Let me start by saying I’m not one of the internet wrestling fans that will troll on the idea of the PG-Era. I don’t think it’s the worst thing the WWE has ever done, and I don’t think that the separation from edgy television is why the WWE’s ratings have slumped for the last few years.
From a business perspective, the PG-Era makes sense because the idea of having kids at a young age buy into the product and then become life-long fans is actually good for the overall product. The business has always moved in cycles, and I have no doubt that the WWE will return to edgier television a few years from now- the business will grow and evolve at the same rate as the kids that are watching now.
When I think back to when I first started watching- right around 1992. The characters were similar to those that exist today- Hulk Hogan (John Cena), Ultimate Warrior (Sheamus), Sid Justice (Randy Orton), Shawn Michaels, Post-Rockers (Dolph Ziggler), Bret Hart (CM Punk), Mr. Perfect (Daniel Bryan). There are a lot of parallels between the early-90’s and today’s product- in fact, if you really take a finite approach to the comparisons above, you’ll notice that in a lot of ways today’s characters are edgier than their early-90’s counterparts.
I remember watching the WWE really heavily until around 1995-1996 and then moving out of state to a place in which my family didn’t have cable. Since there really wasn’t much of an internet at this time, and WWE didn’t have any shows on network television at the time, my obsession slowed way down for a couple of years.
I remember turning back on the show in late 1997 when Shotgun Saturday Night debuted on Network television at around midnight and could not believe how different the product was. A lot of the characters that I remembered were still around (some over in WCW by this time), but what they were saying and doing was completely different. The nostalgia of what I loved so much as a really young kid was enough to get me back in while the edgy television kept my eyes glued. Suddenly, with some of the content, I would switch the channel when my parents would walk in the room because I thought it would be too offensive, i.e. Sable taking her top off, Undertaker putting opponents on the symbol in his demonic gimmick, the Brawl for All tourney- this was crazy!
A lot of this week will be focused on a lot of the PG/Attitude debate, but for now, I feel like I would be safe in assuming that WWE will return to some edgier content in the next 5-8 years more frequently. It might not return back to the way it was in the late 90’s, but I do think that some of the inability to push stars over the last couple of years is a direct correlation to how much latitude the wrestlers are given to be controversial- cue Ziggler’s rise as opposed to Kofi Kingston’s stalled success in recent years.
To me the two mentioned stars above are nearly parallel- in fact, if you would have asked me 3 or 4 years ago who would be the bigger star I may not have had an answer for you. What I do know is that while Ziggler has evolved since then, Kofi’s only change is that he is no longer from Jamaica.
I’ll drill more into the element of creating stars throughout the week.
-You can Follow me on Twitter @Eddy327