In today’s world, professional wrestling has inherently become a one-man game as Vince McMahon literally holds monopoly over the business. Despite the presence of the Indy wrestling promotions and the recently started Lucha Underground, Vince’s WWE is the only one that has a worldwide presence.
People from across the globe watch the WWE and a fair amount of people watch New Japan Pro Wrestling but other wrestling promotions are mostly restricted to their respective regions.
However, as we all know, this wasn’t the case from the beginning. Early on, wrestling promotions were highly localised and there were various promotions across the United States.
People were more intent on watching special events between two wrestlers rather than the whole program as a form of entertainment. Over the years, this has changed and the business was revolutionised by some excellent wrestling promoters.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 wrestling promoters apart from Vince McMahon:
Unlike the rest of the list, Antonio Inoki was from Japan and the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Now, the top dog in Japan and probably the only company comparable to WWE across the globe, it started way back in 1972 by Inoki. He was made the top star of the company and due to his profound grappling ability, he was able to put up excellent shows.
NJPW were often involved in inter-promotion matches and even one such with Muhammed Ali. Inoki competed against Ali in a draw that was more infamous for the injury caused on Ali by Inoki.
While not only being a wrestler, Inoki was also an MMA fighter. He was infamously known for shooting during matches and changing the ending in favour of his own image. Despite that, his contributions to NJPW were vital and effectively put out All Japan Pro Wrestling back in 2000.
However, in 2005, Inoki sold the major shares of his company and faced Don Frye in his final match. Following retirement after decreasing influence within the company, he has started a new promotion that has yet to receive much acclaim.
However, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010 as suggested by his inter-promotion affiliations and some of the matches with Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund. While he may not be famous much in most parts of the world, he was instrumental in the rise of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
While not only being an extraordinary wrestling promoter, Verne Gagne was an excellent wrestler as well. At a time when Vince McMahon Sr. dominated the NorthEast region, Gagne’s territory included the mid-west and was based in Minneapolis. Initially an NFL player, he chose wrestling over that and in 1960, started his own wrestling promotion, the American Wrestling Association (AWA).
And given that he was an able wrestler himself, he became the face of that promotion and started winning the Championships that very year. Unlike many of the others back then, Gagne concentrated more on putting up a good show in the ring leading to the increased recruitment of technical wrestlers by him. He was known for bringing relatively lesser known wrestlers who were technically proficient such as Larry Hennig, Dog Vachon etc.
He was known for bringing relatively lesser known wrestlers who were technically proficient such as Larry Hennig, Dog Vachon etc.
His biggest draw, however, was Hulk Hogan whom he hired in the early 1980s following Hulk’s underwhelming run in WWF. While Hogan was not the type of wrestler Gagne preferred, he did give Hogan a run at the top considering his ability to draw in big numbers.
And subsequently, Gagne’s preference for technical wrestlers let him down as people thronged to watch the big muscled up performers while Vince McMahon’s WrestleMania dominated the business across the United States.
He would eventually shut down the company in 1991 but that was only after leaving his mark on the business. His efforts led him to be inducted into four of the most prestigious wrestling Hall of Fames – WWE, WCW, Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.
He was undoubtedly the man that came closest to knocking Vince McMahon’s WWF off their perch. Initially working in AWA, Bischoff took little time in working his way up the ladder and became the Executive Vice President of WCW. Then on, it was a direct shot by him at Vince McMahon as he repeatedly tried to overtake WWF.
One of the major creators of the NWO storyline, the WCW reached new heights as they dominated Monday Night ratings against Raw is War for 84 consecutive weeks. He pulled off the almost impossible heel turn of Hulk Hogan to perfection and really had the cue on professional wrestling, back then.
However, as we know, the subsequent rise of the Attitude Era followed by lack of new content by the WCW led to WWF gaining back their advantage.
It was his move to promote Kevin Nash as head booker that resulted in the Fingerpoke of Doom, often cited as the single major event leading to the downfall of WCW, while on the other hand, the WWF were fashioning a worldwide audience with the rise of Steve Austin.
Bischoff would soon find his way out of WCW, while they were merged with WWE and then, joined the WWE. Then, in 2010, he joined TNA in another attempt to grow a new wrestling promotion to big heights but it was a failed one, as TNA were unable to cultivate the viewership that WCW did.