Welcome to the lovely history edition of the Phat Daily Column. Today, we'll discuss the Rise of the WWF, twice. We'll talk about the one in the 70s/80s, where the WWF changed the business forever, and then the wonderful 1997-1998 run to the top. However, I'm just going to briefly discuss them, with no time line on them. The earlier run to the top just has a select few reasons, but the 1997-1998 one has tons! Many other columnists discussed the 1997-1998 already, so I don't want to bore you by basically repeating what they said. Instead, I'll just lay out the points on how they became successful. Ok? On to the PDC.

The Rise of the WWF (twice)

-They 1970s and 1980s-

VINCE McMAHON WAY OF RUNNING THINGS: As you all know, Vince McMahon Jr. purchased the World Wide Wrestling Federation off of his father, Vince McMahon Sr in the 1970s. Vince McMahon Sr. respected other federations, meaning, he didn't enter into their territories at the time. Back then, the federations had territories, where they basically had exclusive monopolies on regions, with no other feds allowed to come in. But Vince Jr. had other ideas. Now called the WWF, dropping the Wide, he decided to really take advantage of the territory system by sending tapes to television stations for them to show... which they did, since wrestling was pretty strong on television back then. Hey, Vince didn't bring his wrestlers to the territories, he just sent tapes to TV stations. Of course, the WWF shows became very popular, and it usually hurt the territories he sent tapes to. Wrestling fans everywhere craved the WWF, therefore, setting up the stage for the 80s.

THE GREAT TALENT RAIDS: Since the territories were beginning to fail, Vince was able to pick and choose upon whatever talent he wanted. Hell, Vince even began buying the other federations occupying the territories, just so he could at least tour there, besides snatching the talent. Then, Vince attacked his strongest competition. He raided the AWA and World Class of some of their best young talent, like the Ultimate Warrior, the whole AWA announcing team, and of course, Hulk Hogan.

HULK HOGAN: The WWF was already the hottest federation before Hogan's arrival. The WWF was the best on wrestling fans, but it wasn't quite getting the national appeal. They needed something to put them over the top, so to speak. Well, the AWA's Hulk Hogan was becoming the favorite wrestler in the AWA, and the fact of the matter is that the AWA didn't really care. Verne Gagne, who ran the AWA, didn't think much of Hogan as a world champ. Hulk Hogan just received national appeal too, by making the wonderful appearance in Rocky 3 as "Thunderlips"(By the way, I think Hulk Hogan should come back as that gimmick now). The WWF saw an instant hit if they could pick up Hogan. AWA let Hogan get snatched up by the WWF, and became HUGE the second he entered the WWF.

WRESTLEMANIA 3: The interest for the Andre vs. Hulk Hogan match packed the Silverdome, and everyone, back then, wanted to know who won the match! Andre was the WWF's top guy before Hogan came along, and Andre was undefeated until this night. Andre handed Hogan the torch that night, and history was in the making. It really put the WWF on the map. It's funny, because Andre was willing to pass the torch to Hogan, but Hogan just simply won't do that today. Doesn't he remember what happened with him?

-The 1997 - 1998 Rise-

RAW FORMAT: Before the Titantron and the 2 hour shows, the WWF would go to one city, and tape 4 RAWs at a time, at one hour each. Sure, it was good in the past when no rivals were around, but WCW was putting up a mean fight. So, in the late summer of 1997, the WWF had enough of WCW pushing them around. They somehow coaxed USA Networks to give them two hours, and then the WWF spent some money to get a new set for RAW. They got a large screen for on top of the ring, which they didn't know how popular that would become. The WWF had 2 hours of show to fill now, which they now scrambled to fill with new, great ideas.

ATTITUDE: Before, the WWF truly was a family outfit. Their shows were clean as a whistle, for the most part, but they never had any spark to them. The story goes that during some creative sessions, Shane McMahon suggested that the WWF aimed toward the adult audiences with some very raunchy material. It took a while for Vince to accept it, but in the end, that's where he wanted his company to go. After that, they let Shawn Michaels and Triple H say whatever they wanted to, and they pushed for Bret Hart to respond back to them, although he didn't want to. That opened up a can of worms, later.

THE RISE OF STONE COLD: Ever since the King of the Ring 1996, Austin, on his own, has slowly become the fan favorite. He fit the popular badass perfectly, with shirts already selling everywhere. Crowds loved him calling on Bret Hart, who they saw as the OLD WWF. The NEW WWF was Steve Austin, make no arguments about that. Bret represented the boring WWF shell they just jumped out of, which could really be seen during Wrestlemania 13, when the fans cheer for Austin instead of Hart. He eventually went to the top, and after winning the world title, he made history with a certain owner....

THE RISE OF THE ROCK: I don't think the Rock gets much credit for the WWF's rise, as he really should. When he turned heel in the summer of 1997, joining the nation, he became an instant hit.... once he began running his mouth! He instantly became the cockiest heel the WWF had seen in a long time, claiming that he was the "best damn Intercontinental Champion, Ever". Stone Cold had the IC title at the time, and it made for a classic feud back then! It helped to put over Austin, with a good opponent, and it helped to make the Rock too. Rock would have a strong feud with Ken Shamrock, to which he always got away with keeping the title, and he then went on to a good feud with Triple H.....

DEGENERATION X: Really, this was the true team that helped make the WWF attitude what it was in 1998. Shawn Michaels and Triple H were sooo funny back then in their very raunchy interviews. HBK and Triple H were great together, especially since they were great friends back then. They had a great target too, which was Bret Hart. Fans already disliked Hart for being "Old WWF", and so by having D-X rip on Hart, it grabbed attention. This feud between DX and the Hitman really heated up when Michaels would run his mouth. Like the "Sunny Days" comment, to which HBK reminded the Hitman of the nasty rumor about the affair with Bret and Sunny. DX would later feud with Austin and Owen Hart, two great feuds, and then later reform....

+ The reformation was BIG. Not only did DX grab the hottest tag team, New Age Outlaws, but they gained X-Pac. His "shoot" interview on his night back helped to really give WCW a bad name, back then. He exposed the political system in WCW, which got a lot of normal fans thinking about what show they wanted to watch. It's funny that X-Pac was such a big factor then, but he's struggled to make an impact lately. Want to know why? He still acts and looks like he has in 1998. Does Triple H look the same or act the same? NO.

FLUSHING OUT THE TALENT: This is an overlooked point of the WWF's rise to the top, always. Gone are many of the corny tag teams, like the Body Donnas, New Rockers, and many other horrible teams, and many wrestlers like Jeff Jarrett (he returned later though), Bret Hart, the Patriot (due to injury, sadly), British Bulldog, Crush (Bryan Adams), and many more. A lot of stupid gimmicked wrestlers were dropped, like Duke "the Dumpster" and the wonderful T.L. Hopper. This new void of talent was replaced by guys ready to take their spots, like Austin, Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, Kane, and more. Lots of younger talent was signed, especially after they dumped Bret Hart...

SURVIVOR SERIES in MONTREAL: You know what angers me? The newer WWF fans, the ones who started watching in 1998, have no idea of the incident which sparked the revolution. For the last time, ever, I'll explain what happened. Vince McMahon didn't see much use for Bret anymore, even though he just resigned Bret to a 20 year contract a year before. Vince wanted the extra salary room for future talent, so he suggested to Bret to ask WCW for an offer. After the first year in Bret's 20 year contract, he had an out-clause, which he could use... if he chooses to. Vince told him to go for it, and then maybe Bret could come back to the WWF in the future. Bret was very loyal to the WWF, but the thoughts of taking on the great, older, wrestlers in WCW made him go for an offer. So he signed with WCW, and his final match would be with.... Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series, in his own home Country of Canada.

+ Bret and Shawn, as I listed above, didn't quite like each other. Bret wasn't thrilled with Shawn's acting ability for his knee injury, which didn't allow for a Bret vs. HBK match either for Wrestlemania or King of the Ring. HBK wasn't thrilled with Bret's "old school" attitude, and he was also not thrilled with Bret messing with the ending to the famous Iron Man match. Bret said he would only job, in that match, if it were somewhat of a screwjob (the overtime loss to HBK). That's why you didn't see many defeats during that match, like the Rock vs. Triple H Ironman match in 2000.

+ So both guys weren't willing to job, with the WWF wanting Bret to job out the title, since it was his last match. However, Bret has a little clause in his contract to which he has creative control on how he leaves the WWF. He wanted a DX run-in, and he would hand over the title, gracefully, on RAW the next night. But the thought of having Bret as the WWF World Champ in WCW, although he handed over the title, drove Vince McMahon crazy! So, Vince told Earl Hebner to call for the bell when HBK had Bret in the Sharpshooter, or YOU'RE FIRED! In the match, HBK had the Sharpshooter on, and Hebner called for the bell. Bret Hart just got screwed!

+ Besides making a tough business decision, I don't think Vince knew the exact consequences it would create. It became the spark needed for the WWF to jump to the top! Fans heard about this incident, and got curious. HBK was dogging Bret Hart for losing at Survivor Series, if you remember that midget sketch. Vince McMahon had some interviews, which set him up to be a very hated man in the wrestling industry... by fans! Little did he know that it would set up one of the greatest feuds of all time....

NEW FARM SYSTEM: With the new capital open from releasing Bret Hart to the wolves, I mean WCW, the WWF went out and bought lots of young talent. With that young talent, they also established a new farm system through an independent in Memphis. They sort of worked with the classic USWA on developmental talent, but not this seriously. The new Memphis independent still stands today, and it, along with the Ohio Valley fed, helps to develop the future of the WWF. When the WWF needs some fresh talent, they just make a phone call. WCW has their Power Plant, but that's just like a wrestling school. This farm system, as my good buddy Nick reminds me, helps to establish the wrestlers in front of decent sized crowds. They also learn to pay a lot of dues down there, which is vital for coming to the WWF.

AUSTIN VS. McMAHON: You have the most popular wrestler, Austin, against the newly hated WWF owner, Vince McMahon. It's insane how this chemistry occurred. Fans immediately connected with this feud, especially the working force of America. They lived through Austin, who was telling off his own boss. It was very intriguing, and much better than any of the WCW vs. Eric Bischoff feuds. I'd go into greater detail, but I will say that this feud is the main point which kept the WWF on top, once they got there. I suggest buying Austin vs. McMahon video to relive this great time.

Summary: That's just a brief overview of what I thought helped to make the WWF rise from the ashes, again. I'm curious to see how long the WWF will remain on top after this remarkable climb to the top. We should keep watching, especially since WCW has some money to spend again.

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