20 Years Since They Got The ‘F’ Out – From WWF To WWE

From WWF to WWE Get the F Out
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20 years ago today, the ‘revolutionary force in sports entertainment’ went through a very notable change in identity when the World Wrestling Federation officially rebranded itself World Wrestling Entertainment. At the time, and for many years to follow, it would be a very difficult change to accept. However, the change from WWF to WWE wasn’t the first time a name shift occurred.

From WWF to WWE – A Deep Dive

Starting at the Beginning

Before we get into the ‘how’ said name change came to be, in January of 1953, the Capitol Wrestling Corporation was born. This was a New York territory born under boxing promoter Roderick James “Jess” McMahon and his son, Vincent James McMahon. Inspired by his experience in boxing as well as another NY territory promoter, Toots Mondt, Jess would truly open the door for pro wrestling in Madison Square Garden. Though, Jess did not really get to enjoy much of it as just one year later, he passed away and Vince Sr inherited the promotion and began to work alongside Mondt. In 1979, Vince opted to rename CWC to the World Wide Wrestling Federation. 4 years later, when Vince Jr bought the company from his dad, the name was shortened to just World Wrestling Federation, just in time for the company’s two boom periods: the Hulkamania Era and Attitude Era.

But well before the World Wrestling Federation inherited said name, the World Wildlife Fund existed. Founded in 1961, it’s the world’s largest environmental organization. As one can probably guess from the acronyms, they can make out of ‘World Wrestling Federation’ and ‘World Wildlife Fund’. An issue would arise between the two over the years.

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Disputes With the World Wildlife Fund

As former WWE CEO, Linda McMahon, attested to the New York Times when interviewed about the case. She indicated that, in the ’80s, the World Wildlife Fund never disputed their trademarking of World Wrestling Federation; this changed in the early ’90s. While not mentioned, it was a likely consequence of the World Wrestling Federation’s worldwide growth from the late ’80s into the 90s.

In 1992, the World Wildlife Fund began to pursue legal action against the World Wrestling Federation for its use of the ‘WWF’ acronym, particularly its use in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The two would reach an agreement regarding this branding issue in 1994, as Jerry Lawler’s sexual abuse allegations wound up making any settlements difficult. The settlement was rather simple: “lower the WWF branding”. But, much like how the Ruthless Aggression documentary tries to paint this name change as “Vince wanting to reinvent the company”, Vince lied. He never truly followed up on the agreement.

The Eventual Change from WWF to WWE

World Wrestling Federation trademarked “wwf.com” as a web domain; this was a little too close to home for World Wildlife Fund’s own web domain “wwf.org”. Though years later, it would be changed to “worldwildlifefund.org”. The famous “scratch” logo only added to the problems as the previous logo was visually seen as “WF,” which wasn’t the case with the new logo. As such, British courts, where the case was being contested, sided with the World Wildlife Fund. This resulted in the World Wrestling Federation needing a name change as well as forcing them to censor any use of the “WWF scratch” logo. This is the reason why, for so many years, any archived footage featuring said logo was censored when re-released.

Following the loss of the case on May 5th, 2002, in a very cruel irony, the same day as the infamous Plane Ride From Hell, the World Wrestling Federation officially rebranded as World Wrestling Entertainment. The naming was actually a shortening of their corporate full name: “World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc.” A press release the day after would detail how, for many years, there was the consideration of dropping “Federation” from the company name. However, as history not told by the WWE indicates, they took too long and their hand was forced.

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In Closing

With the name change, WWE came up with the very heavy-handed campaign of “Get The F Out” to emphasize the name change. They had obvious reason to get as far away from WWF as soon as they could. Though fans were not pleased. Already a year away from the Attitude Era and with a failed WCW/ECW invasion story in-between, fans not privy to the court case that led to the name-change saw it as WWE just distancing itself further from its glory days. It would take many years for them to get out of the WWF’s shadow.

Sources:

  • https://www.itnwwe.com/wrestling/when-did-wwf-become-wwe/
  • https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/wrestling-loses-wwf-to-wildlife/
  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidbixenspan/2020/02/17/wwe-wwf-name-change-true-story-ruthless-aggression-wwe-network-documentary/?sh=3b71dced25a6
  • https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5b46f1fb2c94e0775e7ef55d
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/07/sports/sports-business-wildlife-fund-takes-down-wrestlers-in-name-game.html

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