Types of Major Events Covered
1. Content Distribution – namely what Network(s) broadcasting flagship shows
2. Competitive Actions – rival promotions opening, expanding and closing
3. Drug Related Events – Wrestler deaths, Benoit murders, Congressional Investigation
4. Major Financial Costs – non-core related investments (XFL, The World) with notable expenses
5. Developmental System Changes – consolidation of territories
6. Talent Related Events – brand extension, stars leaving, notable debuts
So, here's my incomplete list after one day of thinking about it. Some of these events aren't really that major (like MCW ending as a developmental league) but are part of a large narrative - WWE's increasingly smaller pool of trainers and evolving talent acquisition model.
• Jan 2000: Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko make a dramatic WWF debut as "The Radicalz"
• Sept 2000: RAW moved from USA Network to TNN (later rechristened Spike TV in 2003)
• October 2000: ECW on TNN is cancelled ending the promotion’s national television exposure
• Jan 2001: Royal Rumble receives 625k worldwide buys.
• Feb 2001: No Way Out PPV with HHH/Austin “Three Stages of Hell” netted 590k buys.
• March 2001: WCW closes down and quickly WWF purchases the company for around $7 million
• April 2001: Extreme Championship Wrestling collapses under financial burdens; WWF eventually purchases the assets in 2003
• May 2001: XFL, a 50-50 partnership with NBC, closes down costing WWF $69 million in losses
• June 2001: WWF ends relationship with MCW (Memphis Championship Wrestling) and reassigns the developmental wrestlers to Ohio’s HWA
• May 2001 to 2001: In a slapdash affair, WWF had ECW/WCW invaders battle the WWF stars
• July 2001: the July “WWF Invasion” PPV achieving over 775k buys, a modern record for the highest non-Wrestlemania PPV event.
• August 2001: Summer Slam receives 565k buys
WM: 1,040 buys
• Jan 2002: Royal Rumble event receives 670k worldwide buys.
• Feb 2002: The “No Way Out” PPV with the nWo return (including Hulk Hogan) hits 575k worldwide buys.
• March 2002: Brock "The Next Big Thing" Lesnar debuts on the night after WM alongside Paul Heyman
• March 2002: WWF embarks on “brand extension” separating the roster into RAW and Smackdown! wrestlers for their two flagship television programs
• April 2002: Randy Orton debuts on Smackdown! against Hardcore Holly
• May 2002: NWA Total Nonstop Action debuts as a weekly PPV program envisioned by co-founder Jerry Jarrett
• June 2002: Future Megastar John Cena debuts in a significant segment against Kurt Angle.
• June 2002: With British courts upholding a lawsuit between WWF and World Wildlife Foundation, WWF abandons it's "WWF" logo and moves to become WWE along with their "Get the F out" campaign.
• July 2002: A re-masked Rey Mysterio Jr. debuts in the WWE.
• July 2002: WWF ceases relationship with Cincinnati’s HWA (Heartland Wrestling Association) and moves remaining developmental talent to OVW
Wrestlemania: 840k buys
• Jan 2003: Royal Rumble receives 585k worldwide buys.
• Feb 2003: Rematch of WM8 Rock/Hogan match at No Way Out hits 450k buys.
• WWE closes “The World” nightclub in Times Square costing WWE $35 million in losses
• Heat moves from MTV network to Spike TV
• March 2003: Steve Austin loses in his final defacto retirement wrestling match against the Rock at Wrestlemania and Brock Lesnar nearly breaks his neck in his win over Kurt Angle at a Wrestlemania that received a disappointingly low 560k worldwide buys.
• June 2003: Beginning with Bad Blood, non-core WWE PPVs move to brand exclusivity
• June 2003: WWE purchases the remaining ECW assets (video library) for $1.3 million
• June 2003: A frustrated Hulk Hogan quits WWF over poor payoffs
Wrestlemania: 560k buys
• Jan 2004: Royal Rumble receives 582k worldwide buys.
• March 2004: Following a WM match against also-departing Bill Goldberg (with soon to leave again guest referee Steve Austin), Brock Lesnar leaves the WWE to pursue a career in the NFL and later becomes entangled in a lawsuit over his non-compete clause which is settled two years later. The Rock also has his final major pro-wrestling match for several years in a handicap Rock N Sock vs Evolution match.
• June 2004: John Laurinaitis assumes mantel of WWE's Vice President, Talent Relations (taking over for Jim Ross)
Wrestlemania: 886k buys
• Jan 2005: Spike TV follows RAW with the UFC’s new show, a final attempt to cultivate interest in MMA, called “The Ultimate Fighter”. By the following year, UFC would overtake the WWE in PPV revenue.
• Jan 2005: Royal Rumble receives 564k buys.
• June 2005: Unique atmosphere at ‘ECW One Night Stand PPV’ formulates groundwork and interest for revival of ECW brand
• August 2005: Summerslam receives 634k worldwide buys.
• Sept 2005: New WWE Developmental Territory Deep South Wrestling is established in GA
• Sept 2005: Viacomm’s UPN network moves Smackdown! from Thursday to Friday night (rechristening the show, “Friday Night Smackdown!”) as WWE prepared for RAW to return to rival NBCUniversal’s USA network
• October 2005: WWE signs NBCUniversal deal and Monday Night RAW returns to the USA network; Heat is not picked up in the US and becomes a web-streamed show
• Nov 2005: Eddie Guerrero dies in a Minneapolis Hotel room of heart failure; eight days later Vince McMahon informed the talent during a European tour that WWE was beginning a new drug testing program which included heart exams.
Wrestlemania: 983k buys
• Jan 2006: UPN renews Smackdown! for two years
• Feb 2006: WWE announces and formally implements their “Substance Abuse and Drug Testing Policy”
• March 2006: WWE returned to NBC prime-time with Saturday Night’s Main Event
• June 2006: WWE revives the ECW brand as a new weekly show on Sci Fi
• August 2006: Kurt Angle is granted a release from WWE; debuts with TNA in October ‘06
• August 2006: CM Punk debuts on the ECW brand
• Sept 2006: Smackdown changes network following the merger of UPN and the WB into the CW
• December 2006: Disastrous December to Dismember marks a lowpoint for WWE PPV events with the lowest domestic buys in ages and leads to Paul Heyman departure from the WWE
• UFC surpasses WWE in PPV revenue with a monster year ($222 million) and record 5.2 million domestic PPV buys
Wrestlemania: 958k buys
• April 2007: WWE ends the two-year relationship with developmental territory DSW in McDonough, GA
• April 2007: WWE Backlash marks the end of the branded PPV concept
• April 2007: Battle of the Billionaires which cost Vince McMahon his hair drives a record-high Wrestlemania
• May 2007: WWE promotes Stephanie McMahon Levesque to Executive Vice President, Talent and Creative Writing (overseeing creative writing process for all TV and PPVs while and managing the talent relations department.)
• June 2007: Chris Benoit murders his wife and child before committing Suicide
• June 2007: WWE establishes Florida Championship Wrestling (later NXT Wrestling) in Tampa as a developmental territory
• August 2007: Reporting from an Albany District Attorney probe into Internet drug sales from “Signature Pharmacies” in Florida reveal a host of prominent WWE stars allegedly receiving shipments including Randy Orton, Charlie Haas, Chris Masters, Batista, Sylvan Grenier, Edge, Booker T, Shane Helms, Mike “Simon Dean” Bucci, Ken Kennedy, William Regal, Santino Marella, Umaga, John Morrison, Funaki, Chavo Guerrero Jr and deceased wrestlers Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero leading to survival suspensions for those with purchases dated after the WWE’s latest Drug Testing policy was in effect.
• October 2007: John Cena tears his pec muscle while hip-tossing Ken Kennedy.
Wrestlemania: 1,188k buys
• Jan 2008: SmackDown (without the exclaimation point) and RAW began broadcasting in HD
• Jan 2008: John Cena makes a surprise return at the Royal Rumble (533k worldwide buys)
• Feb 2008: WWE ends the eight-year relationship with developmental territory OVW in Louisville, KY and moves the remaining developmental talent to FCW in Tampa
• March 2008: An emotional highpoint as Ric Flair retires after a Wrestlemania match against Shawn Michaels
• June 2008: All of WWE’s broadcast programming officially becomes TV-PG (though it was noted that Smackdown! always was TV-PG)
• August 2008: John Cena suffers a herniated disc in his neck and undergoes surgery
• October 2008: Smackdown! moved from CW to MyNetworkTV while remaining on Friday nights. CW chose to end the programming as they felt it did not fit with their core audience target of 18-34 year old women.
• November 2008: John Cena returns to action against Chris Jericho at Survivor Series
Wrestlemania: 1,058 buys
• January 2009: Congressman Henry Waxman’s office releases his letter to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy Director summarizes the Committee’s investigation into steroid use in professional wrestling
• Sept 2009: Linda McMahon announces her candidacy for CT US Senator
• Oct 2009: Shane McMahon, then EVP of Global Media, announces his resignation effective 1/1/10 which essentially assures that his sister Stephanie and husband Triple H will define the post-Vince McMahon incarnation
Wrestlemania: 960 buys
• Feb 2010: “Series Finale” ECW television show ends signaling the eclipse of the ECW brand; the TV show on Sci Fi is replaced with NXT which the network broadcasts until Sept 2010
• March 2010: Shawn Michaels ends an epic WWE career after losing a Career vs Streak match to the Undertaker
• June 2010: Nexus debuts by storming the ring and destroying the RAW set
• Sept 2010: Linda McMahon loses the Senate election in CT despite outspending her opponent greatly (spending nearly $50 million of her own money and refusing campaign donations from "special interests")
• October 2010: Smackdown! again changed networks when it transitioned to the NBCUniversal channel SyFy, along with a $10 million increase in rights fee above the MyNetworkTV deal.
Wrestlemania: 885k buys
• April 2011: Company officially rebrands from “World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.” to “WWE, Inc.”
• April 2011: Rock returns to WWE as the “guest host” for Wrestlemania, announcing he will challenge Cena the following year
Wrestlemania: 1,059 buys
• June 2011: On RAW, CM Punk cuts a memorable promo about his experience in the WWE which stirs uncertainty about his contract status and leads to a classic match against John Cena at Money in the Bank where Punk wins the WWE Title starting the longest modern historic title reign in 25 years
• WWE records $27 million in film impairment charges as a result of division underperformance
• Rock headlines Wrestlemania in a match against John Cena
• Brock Lesnar returns to WWE for two PPV matches – against John Cena and Triple H
• Sept 2012: Jerry Lawler survives an on-air heart attack during RAW
• Sept 2012: John Cena's arm injury prevents him from competing in the Hell in the Cell PPV
• Nov 2012: John Cena returns at Survivor Series to lose a three-way with CM Punk and Ryback
• Nov 2012: Linda McMahon losses Senate election in CT again outspending her opponent ($14.1 million to $5.6 this time).
Wrestlemania: 1,217 buys