Frankly I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner; Deadline reports that NBC has committed to a pilot for a one hour pro wrestling drama executive produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jerry “The Other Rock” Bruckheimer. The pilot, and in theory the show if it gets picked up, will take place during the 1980′s boom when the industry of professional wrestling changed forever. The pilot is being written by Brent Fletcher and Seamus Kevin Fahey.
The 80′s wrestling boom is a pivotal moment in the history of professional wrestling, not only when it came to popularity and pop culture relevance but to the wrestling industry at large. In the decades before this, wrestling was run on a territory system that each operated within its own set of boundaries (Fritz Von Erich had TX, Jim Crockett had the Carolinas, etc.). While there was some competition, most promotions stayed in their own area and promoted their own shows. That all changed when Vince McMahon bought Capitol Wrestling from his ailing father in the early 1980′s. Initially a promotion based in the Northeast, which used New York’s Madison Square Garden as its main venue, McMahon had much bigger plans than his father and the other promoters ever had: he wanted to expand and to make his company, World Wrestling Federation, the biggest name in wrestling. McMahon began buying up both the talent and the TV time of all his rival promotions, which effectively killed each one off as their biggest stars could now be seen on WWF programming.
McMahon’s dreams of domination were finally achieved when he brought on Hulk Hogan, a former journeyman who was starting to make a name for himself thanks to his charisma as well as his cameo as Thunderlips in Rocky III. Hogan quickly became world champion and the era of “Hulkamania” began. In 1985, the WWF teamed up with MTV, which at the time played music videos and not insultingly bad reality shows, and the “Rock and Wrestling Connection” was born. McMahon used the popularity of MTV to promote the WWF and brought them into the consciousness of pop culture, making an icon out of Hulk Hogan and the WWF a name brand. By the end of the 80′s, most of the territories were killed off and only three promotions remained: the WWF, WCW (a former NWA stronghold bought by Ted Turner in 1988), and the AWA (a longtime Minnesota territory ran by the legendary wrestling icon Verne Gagne). By 2001, the WWF was officially the last man standing of the three and now essentially holds a wrestling monopoly, despite the best efforts of other promotions to get a bigger piece of the pie.
So as you can see, there is a lot of story to go on for this NBC show, whether it follows the WWF (yes it’s WWE now, but shut your face) rise to power under a different name, or if it focuses on the wrestling industry as a whole as this dramatic shift begins to really occur and how that effects the older promotions and the people struggling to remain relevant as a new powerhouse changes the face of the industry right in front of their very eyes. Professional wrestling is a giant joke to most people, but for those who have painstakingly studied its history we know that this would make for a downright compelling drama. I just hope the people involved take it seriously enough to make it a worthwhile watch. Luckily we don’t live in an era where it’s still treated as real or else we’d be in for one painful TV experience.
P.S. If you know an exec at NBC, shoot them my email so I can beg them for a spot on the writing staff