The WWF went big when Vince McMahon decided to globalize his company and broke off from the NWA, the oldest professional wrestling company in America, in the '80s. Over that decade, WWE started to eat up talent from the territories, and some began to fight back. However, everyone failed over time.
Even the biggest threat to WWE fell when WCW went out of business. When a company owned by a billionaire couldn't compete with a company owned by Vince McMahon, smaller companies had little chance. However, a new company is starting up in AEW with another billionaire behind the reigns, and they hope to carve out a niche in the business. With AEW ready to make their mark, here are 10 wrestling promotions that took a run at Vince McMahon and failed.
WCW formed from the ashes of the NWA as it was initially the premier territory for that conglomerate wrestling promotion. While the NWA lived on, in a smaller state, WCW became a monster wrestling company thanks to the money of Ted Turner and his support.
They bought up WWE talent like Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bret Hart, and more, all while building their own stars in Sting, Lex Luger, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page. The nWo started their reign on top as WCW almost put WWE out of business. However, the Attitude Era started in WWE, and business problems hurt WCW. Soon the tides changed, and WWE grew into the biggest wrestling company in the world, while WCW went out of business.
9 TNA IMPACT WRESTLING
TNA Impact Wrestling began in 2002 as a weekly PPV show owned by Jerry Jarrett. Quickly, they built a solid talent base with some homegrown stars in AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels while adding in some former WWE stars like Jeff Jarrett and picked up a TV deal.
TNA was a show that catered to fans who missed WCW, and their original TV deals gave them more money with Panda Energy eventually purchasing the company. The problem is that, with Jarrett out of the picture, a non-wrestling entity started to make decisions and that included bringing in Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan. When TNA tried to go head-to-head with WWE on Monday nights, they failed miserably. Impact Wrestling is still around but nowhere near as big as they once were.
At the same time that WCW was destroying WWE in the ratings, another promotion was eating away at the WWE fanbase. ECW broke off from the NWA and brought something new and fresh to wrestling fans in the '90s with adult-oriented action that included extreme violence, sexual storylines, and added fantastic wrestling action to the mix as well, giving something to everyone.
The problem is money. Names like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Raven, and more were lured away by big money contracts from WCW and ECW struggled to keep up. Paul Heyman couldn't pay everyone on time, and soon WWE came to help by secretly helping finance the company. When ECW lost their television deal, they shut their doors.
7 SMOKY MOUNTAIN WRESTLING
In 1991, Jim Cornette left WCW and decided he wanted to create his own wrestling promotion to leave its mark in the world of professional wrestling. That promotion was Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and their first events were actually television tapings, as they immediately got a local TV deal.
While the reach of Smoky Mountain was small, with a reach of about seven states, they gained a large fanbase due to their old-school booking. According to Cornette, he wanted to create a wrestling promotion that presented wrestling the way it used to be and how real wrestling fans liked it. Cornette ended up shutting down the promotion when he couldn't get a great TV deal and returned to WWE.
In the '80s, there were three major wrestling promotions on top of the regional territories. While more regional territories resided under the NWA banner, both the WWE and AWA tried to branch out and make their name as a national promotion to compete with the NWA. WWE succeeded beyond all expectations, and AWA failed and ended up shutting down.
Verne Gagne started the AWA in 1960 and ran it until 1991. He worked to make wrestling old-school to a fault. While some exciting young stars like Shawn Michaels and Curt Hennig looked to shake things up, most of the talent was simply grappler-styled wrestlers and even with an ESPN deal, fans tuned out over the years. The AWA finally merged with CWA and WCCW and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1991.
There wasn't a more exciting territory in the '80s than Bill Watts' Mid South Wrestling. This territory featured names like Ted DiBiase, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Magnum T.A., Junkyard Dog, Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert, Sting, the Rock 'N Roll Express, and many more. When Watts started to see some wrestlers leaving for WWE, he decided to make a move in 1986.
Watts changed Mid South into the UWF, broke off from the NWA, and tried to go national with his promotion. He brought in names from the Texas World Class wrestling promotion, but he couldn't compete with WWE or Jim Crockett's WCW. When the oil recession happened in Oklahoma, UWF went under. Crockett bought the UWF and merged their wrestlers under their banner.
World Class Championship Wrestling was one of the top wrestling promotions when it came to the regional territories thanks mostly to the Von Erich family. Mid Southern Wrestling was just as popular in its area of the country thanks to names like Jerry "The King" Lawler. When the Von Erich boys started dying, WCCW fell on financial troubles and merged with the CWA (what Mid Southern became).
As the USWA, Jerry Jarrett and Fritz Von Erich thought they could create a third major promotion in 1989 to compete with WWE and WCW. Sadly, infighting between WCCW and CWA caused the Texas-based promotion to withdraw. By 1995, USWA couldn't compete when the Monday Night Wars started and ended up going out of business in 1997.
XWF stood for Xcitement Wrestling Federation and started up right as WCW went under. This promotion actually launched in 2001 -- the year before TNA and Ring of Honor, and it had some notable names involved. The fact that no one likely remembers it shows how horribly the entire launch thudded to the ground.
The idea was to create a family-friendly wrestling experience while WWE was still in the Attitude Era of storytelling. Tony Schiavone and Jerry Lawler were commentators and Mean Gene Okerlund was the interviewer. They then signed Sable, Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. perfect, Bobby Heenan, and more. Jimmy Hart took control in 2004 and it folded shortly after that, although it did have a short revival in 2008.
2 GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING
In 2014, Dixie Carter and Panda Energy forced Jeff Jarrett out of the company he helped found, so he decided to move on and create competition. Before every holding a show, Jarrett started to promote his new wrestling company called Global Force Wrestling. He reached deals to partner with AAA, NJPW, and other international promotions.
Jarrett then announced that they would have a TV shows called Amped and they held TV tapings hoping to land a network to show them. He crowned champions, including Nick Aldis as the world champion. In 2017, Jarrett tried to merge GFW and Impact Wrestling, but that fell through and nothing significant ever happened with GFW.
1 LUCHA UNDERGROUND
Lucha Underground had a massive opportunity to become the next big thing in professional wrestling, but there was one major hurdle it could never overcome. Lucha Underground was set up as a TV show, but it aired on El Rey Network, which meant that it was in minimal households. They had to make money but did little touring and shot the entire show at once and released it as seasons.
As a result, they started to lose wrestlers. Contracts stated that wrestlers under contract to Lucha Underground couldn't work anywhere else and since the TV shows did not have a regular release schedule, some wrestlers couldn't make a living anymore. With four seasons, and even a release on Netflix, fans fell in love with the strange wrestling series but a fifth season now seems unlikely and Lucha Underground might be finished.