|Founder(s)||"Cowboy" Clarence P. Luttrall|
Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) was the corporate and brand name of the Tampa, Florida wrestling office existing from 1961, when Eddie Graham first bought into the promotion, until 1987, when it closed down. It is also referred to as Florida Championship Wrestling. When Mike Graham tried a return to promoting, the rights to the name had been acquired by an outside party, forcing him to use another name, Florida Championship Wrestling.
The original owner and promoter was "Cowboy" Clarence Preston Luttrall, a former journeyman heel wrestler who once fought a widely publicized boxing match, resulting from a wrestling angle, with a forty-something Jack Dempsey. It worked but Cowboy took a severe beating. Cowboy opened the office in 1949, and Eddie Graham bought into the promotion in 1961, then took over completely in 1971, because of health reasons with Cowboy.
The office was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance during the entire CWF era, Eddie Graham serving two terms as NWA president, and loosely aligned before that, with other 'world' champions sometimes defending their titles. CWF became a staple in many Southern households in the 1970s and 1980s, with Dusty Rhodes arguably its most noted headliner, his babyface turn beginning in 1973 against former partner Pak Song. The promotion competed against other syndicated shows on Saturday night like The Lawrence Welk Show and Solid Gold for years.
The promotion thrived with stars such as NWA champions Lou Thesz and Gene Kiniski, Graham, Don Curtis, Sam Steamboat, the Great Malenko (Larry Simon), Johnny Valentine, Hiro Matsuda, Bob Orton Sr. and later Jr., Joe Scarpa (later Chief Jay Strongbow), Wahoo McDaniel, the Funks (Terry and Dory, Jr.), the Briscos (Jack and Jerry), Buddy Colt (Ron Read), Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham, Mike Rotunda, Mike Graham (Eddie's son), Kevin Sullivan - whose cult-like Army of Darkness got tremendous heat from the fans - and, in the words of the promotion's legendary commentator and a star in his own right Gordon Solie, 'a host of others'. Solie's deadpan interviewing style often buoyed the outlandish behavior and actions of Sullivan and his minions, bringing a legitimacy to the on-air segments no matter what depths Sullivan would descend to.
Dusty Rhodes stands out among the noted performers because of the number of rivalries he had on air through most of CWF's broadcasting history. Well known heels, newcomers and babyfaces who turned heel during their tenure with CWF often sought out Rhodes to make their names in the territory. His rivals over the years included Superstar Billy Graham, Ray Stevens, Ernie Ladd, Ivan Koloff, Ox Baker, Ron Bass, Kamala, Abdullah the Butcher, Ric Flair, his old Texas Outlaws partner Dick Murdoch and of course, Kevin Sullivan.
When Eddie Graham committed suicide on Super Bowl Sunday in January 1985, due to a combination of personal and business reverses, responsibility for the office went to Hiro Matsuda and Duke Keomuka, both of whom bought in the 1960s. The other remaining owners were Mike Graham, Eddie's brother Skip Gossett, Dusty Rhodes and Buddy Colt. The promotion continued losing money and merged with Jim Crockett Promotions in February 1987. Most of the stars had gone to Jim Crockett Promotions or the WWF by that point.
CWF filmed and later taped its weekly TV wrestling show at the famed Sportatorium at 106 N. Albany in Tampa, Fla., in reality a small television studio with seating for a live audience of about 100 people (1/40th of the seating capacity of its Dallas counterpart), with the wrestling office and gym in the same building. Arena footage was always also used, and full arena show broadcasts began in the early '80s. CWF Spin-off shows were Championship Wrestling Superstars, Global Wrestling, North Florida Championship Wrestling, United States Class Wrestling, American Championship Wrestling and Southern Professional Wrestling.
In 2003, Kevin Rhodes started Championship Wrestling from Florida as a member of the NWA. He occasionally has some legends of the 1980s wrestling appear in his promotion.
In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) revived the promotion as a developmental territory under the name Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). In 2012, the promotion began operating under the NXT Wrestling banner, dropping references to FCW.
On June 28, 2013, the WWE formally shuttered the Florida Championship Wrestling Arena, moving all equipment and personnel to the WWE Performance Facility in Orlando.