Will the “Reality Era” be rated PG for the WWE? Many have called this last era for the World Wrestling Entertainment the PG era and it has been that way for a number of reasons. Linda McMahon making unsuccessful political runs was the one mentioned most often. There are others though with being open to more advertising options and marketing opportunities. The fact the WWE is now a corporately traded company for almost 15 years things have really changed from when they first arrived on the scene as an IPO in October of 1999. The company just has a more overall corporate feel to it compared to when they first burst on to scene in the financial world.
WWE has gone more back to the 80’s in their approach targeting kids and using Hulk Hogan as the main superstar in marketing to that group. Just like a John Cena is today with all the various things geared at kids with the “Be a Star” anti-bullying effort to programs for literacy for kids to the many make-a-wish moments granted by all the WWE Superstars and of course toys and t-shirts and merchandise streams that go on for days.
Thing is as those kids from the 80’s grew up they were not as into that old PG model of larger than life superhero good guys. They were now older and wanted something different and that is genius of the attitude era really. Have we reached another point in the cycle where all those kids that have grown up on John Cena got older and tired of him after a decade?
Have we reached that point where the WWE might be slowly moving back towards a product primarily designed at an older audience. Before the attitude, the WWE had their New Generation that featured Bret Hart and Shawn Micheals as the two major stars of that era. It also had a fellow hall of famer like Razor Ramon and Diesel AKA Kevin Nash. These two along with a cast of characters like Yokozuna, Undertaker and others that made for a very talented roster. Slowly the transition from goofy cartoon gimmicks to a much more wrestling focused and realistic product started to emerge. The land of giants was not as much the case with steroid allegations against the WWE and it opened the door to Bret Hart and HBK to be on that main event level.
Look at the WWE today and we see a number of stars getting long in the tooth with an every growing list of hungry lions looking for their place at the top of the card. The biggest difference to the New Generation Era and now is depth. No longer is there a WCW to compete with and TNA gets basically all the WWE’s leftovers that they don’t want. WWE has built a factory with performance center and NXT that can produce them talent for years to come. They have taken the odd independent talent and had a pretty good success rate at making folks from promotions like ROH into mainstream stars.
So perhaps this “Reality Era” as Triple H has coined it is the transition to the WWE starting to go with a more edgy product that is reflective of the core audience they have built with Cena getting older and starting to realize the guy they thought was so cool isn’t really that cool after all. They look for new heroes and not the traditional ones that are always doing the right thing. They want guys that are rebelling and fighting the system as heroes. This was primarily what Stone Cold Steve Austin became for a generation of fans.
Perhaps the best support of this theory of heading back towards a more edgy product is the WWE’s own very PG friendly ad for the WWE Network with a young boy growing into a man and having his own son become a WWE fan. It is proof that on some level this company see’s their product and audience in cycles of time. So that 7 year old kid that loved John Cena from when he debuted is now 17. Is he even still watching the product? How do we get him back if he isn’t? The answer is the product starts to go out of its PG era style and moves on to a more teen based target. Which means back to more of a PG-13 and beyond type of world?
Once the WWE firms up long term T.V deals and is ready to move forward with the Network it isn’t crazy to think they can push the product to a more adult audience over time. Little signs are already sneaking through the cracks. Look at the beat down angles of the past few months. They are a lot more physical and violent than in the past. Lot more attitude in the product you could say?
However, WWE also launched Slam City which is something that clearly is after a kid’s audience. I admit as an adult I watch them too, but hey they are cute and funny.
The one thing the WWE has stuck to not doing may just be the sign of if this new attitude like era is every coming. That sign would be to have John Cena turn heel as Hogan did back in WCW to launch the N.W.O angle. Nothing can compare to that moment for older fans, but for all these kids that have grown up on John Cena would him turning heel be just as shocking? Could Cena be the perfect heel as one of these over top full of themselves celebrities that this world has a mass supply of. The idea of turning Cena heel has always been passed on based on who would replace him? Now with all the talent in place could a Daniel Bryan not carry that ball for a few years being replaced by one of the young and up coming stars like a Roman Reigns or a Cesaro? Possibility seems pretty likely with the direction of things currently. Question is are the WWE and Cena ready to take that risk and give him a re-birth as a heel to ride-out before perhaps one last face run before he leaves the company as an in ring competitor?
That is the million dollar question that no one knows the answer to accept them and when they would be willing to pull the trigger on it.
I feel that for wrestling to truly thrive and get back to a level it did at its peak eventually they will have to have their product be more a reflection of society as a whole and currently the WWE isn’t doing that. They try to be hip and cool and with it but look more like that old guy trying to still think he isn’t old. Much like that last line made me feel using such dated terms as I am sure hip, cool and with it are for the youth of today.
Will it reach the level of success an Attitude Era did or the Hogan Era? Not likely, but could it draw a lot more fans back to the product and make some new ones along the way? Chances are they could and they would be doing it with the weakest competition in the wrestling business that they have ever faced in terms of companies with the money to compete with them.
This may not happen in months from now or even may take a couple years but bet the farm on the Attitude Era style of WWE making a return for a whole new generation sooner rather than later doesn't seem as far fetched as it has in the past.