In Assael and Mooneyham's Sex, Lies and Headlocks, the authors address Vince McMahon's strategy of taking the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) national against the entrenched territory system. While quite a bit has been made about McMahon poaching talent from other promotions, the role of cable television arguably provided the catalyst to end the territory era of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Nor was McMahon the only one to see the value of the cable and satellite market, as evident in Ted Turner or World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) under Fritz Von Erich. Even Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) saw the value of cable through ESPN after a reported deal with CBS failed to materialize.
The move to a cable audience brought new challenges to the territories. For the first time, fans had easy access to multiple promotions and the slicker
production values of cable shows undermined the appeal of territory TV shows still
largely filmed in small studios. Promotions that relied too heavily on wrestlers past their prime would look bush league compared to promotions with a younger stable. As the WWF poached regional stars, these same stars could appear the next week on television locally. Thus, by the time the WWF ran local arena shows in a territory, fans were already conditioned to the product.
The bigger question for me still remains why didn't other promotions follow McMahon's lead. Most territory promoters, while distrustful of each other, benefited from a system that discouraged competition and probably assumed the WWF threat was a phase. Yet even by 1986-1987, most surviving territories must have seen the writing on the wall.