World Wrestling Entertainment is the top professional wrestling circuit in the world. They have the largest fanbase, the most financial success and arguably the hardest working wrestlers you’ll ever see. The company always strives to keep up with the times in this ever-changing society, and they have habitually been successful in doing so.
However, one fairly recent change is rubbing a lot of fans the wrong way and alienating the constituency of fans that tune in to WWE programming week after week for its edginess and controversial nature – the PG rating.
The Attitude Era was arguably WWE’s most successful and most memorable era. Characterized by over-the-top storylines, adult language, blood soaked matches and palpable energy, the Attitude Era set the standard for professional wrestling in the late 90’s and eventually put rival company WCW out of business. Teens and adults of today who were born in the 90’s (or whatever ridiculously lame name has been assigned to this generation) hold the memories of Mick Foley being tossed off of a 16 foot cage, Steve Austin’s middle fingers and the Undertaker’s crucifixions close to their hearts and forever in their minds – because they will NEVER see anything even closely resembling that timeframe again.
WWE changed their rating from TV-14 to PG in February of 2009 to so conveniently coincide with the owner’s wife Linda’s bid for Congress. There’s my first problem – self-interest. They changed the rating to suit HER interests and not the interest of the millions and millions of fans that keep the company afloat and line Vince’s pockets. Selfish, self-serving nonsense.
My second problem is that all of the life has seemingly been sucked out of WWE. It’s no secret that with a TV-14 rating, you have a lot of leeway to push the envelope and create more gripping storylines. NO MORE! D-Generation X’s crotch chop is hanging by a thread. “Ass” is now a taboo word. And the one thing that made a match more believable and dramatic – blood – is no more as well. Divas may as well be wearing bodysuits. Names of finishing and signature moves, as well as catchphrases have been changed to avoid the younger audience replicating such “foul” rhetoric. There’s just no spark anymore. What we have now are generic, carbon copy storylines tailor made for a pre-pubescent audience who are just learning what third base is from their buddies on the playground. There is no shock value anymore because little Johnny might actually have to find out what “entertaining” television is, and mommy is too busy shoving the Bible down his throat and spying on him. There’s nothing left to grip; the fans may as well be grabbing thin air in regards to the writing.
My third problem is that I believe Vince, the mastermind that he is, saw the ratings change as not only a way to further the agenda of his wife – but a way to pad the ratings a bit. He knows that if he sends out a press release saying WWE is family friendly and morally polished, parents will be less reluctant to let their brainwashed kids watch it. That demographic is back on board, creativity is suffocated, and fans are screwed.
My last problem is that WWE isn’t staying consistent with its rating change. They continue to promote rated R movies and have a theme song which tells of a group of morons getting drunk at a bar and raising hell. They also bring in guest hosts to promote their new movies – the majority of the movies being rated R. Nice work, WWE. So while junior isn’t hearing the word “ass” and being shielded from the horror of a little blood, he can go and see the latest profane, sexually explicit movie in theaters. Very nice marketing strategy – just smart enough for the average fan to miss.
So Vince, while the PG rating may exculpate you from the responsibility of kids emulating your employee’s dirty trademarks and sayings and bring you ratings, you’re alienating a great deal of fans – fans who stood by you throughout the ratings war with WCW and were always able to expect nothing but the best out of WWE. However, I can offer a solution to WWE’s pathetic, watered down “entertainment” with just three letters: