Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation (later, World Wrestling Entertainment) have been in and out of the spotlight for decades, as different personalities stepped into the ring for scripted bouts and false rivalries mixed with real athleticism.
What is easily forgotten, though, was his 1990 attempt to mirror his success in a new sport… bodybuilding.
The World Bodybuilding Federation was an effort to challenge the existing Mr. Olympia / Mrs. Olympia bodybuilding contests by introducing WWF-style marketing efforts. The participants were given six-figure salaries (unheard of for pro bodybuilders in 1990) as well as public personas that they were expected to maintain.
The problem was that most people just didn’t care. The allure of wrestling was centered around action. Many of its fans didn’t believe it was scripted, and even those who knew the truth enjoyed the ability of people in peak physical condition to absorb blows and keep fighting. Bodybuilding, on the other hand, is a more analytical activity. It requires rigorous training, but in the end it is an appearance and performance-driven sport, not a combative one. Even with sets and costuming, not as many viewers are as interested in seeing people pose as they are seeing people slamming villains with folding chairs.
McMahon launched a magazine, a television show and a bodybuilding supplement line to go along with the WBF. Within three years, however, the WBF had folded. The poor initial ratings had never grown, in part because of a steroid scandal which was attached to McMahon’s shows at the time. At least it lasted longer than its primary venue, the Trump Taj Mahal.
Question of the night: What is your favorite “judged” competition?