The World Wrestling Federation traces its history back to the Golden Age of Wrestling. Vincent J. McMahon, like his father before him, promoted wrestling matches in the Northeast. McMahon along with promoter Joseph "Toots" Mondt promoted shows under membership with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which at the time was the largest and most recognized wrestling promotion around with regional promoters throughout the country.
In the beginning of 1963, the NWA Champion was Buddy Rogers. As the champion his bookings were handled by Toots Mondt. Promoters in other parts of the country were upset that Mondt rarely let Rogers defend the title outside of Mondt's own Northeastern promotion. Mondt and McMahon wanted to separate from the NWA, keep Rogers and the title. Rogers however had a $25,000 deposit on the belt and did not want to forfeit it. So on January 24, 1963 Rogers lost the NWA title to Lou Thesz in Toronto, OT.
Mondt and McMahon began to promote shows independent from the NWA under their new name the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The story that was given to the fans was that the promoters disputed the decision in the Rogers/Thesz match since Thesz won the title in a one-fall match rather than a best-of-three falls (at the time most if not all title matches were best of three falls.) In mid-April of 1963 Rogers was recognized as the first WWWF World Heavyweight Champion. He had "won" a fictitious tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Rogers suffered a mild heart attack prior to a title defense in New York, NY on May 17, 1963. Due to his condition he was defeated by Bruno Sammartino in 48 seconds. Rogers retired after that match though returned to the ring in 1967. Sammartino would go on to be the standard bearer for the WWWF, holding the title until 1971.
In 1971 the WWWF rejoined the NWA as a regional promotion. The WWWF World Titles were dropped in status to a regional title and the NWA Champion was recognized as the World Champion. During the 1970's Vince McMahon's son, Vincent K. McMahon began to work for the promotion as a broadcaster. In 1979, the WWWF changed its name to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as it is known today. The name change had nothing to do with the ownership. However, ownership would soon change hands and in 1982, Vincent K. McMahon, purchased Capitol Wrestling Corp. (the legal entity of the WWF) from his father and formed Titan Sports as the parent company of the promotion. Vince Jr. would implement changes that would change the way the wrestling business was run.
Up until this time, wrestling promoters had unwritten territorial boundaries. Promoters would not compete with one another in the same areas. McMahon wanted to do things differently and began to buy up smaller promotions and expand his territory, which would eventually grow into an international enterprise. In 1983, the WWF withdrew from the NWA for the second time and McMahon set his sites on further expansion.
Jack & Jerry Brisco were the top investors in Georgia based World Championship Wrestling. In May 1984 the Briscos sold control of the company to Vince McMahon. The WWF took over World Championship Wrestling's TV slot on TBS which at the time was beginning to become a national "superstation" with the advent of cable TV. Many of the Georgia wrestlers refused to work for McMahon and eventually in March of 1985 promoter Jim Crockett paid McMahon $1 million for the rights to the TBS time slot and the name, World Championship Wrestling. However, the national exposure afforded to the WWF coupled with the immense popularity of WWF champion Hulk Hogan, made the promotion an international phenomenon culminating with WrestleMania on March 31, 1985 and the first wrestling pay-per-view, Wrestling Classic on November 7.
The WWF brought wrestling to network TV for the first time since the early 1960's when on May 11, 1985 NBC broadcast Saturday Night's Main Event. Throughout the 1980's, the WWF was at an all time peak, selling out arenas nationwide and establishing pay-per-view as a major source of revenue. Hollywood celebrities and sports personalities frequently were involved in WWF shows. In March of 1987 the WWF set an all-time indoor attendance record with over 93,000 fans packing the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III.
Dr. George Zahorian was a physician who served as ringside physician at WWF shows in Pennsylvania. In 1991, Zahorian was convicted on 12 of 14 counts of selling anabolic steroids to four pro wrestlers and to a college coach. He was sentenced to three years in prison. In his trial, Zahorian testified that he sold steroids to Vince McMahon and to other WWF wrestlers. In November of 1993, McMahon was indicted on charges of possession of anabolic steroids and intent to distribute anabolic steroids. He was eventually acquitted in July of 1994. During this same time, charges of sexual harassment arose against McMahon and other WWF officials. Though the charges were never substantiated, this along with the steroid allegations had a weakening effect on the promotion and the WWF's rival WCW, owned by Ted Turner, began to gain momentum.
Monday Night RAW, or simply RAW, was launched in January of 1993 on the USA network as a replacement for Prime Time Wrestling, which had been shown in that particular timeslot for years and had been steadily declining in ratings. RAW broke from tradition in many aspects: It was shot in a much smaller venue than the usual arena (in this case, the Manhattan Center in New York), it featured a blend of comedy and wrestling action (Doink's antics, food fights, etc.) and most importantly it was filled with the kind of "what's going to happen next?" anticipation that was sorely lacking from the pre-taped shows of years past. In September of 1995 WCW launched its Monday Nitro program to compete against RAW. Nitro immediately beat RAW in the Neislen ratings 3.2 to 2.5. RAW however continued to lead Nitro in the ratings until May of 1996 when Nitro began to dominate RAW in the ratings war. RAW has since returned to the number one ratings spot, consistently beating Nitro in the ratings by as much as 2 points.
In September of 1999, the WWF brought wrestling back to the prime-time network television schedule for the first time since the 1950's with the debut of WWF Smackdown! on the UPN network. The program has been a huge success for both the WWF and UPN.
The WWF (now incorporated as World Wrestling Federation, Inc) went public offering stock on NASDAQ on October 19, 1999. Their IPO was one of the most talked about of the year. WWFE priced its initial public offering of 10,000,000 shares of Class A Common Stock at $17 per share. All shares were sold by the Company. Linda McMahon, President and CEO, said net proceeds will provide additional funds for operations and will be used for general corporate purposes. The shares begin trading on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol WWFE. With this offering, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment has outstanding 10,000,000 shares of Class A common stock and 56,667,000 shares of Class B common stock. For its fiscal 1999 ended April 30, the WWF reported net income of $56 million on