The Great Raid: How The WWF Took Over Wrestling (Part I)

FRANKCorrespondent IIAugust 15, 2009

 In 1983, Vincent J. McMahon sold his company to his son Vincent K. McMahon who was ready to take the company to next level. No one knew that this transaction was the beginning of the collapse of competitive wrestling. Wrestling as people knew it would begin to change forever.

For over 50 years, most wrestling organizations fell under the NWA umbrella. Think of the NWA as the Mafia Commission. Each regional organization (Georgia, Florida, Pacific Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South, etc...) had a member (top booker) who sat on the NWA board to decide who should hold the NWA World Title and discuss where they should fight next. Just like the Mafia, no organization booked cards in another member's territory and any disputes were resolved within the NWA board.

Prior to cable tv, pay-per-views, and computers, the only way a fan can see a top fighter was when they fought in their local region. So it was important to have a talented fighter who was charismatic to draw the crowds across the nation. It was common for "super" cards to include wrestlers from other territories to drive up the interest.

Disputes on who should hold the title concluded with the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) and then the AWA leaving the NWA in the 60s. Even though these two organizations broke away, they continued to follow the rules and would not book outside their territory and would respect the other organization rosters.

In 1983, the top competition to the WWF were the AWA and Jim Crockett Productions. Their rosters were filled with talented and entertaining personalities who created fantastic cards, matches, and storylines. Other top organizations, at this time, that should be mentioned were WCCW in Texas and Mid-South (changed to UWF in 1986).

The following events help to assure WWF domination.

  • Verne Gagne's stubborness and lack of vision

There's no doubt that Verne Gagne was a terrific fighter and visionary in the 60s and 70s. But as the eighties approached, he was too stubborn to move forward and allow other top wrestlers to fight in the main events and be the "face" of the organization.

Case in point was with Hulk Hogan.

The AWA popularity extremely grew when Hulk Hogan appeared in Rocky III as Thunderlips. Gagne refused to make him the AWA World Heavyweight Champion. Even though the popularity was witnessed from the fans and his charismatic personality would have been an asset as the "face" of the organization, Gagne believed the champ should be the best technical wrestler (e.g. Nick Bockwinkel) in the organization. 

Gagne felt that teasing the fans with near pinfalls over then champ Bockwinkel was the reason for the popularity more so than Hogan himself. Eventually the fans grew tired of the constant biased endings and voice their dismay during future cards.

  • Signing the future WWF champion Hulk Hogan

As mentioned above, each organization respected each others roster which was respected by Vincent SR. But, Vincent JR. had other ideas and felt the "rules" were not made for him to obey. Besides Vincent K. McMahon had great plans for the WWF and needed top wrestlers to execute these plans.

First and foremost was hiring a "face" of the organization who will take them to the next level. Unlike Gagne, McMahon visioned Hogan to fill this role and knew that the traditional technical wrestling was becoming stale.

Watching Bob Backlund defend his belt was like watching paint dry. Headlock, headlock and more headlock was boring and McMahon knew this.

After being frustrated with the lack of respect from Gagne and the constant nepotism showed by pushing Greg for a title run, Hogan signed with the WWF in December 1983.

One month later, Hogan will break the camel clutch and defeat Iron Sheik for the WWF World Title.

Some dub Jan. 24, 1984 the day wrestling died.

I have decided to break this up to different parts as there are just too much details to provide.

I will continue with the roster raids, WrestleMania, and the end of some terrific regional organizations which consolidate the wrestling world by 1988.

I hope you enjoy and will continue to read the other parts.

Thank you,