Vince McMahon, emperor of the wrestling world.
As we all know, 1985 was when professional wrestling became an international phenomenon as the WWE started to grow exponentially. Vince McMahon had "literally" (as Gorilla Monsoon loved to say) bet the house on the Hulkster at WrestleMania I and, lucky for him, it panned out.
There were several circumstances, however, that would have easily derailed the plans, and wrestling as we know it today would have never been the same.
Surprisingly, some of these had nothing to do with McMahon or his company.
We will look at a few personalities, territories and scenarios from the 1980's—before and after the first Wrestlemania—that each had to fall into place to catapult the then-WWF firmly into the world's psyche.
Kevin, David and Kerry Von Erich set the wrestling world on fire in the early 1980's.
Wrestling out of the Texas territory of their father, Fritz Von Erich, they seemed like three bronzed demigods who could do no wrong as they squashed each opponent's skulls with the Von Erich Claw.
David was the technician whose work had gained universal acclaim from the wrestling community for both his ability on the microphone and his matches in Florida against Harley Race.
Kerry had the charismatic appeal who made men and women alike swoon when he stepped into the ring.
Kevin was the high flier, an underrated pioneer whose different tricks always made for an interesting match.
The three spearheaded the WCCW, along with other superstars such as The Freebirds, Gino Hernandez, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, "Iceman" King Parsons, Jimmy Garvin and even beautiful divas like Sunshine, to name a few.
They each used modern rock music to make their way down to the ring while their show was syndicated all over the country and across the pond to countries like Israel.
From 1982 to 1984, there wasn't a better territory.
Their popularity knew no bounds and as Vince McMahon got interested in building his company around one superstar, Kerry Von Erich was his initial pick.
Sadly, we know about the tragedies and questionable storylines that were soon to follow, which robbed WCCW of its momentum by 1986.
WCCW was forced to fold by the end of the decade, but if the boys were able to curb their drug habit and Fritz were more savvy with his deals, who knows what could have been?
David was groomed to become a long-reigning champion and Ric Flair has gone on record to say he was ready to pass on the baton. Moreover, considering they were under the NWA banner at the time, it is not far-fetched to think their untimely disasters changed the landscape of wrestling forever.
WCCW easily could have gotten too large for McMahon to swallow and subsequently given him legitimate competition for the next decade.
In 1985, as McMahon was starting to build his fortress on the back of his superstar, Hulk Hogan, there was another castle being built in the South with a different gladiator.
His name was Magnum T.A.
Magnum T.A., like the Von Erichs, had an appeal that was favored by men, women and children alike. He had made his name fighting the Four Horsemen alongside Dusty Rhodes. His legendary battles over the United States Championship against Tully Blanchard are the stuff of legends—he was in line to win the NWA Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair at Starrcade 1986 and carry the company into the next decade.
Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
In October of that year, a few weeks before his title match, he was on his way back home after dropping a fellow wrestler off one rainy night when his car managed to hydroplane before careening off. Although he was not speeding, he crashed into a telephone pole.
His injuries forced him to retire from the ring at age 27.
A couple of years later, Sting was chosen as the man to be the face of the new generation, but by then, McMahon had firmly entrenched his company as the standard bearer.
The terrible business moves, simple decisions and sheer lack of luck from the Gagne family is an article of its own.
The biggest blunder the AWA made, however, was not realizing the potential of Hogan and continuing to put the strap on Nick Bockwinkel.
Bockwinkel is one of the greats in his own right, but the fans were ready for a new type of champion.
Hogan fit the bill.
Combined with a myriad of other disagreements (some say Verne Gagne even tried to hook the Hulkster up with his daughter, then demanded his salary from a recent tour when Hogan refused), McMahon came knocking after finding out the AWA superstar was disgruntled.
Hogan walked out of the AWA and right into immortality.
Had Hogan stayed with the AWA, many other superstars like Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis and even Bobby Heenan may not have ventured out.
Without those colorful personalities, it could be argued that the WWE would not have been able to pull off the first WrestleMania and finally turn a profit, especially with Jim Crockett Promotions breathing down their necks.
In 1984, as McMahon continued his expansion of his company, he figured the best way to go about it would be to televise his territory all over the country. After getting a contract with the USA Network, he wanted to grab the Turner slot, as well, to control the television markets.
Ted Turner flat out refused, but after finding out there was backstage dissension with booker Ole Anderson, he approached the Brisco Brothers. Both brothers, Gerald and Jack, agreed to sell their Georgia Championship Wrestling shares for $900,000 and jobs.
After McMahon aired his programming on the network, he found out that the ratings were a disaster, since the fans were used to the NWA style of wrestling. Turner was unhappy and put two more wrestling shows on the channel, which in turn, irritated McMahon.
McMahon then approached Jim Crockett Jr. to look to sell his newly acquired time slot. Crockett, at the time, was trying to purchase the territories that had not been absorbed by McMahon and agreed to the deal for the sum of $1 million.
McMahon used that money to fund his first WrestleMania and never looked back.
Had Crockett not accepted the deal, and with only the USA Network on its side, the WWE may have eventually had to fold.
Instead of using the money wisely, Crockett, meanwhile, spent his dough foolishly by wasting expensive talent and throwing away money on private jets and limousines. He eventually had to sell to Turner in 1988, after withdrawing from the NWA.
Jim Crockett was a poor businessman and if he had been more aware of the financial standing of his company, the rivalry with the WWE would have made Vince struggle more early on.