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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - The Top 10 WWE Hall of Fame SNUBS
By Mr. Tito
Mar 7, 2013 - 10:40:38 PM
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!!! - TOP 10 WWE HALL OF FAME SNUBS Recently, the pro wrestling world has been buzzing about former 2-time WWE (or WWWF) Champion and longest reigning champion Bruno Sammartino FINALLY getting into the WWE Hall of Fame. Bruno was the main star of the WWE during the 1960's and 1970's, while still having a footprint in the WWE during the 1980's. Provided what Bruno saw as culture changes for the worse implemented by new WWE owner, Vince McMahon Jr. during 1982 and beyond, the WWE and Bruno kept their distance from each other for other 25 years. Meanwhile, the WWE became serious about their Hall of Fame and the induction ceremony has become a major annual event. Bruno was a significant omission.
But he's in now. Thanks to Triple H acting like a professional and acting in his best interests as an Executive Vice President, the WWE has officially bridged the major gap between the Vince McMahon Jr. Era since 1982 to the past between 1963-1982 when Vince McMahon Sr. and his partners ran what became the WWE. Bruno's addition helps to legitimize what can be a controversial Hall of Fame. Instead of making efforts to repair their relationship with Bruno, the WWE found it in their power to induct Drew Carey, Pete Rose, Mike Tyson, and many midcarders whose success probably doesn't merit their induction into the Hall of Decent. Most rip poor Koko B. Ware as one of the worst inductions and ripping the WWE Hall of Fame for inducting anybody.
Bruno was an excellent addition to the Hall of Fame, as are Bob Backlund (2nd longest WWE Champion of all time), Mick Foley (Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love), and the best all around female wrestler (both in-ring and drawing), Trish Stratus. What a class... But despite these inductions, there exists a log jam of deserving wrestlers and personalities that are quite deserving of induction. With the pro wrestling industry being cut throat, many of these wrestlers won't get in because they need to make amends with the WWE and Vince McMahon. Others are still active and will probably get inducted the year after they officially retire. One such case is probably the saddest story ever in pro wrestling with a death in the ring.
This "Final Countdown" will countdown the TOP 10 most deserving WWE wrestlers/personalities that SHOULD get into the Hall of Fame ahead of all others.
This countdown, however, will make the following key ASSUMPTIONS:
A) This column will treat the WWE like a legitimate Hall of Fame. The highest levels of success and in-ring accomplishments will be measured as well as "game changing" impact to the industry. Thus, if you were a midcarder for many years, chances are that you'll miss the cut on this countdown.
B) WWE wrestlers must have at least 15 years experience with the company OR have been gone from the WWE at least 15 years. The "Class of 2002" Ohio Valley Wrestling wrestlers in particular will be left off of this list. In my opinion, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton are WWE Hall of Famers and each appear to be adding more line items to their resumes. TWO EXCEPTIONS will be if you were (1) in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) for 5 years and then joined the WWE for 10, as WCW was very legitimate during the late 1990's... Some ECW experience may count as well. (2) If you were legitimately great in the WWE but have left for other pastures at least 5 years ago. 2 spots are reserved on this list for current TNA wrestlers who probably aren't coming back anytime soon.
C) Bruno Sammartino, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley, and Bob Backlund are IN. Officially those 4 haven't been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame yet. The ceremony hasn't happened yet and won't until the weekend before Wrestlemania 29. But we'll assume that they're in and WWE.com already lists them as official Hall of Fame members. Thus, those 4 are not on the list.
D) No Chris Benoit. The WWE will never induct Benoit due to his horrendous actions during June 2007 of killing his own wife and son, so this countdown won't even bother considering Benoit's nomination. His accomplishments probably merit Hall of Fame status, though not on the first ballot and could be just outside of this top 10 list, but the WWE Corporation wishes not to fully recognize Chris Benoit even existed (and who blames them?).
And of course, this column can be enhanced by listening to Europe's The Final Countdown and made even better if you boldly listen to the COVER version of The Final Countdown.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - TOP 10 WWE HALL OF FAME SNUBS
#10 - The Ulimate Warrior - Easily, one of the more unique personalities ever to enter the WWE, Jim "Warrior" Hellwig had an incredible 3 year run with the WWE between SummerSlam 1988 to SummerSlam 1991 that is matched by only a few wrestlers out there. Warrior captured the Intercontinental Title from the Honky Tonk Man when filling in for an injured Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake. The Ultimate Warrior, during much of 1988, was becoming a fan favorite with his look and personality along with the awesome entrance music. Fans went crazy at SummerSlam 1988 when he answered Honky's call out for an opponent.
Warrior, with only a brief interruption by "Ravishing" Rick Rude stealing the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania 5, is the best Intercontinental Champion of all time. He dominated this title and it was a time when the belt was defended proudly. Warrior only lost the Intercontinental when he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 6. Many will blame the Warrior for being a weak WWE Champion during 1990 but I'd argue that his opponents were midcarders when he should have immediately feuded with "Macho Man" Randy Savage instead of waiting until Royal Rumble 1991 to ignite the feud. Warrior fought "Ravishing" Rick Rude again after Wrestlemania 6 and the feud didn't draw because it was clear that the WWE wasn't serious about pushing Rude as a main eventer (Rude would soon leave for WCW as evidence of this). Then, Warrior feuded with Ted Dibiase whom the WWE gave up on as a serious main eventer after 1988. Many blame Warrior for being a bust but I'd argue my point about weaker opponents by the way Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage through Wrestlemania 7 was quite impressive.
Warrior and the WWE had arguments over money through SummerSlam 1991 which led to Warrior's exit from the company. The Ultimate Warrior, however, would make a return at Wrestlemania 8 but get released again by the company later during 1992 for disputed reasons. However, the WWE would try Warrior one more time during 1996. Go watch Wrestlemania 12 if you want to see Triple H get DOMINATED by the Ultimate Warrior. His 1996 return didn't last nor did a brief run with WCW during 1998. Still, one cannot deny the strong run between SummerSlams 1988 and 1991. He was a great draw by himself and the WWE could draw multiple houses by splitting the roster with Hogan headlining one and Warrior headling the other.
#9 - The Dudley Boyz - I'm sure that the oldschool Demolition or British Bulldog fans will hollar about this selection, but the Dudley Boyz are the most successful and accomplished Tag Team of all time. This team came out of no where as Buh Buh (or Bubba) Ray Dudley and the "black sheep" of the Dudley family, D'Von (or Devon) Dudley joined up and gave the ECW promotion a viable heel tag team to fend off the Eliminators and Gangstas tag teams through 1997. They would absolutely dominate ECW competition in the years following until the WWE signed them during late 1999. Upon joining the WWE, they were thrown into the Hardys vs. Edge/Christian feud and the trifecta of a perfect tag team division was born. I should note that Hardys and Edge/Christian, in their own right, are very much Hall of Fame Tag Teams.
Dudleys benefited from title inflation that became promient during the late 1990's and throughout the 2000's. The absurd amount of Tag Team Championships between ECW, WWE, and TNA is unmatched by any tag team ever and the Dudleys actually have 1 WCW Tag Team Championship during the 2001 WCW invasion where the WCW Titles were still actively defended. During 2005, the WWE had a wave of cuts while also letting various contracts expire. Dudleys were a part of this and the WWE shoved them through the door harder by announcing that the Dudley gimmick was a WWE trademark. Now operating under "Team 3D", the Dudleys joined TNA wrestling during 2005 where they remain to this day as singles wrestlers. Both are doing quite well in the TNA promotion despite their age and wear & tear from the many years of battles in ECW and against Hardys & Edge/Christian in TLC matches.
#8 - Owen Hart - With Owen Hart, it's what COULD HAVE BEEN, especially heading into the year 2000 when the WWE stockpiled a wealth of talent. Could you imagine Owen Hart getting to wrestle the likes of newly acquired Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, or Eddie Guerrero while getting additional chances to wrestle Steve Austin, Rock, and Triple H? With the way that the World Title was getting changed often after Steve Austin left for injury during late 1999 (incidentally, thanks to Owen's piledriver in 1997), Owen could have been WWE Champion. Eventually, the WWE would have removed Owen from the Blue Blazer gimmick and with Jeff Jarrett gone for WCW, he could have been rebranded and repushed. Despite the heat with his brother Bret by the WWE, Owen was well liked and probably would have had a chance to thrive during 2000 with a loaded roster.
But his career was cut short. In what remains the biggest shame in professional wrestling, Owen Hart died in the ring on May 23rd, 1999 at the WWE Over the Edge Pay Per View. Owen was supposed to drop in from the ceiling from a line, much like what WCW wrestler Sting used as a form of mockery for Owen's Blue Blazer character. But it went terribly wrong and Owen fell approximately 78 feet from the ceiling to the ring and died at the age of 34 due to blunt force trauma from the fall. The "King of Harts" was great and had plenty left in the tank to make him a bigger star. Actually, he should have been a bigger star after his superb Wrestlemania 10 match against his brother, Bret. However, the WWE stuck him in the midcard with his 1997 feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin giving him some light in the main event tunnel. "Owen 3:16 Says I Just Broke Your Neck!" Go rewatch the Owen Hart tribute RAW on May 24th, 1999 to see how much his fellow wrestlers loved him. Truly, a lost opportunity in professional wrestling.
#7 - Chris Jericho - For those of you who doubt Chris Jericho earning a spot on this Top 10 list or even doubt the greatness of Jericho's WWE career, go watch Royal Rumble 2013 and listen to how loud the fans pop for his #2 entrant into the Rumble match. In almost every promotion he's wrestled in, Jericho was forced to consistently prove himself. He wasn't in Extreme Championship Wrestling for long but the guy made an imprint enough for World Championship Wrestling to acquire him. Jericho, stuck in the midcard, was getting himself over with his personality and charisma and in spite of WCW having many hours of programming to fill, those at the top saw him as a threat. WCW slowly depushed Jericho to cool down his character as other higher priced WCW (and former WWE) wrestlers hogged the spotlight. By 1999, he wanted out and Vince McMahon was glad to sign him.
Jericho's 1999 debut is the stuff of legends. To this day, there has NEVER been a better debut and I don't believe there ever will be. The WWE hyped his debut for weeks with a clock and it eventually went off during an August 9th, 1999 Rock segment. The entrance, the badass theme music, and the anticipation made it perfect. Wrestling fans knew Chris Jericho was great and were glad to have him in the WWE. Timing was great as Jericho helped to fill the void that an injured Steve Austin left in addition to the debuting Kurt Angle, a newly pushed and repackaged Triple H, turned babyface Rock, and the WCW acquisitions of early 2000 with Benoit/Guerrero/Malenko/Saturn. Jericho has consistently given the WWE great matches and great feuds despite being forced to honor the tall shadows of Rock, Austin, and Triple H that was always over him. Oddly enough for Jericho, he actually walked away from the WWE during 2005 after a high profile feud with John Cena that actually helped put Cena on the map as a legitimate main eventer. By 2005, Jericho could have been a bigger star with Rock/Austin finally out of the way but he still walked away. Jericho did return during 2007 and has been nothing but excellent. His maturity as a professional wrestler now shows and always makes an impact upon his return.
#6 - Kurt Angle - Between late 1999 through the time he left the WWE during 2006, Kurt Angle was an in-ring badass. He debuted at the right time during late 1999 because several teachers arrived shortly there after to teach him how to work great matches. Angle was blessed by the WWE acquiring Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn from WCW during early 2000. Combined with Angle's own insane work ethic, he picked up on what other professionals did. He has often cited that Chris Benoit was a major influence on him in terms of in-ring mechanics and stepping it up for big matches. Angle's workrate quickly ramped up during 2000 insomuch that by 2001, he could carry anybody to a 5-star match at his choosing. His 2001 battles with Steve Austin, in particular, are gems. Angle then joined the Smackdown brand during 2002 and was a key component in the brand split's success with his tag team work with Benoit and battles with Brock Lesnar. Angle would just college tremendous matches with virtually everybody he wrestled against for the next 3 years in the WWE, possibly hitting his peak in the WWE with a pair of 2005 gems against Shawn Michaels. Take your pick on which match was "Match of the Year" for 2005.
The scary part about Angle's tremendous 1999-2006 WWE run was that he did it mostly with a damaged neck. During early 2003, like several other wrestlers who suffered the same fate and required at least 1 year off to recover (Chris Benoit, Edge), Angle's neck was badly damaged and required the same spinal fusion surgery. Angle, however, opted for a quick fix surgery that involved shaving the spurs off of his spinal discs. Certainly, he was able to return faster than a year, but the long-term damage would eventually drive him to personal problems through 2006 in attempts to dealing with the pain. WWE wanted Angle to work through the pain but it was putting Angle on a destructive path with painkillers to deal with the pain. Not wanting to continue to work through the injuries, he requested a release from his WWE contract instead. WWE, possibly thinking he was just seeking time off, obliged... Angle jumped to TNA Wrestling just weeks later in what was a well talked about internet story at the time. Angle remains with TNA to this day. There have been some discussions of bringing Angle back to WWE, notably around Royal Rumble, but Angle has continued to be loyal to TNA. Working fewer dates and yet still getting paid well has its benefits.
#5 - Triple H - Triple H has had a lengthy career with the WWE... Most don't know it because the Game is associated with his Main Event role and not his midcard role. Triple H was a solid midcard wrestler since 1995 as a blueblood snob and then as a member of Degeneration X. But it wasn't until a new contract arrived and a new look (different tights, added muscle mass, and becoming serious in character) that he could transition to the Main Event scene during late 1999. Then, 2000 occurred and Triple H would embark in the most successful 1 year and a half stretch run until shredding his quadriceps muscle during May 2011. Starting with his Royal Rumble 2000 battle with Mick Foley, Triple H would have go on to have epic battles with Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, the Rock, and the Undertaker. When Triple H returned during early 2002, he wasn't the same. The quad injury seemed to slow him down along with the additional muscle mass. However, his career has been solid since and he has a collection of good matches since 2002 to make for a well rounded career.
He could add to his Hall of Fame resume through his role as a WWE Corporation executive. He's currently training to become Vince McMahon's operational role and induction might need to be placed on hold to see how well he can run the WWE on his own. Triple H was mostly an advisor backstage for much of the 2000's, provided his marriage to Stephanie McMahon. His role increased when John Laurinaitis was removed and Triple H began overseeing the developmental system. Triple H has working as a trained back-up to Vince McMahon backstage, likely owning Vince's role if/when Vince ever retires from the WWE. His effectiveness as a WWE executive was on display by landing Bruno Sammartino for the WWE Hall of Fame 2013 class. Bruno and the WWE kept their distance from each other for 25 years and there was legitimate heat with Vince McMahon. Triple H worked on Bruno for the past year and Bruno's return has caught the attention of many older WWF fans long gone from the current product.
#4 - The Rock - IF YOU SMELL... Why this guy wasn't inducted from 2005-2010 when the WWE wasn't utilizing Rocky, I'll never know. Cannot deny the 2nd biggest draw of the "Attitude Era" a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame. He was a wrestler who could have been a complete failure. WWE brought him in as Rocky Maivia during 1996 and pushed him hard as a cookie cutter babyface. This failed bigtime and it took a knee injury shortly after Wrestlemania 13 during 1997 to change course for the Rock. Returning as a heel, Rocky Maivia became the Rock and became one of the greatest WWE heels of all time. The Rock was so good as a heel that he started getting babyface cheers. Realizing this, yet still wanting the Rock as a heel, the Rock joined the Corporation at Survivor Series 1998 to become the "Corporate Champ". He would go on to headline a huge Wrestlemania 15 event with Steve Austin and ending up wrestling Austin at 2 more Wrestlemanias (17 and 19). When Steve Austin went down with injury later in 1999, the Rock took over as the top babyface and drew huge for 2000 as if Austin never left.
What hurts the Rock from being the top superstar of all time in the WWE is that other entities are requesting his services. The Rock has become a decent actor. Though he doesn't have that one movie that drew huge with him as the star, his movies have drawn well for the most part. And the movie roles are becoming plenty, even with every character having the tattoos on the left arm... During 2001-2004, the movie roles took him away from the WWE... knowing this, the Rock used his time wisely in the WWE and helped put over other wrestlers. Namely Brock Lesnar. Brock was in need of a huge win to quickly catapult him to the top. The WWE tried to put him over Steve Austin on random editions of RAW, but Austin refused... Rocky did not and put him over cleanly at Survivor Series 2002. Rock would leave the WWE after Wrestlemania 20 during 2004 but return to the WWE during February 2011 to be the "host" of Wrestlemania 27. He would go on to wrestle and beat John Cena at Wrestlemania 28 and then become WWE Champion for the 8th time at Royal Rumble 2013. Just IMAGINE if he didn't walk away from the WWE...
#3 - The Undertaker - How many wrestlers can honestly admit that they improved significantly with age? The Undertaker certainly can... As the WWE lessened the over-the-top stuff with the "Deadman" gimmick during the 1990's and began to feed the Undertaker GOOD opponents, the true in-ring talent began to shine. It's almost as if Vince McMahon, by design, gave the Undertaker stupid feuds and lame, yet safe, matches during the 1990's in order to preserve the Undertaker for the 2000's. After enduring feuds with various "freakshow" wrestlers, Undertaker seemed to show his potential when Mankind (Mick Foley) joined the WWE during the Summer of 1996 and gave the Undertaker someone who could adequately sell his offense while putting up a reasonable fight. Then, the Undertaker continued to show his potential during his late 1997 feud with Shawn Michaels and then during 1998 when feuding with Steve Austin. Undertaker was deep into character again, however, with the Ministry angle and it may have taken a torn groin injury to save him from that Vince Russo ridiculousness in booking.
Upon his return during 2000, we had the "American Badass" Undertaker who traded character for an actual human being. With the gimmick no longer dominating the wrestler, he was able to shine as an in-ring performer. Since his 2000 return with the American Badass character, his in-ring focus has produced multiple Match of the Year candidates. All 3 matches against Triple H were impressive at Wrestlemanias 17, 27, and 28, no matter what Bret Hart says. Then, his 2 Wrestlemania matches against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemanias 25 and 26. The Wrestlemania 25 match, in particular, ranks up there on "best of all time" lists and it wasn't just from Shawn Michaels bumping. Undertaker brought it. Undertaker had great matches with Brock Lesnar, Edge, Randy Orton, and Ric Flair and with time, his Wrestlemania streak has become an imporant draw of the show.
Undertaker is often criticized for "not making stars"... What about Steve Austin in 1998? SummerSlam 1998 was an important event and Steve Austin went over clean. Undertaker put over Brock Lesnar during 2002 after Lesnar just won the undisputed WWE Title. Many suggest that the Undertaker should use his Wrestlemania streak to put over the next big star with a loss. Chances are that the Wrestlemania streak will be the Undertaker's legacy and given his contributions to the WWE, he can probably keep winning for all Vince McMahon cares. Should the Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania, the winning wrestler should consider it an honor.
#2 - "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth - Randy Savage's real life brother, Lanny Poffo, has been pushing hard for the Poffo family as a whole (father and sons) to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In pro wrestling, however, the real family based couple to be inducted should be Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth. From Wrestlemania 2 to Wrestlemania 8, the couple was very important to the WWE. When Savage was a heel, he drew heat by treating his poor valet like dirt... But when Savage was a face, WWE fans embraced the power couple. There was no greater moment than after Wrestlemania 7 when Savage was forced to retire at the hands of the Ultimate Warrior when Savage and Miss Elizabeth reunited. Most fans of the early 1990's remember their on-screen marriage and then of course, the dastardly Ric Flair claiming that Elizabeth was "mine before she was yours" to help drive their Wrestlemania 8 feud.
Randy Savage was gravely important to the WWE during the 1980's boom. He made the Intercontinental Title stronger as champion and helped teach future wrestlers about what a big event match SHOULD look like with his match against Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3. His success as a midcarder soon fast tracked him to the WWE Title by winning the Wrestlemania 4 tournament as a babyface. Fans embraced Savage and Elizabeth as a couple, along with Savage's newly formed alliance with Hulk Hogan known as the "Mega Powers". Go watch the first-ever SummerSlam in 1988 when Savage/Hogan took on Andre "the Giant" and Ted Dibiase if you'd like to see how big the Mega Powers were. When the Mega Powers broke up, thanks to Savage's raging jealousy over Hulk Hogan regarding Miss Elizabeth, they drew HUGE at Wrestlemania 5. Savage would remain a heel for the next few years but was out of the WWE Title picture. Desperate, he chased the Ultimate Warrior and demanded a WWE Title shot. The anger built up in Savage that he attacked Warrior at Royal Rumble 1991 to cost Warrior the title to set up the "Retirement Match" at Wrestlemania 7 against Warrior. Savage lost that match but returned when Jake "the Snake" Roberts's actions (i.e. slapping Miss Elizabeth, attacking Randy Savage with a huge King Cobra) were enough for reinstatement by WWE President Jack Tunney. After the Roberts feud, Savage would go after Ric Flair for the WWE Title and won the belt at Wrestlemania 8. His WWE career was minimal after this, as Vince moved Savage to the announcer's booth. Savage wanted to wrestle more and had a good WCW career (4 time WCW Champion) that helps boost Savage's Hall of Fame resume. Savage was exceptional and has starpower during the late 1980's and early 1990's that only Hulk Hogan exceeds. His death on May 20th, 2011 made national and sports headlines and wrestling fans mourned him greatly.
Miss Elizabeth, on the other hand, was not only a great valet for Randy Savage, but she set the standard for how women could be marketed in the WWE. During the 1980's, the WWE tried to market a Women's wrestling division and it had some success through the "Rock N Roll Wrestling" push with Mtv. But what drew male wrestling fans in was Miss Elizabeth's absolute beauty and elegance that left you in awe of her. She was stunning and the WWE marketed her perfectly. Better yet, they let her tease wrestling fans by not revealing much outside of her fancy dresses. Today's divas wear next to nothing, but Elizabeth only showed the goods when the timing was right. See SummerSlam 1988 when she removed her skirt to distract Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase to assist with Savage/Hogan winning the match. That moment is forever etched in WWE fans' memories because with Elizabeth, the WWE didn't overexpose her. But she set the stage that would allow the WWE to market women in a non-wrestling role and yet draw attention and dollars from wrestling fans. The reason why Sunny is a WWE Hall of Famer is from the door Elizabeth opened but Sunny took it further by allowing her looks to be marketed heavily on WWE merchandise and on the internet. Sable took it further and did a Playboy spread that nobody will forget. Trish Stratus, WWE Hall of Famer this year, took it to the next level by being an amazing beauty but also a great in-ring perform as well. Without Elizabeth, who knows how successful women could be in a heavily male-driven industry. She passed away during 2003 on her 43rd birthday.
Savage and Elizabeth together were magic. Together, they created some of the greatest all-time WWE moments and were huge WWE draws. Hulk Hogan was huge during the late 1980's but Wrestlemania 5 wouldn't have drawn as well as it did (held top PPV buyrate for years) without the tension of the Savage/Elizabeth relationship. Ohhhhh yeah!
#1 - Vince McMahon Jr. - Since Vince McMahon Jr. purchased the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father and Hall of Famer Vince McMahon Sr., the pro wrestling industry has never been the same. Before Vince Jr. took over, pro wrestling companies were dedicated to territories both in reach and in television. Vince Jr., however, had dreams of a national pro wrestling company and began the attack by placing WWF programming in other territories via syndication and the growing Cable television. The second step was to aggressively raid the territories of their best talent with the promise of being promoted nationally. And finally, Vince McMahon took advantage of the new Pay Per View concept and crafted brand name events (Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, etc.) that nobody could compete with. Many big promotions went under in attempt to compete with Vince, with only World Championship Wrestling (WCW) surviving thanks to "Billionaire" Ted Turner money subsidizing the product (later Time Warner subsidizing).
But Vince changed the industry for a second time during the 1990's. After his business model of taped 1 hour shows and lame gimmicks grew stale in comparison to the fresh WCW product through 1996, Vince McMahon radically changed his product during 1997 to eventually topple WCW by 2001. Vince changed RAW to a 2 hour show, live every other week, injected more adult themed storylines, and began to push brand new stars to the top (Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Rock, Triple H, etc.). WWE's growth combined with WCW's poor business choices after 1997 allowed for Vince McMahon to purchase WCW during March 2001, a major achievement. Vince has since purchased most of the major video libraries (AWA, ECW, World Class, etc) and kept other competition out by the brand extension to flood the market with WWE television products. Since 2001, no other company has been able to challenge the WWE and that's despite a gradual decline in ratings, attendance, and Pay Per View purchases.
Vince has certainly made his mistakes (WBL, XFL, etc.) and the wrestler deaths have been a black eye to him, but his push to make the WWF/WWE the most dominant pro wrestling company in history has led to many great innovations and much needed changes to the business. Wrestlers are well paid and have many opportunities afforded to them thanks to the starpower granted to them by the WWE corporate machine. Without Vince McMahon's influence 30 years ago, who knows where the pro wrestling industry would be.
Just chill till the next FINAL COUNTDOWN!
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