World Wrestling Entertainment

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World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, is a professional wrestling promotion, currently the largest in North America. The company was previously known as TitanSports, Inc. and has previously done business as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

World Wrestling Entertainment is a publicly-traded company, but 70% of voting shares are owned by Chairman Vince McMahon, his wife, CEO Linda McMahon, his son, Executive Vice President of Global Media Shane McMahon, and his daughter, Vice President of Creative Writing Stephanie McMahon-Levesque. As of 2005, the headquarters of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. are located in Stamford, Connecticut at 1241 East Main Street.

Early history

In 1915, Roderick James "Jess" McMahon, grandfather of current WWE Chairman 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, in New York, starting with the December 11, 1925, light-heavyweight 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 "Toots" Mondt, backed by millionaire Bernarr McFadden, managed to promote a wrestling show at the famous arena. Mondt's 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.

Capitol Wrestling Corporation

In January 1953, Jess'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). The NWA is a broad group of wrestling companies that recognized an undisputed champion, who 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 (CWC) and was based in Washington, DC. McMahon maintained an office at the now-defunct Franklin Park Hotel on 13th and I Streets, NW where he would book the matches and conduct meetings with the wrestlers. While originally limiting its shows to Washington, DC's 2,000-seat Turner's Arena, the CWC would quickly expand into the territories of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania after McMahon signed a contract with Washington, DC television station WTTG Channel 5 in 1956 to air live CWC wrestling shows every Thursday night from Turner's. Those shows were syndicated throughout the entire Northeastern United States allowing CWC to develop a strong fan base and thus become the dominant promotion in that region.

World Wide Wrestling Federation

In 1963, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and his bookings were controlled by Mondt. The rest of the NWA was unhappy with Mondt because he rarely allowed Rogers to wrestle outside of the Northeast, which led to Mondt and the CWC leaving the NWA, creating the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in the process. Mondt and the WWWF wanted Rogers to keep the NWA Championship, but Rogers was unwilling to sacrifice his $25,000 deposit on the belt (titleholders at the time had to pay a deposit to ensure they would honor their commitments as champion). Rogers lost the NWA Championship to Lou Thesz in Toronto, Ontario on January 24, 1963.

In mid-April, Rogers was awarded the new WWWF Championship following an apocryphal 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 the WWWF Championship was lowered to the status of a regional title. After Mondt (born in 1886) died in 1976, the WWWF became the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in mid-1979. The name change was purely cosmetic; the ownership and front office personnel remained unchanged during this period.

World Wrestling Federation

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This "old school" logo was the primary mark of Titan Sports/The World Wrestling Federation from 1984-1994.

In 1980, Vincent K. McMahon founded Titan Sports, Inc., and in 1982 purchased the WWF from his father, Vincent J. McMahon. After discovering at age 12 that the wrestling promoter was his father, Vince became steadily involved in his father's wrestling business until the latter was ready to retire. The elder 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 was not that big of 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 stations across America. McMahon also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast. He effectively broke the unwritten law of regionalism around which the entire industry had been based. To make matters worse, McMahon would use 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.

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: the WWF would tour nationally. However, such a venture required 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 McMahon's groundbreaking sports entertainment concept, WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a pay-per-view extravaganza (in some areas; most areas of the country saw WrestleMania available on Closed Circuit TV) that McMahon marketed as being the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.

The concept of a wrestling supercard was nothing new in North America; the NWA had been running StarrCade a few years prior to Wrestlemania, and even the elder McMahon had marketed large Shea Stadium (New York) cards viewable in closed circuit locations. However, McMahon wanted to take the WWF to the mainstream, targeting the general public who were not regular wrestling fans. He drew the interest of the mainstream media by inviting celebrities such as Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper to participate in the event. MTV, in particular, featured a great deal of WWF coverage and programming at this time, in what was termed the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection.

The new formula of what McMahon deemed Sports Entertainment was a resounding financial success at the original WrestleMania. The WWF did incredible business on the shoulders of McMahon and his All-American babyface hero, Hulk Hogan, for the next several years, creating what some observers dubbed a second golden age for professional wrestling. However, by the 1990s the WWF's fortunes steadily declined as Hulk Hogan's act grew stale, hitting a low point in the wake of allegations of steroid abuse and distribution against McMahon and the WWF in 1994; there were also allegations of sexual harassment by WWF employees. McMahon was eventually exonerated, but it was a public-relations debacle for the WWF.

Monday Night Wars

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This logo was used from 1994 to 1998.

Under Eric Bischoff, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the new name for NWA superterritory Jim Crockett Promotions after its purchase by Ted Turner, began using its tremendous financial resources to lure established talent away from the WWF. Beginning in 1994, these acquisitions included Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, "Big Sexy" Kevin Nash, and many others. In 1995, Bischoff upped the ante, creating WCW Monday Nitro, a cable show on Turner's TNT network, to directly compete with the WWF's flagship show, WWF Monday Night RAW. Eventually, on the strength of its newly-acquired WWF talent and the groundbreaking nWo storyline, WCW overtook the WWF in television ratings and popularity.

McMahon responded by stating that he could create new superstars to regain the upper hand in the ratings war, and at the same time tightening contracts to make it harder for WCW to raid WWF talent. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were elevated to the top of the card, gaining popularity based mostly on the excellence of their in-ring abilities, a far departure from the Hogan era. Despite this, the WWF was losing money at a rapid rate. WCW's reality-based storylines drew attention away from the WWF's outdated (and childish) rock and wrestling-era gimmicks.

In 2004, WWE published a DVD entitled The Monday Night War, which chronicles the monumental battle between the two organizations for ratings supremacy.

The Montreal Screwjob

Main article: Montreal Screwjob

The WWF/WCW feud reached a new heights in 1997, when WCW offered a contract to Bret "The Hitman" Hart worth up to a reported two million dollars. The WWF and Vince McMahon countered with an offer worth much less, but for a much longer period of time, with greater creative control. Bret Hart took the offer, but after several months of financial hardship and sharply falling profits, McMahon alerted Hart of the situation, and allowed him to re-open negotiations with WCW. Despite a great sense of loyalty to the WWF, Hart took WCW's offer and was set to appear on their programming by the end of the year.

While Hart's departure was not a surprise, the WWF was concerned about the fact that the man about to leave was the WWF Champion. Earlier in the WWF/WCW feud, the WWF Women's Champion, Alundra Blayze, signed with WCW while in possession of the belt and threw it in a trash can on WCW Nitro (imitating a heavily-publicized act by heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe). The WWF's worst nightmare was for Hart to appear on WCW Nitro while wearing the WWF belt. Bret promised that no such thing would ever happen and put an agreement in place that the announcement of his departure would be delayed until the belt could be transitioned to a new champion. However, McMahon was concerned that the word would get out and he sought a way to get the belt off of Hart before the deal could be announced on WCW Monday Nitro.

Hart used his contractual control over his booking in the last 30 days of his deal, which would end with that year's Survivor Series PPV in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He let it be known to WWF management that he would willingly drop the title, but not to rival "HBK" Shawn Michaels in Montreal. McMahon would deviate from the agreed finish of their match at Survivor Series to allow Shawn Michaels to win the title from Hart. During the match Shawn Michaels put Bret Hart in a Sharpshooter, which Hart was in the process of countering when the referee Earl Hebner, under instruction from Vince McMahon, told the timekeepers to ring the bell to end the match and announced Michaels the winner. Bret Hart was so infuriated at the fake victory he literally spat in McMahon's eye before leaving the ring. This event set the stage for the turning point in the WWF/WCW feud.

McMahon used the backlash from the event to cast himself as the evil company owner "Mr. McMahon" in WWF programming, a dictatorial ruler who favored wrestlers who were "good for business" over "misfits" like Stone Cold Steve Austin. This led to the Austin vs. McMahon feud, which was the cornerstone of the new WWF Attitude concept.

WWF Attitude

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This is the logo that was used during the "Attitude" era. It is rumored this logo was originally doodled during a meeting by Shane McMahon.

Running with the momentum from the Montreal Screwjob, McMahon, along with head writer Vince Russo, took the WWF in an edgier, reality-based direction he called WWF Attitude, and in the process created a new corporate logo. Borrowing many of the exciting wrestling and storyline styles from then-insurgent wrestling promotion ECW, the WWF Attitude Era was based largely on the growing popularity of the wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. Popular with the fans ever since winning the King of the Ring tournament as a heel in 1996, Austin's rough-and-redneck style won over enough fans that the WWF was forced to turn him into a fan favorite at WrestleMania 13 in spring 1997 (in a rare double-switch in which Bret Hart turned heel after a legendary match between the two wrestlers). During the summer and fall of 1997, Austin enhanced his status as a rebel willing to challenge any authority by giving his Stone Cold Stunner finishing move to WWF announcer Jim Ross, then-Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter, and eventually WWF owner Vince McMahon himself. Hints of the Austin-McMahon feud in WWF storylines began after Stone Cold won the 1998 Royal Rumble to become #1 Contender for the WWF Title at Wrestlemania. McMahon said in a pre-WrestleMania press conference that it was not in the WWF's best interest to have Austin as champion. The relationship would deteriorate over the next few years of WWF programming.

The Attitude era kicked off in earnest at WrestleMania XIV, when the controversial professional boxer Mike Tyson appeared as a special guest referee for the WWF Championship match between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The highlight was the verbal confrontation between Austin and Tyson from the months leading up to WrestleMania which ended with Austin flipping off Tyson come to nothing as Tyson (who was supposed to be in Michaels' corner) counted the 1, 2, 3 for Austin to win his very first WWF championship. Michaels and Tyson then had an argument which ended with Tyson punching Michaels' lights out. Fans who purchased the pay-per-view were amazed by what they saw; this certainly was not the childish Rock and Wrestling era they still expected from the WWF. Slowly this new 'Attitude' helped edge WWF Monday Night Raw ahead of its rival WCW Monday Nitro in the ratings.

Over the coming year, the WWF would see new fan favorites. The Rock would become one of the most popular professional wrestlers in history. Mick Foley, as Mankind, became one of the most beloved figures in wrestling after the memorable Hell in a Cell match at 1998 King of the Ring, where Foley was thrown off the cage by The Undertaker, who himself remained one of the WWF's most popular, beloved, and enduring characters. D-Generation X, led by Triple H, had now taken the place of the nWo as the most interesting stable on television. Where earlier WCW's edgy WCW vs. nWo angle managed to almost lead the WWF to financial ruin, it was now becoming stale, and fans turned back to the WWF, drawn in by the popularity of Austin and the edgy nature of the television programming.

This change was not 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.

The death of Owen Hart

Tragedy struck on May 23, 1999, in Kansas City. Owen Hart, as his "Blue Blazer" superhero character, was scheduled to make a dramatic appearance on that night's 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 Hart was being lowered into position in preparation for this entrance, his harness suddenly disengaged, sending him plummeting 90 feet to the ring below.

Those watching the pay-per-view telecast at the time were spared the sight because the director cut away to a pretaped interview just before the accident occurred. Hart was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. A stunned Jim Ross made the solemn announcement to the pay-per-view audience once word had reached the arena. The fans in attendance at the Kemper Arena were not informed of Owen's death. The decision to continue the event 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 broke character and shared memories of their fallen friend.

Over the Edge 1999 was never issued as a video or DVD as a result of the death of Hart. In addition, many "Blue Blazer" action figures were removed from circulation. His brother, Bret, already having a bad relationship with Vince McMahon over the Montreal Screwjob, further attacked and blamed McMahon for Owen's death. Bret and Vince's relationship has warmed somewhat over the years, and in August 2005, Bret signed a contract with the WWE to produce DVDs and other merchandise based on the Hitman's career.

Business advances

On April 29, 1999, the WWF made its terrestrial television debut by launching a special program known as SmackDown! on the fledgling UPN network. The show became a weekly series on August 26, 1999. It has remained UPN's most successful program overall ever since. SmackDown! was moved to Friday nights with a one-hour special September 8, 2005, ending its Thursday night broadcasts since the first one in 1999.

Off the back of the success of the Attitude era, on October 19, 1999 the WWF's parent company, Titan Sports (which is renamed World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. at this point) became a publicly traded company, offering 10 million shares priced at $17 each. WWF announced its desire to diversify into other businesses, including a nightclub in Times Square, film production and book publishing.

Despite losing Steve Austin to injury, the WWF continued to dominate the ratings and become a pop culture sensation due to The Rock emerging as a pop culture icon and movie actor, and Triple H becoming a certifiable main eventer. The defection of WCW talent such as The Big Show, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero bolstered the talent roster, effectively killing off any chance WCW had of becoming a serious threat ever again. Head writer Vince Russo and his assistant Ed Ferrera were among the last WWF employees to "jump ship" to WCW, leaving the WWF in late 1999. They were replaced by the late Chris Kreski, known for his extensive use of storyboards to attain continuity.

In 2000 the WWF, in collaboration with television network NBC, announced the creation of the XFL, a new professional football league, but the league had dismal television ratings and NBC pulled the plug after a year.

Acquisition of WCW

With the massive success of Attitude, WCW's financial situation deteriorated significantly, and its newly-merged parent company AOL Time Warner looked to cut the division loose. In March 2001, WWF Entertainment, Inc. acquired WCW from AOL Time Warner for $7 million. During the final WCW Monday Nitro, Vince McMahon (as the character Mr. McMahon) took over the broadcast during the last half hour and Monday Night Raw was seen on TNT. Months later, McMahon and Bischoff reconciled their personal differences, and Bischoff signed with WWE to perform as the storyline General Manager of RAW a surreal moment that wrestling fans will remember for all time.

Since WCW's peak in the late 1990s, wrestling fans had dreamed about a feud between the two promotions. 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 "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, and Sting were still contracted to WCW's former parent company (McMahon decided not to buy them out), and all chose to sit out the duration of their contracts rather than work for McMahon for less money. The lack of major WCW star power, combined with McMahon deciding that WWF wrestlers generally should not lose to WCW wrestlers, ended the "InVasion" storyline quickly. Even the inclusion of ECW wrestlers and trademarks did not save it.

Many people believe that the story would have gone much better if WWE and McMahon waited a couple of years, as many WCW and ECW superstars joined after the end of the era. It is believed that he would have waited, however long term booking was based largely around two men: Triple H and Chris Benoit. On May 21, 2001, during a Monday Night Raw tag team match with Benoit and Jericho battling the tag team champions Triple H and Steve Austin, Helmsley planted his foot wrong and tore his left quadricep muscle. Remarkably, he finished the match. Unfortunately, this injury would put Triple H out of action until January of 2002. Chris Benoit, on the other hand, had been wrestling for some time with an injured neck which finally required surgery after King of the Ring 2001. Benoit would be on the shelf for the better part of a year. With two of the key characters in their long-term booking on the shelf, McMahon went ahead with the Invasion storyline prematurely. Ironically, Ric Flair, one of the major WCW names that would have helped the Invasion feud, debuted on Raw the night after the WWF defeated WCW at the Survivor Series 2001. The Invasion feud was a contributor to the company's decline in the ratings as well as in attendance and financially, although the company to this day still has a profitable quarter.

Some people think the Attitude era ended at the end of WrestleMania X-Seven and others say November 2001 once the Invasion was finished. It is still a debate amongst wrestling fans.

World Wrestling Entertainment

File:WWE get the f out.jpg
This t-shirt was part of the promotional campaign to raise awareness about the WWF's name change to WWE.

Following a 2000 lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund (also WWF), the Federation changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE. Its parent company, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, also chose to adopt this name. The lawsuit dealt with the wrestling company's breaching of an agreement with the Fund over use of the initials "WWF" in the United Kingdom. Rather than attempt a financial settlement with the Fund, McMahon changed the name of the company. The logo was altered, and a promotional campaign called "Get The F Out" was used to publicize this change. Also, all verbal and visual references to "WWF" and the World Wrestling Federation logo from the "Attitude" era were edited out from old broadcasts. Some observers saw the new name as further acknowledgement by the company on its emphasis towards the entertainment rather than athletic aspects of professional wrestling.

Shortly after the WWF vs. WWFE lawsuit, controversy arose once again due to the "Kane killed Katie Vick" story line, in which Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) dressed up as Kane and acted out (on a maniquin) an act of Violation upon the corpse of Katie Vick, who was dead at the time. WWE was not given permission to use Katie Vick as a story-line by her family, so the story came to an abrupt end.

Without WCW as competition, WWE decided to split the promotion into two distinct brands based on its two largest television shows, RAW and SmackDown! Under this "split brands" arrangement, each brand maintains a separate and non-overlapping roster of wrestlers, has championships exclusive to that brand (example: the WWE Championship on RAW and the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown!), and is run by a different onscreen General Manager. In June of 2003, WWE began the practice of alternating PPV. RAW one month, then Smackdown the next, and so forth. The two brands join together as co-sponsors of each of the four original WWE pay-per-view cards: Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series. A yearly draft is scheduled sometime after WrestleMania, where 5 RAW and 5 Smackdown superstars switch shows in order to "shake things up".

In 2005, WWE has started a "Legends" program, continuing the tradition of inducting new members into the WWE Hall of Fame at WrestleMania weekend, and working with former legends such as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Superstar Billy Graham to issue new licensed merchandise such as apparel, action figures, video games, and DVDs. The Legends program began informally with the introduction of WWE 24/7, WWE's on-demand service and the success of career retrospective DVDs such as The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection. Recently added legends include Dusty Rhodes, Kamala, Goldust, Hulk Hogan, Jerry "The King" Lawler, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, Big Van Vader and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

Championships

Current champions

Brand Championship or accomplishment Current champion(s)
RAW WWE Champion John Cena
RAW Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair
RAW Women's Champion Trish Stratus
RAW World Tag Team Champions Kane and The Big Show
Friday Night SmackDown! World Heavyweight Champion Batista
Friday Night SmackDown! United States Champion Booker T
Friday Night SmackDown! Cruiserweight Champion Juventud
Friday Night SmackDown! WWE Tag Team Champions MNM (Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro)
RAW and Friday Night SmackDown! Royal Rumble winner Batista (2005)
OVW Heavyweight Champion Matt Cappotelli
OVW Television Champion C.M. Punk
OVW Southern Tag Team Champions Chet the Jet and Seth Skyfire

Defunct Championships and accomplishments

See also

References

External links

de:World Wrestling Entertainment es:World Wrestling Entertainment it:World Wrestling Entertainment he:WWE ja:WWE fi:WWE sv:WWE tl:World Wrestling Entertainment