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PWTORCH #704: COVER STORY
HEADLINE: WWF forced to change name, becomes WWE
SUBHEADLINE: Courtroom bodyslam by the World Wildlife Fund forces wrestling fed to change its identity
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
What's in a name? Vince McMahon hopes not very much. After years of establishing the brand initials WWF, the World Wrestling Federation has been forced to change its name. It has chosen to drop the "F" and add an "E." The WWF is no more. Now it's WWE - World Wrestling Entertainment.
The World Wildlife Fund won an injunction last year preventing the World Wrestling Federation from using the initials in certain circumstances worldwide. The WWF is a worldwide company, and the limitations were cumbersome enough that a total name change was deemed prudent.
"Our new name puts the emphasis on the 'E' for entertainment, what our company does best," said CEO Linda McMahon in a prepared statement.
As usual, Linda was put in a position of making a "corporate-sounding" empty statement to try to put a smiley spin on an awkward name change. Wrestling fans may take solace that the McMahons didn't eliminate the middle "W" resulting in the WEF - World Entertainment Federation. That was probably the first choice of the McMahons. A few years ago during the IPO publicity, Linda said she'd prefer to eliminate wrestling entirely from their name, and that such was considered at one point, but they decided against it due to the familiarity of the WWF brand initials.
WWE, though, has about the same ring to it as "Brand Extension," another of those corporate buzzwords that Linda has grown accustomed to in her world but which clanks like an out of tune piano to a regular person's ears.
The name change began to take effect this past weekend as the website switched from WWF.com to WWE.com. The webpage letters changed over to WWE. The scratch logo looked the same, minus the "F." On Raw on Monday, a hedge clipper cut off the "F" on shrubbery that had been in the shape of the old "WWF" logo. The screen read: "Get the F out." Jim Ross proclaimed, "New look, same attitude."
If the attitude is putting a stress on "entertainment" over "wrestling," then yes the attitude is the same. In the big picture, the name shouldn't matter that much. The WWF could call itself the Propane Smile Phone Toothbrush Company and if the shows were entertaining, people would watch. But was WWE the best choice?
It didn't take long to get sick of the new name. Lilian Garcia announced over the p.a. system several Hardcore Title changes in the opening segment of Raw, each time announcing a new "World Wrestling Entertainment" champion. Clank, clank, clank.
The WWF has been an entertainment show where the major plotline revolved around being a simulated sport. If a movie were made about football, and the football league within the context of the plotlines were referred to as National Football Entertainment, it would be ridiculed. The WWF has been so self-conscious about being associated with its roots that it apparently took a public backlash to get it to acknowledge the death of one of the industry's all-time great and most influential figures, Lou Thesz, last week. The fact is, the WWF has always been about simulated wrestling competition. That's a major element of its appeal, much to the dismay of the McMahons.
Now, when the words "World Wrestling Entertainment" are stated, the word "Wrestling" is no longer what stands out. Instead, the ear hears the word "Entertainment" most. Linda got her wish. Sure, wrestling is still in the name, but as per her statement, what they "do best" is "entertainment."
There were alternatives. They could have gone back to the World Wide Wrestling Federation, which is what the company was called prior to Vince McMahon Jr. taking over for his father in the early '80s. It could have been dubbed the 3WF for short and the scratch logo could have been altered only slightly. Linda's statement could have gone like this: "Our new name puts the emphasis on the worldwide nature of our product, since never before have our superstars been more popular across the globe." The organization, often referred to as "the Federation" for short, wouldn't have skipped a beat. And they wouldn't have offended the ears of wrestling fans across the world.
Now, decades of history will be awkwardly referred to as the "former WWF." The lineage of its titles will be filled with asterisks denoting the point at which the title name changed. It won't be as confusing as the lineage of the NWA-to-WCW transfer, but it may never become pleasant sounding to longtime wrestling fans. It may not ever sound smooth even to new fans. But it's here to stay.
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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