Last Updated 10 Oct 2020

History of Professional Wrestling

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Today anyone that watches professional wrestling knows that it is sport mixed with entertainment. Over the years the sport has become popular worldwide but nowhere more than North America, Europe, and Japan. All the way into the 1920s professional wrestling was very much considered a sport that was real. It was after the 1920s that professional wrestling became associated with what we call fakery, which in other words is theatricals or admitting to fake outcomes. For a while it seemed that because of fakery, competition became low key and its popularity took a deep fall.

It was hard for promoters to stand up for a sport that was admittedly not real. There was actually a bigger fight in the back rooms of professional wrestling, where the hosts and promoters wouldn't admit the fakery while all the sponsors knew exactly what was going on. (Professional Wrestling) In today's professional wrestling no one denies the fact that wrestling has predetermined matches, but they also do a great job of keeping the outcome a secret. In the 1950s the television opened a lot of doors for a lot of opportunities and professional wrestling was no exception .

It was at this point that the face of professional wrestling was changed forever. Now it was being run to adapt to television and its growing viewers. Characters and story lines were being built bigger and better. Pro wrestling has been a form of entertainment for a very long time, and has seen its share of ups and downs, but the storylines that have been used in the WWF have become legendary and something similar to the soap opera of the sporting world. Wrestling began in the early days as a hot television product.

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Over time, they lost their spot on the air, and became highly regional in nature. Each area of the country had their own “stable” of wrestlers, and their own championships. Professional wrestling carried on for many years just gaining popularity until 1980 when professional wrestling blew up like nobody would have ever thought. In the 1980’s, a time known as the 1980s “wrestling boom” represented professional wrestling's greatest period of televised entertainment, reaching widespread popularity among American youth, as well as producing some of its most spectacular characters.

In comparison to the declining support of media outlets during the 1960s and 1970s, professional wrestling, notably the emerging World Wrestling Federation, received great exposure through its reappearance on network television. The WWF expanded nationally through the acquisition of talent from competing promotions and, because it was the only company to air televised wrestling nationally; it became the same with the industry, monopolizing the industry and the fan base.

The WWF's owner Vince McMahon revolutionized the sport by coining the term “sports entertainment” to describe his on-screen product, downplaying the still claimed athletic competition in favor of entertaining viewers as well as enhancing its appeal to children. Most notable was the muscular Hulk Hogan, who marked the 1980s with his "all-American" persona. His sheer size, colorful character, and extravagance made his main events into excellent ratings draws. By 1984, Hulk Hogan's legions of fans and his dominant role in the industry were termed "Hulkamania. With “Hulkamania running wild Vince McMahon decided to have a super bowl of wrestling called “WrestleMania” in 1985. By WrestleMania 3 in 1987, over 93,000 fans showed up for the event. (The McMahons: Vince and Family) On April 1, 1990 WrestleMania VI took place and is recognized as the end of the 1980’s “wrestling boom”. The event saw the last wrestling appearance of the legendary Andre the Giant, who had become barely mobile in the ring due to his real life condition.

One last time Nikolai Volkoff played his standard part as the evil Soviet Russian before turning face and embracing America, reflecting the end of the Cold War. The main event not only put the WWF's two greatest good guys against each other, but was intended as the passing of the torch from Hulk Hogan, the star of the 1980s, to The Ultimate Warrior who was extremely popular and considered Hogan's successor. Hogan's clean pin fall loss to the Ultimate Warrior signaled the end of an era.

However, the Warrior did not live up to expectations and Hogan lingered on in the WWF for the next three years, winning the title three times more. The fans who were kids in the mid and late 1980's were teens by the 1990's, and many eventually grew bored with the comic book style of wrestling of the 1980's, turning their attention away from their childhood favorites such as Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, and “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka in favor of newer and grittier wrestlers like The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple H.

This started a new attitude era moving forward into the 90’s and Vince McMahon took center stage. As the ratings kept soaring McMahon kept getting edgier. The 90s proved to be even bigger with professional wrestling setting all kinds of records when it came to viewership, and finances earned. It seemed that the WWF were the big boys on the block. Protesters claimed that the WWF’s shows were filled with violence, obscenity, and simulated sex. McMahon claims that movies have more sex and violence, and that his shows simply reflect the world at large. The McMahons: Vince and Family) McMahon said that it was his job to entertain, and it was the parent’s job to be responsible for what their children watch.

The television ratings also opened many doors in many other ways for numerous professional wrestlers. Such stars as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin moved on from being the top guy in the business to building great movie careers. By 1998 some of the topnotch guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg from the WWF’s predecessor WCW were making over five million dollars a year. Pro Wrestling) Twenty years prior to 1998 professional wrestling wasn’t even worth five million dollars. Next, through wise business deals made by WWE owner Vince McMahon, pro wrestling became primarily run by the WWE. The World Wrestling Federation was easily the richest company, and began to completely dominate television. Their primary competition would be from the WCW, which evolved from Georgia, North Carolina, and the old NWA of the region. Billionaire Ted Turner purchased the WCW, and the Monday night wars began. The WWE had the ever popular Monday Night Raw, and WCW countered with Monday Nitro.

Turner began using his cable muscle and money to lure some of the biggest stars in WWF history such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, and many others. It looked as though the WCW would overtake the WWF as the powerhouse in pro wrestling. Eventually, however, WCW was completely destroyed by poor booking, finances, and leadership. The upstart competitor was buried by the WWE, and they once again stood head and shoulders above the wrestling world. As the professional landscape of wrestling stands today, their are two major players.

TNA wrestling has taken on the mantle of battling the giant WWE, though they are having less success than their WCW contemporaries. TNA may yet figure it out, but for now the WWE is the only major wrestling organization at the top. Although professional wrestling is a lot different today then it was forty years ago, greats like Gorgeous George and Lou Thesz during the mid 1900’s paved the way for today’s wrestlers to be on television. George and Lou wrestled, and they were glorified as being modern day gladiators who went to war with their enemy.

They were seen as a superhero or a role model to kids. Today’s wrestlers although still considered super heroes to kids, now play a different role in being a role model for children. Now being a professional wrestler is like being a rock star. You travel all around the world, you’re seen on television on a weekly basis, and now you even get paid like a rock star. WWE programming is now beamed to 120 countries and translated into 11 languages. (Professional Wrestling) Wrestling today is so different from the traditional roots of professional wrestling, but maybe in a good way.

The wrestling world has evolved in a way were the WWE’s show Monday Night Raw is now the longest running show in television history. Vince McMahon, whether you love him or hate him, he must be doing something right to be known as the man who took professional wrestling into the twenty first century.

Work Cited Gerdes, Louise I. Professional Wrestling. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2002. Print. Greenberg, Keith Elliot. Pro Wrestling: from Carnivals to Cable TV. Minneapolis, MN: LernerSports, 2000. Print. Kaelberer, Angie Peterson. The McMahons: Vince McMahon and Family. Mankato, MN: Capstone High-Interest, 2004. Print.

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