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How Vince McMahon First Built His Billion Dollar Business Empire

How Vince McMahon First Built His Billion Dollar Business Empire

The WWE's owner is now worth over £1 billion dollars.

James Dawson

James Dawson

Any fan of wrestling will be aware of the WWE's owner Vince McMahon, whether they know him first for his on-screen appearances as larger-than-life persona Mr McMahon, or as the man backstage calling the shots, his influence on the trajectory of professional wrestling is impossible to overestimate.

Vince came from a wrestling family and followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Jess and father Vincent J by entering into the business. But although today he is estimated to be worth $1.21billion (£1b), when the now 71-year-old assumed a managerial role in his father's World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE) promotion, in 1968, the company was far different from what it is today.

Although the WWE's origins can be traced back as far as 1952, when Vince's grandfather created the Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd (CWC), which joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1953. It was only taken over by Vince Jr. and his wife Linda after they founded their own company, Titan Sports in 1980.

Vince with the 80s biggest wrestling star Hulk Hogan. Credit: WWE

In the interim period the federation was run by Vince Snr who took over from his father. At the time wrestling federations were split into individual areas of the country, or territories, rather than operating all over the country like the WWE does today.

Operating mainly in the North-East of the USA, under Vince's father the WWWF operated in a conservative manner compared to other professional wrestling territories. It ran its main events monthly rather than weekly or bi-weekly, and usually featured a babyface (a good guy) champion as the promotions star.

However, when Vince McMahon Jr bought the business from his aging father that all changed. Prior to 1982 when WWE split from the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), regional promoters had shared an understanding that they would not invade each other's territories, but McMahon had a different vision of what the industry should be.

Credit: WWE

Employing a strategy of aggressive expansion, he relocated the federation's headquarters to Greenwich, Connecticut. And in an attempt to make it the premier wrestling promotion in the country, he began to move outside the company's traditional 'territory' in a way that fundamentally changed the industry. He also changed the federation's name to the shorter WWF.

He began by promoting in areas outside of the company's Northeast US territory and by signing talent from other companies, such as the American Wrestling Association (AWA). In 1984, he recruited Hulk Hogan to be the charismatic face of the company, and the promotion began traveling into rival territories, as well as incorporating pop music stars into wrestling storylines.

The introduction of Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC in 1985 marked the first time that professional wrestling had been broadcast on network television since the 1950s and made the promotions stars, such as Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Junkyard Dog, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, and Ricky Steamboat, national figures.

Vince McMahon pictured with André the Giant. Credit: WWE

McMahon also shaped the WWF into a unique national 'sports entertainment' brand that reached out to family audiences, while also attracting fans who would previously have been less interested in wrestling. The promotion was featured heavily on MTV programming, which furthered it's reputation as a national brand.

On March 31, 1985, he ran the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden, televised throughout the USA, the pay-per-view event was headlined by Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in tag-team action against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. The event was seen by over one million viewers through closed-circuit television, making it the largest event on closed-circuit television in the United States at the time.

In 1987, the WWF reportedly drew 93,173 fans to the Pontiac Silverdome (which was called the "biggest crowd in sports entertainment history") for WrestleMania III, which featured the main event of Hulk Hogan versus André the Giant.

Credit: WWE

The event came thirty years ago and was one of the defining moments in wrestling history.

In what was billed as the "biggest main event in sports entertainment" the match pitted WWF Champion Hulk Hogan defending the title against André the Giant - and saw the Hulkster come out on top after he scoop slam his 7 ft 4 in and 520 lb opponent, before delivering a leg drop.

The moment remains one of the most iconic in the federations history and paved the way to the WWE becoming the billion dollar company it is today.

Featured Image Credit: WWE

Topics: Wrestlemania, WWE

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