In 1980, the son of Vincent J. McMahon, Vincent K. McMahon, founded Titan Sports, Inc. and in 1982 purchased Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd from his father. The elder McMahon had long since established the northeastern territory as one of the most vibrant members of the NWA. He had long since recognized that professional wrestling was more about entertainment than actual sport. Against his father's wishes, McMahon began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the industry.
The WWF was not the only promotion to have broken ranks with the NWA; the American Wrestling Association (AWA) had long ago ceased being an official NWA member (although like the WWF, they seldom left their own territory). However, neither of the defecting members attempted to undermine the territory system that had been the foundation of the industry for more than half a century.
Other promoters were furious when McMahon began syndicating WWF television shows to television stations across the United States, in areas outside of the WWF's traditional northeastern stronghold. McMahon also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast through his Coliseum Video distribution company. He effectively broke the unwritten law of regionalism around which the entire industry had been based. To make matters worse, McMahon used the income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to poach talent from rival promoters. Wrestling promoters nationwide were now in direct competition with the WWF.
Hulk Hogan, due to his appearance in Rocky III, had a national recognition that few other wrestlers could offer, which is what led McMahon to sign him. Roddy Piper was brought in, as well as Jesse Ventura (although Ventura rarely wrestled in the WWF at that point due to the lung disorder that caused his retirement, moving to the commentator booth alongside Gorilla Monsoon). André the Giant, Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat, and the Iron Sheik (Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) rounded out the roster. Hogan was clearly McMahon's biggest star, causing some people to debate whether the WWF could have achieved national success without him.
The WWF would tour nationally in a venture that required huge capital investment; one that placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse. The future of not just McMahon's experiment, but also the WWF, the NWA, and the whole industry came down to the success or failure of McMahon's groundbreaking concept, WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a pay-per-view extravaganza (in some areas; most areas of the country saw WrestleMania available on closed-circuit television) that McMahon marketed as being the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. The concept of a wrestling supercard was nothing new in North America; the NWA had been running Starrcade a few years prior to WrestleMania, and even the elder McMahon had marketed large Shea Stadium cards viewable in closed-circuit locations. However, McMahon's vision was to make the WWF and the industry itself mainstream, targeting more of the general television audience by exploiting the entertainment side of the industry. 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.
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