WWE's origins can trace back as far as 1952 when Roderick James McMahon and Toots Mondt created the Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd. (CWC), which later joined the National Wrestling Alliance in 1953. McMahon, who was a successful boxing promoter, began working with Tex Rickard in 1926. With the help of Rickard, he began promoting boxing at the third Madison Square Garden. In November 1954, Jess McMahon died and Ray Fabiani, one of Mondt's associates, brought in Vincent James McMahon. McMahon and Mondt were very successful and soon controlled approximately 70% of the NWA's booking, largely due to their dominance in the heavily populated Northeast region. In 1963, McMahon and Mondt left the NWA and Capitol created the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), following a dispute with the NWA over Nature Boy Buddy Rogers being booked to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Both men left the company in protest following the incident and formed the WWWF in the process, awarding Rogers the new WWWF World Championship in April of that year. He lost the championship to Bruno Sammartino a month later on May 17, 1963, after suffering a heart attack a week before the match.
Capitol operated the WWWF in a conservative manner compared to other pro wrestling territories; it ran its major arenas monthly rather than weekly or bi-weekly, usually featuring a babyface champion wrestling various heels in programs that consisted of one to three matches. After gaining a television program deal and turning preliminary wrestler Lou Albano as a manager for Sammartino’s heel opponents, the WWWF was doing sell out business by 1970.
Mondt left Capitol in the late sixties and although the WWWF had withdrawn from the NWA, Vince McMahon, Sr. quietly re-joined in 1971. At the annual meeting of the NWA in 1983, the McMahons and Capitol employee Jim Barnett all withdrew from the organization. Capitol then renamed the World Wide Wrestling Federation to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979.
Titan Sports Inc. (1979–98)Edit
The son of Vincent J. McMahon, Vincent Kennedy McMahon along with his wife Linda McMahon, founded Titan Sports, Inc, originally in Massachusetts in 1979, and was incorporated on February 21, 1980 in the Cape Cod Coliseum offices. The younger McMahon bought Capitol from his father in 1982, effectively seizing control of the company. Seeking to make the WWF the premier wrestling promotion in the world, he began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the industry. At the same time, it was initially headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, McMahon noted: “ In the old days, there were wrestling fiefdoms all over the country, each with its own little lord in charge. Each little lord respected the rights of his neighboring little lord. No takeovers or raids were allowed. There were maybe 30 of these tiny kingdoms in the U.S. and if I hadn't bought out my dad, there would still be 30 of them, fragmented and struggling. I, of course, had no allegiance to those little lords. ”
Upon taking over Capitol, McMahon immediately worked to get WWF programming on syndicated television all across the United States. This angered other promoters and disrupted the well-established "boundaries" of the different wrestling promotions. In addition, the company used income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to secure talent from rival promoters.
McMahon gained significant traction when he hired American Wrestling Association talent Hulk Hogan, who had achieved popularity outside of wrestling, notably for his appearance in Rocky III as Thunderlips. McMahon signed Roddy Piper as Hogan's rival, and then shortly afterward signed Jesse Ventura. Other wrestlers joined the roster, such as Jimmy Snuka, The Magnificent Muraco, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Junkyard Dog, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine and Ricky Steamboat.
The WWF would tour nationally in a venture that would require a huge capital investment, one that placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse. The future of McMahon's experiment came down to the success or failure of McMahon's groundbreaking concept, WWE WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a major pay-per-view success, and was (and still is) marketed as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. However, the concept of a wrestling supercard was nothing new in North America; the NWA had been running Starrcade a few years prior. In McMahon's eyes, however, what separated WrestleMania from other supercards was that it was intended to be accessible to those who did not watch wrestling. He invited celebrities such as Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, and Cyndi Lauper to participate in the event, as well as securing a deal with MTV to provide coverage. The event and hype surrounding it led to the term Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection, due to the cross-promotion of pop-culture and professional wrestling.
The WWF business expanded significantly on the shoulders of McMahon and his babyface hero Hulk Hogan for the next several years. The introduction of WWF Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC in 1985 marked the first time that professional wrestling had been broadcast on network television since the 1950s, when the now-defunct DuMont Television Network broadcast matches of Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Corporation. The 1980s 'Wrestling Boom' peaked with WWE WrestleMania 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, which set an attendance record of 93,173, a record that still stands today. A rematch of the Wrestlemania 3 main event between WWF champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant took place on WWF The Main Event soon after and was seen by 33 million people, the most-watched wrestling match in North American television history.
In 1985, Titan moved its offices to its present location in Stamford, Connecticut, before the present building was built nearby in 1991. Subsequently, a "new" Titan Sports, Inc. (originally WWF, Inc.) was established in Delaware in 1987 and was consolidated with the Massachusetts entity in February 1988.
New Generation (1993–97)Edit
The WWF was hit with allegations of steroid abuse and distribution in 1992 and was followed by allegations of sexual harassment by WWF employees the following year. McMahon was eventually exonerated, but it brought bad public relations for the WWF. The steroid trial cost the company an estimated $5 million at a time of record low revenues. This helped drive many WWF wrestlers over to World Championship Wrestling (WCW), including Hulk Hogan. During this period, the WWF promoted wrestlers comprising "The New Generation", featuring Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart and The Undertaker, in an effort to promote new talent into the spotlight.
In January 1993, the WWF debuted its flagship cable program Monday Night Raw. WCW countered in May 1995 with its own Monday night program, WCW Monday Nitro, which aired in the same time slot as Raw. The two programs would trade wins in the ensuing ratings competition (known as the "Monday Night Wars") until mid-1996. At that point, WCW expanded Nitro to three hours and began a nearly two-year ratings domination that was largely fueled by the introduction of The New World Order (nWo), a stable led by former WWF performers Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall (the former Razor Ramon), and Kevin Nash (the former Diesel)
The Attitude Era (1997–2001)Edit
As the Monday Night Wars continued between Monday Night Raw and WCW's Monday Nitro, the WWF would transform itself from a family-friendly product into a more adult oriented product, known as The Attitude Era. The era was spearheaded by WWF VP Shane McMahon (son of owner Vince McMahon) and head writer Vince Russo.
1997 ended with McMahon facing real-life controversy following Bret Hart's controversial departure from the company, dubbed as The Montreal Screwjob. This proved to be one of several founding factors in the launch of the Attitude Era as well as the creation of McMahon's on-screen character, "Mr. McMahon".
Prior to the Montreal Screwjob which took place at WWE Survivor Series 1997, former WCW talent were being hired by the WWF, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind and Vader. Steve Austin was slowly brought in as the new face of the company despite being promoted as an anti-hero, starting with his Austin 3:16 speech shortly after defeating Jake Roberts in the tournament finals at the WWE King of the Ring 1996.