The good old days of wrestling, before Vince McMahon Jr. went national with the WWF, were the territories.
Many territories were owned and promoted by wrestlers, such as Dick Afflis and Stu Hart. In these territories the owner/wrestler or a close relation such as a son or son-in-law would be the main draw.
Territories still exist today, but not in the same way as the days of old. In today's age, territories are called independents, and fans usually have to rely on video tapes and the Internet to keep up with these new promotions.
Gone are the days of morning or late-night weekend wrestling shows. Usually, the local television station would have the shows taped in the studios. The television stations would take on production costs because wrestling was usually the highest rated local broadcasts.
The television broadcasts were commercials for the real money, the live events. In wrestling today, the money is in merchandising and pay-per-view, not live gates.
Many of the basic storylines were used in all territories and are still used today.
The National Wrestling Alliance was the governing body of the majority of the territories.
The board of directors would dictate who would be World champion and send the champion to the territories to face the top challenger.
The NWA was not without its flaws. Many times controversy, greed, and a lack of contractual enforcement caused dissension with many territorial promoters.
One of the first to leave the NWA was the AWA, over a dispute over who is the World champion. The WWF left later because Buddy Rogers was not the recognized champion.
In the 1980s, many promoters, such as Fritz Von Erich, believed his promotion could go national and felt the NWA was more of liability than an asset.
The NWA lost most of its prestige when World Championship Wrestling withdrew in 1993. The NWA remains active and has tried twice to become a national force.
Once, in 1994, Eastern Championship Wrestling agreed to promote the title. After Shane Douglas won the title in a tournament, he promptly stated he did not want to be champion of a "dead promotion."
Later an agreement was drawn up between Total Nonstop Action and the NWA. Eventually the agreement went sour as the NWA did not want TNA to monopolize the title the way Jim Crockett did in the 1980s and many TNA superstars refused to wrestle in NWA-governed promotions.
The NWA still exists today, but is not in any way a national presence on the wrestling scene.
The WWF started out as Capital Wrestling Corporation and joined the NWA in 1953. The promotion was lead by Vince McMahon Sr. and he had a seat on the NWA Board of Directors.
The split occurred due to a dispute over Buddy Rogers losing the World title to Lou Thesz. In 1963, Buddy Rogers was named the first WWF World champion.
The WWF dominated the Northeast United States and continued to have a friendly agreement with the NWA until Vince McMahon Jr. took over the company in 1982.
The WWF eventually became the dominant wrestling promotion and has evolved into the product we see today.
Once known as one of the Big Three, along with the WWF and NWA, the American Wrestling Association was based in the Midwest.
Once again, a promotion left the NWA due to a title controversy. Edouard Carpentier defeated Lou Thesz for the World title, but the NWA Board of Directors reversed the decision, thus giving the belt back to Thesz.
Many Midwest promoters refused to acknowledge the reversal and recognized Carpentier as champion. The Midwest promoters was also upset the governing body would not make a match between amateur champion Verne Gagne and Lou Thesz.
In 1960, the AWA was formed and recognized NWA champion Pat O'Conner as the AWA champion. The promotion gave O'Conner 90 days to defend the title. Eventually, O'Connor was stripped for failing to defend and the title was given to Verne Gagne.
The promotion folded in 1991 due to lack of vision, lack of a stable financial backer, and talent raids by the WWF.
The talent on the AWA roster at one time was a who's who of wrestling superstars and Hall of Famers.
Its talent base included Verne Gagne, Road Warriors, Curt Hennig, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, Adrian Adonis, Mad Dog Vachon, Dick the Bruiser, Nick Bockwinkel, and Ken Patera.
Jim Crockett Promotions started out in the Mid-Atlantic region and grew into national prominence until its sale to Ted Turner.
The promotion started in the Mid-Atlantic then took over the Georgia Championship Wrestling timeslot on Turner Broadcasting Station (TBS).
The company grew because of its fanbase and interesting angles and superstars. The death of JCP came because of expanding too quickly and financial irresponsibility.
The promotion and WCW banner were sold to Ted Turner and evolved into the national promotion known and loved during the 1990s.
Talent base: Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, Wahoo McDaniels, Magnum T.A., the Steiners, and the Four Horsemen.
Known as Big Time Wrestling until 1982, World Class Championship Wrestling was primarily promoted in Texas by Fritz Von Erich.
The Golden Years of the promotion were from 1981 to 1985.
The Von Erichs were the focal point of the promotion and as a honor in the memory of David Von Erich, Kerry was given the World Title in a classic match with Ric Flair. The Freebird-Von Erich feud took place in this territory and is regarded as one the best booked and successful feuds in the history of wrestling.
The promotion eventually failed due to the public realizing the Von Erich family was not the clean-cut clan they appeared to be on television. Crowds started dwindling and WCCW was in financial turmoil. The promotion tried to stay afloat with gentleman's-agreement mergers with the USWA and AWA, but eventually the agreements failed.
Talent base: Von Erichs, Ultimate Warrior, Gino Hernandez, Chris Adams, Bruiser Brody, Freebirds, Rick Rude.
Bill Watts bought Tri-State Wrestling in 1979. The territory was promoted in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi and was renamed Mid-South Wrestling.
The promotion did not want to use cartoonish characters, instead focused on wrestling.
Not wanting to be stigmatized as a southern wrestling promotion, Bill Watts took the name Universal Wrestling Federation and attempted to take the company national. As with most wrestling companies, the financial backing was not there and the promotion was sold to Jim Crockett Promotions in 1987.
Bill Watts believed that, with the draw of JCP, the two entities would join as a powerful national presence. This was not the case, as JCP buried most of the UWF's superstars and titles.
Talent base: Ted DiBiase, Junkyard Dog, Hacksaw Duggan, Freebirds, Eddie Gilbert, Sting, Rick Steiner, Magnum T.A., Mr. Wrestling II, Steve Williams, Big Bubba (Big Bossman), Sheepherders, Fantastics.
Georgia Championship Wrestling was the first NWA governed promotion to be broadcast nationally. The show was on Ted Turner's WTBS.
In 1982, the promotion changed its name to World Championship Wrestling. Whether the company had intentions to become a national promotion is still in debate.
The promotion died on Black Saturday. On July 14, 1984, wrestling fans were shocked when, tuning into WTBS, they found WWF broadcasting. The telephone lines lit up at Turner studios as many infuriated wrestling fans were upset their brand of wrestling was taken away in favor of the northern invaders.
After miserable ratings, Vince McMahon sold the time slot to Jim Crockett Promotions and the rest is history.
The biggest feud to come out of this region was Buzz Sawyer versus Tommy Rich. The Last Battle of Atlanta, a cage match between the two, is said to be the basis for Hell in a Cell.
Talent base: Gordon Solie, Ted DiBiase, Armstrongs, Roddy Piper, Masked Superstar (Demolition Ax), Paul Orndorff, Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer, Jake Roberts, Road Warriors, Ronnie Garvin, Gordon Solie.
The Mid-Southern area promoted cards in Tennessee and Kentucky. The promotion was run by Jerry Jarrett.
The promotion was an affiliate of the NWA until 1982, then became an AWA affiliate. The promotion was later known as the USWA and became affiliated with the WWF.
The promotion received national exposure thanks to Andy Kaufman. Kaufman came into the territory as an arrogant actor and the "Intergender Champion." He would berate the crowd until Jerry Lawler stepped in to defend the fans' honor. The feud even went to the David Letterman Show.
Talent base: Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarret, Sid Vicious, Austin Idol, Bill Dundee, Jimmy Hart, Randy Savage, Jim Niedhart.
The Pacific Northwest territory lasted from 1948 to 1992. Don Owens was the promoter.
The 1980s was the death of the promotion due to talent raids from JCP and the WWF.
Talent base: Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Art Barr, Billy Jack Haynes, Rip Oliver, Chris Adams, Raven, Brian Adams.
Before ECW was extreme, Championship Wrestling from Florida was the ground-breaker in extreme wrestling violence.
The promotion was founded in 1949 by "Cowboy" Clarence P. Luttrell. Eddie Graham purchased the company in 1961 and the promotion grew.
During its heyday, Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness would make the lives of the fan favorites a living hell. Dusty Rhodes and later Barry Windham would face various members of the Army in bouts such as Lights Out Matches, Barbed Wire Cage Matches, and First Blood matches.
Talent base: Kevin Sullivan, Nancy Benoit (Woman), Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham, Bob Roop, Mark Lewin, Blackjack Mulligan, Abdullah the Butcher, Gordon Solie.
Stampede wrestling is synonymous with the Hart family. Created in 1948, the company was run by Stu Hart until 1984, when the WWF took over the territory. The company was sold back to the Hart family in 1985.
Talent base: Hart family, British Bulldogs, Bad News Allen, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit.
One of the last territories to make a huge impact in wrestling and on the national scene. Tod Gordon owned the company and Eddie Gilbert was the main booker. Paul Heyman replaced Gilbert and eventually replaced Gordon as owner.
ECW first stood for Eastern Championship Wrestling and was loosely affiliated with the NWA. The official split with the NWA occured when Shane Douglas won the NWA strap in a tournament and then thew down the title and said he did not want to be associated with a "dead promotion."
The Eastern was replaced by Extreme and the company had designs to become a national promotion. The company finally became one of the Big Three, along with WCW and WWF.
Financial troubles and talent raiding caused the collapse of the promotion. The assets were purchased by the WWE eventually leading to the WWF to revive the promotion under the WWE banner.
The legacy of this promotion will live on forever in the annals of pro wrestling.
Talent base: Tazz, Shane Douglas, Cactus Jack, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, RVD, Sabu, Dudleys, Pit Bulls, Eliminators, Tammy Sytch, Chris Candido, Beulah McGillicutty, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho.
WWA-Dick Afflis, Indiana
Central States-Bob Giegel, Missouri/Kansas
Southwest Championship Wrestling (SCW)-Joe Blanchard, Texas
Big Time Wrestling-Ed Farhet (The Shiek), Michigan
St. Louis-Sam Muchnick, Missouri
ICW-Angelo Poffo, Kentucky/Tennessee/Arkansas