The biggest and most successful professional wrestling company in the entire world.

The birth of the WWWF: As NWA champion, Buddy Rogers' bookings were controlled by Toots Mondt, promoter in the Northeast. The other NWA promoters were dissatisfied because Mondt rarely let Rogers defend the belt outside the Northeast. Mondt and Vince McMahon Sr. wanted to keep Rogers and the NWA title, but Rogers didn't want to lose his $25,000 deposit on the belt. So Rogers lost the NWA title to Lou Thesz in Toronto on January 24, 1963. Rogers was not recognized as the first WWWF champion right after losing to Thesz. Instead, Rogers was awarded the WWWF title in mid-April 1963, with the explanation that he has won a (fictitious) tournament in Rio de Janeiro. He lost the title to Bruno Sammartino a month later on May 17, 1963. Rogers would have likely had a longer reign as champion, but, he suffered a heart attack shortly before the match with Bruno. This explains both the brevity of the match (47 seconds) with Bruno and the subsequent disappearance of Rogers from the ring. Rogers retired after this match, although he did return to the ring in 1967.

The change of name from WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation, I believe) to WWF (World Wrestling Federation) occurred in 1979; it was a cosmetic change only. From now on all references will be to the WWF for the sake of clarity.

From 1971-1983, the WWF joined the NWA as a regional promotion and the WWF World title was dropped in status to the WWF title, a regional title. By 1983, Vince McMahon Jr. had taken over control of the promotion and wanted out from the shadow of the NWA, so he changed the name of his title to the "WWF Championship" and established the WWF as an autonomous organization with World title status.

The WWF's biggest draw--the biggest name in all of professional wrestling, in fact--in the 1980s was Hulk Hogan, who was the WWF Champion for much of the '80s and quickly became a household name. More than anything else, Hogan's success allowed Vince McMahon to expand his operations until the WWF was taking over pretty much every other wrestling federation in North America. It was the first wrestling federation to break through regional boundary lines and truly become a national (and arguably international) wrestling company.

Today, the WWF's only real "competition" is World Championship Wrestling, but aside from a two-year span (1996-1998) during which time WCW was winning the ratings war, the WWF has remained virtually unchallenged since the mid-1980s.

Some information gleaned from
The World Wildlife Fund, an environmentalist group that I first heard about when I bought a necktie from K & G in Atlanta. The tie was made or endorsed by them and had their logo on the back. From the group's website:
About WWF

Known worldwide by its panda logo, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is dedicated to protecting the world's wildlife and wildlands. The largest privately supported international conservation organization in the world, WWF has more than 1 million members in the U.S. alone. Since its inception in 1961, WWF has invested in over 13,100 projects in 157 countries.

WWF directs its conservation efforts toward three global goals: protecting endangered spaces, saving endangered species, and addressing global threats. From working to save the giant panda, tiger, and rhino to helping establish and manage parks and reserves worldwide, WWF has been a conservation leader for more than 39 years.

For reasons which remain obscure, the World Wildlife Fund changed its name to the "Worldwide Fund for Nature" (still using the WWF abbreviation) somewhere in the late 1980s, except in the USA where it stuck with the old name and got the obvious domain name; the rest of the world gets to use Both use the same familiar panda logo.

On Friday, August 10, 2001, AP reported that due to extensive violation of their contract with the World Wildlife fund, the World Wrestling Federation would have to curtail their use of the initials "WWF" in marketing and promotions, and relinquish the domain name to the environmental organization. The contract in question was made in 1994 to permit limited usage of "WWF" by the organization formerly known as the "WWWF".

One hopes the entire WWWF management does not share the apparent contempt for the WWF that appeared in their lawyer's statement:

"All these millions and millions of fans -- if the environmental group had its way -- would type in, and instead of seeing everything they've seen for years ... are going to be directed to their site and learn about panda bears and whatever they're doing to save the world,"
- Jerry McDevitt, World Wrestling Federation lawyer

Update, May 8, 2002: The former World Wrestling Federation has changed its name to "World Wrestling Entertainment" but is still listed on the NYSE as "WWF".

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