WWE’s PG rating. It’s a polarising subject. Many fans (or members of the WWE Universe, whichever you prefer) feel that without blood, profanity and a nauseating amount of chair shots the WWE product isn’t worth watching,. These same fans see the move to PG as a way for the company to constantly push John Cena and willingly present a dull and monotonous television product.
On the whole I disagree with this viewpoint. WWE is still more than capable of presenting a relevant, enjoyable product while still working within its PG code. More importantly, the new measures have been put in place to provide a safer working environment for the wrestlers. Surely if it’s prolonging careers the PG Era can’t be all bad.
The trouble is that a lot of fans will have started watching WWE (or the WWF as it was then known) during the Attitude Era. That’s considered a golden age of WWE programming, so anything dissimilar to it is going to receive a frosty reception from the before being given a fair chance. I started watching the WWF during that time, so I understand how easy it is to become accustomed to chair shots and blood being regularly featured. But such things were shortcuts. Everyone in the company realised taking a chair shot prompted a reaction from crowds and made wrestlers look extra tough, so they became increasingly frequent. It eventually got to the point where a main event was considered incomplete if it didn’t feature someone getting their head smashed in with a foreign object and at least one man bleeding.
Moving away from this approach helps wrestlers work more safely and decrease their reliance on shortcuts in matches. Theoretically this should lead to better wrestling, and isn’t that what we want?
The profanity being scaled back is not much of an issue. If you look back over the last fifteen years of WWE and WWF programming you’d be hard pressed to find much coarse language being used. Even ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, a man known for bad language and questionable hand gestures, never really swore much. He didn’t need to do any of that to get over: his charisma is what made people react to him. Besides, this behaviour was taboo within the company when Austin first rose to prominence and still got permission to do it. If management thinks an act should be allowed to break the company’s self-imposed rules then they’ll let them. That always has been and always will be the case.
Don’t believe me? Look at The Rock’s recent return. He was permitted to flout certain rules of the PG Era because those in charge knew that was what the audience wanted. To me that indicates they’re willing to make exceptions to the new rules on occasion, if it means the product is bettered.
Claims that the PG Era has nothing to offer but the same storylines we’ve been seeing for the last five years, starring John Cena, aren’t without merit, but it’s not a result of the Attitude Era being over. Super Cena may be one of the company’s most pushed acts, but that’s been the case since 2004, long before WWE went PG. The booking is uninspired and samey, but this is more to do with the stagnation of the creative team and a failure to take risks. It’s not because of a more child-friendly approach.
To say that the PG Era has nothing to offer is untrue. Look at Undertaker’s highly praised WrestleMania bouts with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, the booking of the Cody Rhodes and Rey Mysterio feud, the initial formation of the Nexus, and acts like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, and Alberto Del Rio. All have been relevant and enjoyable parts of the PG Era while conforming to its rules.
The Attitude Era isn’t coming back any time soon, but we don’t need it to. WWE is capable of working just fine the way it is.