Updated: Aug 14
Today is the 72nd birthday of pro wrestling’s favorite roided up megalomaniac, WWE Owner Mr. Vincent Kennedy McMahon! Without a doubt, this man is the greatest wrestling promoter of all time! He turned WWE from a regional territory in the Northeast to a global corporation that made him a certified billionaire with TV all over the world. Sure, he is now considered out of touch but that does not mean any of his past work should be discredited at all! In this column, I want to clear up a common misconception about him. Sit back and read on!
One of the biggest lies ever told in pro wrestling is that Vince McMahon killed the wrestling territories. For those who are uninformed, there was a time when you had the WWWF (WWE before it was the WWF), the AWA, and the NWA as the national companies along with about 30 regional promotions (give or take). The promoters had agreed to share talent, and to not infringe on each other’s imaginary borders while recognizing one world champion. During this time cable was a non-factor, and most of these wrestling shows were broadcasted on the local stations in that region. There was enough wrestling pie for everyone along with plenty of places to work so that the talent did not wear out their welcome in one place, and it also allowed talent to gain more experience working in different regions where the wrestling as well as the promo work was different.
By the time the 80s came around, cable television was beginning to make its way into homes all across America. This caused a couple of different things to happen. It caused for these different regional companies to be forced to compete with one another, and cable television also made it easy to point out all of the different inconsistencies and plot holes among the different wrestlers. Vince McMahon knew that cable was the wave of the future, so he simply did what the old-time promoters around him didn’t do. He got out in front it. He knew that while syndication was his bread and butter for the time being, he knew that getting his product on national television was the end game. This was why Vince McMahon hooked up with the fledgling MTV Network ushering in the Rock & Wrestling Era for the WWF. This is also why Vince McMahon joined up with USA Network to get his show on cable.
I implore you to go on WWE Network, and check out some of those other territories on there like World Class Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida. You will notice that the shows were dimly lit with the show focused on the in-ring action. Then I want you to watch some old WWF stuff from back then. I’ll give you a few moments to take a look...OK, did you notice that the shows are brighter and look much cleaner than the other companies? Vince McMahon took those slick tapes that were produced in his offices in Stamford, and showed them to the folks running those regional stations around the country. The difference was clear! To quote Scott Hall here when comparing tapes, “It’s like comparing good porn to bad porn”. Another thing that showed that Vince McMahon was ahead of the curve was merchandise sells and gearing the wrestling product towards the kids. His wrestlers weren’t just wrestlers, they were SUPERSTARS! Vince McMahon would look at guys on his roster and say “How can I make money with this guy outside of the wrestling ring?” The answer was action figures, lunch boxes, shirts, and even teddy bears! Vince McMahon was able to replace those crowds consisting of loud mouths with beers in their hands with parents who were there with their kids eating popcorn and wearing Hulkamania shirts. Vince McMahon was one asked if he was the Don King of pro wrestling, and he responded with “No, I am the Walt Disney of pro wrestling”.
Vince McMahon even changed how the wrestlers were presented. Gone were the bland wrestlers in tights and boots, and in its place was an emphasis on characters, gimmicks, and look; showmanship over athleticism was the main thing. In the 80s, most of the talent looked like heroes out of a comic book! With his wrestlers looking better and his product looking better, it was very easy for the top talent in all of the regional territories to make that decision to switch to the WWF where they could possibly find themselves on a kid’s school folder and a chance to make more money! Everyone wants to be a star and make it on the main stage, and that was something else that Vince McMahon was able to make happen for them.
As we all know, those other territories ended up being left in the dust with their outdated production values and characters. One by one, they all started to fall by the wayside because they were unable to keep up with what Vince McMahon was doing. The WWF would eventually morph into WWE, and they have been the only game in town since 2001. While I don’t agree with everything he has done, and I wonder what the guy is doing still making final decisions in 2017 when he is so out of touch, I still feel that no one in pro wrestling has been better at promoting or keeping a wrestling organization going. For that I commend him! He brought pro wrestling to the mainstream, and no one will ever be able to take that from him! Happy Birthday, Mr. McMahon!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter and give your thoughts @whosantcox. You can also follow me on Instagram @ultragoldenant where you can see dank memes and gym selfies as well as my adventures in retrogaming! I will catch you next time, wrestling fans!
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