In 1980, the son of Vincent J. McMahon, Vincent K. McMahon, founded Titan Sports, Inc. and in 1982 purchased Capitol Sports from his father and associates (Monsoon and Skaaland were given lifetime employment with WWF, and all three minority holders received cash payments). After discovering at age 12 that the wrestling promoter was his father, Vince became steadily involved in his father's wrestling business until the latter was ready to retire. The elder McMahon had already established the northeastern territory as one of the most vibrant members of the NWA by recognizing that pro wrestling was more about entertainment than sport. Against his father's wishes, McMahon began an expansion process that would fundamentally change the sport, and place both the WWF - and his own life - in jeopardy.
The NWA was not the only wrestling outfit in operation; the American Wrestling Association (AWA) had long ago ceased being an official NWA member, and controlled the US Northern Midwest. But in neither instance did the defecting member attempt to undermine, and destroy, the territory system that had been the foundation of the industry.
The first step McMahon's attempt to go national was to sign AWA superstar Hulk Hogan, who, due to his appearance in Rocky III had a national recognition that few other wrestlers could manage. To play Hogan's nemesis, he signed North Carolina badboy Roddy Piper, and also Jesse Ventura (although Ventura never wrestled in the WWF at that point due to the lung disorder that caused his retirement). It has long been a point of contention whether McMahon could have gone national without Hogan's presence, or vice versa.
Other promoters were furious when McMahon began syndicating WWF television shows to television stations across the United States, in areas outside of the WWF's traditional Northeastern stronghold. McMahon also began selling videotapes of WWF events outside the Northeast through his Coliseum Video distribution company. He effectively broke the unwritten law of regionalism around which the entire industry had been based. To make matters worse, McMahon would use the income generated by advertising, television deals, and tape sales to poach talent from rival promoters. Wrestling promoters nationwide were now in direct competition with the WWF. The WWF bought off talent all around Canada and U.S. including the likes of the British Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation who were based with Stampede Wrestling. Eventually in the 1980s, WWF was able to sign Dusty Rhodes who had been a legend during the regional territory days.
According to several reports, Vince Sr. warned his son: "Vinny, what are you doing? You'll wind up at the bottom of a river." In spite of such warnings, the younger McMahon had an even bolder ambition: the WWF would tour nationally. However, such a venture required huge capital investment; one that placed the WWF on the verge of financial collapse.
The future of not just McMahon's experiment, but also the WWF, the NWA, and the whole industry came down to the success or failure of McMahon's groundbreaking sports entertainment concept, WrestleMania. WrestleMania was a pay-per-view extravaganza (most areas of the country saw WrestleMania available on Closed-circuit television) that McMahon marketed as being the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.
The concept of a wrestling super card was nothing new in North America; the NWA had been running Starrcade a few years prior to WrestleMania, and even the elder McMahon had marketed large Shea Stadium cards viewable in closed circuit locations. However, McMahon wanted to take the WWF to the mainstream, targeting the public who were not regular wrestling fans. He drew the interest of the mainstream media by inviting celebrities such as Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper to participate in the event. MTV, in particular, featured a great deal of WWF coverage and programming at this time, in what was termed the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection.
There were attempts in the Deep South to keep the legacy of the regional territory system alive. Several regional territories in the Deep South merged together to form Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). Starrcade and The Great American Bash were the Jim Crockett Promotions version of WrestleMania. However JCP had trouble competing against the WWF. JCP even ran a few shows outside its regional base. The promotion was sold off becoming WCW, which ended up becoming the main competition for the WWF until 2001.