WWE: Animated, WWE Animation Inc., or just WWE:A, is a subsidiary of WWE Inc. Formerly WWF: Animation Inc., Animated can either refer to The Animation Division, which has been around since 1961, or the show WWE: Animated itself, which has existed since 2001. The Animation division of WWE is the first fiction wrestling body to exist, and as such, holds a unique and colorful history.
In January of 1961, several NWA officials met with the heads of Warner Bros. and Walt Disney. The idea was to make a money fight between two icons who were destined to clash anyway. Each head agreed to it, and designated Jess McMahon to head the committee overseeing the operation. Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny decided to wrestle Mickey Mouse. The plan was to have them perform a boxing match for a charity supporting emerging third world nations. However, Bugs, during his boxing training, tackled his trainer to the ground. The boxer found his grappling to be much more adept than his boxing. After noticing the same from Mickey, one official told reporters, "Toons are natural born grapplers it seems." The match happened on October 15th, 1961. Madison Square Garden was sold out, and 70,236 fans sat down to watch a wrestling match between Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Bugs would win the match, and Walt Disney would say afterwards, "This could be a new thing if done correctly. I have full faith in it."
In December of 1961, The NWA officially signed Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse as wrestlers. Daffy Duck, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Porky Pig, Goofy Goof, Droopy, Tasmanian Devil, Big Bad Pete, and several other high profile WB and Disney characters followed suit. Jess was placed in charge of them, due to his success in making the initial event. The cartoons were stationed in Hollywood, California, near their animation studios. The Ink Division, as it was called then, sold out Californian events weekly. The territory was hard for McMahon & Toots Mondt to handle due to it being across the nation from their northeast territories. This went on for a year, until Vince Sr. had the territory packed up and moved to New York. Outrage from several NWA officials caused small rifts in Vince Sr.'s and NWA's relationship. In 1963, Capitol Wrestling Corporation officially split from The NWA and became The World Wide Wrestling Federation. However, The Ink Division was still property of NWA.
More Hanna-Barbera toons and others (Fred Flintstone, George Jetson, Pink Panther, Mr. Magoo, Rocky & Bullwinkle) came into the division, mordernizing it. The first Fiction Wrestling matches were somewhat goofy, good guy vs. bad guy stories that always ended in the faces winning. The NWA saw that it gave a great show and had the fans go home happy. However, many saw that as just an extension of their cartoons, where the good guy always wins. Vince Sr. had plans to change this, but his ability to do so was now gone due to his split.
In March 1965, a tournament was held to determine a Champion of The NWA Ink Division. On March 24, 1965, Johnny Quest, a relatively unknown and undebuted cartoon, won the tournament and became The first fiction wrestler to win a Title as he was crowned the first NWA Ink Champion. Although this was NWA, WWE still recognizes Johnny Quest as the first Toon Champion. He would lose The Title to Daffy Duck, who, due to influence by Vince Sr., became the template for the modern heel. Daffy stopped doing the old goofy cartoonist antics his heel contemporaries did and began modeling himself after Buddy Rogers, The first WWWF Champion. As Daffy said, "The only difference between me and Buddy Rogers is the black feathers and the beak." Daffy would hold The Gold for a year, much to the fans hatred, but that made them come back later to see who could finally defeat Daffy. In 1966, several new Titles were created, including a Duos Title that was won by first Champions Yogi Bear & BooBoo Bear. A Dame's Championship, won first by Penelope Pitstop, introduced in July of 1966. In January of 1967, Bugs Bunny, Daffy's perpetual Rival, would end Daffy's reign and would be Toon Champion during the division's most interesting battle.
Move to WWWF
In January 1967, WWWF owner Vince McMahon Sr. asked for his Division back. He had original rights to it since 1961, and wanted what he claimed was rightfully his. This battle was planned since July of 1966, and Vince McMahon recruited Walt Disney on his side as a negotiator. However, due to his untimely death in December of 1966, Vince was forced to go it alone, as his partner Toots Mondt was no longer a shareholder. In Feburary, McMahon sued for his division back, but NWA's larger and more established body was able to muscle WWWF around and refuse to hand over the division. However, in March, courts immediately ruled that it is up to the animation companies where there stars officially go (before independent contracts). The decision, however, was given to the Champion Bugs Bunny. An expert calm thinker, Bugs was given three months to make a decision. Stay with the larger, more stable group, or take a chance with the rogue company. On June 7, 1967, Bugs Bunny walked into Madison Square Garden, and announced to the world that The Ink Division was signing to The WWWF. Taking with them all the Titles and superstars. The Ink Division would be renamed The Animation Division, and each Title was renamed. The Dame's Title was now The Toon Women's Championship; The Duo Title was now The Toon Tag Team Championships; The Ink Championship was now The Toon Championship. Foundations were rocky, but once settled, The Animation Division became a huge draw.
In 1967, a new company came to being called Cartoon Wrestling Federation, The CWF. It was the first company exclusively for cartoons and became The Animation Division's chief northeast rival. In March of 1970, Fred Flintstone left with The Toon Title, due to money negotiations going south. He stayed missing from WWWF for more than a year, finally returning when a deal could be made.
In The 70s, a period of comic book characters becoming the top draws began to take form. The Flash became a top draw during this period; his feuds with longtime rival Gorilla Grodd are legendary. Also happening in this era was one of fiction's earliest stables, Mystery Inc. Daphne Blake would win several Women's Titles and feud with Alexandra of Josie & The Pussycats. Fred Jones would be Toon Champion for two years, it's longest reign. Fat Albert became The first African American character to win a World Title, and also perfected the face-heel turn in 1976. Master Roshi became the first Anime World Champion in 1977, defeating Fat Albert.
In April of 1979, a tournament to crown the Inaugural Toon Intercontinental Champion was held in Mexico City, Mexico. At the end of it, Shaggy Rogers would become the first Toon Intercontinental Champion and go on to hold the title for 129 days before dropping it to Sealab 2020 Captain Michael Murphy in the promotion's first Submission match.
As the 80s rolled around, animation characters started to become the stars again. The Golden Age, kicked off by Hulk Hogan winning The WWF Championship in 1984, was also aided by Commander Duke of The G.I. Joes defeating COBRA Commander for The toon Championship that same month. The Rock 'n Wrestling Connection helped bring WWF into the forefront of pop culture, and the cartoons helped with that. Stars such as Calvin & Hobbes, Commander Duke, Spider-Man, He-Man, Lion-O, Bravestarr, and more helped turn The Animation Division into a major hotspot in the 80s. The Women's Title was discontinued in 1986 due to lack of competition. It would be revived later in 1992.
In 1985, Wrestlemania debuted, the main event of The Animation Division being Duke defending his Title against Skeletor. In 1987, The Survivor Series debuted, and The Survivor Series match featured The Heroes vs. Villains match. The following year, The Royal Rumble premiered, and Bravestarr would be the first Rumble winner for The Toons.
By 1989, the cartoons were slowly dying out as a sensation from the east arose into greater fashion. The Animes came in 1987, and Prince Vegeta would become The second Anime World Champion in the company. Holding it for a year, he would help usher in a new era for the business as animes became more involved in the companies.
In 1990, Son Goku would debut again (he originally debuted in 1984, but left in 1986 for training), and ended Vegeta's year long reign. WWE found money in the humble anime hero and began to push him to new heights, putting him on par with Hulk Hogan. Goku would become WWE: Animated's top revered legend.
In 1992, The Women's Title was brought back and won by She-Ra after a tournament during The Wrestlemania VIII preshow.
New Generation; Monday Night Wars
By 1994, several of the Superstar Division's stars left for WCW, propmting many main eventers in the Animation Division to follow suit and join WCW's fledgling Cartoon Division. Darkseid's jump was the most infamous. Scheduled for a push to a World Title in 1996, he was promised a World Title reign almost immediately if he jumped ship. However, his contract said he couldn't jump. Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff pushed that aside and prepared an army of lawyers. Darkseid made the switch on February 13, 1995. He was on a taped RAW that night, and appeared on a live Nitro that same night, holding up The Toon Intercontinental Championship and smashing it in the ring. WCW's Cartoon Division heads later apologized for the display of dirtiness.
Wrestlemania X was the first Wrestlemania to use mass media to hype up the main event of Mario vs. Sonic for The Toon Championship. The Nintendo vs. Sega Saga was put into the wrestling ring, and games and such were used to advertise. One such was Super Mario World-Wrestlemania Edition, and Sonic The Hedgehog-Wrestlemania Edition. Each game included a video of their careers in the cartridges and a poster signed by each of them, depending on the game you chose. This event would help influence PPVs to come.
The New Generation also saw anime's full force in the business, as well as The Disney Renaissance. Hercules and Yusuke Yurameshi became household names as they all fought against top face Goku. The Goku and Vegeta rivalry, heralded as one of the finest in-show rivalries to ever go into a wrestling ring, became the precursor to top face stable, The Z Warriors. They're feud with The heel Anime Dynasty, led by Yurameshi, helped WWF in a low point of their existence.
WCW was taking viewers from WWE, and everything seemed bad for The Company. The Animation Division was even experiencing the same rut of Goku winning all the time, similar to Hogan's constant winning in The 80s. This would give way to a controversial new revolution.
In 1996, the radical idea of Mario becoming a heel was astounding to many. The hero of the Mushroom Kingdom becoming a villain interested and intrigued audiences. Broly's reign of destruction was also a major thing in 1995-1997 that interested many. 1997 is regarded as the most interesting year for The Animation Division. "You had Goku in his prime sharing a ring with Ash Ketchum...that's a weird thing..." WWE Alumni Daffy Duck said. 1996 saw young kids such as Ash Ketchum, Gary Oak, TJ Dettweiller, Wolfgang, Arnold & Gerald' Superboy, and more making their debuts alongside stars such as Goku, Hercules, Vegeta, Mario, Superman, Batman, and the like.
Bart Simpson returned in April of 1997 and the next month brought with him the classics Dennis the Menace (US) & Dennis the Menace (UK). These three became outlaw pranksters and troublemakers. With the Menaces' penchant for mischief and Bart's ability to cause massive collateral damage, these three became fan favorites and were direct causes for The Attitude Era. TJ Dettweiller debuted in November of 1996, an unknown, but quickly rose up due to his affiliations with Bart & The Menaces. However, he'd leave the group called The Pranksters in July as he battled with Commissioner Duke. A precursor to The McMahon-Austin rivalry, Dettweiller would harass Duke to no end while garnering fan love and racking up wins. Teaming with Austin in November, the two would harass both Duke and Vince McMahon Jr. to be ends, until they won their 1998 Royal Rumbles.
In August of 1997, Mario would have Luigi fling a fireball in Goku's face, allowing him to pick up The Toon Championship. Factoring it in with The Bullies, a stable founded as a nuisance group by Roger Klotz in 1995, becoming more aggressive under new leader Wolfgang, and new guys becoming more and more involved in the product, the groundwork was set.
By 1998, TJ Dettweiler would win The World Title from Mario and officially usher in The Attitude Era. The new edgy and shock value reliable company began to beat WCW in the ratings. The older stars began to slowly retire, until the last of the old guard, Goku, officially retired at Wrestlemania 2000. New stars came in, and TJ was a major draw, even without a Title. However, WWE found their bread and butter of the era as Ash Ketchum began to feud with Tai Kamiya. Seeing something similar to The Mario vs. Sonic rivalry from Wrestlemania X, the Pokemon-Digimon Wars were started. These wars were a staple of the era and raged throughout the four year era.
The Hardcore Championship, founded in 1997 by first Champion Piccolo, became a focal point as new faces fought for it. Crash Bandicoot, Conker, Izzy, Superboy, and more would hold this Title. In 2000, The 24/7 Rule was enacted, enabling any and all people to fight for the Title at any moment of time anywhere. This would create short reigns (the shortest lasting nine seconds, which belongs to Charlie Brown) but interesting and classic moments. The Attitude Era ended when WCW was announced as bought by WWE, signaling an end to The Monday Night Wars.
Post-Attitude Era; Ruthless Aggression; Recent Developments
By 2001, WCW was bought out, along with ECW, bringing the companies under The WWE banner. The Invasion of Cartoon and Blood & Ink Division stars was a short feud which was derided as an insult to both divisions. However, the divisions put on a great show that saw Digi-X absorb all of their Titles into The Animation Division Titles. Later in 2001, The first WWE: Animated show debuted, and Miss Finster was announced as Commissioner, and later General Manager.
In 2002, the Animated roster was not subject to The Brand Extension, but was almost put on Animated exclusively. Seeing this as a breach of the original agreement, Brock Lesnar and newcomer Naruto Uzumaki fought. Uzumaki pulled the upset, and that caused a meteoric rise to his own career.
In 2003, Vince McMahon created Toonamania, a parallel to Wrestlemania in that it was exclusively for The cartoon wrestlers. However, due to low buyrates and low ratings, the show was erased and all of the results of the show were reversed, including Naruto defeating Undertaker's undefeated streak. Starting in 2003 following Miss Finster's firing was The World Heavyweight Champion being General Manager.This gave way to Heel Triple H as GM, which caused grief for many of the stars on Animated. Random firings and torment gave way to rivalries such as Poke-X vs. Evolution and Naruto vs. Triple H. Naruto became the first to hold WWE superstar gold as he defeated Triple H on Smackdown, but would drop it back to Triple H the next night on Animated. Takato would do the same a month later to Triple H, defeating him on Animated but losing it back to him that same night. Triple H would be replaced by Batista after Wrestlemania 21, and he would abdicate, but would install Mickey Mouse as General Manager.
2005 also saw Henry Wong become The new face of Animated as he, John Cena, and Dave Batista won World Titles at Wrestlemania 21. He has been called Animated's "Coolest Face", and would gain 8 World Title wins from 2005-2009.
WWE would change to an HD format for its shows, changing its sets to new HD sets. WWE: Animated would follow suit, but would retain the circular Titantron to this day, giving it a unique feel,
In 2008, Animated had a civil war which saw Mickey, who had went rogue, fight Henry Wong. The two sides feuded until No Mercy, when Henry Wong would win and Mickey was ejected as GM. Goku would return to the show as General Manager until mid-2009, when Tsunade and Sarutobi became GMs.
Animated has been recently reaching out to its fellow companies for shows and such. The Clash of the Titans, one show, was hosted by WWE after a long isolation period and was deemed a success. It has won several FWAs for its stars has held a successful Supershow with PCUW.
Wrestlemania - Late March/ Early April
Pride and Glory - Late April/ Early May
Fallout/ East vs. West- June
N/A - July
Summerslam - August
Night of Champions - September
Bragging Rights - October
Survivor Series - November
N/A - December
Royal Rumble - January
X-Roads - February