Since 2008, WWE television has been presented under the TV-PG rating, which encourages family friendly programming. Ten years prior, WWE was smack in the middle of the most successful “boom” period in the company’s history. The rating was set at a level that allowed more mature, raunchy, sexy and tawdry content to be displayed every week. WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw, held a TV-14 rating during the time frame that came to be referred to as the Attitude Era.
If you go to just about any corner of the internet, you will find a veritable plethora of people clamoring for the return of the Attitude Era. Going PG ruined WWE, they will scream at the top of their lungs.
It is obvious, however, that the problem is with the creative process that leads to the storylines that the company produces and executes. WWE was still running under the TV-14 label when the terrifyingly bad Alliance-InVasion storyline occurred. It was still TV-14 when the original brand split happened, and we were subjected to travesties like Katie Vick, Kerwin White, Kane’s uninspired (I’m being diplomatic) unmasking, the Scott Steiner-Triple H pose-down. You get the point.
Remember the universally panned return of the Shawn Michaels and Triple H version of DX? The stuff they did during that reunion was as PG as it gets. Such a shame that the TV rating handcuffed them into becoming a duo that was stuck doing lame poopy jokes and goofing off like children, essentially doing the exact opposite of what made them cool in the first place.
Wait. Hold on. I’m getting word from my massive team of researchers that WWE television was still rated TV-14 at that time. My mistake.
PG is nothing but a pair of letters. Two letters that handicap Vince & Stephanie McMahon and their creative team from doing things like Eric Bischoff’s HLA (look it up) and, well… that’s pretty much it.
There’s a reason why we spent some time discussing the incidents above. When that boom period occurred, it was thanks, in the largest part, to the legendary feud between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. It was amazing, but people tend to romanticize some of it. Guys like Ken Shamrock, Big Bossman and the rest of The Corporation were small-time chumps who were only around to make Steve Austin look good. The Rock was great and did a lot of Vince’s dirty work, as did Mick Foley before him. Kane and The Undertaker, during their confusing rivalry, were also important early on in the Austin-McMahon story.
That was the main event. The majority of what surrounded that story is embarrassing and unwatchable in hindsight. Outside of DX, there wasn’t much to sink your teeth into until The Hardyz, Dudleyz, and Edge & Christian came around. Essentially, the main event was the stuff of legend, and everything else was bad. The wrestling was bad, and the characters that so many people laud were actually caricatures.
Today’s WWE also suffers from that problem, but in a very limited capacity. Indeed, you have The Shining Stars and Titus O’Neil. Golden Truth is a disappointing bust. There’s some other stuff that’s not quite working the way WWE would like, but the main problem with Monday Night Raw is that it’s fairly bland and the three-hour format can feel like 10 hours.
The main event guys are having great matches, the mid-card guys are having good-to-great matches,and the tag team division features great wrestling. Everything is solid up and down the card. If Raw was tightened up and put into a two-hour format, it would probably be met very solid reviews. SmackDown was a secondary show, almost like a longer version of Sunday Night Heat when they used big stars, until the new brand split began. Since then, it has become a very good show that, if you scour the internet, many people praise.
Take a moment to think about this: The New Day is, by most accounts, an insanely entertaining team. They are obviously very popular. Not only are they funny, but the trio often slips inappropriate (for the kids) jokes into their schtick. Enzo & Big Cass can be awarded the same distinction. These two teams are the original DX and The New Age Outlaws, respectively, of the current era. And the kicker? The wrestling matches are so much better now when compared to those in the late 1990s. It makes those guys look like untrained low-level independent bums.
The phrase that best describes the comparison between then and now (and forever) is “observing through rose-colored glasses.” Yet that isn’t even the big point. The most important takeaway is that the Attitude Era is still happening today. It’s like the opposite of a gritty reboot. The shows are clean, brightly lit and polished. It’s not crash TV, but that genre was used in pro wrestling in order to distract viewers from the fact that they were not watching good television. You didn’t get a chance to process what you just saw because the next segment sprayed you in the face with Febreze before you could smell the awfulness.
WWE allows you to breathe today. Yes, it does lead to endless replays and highlight packages, but it also makes it impossible to cover up all of the flaws. Which is amazing, because it doesn’t expose many flaws. There aren’t many. The stories are sometimes tame and uninspired. That’s the flaw. Very little is actively bad in modern-day WWE.
But there’s no blood, the women are wrestling instead of walking around in thongs, and there isn’t anybody who can be compared accurately to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Lest we forget that for every Stone Cold there were three Golgas.
That’s not fair. I liked Golga, rest his soul.
For every Stone Cold, there were three Phineas Godwinns. That’s better.
Instead of calling it the PG Era in a derogatory way, I propose that we start referring to today’s period as “The Super Attitude Era.”