“He was one of the last of the great old-school promoters—a little wacky, colorful, and he knew how to put a butt in the seat.”

-Chuck Morris, concert promoter
 6/21/03, Denver Post

As a key regional promoter who aided the WWF’s expansion efforts during the mid to late 80s, and later a major figure in the hierarchy of World Championship Wrestling, Zane Bresloff was a serious power broker from the moment he entered the wrestling business.

Below, I will lay out why he is worthy of consideration as a non-wrestler candidate in future balloting for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) Hall of Fame.

Coming from a professional background that involved promoting concerts and sporting events, Zane Bresloff brought to wrestling many promotional concepts that, at the time of their introduction, were brand new within the industry, and in some cases, counter to what promoters had come to believe led to success when trying to sell tickets. Bresloff also came equipped with a number of connections, including to arenas:

“For some reason, the Denver Coliseum wouldn’t give us dates. Zane had been calling persistently and saying he wanted to work or us as a promoter. I was always very polite, but I said there was nothing available. When we were locking in close-circuit facilities for Wrestlemania I, we couldn’t get a building in Denver. We were all over the United States, but it was such a black eye that we couldn’t get a building in Denver. Zane called with one of his many calls saying he would like an opportunity. I said, `Right in your home town they won’t give us a date.’ He said, `You want a date? You’re there.’ Five minutes later, he called back and said, `You’re in the building.’ That was the beginning of him working for us.’ 

-Ed Cohen, a key figure in the live event division of the WWF/E, 1982-2005 
6/26/03, Sun-Sentinel 

In the years afterward, he became a permanent fixture of the WWF’s promotional efforts in several major markets. During his eight years with the company, spanning 1985 to 1993, he was the point man in major midwestern cities like Chicago, Milwaukee & Minneapolis, and on the west coast, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland & Seattle. Dave Meltzer notes in his obituary for Bresloff that “He was one of several local promoters the company used during its first expansion, and his cities consistently did well above what was average for the company during its first growth period… He is also said to have been responsible for many of the promotional contacts the company made overseas.”

Bresloff was the local promoter for four WrestleManias, including WrestleMania VII in 1991, which at the time was the largest gate in the history of California ($720,235), and WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987, the first million-dollar live gate in history ($1,599,000)

“Vince McMahon thought so highly of Bresloff as a promoter that his original plan was that after Shane finished college, he was going to be sent to Denver to work under Zane and learn first-hand the promotion of wrestling.  It ended up falling through, and Bresloff was happy it didn’t happen, because his information network ran deep across wrestling, including people that Vince didn’t want his employees associating with.”

-Dave Meltzer
6/29/03, Wrestling Observer Newsletter 

When Bresloff left the WWF for WCW in 1994, to take over full control of local promotion operations, he joined a company whose house show business had been dire for almost the entirety of its existence. Consider that in the three-year period before he joined the company,  WCW had failed to generate a single $100,000 gate, or that across the final four months of 1993, the company averaged 560 paying fans per event.

By 1997, the company’s arena business had been completely transformed, and not only because the New World Order was a super hot act. Much of the transformation was being driven by Bresloff, and the efforts of his company, Awesome Promotions. Two major factors were:

  • A) After the debut of Nitro in 1995, the company put a greater emphasis on on-sale dates for first-day ticket buyers, a concept Bresloff took from the music industry and transferred to wrestling. It became an extremely successful tactic.

“The on-sale promotion day changed pro wrestling from something where most of the tickets were purchased late in the game, and even at the door, to where the vast majority of tickets were purchased the day they were put on sale, often two months before the show ever took place… During the heyday of Nitro, particularly the first time the event would come to a new market, tickets would sellout in less than an hour.”

-Dave Meltzer
6/29/03, Wrestling Observer Newsletter 


  • B) WCW raised ticket prices on its events, and in some markets significantly. Bresloff had theorized that if the company’s live events were to be perceived as major league, a higher price figure would have to be attached to them. After making this change in early 1997, the company not only had its best year in terms of gate revenue, but also the number of tickets sold cumulatively.

WCW went from averaging 3,894 paying fans per event (TV, PPV & house shows), and a gate average of $49,160 in 1996, to 6,045 paying fans and a gate average of $100,603 in 1997.

Things would only escalate in 1998 and early 1999, with the company drawing multiple gates nearly in excess of $1,000,000, a first for an American, non-WWF company. This included a five-week span from December 7th, 1998 to January 4th, 1999 where the company drew four of the five largest gates in its history: Starrcade in Washington, DC on 12/27 ($584,236), Nitro at the Astrodome on 12/7 ($755,995), Nitro at the TWA Dome in St. Louis on 12/21 ($914,389) and Nitro at the Georgia Dome on 1/4/99 ($930,735).

The company averaged 8,093 paying fans per event for the year, and a gate average of $173,184. Several WCW events also set—at the time they occurred—city gate records for pro wrestling in markets, including:

  • Atlanta (7/6/98 Nitro, $906,330)
  • Baltimore (6/14/98 Great American Bash, $263,315)
  • Boston (1/31/98 Nitro, $325,154)
  • Houston (12/7/98 Nitro, $755,995)
  • Minneapolis (10/19/98 Nitro, $379,326)
  • New Orleans (1/19/98 Nitro, $354,635)
  • Philadelphia (6/18/98 Thunder, $426,105)
  • Phoenix (10/26/98 Nitro, $315,615)
  • San Francisco (2/22/98 SuperBrawl, $310,974)
  • St. Louis (12/21/98 Nitro, $914,389)
  • Washington/Landover (12/27/98 Starrcade, $584,236)

His influence on the company’s direction was significant, as he had a close relationship with not only Hulk Hogan, who considered him a close friend and confidant, but also Eric Bischoff.

“On a business level, he had a lot of great ideas. Quite honestly, and unfortunately, a lot of great things and smart things he did were not always recognized because we were all moving at 110 miles per hour. On a personal level, when (WCW) was rolling, I think we talked no less than 10 times a day. Most of those calls were supportive and giving me reassurance. He had very, very good instincts. Often times when I wanted to try something or do something, I would use Zane as a sounding board because I could trust him and know he was not telling me just what I wanted to hear. If I threw something out that was a dumb idea, he was the first one to step forward and tell me it was a dumb idea.”

-Eric Bischoff
6/26/03, Sun-Sentinel 

“Bresloff had every major Bischoff decision bounced off him, and his influence was strong in particular when it came to making changes in Nitro and signing people like Randy Savage and Roddy Piper and the big 1996 and 1997 offers to Bret Hart, that Bresloff strongly pushed for. He was instrumental in Bischoff going all out to get Dennis Rodman, who WWF was planning on using at Wrestlemania in 1997 to try and give a mainstream rub to Goldust, and signing him to a multi-million dollar deal, which resulted in huge mainstream publicity and some of the company’s most successful shows… He was also a major force in getting the cruiserweight division off the ground, after seeing a tape of the second Super J Cup, and pushing the idea to Bischoff… Bresloff and Flair were the people most responsible for talking Hogan, who had quietly started working on starting his own promotion at the time, into considering WCW. According to Jimmy Hart, who was Hogan’s closest adviser, Bresloff and Flair talked Bischoff into offering Hogan a deal he couldn’t refuse, which included 25% of the company’s PPV gross on shows he was involved with, saying Hogan would turn the company around.”

-Dave Meltzer 
6/29/03, Wrestling Observer Newsletter 

“I’ve never worked with anyone in wrestling like him. There are plenty of hard workers, but nobody was the bulldog he was as far as getting things accomplished. He had influence on almost every major decision in WCW, because Eric ran everything past him… I always say publicly I owe my career to Eric Bischoff. But privately, I know it was Zane Bresloff who convinced Eric to put me on Nitro. It had to be”

-Mike Tenay
6/29/03, Wrestling Observer Newsletter 

Within wrestling, he helped pioneer or normalize several promotional tactics. Using his connections from promoting music, during his time with the WWF & WCW, he partnered with major local radio stations and got them to book wrestlers as guests, while also utilizing ticket-based contests and giveaways to generate buzz around events.

During the Nitro years, he was a major proponent of running non-traditional wrestling venues, like Spring Break-Out in Panama City, the Bash on Huntington Beach and Nitro at Mall in America and various college campuses. Near the end of his WWF tenure, and introduced in conjunction with WrestleMania X, he came up with the idea for commemorative chairs that fans could take home, now a staple of wrestling ticket packages. It was a way of “rewarding” the highest-paying ticket buyers while subtly adding cost to the most expensive seats offered.

Bresloff passed away in June 2003 at the age of 57. To date, he has never been on the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot. But that should change. I believe Bresloff’s career warrants further inspection and consideration, and that inclusion on the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot starting in 2023 will give people more of a reason to consider a man who had a deeply fascinating career, inside and outside of wrestling.

Note: Arena business cited in this article is data I’ve compiled within this spreadsheet