This CBS Sports program features Bob Costas…..as he takes a look a the incredible success of professional wrestling….and specifically the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)….which has a history that dates back to the early 1950’s when it was founded by Jess McMahon and Toots Mondt….who founded the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC)….which has undergone numerous name changes throughout the years….from World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF)….to World Wrestling Federation (WWF)….to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002.
In 1983, Vince McMahon (son of founder Jess McMahon) purchased Capitol Sports….the parent company of WWF from his father and associates Gorilla Monsoon and Arnold Skaaland…..while deeking to make WWF the premier wrestling promotion in the world….as he began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the industry. Upon taking over the company, McMahon immediately worked to get WWF programming on syndicated television all across the United States….which angered other promoters and disrupted the well-established boundaries of the different wrestling promotions. In addition, the company used income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to secure talent from rival promoters.
Capitol Sports already controlled most of the northeastern territory….but the younger McMahon wanted WWF to be a national wrestling promotion….which was something the NWA did not approve of….resulting in his defection from the NWA….much like the American Wrestling Association….which controlled the U.S. Northern Midwest….thus meaning that to become a national promotion….the WWF would have to become bigger than AWA or any NWA promotion.
McMahon’s vision for his promotion was starting to become possible when he signed AWA talent Hulk Hogan….who had achieved popularity outside of wrestling….notably for his appearance in the Sylvester Stallone movie Rocky III as Thunderlips. McMahon then signed Rowdy Roddy Piper as Hogan’s rival…. and shortly afterward signed Jesse “The Body” Ventura….who later became the Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. Other significant wrestlers who were part of the WWF roster included…. Big John Studd, André the Giant, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, The Magnificent Muraco, Junkyard Dog, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Nikolai Volkoff.
In 1984, Hogan was pushed to main event status….when he defeated WWF Heavyweight Champion The Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden on January 23, 1984 and thus evolved into one of the most recognizable and popular faces in professional wrestling….and with reasonable revenue being made…. McMahon was able to secure television deals….which allowed his WWF to be shown across the United States.….as McMahon also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast through his Coliseum Video distribution company….as once again he angered other promoters. The syndication of WWF programming forced promotions to engage in direct competition with the WWF….and the increased revenue allowed McMahon to sign more talent….such as Brutus Beefcake, Tito Santana, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Butch Reed, and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.
However,for McMahon to truly turn WWF into a national promotion….he needed for the WWF to tour the entire United States….with such a venture being impossible with the revenue WWF had at the time….so McMahon envisioned a way to obtain the necessary capital through a risky all-or-nothing gamble on a super-card concept called WrestleMania in 1985….which transpired shortly after this CBS Special was filmed….as WrestleMania would be a pay-per-view extravaganza….which was only viewable on closed-circuit television….while being marketed as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. WrestleMania was not the first super-card seen in professional wrestling….as the NWA had previously promoted Starrcade in 1983….however, McMahon’s vision was to make WWF and the industry itself mainstream by targeting more of the general television audience by exploiting the entertainment side of the industry….so, with the inaugural WrestleMania….the WWF initiated a joint-promotional campaign with MTV….which featured a great deal of WWF coverage and programming in what was termed the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. The mainstream media attention brought on by celebrities including Muhammad Ali, Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper at the event helped propel WrestleMania to become a staple in popular culture….and the use of celebrities has been a staple of the company to the present day.
Bone Daddy has often said that the highest revenue night for his sports bar and restaurant….Madison Square Garden, The Sports Place at 302 E. 6th Street in Austin, Texas…..was the original pay for view broadcast of WrestleMania….when he sold 1000 tickets at $20 per ticket…..as they “floated” 57 kegs of beer (16 gallon kegs) amounting to 912 gallons of beer…..as gross receipts for the night exceeded $40,000….a record that still stood when The Garden closed after 20 years of operation.
This video means a great deal to us a ImaSportsphile….as the video tape of this event was eventually taped over as the vintage video library expanded….so, in our opinion….this video is a “nugget of gold” in our treasure chest of incredible vintage videos.