The times in wrestling are different, at least in the WWE's eyes anyway. Gone are the days of selling sex and dropping F bombs, and back are PG ratings and characters that appeal to children (See John Cena). The one thing that hasn't changed though is its popularity. If anything, it has gotten bigger.
It is hard to argue that any era in wrestling was more exciting than the Attitude Era. During this time, WWE (then WWF) pushed the envelope when WCW had their backs against the wall and went the extra mile to push the FCC's buttons.
Stone Cold came out flipping the middle finger and Sable had on some sort of cloth covering small parts of her body (not much). The Rock called Kevin Kelley, Michael Cole, Jonathon Coachman, and any other announcer they put in front of him with a microphone bestiality names and got a huge pop from the crowd. Yes, those were the days...
We all know ways to get a cheap pop from the crowd. You can:
One: Get a catch phrase (Stone Cold: What? Vickie Guerrero: Excuse Me!)
Two: Mention the hometown of where you are. This can lead to a negative reaction or a positive reaction.
Three: Incorporate something about sports teams in that hometown. Again, can lead to a positive or negative reaction.
Four: Stay kayfabe.
These are four things that can take a wrestler from a developmental mid carder to Superstar status. The catch phrase is something that is learned from mic skills. It is not a must have to be successful as a wrestler (because certain guys like Batista or Matt Hardy or Jeff Hardy or AJ Styles or Samoa Joe couldn't cut a promo to save their life, while others like Christian and Edge make it look natural) but it does help.
I will be the first to say I can't stand the character of John Cena, but he knows how to cut a promo and to get the crowd to react to him. This is why he gets forced down our throats for the simple fact that he possesses all the qualities it takes to be successful as a wrestler.
Another reason why revenues have not been effecting since the WWE changed its strategy is because they reach a larger demographic now. During the attitude era, the brand was focused on promoting itself to the demographic of 18-34 males. It worked during that time and pushed professional wrestling to the next level.
But the the WWE went global. They put themselves on the stock market as a public entity and with that came responsibility. Slowly but surely, the WWE began to tone down its tactics and gestures. DX came back and still had some childish over the top antics, but they were not nearly as bad as some other stunts they attempted during the attitude era.
Now, they've even gone as far as to rename moves. John Cena now does the STF (which is what it was called to begin with before he added it to his arsenal) and the "Attitude Adjustment" which used to be called the FU. The irony is the WWE added the "U" to his moves to attract attention, and now they are removing it to detract attention. Whatever works for the current times, I guess.
So how can this be that one brand has used two different strategies to promote itself and yet revenue hasn't declined?
Vince McMahon is the answer. He has the money to try whatever he wants, and if it doesn't work, oh well.
He can't be touched in this industry and the only thing that will ever defeat him is father time. Vince said in an interview with Jeremy Schaap on ESPN's "E:60" that he "was going to live forever". I do not think that will be the case, but I do know this. The WWE will.