Founded 36 years ago, way back on February 21st, 1980, the WWE has grown into a business monster. One thing you can always find new wrestlers say about the WWE company is how professional everything really is. Sting and the newly signed AJ Styles, were blown away at how proper everything is backstage with this company.
It seems like as the years go by, the WWE gets bigger and bigger. With the introduction of the WWE Network, the company took a leap of faith expanding its product to all new heights. It was a dream back in the 90s thinking about watching wrestling 24/7, and the company has certainly grown leaps and bounds in comparison to what it used to be.
It wasn’t always glamorous for Vince McMahon and his company though, as the WWE went through some incredibly hard times in the early 90s. The company nearly went out of business several times, and many wrestlers believed at one time that the promotion was a sinking ship. This article will take a look at some interesting facts you may not have been aware of from the WWE’s struggles financially to WWE’s 1.9 rating during an episode of RAW. So let’s get to it. Here are 15 incredibly personal facts you never knew about the WWE. Enjoy!
15) Founded by Jess McMahon
Contrary to the belief that Vince McMahon’s father started the business, it was actually his grandfather Jess McMahon, who kickstarted the business with his partner Toots Mondt. The duo would go onto debut Capitol Wrestling Corporation, way back in 1952. After the passing of Jess McMahon at the age of 72, back in 1954, Vincent James McMahon (the father of Vince Kennedy McMahon) would take the reins from 1954 to 1982. He would then give the company to his son and current owner of the business, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. It remains to be seen which McMahon is next in line for the prestigious job. Shane? Stephanie?
14) The McMahons don’t own all of the WWE
Although the McMahons are majority owners, they do not own the entire business. The McMahon family holds 70% of the WWE’s equity and 96% of the voting power. A big change was made to the company in August of 2014, when Eminence Capital stepped in and acquired 9.6% of the WWE’s stake. The McMahon family was able to retain 90.4%. The move was done due to ongoing issues within the company. Eminence Capital is a New York based hedge fund owned by Rick Sandler, who has a portfolio value of $8 billion.
13) RAW made its debut on USA Network as a Replacement
The first ever Monday Night Raw made its debut on the USA Network as a replacement for Prime Time Wrestling, which had been on the network for the last eight years. RAW immediately caught some serious heat with the network, as it was truly ground breaking stuff that wrestling fans had never seen before. On January 11th, 1993, the show made its debut in front of a live audience (again, something that had never been seen before). The show originated from the Grand Ballroom in the Manhattan Center Studios. Despite its immense popularity, the WWE would be forced to tape its program despite their huge success.
12) RAW was taped because of financial constraints
Despite its massive success being filmed live, RAW was eventually forced to tape its episodes due to a massive financial strain it was putting on the company. From the Spring of 1993 all the way to the Spring of 1997, RAW was taped several weeks before. The WWE would tape weeks worth of RAW in one week. The company would ultimately end up leaving the Manhattan Center and go on to perform throughout the US in smaller venues due to cost cutting. As you can see, the company wasn’t always a billion dollar enterprise.
11) Promoting the “New Generation”
Back in 1993, the WWE was very aggressive in promoting the New Generation amongst their superstars. The programming put a huge emphasis on the creation of new stars such as Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart and The Undertaker. It was later found out that the WWE chose this route because of financial constraints on the company. Veteran wrestlers left the WWE for greener pastures with WCW.
The WWE was put into some serious financial troubles after the steroid allegations, followed by the sexual harassment claims the following year. The steroid trial alone cost McMahon $5 million, this mixed with financial record lows for the company the same year. The early 90s were a dark time for the WWE.
10) Initially named Titan Sports
Founded in 1979, the WWE was previously under the name of Titan Sports, which was incorporated on February 21st, 1980. The company later went through several name changes which included World Wrestling Federation Inc., World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. and World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Finally, in 2011, McMahon decided that the company would brand itself as WWE. The company today would like to be recognized by its initials like other sporting leagues such as the NFL, NBA and NHL. If you notice, rarely does the WWE call itself World Wrestling Entertainment nowadays.
9) A 2.2 rating caused huge changes
Following the 1997 Royal Rumble, RAW had officially hit a new low recording a 2.2 rating. The rating sparked some massive changes within in the company, one of which included a new time slot. RAW would change from 1 to 2 hours, and this was done to stop Nitro from having a free hour to itself. McMahon would also decide to broadcast the show live so that WCW would no longer be able to give results away like they had been doing every week. These changes were crucial in the WWE finally combating WCW’s product.
8) March 17th, 1997: RAW IS WAR
On March 3rd, 1997, the WWE officially hit rock bottom (no pun intended). The WWE filmed a live event in Berlin, Germany. The event had a camera crew on hand with only a few cameras and terrible lighting. All the matches that night had no build whatsoever to them. What made things so much worse was the fact that the WWE would end up airing this event as an episode of RAW. The show would earn the lowest ratings in its history with 1.9 million viewers. The episode was an embarrassment for the company executives. This prompted some huge changes once again. On March 17th, 1997, RAW was completely revamped from head to toe with a new set and ring. The show was also renamed Raw is War. It is believed that The Attitude Era was born on this very day with an altercation in the ring between Bret and Vince on the new program.
7) SmackDown wasn’t a permanent show
SmackDown made its special debut on August 26th, 1999, live on UPN. The show enjoyed some huge success, and this prompted WWE executives to use the show as a mainstay. The WWE wasn’t holding anything back in regards to this program featuring the company’s top stars. This was contrary to WCW’s product which didn’t allow its bigger stars to be featured on their “B” program. Eventually, this factor was another reason why the WWE product became that much more superior.
SmackDown enjoyed its glory days on UPN, but the show was later forced to move after a 7 year stay because of a merger between UPN and the WB. SmackDown would bounce around various networks including The CW, MyNetworkTV, Syfy and its current home, the USA Network.
6) RAW and RAW Zone
Wrestling fans tend to forget this one; on October 1st, 2001, the WWE tried to once again revamp RAW. This time they wanted to separate the show with the first hour being referred to as RAW, while the second hour would be called Raw Zone. This idea was a total fail, as the announce team would refer to the program as Raw the entire show. The only change that was made to distinguish the two were the on-screen graphics that said Raw Zone during the second hour.
5) WCW was purchased at a very low price
When the details of the numbers were made public, those in the wrestling business were shocked at how low WCW was sold for. Wrestlers like Chris Jericho claimed they could have bought the company themselves had they known it was selling for that cheap. Time Warner was fed up of the wrestling business, and they were very eager to sell after years of financial losses with the WCW product. Vince McMahon would end up acquiring the rights. Vince was given WCW trademarks, tape library, contracts and other properties from Time Warner. It is said that McMahon purchased all of this for around $7 million. Wow.
4) Changes company model under new name: WWE
On April 7th, 2011, the WWE would announce another change to the company’s name. They announced that they would no longer be using World Wrestling Entertainment and instead, would only be recognized under its initials, WWE. The company decided to do so in order to appeal on a global market and also with the launch of its new network, the WWE Network.
Stephanie McMahon would later take on a new role as Chief Branding Officer. This title was meant for Stephanie to further enhance the product around the world via advertisers, the media, business partners and investors. Stephanie is the lead business ambassador for the company. It should also be noted that the WWE remains under its legal name of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
3) WWE Contracts
Believe it or not, each WWE superstar is regarded as an independent contractor and not as an employee for the company. Although, it should be noted that they do have a long list of benefits that may suggest otherwise. Contracts are mostly exclusive, and the WWE has strict policies when it comes to wrestlers appearing on other programs without their permission. They are also very protective over terms and finances when it comes to wrestler contracts, but the company remains very private about these terms till this very day.
2) Name Disputes
Since 1994, the WWE has undergone some disputes with the World Wide Fund for Nature, who also used the same initials as the WWE (which were trademarked as WWF). McMahon agreed with the company that the initials would rarely be used and that it would be seen as the World Wrestling Federation in full. As the years went by, this evidentially wasn’t the case, as the WWE even had a “WWF” logo. This caused the World Wide Fund for Nature to sue the WWE over contract violations. The company would ultimately switch its name to the WWE, as it is known today. The company officially launched its new name on May 5th, 2002.
1) Changing its Wellness Program
Drug testing policy actually began way back in 1987 for the company. It was described as a “joke” by various former WWE employees. A few months after the tragic death of beloved superstar Eddie Guerrero, the WWE started to take greater measures by implementing a Talent Wellness Program. Things once again got rocky for the company following the death of Chris Benoit. This was the beginning of many other pharmaceutical busts for the company.
In September of 2010, the WWE added many other substances to their list. High profile talent including the likes of Randy Orton, have been suspended in the past for failing the test. The program continues to improve as the years go by. Wrestler health is more important than its ever been amongst the WWE and their talent.