And lastly, the final thing the WWE doesn't want to do: End the PG Era.
I want to temper this slide with this disclaimer:
Ending the PG Era, in and of itself, is meaningless if the direction of the company, creatively, doesn't improve. Violence, sexuality and shock value is all pointless if there is no good story or magnetic characters behind it.
Truly, the WWE probably wouldn't even need to end the PG Era if it did the first two things on this slide.
The Golden Era of the 80's with Hulkamania and Macho Madness didn't need cursing and nudity to be big with fans, and today's WWE doesn't need it as a long-term philosophy, either.
Then why suggest ending it?
First, the WWE proudly boasts on its corporate website that 74% of its audience is over the age of 21. Meaning that PG ratings are aimed at only 26% of the fan base. That number shrinks when you realize that teenagers and 20 year olds don't seek out PG programming unless it is insanely entertaining.
By having a PG mindset, the more adult-themed possibilities in a storyline go right out of the window. The simplicity that comes with a PG-rated show is automatically counter-intuitive to the regular programming choices of 16-21 year olds, who spend most of their time watching shows like The Jersey Shore and performances from Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
If teenagers are growing up with MTV and Jay-Z as the primary origins of their entertainment, how do you expect them to switch regularly to something as tepid as Santino Marella? (The single most charismatic man on your roster, and thanks to your creative team, easily the most wasted.) How can they get behind WWE programming when nothing titillates them? (Can I use that word in the same sentence as teenagers?)
PG programming has never been for ages 18-21. They are rated R.
PG programming is no longer for ages 13-18. They, too, are rated R to PG-13.
PG programming is for little children. And that's fine, until you state on your corporate website that 74% of your audience is over 21.
Secondly, the reason why PG must go, for the time being, is that the WWE is literally less newsworthy than Snooki losing weight. The WWE has become so uncontroversial that it is barely a blip on the mainstream radar. They need to do things to garner the attention of the masses.
Younger fans may not remember, but there was a time where the WWE was absolutely monstrous. It dominated headlines beyond any and every other sport without the initials "NFL" in it. There was a time where, literally, 1 in 20 Americans were tuning in to watch professional wrestling. (WWE, WCW and ECW combined.)
Students were holding watch parties at college campuses across the country, you couldn't go anywhere without seeing some kind of wrestling shirt and every week a wrestler was showing up on a popular show. (I emphasize the word "popular", because shows like "Haven" and "Ghost Hunters" are not.)
There's a reason why older fans like myself keep harping for the glory days while younger fans say we should just enjoy the product we have. We lived in that era in a way Youtube could never truly let you experience. In the same way the generation before us got to experience the greatness of men like Superstar Billy Graham and Bobo Brazil in their times.
If you felt the energy, felt the anticipation week after week, knowing that something shocking was coming, that you couldn't miss a moment, because at least 4-5 times during the show, you would scream in shock, or be blown away by something, you could never be satisfied with the bland efforts you see today. The main-event used to be an event, in and of itself, where you knew some swerve was coming, some big debut or return, some shock.
But for all of that excitement, it was the controversy that drew the media attention.
It was the parents groups, the FCC, and news media outlets condemning the product that caused it to gain such popularity in the first place.
Many people who never would've heard about Raw, heard it from the very people complaining about it, tuned in and became fans.
It's the same thing with other controversial forms of entertainment, the more astonished and offended the general public is with the content, the more people come to see what's going on.
"Naked women bathing in chocolate? A guy crucifying people? Degenerates flashing the crowd? People setting each other on fire and throwing them 40 feet through tables? That's abhorrent!......What channel does it come on?"
Wrestling was "crude", "shocking" and "low brow" to the mainstream media (I'm sure Bill O'Reilly bashed it at some point), and yet, it was never more popular.
The amazing thing is that while the entertainment world has become as crass today as the pro wrestling they bashed in the 90's, the WWE has become more tame and childlike and still expects to succeed.
Eric Bischoff may have been a two-trick pony (NWO and Goldberg), but he was right about one thing: "Controversy creates cash". (He should have added "when paired with superior creative content" somewhere in there.)
The WWE has to get people noticing it again to raise ratings. They have to get people talking about it. The only thing that got people talking about it briefly in recent history is a wrestler "legitimately" wishing death on someone while talking about how much the company sucks. And while the WWE loves to talk about trending topics on twitter (As if somehow that matters) the mainstream does not care about wrestling anymore.
The only way you are going to get people to come to watch your show is to shock and amaze them. Absolutely no one is coming because someone told them Wade Barrett has phenomenal charisma and perfect hair. No one is reporting on Kofi Kingston hitting the "Bourne In Paradise" (Oh, Trouble? I don't care and plus "Air Boom" is a terrible name.)
The problem is, the kind of shock value necessary to get people to tune in cannot be achieved on a PG rated show. Let alone the repeated shocks and swerves that you will have to produce to keep them hooked.
If the WWE wants to get the ratings back to where they were, they have to start breaking the status quo and truly start doing things that attract news, gets people talking and keeps viewers.
Stunning events that will get people talking, combined with great story telling and unique characters not bound by moribund scripts, written by people who couldn't put a great story together if William Shakespeare was ghostwriting for them, is the only way for the WWE to rebound.
The WWE has shied away from edgy product ever since Benoit committed his heinous act. They stay away because they want Linda McMahon to become a senator.
Which will NEVER happen. Ever.
But if the WWE doesn't start budging on these three critical steps before its too late, it won't matter if Linda McMahon becomes a senator or not. There is a point in time where even multi-million dollar companies nose-dive too hard to pull out. (Ask Blockbuster or Kodak). The WWE is in a terminal tail-spin. The programming and all of the things they are attempting to do now reflects it. Even the WWE themselves know they have a serious problem on their hands.
And until they address the main problems with the product, throwing Chris Jericho at it won't matter. Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Batista and RVD can all come back and join him.
And it will just be a bunch of men in their 40's (sans Brock) acting out crappy and/or non-existent storylines, while wrestling matches with no point, no shock, no awe, no amazement...and eventually?
(Okay, some fans, but that doesn't really fit the closing of the article, you know?)