-to-head ratings war with WCW Monday Nitro. The WCW vs. nWo feud drew attention away from the WWF's outdated (and childish) rock and wrestling era gimmicks.
The WWF/WCW feud reached a new level in 1997, when McMahon decided to force current WWF champion Bret Hart out of the company. The year previous, Hart was offered a lucrative deal to jump to WCW. McMahon countered with an offer worth much less money, but for a long term, and Hart agreed to stay. However, McMahon immediately regretted the deal. Claiming financial hardship, McMahon threatened to breach the contract and advised Bret to do his best to sign with WCW. However, as soon as the deal was in place, and at the last minute, suddenly McMahon claimed he could pay out the whole contract as signed, and wanted Bret to stay. However, when asked about his plans for the Hitman character, giving McMahon an option to entice Bret with interesting story idea, the ideas put out by Vince made it clear that Bret was not part of McMahon's long term plans, so he elected to sign with WCW.
The WWF was extremely concerned about this development, and not just because of Hart's popularity. Earlier in the WWF/WCW feud, the WWF women's champion jumped to WCW while wearing the belt and threw it in a trash can on Monday Nitro (imitating a heavily publicized act by heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe). The WWF's worst nightmare would be for Hart to appear on Monday Nitro while wearing the WWF belt. Bret promised that no such thing would ever happen and not only that, but got an agreement in place that even the announcement of Hart's departure would be delayed until the belt could be transitioned to a new champion, but McMahon was too paranoid that the word would get out. Therefore, a way had to be found to get the belt off Hart before the deal could be announced on WCW Monday Nitro.
Hart had a clause in his WWF contract which gave him a substantial measure of control over his booking in the last 30 days of his deal, which would end with that year's Survivor Series pay-per-view in Montreal. He let it be known to WWF management that he would willingly drop the title—but not to Shawn Michaels, with whom he had a somewhat strained relationship, and who had let it be known that he'd never be willing to return the favour to Bret. Indeed, earlier in the year he'd faked an injury and surrendered the belt rather than face Hart. Hart offered to drop the belt to any of a number of wrestlers, but not to Michaels. He even offered to forfeit the belt. Bret also did not want to lose the WWF belt in his homeland, which made Bret seem to be not willing to cooperate. This led McMahon to not want to cooperate and Vince was insistent that the belt would go to Michaels at the PPV in Montreal. This would set the stage for the turning point in the WWF/WCW feud...
The Montreal screwjob
The turning point for the WWF came at Survivor Series. New writer Vince Russo handed WWF Champion Bret Hart a script that stated he was to stay in Shawn Michaels' Sharpshooter, which was Hart's standard finishing maneuver, for a few seconds without tapping out. He would soon after regain control, and retain the WWF Title.
But Shawn Michaels was handed a different script, where Bret would tap out to the Sharpshooter. The WWF script they gave Michaels, without telling Hart. Hart never actually tapped out; immediately after Michaels placed Hart in the Sharpshooter, McMahon, at ringside, yelled at the timekeeper to "ring the ****ing bell!" Michaels left the ring with the belt immediately after the bell rang, without the traditional post-match celebration. Hart walked out on the federation in disgust, and went so far as to punch out McMahon backstage after the event.
The event was known to wrestling fans as the Montreal Screwjob and a documentary film was also made about this incident called "Bret Hart: Wrestling with Shadows."
Losing a main event star like Bret Hart to WCW was a risky move. It should be noted that Hart had already signed with WCW, so Bret's decision to make the jump was not a response to the "screwjob."
McMahon and Russo set about making new characters again, but this time, they were edgier, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) inspired wrestlers like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and the D-Generation X stable. They gambled that these edgier stars would be enough to win ratings supremacy from WCW. They were right.
It also set up Vince McMahon, on television, as the evil wrestling promoter. This was key to the feud between Austin and McMahon.
Fans around the world, years after the incident still chant "You Screwed Bret! You Screwed Bret!" to Michaels,to Earl Hebner, the referee involved in the match, and now even Earl Hebners son (who is also a referee), however slightly modifying the chant to " Your dad screwed Bret!".
The Attitude era kicked off in earnest at WrestleMania XIV, when pro boxer Mike Tyson appeared as a special guest referee for the WWF Title match between Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The higlight was the verbal fight between Austin and Tyson ending with Austin flashing the finger at Tyson
Fans who purchased the Pay Per View were amazed by what they saw; this certainly wasn't the childish Rock and Wrestling or Next Generation era they were witnessing. Many of those who didn't buy WrestleMania, including fans of competitor WCW, tuned in to watch Raw Is War the next day and subsequent weeks.
The episode saw the tag-team The New Age Outlaws, join D-Generation X, and wrestler Syxx/X-Pac defect from WCW. It was also the start of the epic feud between "evil promoter" Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin. For the first time in 18 months, the edgier WWF would beat the weekly WCW Monday Nitro in the ratings.
Over the coming year, the WWF would see new fan favourites. The Rock would become one of the most popular pro wrestlers in history. Where earlier WCW's edgy WCW vs. nWo angle managed to almost lead the WWF to financial ruin, it was now WCW that found it increasingly difficult to compete against the one-time northeastern regional territory.
This change wasn't without critics. Many family groups were outraged at the graphic violence employed by the WWF. They, along with feminist groups, found the regular use of scantily-clad women to attract viewers as offensive. One group, the Parents Television Council, waged a sustained boycott campaign against the WWF. However, the controversial new presentation made the WWF more appealing than ever to its core audience.
Tragedy struck on May 23, 1999, in Kansas City, Missouri. Owen Hart, in his "Blue Blazer" superhero character, was scheduled to make a dramatic appearance on that night's WWF Over the Edge pay-per-view telecast, "flying" into the ring by being lowered from a harness attached to the roof of the arena. As Owen was being lowered into position in preparation for this entrance, his harness suddenly disengaged, sending him plummeting almost 80 feet to the ring below. (Those watching the PPV telecast at the time were spared the sight only because the director cut away to a pre-taped interview just before the accident occurred.) Owen was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. A stunned Jim Ross made the solemn announcement to the PPV audience once word had reached the arena, although the fans in attendance at Kemper Arena weren't informed of Owen's death. The decision to continue the card was, and still is, a controversial one. The following night, the WWF dedicated its entire two-hour Raw telecast to Owen's memory, as various WWF performers and employees shared their memories of their fallen friend.
In September 1999, the WWF launched a second weekly show, known as Smackdown!, on the fledgling UPN network. Barring only Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, it has remained UPN's most successful program ever since.
Off the back of the success of the Attitude era, on October 19, 1999 the WWF's parent company - Titan Sports, Inc., became a publicly traded company. To boost recognition, the company changed its name to World Wrestling Federation Entertainment (though its wrestling company was still known as the WWF). While the WWF's success was great, professional wrestling is a cyclical business; and to make up for this, WWFE (the original stock-ticker name for WWF Entertainment) would diversify into other businesses, including a nightclub in Times Square and a book publishing business.
In 2000 the WWF announced the creation of the XFL, a new professional football league, but the league lasted only a year.
In March 2001, WWF Entertainment, Inc. acquired WCW, WWF's long lasting sports entertainment rival from Time Warner.
Since WCW's peak in 1997 / 1998, pro wrestling fans had dreamed about a feud between the two federations. The original plan was to have WCW "take over" RAW, turning it back into WCW Monday Nitro. However, many big name WCW stars such as Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, and Sting were contracted to WCW's former parent company Time Warner rather than to WCW itself, and Vince McMahon (at the time) decided not to buy out their contracts. This, combined with McMahon deciding that WWE wrestlers generally shouldn't lose to WCW wrestlers, ended such plans.
The angle was re-tuned after McMahon claimed in storylines to have bought out defunct rival ECW, forming a faction known as the "Alliance".
The new logo for the WWE after the lawsuit.
Following a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund WWF, the Federation changed its name to WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment. Its parent company, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, chose to adopt this name as well. The name was changed in the spring of 2002 as it lost a court case with the World Wildlife Fund over the name WWF and the usage of it (for example, wwf.com (http://www.wwf.com), which the World Wildlife Fund never actually assumed control of, and fell into the hands of a squatter). The logo was changed and the motto "Get The F Out" was used to publicise this change.
The brand extension
Without WCW as competition, the WWE decided to split the federation into two "sub federations" or brands - RAW and SmackDown! Under this "split brands" arrangement, each brand maintains a separate and non-overlapping roster of wrestlers, has titles exclusive to that brand (e.g. the WWE Championship Title on SmackDown!, and the World Heavyweight Championship Title on RAW), and is run by a different General Manager. More information on it at those respective pages.
The WWE has had a web presence since 1996 and was nominated with a "Streaming Media Award" in 1999 for its online content.
Streaming media's been one of the most important roles of the wwe.com "New Media" department and the output of videos is inmense. With over 14 million played video streams a month, the wwe.com is one of the main contributors of online media.
As quoted by Shane McMahon: 'The WWE web presence is a pretty large asset and we'll be one of leading providers of multimedia/streaming media'. The WWE has a large media repository dating back to the late 60's and the goal is to stream most of this content online using a subscription service. Furthermore, wwe.com provides the same services for its online Pay Per View content.
Shane McMahon is Executive Vice President of Global Media within the WWE and is in charge of WWE.com.
Televised WWE shows
- RAW - WWE's flagship show, airs live on Monday nights at 9pm EST on Spike TV in the United States and also airs live in Canada on TSN.
- Sunday Night Heat - Sister show to RAW, airs Sunday nights at 7pm EST on Spike TV.
- Bottom Line - Syndicated show that recaps the past week's events on the RAW brand.
- SmackDown! - WWE's secondary show, airs Thursday nights at 8pm EST on UPN in the United States and in Canada at 7pm EST on The Score.
- Velocity - Sister show to SmackDown!, airs on Saturday nights at 11pm EST on Spike TV.
- After Burn - Syndicated show that recaps the past week's events on the SmackDown! brand.
- The WWE Experience - A show aimed at the younger audience that recaps the past week's events in WWE. Airs Sunday mornings at 11am EST on Spike TV.
- Tough Enough - WWE's version of a reality show. It followed groups of men and women who were competing to become a WWE wrestler. This resulted in many new wrestlers being added to both brands. It aired on MTV for three seasons and will be returning to active programming as a segment on SmackDown!. It now boasts a US $1 million dollar prize being rewarded to the winner over four years, as well as the standard WWE contract.
- WWE Confidential - This was a 'behind the scenes' type show and featured many exclusive stories on WWE wrestlers.
WWE is currently one of the leaders in pay-per-view content for cable and satellite television.
- 15 live shows for the US market.
- 4 live shows for the European market.
- 2 live shows for the Asian market.
All pay-per-views can be purchased and viewed on WWE.com as well.
Wrestling and movies
Since 2003, the WWE does their own movie productions. WWE talent is well known to sell movie tickets (ex: The Rock) and it wasn't that long before the company decided to get into this medium. Instead of focussing on wrestling movies, the WWE is planning to produce their own movies that are non-wrestling related (The first movie under the WWE Films name however was a short documentary on Wrestlemania XIX).
WWE Films is located in Hollywood, California and their first feature was named "The Marine", starring John Cena. WWE Films will also produce "Eye Scream Man" with WWE wrestler Kane. "Eye Scream Man" has been re-named to "Goodnight". Stone Cold Steve Austin has now also signed a 3 movie deal with WWE Films.
Current WWE Champions
- Official WWE site (http://www.wwe.com/)
- Official WWE RAW Page (http://raw.wwe.com/)
- Official SmackDown! Page (http://smackdown.wwe.com/)
- Official Pay Per View Page (http://ppv.wwe.com/)
- Official WWE Corporate website (http://corporate.wwe.com/)