The WWE, officially World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., is the largest wrestling promotion on the planet, boasting hundreds of shows a year and generating millions in revenue from related sources, such as apparel and product licensing. The promotion’s dazzlingly choreographed matches and dramatic storylines date back to 1952, when Jess McMahon, grandfather of current CEO Vincent K. “Vince” McMahon, and professional wrestler James Ervin “Toots” Mondt, founded Capitol Wrestling Corporation with an eye to promoting the “Slam Bang Western Style Wrestling” created by Mondt.
By the 1960s, Capitol was renamed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and business was booming. The promotion featured names like Lou Albano and Buddy Rogers and gained sufficient popularity to land one of pro wrestling entertainment’s first television deals. By the end of the decade, Mondt had left the organization and Vincent J. McMahon (father of Vince McMahon) had taken over, renaming the promotion the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979 and paving the way for the dawn of what many consider the golden age of pro wrestling.
Current CEO Vince McMahon purchased the franchise in 1983 and launched an intense campaign to grow the company and take professional wrestling to the masses, making inroads by successfully launching WWF programming across the nation. In the process, McMahon shook up what had been an entrenched system of smalltime, regional promotions. Breaking with tradition and making enemies along the way, McMahon swept aside competing promotions and signed the biggest names of the day, such as Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, and Andre the Giant. With this legendary lineup in place, McMahon’s dream of making WWF the biggest wrestling promotion in the nation had come to fruition. Not satisfied with the revenue brought in by nationwide television syndication, McMahon took his show on the road. Partnering with MTV, the WWF unveiled Wrestlemania I in 1985, promoting the event as a pay-per-view supercard unlike anything seen before.
Thirty-two Wrestlemania events, another name change (the World Wildlife Federation forced the change to WWE in 2002), and a multitude of stars and controversies later, the WWE’s reign as the superstar of pro wrestling promotions continues unchallenged.