WWE: The night professional wrestling died
The dawn of the new millennium meant different things to different people. For some, it was merely a new year, while for others, it was a new beginning. For professional wrestling fans, it was like any other year, but was anything but a ‘new beginning’. As 2000 folded and 2001 came along, the professional wrestling industry changed forever.
Before I explain the title of the article and the first few lines, we need to take a look back at the late 80s and early 90s, at a time when professional wrestling was reaching its peak. The industry was blossoming, with the fanbase of the business reaching an all time high, and with World Wrestling Federation exploring the ‘Sports Entertainment’ side of things, there was a boom in the industry. The revenues, gates and buy rates sky rocketed, and professional wrestling was one of the most followed ‘sports’ in the world.
Being the biggest organization in the world, WWF monopolized the industry in the late 80s. Vince McMahon Jr. went back on his father’s word and nationalized the WWF, erasing most of the territories in the process. The other organizations that survived this hostile takeover were confined to their small territories.
With the fans having no other alternative except for the WWF, the fans clamored for a change as the 90s began. Hulk Hogan was no longer the flavor of the month, and neither was the product of WWF. And then, the fans’ prayers were answered with a phone call from the business tycoon and media mogul, Ted Turner to Vince McMahon Jr.
“I’m starting a wrestling company” was what Ted Turner said, to which Vince replied that he was in the entertainment business. As the fans witnessed the rise of World Championship Wrestling, the likes of Ric Flair and Sting brought eyes to the company.
In the first half of the 90s, WCW gained momentum, although they still couldn’t challenge WWF. Hulk Hogan jumped ships from the WWF to WCW, but still couldn’t blow his way past the global juggernaut. It was in the year 1996 that professional wrestling industry turned on its head, with Hogan joining the Outsiders, thus turning heel for the first time in decades.
The fans, who were bored of the “pasty” Hogan were suddenly tuning into WCW to watch the ‘once in a lifetime’ incident. The WWF, although still reigning supreme, was taken aback by the sudden rise of WCW’s product. What transpired from then can only be described as a miracle.