WWE Raw's 1000th episode is going to be one of the greatest milestones in the history of Pro Wrestling. It will be a true testament to the legacies of Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin,Bruno Sammartino and Lou Thesz etc. This feat will epitomize the legacy of pro wrestling that lies in its ability to evolve consistently.
Therefore, it is an apt moment to rewind the reel, and to relive the journey of almost 150 years. It is time to rediscover the history that is a complex web of human decisions, where the narrowest deflection could have altered the course of entire future.
This article will look at 52 events or moments that went on to script the history of wrestling in the United States. All slides are arranged in chronological order to trace the trail of one amazing sequence of events.
I would like to warn you that this article is one of the biggest articles to have ever appeared on here. So better grab some snack and a mug of coffee, as we begin our ride.
The credit for pro wrestling’s development in the United States, which began in 1860's, goes to carnies. Thanks to the carnies, wrestling became one of the focal points of circuses or athletic shows by the end of the 19th century.
The carnies used to act as bookers or promoters for amateur wrestlers. Wrestling performers were arranged in a pyramid hierarchy of fame and money, based strictly on their athletic talent. The real fighters, who would compete in shoot matches, were called shooters.
Terms such as kayfabe are assumed to have developed during the same period, as well.
Martin “farmer” Burns was one of the prominent stars of his time. He won his first heavyweight championship in 1895. He is claimed to have wrestled in more than 6,000 matches and to have lost only seven. What makes this feat even more staggering is the fact that he weighed a mere 165 pounds.
However, Burns' legacy as a trainer far transcends his in ring supremacy.
He trained Frank Gotch, who went on become maybe the greatest wrestling champion of all time.
Frank Gotch is one of the reasons behind pro wrestling’s sustained presence. His reign as the undisputed world champion lasted for five years (1908-1913) during the time when most fights were shoot. He was one of the most popular athletes in the United States in his day.
Until the 1910's, it was a common belief that wrestling was as legitimate as any other sport. Therefore, kayfabe nature of the business was a carefully guarded trade secret.
Somewhere around 1915, it was revealed that wrestling was "fake". The hostile media campaign was carried out to highlight its illegitimacy. The mistrust among the people led to massive decline in the popularity of pro wrestling.
This was the first scandalous jolt wrestling had experienced. However, as we will see, the business used this to its advantage in the coming years.
In 1920’s, Ed Lewis (then world champion), his manager Billy Sandow and Joseph Mondt (in the picture) joined hands to form the first pro wrestling promotion.
They were the first promoters to keep wrestlers on long contracts. They popularized tag-teams. They introduced time limits for the matchup, heel tactics, such as distracting the referee, moves such as flashy submissions and signature taunts.
Mondt is considered to be the father of pro wrestling. He trained the likes of Antonio Rocca, Bruno Sammartino and Stu Hart. He mentored Vince McMahon Sr., and was the cofounder of WWWF.
He is the architect of wrestling's evolution from a carnival attraction to a modern industry.
Lou Thesz made his debut in 1932. He was spotted and trained by none other than Ed Lewis.
Lou won the NWA world title in 1937 for the first time. He later dropped and regained the title several times. In 1948, after NWA was formed, Lou was chosen as the first champion. This reign lasted for 9 years, in which, he went on to defeat territorial champions to become the undisputed champion.
Lou Thesz was the face of his era. He pioneered the modern style of wrestling, and invented several moves such as German suplex, the Lou Thesz press, STF and the original powerbomb.
Contrary to the popular belief, hardcore wrestling and its origins go as far back as the 1930s. It was Bull "Wildman" Curry, who pioneered and innovated hardcore wrestling in his 40-year long wrestling career.
Endowed with tremendous toughness, knack for reckless violence and those ghastly eyebrows, Curry became a big star. The famous " NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Championship" was invented solely to give Curry some belt.
He was one of the most hated heels of his time, so much so that at times audience rioted following his wins.
The whole concept of wrestling gimmicks started with the gimmick called “Ali Baba.”
The name is suggestive, is it not? It was a gimmick based on an Arabic individual, which was played by Harry Ekizian, a great heel of the 1930s.
Alibaba is considered to be the first ever gimmick to be utilized completely in pro wrestling. It was his unique in-ring identity which shot him to the pinnacle of his career. It was his success that led to all anti-USA heels and all-American heroes of many eras.
"Entire world is watching."
J.R. could say that only because In the 1950s, wrestling found its equivalent of life-source in television.
Thanks to the TV revolution, matches began to be aired nationally during the 1950s. It took wrestling to a larger fanbase than ever before. This was a time of enormous growth for professional wrestling, as increasing fame and national expansion made it a marquee form of entertainment.
This period is billed as the first "Golden Age" for the wrestling industry. It was also a time of great change in both the character and professionalism of wrestlers as a result of the appeal of television.
"I'll crawl across the ring and cut my hair off! But that's not gonna happen because I'm the greatest wrestler in the world!"
Sounds like HBK, Chris Jericho or CM Punk, eh?
It was Gorgeous George in the 1950s who actually began the borderline narcissist self-promotion. It was George, who used promos to enthrall audiences for the first time.
Gorgeous George gained mainstream popularity and became one of the biggest stars of the 1950s, gaining media attention for his outrageous, flamboyant and charismatic character. Many stars such as Mohammad Ali and James Brown were influenced by Gorgeous George.
Until 1948, wrestling was region-oriented industry. There was no coherence and coordination between the functioning of regional promoters. It was perhaps the biggest reason behind wrestling not becoming a nation-wide phenomenon.
In 1948, six prominent of promoters came together to form the "National Wrestling Alliance" as the national governing body of wrestling. The concept of the NWA was to consolidate the championships of these regional companies into one true world championship of pro wrestling, whose holder would be recognized worldwide.
NWA was the first step towards wrestling becoming a global phenomenon.
Mildred Burke was the pioneer of women’s wrestling.
Before she became the first recognized women’s champion in 1937, she had wrestled 200 men, and had lost only to one of them. After a fall out with her husband Billy Wolfe and his cohorts in NWA, she formed World Women’s Wrestling Association in early 50’s.
Fabulous Moolah started from where Mildred had left.
Fabulous Moolah reigned as a champion for almost 30 years from 1954. Her contribution however, transcends her championship reigns, as it was from her wrestling academy that Wendi Richter emerged. Wendy Richter was a huge star in 1980s, who inspired the next generation of wrestlers.
Perhaps the first of the more comic book like characters known to professional wrestling was Antonino Rocca.
Rocca was comparatively weak in technical wrestling ability; however his marketable personality and barefoot acrobatics made up for it. He was one of the most popular faces of the 1950s and one of WWWF's main attractions.
His greatest contribution to wrestling is the high flying and acrobatic style of wrestling. Rocca probably invented the unique acrobatic, off-the-ground, flying wrestling style. He had mastered dazzling aerial maneuvers and he mesmerized audiences with it.
It was in the 1950s that the blood made its foray into the wrestling.
During this period, hundreds of new wrestlers began fresh without any professional training or apparent wrestling skills. They began with dreams of becoming televised superstars. It affected the industry, as the product began to lose athletic talent. So, increasingly, these performers began to use blood as their USP.
The second factor was the slow decline of industry in late the 1950s. Due to the loss of high ratings, blood was a desperate attempt of many promoters. It became a niche for some, and the tradition still continues.
In 1960, Verne Gagne broke away from the NWA and formed the AWA.
With Verne Gagne himself as the premier star, AWA soon went on to become the biggest and best wrestling promotion of the 60s and 70s. AWA was the place where stars like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels honed their craft.
However, due to his stubborn faith in technical wrestling, Gagne could never grasp the changing taste of audiences and slowly lost his empire to Vince McMahon in the 1980’s.
In 1962, Bobo Brazil created history by winning the NWA heavyweight title, although the landmark is riddled with ambiguity.
He was the first ever African American wrestler to win the world title. Bobo was enormously popular with the crowd, and he feuded with the likes of Killer Kowalski, Dick the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine, and The Sheik during his career.
Bobo Brazil is often credited for breaking the glass ceiling that prevented minority wrestlers from becoming successful in pro wrestling. He paved the way for a better future for superstars like Harlem Heat, Ron Simmons and The Rock.
Considering how even today race is treated with a distant hint of social stigma, the feat of Bobo Brazil can never be overestimated.
In 1962 Vincent J. McMahon and Mondt decided to break away from the NWA. They then went on to form the WWWF (reformed Capitol Wrestling Corporation). WWWF ruled the north-east USA, with Madison Square Garden as its staple.
This moment did not have an immediate effect. Although today in retrospect, one can call this moment to be the most important moment in wrestling history, since it laid the foundation of pro wrestling behemoth, the WWE.
May 17, 1963. Bruno Sammartino defeated “Nature-Boy” Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds to win the WWWF title, which he went on to hold for 8 years.
Sammartino was the most popular wrestler of his era. In fact, when he lost his title after 8 years, fans in attendance in Madison Square Garden were stunned in a dead silence. Ivan Koloff, despite being the new champion had to leave first in the fear of riots.
It was this 8 year long reign that put WWWF firmly on the national map. It was Bruno's star power that prevented McMahon's decision to break away from the NWA from backfiring.
"There are many people who play the game. There are some who change the game. Even fewer are audacious enough to dare and make a game on their own. And then there emerges the rare mind that actually succeeds in the same."
He wanted to become a wrestler. He worked as a travel salesman in the beginning. But thank god he ended up joining his father in the WWWF. If Vincent Kennedy McMahon had never joined the WWWF, the pro wrestling world would have had an entirely different history.
If anybody deserves the accolade of being "architect of the wrestling history" along with Mondt, it is Vince McMahon.
Superstar Billy Graham debuted in 1970. He was the great heel of his time and a multiple time WWF champion.
His true impact on the industry can be precisely gauged by looking at the image on the left.
His glamorous persona and that beefed up physic paved the way for almost all wrestlers we have seen. He could easily be the source of Vince's ideal image of a "WWE Superstar."
Hulk Hogan modeled himself on the footprints of Graham. Even Triple H acknowledges that he is influenced by Graham's persona.
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest pro wrestler of all time. Still a record-holder, the 17-time world champion made his debut in 1972. Yeah it has been that long.
Ric Flair's heel tactics and in ring antics redefined the "heel". It earned him the title of "the dirtiest player of the game." Through Four Horsemen, he added new dimension to pro wrestling. His charm, his ability, his promo-skills and his emotion were all of the superlative quality.
Despite his constant personal life woes, Flair remains one of the most revered wrestlers and an inspiration to many.
In 1980 Vince formed the Titan Sports Inc., and in 1982 he went on to purchase his father's promotion Capital Wrestling Corporation.
In the early 80's, Vince began syndicating WWF television shows to television stations across the United States in areas outside of the WWF's traditional Northeastern stronghold. He also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast through his Coliseum Video distribution company.
He effectively broke the unwritten law of regionalism around which the entire industry had been based, and went national.
The purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling by the WWF is considered to be Vince's most significant stride towards national dominance.
GCW was owned in 1983 by Jack and Jerry Brisco (the famous Brisco brothers), Jim Barnett, Paul Jones and Ole Anderson. GCW was the first nationally broadcast wrestling program on cable television in 1979. It aired on the TBS network. By 1981, GCW had become the most watched show on cable television.
It was because of this takeover that Vince could claim the lucrative Saturday night television spot.
In 1980’s, Vince was on massive talent hunt, and thus, he started acquiring stars of other promotions. One of such acquisitions was Hulk Hogan, which in the end changed the industry forever.
Hulk Hogan previously worked for the AWA of Verne Gagne. Despite his immense popularity following Rocky III Gagne refused make Hogan the Champion, since Hogan was not a technical wrestler.
Hence In 1983 Hulk Hogan left the AWA and joined Vince, who wanted him at any cost. Vince had already realized the immense marketing potential of Hulk Hogan. His plan was to make Hogan the flagship star of the company.
Today we all know that the plan worked damn too well.
The first half of 1980s was marked by the patriotic charisma of then U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
Vince traced the pulse of the society. He therefore gave the WWF belt to Iron Sheik, a great "foreign heel."
The moment Hulk Hogan beat Sheik, the ultimate American hero of the WWF was born, and "Hulkamania" had begun.
Hulk Hogan became a name that eventually reached every doorstep in the U.S. He became a cultural icon. The gate sales, the TV ratings and the WWF's popularity shot to the sky.
"Hulkamania" indeed ran wild, Brother.
With WrestleMania I started the best tradition of pro wrestling, the WrestleMania. It is most certainly the greatest child of Vince’s maverick mind. WM I was also the beginning of Rock 'n' Wrestling connection.
WrestleMania’s biggest legacy doesn't lie in the surreal elements of pro wrestling or the evergreen performances and brilliant matches. It rather lies in the commercial effect it had on this industry.
Until WrestleMania, pro wrestling didn't have an event that would define the 'sport'. WrestleMania is Pro Wrestling’s equivalent of Super Bowls or legendary film festivals. WrestleMania attracts worldwide attention with its undeniable mainstream charm.
Without WrestleMania, Pro Wrestling would have never been the same.
In the first half of 1980's Vince McMahon joined hands with media giants such as MTV and CBS to establish the Rock 'n' Wresting connection.
In 1984, pop singer Cyndi Lauper was the first celebrity to be a part of this initiative. She entered into a program that included Roddy Piper, Fabulous Moolah and Wendy Richter. The program witnessed the end of Moolah's 28-year long championship reign at the hands of Wendy.
In 1985, CBS started the animated Hulk Hogan series, which boosted his young fan base tremendously.
The Rock 'n' Wrestling era was one of the most glorious eras of wrestling. It was a time when wrestling was "the vogue."
In his second stint as the NWA chairman, Jim Crockett Jr. began to conglomerate the regional promotions. The motive was sole and simple: to compete with the juggernaut, WWF.
Between 1985 and 1987, Crockett bought several promotions such as Florida Championship wrestling. He also bought the elusive Saturday night spot from Vince. Unified NWA proved to be a worthy rival in the end. In 1988, he sold the franchise to Ted Turner, who re-launched it as the WCW.
Had it not been for unification of NWA, WCW could have never come into existence, and either could the Monday night war.
In 1986, The Four Horsemen stable was formed in the NWA. The original group featured Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Later on, many superstars such as Sting, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Curt Hennig and Chris Benoit became a part of the legendary stable.
The original incarnation of the Horsemen oozed with charisma and talent. Later on, the mere presence of the likes of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson retained the marquee of the stable for a decade to come.
As Jim Ross noted, had it not been for Four Horsemen, there would have been no NWO, DX or Evolution. It was the Four Horsemen that revolutionised the concept of heel stables.
The main event of WrestleMania III was the biggest match that the generation had seen. A giant who was undefeated for 15 years, and the man whose momentum would put Superman to shame, were set to square off.
Then something surreal happened. An incredible moment made an everlasting impact on the business of pro wrestling
Hulk Hogan lifted Andre the Giant and slammed him on the mat. 93000 people in the arena were stunned and millions were stupefied at home, for only to erupt in rapture a moment later.
Every major media outlet in the States captured this image, which will endure as long as the legacy of WrestleMania does.
Pro Wrestling took one giant leap as the Giant hit the proverbial nadir.
Two legendary characters – Mankind and Kane – might not have come into existence. The stellar careers of superstars such as HBK, Stone Cold, Rock, Triple H, Big Show, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista and Edge would have lost some of their sheen.
Gimmick matches such as Casket match, Buried Alive match, Inferno match, Last Ride match and the Hell in a Cell match would never be there.
WrestleMania would have been robbed of its most dependable draw, and Vince of a face that is recognised in every distant corner of the world.
Last but not least, the world would have never had to endure the atrocious tragedies like Giant Gonzalez or the Great Khali, had the Undertaker never come along!
The steroid scandal rocked the industry in early 1990s. It profoundly affected the social and political standing of the industry. It put a huge question mark on the already fragile legitimacy of the WWF.
It clouded and tarnished the legacy of legends such as Hulk Hogan. It created a massive stir that led to the acrimonious trial of Vince McMahon.
The Steroid Scandal threatened to almost shut down the WWF. It would have probably been the biggest blow to the U.S. pro wrestling industry.
The immediate outcome of the scandal was intensified scrutiny of the company, and introduction of a short-lived wellness policy that lasted until 1996.
In 1993, Vince introduced the first episode of live Monday night Raw. In a few weeks, we will be witnessing the 1000th episode of Raw. The legacy of Raw, however, transcends the sheer number of episodes it has produced.
Raw essentially provided wrestling a staple show and a brand that would be recognized all over the world. The biggest contribution of Raw is that it has made Monday night the proverbial wrestling night.
Raw took pro wrestling to new heights and to new geographical territories. It was probably the biggest step towards becoming a reality TV program that went on to alter the future of the company, and in turn, the industry.
In 1993/1994, Eric Bischoff went from being an announcer to the head honcho of the company.
Bischoff had some personal traits similar to Vince McMahon. He was indeed someone with a vision, drive and mighty ego. He was abrasive, ruthless and daring. He had his finger on the pulse. These qualities proved to be the catalyst behind WCW’s rise in the future.
What he lacked was the dynamic instinct of McMahon. He has never understood when to change, and when to stop. These are the same qualities that had led to the demise of many promotions such as AWA in the past.
Ted Turner accepted one seemingly outlandish suggestion from Eric Bischoff. which ultimately went on to change the landscape of the industry forever. The suggestion was to introduce Monday Night Nitro.
Introduction of Nitro led to the Monday Night War between the two behemoths. Thanks to its realistic and intense stories, showcasing of various wrestling styles such as cruiser-weight division, Lucha Libre and the NWO, Nitro soon overtook Raw in the ratings. It compelled Vince M
It was also the greatest time in wrestling history, where two promotions enjoyed immense prominence on television.
May 19, 1996 was the last day of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in the WWF, and the last day of the infamous “Klique”.
After the main event match between Nash and HBK, the klique proceeded to do something unprecedented. Nash, Triple H (heels), HBK and Hall (faces) went on to engage in an embrace. Such a blatant break of kayfabe break left Vince fuming.
The real historical impact of this incident, however, lies in the rise of Stone Cold.
Triple H was supposed to win the “King of the Ring” tournament of 1996. He did not because he was being punished for the MSG incident. Triple H’s loss was Austin’s gain. It is an amazing “what if” moment in the history of WWE.
"You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!"
King of the Ring (June 1996) saw the birth of wrestling's greatest anti-hero, as Stone Cold delivered his iconic "Austin 3:16" promo. This moment was the first catalyst moment of the Attitude Era.
His feud with Bret Hart culminated at WrestleMania 13, where Austin's turned face in a legendary double turn. His rivalries with Mr. McMahon and Rock helped the WWF to win the Monday Night War. He propelled WWF into the heights none had seen before.
Vince himself considers Austin to be the greatest WWF superstar of all time.
On May 19, 1996, events on WCW Nitro shocked the pro wrestling world. Hulk Hogan, for the first time 15 years, turned heel as he joined Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to form the NWO
NWO is one of the greatest story-lines to have ever played out in pro wrestling. It is one of the greatest stables of all time. It was the greatest heel turn of modern era.
Had it not been for the NWO, WCW could have never overtaken the WWF in ratings. WWF would have never had to initiate the Attitude Era.
However, WCW indulged in it for far too long, and in the end, they paid for it. Had it not been for the NWO, WCW would not have folded so soon either.
By the end of 1997, Bret Hart was set to leave the WWF. He, however, was not exactly keen on losing it to Shawn Michaels before leaving. Vince McMahon, thus, made sure that he does by screwing him out of the title match at the survivor series (November 9, 1997).
The Montreal Screwjob remains one of the most controversial instances in wrestling history. Thanks to this incident, "Mr. McMahon," the evil boss was born. Vince capitalized on the controversy to take a monster step towards reality TV. The night proved to be the second catalyst moment of the Attitude Era.
Bret Hart’s career also effectively ended on the same day, because if WWF screwed him out of his title then WCW screwed him out of his career.
ECW was founded in 1992, and its heyday was the mid 90's. ECW provided fans something that the WWF and WCW didn't. It exhibited international styles of professional wrestling, ranging from lucha libre, to puroresu, to hardcore wrestling. Under the shrewd intellect of Paul Heyman, ECW became one of the cults of wrestling.
Vince McMahon himself had been funding ECW to save it from the bankruptcy, until, he finally bought it in 2001.
ECW is regarded to be the inspiration behind Attitude Era. It also proved to be an able breeding ground for the legends such as Stone Cold and Mick Foley.
"Good God almighty! Good God almighty! They've killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!"
Jim Ross had every reason to be so crazed.
I had to pick my jaw up from the floor when I first saw this match, since I had never seen anything as sinisterly mesmerizing as that before.
It was unreal, unprecedented and bone-chilling.
This particular moment set the new standards of endurance, aggression and the violence. It magnified the crimson aura of HIAC matches. This moment is the third catalyst moment of the Attitude Era.
The image of Taker throwing Mankind off the cell is one of the most enduring images of pro wrestling, and it will always remain one.
On January 4 1999, WCW managed to commit two suicidal blunders on the same night, which is scintillating even by their standards.
First, Tony Schiavone revealed that Mick Foley was set to win WWF title. Although this revelation was meant to deter Nitro viewers from switching to Raw, it nicely prompted 600,000 fans to change channels to see Foley's victory.
Secondly, a gentle finger poke of Hulk Hogan was enough to make Kevin Nash lose his main event match and the world heavyweight title to the Hulkster. Granted, it was the finger of effing Hulk Hogan, but the ridiculous move still insulted the audience, and rightfully so.
This was the night, when WCW lost the Monday Night War.
In October 1999, WWE decided go public.
It was a massive step for not only the company but also for pro wrestling business as a whole. It made WWE a legitimate enterprise that was answerable to its shareholders. It brought the much needed openness in WWE's operations. Pro Wrestling as a whole took a step towards becoming legitimate industry.
This move had immense impact on the WWE functioned.
WWE now needs to keep an eye on share-price while creating new stars and while taking a new creative direction. Every aspect of the company that we are witnessing today is in someway an outcome of this decision.
It is one of the two events that have made WWE susceptible to socio-economic elements.
In 2001, AOL Time Warner decided to stop the charity and close the WCW once and for all. It sold the name copyrights to Vince McMahon for $2.5 million.
This moment is one of most critical turning points of the US wrestling industry, as it established the firm monopoly of the WWE. The systematic annihilation of the competition that started in 1981 had reached its conclusion.
Effectively, it made the industry a lot poorer, and the WWE much more complacent.
In pre-internet days, though people knew about the scripted nature of wrestling, they hardly ever knew the results beforehand (Unless Bischoff told them).
Today it is impossible to carry on a taped show, without losing a nice portion of ratings. The overflow of information has killed the uncertainty and mystique of the business, and the curiosity of many fans.
In the advent of the Reality Era, however, WWE has begun to use the Internet to its advantage through social networking. A lot of us are annoyed with it, but it is a necessary evil that will live on.
The huge hollow of WCW was soon filled up by rising small independent wrestling promotions, and TNA and Ring of Honor.
The action provided by these promotions is varied and it caters to a niche segment of the audience. For e.g. for the connoisseurs of wrestling there are ROH and Dragon Gate, or there is Shimmer for the lovers of women's wrestling.
These promotions also offer a stage to wrestlers who find it difficult to enter the WWE directly, and who later set it ablaze. The fact that 2 out of WWE's 4 premier stars (who are not suspended) are former ROH champions says it all.
After a period of part-time scheduling, Rock left WWE in 2004 for good.
What if Rock had never left in the first place?
It is safe to claim that the business would be in a better position. It is also safe to say that careers of Cena, Orton and Punk would have been vastly different.
In the realms of reality, Rock's foray into Hollywood gave WWE's mainstream presence a substantial boost. It took the brand of WWE to greater levels, albeit in an indirect way. The $67 million revenue of WrestleMania 28 is enough to corroborate this argument.
On November 13, 2005, Eddie Guerrero was found dead in his Minneapolis hotel room before a WWE taping. It was found that one of the biggest reasons behind Eddie’s death was steroids.
With new questions being raised about drug use in the WWE, Vince McMahon had to act.
Within the next 12 months, 40 percent of the WWE's wrestlers tested positive for steroids and other banned drugs, according to company documents subpoenaed by the committee. Eleven percent,or 22 wrestlers, tested positive for steroids alone, (source).
This was as big as the steroid scandal of 1990s, and it posed some dire questions. The worst, however, was yet to come.
On June 24th 2007, Chris Benoit committed suicide after murdering his wife and his son. The details, which later came out, shook the foundations of the industry.
During his career, Chris Benoit had stubbornly stuck to diving head-butts and chair shots to the head. It had had a disastrous effect on his brain. He suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his brain was damaged in its all four lobes. Steroid abuse was another angle, and it is rumored that his actions were induced by 'roid-rage.
If the steroid scandal and Eddie's death questioned the practices in WWE, the Chris Benoit incident questioned the very nature of wrestling and its primary safety.
WWE, therefore, launched a twofold mechanism to deal with these fundamental crises.
The nature of pro wrestling, practices of the company and its eccentric owner have made WWE a soft target of politicians and social activists for two decades. This aspect was only magnified when Linda McMahon decided to run for the Senate.
The reason PG era descended upon us is Linda McMahon’s entry into politics. Apart from PG era, the political influence has had a huge impact on the practices in WWE. The health and wellness policy, "Be A Star" are connected to Linda's aspirations.The day is not far when even the the employment relations will be coming under the scanner.
Increasing influence of politics and political matters will be a highlight of the next decade. We are going to see many subtle changes. Some will be for good, others to our dismay.
WWE first implemented the health and wellness policy in 2006. It encompasses banishment of some drugs and a provision for rehabilitation for any wrestler who has ever performed for the WWE. It also has strict penalties for policy violation.
One could always Google Randy Orton for more information on the wellness policy.
The health and wellness policy is not perfect by any means. However, the policy is indeed ensuring a better life for pro wrestlers.
In 2008, WWE entered the PG era. The significant aspect of the PG era is the ban on chair shots to head, blading, vulgarity and profanity, etc. Another side is the increased PR activity through social work activities.
CM Punk's shoot promo has changed some equations drastically.
The promo proved to be the initiation of the "Reality Era". It created controversy. It made reality the focal point of the stories. The trouble with accepting that reality is that one cannot choose to neglect it again. The storytelling and the kayfabe will not be the same again, thanks to the "Pipe bomb".
Before comparing its impact vis-à-vis iconic promos like Austin 3:16, I would wait a few years. It should not be forgotten that even Attitude Era took three rather mixed years to reach its true zenith.
One just has to understand the magnitude of this investment to comprehend its impact.
A new network requires an investment of several hundred millions. For a billion dollar enterprise, it's a do-or-die investment. If it fails, then the company will be doomed.
This gigantic venture might as well force Vince McMahon to bring all wrestling promotions under one umbrella, which would be unprecedented.
The WWE network could prove to be the greatest turning point in wrestling history despite its uncertain outcomes. If it fails, then it will be one the epilogue of one glorious history. And if it succeeds, then it will be a prologue of a new one.
Every history is an outcome of human decisions and their consequences. Its complexity resonates with the intricacy of human mind. Akin to our dreams, emotions and actions, history is both humane and surreal. Wrestling’s history is no exception.
One remains amazed at the range of stories it has produced. The contrasting hues that radiate are equally mesmerizing, and in a sinister way, if I may add.
For every success story, there is a crumbled spirit and dreams that reneged on their promises. For every single mega-star, there are countless faces who wandered in shady dungeons sans any identity. Wrestling history has many fairy tales of compassion, of bonds and passion that people shared. It has, however, also seen instances of betrayal, revenge and even murders for that matter. This history is indeed glorious, but its aura is a tad crimson.
Another aspect that fascinates me after going through all these eras is the future. It is an inevitable curiosity.
The business changed a lot in all these years. It had its cycles and stages of evolution. However, one could notice that as the time progressed, the average span of these upheavals has become shorter. In the past 30 years, business remolded itself to unimaginable extent.
What lies in the future is anyone’s guess, and that’s all that one can do to figure it out. Guess.
Very seldom an article is edited after 8 days of publishing it. However, it's even rarer for an article to become a common possession of readers and the writer. The comment thread of this article consists of many fans who knew a lot about the topic. They suggested some edits and some additions, and I have done accordingly. The two additions are "WWE goes public" (42) and "Linda McMahon Runs for the Senate" (49).
Today this article has become a true testament to the spirit of bleacher report, which lies in our interaction and sharing of ideas and knowledge.
Thank you all for your generous support and precious time. I consider it to be my greatest honor as a B/R writer.