World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is currently the largest professional wrestling company in the world, and across its history has aggressively purchased regional and national competitors, through time amassing a gargantuan library of television programs, pay-per-view recordings, video productions, and recordings of wrestling matches dating back to the 1950s and representing a very significant portion of the visual history of modern professional wrestling and sports entertainment.
WWE Libraries (currently branded as WWE Legacy Content) represents the physical tapes and the copyrights to classic holdings already controlled by WWE, libraries belonging to purchased organizations, and classic libraries directly purchased from folded promotions, totaling more than 75,000 hours of material. While part of the rationale of these purchases may include the historical importance of the physical tapes, the major motivating factor lies in WWE's sale of digitized and restored Library content through video on demand and pay-per-view distribution, internet distribution, and through releases on WWE Home Video, the latter of which netted WWE more than USD $8 Million in the first fiscal quarter of 2006 alone.
Please note that the dates listed below for purchased organizations and libraries represent the duration of the promotion/company, and may not necessarily represent the extent of historical video available to WWE. Although professional wrestling has been on television throughout the medium's existence, not all broadcasts were recorded, nor necessarily saved, and most promotions, including WWE, did not have a regular television presence until the 1970s. The historical availability of individual, non-televised matches is also sketchy, as likely only the most significant bouts were recorded for posterity, and as with any footage of increasing age, can be lost to time.
Classic WWE holdings
The Library includes all past and present WWE tapes, including the previous forms of the company and its current brands:
- Capitol Wrestling Corporation (1952-1963)
- World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) (1963-1979)
- World Wrestling Federation (WWF) (1979-2002)
- World Wrestling Entertainment (2002–present), inclusive of WWE's current and previous brands:
It is presumed that WWE's historical archives include footage of wrestling matches promoted by Jess McMahon between 1925 and 1952, although, as noted above, the current existence of such footage is likely limited by many factors.
Although not wrestling content, WWE's holdings also include footage from the XFL (2001), the World Bodybuilding Federation (1990-1992), motion pictures from WWE Films (2002–present), the Hulk Hogan film No Holds Barred, as well as the Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n Wrestling CBS cartoon series.
WWE company purchases
Beginning in the 1980s, WWF owner Vince McMahon began aggressively purchasing regional competitors across North America. By the mid-1980s, WWF had little competition on the national level until the rise of WCW, and to a far lesser extent, ECW. In 2001, WWF purchased both of these companies, including their libraries and the libraries of their predecessor organizations. Some WWE corporate purchases include:
- Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) (1994-2001)
- ECW predecessor Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992-1994)
- Georgia Championship Wrestling (1944-1985)
- Stampede Wrestling (1948-1984)
- World Championship Wrestling (WCW) (1986-2001) and its predecessors:
WWE library purchases
In recent years, the McMahon family has been very aggressive in WWE's pursuit of old tape libraries from defunct wrestling promotions. The most significant acquisition was the AWA's holdings, representing the last of the largest national-level promotions, and representing a very large portion of modern wrestling history. Some library acquisitions include:
- American Wrestling Association (1957-1991)
- Championship Wrestling from Florida (1949-1987)
- Ohio Valley Wrestling (1998-2008) (Also a WWE developmental territory)
- World Class Championship Wrestling (1966-1988; IWCCW owns all post-1988 footage of WCCW and its successor promotions )
- Smoky Mountain Wrestling (1992-1995)
- Mid-South Wrestling/Universal Wrestling Federation (1950s–1987)
National Wrestling Alliance
Throughout its history, WWE has had a long and complicated relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). For many decades until the mid-1980s, the NWA acted as a governing body of the many various regional wrestling promotions, and membership allowed for decreased regional competition and the shared use of big-name stars for local events. WWE (as Capitol Wrestling) was a member of the NWA between 1952 and 1963, and again (as the WWWF) between 1971 and 1983.
Jim Crockett Promotions was an NWA member during its entire existence, and by the end of the promotion's run was, more or less, the NWA, thanks to its control of the largest regional NWA promotions. This was exemplified by the presence of all major NWA titles in World Championship Wrestling when Crockett Promotions morphed into WCW in the 1980s. WCW's relationship with the NWA was even more convoluted than WWE's, until WCW left the NWA in 1993.
As a result of WWE's former membership in the NWA, through its ownership of WCW and its predecessor libraries, and through its ownership of Extreme Championship Wrestling (which was an NWA member until it suddenly severed ties with the NWA in 1994) and other smaller regional promotions, WWE owns a vast amount of NWA footage, making up the majority of significant NWA matches from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s.
- The Video Library - WWE's official page about its Video Library
- 24/7 full of challenges for Barreca - Slam Sports interview with WWE Senior Vice President Tom Barreca about the Library and the financial strategy behind its use
- WWE Press Release from June 2006, on amassing 75,000 hours of content.