As even non wrestling fans know World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is the big fish in the professional wrestling industry. It hasn’t always been known as the WWE the company can be traced back since its original inception back in 1953 when on January 7th of that year the company ran its first show. Back then it was known as Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) and would be for its first ten years or so. During this time, the company was operated by Vincent J. McMahon and his father Jess McMahon the father and grandfather of the company’s current CEO and chairman Vince McMahon.
Vincent J. McMahon went on to become a booker for the top wrestling organisation at the time National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). For those not familiar with wrestling terminology a booker is the person in charge of setting up matches and writing the storylines or angles for a wrestling show. Anyway, after a falling out Vincent J. McMahon would leave NWA in protest and set up World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in 1963 and this year is typically looked back on as the beginning of the history of the promotion we all know today.
The name was transitioned into the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) by Vince McMahon Jr in 1979 when he applied for trademarks for the initials WWF. Two years later Vince McMahon Jr would buy the company from his father and seize total control over the company and dominate the wrestling world.
The promotion would be known as WWF throughout its most popular years from the Golden Era of Hulk Hogan in the 80s and throughout the Attitude Era in the 90s. It was in 2002 when the company changed its name once again but this time not by choice.
Many people will know that at the time World Wrestling Federation wasn’t the only organisation using the initials WWF. World Wildlife Fund who are one of the biggest wildlife conservation organisations in the world who also have been using the initials WWF since the early 60s.
This was always going to cause a stir at one point and because World Wildlife Fund was using the initials first it meant the ball was in their court. At first, they didn’t seem to mind when World Wrestling Federation used the WWF initials during its heyday with both sharing the initials since 1979 but they had some demands for Vince McMahon and his promotion over time.
In 1994 World Wildlife Fund insisted that World Wrestling Federation sign a legal agreement stating that the wrestling giants must limit their use of the initials WWF outside of North America. If they agreed to sign this document World Wildlife Fund would not take any further legal action and would continue to allow Vince McMahon and his promotion to use the WWF initials in the promotions name and logo as much as they want in North America. This was during a time of transition for the World Wrestling Federation and they were really starting to struggle financially with the wrestling boom of the 80s over and the famous Attitude Era still just around the corner. Vince McMahon agreed to sign as he didn’t need the financial strain of a legal battle at the time.
Vince McMahon wasn’t happy about signing the agreement as he felt he was forced into it at the time. His stubborn nature kicked in and he continued to use the WWF initials at events and in merchandise all over the world. This went unnoticed by the World Wildlife Fund until wrestling began to boom again in the late 90s making World Wrestling Federation hot property once again. This drew the attention of the wildlife charity and they once again took Vince McMahon to court for unfair trade practices.
This time the charity organisation wasn’t so easy going over the issue and successfully obtained an injunction to remove the right for Vince McMahon to use the WWF initials. After an unsuccessfully appeal denied by the London Court Appeal Vince McMahon would have no choice but to immediately change the name of his promotion once again.
They began to run advertisements during their weekly television shows and released merchandise as part of the Get the F Out campaign. This was all to highlight the change to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002. Once again being the stubborn man that he is Vince McMahon didn’t admit defeat instead welcoming the change because this new name amplifies the entertainment aspect of the company more clearly.
Vince McMahon sees himself as an entertainer he will never say he’s in the wrestling business to him he’s in the entertainment business. Even though its very possible that the WWE could have rebranded itself either way it was certainly moved along much quicker thanks to the World Wildlife Fund. Due to this it will always be looked back on as a decision not made by Vince McMahon instead one forced on him. It clearly got to him as in documentaries produced by WWE, they have said that the decision to make these changes was their own choice to help freshen up the product not one they were forced into.
It turned out to be a blessing for the company as today the brand of WWE is much more financially successful than the WWF ever was. The company makes money hand over fist each year and will continue to sit on their throne at the top of the wrestling mountain for as long as they want. They continue to make a profit despite falling television ratings and attendance figures for live shows dropping. With all this the brand WWE will likely be sticking around for a long time to come and it all came about because Vince McMahon wouldn’t play kind with the World Wildlife Fund.