WrestleMania is an amazing journey that began with the first WrestleMania in 1985 and continues 32 years later (although, it’s their 33rd anniversary if you ask the WWE).
The journey to the first WrestleMania began prior to 1985 when multiple events in the world of professional wrestling occurred, leading to the creation of WrestleMania. In 1982, Vince McMahon purchased the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) territory from his father. At the time, professional wrestling was divided into regional territories across North America under the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner. The NWA served as a governing body that shared talent across the territories. In 1963 Vince McMahon Sr. broke away from the NWA and ran his Northeast/New York territory independently.
After purchasing the WWF, McMahon had bigger plans for the territory. McMahon wanted to transform his regional territory into a national promotion. McMahon accomplished his goal by buying out smaller territories and securing a national television deal. By purchasing other territories, McMahon was able to acquire their regional television deals and run his WWF television shows in new markets, later known as World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE). After buying out territories, McMahon was able to run more shows in more cities allowing him to generate more revenue.
In 1983, Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA promoted the first Starrcade on Thanksgiving Day. Starrcade was the ultimate professional wrestling card that featured the NWA’s biggest stars of the era and was broadcasted on pay-per views predecessor close-circuited television. Starrcade was the predecessor to WrestleMania, and without it there may not be a WrestleMania.
The following year Vince McMahon purchased NWA territory Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW). McMahon was not really after the Georgia territory, but their Saturday 6:05 to 8:05 timeslot on TBS when they aired “World Championship Wrestling.” By purchasing GCW, McMahon controlled all professional wrestling on national cable television.
On July 14 1984, McMahon appeared in what would later be known as “black Saturday.” McMahon appeared on TBS at 6:05 to announce the sale and switch in programming from GCW to WWF. One problem for McMahon, the product the WWF offered was significantly different than the southern “rasslin” that GCW offered. Viewers rejected the WWF product and wrote into TBS protesting the change. Losing money on the deal, McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions for $1 million.
In 1985, McMahon bet every dollar he had, most of which was from the sale to Jim Crockett Promotions, and promoted the first WrestleMania. McMahon combined wrestling with pop culture celebrities to help sell WrestleMania. Featured on the WrestleMania card were celebrities Liberace, Billy Martin, Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and wrestling in the main event, Mr. T. Had the event failed, McMahon and the then WWF would have gone bankrupt. The event proved to be the most successful closed circuit television event to date. More than one million people watched it, making it a financial success.
32 years later WrestleMania remains the ultimate event in the WWE year. The method of transmission had changed from closed circuit, to pay-per view to the WWE Network. The wrestlers have changed over the years but the man behind the event has not. Now 71-year old McMahon is promoting his 33rd WrestleMania card. As McMahon always says, he is just trying to outperform the previous year’s Mania.