In the Attitude Era, WWE knew who its viewers were and what they wanted. The average wrestling fan is relatively knowledgeable about the product and will turn the channel if they don't see what they want on the screen.
Some of WWE's biggest stars were the ones who parents hated and young people loved. Moms shuddered at Jeff Hardy, with his multi-colored hair, odd face paint and propensity for leaping off of high places.
Parents shook their heads in dismay at DX's crotch chops, Rock's use of the phrase "candy ass" and Stone Cold's beer-driven one-finger salutes.
No one was quite sure what to make of The Undertaker, Mankind or Kane. Much less The Brood or the Dudley Boys.
Wisely, WWE realized that it wasn't the parents that it needed to attract. It was the kids. Today, many of those kids have children of their own. Sadly, the product on WWE TV isn't what these new parents grew up on. Thus, they don't share the experience with their kids.
Today, there is little on WWE television that would alarm a parent. While I don't advocate random violence and blatant crudity, I can see why audiences are turning away in droves. There's nothing cool about watching something your parents wouldn't disapprove of. There was cachet in viewing a show that caused your folks to frown and reach for the remote.
By trying to appease the "mainstream fan," WWE has lost touch with its real base—the hardcore fan. Edgy programming creates loyal fans. Pablum leads to alarmingly low ratings.
If Vince McMahon wants to see another "golden era" of professional wrestling, he needs to go back to what works. It's a fact that family-friendly, PG-13 television doesn't draw crowds. Historically, the WWE was never more popular than during the Attitude Era. Maybe revisiting some of those ideas would result in a new era of prosperity.