The Ten Most Important Moments That Shaped Pro Wrestling
10. David Von Erich Dies (1984)
The average fan may not believe this today but there was a time when the name Von Erich was at the top of the wrestling world along side those of Flair, Hogan, and Rhodes.
Not only were the Von Erich's the first family of Texas wrestling, but brothers Kevin, David, and Kerry were three of the biggest stars in the wrestling world.
David died in 1984 amidst mysterious circumstances in Japan with the official cause of death being a heart attack brought on by serious intestinal problems. However, others—most notably Ric Flair and Mick Foley—claim he died of a drug overdose.
Within a decade three other members of wrestling's first family would fall victim to substance abuse and take their own lives, ending one of wrestling's greatest "what might have been" stories.
9. Wrestlemania III (1987)
If there was any doubt of how big wrestling could become in the United States, Wrestlemania III answered the question.
A sell-out crowd of 93,173 (an indoor event record) packed the Pontiac Silverdome to watch the official crowning of Vince McManhon as the king of American wrestling.
The biggest match on the card was the Hogan/Andre the Giant main event, however the entire card was strong and the Ricky Steamboat/Randy Savage match is a classic among serious wrestling fans.
8. Tod Gordon hires Paul Heyman (1993)
Tod Gordon owned a small NWA-affiliated promotion based out of a run down bingo parlor in a less than reputable area of Philidelphia when he hired a washed up WCW manager to work with his talent.
Within a year there was little doubt who the promotion really belonged to.
Quickly ECW became a haven for wrestling misfitts (Sabu and Mick Foley); headcases (Shane Douglas and Raven), up-and-coming superstars (RVD and Eddie Guerrero), has been's (Terry Funk) and never-were's (Steve Austin)
The sex-and-violence story lines that Heyman produced would be ahead of their time and were a true forerunner of the WWE's "Attitude era."
7. Scott Hall invades WCW (1996)
Quite simply the greatest storyline in professional wrestling history and the one accomplishment that made Eric Bishoff's career.
Throwing Ted Turner's money around on talent from other promotions was never a problem for Bishoff, but this time he finally got things right.
Hall invaded Monday Nitro and promised a big surprise which turned out to be Kevin Nash, followed weeks later by Hogan making the biggest heel turn in pro wrestling history.
While the nWo angle would eventually help sink the company, there is no denying it's impact on both the WCW and the wrestling business.
6. The January 4 edition of WCW Monday Nitro (1999)
Wrestling insiders and historians point to this single show as the turning point in a two-year downward spiral for WCW, that would eventually kill the company.
For years Eric Bishoff had instructed his announcers to relay the results of taped Raw telecasts, but this time the practice backfired.
Not only did hack WCW announcer Tony Shavonne give away the fact that Mankind would win the WWE Championship that night, but he added a snearing "That should put some butts in the seats" which caused nearly 500,000 viewers to turn away from WCW immediately.
Adding insult to injury the match that was promised in the main event (Nash vs. Goldberg) never took place because of a poorly written storyline involving Miss Elizabeth, but what tooks it's place was one of the most cynical and fan-insulting finishes in pro-wrestling history (Hogan's "fingerpoke of death" on Nash).
If fans were starting to get fed up with WCW before this point, the January 4th Nitro did nothing but help the company completely jump the shark.
5. The NWA is formed and pro wrestling finds a home on TV (1948)
The formation of the National Wrestling Alliance took the business from a rag-tag group of regional promoters and created a cooperative where territories shared talent, resources, and had a common champion.
This would be the model by which pro wrestling would be ran for the next thirty-five years, where the NWA World Heavyweight Champion would be recognized as the "true champion."
Also during this year television became more available and with it's storylines, charismatic characters, and fast paced action wrestling was a perfect fit for the new electronic medium.
4. Verne Gagne screws Hulk Hogan (1983)
For decades Verne Gagne was one of the most powerful men in professional wrestling. Gagne was one of wrestling's first mega stars (along with Lou Thesz), a well respected trainer, and the owner of one of the sports biggest and best promotions the AWA.
In the 1980s a struggling performer named Terry Bollea was looking for one last chance to make his name in the industry and quickly found stardom in the AWA.
As Hogan's fame grew so did his bank account and the only thing he lacked was a title, which Gagne was withholding because in his old-school mindset, he believed that he should get a cut of Hogan's Japanese appearance fees and outside merchandising sales as tribute for a shot at the gold.
Quickly Hogan left the company and found his way to the WWE where he would provide the mainstream exposure Vince Jr. needed to take his promotion national, and one of the promotions he squashed along the way was owned by Verne Gagne.
3. The Montreal Screwjob (1997)
The story of the screwjob itself has been discussed to death by wrestling fans far-and-wide, however it's the impact that is of great significance.
For Shawn Michaels, it was a clear changing of the guard where Vince was willing to turn his company fully over to D-X, Stone Cold, and The Rock fully ushering in the "Attitude Era."
For Vince it gave him an opportunity to make himself part of the story as the evil owner and making him into the perfect foil for his company's biggest future star Steve Austin.
Sadly for Bret Hart it was the end of his career as pitiful booking (Both Hart and McManhon claim Vince said many times that "WCW won't know what to do with Bret Hart") and injuries made his tenure in WCW a disaster.
Finally for Eric Bishoff two important lessons were learned; simply buying talent for the sake of buying talent was a losing formula, and more importantly Vince McManhon is always most dangerous when pushed into a corner.
2. Ted Turner Buys WCW (1988)
Turner always had a soft spot for professional wrestling because when he first launched his superstation WTBS it was wrestling that was his biggest ratings hit.
When the promotion was being ran into the ground by poor booking and Jim Crockett's wild spending habits, it was Turner who offered to buy the promotion and fold it into his Turner Sports empire along side the Atlanta Braves and Hawks.
After a few years as a continuing money pit WCW finally started showing some life by stockpiling talent such as Ric Flair (who was working for Vince at the toime), Hogan, Savage, Lex Luger, Bobby Heenan, and later Hall, Nash, Hart, and Sean Waltman.
When Turner turned over two hours of broadcast time on his TNT station to WCW programming every Monday night, the war was on and for much of the five year period WCW gave as good as they got.
Eventually the merger or a merger (Turner merged with Time Warner which merged with AOL) led to WCW's biggest ally, cheerleader, and financial backer to be helpless when a T.V executive named Brad Siegel finally pulled the plug on the promotion in 2001.
However, make no mistake that without Turner's pushing of Vince McManhon for better-and-worse professional wrestling would not be the same product we see today.
1. Vince goes national (early 1980s)
The story of Vincent Kennedy McManhon begins with his father Vincent Jess McManhon and his World Wide Wrestling Federation.
Elder McManhon was an old school promoter who believed in the strict territorial boundaries and continued to play by the old rules even when his promotion split from the NWA in the 1960s.
On the other hand the younger McManhon, who paid his dues for years announcing and promoting small shows in places like Bangor, Maine, saw no reason why wrestling shouldn't be ran like any other industry.
In 1982 Vince bought the company from his father and embarked on his plans of competing on a national scale. Not only were other promotion's territories not off limits for TV and house shows, but their talent was fair game as well.
Soon McManhon began expanding into places his father had never dared compete such as the south (Jim Crockett's territory), the Midwest (where Vern Gagne's AWA ruled).
While Vince didn't earn many friends in the industry among fellow promoters he set the stage where promotions either had to go big or go away, and with the exception of Turner's bailout of Crockett's southern stronghold every other promotion did the later.
Simply put without Vince McManhon's willingness to go national wrestling as we know it today would not exist.
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