Wednesday, September 3, 2014
WWE Attitude Era Can Only Be Bought For $9.99 Now
It hit me watching the Monday Night Wars episode on DX like a bolt of lightning. The Attitude Era is never coming back and there are so many reasons why. Some of those reasons are obvious, some might not be as obvious. Let’s get started with the obvious ones that seem fairly clear.
The first thing that everyone points to is how the WWE has become a much more corporate based company. McMahon family business became a corporate entity by becoming an IPO and a publicly traded company on Wall Street. In doing that, suddenly, Vince McMahon became accountable for his actions to shareholders. He had people to answer too about the choices he made with his company. That might not have mattered as much as the change it brought to the company as a whole. WWE became a much more corporate based culture with people coming from the business world that you never have considered getting involved in wrestling in the past. WWE now employs executive types from professional sports leagues, writers from Hollywood and television shows. It was not like it use to be and it created a corporate culture that by its very nature is conservative in nature. It led to having buzzwords and a very different way of thinking that was not necessarily one that would connect with your average wrestling fan. WWE was now “putting smiles on people faces,” with the “WWE Superstars,” for the “WWE Universe.”
This led to the WWE doing more to address the people critical of the product as opposed the ones that truly supported it. It ultimately led to the shift back to a very PG and corporate friendly product that they felt would open up more revenue streams and allow them to create partnerships to greater merchandising their brand on a global scale.
WWE had more of a focus on being an entertainment company than simply just a wrestling company and part of why they were able to make this change was the lack of any true competition for what they do. They in a sense became a monopoly of the industry of pro wrestling and with the focus on expanding beyond that wrestling bubble to other ventures beyond it. Things like WWE Studios came as a result as the WWE tried to make themselves into players in the movie business as well. It has been far from a successful venture in terms of dollars and cents but was an example of the whole idea of expansion beyond just it is wrestling property as the core business driving the ship.
Wrestling has always been a reflection of society to some degree. Look around in 2014 the world has changed to a very politically correct one despite the rise of social media. Which the WWE now reflects and being as we discussed a much more corporate based business that is being a good corporate citizen. Which speaks to how the WWE goes out of its way to have relationships with high profile charities and making those relationships very public and using that good will as positive public relations for the company. It makes is very easy to do with a corporate face to the company like John Cena that is a PG and squeaky clean role model that is commonly referenced as the WWE’S version of Superman. He is a long way from Stone Cold raising middle fingers in the air and drinking beer in the middle of the ring. Very different from DX doing crotch chops and making sexually based humor while being flashed by hot girls in the audience that looked like they came off the “Girls Gone Wild” video series. Stone Cold or Shawn Michaels were far from the corporate poster boy that John Cena is.
They were also far less agreeable with what they were told to do. Austin and Michaels both were said to be challenges to work with at times because they demanded having good storylines and would not just play ball with Vince McMahon. This was much easier to do when there was a legit alternative out there to go to in WCW until 2001. Still even without that, I do not think it would have changed Austin or Michaels all that much. Contrast that to Cena who recently referenced the idea of him turning heel as their (The WWE’s) decision. If Austin or Michaels wanted to change their character, they did not think with such a mindset. They had the guts to fight for what they wanted even to their own detriment at times. Austin once took his ball and went home and Shawn Michaels lost his smile a time or two. John Cena is always smiling and always looking like that perfect idea of what people think a corporate face and role model of a company should look like. C.M Punk was never that and was much more a guy that fit in that by gone era. He sits at home in Chicago as much as it is from a lifetime of wear and tear on his body it is about him being much more of the mindset of an Austin or Michaels back in the day. Punk connects with the true wrestling fan and even though people complain about it these days, it speaks to why his name is still chanted to this day at WWE events. He was in a way the last of a by gone era.
There is only one CM Punk and that is fairly obvious, but he is the exception to the rule. He can afford to be how he is having had a run at the top and being able to have saved that money to walk away. You hear many of the older wrestlers from the Attitude Era and even the 80’s talk about how different wrestlers in the locker room are in comparison to their day. Things have changed and with no other place to go to make the kind of money you can in the WWE, it makes the idea of being a rebel behind the scenes not so appealing. It is a different world too where one tweet that goes out to the public can land you in the doghouse faster than you can say delete. While the idea of someone wrestling for a Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling or Pro Wrestling Gorilla is exciting to wrestling fans. Those options are not exactly competitive in terms of the money that can be made in the WWE with the corporate machine behind you.
This whole culture of guys walking on eggshells seems to be very real from anyone that has left or been fired from the WWE will tell us. Talent is very scripted and the time limits for matches are far more a math equation than it has been in the past. Creativity in general in a corporate environment is encouraged but in reality is really discouraged based on the risk and reward factor involved in it.
Still in contrast to all of this is Vince McMahon, who still is the boss and that is the one constant in all of this, he thrives on confrontation. Which is easy to do when you own the company but harder to do when you’re a wrestler trying to make your way to the top of the WWE. If you hear those words that Vince has made famous in “You’re Fired” you do not have a very good landing spot in terms of earning the same income as discussed. Kind of a downer to realize that these guys that we are taught to think of as super heroes are worried about something as simple as job security. Wrestlers while they are trying to connect with us and being someone we can relate too but are never really attempting to be like us. In a world that has an economy that is far different from the late 90’s as well, that is something to be concerned about as well.
There is a positive in this with this generation of wrestlers from a pure moral point of view. They are so different from the partying there is no tomorrow attitude of the 80’s and 90’s talent. The chances we lose far too many wrestlers to premature deaths is far less with this modern group.
The whole idea of health has changed in society and in the WWE as well. The concept of guys bleeding in the ring has become something that was once as part a part of wrestling as pepperoni is on a pizza. Times have changed and the idea of blood, chair shots and blows to the head are thought of in a different light by all. The WWE as part of this completely corporate change has had to be much more proactive in the concern for their talent’s well being. This has led to many things such as establishing re-hab for former talents that are in need of help. To the current talent being aggressively tested in terms of concussions and overall general health. The idea of a wrestler sitting out for over a month with a concussion would be considered absurd just a decade ago. Daniel Bryan openly has said he did not want to have his neck surgery in an interview with Sam Roberts, but the WWE forced him to have it. Prior to that, a couple of years ago Bryan had a match stopped and got into a shouting match with Triple H for the fact that it was. Triple H himself famously finished a match with a torn quad muscle something that never would happen today.
That whole concept that the show must go on has kind of died to some degree in modern times. It again erodes away at the idea of these guys being super heroes and makes them mortal and much more like us. Batista recently in an interview on Talk is Jericho recalled a story from before he has left the WWE in 2010 which he was fined 100 thousand dollars for bleeding by choice in a match against Jericho. Therefore, this change in mindset for the WWE has been evolving over time. While all of this might upset some, it does make for safer working conditions for the people who entertain us. Similar to contact sports like football the game has changed and while better morally it would be a lie to say we do not miss the hard-hitting action of the old days. It is part of why we love any form of combat sports regardless of if it is worked like the WWE or legit combat in the UFC.
That is another thing to consider the rise of MMA and the UFC in the modern era. It is harder for the WWE to compete with the real blood and guts of the UFC at times in its product. While the UFC will claim to be far safer than boxing, it definitely is a sport encourages the whole idea of the knockout and finishing your opponent. Brock Lesnar has been the one athlete that has been able to best embody that UFC attitude and transition it to the WWE Universe. What at the core of Brock Lesnar makes him work are a couple of things. First and most obvious is the fact he is a legit monster and with that comes a real belief that who could snap and destroy anyone at anytime in either company. There is that wonder of what will happen creating a real sense of unpredictability, which he brings. Combine that with the fact he is a legit mean person that people truly see and fear to some extent.
The UFC is not at the peak it once was and is learning what it takes to become a global company as the WWE had become before them. It leads to over exposure of your product and sometimes more can be less for the overall entertainment value. The UFC is like the WWE a business and has made business decisions to make the product bigger even if it hurts the quality overall at times. The big difference is the UFC enjoys the luxury of still being a private company and not having to open the books, as the WWE is required to do being a public traded company. While people moan and grow concerned with the WWE Network and its lack of success. The UFC Fight Pass can be presented as a success and we have no idea what their numbers are in terms of subscribers. They get to control the narrative of the company far more than the WWE. They may not be able to pre-determine their results like the WWE can but they can have much greater control over the presentation of their business.The UFC has sat back and allowed the WWE to be its test model in a sense of how to operate in a post pay-per-view world. While they can just sit back and observer at what the WWE does with its network.
What a UFC fight has that a WWE match is lacking is unpredictability. This is something that was once a WWE marketing campaign once billed as the place “where anything can happen,” it seldom lives up to that these days.
This has been a long drawn out way to explain to you that about the only way your going to experience the Attitude Era is to spend $9.99 on the WWE Network to see it. In fact the Network and the ability to go back and compare the two products side by side with what is going on today only fuels the love for that era and the lack of love for this one. There has been an appetite for change long before C.M Punk cut a promo about it and made himself the poster boy for change. Here is the cold reality though the change that most want might not be possible to have in 2014. Can the WWE move a little more to an edgy product if they decided too? Sure, they could do that, but if it is going to be compared to the Attitude Era, it is always going to fall short because the rules have changed.
It also should be stated just how talented that roster truly was from top to bottom. If we were being honest about it, how many of the current WWE roster would be able to hang in the Attitude ERA? Some could and would fit right in but most of the roster would not even make the dark match back then. It really is the truth.
I guess this article ends in a predictable and grumpy old man sort of way. Sorry kids but my WWE will always be better than your WWE. It is something that has been said in pro sports for years from generation to generation. This time for a variety of reasons, it is not just some old person trying to rationalize how their time was better. It is pretty much a factually based argument to be made.
We stick up our middle fingers to let you know that our WWE was number one. Cheer up though your video games make our video games look like they were created in the stone ages. So at least you have that on us old folks.
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