Exploring WWE’s Rise to Wrestling Dominance

History is written by the winners, according to the old cliché. But when it comes to the story of the fight, the narrative you hear depends on who you ask.

Tim Hornbaker’s Death of the territories: expansion, betrayal and war that changed professional wrestling forever, published in 2018 by ECW Press (no, not that ECW), is a great resource for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of the modern history of the wrestling industry, from its beginnings as a regional promotions network to to today’s landscape, where multi-billion dollar companies broadcast weekly programming on national cable networks.

To hear defenders of the old territory system put it, local wrestling promotions, or “wrestling territories,” were like mom-pop operations, performed out of town by the wrestling equivalent of a storefront. large area of ​​the World Wrestling Federation, now WWE.

WWE Vince mcmahon was more dismissive, referring to the local promoters of the past as “little lords”, each in charge of his own fiefdom. All he has done is refuse to play by their rules and when they can’t compete they are left behind.

As Hornbaker demonstrates, the truth lies somewhere in between these two versions of events.

Laying the groundwork: Wrestling territories dominated by AWA and NWA

Before McMahon came onto the scene in the early 1980s, wrestling was largely dominated by two main entities: the National Fight Alliance and the American Wrestling Association.

The NWA was not a business but rather a network of local promotions, or “territories”, which, by their membership in the NWA, recognized the same heavyweight world champion. In return, these promotions were able to exchange talents with other members of the NWA and have stars like Harley racing, Dusty Rhodes, and Ric flair visit their region and increase ticket sales. In addition, promotions of NWA members were protected from competition in their local area.

Promoters who tried to compete in an NWA member’s territory were considered “outlaws” and found themselves rejected by the rest of the NWA, which at the time held most of the cards.

The other big presence on the stage was Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association, which happened to be a former NWA territory that had since vanished on its own. Based in Minneapolis, the AWA was where the likes of Hulk hogan, Curt Hennig, the Road warriors, and many others, cut their teeth first before becoming stars on a bigger stage.

The industry operated like this for years before two coincidental events transformed the struggle as we know it, forever.

Cable TV is constantly changing the wrestling landscape

Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan

The first of these events was the rise of cable television. Wrestling promoters had relied on local television for years, but with cable, they broadcast their shows to other promoters’ markets. Fans in one part of the country could now watch wrestling programs broadcast from other parts of the country for the first time.

While this expansion into other territories via cable television technically violated the handshake “non-compete” agreement between the developers, there was little there was much no one could do about it. If a territory had an agreement with a local TV station, which in turn was broadcast by larger cable networks in another territory, this was beyond their control, and it is not difficult to imagine that the promoters enjoyed the widest exposure that cable television had to offer.

But the second event – Vince McMahon’s purchase of WWF from his father, Vince Sr., was even more upsetting.

Unlike his father, Vince Jr. did not live up to old territory system alliances and, seeing the potential offered by cable television, began to develop nationally.

He paid cable companies to handle WWF programming and used the allure of the national television exposure to sign talents like Hulk Hogan and Roddy piper away from AWA and NWA. He then used those same stars to put on live shows against their former territories in their own backyard. While “Video Killed the Radio Star” in this case did the opposite, giving birth to the WWF wrestling star by providing a national platform and making the biggest names in the industry domestic names. .

If Vince McMahon was an “outlaw,” he wore that label as a badge of honor and fearlessly took on his competition directly.

Vince McMahon stands up as the gamble of a lifetime pays off

Vince mcmahon

Hornbaker shows how McMahon’s national expansion was a huge gamble, paid off by racking up massive debt. If his efforts had failed, WWF would have collapsed and gone bankrupt.

But as WWF’s popularity exploded, in large part thanks to the general appeal of Hulk Hogan and the success of the first Wrestlemania on the pay-per-view, the company has become a cash cow unlike anything seen before in wrestling history.

Some of McMahon’s competitors just wanted to run a wrestling business and were unprepared for the onslaught of the WWF.

But that doesn’t mean all of the local promoters were sympathetic. As Hornbaker points out, a number of them quickly gave up their loyalty to the crumbling NWA and started pushing their own national ambitions, albeit with far less success.

In McMahon’s world, only the strong survive and he was determined to be the strongest. He saw before anyone else that the rise of cable television was already making the old territory system obsolete, as promoters could increasingly show their product in the wrestling territories of other promoters.

Not only did McMahon see this before everyone else, but he was also willing to act on it, and he didn’t care how many enemies he made along the way.

Death of the territories does a great job of telling this story. It’s a must read for any wrestling fan who wants to learn more about the personalities and upheavals that have shaped the wrestling industry to become what it is today.

Stay tuned Final word on professional wrestling to learn more about this story and other stories from the wrestling world, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to keep up to date with the top wrestling news, as well as provide you with wrestling world analysis, insights, videos, interviews and editorials. Fan of WWE? You can check out an almost unlimited range of WWE content on the WWE Network.

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