With about 36 million viewers in more than 150 countries, WWE is the largest professional wrestling promotion in the world. Founded by Jess McMahon and Toots Mondt in 1952, WWE has become a staple in the American pop culture. As with any successful establishment, the WWE has some major events in it’s history that has helped shape and guide the company throughout the years. Here, we present to you 25 of the most crucial events in WWE history that has helped define a wrestling juggernaut.
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Withdrawal from the National Wrestling Alliance (1963)
In protest of the January 24, 1963 match between “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz; Joseph Raymond “Toots” Mondt and Vince McMahon Sr. seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance and renamed the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) to the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF).
The apocryphal tournament in Rio de Janeiro (1963)
In April of 1963, the newly formed WWWF World Championship title was awarded to “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in a fictitious storyline victory over Antonino Rocca created by Toots Mondt.
Bruno Sammartino's Reign (1963)
Bruno Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers one month after Rogers received the WWWF World Championship title thus stripping Rogers of the title. Sammartino would go on to retain the title for seven years, eight months, and one day; the longest continuous world title reign in men’s wrestling history.
WWWF Renamed to WWF (1979)
Affiliated with the NWA once again the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979 for marketing purposes.
Definitive Secession from the NWA (1983)
However, after purchasing Capitol Sports, the WWF aimed at becoming a national wrestling promotion. Unfortunately, this goal went counter to the desires of the NWA which led to the WWF’s definitive termination of its alliance with the NWA in 1983.
Enter the Hulk Hogan (1984)
In 1984, the WWF hired the American Wrestling Association (AWA) talent Hulk Hogan. After defeating the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden, Hogan became one of the most recognizable and popular faces in sports entertainment and would go on to become one of the company’s biggest draws.
Hulk Hogan hosts "Saturday Night Live" (1985)
On March, 30th 1985, Hulk Hogan became the first WWF Superstar to host the popular comedic show “Saturday Night Live”
WtestleMania hits pay-per-view. (1985)
Marketed as the “Super Bowl of professional wrestling”, WrestleMania hit closed-circuit pay-per-view television in 1985. Helped by a joint promotion with MTV, WrestleMania targeted more of the general audience and sped its implementation into popular culture.
WrestleMania III (1987)
WrestleMania III has gone down in history as the biggest WrestleMania event ever, drawing an unprecedented 93,173 people into the Pontiac Silverdome; setting a new indoor attendance record.
Hulk Hogan VS Andre the Giant (1987)
WrestleMania III was also the host to one of the most impressive matches in history between the then WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and the Immense Andre the Giant. The highlight of the event was the astonishing bodyslam executed by Hulk Hogan on Andre the Giant. Andre; at 7ft 4in and weighing a staggering 520lbs, was pinned and defeated by Hulk Hogan.
WrestleMania VI (1990)
In Wrestlemania VI, we see a sight that has never been seen before; Hulk Hogan losing via a pinfall. This match is also the first match in WrestleMania history to ever to be contested by the International and the WWE Champions.
Rise of the WCW (1991)
In 1991, the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and after seceding from the NWA, it grew to become a formidable rival promotion to the WWF.
Hulk Hogan leaves the WWF (1993)
The dwindling popularity of the Hulkster, coupled with the crushing defeat by the hands of Yokozuna, led Hulk Hogan to take a year sabbatical ending with the shocking switch from WWF to WCW.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin (1995)
Heralded by Vince McMahon as “the most profitable wrestler in the company’s history”, Steven James Anderson AKA “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became part of; what was then, the WWF world in 1995. However, his superstardom did not blossom until the 1996 King of the Ring event in which Austin coined the now famous slogan “Austin 3:16”.
The Montreal Screwjob (1997)
In what has been labeled as “the most high-profile double-crosses in the history of business”, the Montreal Screwjob was a real manipulaiton of the outcome of a main event match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. The manipulation resulted in Bret losing the WWF Champion title before switching over to the WCW. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most controversial match in the history of the WWF and influenced the story line of the WWF’s “Attitude Era” and the creation of the character “Mr. McMahon”, the evil boss.
Austin's neck injury (1997)
Amongst many other talents and events, SummerSlam 1997 showcased a predominant feud between Owen Hart and Steve Austin. Unfortunately, thanks to a botched Piledrive from Owen Hart, Steve Austin was left with a serious neck injury that almost completely paralyzed him and led to Austin’s eventual retirement in 2003.
King of the Ring, The Undertaker vs Mankind (1998)
Arguably the most famous Hell in a Cell match of all time, the Undertaker confronted Mankind (AKA Mick Foley) in a series of painful display of strength and brutality. Highlights include the undertaker throwing Mankind from the top of a 16 foot (5m) high cell into the announcer’s table below. Remarkably, Mankind continued the confrontation only to be chokeslammed by the Undertaker through the top of this very same Cell.
Owen Hart dies (1999)
Heralded by his peers as “one of the WWF’s most talented professional wrestlers”, Owen Hart died on May 23, 1999 due to an equipment malfunction during his entrance at the Over the Edge pay-per-view event.
Fall of the WCW (2001)
Both the WCW and the WWF became popular mainstream wrestling entertainment acts. However, due to the WCW’s financial decline, the WWF was able to purchase the WCW in 2001; thus acquiring the WCW’s video library, select talent contracts, Championships, etc.
WrestleMania 18 (2002)
On March 17, 2002 Wrestlemania X8 presented a much anticipated duel between “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” and the “Rock”; a match which ended in Hogan’s defeat. However, it’s in this match, that Hogan gave up the “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” persona and re-birthed “Hulkamania”. Wrestlemania X8 was also the last Wrestlemania under the “WWF” name.
WWF lawsuit and renaming (2002)
In 2002, a lawsuit was initiated by the World Wildlife Fund over the trademark of WWF which was settled in their favor. Consequently, the World Wrestling Federation was forced to rename themselves and in May 2002 the company adopted the name of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE).
Death of Christopher Michael Benoit (2007)
Probably one of the most shocking deaths from a WWE wrestler, Christopher Michael Benoit murdered his wife, his son, and then hanged himself. Theories as to why this happened range from concussions to steroids abuse.
John Cena, the new face of the WWE (2002)
On June 27 of 2002, John Cena made his television debut answering an open challenge by Kurt Angle. In spite of the loss by Cena, he quickly became popular with the fans. After he was drafted to Raw, he became the face of WWE with an unprecedented rise of popularity not seen since Austin and Hulk Hogan.
Viewership Milestone (2013)
This past year, the WWE reached an impressive viewership mile stone of 20 million unique viewers in a single week. This number includes a count from all of WWE’s series including “Smackdown”, “WrestleMania 29”, “Total Divas”, “Raw”, and “Main Event”. To give you an idea of how impressive this feat is; season three of The Game of Thrones, the most popular HBO show currently, had an average gross audience of 14.2 million.
WWE Network (2014)
The newest venture in the WWE Universe, the WWE Network was actually announced in September of 2011. Nevertheless it took three years for the network to come to fruition. Programming includes all WWE pay-per-view events broadcast live, the Monday night war, WWE Legends’ House, WWE Countdown, Pre and post shows for Raw and SmackDown; and more.