As the month of May winds down in 2014, the WWE and the pro wrestling industry could be facing its worst crisis of this generation. The WWE Network isn’t reaching its benchmark for subscribers and the company fell well short of its expectations for its new television deal. These crises frightened investors into a massive sell-off that saw WWE CEO Vince McMahon lose $350 million in net worth in one day.
Time will tell if the WWE can survive this crisis. However, the WWE and pro wrestling have survived a number of other crises that threatened to ruin the industry. Take a look back at the top five pro wrestling crises in history.
5. WWF sexual harassment
The early 1990s was a terrible era for pro wrestling. Besides a weak product in the ring, Vince McMahon faced two major legal crises. The first involved a sexual harassment case. Tom Cole, who worked on the ring crew, claimed that several WWF employees sexually harassed him. Cole dropped his case after the men either resigned or were fired.
4. Wrestlers dying young
The early deaths of so many wrestlers has been a crisis in the industry for many decades. The reasons for these deaths have been varied, from in-ring accidents and drug abuse to murders and natural causes. Recent health care improvements, such as drug screening and concussion testing in the WWE, may help to abate this wrestling crisis.
3. Loss of the old territory system
Except for McMahon and those who work for him, the loss of the territory system was a major crisis for the wrestling industry in the 1980s. Today, there are probably even more independent promotions around the country than there ever were before. The difference is that very few promotions are profitable today for good wrestlers to develop there.
2. NWA federal antitrust investigation
Any fan who thinks Vince McMahon is corrupt has no idea what the pro wrestling industry was like in the 1950s. McMahon is a choirboy compared to the men who ran wrestling at that time. In fact, the federal government investigated the NWA for antitrust violations in 1956. But pro wrestling averted a crisis with a federal consent decree.
1. WWF steroid scandal
Vince McMahon and the WWF avoided the sex abuse crisis in the early 1990s by terminating the alleged offenders. But he had no such luck when the federal government took him to court for allegedly supplying steroids and other drugs to his wrestlers. However, Vince McMahon defied the odds and was found not guilty of all charges.
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