A TIME CAPSULE
Today, Wrestling Grand Prix™ is the largest and most profitable wrestling company in North America, forever changing the landscape of the business within the United States upon it's inception some 24 years ago. It was the decade of the 1980's; an era that personified the virtues of glamor and excess like no other, and the business of professional wrestling was no different. Around this time, we saw the industry changing ground as the traditional territories of the National Wrestling Alliance began to lose the stranglehold over their own respective terrain.
Chiefly behind this revolution was a young hotshot promoter named Vincent K. McMahon Jr., whom had ceased the reigns to his fathers World Wrestling Federation (WWF) promotion at the decade's turn. The youthful McMahon had been respected at first just based on his namesake alone, but that would all soon take a change for the worse as the promoter began poaching talent from both the NWA and it's main competitor - the American Wrestling Association. As Vince and company began invading the venues of other already established territories within the industry, the final straw on the camel's back had been broken. The young Vince had a vision of where the industry could one day be, but unfortunately for him and his company, that dream and everything that could possibly come with it would sanctimoniously die with the help of two harrowing business catastrophes; 1.) The unfathomable failure that would be WrestleMania, and 2.) A steroid scandal that found itself going all the way to the hallowed hallways of United States Supreme Court. This media storm would proverbially set the business back twenty years. By the time the trial concluded, the young Vince was left with open hands and empty pockets. The dream of a global mainstream wrestling promotion had all been destroyed literally overnight...
After the indictment and the respective charges against McMahon and his promotion had been made, the WWF would soon close it's doors for good. The image of professional wrestling among American viewers had irrevocably been altered forever. Selling out seats had become even more difficult than before, as the pressure soon became felt all around. After the foreclosure of the nation's biggest company, the one's teetering behind it would find themselves declining as well like a row of perfectly aligned dominoes. First it was WCCW, then CWA, and eventually, even Verne Gagne and the AWA were crumbling to their knees. As if that weren't enough, in an effort to receive both attention and money, the red-handed Vince McMahon Jr. would later appear on a daytime talk show to reveal all of the business' dirty secrets, self-destructing kayfabe with just one interview. The business of professional wrestling in the United States had now hit an all-time low. Yet there was still a beacon of hope glimmering off into the distance. With most of it's main competitors now filing for bankruptcy, the National Wrestling Alliance began to re-consolidate it's former splinter promotions back into one whole organization as it had been in the past, fueling it's belief that it's business might be able to revive with strength in numbers.
But this wasn't done alone. The National Wrestling Alliance had been in dire need of assistance for the latter part of the decade, and received that helping hand from the most unlikeliest of sources - Japanese megastar, Antonio Inoki. Inoki, who was the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling, was intrigued by the prospect of bringing the atmosphere of Japanese style Puroresu to the masses of the United States, but knew that in order for this to thrive, he would have to retain a semblance of American style wrestling with it. Inoki began to work with promoter Jim Crockett, Jr. to open a new territory within the National Wrestling Alliance centered around the East Coast area, specifically New York City. This early experiment was known as NWA Pure, but was soon changed after a promoter had referred to some of their Japanese talents being "as fast as a Formula-1 Grand Prix." Thus, NWA Grand Prix became the assumed name of the territory.
At this point, American wrestling fans were fed up with the cartoonish gimmicks and charades that had been so dominant in the era of the 80's, and were yearning for a more legitimate product, to which Grand Prix seemingly had the answers. Subsequently, Inoki and NJPW would also use NWA Grand Prix as a breeding ground for future talent within their own promotion. Despite McMahon dealing a huge blow to the legitimacy of kayfabe, the diehard wrestling fans who were forced to endure the near collapse of the entire industry began to come out of the wood-works in support of the territory. So much so that at the dawn of a new decade, Grand Prix would become so popular that it was able to stand on it's two legs and like so many other promotions before it, began to break away from the National Wrestling Alliance.
At the turn of the decade, the NWA was no longer the acronym behind Grand Prix, but rather, had become the now independent promotion's prime competitor within the United States. The promotion now referred to itself as "Wrestling Grand Prix" or "WGPX" for short. Around this time, the promotion reached new heights with a young and talented roster being pushed into the spotlight. This was also the golden age of tag team wrestling within the company, as teams such as The British Bulldogs, The Midnight Rockers, The Hollywood Blondes and Strike Force began to dazzle viewers with beautiful chemistry inside of the ring. Stars such as Big Van Vader, Curt Hennig, Jushin Thunder Liger and Ricky Steamboat now began finding themselves reaching the highlights of their careers in the early part of the decade.
During this time, the National Wrestling Alliance officially announced that it was filing for bankruptcy in 1993, unable to compete with Grand Prix and it's quality of talent. With NWA out of the way, Wrestling Grand Prix became the sole dominant promotion of the United States, exasperating this new-found status with the rise of cable television, as well as the advent of pay-per-view events. During this same year, WGPX celebrated it's status by debuting the promotion's now largest event of the year - the Grand Prix Climax. We also were bore witness to WGPX's first national tour, and two years later, the company went global, performing shows in Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and of course, Japan.
The stars that had called the stellar tag team division home in the early part of the decade now saw themselves rising as main event level stars in the mid-90's, most notably the likes of Davey Boy Smith, Shawn Michaels, Brian Pillman and "Stunning" Steve Austin. Before the turn of the century though, the company created it's largest draw in the form of former football player turned wrestler, Bill Goldberg, who's extensive winning streak and notoriously heated rivalry with top star, Big Van Vader, captivated audiences worldwide. Around this time, the promotion would begin to break away from it's Puroresu roots, establishing it's own hybrid style that Bill Apter would go on to dub "American Pure," a mix of both Puroresu and traditional American style.
At the turn of the century, Wrestling Grand Prix began to distance itself from New Japan Pro Wrestling, albeit, the two promotions continued to share workers and maintained a friendly relationship. This was due to the fact that Antonio Inoki had filed for the company to become privately shared, thus increasing revenue and reaching a bigger audience abroad. At this same time, former promoter Vince McMahon made his return to the business, targeting a market that WGPX had left wide open - sports entertainment. The more theatrical style was appealing to the younger target audience, as McMahon's renewed World Wrestling Federation began to find small success at the odds of Inoki and Grand Prix.
McMahon would begin to poach talent from the WGPX, such as Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and most painfully of all, the company's largest draw - Bill Goldberg. With Goldberg gone, the WWF began drawing more attention, as the promotion was beginning to be considered as legitimate competition for Inoki and his promotion. Yet the WGPX did not waver, and remained the largest draw of the two companies as they began to harvest new talent for the future, most notably the likes of Brock Lesnar, whom, like Goldberg a decade before him, began dominating the competition with his large and intimidating stature. The highlight of Lesnar's arrival would ultimately be his infamous feud with puroresu legend, Kenta Kobashi, a feud that in fact would go on last for nearly a year.
One thing that did set WGPX apart from the WWF at this time was the fact that mixed martial arts had begun to gain steam in the country, a lot of which had been credited to Grand Prix in the first place, which, like puroresu, focused on martial arts strikes and submissions with pre-determined outcomes. WGPX capitalized on this boom, changing the ring to a more octagonal shape, as well as creating an atmosphere of intense festivity that is common among mixed martial arts fights. Culminating in 2006, Inoki's influence within NJPW began to wane, as WGPX officially severed ties from the company. Inoki would go on to sell his stock of the company to YUKE's. The following year, Inoki left Grand Prix to begin the Inoki Genome Federation, leaving the promotion in the hands of shareholder, promoter and former World Heavyweight Champion - Bob Backlund.