25 Biggest Moments In WWE's Wall Street History

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. WWE will be celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the company’s flagship weekly television show, "Raw," on Jan. 22, 2018. The first episode aired way back on Jan. 11, 1993, several years before WWE went public.

From historic debuts and departures, revolutionary events, and PR nightmares, Benzinga's Wayne Duggan and Jason Shubnell compiled a list of arguably the 25 most important milestones in WWE since the company hit the public marketplace.

1. Going Public

WWE’s life as a public company officially began Oct. 19, 1999 when the company debuted on the NYSE under the name World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. The IPO priced at $17 per share, and the stock is now up nearly 94 percent from its IPO price.

2. Have A Nice Day

Just days after WWE went public, wrestler Mick Foley published his autobiography, "Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks." The book debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times Best Seller List and reached the No. 1 spot on Dec. 5, giving the company a viable new revenue stream.

3. WWE 2K

The WWE 2K video game series started with the release of "WWF SmackDown!" In March 2000. The first installation of the popular video game series sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S. in its first year.

4. "Raw" Leaves USA

In September 2000, after seven years airing on the USA Network, "Raw" made the move to TNN, which later became Spike TV. The move came in response to a new TV contract with TNN parent Viacom, Inc. VIAB. "Raw" would come back to USA Network in  October 2005.

See Also: Trailblazers: Vince McMahon Takes His Empire, And An Industry, Over The Top

5. The XFL

One of the low points in WWE history was the XFL, a professional football league created by CEO Vince McMahon back in February 2001. WWE and partner NBC reportedly lost $35 million each during the first and only season of the XFL before shutting down the league for good.

6. The End of the Monday Night War

In March 2001, World Wrestling Federation Entertainment purchased World Championship Wrestling from AOL-Time Warner, bringing an end to a nearly 20-year rivalry. On the historic March 26, 2001 episode of "Raw," McMahon’s son Shane interrupted the show with a live feed as he was standing inside the ring at WCW Nitro.

7. WrestleMania X-Seven

The 2001 WrestleMania event is known as one of the most profitable and memorable shows in WWE history. The event, which featured a main event of The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, broke attendance records at the Astrodome and was named the best pay-per-view ever by WWE in 2013.

8. Invasion Sets PPV Record

That July, WWE's Invasion PPV had a buyrate of 770,000, the most-ever in company history for a non-WrestleMania event. The event came in the middle of a year-long WWE vs. WCW/ECW storyline.

9. The Champ Is Here

Fans had no idea what was coming when John Cena debuted by accepting an open challenge by Kurt Angle on a 2002 episode of "SmackDown." Cena lost the match, but he went on to become the most successful and profitable talent in the company in the 15 years that followed.

10. Austin And Rock Depart

Perhaps the two most bankable stars in company history stepped away from full-time duty a month part in early 2003. Austin was forced to retire due to nagging injuries, although he would still frequently appear on TV over the next two years. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson pursued a full-time career in Hollywood and has made sporadic appearances with WWE ever since.

11. Wellness Policy

After decades of controversy and accusations related to substance abuse and steroid use (not to mention numerous wrestlers dying far too young), WWE instituted a comprehensive Substance Abuse and Drug Testing Policy starting in 2006. Since its enaction, WWE has issued more than 60 suspensions related to policy violations by performers.

12. Battle of the Billionaires

At WrestleMania 23 in 2007, Donald Trump’s proxy defeated Vince McMahon’s proxy, giving Trump the right to shave McMahon’s head in the middle of the ring. A decade later, the clothesline now-President Trump gave McMahon outside the ring has become one the most popular internet memes of the Trump presidency. At the time, the event set a WWE PPV record of 1.2 million buys.

13. Chris Benoit Tragedy

One of the darkest moments in the history of the company came on June 22, 2007 when wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son and hanged himself in a murder-suicide. Medical professionals have suggested that depression and brain damage from numerous concussions may have played a role in Benoit’s actions and state of mind. Outlets such as CNN and NBC spent considerable coverage on the fallout.

14. NXT Debuts

The first season of NXT began Feb. 23, 2010. After years of using various promotions, NXT became the company's sole developmental system -- a minor league of sorts for the organization. It's become a viable third-player among WWE programs, with many calling it a superior wrestling product compared to "Raw" and "Smackdown Live."

15. "Smackdown" Leaves Network TV

"Smackdown" was a network TV staple since its August 1999 inception. It moved to the SyFy network in October 2010 and has remained on cable TV ever since.

16. WrestleMania 28 Becomes Highest-Grossing PPV

April 2, 2012, is an important date for WWE — it's the highest grossing PPV event in pro wrestling history, headlined by The Rock vs. John Cena main event. With the advent of WWE Network, it's very likely this record will never be broken.

See Also: WWE Could Be A Big Winner Amid A Fragmenting TV Landscape; Network Has Room For Growth

17. Brock Lesnar Returns

Lesnar was considered the future of the company in 2003. He left in early 2004 and would became a major star and box office attraction for UFC. He returned to WWE in April 2012 and has been one of the company's top drawing stars.

18. "Raw" Goes Three Hours

Since July 23, 2012, which was the 1,000th epsiode of "Raw," the company's flagship show has become a three-hour broadcast. The show had run on a two-hour format since February 1997, and before that just one hour.

19. WWE Network

After years of waiting and false starts, investors and fans finally got their WWE Network streaming option in February 2014. The launch came just ahead of the milestone WrestleMania XXX event and forever changed the company's PPV model. WWE has received praise for being ahead of the curve in the transition to streaming video content, and the Network now has 1.5 million subscribers.

20. Stock Hits All-Time High, Then Plummets

Just a couple of months after the Network launch, WWE's stock was absolutely crushed. Peaking at new all-time highs above $30 a share, the stock fell to the $10 area within weeks, due in big part to a new TV contract with Comcast's CMCSA NBC Universal that didn't please investors.

21. WWE Comes to ESPN

WWE content, and mainstream acceptance, reached a major new market starting in 2016 when Walt Disney's DIS ESPN launched a WWE vertical for the first time. Since that time, WWE content has been covered on ESPN right along with its traditional sports coverage.

22. Hulk Hogan Scandal

The iconic Hulk Hogan was fired from the company in 2015 after an illegally obtained 2012 sex tape revealed him using racial slurs. In 2016, Hogan reached a $31-million settlement with gossip site Gawker related to the release of the tape, and Gawker subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

23. Linda Gets Political

In early 2017, Linda McMahon was nominated by President Trump and subsequently earned the votes to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration. She unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012. McMahon, who has been married to Vince since 1966, became WWE President in 1993 and CEO of the company in 1997. She's credited with pushing WWE's merchandizing over the years.

24. "Raw" Hits Near-Record Low

With the changing TV landscape, the company's flagship show has suffered in the ratings depertment. In June 2017, the show dropped to its second-lowest rating ever.

25. MMC Debuts On Facebook Watch

WWE announced Facebook FB will have exclusive rights to WWE’s new series “Mixed Match Challenge,” a weekly show that will begin airing on Facebook’s streaming platform Watch starting on Jan. 16, 2018. The first episode peaked at about 140,000 concurrent viewers.

See Also: The Most Groundbreaking Women In WWE History

Honorable Mention: Super Bowl Commercial And 'Halftime Heat'

The night of Super Bowl XXXIII, then-WWF aired its own commercial during the game and even broadcast a special "empty arena match" during halftime. This came at the height of the company's "Attitude Era" and brought more mainstream eyeballs on the product. The company would issue its IPO a few months later.

Honorable Mention: The Rock Reaches The Peak of Hollywood

In 2016, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became the highest-paid actor in the world, earning $64.5 million on the year. The Rock has by far been the most successful WWE in-ring performer to transition to the big screen.

Honorable Mention: Vince McMahon Sells $100 Million Worth Of Stock

McMahon, 72 years old, in December 2017 sold 3.34 million shares of stock “primarily to fund a separate entity from the Company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, which Mr. McMahon established to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football.”

Image credit: Megan Elice Meadows (IMG_5217) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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