Before WWE: 25 Very Best Wrestling Territories
What were the territorial promotions? Well back in the 1950's to the early 1980's the WWE wasn't a major nationwide wrestling promotion, they were a promotion that only promoted shows in the northeastern states whereas the northwest was run by Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW). Every part of the United States had one as well as Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and the Caribbean.
Each promotion or territory will get at most a paragraph with the most well known name it went by and the area of the country they promoted in as the header. The paragraph will include things like the founder, owners, year it was founded and closed, top stars, TV shows, reason for decline among other things. Throughout the article you will see a lot of the acronyms for the promotions.
Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling–New Brunswick, Canada
Big Time Wrestling–San Francisco, California
50th State Wrestling–Honolulu, Hawaii
Western States Wrestling Alliance–Phoenix, Arizona
Western States Sports–New Mexico, Western Texas
Houston Wrestling–Houston, Texas
Northland Wrestling Enterprise–Ontario, Canada
NWA Detroit–Detroit, Michigan, Northwestern Ohio
IWA International Wrestling–Montreal, Canada
North American Wrestling Alliance–Los Angeles, California
National Wrestling Federation–Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo, New York
World Wrestling Council–Puerto Rico
Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance–Japan
25. Southwest Championship Wrestling: San Antonio, Texas
Southwest Championship Wrestling (SCW) was founded by Joe Blanchard in 1978.
They were based in the San Antonio area. Unlike most territorial promotions they never became a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
They aired fights Sunday mornings at 11 am on the USA Network starting in 1982. But a bloody match between Blanchard's son Tully and Bob Sweetan was too much for USA Network. They refused to air the program and the time slot was given to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
This promotion was short-lived because of poor attendance and the national expansion of the WWF and Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP).
Blanchard sold the promotion to Texas All-Star Wrestling (TASW) in 1985.
Besides Tully Blanchard, other notable wrestlers in the territory included Adrian Adonis, Tom Pritchard, The Sheepherders and Rick Rude.
24. Smokey Mountain Wrestling: Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern
In 1991, Jim Cornette founded Smokey Mountain Wrestling (SMW) in Tennessee. The last wrestling territory ever created.
Cornette had roots in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and didn't want the territorial system to die. He promoted in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virgina and Virgina.
After Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) left the NWA in 1994, SMW joined the NWA and held a tournament to crown the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
The late Chris Candido won.
Because of the decline in territorial wrestling at the time, SMW had a working agreement with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Many who wrestled in SMW would become stars in the late 90's in the WWF, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
Bob Holly, Balls Mahoney, Chris Jericho, Al Snow, Kane, D'Lo Brown, Sunny, Chris Candido, Sunny, Lance Storm and Road Dogg to name a few.
Cornette finally decided to shut down in December, 1995 and work full-time with the WWF. The WWE owns the SMW video archive.
23. International Championship Wrestling: Kentucky
International Championship Wrestling (ICW) promotion was founded in 1978 by Angelo Poffo in the Kentucky area.
It was created to rival Southeastern Championship Wrestling (SCW) based in Tennessee and even acquired several of their top talents in 1980.
The main stars of the promotion were Poffo's sons Lanny and Randy.
They had success as Leaping Lanny Poffo and, of course, Macho Man Randy Savage. Apart from those two, only one other man held the ICW World Heavyweight Championship, a little-known wrestler, Paul Christy.
Other notable wrestlers in the promotion were the Orton brothers, Barry and Bob Jr., Ox Baker, Ronnie Garvin, The Sheik and a young Miss Elizabeth.
In 1984, due to poor attendances, the territory was sold to Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarret. They merged it with their Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) where Randy Savage went on to become a star.
22. World Championship Wrestling: Australia, New Zealand, Aisa
World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was founded in 1964 by Jim Barnett in Australia and represented much of the NWA's Asian and Oceania territory.
Before they joined the NWA, they were a member of International Wrestling Alliance (IWA), a governing body created by Barnett. After merging, IWA championship belts became NWA regional belts.
Andre the Giant, Abdullah the Butcher, Killer Kowalski, Haystacks Calhoun and Ox Baker were big stars there.
In 1978, WCW ceased operation.
The name, however, stayed alive for many years by becoming the name of Georgia Championship Wrestling's (GCW) TV show.
21. Empresa Mexicana De Lucha Libre: Mexico
Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) was founded in 1933 by Salvador Lutteroth as Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL).
Quickly, it became the premier lucha libre promotion in the world, thanks to legendary Mexican wrestler Gory Guerrero.
In the early 1970's, Lutteroth left the company to his son Chavo. Meanwhile, the former EMLL wrestler Ray Mendoza was forming a rival promotion called Universal Wrestling Promotion (UWP). EMLL eventually joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and became the NWA's Mexican territory.
Due to the national expansion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the early 1980's, they soon withdrew from the NWA and changed their name to Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre.
CMLL is still around today as the world's oldest wrestling promotion.
20. World Wrestling Association: Indiana, Southeastern Ilinois
NWA Indianapolis (NWA:IN) was a long time promotion run by Jim Barnett.
But when he left to start up WCW in Australia, he sold it to Wilbur Snyder and American Wrestling Association (AWA) wrestler, Dick the Bruiser.
In 1964, Snyder and the Bruiser renamed NWA:IN–the World Wrestling Association (WWA).
Instead of becoming a member of the NWA, they joined the Minnesota promotion AWA. They received many of the AWA's top stars at the time–Verne Gagne, The Crusher and Baron Von Raschke.
In the 1980's, the WWA was home to a young Scott Rechsteiner who would go on to achieve fame as Scott Steiner.
After the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) went national in the 1980's and started buying out all the regional promotions, the WWA tried to make a go of it themselves. But low attendances and lost talent to the WWF caused them to fold in 1989.
19.United States Wrestling Association: Southern States
In 1989, The United States Wrestling Association (USWA) was formed by the merging of Jerry Jarret's Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW).
Jarret promoted shows in Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri.
Because of the changes in the wrestling business in the late 80's and early 90's, the USWA had a working relationship with Vince McMahon and the WWF. When Jerry Lawler signed with the WWF, many of the WWF's stars wrestled in the USWA and kept it alive.
WWF stars who often competed in the USWA were Owen Hart, Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels and Lex Luger.
It was also the promotion where 23 year-old Flex Kavana got his start–now better-known as The Rock.
After the Monday Night Wars started in 1995, the USWA failed to stay relevant.
Poor attendance, lack of talent and sub-par venues led to Lawler buying out Jarrett and selling the company to a businessman who shut down the company in late 1997.
18. Eastern Championship Wrestling: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
What became known as Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was founded as Tri-State Wrestling Alliance (TSWA) by Joel Goodhart in 1989. He sold it to Philadelphia promoter Todd Gordon in 1992 who renamed it Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW).
Stars of ECW were Eddie Gilbert, Shane Douglas, 2 Cold Scorpio, Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, Tito Santana, The Sandman, Sabu and Terry Funk.
Since ECW was part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Jim Crockett asked Gordon to hold a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Championship. They did this in August of 1994 in what became one of most memorable moments in wrestling history.
Shane Douglas won the tournament and was handed the title. He threw it down, and in a very rare shoot promo said that he didn't want to be champion of an association that died five years ago (referring to when WCW was created).
The E in ECW eventually changed from Eastern to Extreme.
The promotion went national and revolutionized the business with their hardcore style before shutting down in 2001.
17. All-Star Wrestling: Vancouver, Canada, Northwestern Washington
All-Star Wrestling (ASW) was founded in 1960 by Rod Fenton as a successor to his Big Time Wrestling (BTW) promotion in Vancouver.
In 1962, they earned a TV deal when future NWA World Heavyweight champion and Canada's most popular wrestler, Gene Kiniski, became a regular on the roster.
ASW was a long-time affiliate of the NWA going back to the BTW days.
In 1966, when Kiniski became the NWA World Heavyweight champion, ASW became a major force in the pacific northwest wrestling scene.
He along with Sandor Kovacs bought out Rod Fenton of ASW in 1968. They joined forces with Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) promoter Don Owen to promote in the area. They formed Northwest Wrestling Promotions (NWP) as a parent company for both promotions.
Big Stars of ASW were Roddy Piper, Don Muraco, Hawk, Stan Stasiak, Rick Martel as well as Kiniski himself.
In 1977, Kovacs sold his share of the promotion to Canadian wrestler Al Tomko.
In the 1980's, the company declined due to the aging Tomko–he pushed himself as the promotions top star despite his lost ability.
In 1983, Kiniski left the promotion and sold his share to Tomko after which Tomko withdrew ASW from the NWA and created his own wrestling alliance called Universal Wrestling Alliance (UWA). This moved did nothing to stop ASW's demise and Tomko shut the promotion down in 1989.
16. New Japan Pro Wrestling: Japan
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) was created in 1972 by former Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (JPWA) star, Antonio Inoki. For the following 14 years, it was a bit-part member of the NWA.
The main reason they joined the NWA was to gain control of the NWA's smaller titles–the Junior Heavyweight and Middleweight titles.
They left the NWA in 1986 but have had a working agreement with the NWA to this day–gaining promotion of the smaller titles as well as producing stars such as Masa Chono, Hiroshi Hase, Shinya Hasimoto, The Great Muta and Tatsumi Fujinami with Chono, Hashimoto.
NJPW is still alive today and is considered the WWE of Japan.
It holds off competition from AJPW as well as numerous other Japanese promotions that have been established in recent years.
15. All Japan Pro Wrestling: Japan
In 1972, legendary Japanese wrestler Giant Baba left the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (JPWA) and created his own promotion–All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in Tokyo.
Originally, their governing body was Pacific Wrestling Federation (PWF) which was established by Baba, but in 1973, they joined the NWA with the PWF titles becoming regional titles.
AJPW became the NWA's main Japanese territory as JPWA folded that same year.
Giant Baba himself would become the promotion's biggest star in the early years, winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times.
Some of the top Japanese wrestlers to come out of AJPW were Jumbo Tsurata, Genrichiro Tenryu, Matsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.
In 1986, AJPW left the NWA and began its battle with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The battle rages to this day.
14. Central States Wrestling: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa
Heart of America Sports Attractions was founded in 1948 by the first ever NWA World Heavyweight champion, Orville Brown, as the Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA). He promoted out of Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.
When they joined the National Wrestling Association (NWA) it was seen as one of the most important promotions in NWA history.
In 1958, promoter Bob Geigel took over with NWA World Heavyweight champion Pat O'Connor and renamed MWA, the Heart of America Sports Attractions.
Geigel served as the NWA president, and in 1973 NWA World Heavyweight champion Harley Race bought into the promotion. They had a working relationship with St. Louis Wrestling Club and Harley Race considered both promotions home.
CSW (Central States Wrestling) became the associated acronym during the golden years of the NWA.
In 1986, Geigel sold the promotion to Jim Crockett Jr. of Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). He ran the company separately instead of incorporating it into JCP.
Geigel bought it back in 1987.
He decided to rename the promotion World Wrestling Alliance (WWA) in a failed attempt to go national.
13. St. Louis Wrestling Club: St. Louis, Missouri, Western Illinois
St. Louis Wrestling Club, originally known as Sam Muchnick Sports Attractive (SMSA), was founded in 1959 and ran until 1985 in the Missouri area. It was founded by Sam Muchnick, a former boxing promoter, who served 2 terms as the NWA president.
10-time NWA World Heavyweight champion Harley Race had a minority share in the promotion.
Other notable wrestlers in St. Louis were Bulldog Bob Brown, Dick Murdoch, Dick the Bruiser, Bob Orton Jr., Pat O'Connor, Mike George and Rufus. R. Jones, Ric Flair, Lou Thez, the Von Erich's, Jack Brisco, Bob Backlund and the Funk's.
They had a weekly show called Wrestling at the Chase, considered one of the best wrestling programs. It was canceled in 1983, just two years before the promotion shut down all together.
Central States Wrestling (CSW) promoter and former NWA Central States champion Bob Geigel purchased the promotion in 1982 before selling it to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) in 1985.
12. Southeastern Championship Wrestling: Tennessee, Kentucky
Continental Championship Wrestling (CCW) was an Alabama promotion founded by Roy Welch and Buddy Fuller in 1954 when they purchased part of Leroy McGuirk's Tri-State Wrestling (TSW) promotion.
Originally, the promotion ran with out its own belts; they had to borrow from nearby promotions.
It was a part-time promotion which only ran in the summer months in Alabama, northwestern Florida and eastern Mississippi under the name Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling (GCCW) until Lee Fields bought the territory in 1960 and moved it to Knoxville, Tennesse.
Fields got the promotion a television deal before selling it to Buddy Fuller's grandson and Roy Welch's son Ron in 1978 who renamed the promotion Southeastern Championship Wrestling (SCW) and extended it to run shows in Alabama and Florida where GCCW ran.
Stars under the SCW were Arn Anderson, Mr. Wrestling II, Bob Armstron and Hulk Hogan (known then as Terry "The Hulk" Bollea).
In 1980, because of Ron's brother Robert's lazy booking, most of the wrestlers left for Angelo Poffo's promotion, International Championship Wrestling (ICW), leading Fuller to sell the Knoxville part of the promotion to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP).
After a couple of successful years, Fuller decided to re-purchase the Knoxville part of the territory in 1985 and renamed it Continental Championship Wrestling because he wanted to compete with Vince McMahon. To compete with McMahon he moved the television shows to big arenas.
He ended up, however, selling the territory to David Woods who owned a TV station. In late 1989, the promotion ceased operations because of the national expansion of wrestling and their inability to compete.
11. Maple Leaf Wrestling: Toronto, Canada
Whipper Billy Watson
Maple Leaf Wrestling (MLW) was founded in 1930 as the Queensbury Athletic Club (QAC) by boxing promoter Jack Cocoran in the Toronto-area.
In 1931, he took control of the Maple Leaf Gardens and thus took control of wrestling all over Toronto. In 1939, he stepped down and handed the promotion over to John and Frank Tunney. Frank, however, gained full control when his brother John died 2 months later. He renamed the promotion Maple Leaf Wrestling and they joined the NWA in 1949.
The promotions biggest star was one-time NWA World Heavyweight champion Whipper Billy Watson, who despite not being favored by Tunney in the early years became one of wrestling's biggest draws.
Tunney claims that throughout his main event career in Toronto he drew over 5 million fans.
The Sheik was also a huge draw in the promotion.
In 1978, Tunney became partners with Jim Crockett Jr. of Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). The end drew near when Frank's son Eddie and John's son Jack took over the promotion in 1983.
Within a year they had left the NWA and joined forces with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The WWF began using the MLW name when they toured Canada to draw local crowds as Jack Tunney became an on-air personality in the WWF.
MLW finally closed in 1986. The WWE owns all MLW's video archive.
10. Pacific Northwest Wrestling: Oregon, Washington
"Playboy" Buddy Rose
Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) was founded 1925 by Herb Owen who promoted boxing and wrestling.
After Herb Owen died in 1942, his son Don took over and was one of the first promoters to showcase women's wrestling.
When the NWA was created in 1948, PNW was one of the first promotions that joined. They were one of the best in the country and in 1953 made their TV debut.
In the 1960's, they hit their stride when they headlined Lou Thez and NWA World Heavyweight champion Gene Kiniski which drew 16,000 people.
They lost their TV deal in 1967 but were still doing well and in the 1970's brought in Roddy Piper, Jesse Ventura, Dutch Savage, Lonnie Mayne, Billy Jack Haynes, Buddy Rose and Jimmy Snuka to the promotion.
Buddy Rose was their main draw throughout the late 70's and early 80's, even wrestling there on his days off from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
In the 1980's, they began promoting in Washington and they got another TV deal in 1982 which aired on Friday nights.
They had a talent exchange with World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in Texas, and two of Portland's wrestlers, Chris Adams and King Parsons became big stars for Von Erich in the WCWA.
In the late 1980's, the national expansion of the WWF and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) hurt PNW. Also, numerous laws in Portland prevented them from improving the promotion.
In 1992, Don Owen sold the company.
9. Stampede Wrestling: Calgary, Eastern Vancouver, Montana
Stampede Wrestling was found in 1948 by Canadian wrestling star Stu Hart in the Calgary-area as Klondike Wrestling.
It became a member of the NWA and landed a TV deal in 1957. Their show was one the most popular wrestling shows in the world until 1989 when they closed down.
Stampede was home to a number of stars considered some of the best wrestlers in the world, most of whom were trained at the Dungeon (a popular wrestling school owned and run by Stu Hart).
Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Dynamite Kid, Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman were a couple of stars who honed their skills there and started out in Stampede.
Andre the Giant was also a big star in Stampede where he wrestled for much of the 1970's.
In 1982, they withdrew from the NWA and ran independently until they were bought by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1984 to improve the WWF's marketability in Canada.
In 1985, the WWF sold Stampede back to the Hart family who ran it until 1989 when the TV show got cancelled.
Bruce and Keith Hart reopened it in 1999 and it still runs today as an independent promotion.
8. Mid-South Wrestling: Oklahoma, Texas
The Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) was founded in the 1950's by a retired wrestler called Leroy McGuirk as NWA Tri-State (NWA:TS) and promoted shows in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Cowboy Bill Watts was one of the major stars during the early years. He eventually bought the company in 1979 and renamed it Mid-South Wrestling (MSW). They were actually one of only a few territories to not be a part of the NWA, though NWA titles were still defended there.
The biggest stars in MSW were Junkyard Dog, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Midnight Express, Sting, Shane Douglas, Rick Steiner, Eddie Gilbert, Steve Williams, The Rock 'n' Roll Express, Bill Watts, Danny Hodge, Irish Mike Clancy and Ted DiBiase.
With the promotion only a year old, MSW Michael Hayes wrestled the Junkyard Dog and the match drew 30,000 fans.
Bill Watts saw what the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was doing and decided he wanted the company to go national under the United Wrestling Federation (UWF).
But UWF was unable to compete with JCP and the WWF and Watts ended up selling to Crockett in 1987.
All his talent was buried except Sting, Rick Steiner, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Rock 'n' Roll Express and Shane Douglas. The UWF is one of a few defunct promotions whose video archive doesn't belong to the WWE.
7. Georgia Championship Wrestling: Georgia, Southern Ohio
Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) was founded in 1944 by local promoter Paul Jones, originally known as ABC Booking. It soon changed it's name to Mid-South Sports (MSS) until it was renamed Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1976.
They ran their shows in the Atlanta area every Friday night until 1971 when they made their debut on TV, hosted by the legendary Gordon Solie on one of Ted Turner's TV stations WTBS. Paul Jones ran the company for the best part of 30 years before falling ill and handing it over to his booker Ray Gunkel in 1970 who ran it for 2 years before he died of a heart attack after a match with the legendary Ox Baker.
For two years the promotion was in limbo as Gunkel's wife took all the GCW wrestlers to make her own promotion, but when that failed they went back to Georgia under the tutelage of promoter Jim Barnett. In 1976 GCW made it's debut on satellite TV and was the first National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) promotion to be broadcast nationwide, it was one of the main shows keeping WTBS (the station it was on) alive.
In 1982, they were forced to change their TV shows name to World Championship Wrestling to make it more appealing to fans. Jim Barnett was forced out of GCW in 1983 and it was taken over by the Brisco Brothers and Ole Anderson.
In his quest to end the old territorial system of wrestling, Vince McMahon bought the promotion and its TV time slot in 1984. After the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) bombed on WTBS due to the audience of GCW preferring athletic wrestling to the cartoonish story lines that the WWF showed, Vince sold the promotion and the time slot to Jim Crockett of Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) in 1985.
The WWE however now owns the GCW tape library. Tommy Rich, Bobby Shane, The Masked Superstar (Ax) and The Assasins were popular stars of GCW, with NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair also making regular stops as well as the Brisco's, Ole Anderson and the Funk's. WWE owns all GCW video archives.
6. World Class Championship Wrestling: Texas, Southern Oklahoma
Kerry Von Erich
World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) was founded in 1960 by Fritz Von Erich as NWA Big Time Wrestling (NWA:BTW).
They promoted shows in Texas mainly in the Dallas area. Fritz Von Erich was the main star in the early years until his sons started to debut in the mid to late 70's as well as the Fabulous Freebirds, Chris Adams, King Parsons, Jose Lothario, Bruiser Brody, Gino Hernandez, the Midnight Express and it was where a young Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Scott Hall got there start.
They taped there weekly shows at the Sportatorium in Dallas, the night they taped their shows would change over the years. The promotion was at it's prime between the years 1981 and 1986.
The legendary feud between the Von Erich's and the Freebird's were a staple of the era. Following the death of one of their top stars, Gino Hernandez, and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair no longer being booked in WCCW they withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1986 and changed their named to World Class Wrestling Association (WCWA).
Following the deaths of Hernandez as well as the deaths of 2 of the Von Erich brothers and the national expansion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) the WCWA began to lose their popularity.
It was sold to Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) owner Jerry Jarrett in 1989 in his attempt to go national as the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) which lasted 8 years and failed at going national.
5. Continental Wrestling Association: Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi
Jerry "The King" Lawler
Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) was founded in 1977 by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) co-founder Jerry Jarrett, he ran the promotion with WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler. They promoted shows out of the states of Tennessee and Kentucky.
NWA Mid-America (NWA:MA) was the original Tennessee promotion that was founded in the 1940's which also ran shows in Alabama and Kentucky areas and focused mainly on Tag Team wrestling. After years of bickering by co-owners Jerry Jarrett and Nick Gulas, they decided to split the promotion in two. Jerry Jarrett ended up creating his own promotion while NWA:MA shut down and forced Gulas to retire.
They aired their TV shows on Monday nights in Memphis which drew full houses often headlined by co-owner Jerry Lawler who was a 52 time Memphis Wrestling Southern Heavyweight Champion while in the promotion (57 time overall) .
Hulk Hogan was a regular performer there before superstardom as well as Jimmy Valiant, Jackie Fargo, Sputnik Monroe, Tojo Yamamoto, Kamala, King Kong Bundy, Randy Savage, Jimmy Hart and a very young Jeff Jarrett. The Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart feud was probably the biggest feud in the promotion throughout the 1980's, the feud consisted of Hart bringing in numerous heels to face Lawler over the years before he signed for the WWF.
Actor Andy Kaufman was a big part of the promotion in the early 1980's where he also had a memorable feud with Lawler that went mainstream.
After the national expansion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the CWA left the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1989 to join the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in an attempt to help them compete with the WWF and WCW. When that failed Jerry Jarret bought Fritz Von Erich's World Class Wrestling Association (WCWA) and merged it with CWA to create United States Wrestling Association (USWA) which wasn't a wrestling territory per se despite only promoting shows in Tennessee and Texas, it was Jarrett's attempt at going national.
Over the years, independent promotions have opened in Tennessee and have used the acronym of the CWA but will never reach the popularity of the original CWA.
4. Championship Wrestling from Florida: Florida
Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) was founded by "Cowboy" Clarence Lutteral in 1949 and obviously was based out of Florida. They became a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and in 1961 wrestler Eddie Graham bought into the promotion and took over completely in 1971.
CWF became a major promotion in the NWA because of Eddie Grahams 2 terms as the NWA president. It was home to many top NWA stars like Dusty Rhodes, Jack Brisco, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Boris Malenko, Eddie Graham and Kevin Sullivan as well as other NWA stars who wrestled their on a frequent basis.
Kevin Sullivan was an icon down there with his heel stable Army of Darkness.
In 1985 Eddie Graham committed suicide leaving the promotion to Hiro Matsuda and Duke Keomuka who bought into the promotion in the 1960's. The promotion began losing money and merged with Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) in 1987 in their attempt at competing with Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
The WWE owns the CWF video archives from their TV show and in 2007 opened a development wrestling promotion named Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in CWF's honor.
3. American Wrestling Association: Minnesota, Northern Central States
The American Wrestling Association's (AWA) roots go back to 1933 when it was known as the Minneapolis Boxing & Wrestling Club (MBWC) founded by Anton Stecher. In 1952 he sold part of it to Wally Karbo before he died in 1954, Karbo then took over the promotion with wrestling star Verne Gagne.
Gagne was a popular wrestling star in 1950's and wanted to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion but due to the politics in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) he was never given the opportunity. In 1959 Stecher's son Dennis sold the part of the promotion he kept when his dad died to Karbo and Gagne. In 1960 after trying and failing one more time to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Gagne and Karbo withdrew the MBWC from the NWA along with other nearby territories to form the American Wrestling Association.
The AWA became one of the biggest promotions in the United States and because they grew the territory to Illinois, California and Colorado among other states they were question marks on whether to consider them a territory or not.
Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel were the biggest stars in the promotion as well as Mad Dog Vachon, The Crusher and Dr.X.
In the early 1980's however things started to go downhill when among other things they refused to build the company around Hulk Hogan, lost half their talent to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and focused too much on wrestlers way past their prime.
They joined forces again with the NWA without becoming a member to form Pro Wrestling USA with a couple of promotions to compete with Vince McMahon but when that failed it was only a matter of time that the promotion was going to call it a day.
It floundered for the rest of the 1980's and even thought they hosted one pay per view, their 30 year old TV show was cancelled in 1990 and a year later they closed. The WWE owns all the video archive and in 2006 brought out a DVD in their honor.
2. World Wide Wrestling Federation: Northeastern States
What is now the WWE was founded in 1952 by Jess McMahon and Toots Mondt as Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) and were based out of the Northeastern area, mainly New York and Connecticut. They joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1953 but a year later Jess McMahon died so Mondt brought in Jess's son Vince J. McMahon.
During the rest of the 1950's they became very powerful within the NWA and controlled most of it's booking and they grew their territory to Pittsburg, Maine and Washington D.C. Controversy arose in 1961 when Mondt booked Buddy Rogers as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion but rarely let him leave the CWC.
In 1963 after Rogers lost the title to Lou Thez the CWC left the NWA and renamed it the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) bringing Rogers with them and making him the World Champion but due to a heart attack he lost the belt to Bruno Sammartino who became the promotions top star. By 1970 they were selling out Madison Square Garden with stars like Sammartino, Killer Kowalksi, Freddie Blassie, Pedro Morales, Buddy Rogers, Antonio Rocca, Bob Backlund and Billy Graham.
In 1979 it was renamed the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and 3 years later was bought by Vince K. McMahon, Vince J. McMahon's son.
He had aspirations of stepping away from the old territorial system and going national which happened in the mid 80's due to Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania and holding events all over the country. Vince would achieve what he set out to do and eliminate territorial wrestling and took wrestling places it never went before eliminating any promoter and promotion who tried to compete with him along the way.
1. Jim Crockett Promotions: Mid-Atlantic States
"The Nature Boy" Ric Flair
Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) was founded by Jim Crockett, Sr. in 1931 who also promoted other events like baseball, concerts and plays. They joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1952 and promoted shows in the Carolina's and Virginia.
He died in 1973 and his sons Jim, Jr. and David took over the company with Jim, Jr. becoming the owner. They began using the name Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW) as the promotions primary name for their TV shows. Prior to the younger Crockett's taking over the company, it was more of a Tag Team promotion but they steered it away from that while still having some Tag Team wrestling.
JCP were the first territory to actually expand, promoting shows in Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, Ohio and even further north in New York and Canada. JCP was seen as the main promotion of the NWA and many of the top stars like Ric Flair, The Anderson brothers (Gene, Lars and Ole), Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentina and Paul Jones mainly wrestled there.
As the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was mainly contested there, the promotions main title the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship was seen as a secondary title.
Crockett saw what Vince McMahon was doing and was the only territory able to keep up with him, especially after purchasing the Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) rights from him and airing their product on the WTBS.
In 1983, Crockett became the first wrestling promoter to host a pay per view, Starrcade which was hugely successful. Crockett wanted to go national like the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and bought out several fellow NWA promoters which meant JCP became home to other top NWA stars like Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, Lex Luger and Sting.
It is also where the legendary Four Horsemen began. Unfortunately due to many factors such as the rise of Hulkamania, the career ending injury of Magnum T.A., moving away from where their loyal fans were located, subpar booking by the likes of Dusty Rhodes and spending a ridiculous amount of money on jet's to fly the roster around they soon found out that they were a couple million dollars in the hole and sold the company to Ted Turner in 1988 which led to Turner creating the national promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) who after withdrawing from the NWA in 1993 almost put the WWF out of business in the late 1990's before folding in 2001.
WWF owns all JCP and WCW video archives.
I hope you enjoyed the article, any feedback positive or negative feel free to leave it below or in my inbox in here. After 4 attempts I finally got an opportunity to write for this site, all because I've just recently began writing for another site NoDQ.com under the Celtic Corner name.
I want to do a Q&A piece so any questions on anything from wrestling, MMA or soccer inbox me and I'll answer them in a future article.