OVW was founded by Danny Davis in 1997 as an NWA member. However, OVW separated from NWA in 2000. After, the company became the farm territory of World Wrestling Federation/ Entertainment. Jim Cornette was head booker of OVW and majority investor, but he was fired by WWE for slapping a student, Anthony Carelli. He was replaced by Paul Heyman, who booked OVW until being called up to be the booker of the ECW brand. Greg Gagne was supposed to be booker after Heyman, but his knowledge of OVW was limited so the booking was extended to also include Al Snow and Danny Davis. Gagne was later released from the company, leaving booking to Snow and Davis.
In 2007, Cornette sold his share of the company back to Davis. On February 7, 2008, WWE announced that it had ended its relationship with OVW as a developmental territory, moving all contracted talent to Florida Championship Wrestling. However, on September 23, 2009, OVW announced via a press release from WWE that Senior EVP John Laurinaitis visited and scouted OVW wrestlers and that WWE will take "a much more active role in recruiting OVW developed talent". OVW and WWE maintained a close relationship as throughout 2008 and 2009 WWE-contracted talent would make occasional appearances on OVW shows and OVW talent has remained a large part of WWE's recruiting classes with eight members of the roster being signed to the WWE since February 2008 and many more being used on WWE programming as extras or enhancement talent. On February 22 and 23, 2010 the WWE in conjunction with OVW held a two-day tryout camp for independent wrestlers. It was the first event of this nature held outside Florida Championship Wrestling since FCW became WWE's sole developmental territory.
On September 8, 2010, in what was dubbed the company's season premiere, Danny Davis, who himself was making his return for the first time in over a year, announced that Jim Cornette was returning to his role as head booker of the company. Cornette, who is also executive producer of Ring of Honor's HD Net show, stated that Ring of Honor (ROH) talent as well as talent from other companies were going to work in OVW along with the current crop of stars and returning OVW stars in an effort to return the company to its previous reputation as the best independent wrestling company to get recruited from. A similar claim was made by Cornette during the announcement of the ROH HDnet program moving its tapings to the OVW/Davis arena.
On November 7, 2011, it was announced that OVW and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) had reached an agreement for OVW to become TNA's official training and developmental territory. TNA's Director of Talent Relations Al Snow returned as booker of the company, replacing the outgoing Jim Cornette. The relationship lasted for two years, before ending on November 2, 2013 after TNA ordered all of their talent to report to Orlando.
OVW currently airs a 60-minute television program Saturdays in the Louisville area on WBNA-21 at 1:00 PM and Wednesdays at 9:00 PM, after WWE Main Event, and on WOBZ-LD in London, Kentucky at 9:00 p.m. OVW also has streaming video via their website ovwrestling.com, where new episodes are streamed on Thursdays following the previous Wednesday's television taping. The television shows originate from the Davis Arena in the Buechel neighborhood of Louisville.