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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 500 events a year, with the roster divided up into various globally traveling brands, and is available to about 36 million viewers in more than 150 countries. The company's global headquarters is located in Stamford, Connecticut, about 30 miles from New York City, with offices in major cities around the world.
As in other professional wrestling promotions, WWE shows are not legitimate contests, but purely entertainment-based performance theater, featuring storyline-driven, scripted, and 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 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.
The Attitude Era (1997–2002)
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".
Prior to 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.
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (1998-2002)
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 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.
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. / WWE (2002-present)
Current WWE minority owners/front office executives/wrestlers Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon
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). 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.
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.