Since the WWE is in firm control of the wrestling industry, it maintains a monopoly over a wide range of different facets of the wrestling market. From arena bookings to DVD sales, WWE is far and away the undisputed king of the wrestling universe. However, the WWE tends to have the unlawful possession of something that should never belong to any sole person or corporation: history. Since the WWE is the world's largest publisher of wrestling based books and DVD's the interpretation of history is only going to go through what the WWE wants it too.
If someone has an interest in wrestling's past, the number one source of information is going to be the WWE. If someone wanted to learn about the rise and fall of WCW, the most common tool they are going to use are going to be DVDs and literature that was heavily influenced by the WWE. Even if you viewed information that was distributed outside of the WWE, you are bound to come across at least some of the information coming from the WWE. That is just the way it is.
A perfect example of the WWE controlling most of what the people think about wrestling history is Wrestlemania III. If you asked a group of wrestling fans what the attendance for that event was, a stark majority of them would say 93,000. Who could blame them? That is the number that has been regurgitated by the WWE over and over again, one that is practically ingrained into every single wrestling fans mind. Who would know that the man who promoted the event in the Detroit area indicated that 75,000 was closer to the attendance number, and that wrestling promoters for years have been inflating their attendance numbers? The WWE has consistently reminded it's fanbase that history says that 93,000 people were in the Pontiac Silverdome, and that is what the truth is.
More significant than a silly attendance record is that the great wrestlers of the past have really gotten the shaft from a historical perspective. Professional wrestling as we know it today has been around for at least 100 years, but how many casual fans could name 5 wrestlers who performed before 1950? A high percentage of fans only know about Lou Thesz, Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers and maybe a few others.
If we were all to construct lists of the top 10 wrestlers of all-time, someone's list could very well contain Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, the Undertaker, Sting, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Triple H, Kurt Angle and Dusty Rhodes were their ten, I don't think too many people would have that big of a problem with it. Obviously, a list of the greatest wrestlers EVER containing only men who have wrestled in the past 20 years is incredibly ignorant towards the older stars. A list of the greatest baseball players of all time containing only players that played from the 1980s on would be a terribly ill-informed list, and the same can be said for wrestlers.
The reason I drag the WWE into this problem is because it is the WWE's responsibility as the number one enterprise in wrestling to inform the public about this kind of lore. The WWE of course has the right to not cover anything not directly involving itself in its history, but would it kill the WWE to mention its predecessors in its DVDs or books?
What really got me thinking about this denial the WWE has was when I was viewing rivalries for the WWE's "Greatest Rivalries" DVD. Conspicuous by its absence was the failure to mention the longstanding rivalry between Joe Stecher and Ed "Strangler" Lewis. Lewis and Stecher were the two most prominent wrestlers of the 1910s and 20s. They likely wrestled each other more times than any two competitors in history, as their rivalry lasted around 30 years. How could that feud not crack the Greatest Rivalries DVD? I understand it not having to do with the WWE, but there were several feuds that didn't take place inside the 'E, so why not include something that took place more than 75 years ago? It isn't like it is direct competition with the WWE anymore. You wouldn't be able to include a match (although the WWE may have one in their video library, that thing is humongous), but they could roll out some historians and Mae Young (who trained with Lewis, believe it or not) to talk about the feud and show some pictures. Why not educate the fans about this incredible moment in wrestling history?
The WWE is obviously more committed to the recent past as opposed to the distant past, for understandable reasons, but they always seem to fail to credit the older stars in their books, their DVDs and their various lists on WWE.com. They only assess the barebones of the history and never delve into any great detail. How many times has the Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart backstage spat been talked about in the WWE's media platform? Comparatively, how many times has the real-life dispute between Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers been covered? How many WWE fans even know that Thesz and Rogers didn't like each other? My point exactly.
I will end with some suggestions for further research towards wrestling history. Since the WWE ignores most of what happened before 1963, and revises its own history, one most look beyond that realm for good information. ECW Press, a small Canadian book-publishing company, does a phenomenal job covering wrestling in an un-biased fashion. Wrestlecraps "Death to WCW" is a great look at the rise and fall of the company, and "Wrestlecraps Book of Lists", is both funny and informative. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, a Canadian duo has a fantastic collection of books highlighting individuals, including the best Heels, Faces, Tag Teams and Canadians in wrestling history. Former WWE employee and Sam Muchnick disciple Larry Matysik's "50 Greatest Wrestlers of All Time" is almost anti-WWE, if you are interested in that sort of thing. Storied wrestling columnist Mike Mooneyham's biography of Vince McMahon, titled "Sex, Lies and Headlocks" is a devilish book, including details the WWE will never show you.
History is very important, so don't let the WWE control what you think. Go out there and breathe the air every once and awhile and take in some information that may not be relevant to today, but is still essential to understanding professional wrestling.