WWE logo since August 2014
WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, in 2012
|Formerly||Titan Sports, Inc. (1980-98)|
World Wrestling Federation, Inc. (1998-99)
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (1999-2002)
|Predecessor||Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd.|
(Chairman and CEO)
Paul "Triple H" Levesque
(Chief Brand Officer)
|Revenue||US$960.4 million (2019)|
|US$116.5 million (2019)|
|US$77.1 million (2019)|
|US$992.2 million (2019)|
|US$275.3 million (2019)|
Number of employees
|approximately 850 (2017)|
WWE Music Group
WWE Performance Center
WWE Home Video
TSI Realty Company
WWE Jet Services
WWE Properties International
WWE Latin America
WWE Asia Pacific
WWE Middle East and Africa
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., d/b/a WWE, is an American integrated media and entertainment company that is primarily known for professional wrestling. WWE has also branched out into other fields, including movies, football, and various other business ventures.
The WWE name also refers to the professional wrestling promotion itself, founded in the 1950s as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. It is the largest wrestling promotion in the world, holding over 450 live events a year, with the roster primarily divided up into three globally traveling brands, and is available to 800 million homes worldwide in 28 languages. The company's global headquarters is located in Stamford, Connecticut, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Munich and Tokyo.
As in other professional wrestling promotions, WWE shows are not legitimate contests, but purely entertainment-based performance theater, featuring storyline-driven, scripted, and partially choreographed matches, though matches often include moves that can put performers at risk of injury, even death, if not performed correctly. This was first publicly acknowledged by WWE's owner Vince McMahon in 1989 to avoid taxes from athletic commissions. Since the 1980s, WWE publicly has branded its product as sports entertainment, acknowledging the product's roots in competitive sport and dramatic theater.
The company's majority owner is its chairman and CEO, third-generation wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, who retains a 42% ownership of the company's outstanding stock and 70.5% of the voting power.
The current entity, incorporated on February 21, 1980, was previously known as Titan Sports, Inc., which was founded that same year in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts. It acquired Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd., the holding company for the World Wrestling Federation, in 1982.
Titan was renamed World Wrestling Federation, Inc. in 1998, then World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. in 1999, and finally the current World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. in 2002. Since 2011, the company has officially branded itself solely as WWE though the company's legal name was not changed.
WWE's origins can be traced back as far as the 1950s when on January 7, 1953, the first show under the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) was produced. There is uncertainty as to who the founder of the CWC was. Some sources state that it was Vincent J. McMahon  while other sources cite McMahon's father Jess McMahon as founder of CWC. The CWC later joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and famous New York promoter Toots Mondt soon joined the CWC.
Vincent J. McMahon and Toots Mondt were very successful and soon controlled approximately 70% of the NWA's booking, largely due to their dominance in the heavily populated Northeastern United States. In 1963, McMahon and Mondt had a dispute with the NWA over "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers being booked to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Mondt and McMahon were not only promoters but also acted as Buddy's manager and were accused by other NWA promoters of withholding Buddy making defenses in their cities versus only defending in Mondt and McMahon's own cities thus maintaining a monopoly on the World Heavyweight Championship. In a now infamous situation, the NWA sent former 5-time World Champion and legitimate wrestler Lou Thesz to Toronto to face Buddy Rogers on January 24, 1963. Thesz recalls this was not planned and prior to the match remembered telling Buddy "we can do this the easy way or the hard way." Buddy agreed to lose the fall and title in a one fall match versus the traditional two out of three fall matchup that most World Title matches were defended. Once word reached back to Mondt and McMahon, at first they simply ignored the title change. From January until April 1963, Buddy Rogers was promoted as the NWA World Champion or simply the World Heavyweight Champion in their area. The World Wide Wrestling Federation was not an immediate creation as once thought the day after Rogers' one fall loss to Thesz. Mondt and McMahon both eventually left the NWA in protest and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in the process. They brought along with them Willie Gilzenberg, long time boxing and wrestling promoter in New Jersey. In June 1963, Gilzenberg was named the first president of the World Wide Wrestling Federation. The WWE traditionally views this as beginning of their history  with Buddy Rogers winning a fictitious tournament in Rio de Janeiro on April 25, 1963 when he defeated long time Capitol Sports favorite Antonino Rocca. In truth, Rocca was no longer in the area as he was working for Jim Crockett Sr. in the Carolinas. Buddy Rogers also had already suffered what would later be a career ending heart attack on April 18 in Akron, Ohio and was in an Ohio hospital during the time the alleged tournament took place. Mondt left Capitol in the late 1960s and although the WWWF had withdrawn from the NWA, Vince McMahon, Sr. quietly re-joined in 1971.
Vincent J. McMahon's son, Vincent K. McMahon, and his wife Linda, established Titan Sports, Inc., in 1980 in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts and applied trademarks for the initials "WWF". The company was incorporated on February 21, 1980, in the Cape Cod Coliseum offices.
The younger McMahon bought Capitol from his father in 1982, effectively seizing control of the company. The actual date of sale is still unknown but the generally accepted date is June 6, 1982; however this was likely the date the deal was struck. On WWF television, Capitol Wrestling Corporation maintained copyrights and ownership past the June 1982 date. The World Wrestling Federation was not solely owned by Vince Sr but also by Gorilla Monsoon, Arnold Skaaland and Phil Zacko. The deal between the two McMahons was a monthly payment basis where if a single payment was missed, ownership would revert to McMahon Sr. and his business partners. Looking to seal the deal quickly, McMahon Jr. took several loans and deals with other promoters and the business partners (including the promise of a job for life) in order to take full ownership by May or June 1983 for an estimated total of roughly $1 million with the three business partners receiving roughly $815,000 among them and Vincent J McMahon receiving roughly $185,000. Seeking to make the WWF the premier wrestling promotion in the country, and eventually, the world, he began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the wrestling business.
At the annual meeting of the NWA in 1983, the McMahons and former Capitol employee Jim Barnett all withdrew from the organization. McMahon also worked to get WWF programming on syndicated television all across the United States. This angered other promoters and disrupted the well-established boundaries of the different wrestling promotions, eventually ending the territory system, which was in use since the founding of the NWA in the 1940s. In addition, the company used income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to secure talent from rival promoters.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, McMahon noted:
In the old days, there were wrestling fiefdoms all over the country, each with its own little lord in charge. Each little lord respected the rights of his neighboring little lord. No takeovers or raids were allowed. There were maybe 30 of these tiny kingdoms in the U.S. and if I hadn't bought out my dad, there would still be 30 of them, fragmented and struggling. I, of course, had no allegiance to those little lords.
McMahon gained significant traction when he hired American Wrestling Association (AWA) talent Hulk Hogan, who had achieved popularity outside of wrestling, notably for his appearance in the film Rocky III. McMahon signed Roddy Piper as Hogan's rival, and then shortly afterward Jesse Ventura as an announcer. Other wrestlers joined the roster, such as Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Junkyard Dog, Paul Orndorff, Greg Valentine, and Ricky Steamboat. Many of the wrestlers who would later join the WWF were former AWA or NWA talent.
The WWF would tour nationally in a venture that would require a huge capital investment, one that placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse. The future of McMahon's experiment came down to the success or failure of McMahon's groundbreaking concept, WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a major success and was (and still is) marketed as the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. The concept of a wrestling supercard was nothing new in North America; the NWA had begun running Starrcade a few years prior. In McMahon's eyes, however, what separated WrestleMania from other supercards was that it was intended to be accessible to those who did not watch wrestling. He invited celebrities such as Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, and Cyndi Lauper to participate in the event, as well as securing a deal with MTV to provide coverage. The event and hype surrounding it led to the term Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection, due to the cross-promotion of popular culture and professional wrestling.
The WWF business expanded significantly on the shoulders of McMahon and his babyface hero Hulk Hogan for the next several years. The introduction of Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC in 1985 marked the first time that professional wrestling had been broadcast on network television since the 1950s when the now-defunct DuMont Television Network broadcast matches of Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Corporation. The 1980s "Wrestling Boom" peaked with the WrestleMania III pay-per-view at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, which set an attendance record of 93,173, a record that stood for 29 years until WrestleMania 32. A rematch of the WrestleMania III main event between WWF champion Hulk Hogan and André the Giant took place on The Main Event I in 1988 and was seen by 33 million people, the most-watched wrestling match in North American television history.
In 1985, Titan moved its offices to Stamford, Connecticut, though the current building was built in 1981. Subsequently, a new Titan Sports, Inc. (originally WWF, Inc.) was established in Delaware in 1987 and was consolidated with the Massachusetts entity in February 1988.
The WWF was hit with allegations of steroid abuse and distribution in 1992. This was followed by allegations of sexual harassment by WWF employees the following year. McMahon was eventually exonerated, but the allegations brought bad public relations for the WWF, and an overall bad reputation. The steroid trial cost the company an estimated $5 million at a time of record low revenues. This helped drive many WWF wrestlers over to rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW), including 1980s babyface hero Hulk Hogan. During this period, the WWF promoted wrestlers of a younger age comprising "The New Generation", featuring Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, and The Undertaker, in an effort to promote new talent into the spotlight.
In January 1993, the WWF debuted its flagship cable program Monday Night Raw. WCW countered in September 1995 with its own Monday night program, Monday Nitro, which aired in the same time slot as Raw. The two programs would trade wins in the ensuing ratings competition (known as the "Monday Night Wars") until mid-1996. At that point, Nitro began a nearly two-year ratings domination that was largely fueled by the introduction of the New World Order (nWo), a stable led by former WWF performers Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall (the former Razor Ramon), and Kevin Nash (the former Diesel).
As the Monday Night Wars continued between Raw Is War and WCW's Nitro, the WWF would transform itself from a family-friendly product into a more adult-oriented product, known as the Attitude Era. The era was spearheaded by WWF VP Shane McMahon (son of owner Vince McMahon) and head writer Vince Russo.
1997 ended with McMahon facing real-life controversy following Bret Hart's controversial departure from the company, dubbed as the Montreal Screwjob. This proved to be one of several founding factors in the launch of the Attitude Era as well as the creation of McMahon's on-screen character, "Mr. McMahon".
Before the Montreal Screwjob, which took place at the 1997 Survivor Series, former WCW talent were being hired by the WWF, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and Vader. Austin was slowly brought in as the new face of the company despite being promoted as an antihero, starting with his "Austin 3:16" speech shortly after defeating Jake Roberts in the tournament finals at the King of the Ring pay-per-view in 1996.
On May 6, 1998, Titan Sports, Inc. was renamed World Wrestling Federation, Inc. It was renamed World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. a year later.
On April 29, 1999, the WWF made its return to terrestrial television, airing a special program known as SmackDown! on the fledgling UPN network. The Thursday night show became a weekly series on August 26, 1999--competing directly with WCW's Thursday night program Thunder on TBS. In 2000, the WWF, in collaboration with television network NBC, announced the creation of the XFL, a new professional football league that debuted in 2001. The league had high ratings for the first few weeks, but initial interest waned and its ratings plunged to dismally low levels (one of its games was the lowest-rated prime-time show in the history of American television). NBC walked out on the venture after only one season, but McMahon intended to continue alone. However, after being unable to reach a deal with UPN, McMahon shut down the XFL. WWE maintained control of the XFL trademark before McMahon reclaimed the XFL brand, this time under a separate shell company from WWE, in 2017 with intent to relaunch the XFL in 2020.
On October 19, 1999, World Wrestling Federation, Inc. launched an initial public offering as a publicly traded company, trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with the issuance of stock then valued at $172.5 million. The company has traded on the NYSE since its launch under ticker symbol WWE.
By the fall of 1999, the Attitude Era had turned the tide of the Monday Night Wars into WWF's favor. After Time Warner merged with AOL, Ted Turner's control over WCW was considerably reduced, and the newly merged company announced a complete lack of interest in professional wrestling as a whole and decided to sell WCW in its entirety. Although Eric Bischoff, whom Time Warner fired as WCW president in October 1999, was nearing a deal to purchase the company, in March 2001 McMahon acquired the rights to WCW's trademarks, tape library, contracts, and other properties from AOL Time Warner for a number reported to be around $7 million. Shortly after WrestleMania X-Seven, the WWF launched the Invasion storyline, integrating the incoming talent roster from WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). With this purchase, WWF now became by far the largest wrestling promotion in the world. The assets of ECW, which had folded after filing for bankruptcy protection in April 2001, were purchased by WWE in 2003.
On May 5, 2002, the World Wrestling Federation announced it was changing both its company name and the name of its wrestling promotion to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) after the company lost a lawsuit initiated by the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF trademark. Although mainly caused by an unfavorable ruling in its dispute with the World Wildlife Fund regarding the "WWF" initialism, the company noted it provided an opportunity to emphasize its focus on entertainment.
In March 2002, WWE decided to create two separate rosters, with each group of wrestlers appearing on one of their main programs, Raw and SmackDown!, due to the overabundance of talent left over from the Invasion storyline. This was dubbed as the "brand extension".
Beginning in 2002 a draft lottery was held nearly every year to set the rosters, with the first draft to determine the inaugural split rosters, and subsequent drafts designed to refresh the rosters of each show. WWE expanded the brand extension by relaunching ECW as a third brand on May 26, 2006. Two years later, WWE adapted a more family-friendly format and their programming received a TV-PG rating. The final ECW program aired on February 16, 2010, after which it was replaced with NXT.
On April 7, 2011, WWE, via the WWE Corporate website, announced that the company was ceasing use of the full name World Wrestling Entertainment and would henceforth refer to itself solely as WWE, making the latter an orphan initialism. This was said to reflect WWE's global entertainment expansion away from the ring with the ultimate goal of acquiring entertainment companies and putting a focus on television, live events, and film production. WWE noted that their new company model was put into effect with the relaunch of Tough Enough, being a non-scripted program (contrary to the scripted nature of professional wrestling) and with the launch of the WWE Network (at the time scheduled to launch in 2012; later pushed back to 2014). However, the legal name of the company remains as World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
Beginning with the August 29, 2011 episode of Raw, it was announced that Raw would feature talent from both Raw and SmackDown, and would be known as Raw Supershow (the "Supershow" suffix would be dropped on July 23, 2012). Championships previously exclusive to one show or the other were available for wrestlers from any show to compete for; the "Supershow" format would mark the end of the brand extension, as all programming and live events from when the original announcement was made until July 2016 featured the full WWE roster.
In 2013, the company built the sports medicine and training facility WWE Performance Center in the east Orange County, Florida in partnership with Full Sail University from Winter Park, Florida. The training facility is targeted at career and athletic development for the company's wrestlers. Full Sail is also home base to WWE's NXT brand, which over the years has grown and expanded from a small developmental territory into a globally touring brand in its own right. On August 20, 2019, it was announced that NXT would have a weekly, live, two-hour show Wednesday nights on the USA Network (which began September 18), whereby NXT's designation as a third main roster brand became official.
On May 25, 2016, WWE announced a relaunch of the brand extension, billed as the "New Era". Following that announcement, Raw and SmackDown now each feature their unique rosters, announcers, ring sets/ropes, and championships. A draft took place to determine which wrestlers would appear on what show. SmackDown also moved from Thursdays to Tuesday nights, which began on July 19 (the night of the aforementioned draft), and airs live instead of the previous pre-recorded format.
On November 29, 2016, WWE introduced a new program specifically for their cruiserweight division (wrestlers 205 lbs. and under) called WWE 205 Live. The program focuses exclusively on those wrestlers who qualify for the division. The cruiserweights - who first became a fixture in WWE with the Cruiserweight Classic tournament - were originally exclusive to the Raw brand at the onset of the 2016 brand extension, before landing their own brand.
On December 15, 2016, it was announced that WWE was establishing a new WWE United Kingdom Championship, with the winner being decided by a 16-man tournament to air on WWE Network featuring wrestlers from the UK and Ireland during January 2017. WWE executive Paul "Triple H" Levesque said the eventual plan with the new title and tournament was to establish a UK-based brand with its own weekly TV show. WWE subsequently launched its UK-based brand as an offshoot of NXT, NXT UK, in June 2018, with Johnny Saint serving as inaugural general manager.
In March 2020, WWE began to be impacted by the American onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The March 11 episode of NXT was filmed without spectators at the WWE Performance Center facility in Orlando, Florida, as three of the four major sports leagues had announced two days earlier that they would close locker rooms to the media as a precautionary measure. As other sports cancellations and postponements were being announced, WWE officially announced on March 12 that its weekly programs, beginning with the following night's episode of SmackDown, would be filmed at the Performance Center with no spectators and only essential staff present.WrestleMania 36 was scheduled to take place on April 5 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa; on March 16, WWE announced that the event would also be held behind closed doors in Orlando. WrestleMania, as well as Raw and SmackDown for a period before and after WrestleMania, shifted from live broadcasts to a pre-recorded format.NXT continued to air from Full Sail University, but under similar restrictions.
Live broadcasts returned on April 13, with the existing arrangements continuing; WWE stated to ESPN.com that "we believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times", and that the company's programming "bring[s] families together and deliver a sense of hope, determination and perseverance". It was subsequently reported that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had deemed WWE a business critical to the state's economy, and had added an exception under the state's stay-at-home order for employees of a "professional sports and media production" that is closed to the public and has a national audience. The decision was met with criticism from media outlets, with several media outlets pointing out that DeSantis' actions happened on the same day a pro-Donald Trump political action committee led by Linda McMahon, who was previously a part of Trump's cabinet, pledged to spend $18.5 million in advertising in Florida, and that, also on the same day, Vince McMahon was named part of an advisory group created by Trump to devise a strategy in re-launching US economy.
On April 15, WWE announced a series of cuts and layoffs in response to the pandemic, including releasing a number of performers (Karl Anderson, Kurt Angle, Aiden English, EC3, Epico, Luke Gallows, Curt Hawkins, No Way Jose, Sarah Logan, Mike Kanellis, Maria Kanellis, Primo, Erick Rowan, Rusev, Lio Rush, Zack Ryder, Heath Slater, and Eric Young), three producers (Dave Finlay, Shane Helms and Lance Storm), referee Mike Chioda, and multiple NXT/Performance Center trainees and staff. WWE executives also took a pay cut, and the company has also suspended construction on its new headquarters for at least six months. The firings caused significant backlash by fans; with Business Insider calling them "livid." Both fans and several media outlets pointed out that while WWE claimed that these actions were "necessary due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic", the WWE also claimed to have "substantial financial resources. Available cash and debt capacity currently total approximately $0.5 billion". DeSantis' claimed WWE was "essential", which meant that the company's revenues loss would be limited.
In August 2020, WWE relocated from the Performance Center to Orlando's Amway Center for a long-term residency, broadcasting episodes of Raw, SmackDown, and pay-per-views through a virtual fan viewing experience called WWE ThunderDome. Inside the ThunderDome, drones, lasers, pyro, smoke, and projections are utilized to enhance the wrestlers' entrances on a level similar to that of pay-per-view productions pre-pandemic. Nearly 1,000 LED boards were installed to allow for rows and rows of virtual fans. It is free of charge for fans to virtually attend the events, though they must reserve their virtual seat ahead of time. WWE remained at the Amway Center up through early December before relocating the ThunderDome to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. In October, NXT events were relocated from Full Sail University to the Performance Center in a similar setup dubbed the Capitol Wrestling Center. It has many of the same features as the ThunderDome, but with a small crowd of select live fans included, in addition to the virtual fans. The name is also an homage to WWE's predecessor, the Capitol Wrestling Corporation.
WWE uses a variety of special terms in promoting their product, such as describing the wrestling industry as sports entertainment. The fan base is referred to as "the WWE Universe". A wrestler is designated a "WWE Superstar", while retired wrestlers are described as "WWE Legends" (or "Hall of Famers" if they have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame).
On February 24, 2014, WWE launched a 24/7 streaming network. The network includes past and present WWE shows, pay-per-views, and shows from the WWE Library. The network reached 1,000,000 subscribers on January 27, 2015 in less than one year of its launch, with WWE claiming that it was thus "the fastest-growing digital subscription service ever".
In May 2014, WWE and NBCUniversal agreed to a new contract that would see both Raw and SmackDown continue on NBC owned networks the USA Network and Syfy. In January 2016, SmackDown would change networks to the USA Network. The contract with NBCUniversal expires in 2019. On November 17, 2016, WWE and Sky Deutschland signed a multi-year agreement to distribute WWE's premier pay-per-view events and broadcast Raw and SmackDown Live on SKY Sports starting in April 2017. On April 10, 2017, WWE and DAZN, announced that Raw and SmackDown would be available live in Japan with Japanese commentary for the first time ever. On April 27, 2017, WWE and TV5, announced a new agreement to broadcast one-hour editions of SmackDown. On May 12, 2017, WWE and Saran Media, announced a new multi-year agreement to televise Raw and SmackDown. On July 10, 2017, WWE and AB 1, extended their partnership into its 18th year with a new, multi-year agreement to broadcast WWE programming. On July 20, 2017, WWE and SuperSport, announced a new, multi-year agreement to broadcast WWE programming live for the first time in more than 50 countries. On August 1, 2017, WWE and FOXTEL, extend their partnership into its 18th year with a new agreement to broadcast WWE programming. On August 8, 2017, WWE and Canal 1, a new agreement to broadcast One-hour editions of Raw and SmackDown. On August 16, 2017, WWE and Nine Network announced a broadcast agreement to air weekly one-hour versions of Raw and SmackDown. On August 24, 2017, WWE and Flow announced a multi-year agreement to televise WWE's flagship programmes Raw and SmackDown. On September 7, 2017, WWE and TVA Sports announced a multi-year agreement to air a weekly, one-hour only edition of Raw, in French in Canada. On October 24, 2017, WWE and Sport TV announced a multi-year agreement to air Raw and SmackDown. On December 15, 2017, WWE and IB SPORTS, they will extend their partnership with a new agreement to broadcast WWE programming live for the first time in South Korea. On December 18, 2017, WWE and SPS HD, announced an agreement to broadcast Raw and SmackDown on SPS Sports for the first time in Mongolia.
On December 13, 2017, WWE and Facebook announced a new Internet in-ring series called WWE Mixed Match Challenge that will stream live in the U.S. exclusively on Facebook Watch. Premiering on January 16, 2018, the 12-episode series will feature wrestlers from both the Raw and SmackDown rosters competing in a single-elimination mixed tag-team tournament to win $100,000 to support the charity of their choice. Each episode will be 20 minutes long and will air at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
On October 19, 1999, WWF, which had been owned previously by parent company Titan Sports, launched an initial public offering as a publicly-traded company, trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with the issuance of stock then valued at $172.5 million. The company has traded on the NYSE since its launch under ticker symbol WWE.
The company has actively marketed itself as a publicly traded company through presentations at investor conferences and other investor relations initiatives. In June 2003, the company began paying a dividend on its shares of $0.04 per share. In June 2011, the company cut its dividend from $0.36 to $0.12. In 2014, concerns about the company's viability caused wide fluctuations in its share price.
As of 2018, the company's Board of Directors has nine members:
WWE signs most of its talent to exclusive contracts, meaning talent can appear or perform only on WWE programming and events. They are not permitted to appear or perform for another promotion unless special arrangements are made beforehand. WWE keeps all wrestlers' salary, employment length, benefits, and all other contract details strictly private.
WWE classifies its professional wrestlers as independent contractors and not as employees. A study by the University of Louisville Law Review found that after applying the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 20-factor test, 16 factors "clearly indicate that wrestlers are employees". However, as a result of WWE terming them as independent contractors, "the wrestlers are denied countless benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled".
In September 2020, WWE reportedly told wrestlers that they could no longer "engage with outside third parties", such as Cameo, and claimed that the WWE "owns the real names of talent, not just their character names".
The World Wrestling Federation had a drug-testing policy in place as early as 1987, initially run by an in-house administrator. In 1991, wrestlers were subjected to independent testing for anabolic steroids for the first time. The independent testing was ceased in 1996, being deemed too expensive as the company was going through financial duress at the time as a result of their competitors, World Championship Wrestling, being so overwhelmingly more popular and hurting the federation's business.
The Talent Wellness Program is a comprehensive drug, alcohol, and cardiac screening program initiated in February 2006, three months after the sudden death of one of their highest-profile and most popular talents, Eddie Guerrero, who died at 38-years-old. The policy tests for recreational drug use and abuse of prescription medication, including anabolic steroids. Under the guidelines of the policy, talent is also tested annually for pre-existing or developing cardiac issues. The drug testing is handled by Aegis Sciences Corporation; the cardiac evaluations are handled by New York Cardiology Associates P.C. The Wellness Policy requires that all talent "under contract to WWE who regularly perform in-ring services as a professional sports entertainer" undergo testing; however, part-time competitors are exempt from testing.
After the double-murder and suicide committed by one of its performers, Chris Benoit, with a possible link to steroid abuse encouraged by WWE, the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested that WWE turn over any material regarding its talent wellness policy.
In August 2007, WWE and its employees defended the program in the wake of several busts of illegal pharmacy that linked WWE performers to steroid purchases even after the policy was put into place. Ten professional wrestlers were suspended for violating the Wellness Policy after reports emerged they were all customers of Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Florida. According to a statement attributed to WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt, an eleventh wrestler was later added to the suspension list.
Because of the Wellness Policy, physicians were able to diagnose one of its performers with a heart ailment that would otherwise likely have gone unnoticed until it was too late. In August 2007, then-reigning United States Champion Montel Vontavious Porter (real name: Hassan Assad) was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can be potentially fatal if gone undiagnosed. The ailment was discovered while Assad was going through a routine Wellness Policy checkup.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. George Zahorian was thought to have routinely distributed steroids and other drugs to WWF wrestlers, supposedly with the approval of WWF owner Vince McMahon.[unreliable source?] In 1993, McMahon was indicted in federal court after the steroid controversy engulfed the promotion, forcing him to temporarily cede control of the WWF to his wife Linda. The case went to trial in 1994, where McMahon himself was accused of distributing steroids to his wrestlers. One notable prosecution witness was Nailz (real name: Kevin Wacholz), a former WWF performer who had been fired after a violent confrontation with McMahon. Nailz testified that McMahon had ordered him to use steroids, but his credibility was called into question during his testimony as he repeatedly stated that he "hated" McMahon. The jury would later acquit McMahon of the charges and he resumed his role in the day-to day operations of the WWF.
In 1996, Titan Sports, the parent company of the World Wrestling Federation, sued World Championship Wrestling (WCW) over WCW implying that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (Razor Ramon and Diesel) were invading WCW on the WWF's behalf. This led to a series of lawsuits filed by both companies as the Monday Night War heated up. The lawsuit went on for years, ending with a settlement in 2000. One of the terms gave then WWF the right to bid on WCW's assets if the company were liquidated. AOL Time Warner, the then-parent company of WCW, cancelled WCW's television shows in March 2001 and sold the company assets to the WWF.[unreliable source?]
On May 23, 2012, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA, now Impact Wrestling) sued former employee Brian Wittenstein and WWE. The suit alleged that Wittenstein violated a non-disclosure agreement and shared confidential information with the WWE which represented a comparative advantage in negotiating with wrestling talent under contract with TNA. He was subsequently hired by WWE, after which TNA asserted that Wittenstein violated the agreement by downloading confidential TNA trade secrets and providing that information to WWE. Although WWE fired Wittenstein and alerted TNA officials as to the disclosure of the information, TNA claimed that WWE had access to the information for three weeks prior to disclosure and in this time, the WWE used secret contract information and attempted to poach their talent in violation of Tennessee's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The lawsuit was formally withdrawn without prejudice, by the plaintiff, TNA, on January 15, 2013 under a "Notice of Voluntary Nonsuit" which offers no ruling on the merits of the suit and allows TNA to potentially refile at a later date.
On May 23, 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death in Kansas City, Missouri during the Over the Edge pay-per-view event in a stunt that went wrong. WWF broke kayfabe by having television commentator Jim Ross repeatedly tell those watching live on pay-per-view that what had just transpired was not a wrestling angle or storyline and that Hart was hurt badly, emphasizing the seriousness of the situation. While several attempts to revive him were made, he died from his injuries. The cause of death was later revealed to be internal bleeding from blunt force trauma. The WWF management controversially chose to continue the event. Later, Jim Ross announced the death of Hart to the home viewers during the pay-per-view, but not to the crowd in the arena. While the show did go on, it has never been released commercially by WWF Home Video. In 2014, fifteen years after his death, the WWE Network aired the event for the first time. A small photo tribute is shown before the start informing fans that Hart died during the original broadcast. All footage of Hart was edited out of the event. The statement reads: "In Memory of Owen Hart May 7, 1965 - May 23, 1999 who accidentally passed away during this broadcast." Four weeks after the event, the Hart family sued the WWF over how dangerous and poorly planned the stunt was, and that the harness system was defective. After over a year and a half into the case, a settlement was reached on November 2, 2000, which saw the WWF give the Hart family US$18 million.
In April 2000, USA Networks had filed a lawsuit against World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. in a bid to keep Raw is War and all WWF programming after the WWFE opened up a bidding a month prior.Viacom's proposed bid included a $30-million to $50-million equity investment in the company and carriage on broadcast, billboards and radio of both wrestling matches along with the then-launched XFL.
On June 27, 2000, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WWFE. The next day, Viacom won the rights to all WWF programming for $12.6 million including Raw is War on TNN/Spike TV, a revamped Sunday Night Heat on MTV and retained SmackDown! on UPN after the merger with CBS in 1999. The lawsuit centered on USA's contention that it did not have to match every aspect of a Viacom offer to satisfy a right of first refusal clause in its contract that allowed its deal with the WWFE to continue. In 2005, WWE's programming (excluding SmackDown!) moved back to USA Network (now owned by NBCUniversal) and maintains its relationship to this day.
In 1994, Titan Sports had entered into an agreement with the World Wide Fund for Nature (also trademarked WWF), an environmental organization, regarding Titan's use of the "WWF" acronym, which both organizations had been using since at least March 1979. Under the agreement, Titan had agreed to cease using the written acronym "WWF" in connection with its wrestling promotion, and to minimize (though not eliminate) spoken uses of "WWF" on its broadcasts, particularly in scripted comments. In exchange, the environmental group (and its national affiliates) agreed to drop any pending litigation against Titan, and agreed not to challenge Titan's use of the full "World Wrestling Federation" name or the promotion's then-current logo.
In 2000, the World Wide Fund for Nature sued World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. in the United Kingdom, alleging various violations of the 1994 agreement. The Court of Appeal agreed that the promotion company had violated the 1994 agreement, particularly in regards to merchandising. The last televised event to market the WWF logo was the UK-based pay-per-view Insurrextion 2002. On May 5, 2002, the company launched its "Get The F Out" marketing campaign and changed all references on its website from "WWF" to "WWE", while switching the URL from WWF.com to WWE.com. The next day, a press release announced the official name change from World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., or WWE, and the change was publicized later that day during a telecast of Raw, which was broadcast from the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
Following the name change, the use of the WWF "scratch" logo became prohibited on all WWE properties. Additionally, past references to the WWF trademark and initials in 'specified circumstances' became censored. Despite the litigation, WWE was still permitted use of the original WWF logo, which was used from 1979 through 1994 and had been explicitly exempted under the 1994 agreement, as well as the similar "New WWF Generation" logo, which was used from 1994 through 1998. Furthermore, the company could still make use of the full "World Wrestling Federation" and "World Wrestling Federation Entertainment" names without consequence. In 2003, WWE won a limited decision to continue marketing certain classic video games from THQ and Jakks Pacific that contained the WWF "scratch" logo. However, the packaging on those games had all WWF references replaced with WWE.
Starting with the 1,000th episode of Raw in July 2012, the WWF "scratch" logo is no longer censored in archival footage due to WWE reaching a new settlement with the World Wide Fund for Nature. In addition, the F in WWF initials are no longer censored when spoken or when written in plain text in archival footage. Since then, full-length matches and other segments featuring the WWF initials and "scratch" logo have been added to the WWE website and the WWE Classics on Demand and eventually the WWE Network service. This also includes WWE Home Video releases since October 2012, starting with the re-release of Brock Lesnar: Here Comes The Pain. Although the WWF initials and logo are no longer censored in archival footage, WWE cannot use the WWF initials or logo in any new, original footage, packaging, or advertising.
Harry "Slash" Grivas and Roderick Kohn filed a lawsuit against WWE in June 2003 due to the music being used for its programming and DVDs without consent or payment. It also asserted a violation of the rights to original music used by ECW that WWE had been using during the Invasion storyline of 2001. The case was resolved on both sides with a settlement that saw WWE purchase the catalog outright in January 2005.
In 1993, Jim Hellwig, known in the WWF as "The Ultimate Warrior", legally changed his name to the mononym Warrior. This one-word name appears on all legal documents pertaining to Warrior, and his children carry the Warrior name as their legal surname. Warrior and the WWF engaged in a series of lawsuits and legal actions in 1996 and 1998, where both parties sought a declaration that they owned the characters, Warrior and Ultimate Warrior, under both contract and copyright law. The court ruled that Warrior was legally entitled to use the gimmick, costuming, face paint designs, and mannerisms of the "Warrior" character.
On September 27, 2005, WWE released a DVD documentary focusing on Warrior's retrospective wrestling career, titled The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. The DVD featured clips of his more notable feuds and matches along with commentary from WWE stars past and present (most of which are unflattering). The DVD has provoked some controversy due to Warrior's allegations of libel by WWE against him. Originally, Warrior was asked to help with the production of the DVD, but as he refused to work with WWE, there had been some resulting animosity between Warrior and WWE over the Warrior claiming bias on the part of WWE. In January 2006, Warrior filed another lawsuit against WWE in an Arizona court over the depiction of his wrestling career in The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD. On September 18, 2009, Warrior's lawsuit in Arizona was dismissed.
Warrior returned to WWE to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. During his induction, he mentioned that WWE should create an award to honor those behind the scenes called the Jimmy Miranda Award, named after a long time WWE employee who died. Warrior died three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE decided to create the Warrior Award, an award for people "who embodied the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior." The award was later given to Connor Michalek (a child who died from cancer), Joan Lunden (a journalist who was diagnosed with cancer), and Eric LeGrand (a former college football player who became a quadriplegic after an in-game injury). In October 2017, WWE used the tagline "Unleash Your Warrior" when promoting Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since Warrior's death, WWE has been accused of whitewashing and ignoring Warrior's bigoted and controversial past comments.Pro Wrestling Torch described Warrior in real-life having made public "vile, bigoted, hateful, judgmental comments", citing as an example that regarding Bobby Heenan's cancer diagnosis, Warrior said, "Karma is just a beautiful thing to behold."Vice wrote that "completely whitewashing his past and elevating his likeness to a bland symbol of corporate altruism is shockingly tone-deaf, especially for a company that's at least outwardly trying to appear progressive, inclusive and diverse."
Under Section 9.13(a) of WWE's booking contract, commonly known as the "morals clause", the company has a zero-tolerance policy involving domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Upon arrest and conviction for such misconduct, a WWE talent shall be immediately suspended and their contract terminated.
Starting in 2014, numerous former WWE talent filed multiple lawsuits against WWE alleging that WWE did not protect and hid information from their talent about concussions and CTE. The former talent claimed physical and mental health issues as a result physical trauma they experience in WWE. The lawsuits were filed by attorney Konstantine Kyros. US District Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant dismissed many of the lawsuits in September 2018. In September 2020, the lawsuits were dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
In addition to licensing wrestling and performers' likenesses to companies such as Acclaim, THQ, 2K Sports, and Mattel to produce video games and action figures, WWE has branched out into other areas of interest to market their product.
In March 2015, WWE announced a partnership with Authentic Brands Group to relaunch Tapout, formerly a major MMA-related clothing line, as a more general "lifestyle fitness" brand. The apparel, for men and women, was first released in spring of 2016. WWE markets the brand through various products, including beverages, supplements, and gyms. WWE will hold a 50% stake in the brand, and so will advertise it regularly across all its platforms, hoping to give it one billion impressions a month, and take some of the fitness market from Under Armour. WWE wrestlers and staff have been shown wearing various Tapout gear since the venture began.
In 1997, WWE established a real estate brokerage and investment firm called TSI Realty Company.
Though an infrequent occurrence, during its history WWE has worked with other wrestling promotions in collaborative efforts.
During the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, WWE had working relationships with the Japanese New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), Universal Lucha Libre (FULL), and the Mexican Universal Wrestling Association (UWA). These working relationships led to the creations of the WWF World Martial Arts, Light Heavyweight and Intercontinental Tag Team championships.
During the period of 1992-1996, WWE had talent exchange agreements with the United States and Japanese independent companies Smokey Mountain Wrestling (SMW),Super World of Sports (SWS),WAR, and the United States Wrestling Association (USWA).
In 1997, WWE would also do business with Japan's Michinoku Pro Wrestling (MPW), bringing in MPW talent to compete in the company's light heavyweight division and in their 1997 Light Heavyweight Championship tournament.
In 2015, WWE entered a partnership with Evolve - a U.S. independent promotion that WWE uses as a scouting group for potential signees for the NXT brand. In 2020, WWE would purchase Evolve for an undisclosed amount.
In 2016, WWE partnered with England's Progress Wrestling with Progress hosting qualifying matches for WWE's Cruiserweight Classic. In 2017, Progress talent would participate in the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament and at WWE's WrestleMania Axxess events.
In 2017, WWE partnered with Scotland's Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) with some ICW talent appearing in the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament and at WWE's WrestleMania Axxess events. WWE has also explored a deal to bring ICW programming onto the WWE Network.
Throughout the company's history, WWE has had past arrangements with independent companies from the contiguous United States (such as Ohio Valley Wrestling) and Puerto Rico (such as the International Wrestling Association) with the companies serving as developmental territories.
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Reign||Date won||Days held||Location||Notes|
|WWE Championship||Drew McIntyre||2||November 16, 2020||65||Orlando, Florida||Defeated Randy Orton in a No Disqualification No Countout match on Raw.|
|United States Championship||Bobby Lashley||2||August 30, 2020||143||Orlando, Florida||Defeated Apollo Crews at Payback.|
|Raw Tag Team Championship||The Hurt Business
(Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin)
|December 20, 2020||31||St. Petersburg, Florida||Defeated The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.|
|Raw Women's Championship||Asuka||2||August 23, 2020||150||Orlando, Florida||Defeated Sasha Banks at SummerSlam.|
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Reign||Date won||Days held||Location||Notes|
|Universal Championship||Roman Reigns||2||August 30, 2020||143||Orlando, Florida||Defeated previous champion "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman in a Triple Threat No Holds Barred match at Payback.|
|Intercontinental Championship||Big E||2||December 22, 2020||29||St. Petersburg, Florida||Defeated Sami Zayn in a Lumberjack match on SmackDown.|
Match aired on tape delay on December 25, 2020.
|SmackDown Tag Team Championship||Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode||1||January 8, 2021||12||St. Petersburg, Florida||Defeated The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) on SmackDown.|
|SmackDown Women's Championship||Sasha Banks||1||October 25, 2020||87||Orlando, Florida||Defeated Bayley in a Hell in a Cell match at Hell in a Cell.|
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Reign||Date won||Days held||Location||Notes|
|NXT Championship||Finn Bálor||2||September 8, 2020||134||Winter Park, Florida||Defeated Adam Cole for the vacant title on NXT.|
|NXT North American Championship||Johnny Gargano||3||December 6, 2020||45||Orlando, Florida||Defeated previous champion Leon Ruff and Damian Priest in a Triple Threat match at NXT TakeOver: WarGames.|
|NXT Tag Team Championship||Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch||1||October 21, 2020||91||Orlando, Florida||Defeated Breezango (Tyler Breeze and Fandango) on NXT.|
|NXT Women's Championship||Io Shirai||1||June 7, 2020||227||Winter Park, Florida||Defeated previous champion Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley in a Triple Threat match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House.|
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Reign||Date won||Days held||Location||Notes|
|NXT United Kingdom Championship||Walter||1||5 April 2019||656||New York, New York||Defeated Pete Dunne at NXT TakeOver: New York|
|NXT UK Heritage Cup||A-Kid||1||N/A||N/A||London, England||Defeated Trent Seven in a British Rounds match on NXT UK to become the inaugural champion|
Aired on tape delay on November 26, 2020
Actual date the match took place is unknown
|NXT UK Tag Team Championship||Gallus
(Mark Coffey and Wolfgang)
|1||4 October 2019||474||Brentwood, England||Defeated Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster on NXT UK|
Aired on tape delay on October 17, 2019
|NXT UK Women's Championship||Kay Lee Ray||1||31 August 2019||508||Cardiff, Wales||Defeated Toni Storm at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff|
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Reign||Date won||Days held||Location||Notes|
|NXT Cruiserweight Championship||Jordan Devlin (UK)
Santos Escobar (U.S.)
|1||January 25, 2020 (Devlin)
June 3, 2020 (Escobar)
Winter Park, Florida
|Devlin won the title by defeating previous champion Angel Garza, Travis Banks, and Isaiah "Swerve" Scott in a fatal four-way match at Worlds Collide on January 25, 2020 in Houston, Texas|
Escobar (while still under the mask as El Hijo del Fantasma) defeated Drake Maverick in the finals of a tournament to crown a U.S.-based champion after Devlin was unable to travel and defend his title in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 travel ban.
WWE recognizes both as champion
|24/7 Championship||R-Truth||46||January 4, 2021||16||St. Petersburg, Florida||Defeated Angel Garza on Raw.|
|Women's Tag Team Championship||Asuka and Charlotte Flair||1
|December 20, 2020||31||St. Petersburg, Florida||Defeated Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs.|
|Accomplishment||Latest winner(s)||Date won||Location||Notes|
|King of the Ring||Baron Corbin||September 16, 2019||Knoxville, Tennessee||Defeated Chad Gable in the tournament final on Raw to win.|
|Money in the Bank (men)||Otis||April 15, 2020||Stamford, Connecticut||Defeated King Corbin, Aleister Black, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles at Money in the Bank to win.|
|Money in the Bank (women)||Asuka||April 15, 2020||Stamford, Connecticut||Defeated Carmella, Dana Brooke, Lacey Evans, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler at Money in the Bank to win.|
|Royal Rumble (men)||Drew McIntyre||January 26, 2020||Houston, Texas||Last eliminated Roman Reigns at Royal Rumble to win.|
|Royal Rumble (women)||Charlotte Flair||January 26, 2020||Houston, Texas||Last eliminated Shayna Baszler at Royal Rumble to win.|
|Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic||The BroserWeights
(Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne)
|January 29, 2020||Winter Park, Florida||Defeated Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake and Zack Gibson) in the tournament final on NXT to win.|
|André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal||Braun Strowman||April 7, 2019||East Rutherford, New Jersey||Last eliminated Colin Jost at WrestleMania 35 to win.|
|WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal||Carmella||April 7, 2019||East Rutherford, New Jersey||Last eliminated Sarah Logan at WrestleMania 35 to win.|
|WWE World Cup||The O.C.
(Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson)
|October 31, 2019||Riyadh, Saudi Arabia||Last eliminated The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) in a nine-team tag team turmoil match at Crown Jewel to win.|
|Tuwaiq Trophy||The Undertaker||February 27, 2020||Riyadh, Saudi Arabia||Last eliminated AJ Styles in a six-man gauntlet match at Super ShowDown to win.|
He Inaugurated his promotion on January 7, 1953, [...].
McMahon formed a company he called the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, and presented his first regular wrestling show under the Capitol banner on January 7, 1953
On January 7, 1953, he put on the first-ever Capitol Wrestling Corporation event
From the time Vince, Sr. took over Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father, the company continued to flourish in the northeastern United States.
And then, in June, Jamal was released by WWE stemming from an incident at a night club, leaving Rosey on his own.
Until Great Sasuke allegedly told Japanese reporters that he was going to win the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship and refuse to defend it in the USA and threatened to only defend it in Japan. The WWE immediately fired The Great Sasuke and moved on to put their new championship around the waist of the young Taka Michinoku. One would have to speculate that this hurt WWE's new relationship with Michinoku Pro