A year after the shutdown of WCW, WWF got the "F" out and began to transition itself to being a Sports Entertainment empire.
When thinking about the year 2002, certain events stand out the most in my mind.
It would be the year that the more prominent WCW superstars began to make their way to a WWF ring. While the WCW/ECW Invasion witnessed a plethora of former WCW and ECW superstars, most of them were either mid-carders or were designated to mid-card positions.
When you picture the faces of World Championship Wresting, Eric Bischoff, Goldberg, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are among the faces that probably pop into your head. And these would be some of the same faces that would grace either their debut or return to the WWF world stage.
The appearance of these wrestling figures signaled the burying of the hatchet and the healing of old wounds.
Examining the arrival of the New World Order, aka the NWO, symbolizes this transition that officially put the Monday Night Wars and all the bad feelings it ignited to rest.
On Feb. 17, 2002, the NWO debuted in the WWF at the No Way Out PPV. For months the story was built up that Vince McMahon wanted to inject "poison" into an empire that he was losing control of.
The storyline in itself started from the arrival of one of, if not THE greatest wrestlers of all time, Ric Flair. A legend who during his short-lived run within the WWF experienced his own ups and downs with the Chairman.
Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and the "Immortal" Hollywood Hulk Hogan brought the white and black to the WWF screen, an image that five years earlier, no one thought they would ever see.
Let's admit though: the NWO's run in the WWE was a short one that really didn't live up to its potential. It was different this time around, as I think it brought more nostalgia for the fact that Hulk Hogan was appearing in a WWF ring for the first time in almost 10 years.
And it would be this return setting off the iconic feud that officially would begin the "Sports Entertainment" years to wrestling.
The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin began feuding with the NWO, which of course was expected. The top two WWF superstars were gonna be the ones defending their company against the ultimate villains in wrestling.
But the feud between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan in particular set the scene for the grandest stage of them all.
It was clear during this feud that WWF was beginning their transition from being a wrestling empire to being a Sports Entertainment empire.
Two of the biggest mainstream superstars of all time was taking center stage and would square off at Wrestlemania 18. Icon vs. Icon.
Even if you wasn't a wrestling fan, you definitely knew who these guys were.
It is very telling that right after Wrestlemania 18 another change took place.
In May 2002, WWF sold its name change as WWE in a "Get the F Out" campaign. A very crafty move by Vince in order to official signal the beginning of a new era.
And in this era, much like the Wrestlemania 18 match, it would serve to bring more than just wrestling and shocking angles.
It would serve to widen the scope of the business. To get a certain sense of entertainment shock value and to embrace now WWE's mainstream success and monopoly in the business.
After all, who would've thought that they would've seen in 2002 Eric Bischoff and Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. shaking hands with each other. And Bischoff himself was a man who was trying to beat Vince in the "entertainment" push of WCW before the company was bought from under him.
The transitioning from wrestling to Sports Entertainment also began the special emphasis and divide of Raw and Smackdown.
Earlier that year in March 2002, due to the high volume of wrestlers in the business, WWE created the brand extension, in which WWE was literally separating itself in two.
The brand extension killed two birds with one stone. It regained the "competition" interest aspect of fans seeing Raw and Smackdown as two entities of their own while providing more equal time for a large roster to shine.
However, since in the years later, more than half the brand would find their way outside of WWE, we will see later how the brand split if anything restricted certain talents rather than enhancing them.
We will also see how the brand extension slowly began to show the decline of Smackdown, which would be find itself being the "B", sometimes even "C" show.
But in all, these words come to mind when thinking about the year 2002.
Extension, expansion, and entertainment.
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