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Vince McMahon's Foresight
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By Christopher G. Palacios

Vince McMahon will go down in the wrestling history books as the man who figured out how to take wrestling from a regional level to a national promotion. When the World Wrestling Federation became the hip thing to watch in the early 1980s, regional wrestling promoters were fuming. Most of them probably would have told you that Vince broke the unwritten law of promoting outside of their regional territory.

Most of those same promoters, if they’re honest with themselves, would also tell you that they wish they had made the jump before Vince did.

A lot of wrestling journalists tagged Vince as a bad guy at the time. Supposedly, Vince as ruining the appeal of regional promotions and forcing consumers to watch a new, mainstream wrestling product that everyone in the United States could relate to. The sheet writers would look at the gimmicks that arose from the World Wrestling Federation and call them the death of serious wrestling as we once knew it. The Shieks and the Crushers were being replaced by the Undertakers and the Red Roosters of the world.

If you listened to the pundits, they would have you believe that the golden age of wrestling died when the first Hulkamania shirt was sold. Those prophets would tell you that regional promotions died when the World Wrestling Federation popped up on MTV.

Someone else could have been the first to break that unspoken rule. Verne Gagne could have made another run at making the American Wrestling Association the first national promotion. Jim Crockett could have pushed the National Wrestling Alliance to the next level, leaving the WWF and AWA in its dust yet again.

And what if Crockett had made the move for national exposure first? It's safe to say that the National Wrestling Alliance was the most respected wrestling organization in the late ‘70s. By becoming a national promotion, the NWA could have made the WWF and AWA look like pro wrestling's minor leagues.

But Crockett and Gagne were happy with the cards they had been dealt. The buddy system that regional promoters had at the time made them content with running their region and not rocking the boat.

Meanwhile, Vince realized a world champion is only as valuable as the world that watches him.

Vince did know that technology was making the world smaller. Videotapes were inexpensive, and Vince used those videotapes to syndicate WWF programming all over the country. Getting that show to air in various cities was simply a matter of showing a local TV station program direction the difference between the World Wrestling Federation's national appeal and the shaky foundation that most regional promotions stood on.

Once the television stations were playing WWF programming, the WWF World champion became an international drawing card. All of a sudden, the WWF champion became an equal with the NWA World champ and the AWA World champ. By the time the '80s were over, there were only two legitimate World champions from American promotions that could sell tickets overseas. One of those champions was the WWF champion.

Vince could have stopped there, content with sending the WWF World champion to wrestle on cards in Japan and Europe. Instead, McMahon promoted entire tours in England and in Japan. By signing wrestlers with appeal overseas, McMahon was able to promote shows with wrestlers that fans could root for. The defining moment of using national pride to sell tickets has to be when Davey Boy Smith beat Bret Hart at SummerSlam '92 to win the Intercontinental title. That match was wrestled in front of 80,000 screaming Europeans, rooting for Davey Boy every step of the way. Meanwhile, Vince McMahon was watching the money roll into the WWF's bank account. He had once again outsmarted every American promoter.

It's safe to say that Vince McMahon realized that the long-term survival of the WWF was dependent on national expansion. Without expanding outside of the Northeast U.S., McMahon could have easily found himself in charge of a dead wrestling promotion. Instead, Vince endured the wrath of regional promoters to secure the long-term survival of the World Wrestling Federation in the international wrestling marketplace.

How many businessmen can say they turned a mid-sized business into one of the most influential and powerful businesses in their global market? Bill Gates would probably come to mind. Henry Ford certainly was a pioneer in that regard.

Vince McMahon can say the same thing.

And that, my friends, is why wrestling's definition of the word "genius" will always mention the name Vince McMahon.

Despite previous reports, Christopher G. Palacios was not a charter member of the Hulk Hogan fan club. He has been a reporter for "The Wrestling Lariat" newsletter and 1wrestling.com. Chris has also written for the "Chairshots" newsletter. Questions or comments for Christopher can be sent via e-mail to chrispalacios@webtv.net.

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1998 Wrestling Classics: Frank Dusek, Mark Nulty
1998 Design: Jan Herod
Created: October 1998