How the First Wrestlemania Saved the WWE

September 11, 2018

Vince McMahon took a gamble to save and expand professional wrestling into the WWE we see today. March 31, 1985 was the date of the first Wrestlemania that created a new legacy for professional wrestling.


FEMALE_1: [MUSIC] Even if you're not a fan of the WWE,

FEMALE_1: you owe a lot to its success.

FEMALE_1: Perhaps no league has permeated

FEMALE_1: into every aspect of our society as much as WWE.

MALE_1: I've to go back into the other job

MALE_1: that you have to do with being Governor.

MALE_2: [inaudible 00:00:16] each other [inaudible 00:00:17]

The Rock: I am the cavalry.

Stephanie: I'm gonna put Ronda Rousey in her place.

Stephanie: [NOISE]

FEMALE_1: And if you are a fan,

FEMALE_1: we don't have to tell you how big it's become.

FEMALE_1: [MUSIC] But none of this would have been possible,

FEMALE_1: if it weren't for one moment,

FEMALE_1: one decision, one roll of the dice by Vince McMahon.

FEMALE_1: [NOISE] [MUSIC] Prior to 1982,

FEMALE_1: the worlds of professional wrestling

FEMALE_1: was defined by geography.

FEMALE_1: The U.S. was in formally broken into territories,

FEMALE_1: each with their own wrestling leagues.

FEMALE_1: The WWE as we know it today was founded

FEMALE_1: in 1952 by Jess McMahon

FEMALE_1: and Toots Mondt as Capitol Wrestling Corporation.

FEMALE_1: For the next 30 years,

FEMALE_1: the league was restricted to promoting

FEMALE_1: matches in the Northeastern US.

FEMALE_1: [MUSIC] Throughout his life, Vince McMahon,

FEMALE_1: Jr. watched his father and grandfather promote

FEMALE_1: matches in this strictly regional format,

FEMALE_1: but the young McMahon

FEMALE_1: had a much bigger goals. Global Goal.

FEMALE_1: In 1982, Vince McMahon

FEMALE_1: bought Capital Wrestling from his father.

FEMALE_1: He immediately began expanding.

FEMALE_1: This established boundaries were the first to fall.

FEMALE_1: McMahon recognized the power

FEMALE_1: of cable TV and worked to get

FEMALE_1: his programming on syndicated television

FEMALE_1: across the United States.

FEMALE_1: Next, he got some big partners,

FEMALE_1: USA Network and MTV.

FEMALE_1: [MUSIC] Together with MTV,

FEMALE_1: McMahon created a concept

FEMALE_1: which revolutionized the wrestling business.

FEMALE_1: Something which was known as Rock in Wrestling.

FEMALE_1: WWF was airing on MTV

FEMALE_1: and McMahon was doubling down on entertainment value.

Mike: So, now you have this cool hip young audience

Mike: watching pro-wrestling.

Mike: For some of them they're young, its first

Mike: time they've been exposed to it.

Mike: It's also a different sort of take on pro wrestling,

Mike: where you know wasn't the big burly

Mike: guys all beating each other up,

Mike: it's more color and pizzazz

Mike: and more character based stuff.

FEMALE_1: Oh! And all the while,

FEMALE_1: he was assembling one hell of a team. [MUSIC]

Mike: They hired Hulk Hogan, then he went he took

Mike: [inaudible 00:02:36] to Bobby the Brain Heenan,

Mike: who is the top manager.

Mike: He had his core group of guys

Mike: and women that were already part of his company,

Mike: but he started pilfering from other areas

Mike: and other territories and built sort of the super roster.

FEMALE_1: But all this expansion came at a cost.

FEMALE_1: For McMahon to truly turn WWF into a national obsession,

FEMALE_1: he needed to have WWF touring

FEMALE_1: the entire United States but their touring schedule

FEMALE_1: and budget were not sustainable.

Mike: The belief is, and especially among people

Mike: in the businesses, [inaudible 00:03:08] this has to end.

Mike: He's gonna run out of money. He's gonna hit the wall.

FEMALE_1: But McMahon knew this wall was coming

FEMALE_1: and had a plan to break through.

FEMALE_1: What he needed was capital and fast.

FEMALE_1: So in 1985, he proposed an all or nothing gamble,

FEMALE_1: a one-night Mega Event, WrestleMania.

FEMALE_1: For McMahon, it was the definition of go big or go home,

FEMALE_1: and go big he went.

MALE_3: Its WrestleMania.

MALE_3: Get our ticket to the greatest sports entertainment

MALE_3: for closed circuit TV spectacular of all. [MUSIC]

FEMALE_2: [MUSIC] He booked the most famous venue in the world.

FEMALE_2: Next, he sought and signed

FEMALE_2: some of the biggest stars of the time.

Mike: Cyndi was a hot star ath the time.

Mike: Mr. T. Let's get

Mike: Billy Martin in here. We're in New York. All right.

Mike: Let's get the Rockets and then,

Mike: you know, we want glitz and glamour.

Mike: We want over the top.

Mike: We want larger-than-life personalities.

Mike: In that time period, who's more

Mike: larger than life Liberace?

FEMALE_2: With all these celebrities involved,

FEMALE_2: the media latched on.

FEMALE_2: The hype was building.

MALE_4: This is WresleMania.

MALE_4: This is the thing of today.

MALE_4: Hulkamania is running wild.

FEMALE_2: March 31st, 1985.

FEMALE_2: [MUSIC] The event was spectacular.

FEMALE_2: It was everything McMahon imagined.

FEMALE_2: Glitz, drama, chaos.

FEMALE_2: Over 19,000 fans filled Madison Square Garden.

FEMALE_2: But the truly important numbers came

FEMALE_2: from outside, for Pennsylvania plaza.

FEMALE_2: The event was seen by

FEMALE_2: over one million viewers

FEMALE_2: through closed circuit television.

FEMALE_2: It was the largest pay-per-view wrestling event

FEMALE_2: in the history of the US at the time.

Mike: Between their marketing and their promotion,

Mike: Hogan being involved and Mr. T. They were able to,

Mike: kind of, really draw people in

Mike: to go see this. It was an event.

Mike: It was wrestling presented at

Mike: a higher level than it had ever

Mike: been presented on a national level.

Mike: All these factors just kind of meshed together.

Mike: WrestleMania kind of solidified them as an entity,

Mike: and once they were solidified then the NBC deal came,

Mike: and the pay-per-view deal came, and

Mike: the touring became bigger,

Mike: then the licensing became bigger.

Mike: WrestleMania was the springboard.

Mike: They leapt onto that platform.

Mike: And with WrestleMania, they jumped off and

Mike: that's what really shot them to the stratosphere.

FEMALE_2: For the next 14 years,

FEMALE_2: WWF hold on the market tightened.

FEMALE_2: And in 1999, the newly renamed WWE went public.

FEMALE_2: [MUSIC] In 2004,

FEMALE_2: WWE had a net revenue of $375 million,

FEMALE_2: and by 2018 that net revenue shot up to $801 million.

FEMALE_2: Today, when you think of wrestling, you think WWE.

FEMALE_2: Just take a look at

FEMALE_2: the WWE presentation techniques

FEMALE_2: the Super Bowl has incorporated.

FEMALE_2: So, whether you are a fan or not,

FEMALE_2: WWE defined the sports entertainment and

FEMALE_2: crossed into innumerable aspects of our daily lives.

Mike: And all of that comes from

Mike: WrestleMania, because March 31st,

Mike: 1985, they were gonna hit the wall or they were

Mike: gonna burst through it. They burst through it.

Mike: But when you look back at that day,

Mike: that could have been the death of

Mike: the pro-wrestling industry as people know it,

Mike: and instead, it really was the beginning.

Mike: [MUSIC]