WWF Championship Wrestling
|WWF Championship Wrestling|
|Created by||Vince McMahon|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original release||1972 –|
August 30, 1986
|Followed by||WWF Superstars of Wrestling (1986–2001)|
WWF Championship Wrestling is a professional wrestling television program produced by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). It aired from 1972 to August 30, 1986 and was the original television show of the WWF. Originally produced under the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) banner, Championship Wrestling featured all the stars of the WWF, interviews and championship matches. It was the flagship program of the WWWF/WWF's syndicated programming until it was replaced by Superstars of Wrestling in 1986.
This was the first WWF program to be shown on national broadcast television. Vince McMahon built the syndicated network in part by persuading local stations to pay for the rights to air the program. Stations like KPLR-TV in St. Louis and KHJ-TV (now KCAL) in Los Angeles reportedly paid $100,000 to air the show.
In its early years, the show was taped at the Philadelphia Arena and later at the Allentown Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Typically, three weeks of television were taped in one night. The final taping in Allentown took place on June 19, 1984, with the episodes airing June 30, July 7, and July 14. The tapings then moved to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York until the final taping took place on August 5, 1986, with the final episode airing on August 30. The following week, WWF Superstars of Wrestling replaced Championship Wrestling as the WWF's new flagship syndicated program. In contrast to Championship Wrestling, the tapings for Superstars of Wrestling moved around the country and took place at larger arenas.
- Vince McMahon and Antonino Rocca (1972-1976)
- Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino (1976-1980)
- Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson (1980–1983) (Bruno Sammartino occasionally substituted for Patterson)
- Vince McMahon and "Mean" Gene Okerlund (1984)
- Vince McMahon and Tony Garea (1984)
- Vince McMahon and "Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino (1984–1986) (Jesse "The Body" Ventura occasionally substituted for Sammartino)
The longtime ring announcer was Joe McHugh, who did the ring announcing and introductions of everyone on staff at the beginning of every broadcast since the 1970s. He would retire in 1984, being replaced by Howard Finkel.
The interviewer position was filled mostly by McMahon with Pat Patterson also assisting in some cases, until the hire of Gene Okerlund in 1984 which gave him the full-time slot of interviewing wrestlers backstage or at ringside. Jack Reynolds, Freddie Miller, Kal Rudman, and Ken Resnick also did interviews alongside Okerlund until the show's cancellation in 1986.
- Vince McMahon (1972-83)
- Pat Patterson (1980-83)
- Gene Okerlund (1984-86)
- Freddie Miller (1984-85)
- Jack Reynolds (1984-85)
- Kal Rudman (1984-85)
- Ken Resnick (1986)
Probably the most well-remembered theme music of Championship Wrestling is "Scheherazade" by jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. This instrumental piece was used from 1978 until well into 1981. From March 1984 to 1986, an instrumental version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was used. This song was accompanied by the image footage of Hulk Hogan winning the WWF title from The Iron Sheik. Other theme music included "Cruise Control" by the Dixie Dregs (Oct. 1981—March 1984) with footage of Bob Backlund being mobbed and picked up by jubilant fans while holding up the Championship belt. "One Fine Morning" by Canadian jazz-rock ensemble Lighthouse was also used (approx. 1974–1975).
Various pop music was used for commercial bumpers starting in late 1982, including "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones, "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley, "Private Eyes" and "Out of Touch" by Daryl Hall & John Oates, "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits, "She Bop" and "Money Changes Everything" by Cyndi Lauper, "Conga" by Miami Sound Machine, "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears, and "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News.
The inaugural WrestleMania was broadcast in Australia in May 1985 on the Ten Network. Ten had a tentative deal in place with the WWF to then show WWF Championship Wrestling on a weekly basis depending on the ratings for Wrestlemania. With Wrestlemania being a ratings success, Ten brought weekly professional wrestling back to Australian television for the first time since the late 1970s and the show was telecast on Monday nights, usually in the 10:30 or 11 PM time slot.
- Sports Illustrated, March 18, 1985 issue, Hogan on the cover