For decades, distinct professional wrestling territories thrived across North America. Each regionally based promotion operated individually and offered a brand of localized wrestling that greatly appealed to area fans. Promoters routinely coordinated with associates in surrounding regions, and the cooperation displayed by members of the National Wrestling Alliance made it easy for wrestlers to traverse the landscape with the utmost freedom.
Dozens of territories flourished between the 1950s and late ’70s. But by the early 1980s, the growth of cable television had put new outside pressures on promoters. An enterprising third-generation entrepreneur who believed cable was his opportunity to take his promotion national soon capitalized on the situation.
A host of novel ideas and the will to take chances gave Vincent Kennedy McMahon an incredible advantage. McMahon waged war on the territories and raided the NWA and AWA of their top talent. By creating WrestleMania, jumping into the pay-per-view field, and expanding across North America, McMahon changed professional wrestling forever.
Providing never-before-revealed information, Death of the Territories is a must-read for fans yearning to understand how McMahon outlasted his rivals and established the industry’s first national promotion. At the same time, it offers a comprehensive look at the promoters who opposed McMahon, focusing on their noteworthy power plays and embarrassing mistakes.
Hornbaker (Turning the Black Sox White) turns the spotlight away from the wrestlers and onto the behind-the-scenes promoters who controlled the shady, loosely regulated world of professional wrestling in the 1950s 1980s. Memorable figures include Leroy McGuirk, a professional fighter who was blinded in a car accident and became a promoter in the 1950s, controlling Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as the fiery ex-footballer Jack Adkission, who fought as a German villain under the name Fritz Von Erich and became a promoter in the 1960s, controlling the Dallas territory. The narrative moves swiftly to the 1980s, when the World Wrestling Federation established a virtual monopoly on the business, shutting out the regional players who had run the sport for decades. "It was difficult to find many territories not being directly impacted by the WWF one way or another," Hornbaker writes. Most influential in the wrestling world was Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the voice of the WWF, who in the 1980s took the best-known wrestlers from all the TV territories and created WrestleMania just as growth in cable television and pay-per-view programming began to boom. There is a dizzying amount of detail such as how WWF charged $30,000 for a 30-second ad in 1985 and the general reader may get lost in the blow-by-blow, but tried-and-true wrestling fans will find lots to get excited about.