This week marks an important day in WWE history. It was 20 years ago this week that the company changed its name to its current incarnation.
On May 6, 2002, Vince McMahon debuted his promotion under the ‘WWE’ banner, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment. After years of making their name as The Worldwide Leader in Sports Entertainment as a ‘Federation,’ a lawsuit from another entity forced the Chairman’s hand.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature had filed previous documents stating that the World Wrestling Federation signed a legal settlement regarding the use of the abbreviation ‘WWF’ outside of North America. In return, the World Wildlife Fund agreed that they would not seek further legal action.
Following a complaint by the non-governmental organization, the Court of Appeals ruled that the professional wrestling juggernaut had violated the original deal. Suddenly, McMahon and co. were scrambling as they lost the right to use the three letters that they made famous.
The top brass at Titan Towers had to act quickly to write the next chapter of their company’s history.
Rumored new names for the franchise included ASE (American Sports Entertainment) and WSE (World Sports Entertainment). Both were examples of how the company was slowly phasing out the term ‘wrestling’ from their branding and replacing it with the all-encompassing ‘entertainment’ umbrella.
This would become even more of a trend later when it comes to performers ‘promos and announcers’ commentary, where certain terms have been eliminated or replaced.
Eventually, however, the company settled on WWE – World Wrestling Entertainment
It was the best of both worlds. They stayed true to their roots while still stressing that they were more than just spandex, sweat, and suplexes. Those three letters really said it all.
For McMahon, it must have been a surreal experience. He had already changed the name of the company once when he shortened it from the World Wide Wrestling Federation.
That was then when the promotion was still relatively small. In comparison, the 2002 version of the company was a media monster, a far-and-away leader in its industry, and an established brand with advertisers and TV networks.
It was certainly a challenge to make the switch to WWE. Not just for the company but for the fans as well. There was a lot of sentimental attachment to the old name, and for years, people still referred to the company by those initials. Even to this day, some refer to the company by its old name.
Eventually, McMahon was able to ingratiate the WWE name into pop culture in an even bigger way than he did previously. Always a master of marketing, the Chairman just kept plugging away until even the most old school of fans accepted that the change was inevitable.
Today, it’s almost hard to imagine hearing the letters ‘WWF’ or seeing that classic logo anymore. As always, Vince McMahon set his sights on something and made it a reality. He knew the right formula to get the ‘F’ out, and there was no looking back from there.
Where were you when Vince McMahon had to change the name of his promotion? Was the name change hard for you to get used to? Please share your thoughts, memories, and opinions in the comments section below.
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