How Attitude Became WWE PG, and How TNA Could Be the Key to a New Era
Ever since WWE made the decision to change their product so it would conform to a PG rating, many people in the IWC have been against it. The detractors blame the rating as the reason why WWE's programming has been perceived by fans as being lacklustre.
Now, I might be in the minority, but I don't believe that a return to a more mature rating is really in the best interest of the WWE, or its fans.
To understand where I'm coming from, let me explain the reason I believe the Attitude era was successful, why we are currently living in the WWE PG era, and what I perceive as the real problem with the WWE today.
Some of the success of the Attitude Era I think can be chalked up, to the big name stars WCW obtained, the new stars WWE created & the freedom the talent was given.
However, my main theory behind the large success of the era was because it pitted two large, rival companies against each other.
If you take an objective look back at some of the story lines of that era, you realize that they had some stories that were just as poor as the stories we criticize now. But that didn't matter, because as bad as both the WWE and WCW's own stories got, both companies had this huge underlining story that was playing out right before our very eyes.
Think about it, two companies at war, trying to do what ever they thought it would take to destroy the other. Sounds like the beginning of a trailer for an upcoming movie. The difference here was that, unlike movies or wrestling, this story wasn't scripted. The war between these two was very real, and the back and forth between these two was what I think compelled people, who would never watch wresting, to tune in and watch.
Once the war was over, and the WWE stood victorious, the drama was gone, and we were left with one very large company that had no Yin to its Yang. Sure, they tried to recreate this tension, but soon everyone knew what the end result would be. This predictability signified the end of that era.
Once this competition ceased, the focus was put back on the WWE's creative department. The years passed and the ratings were getting lower and lower. Then in 2008, the WWE decided to become PG. Now, if I look at this from a business perspective, it makes perfect sense that the WWE decided to go this route.
If the WWE's ratings were dropping with their current programming rating, it more than likely meant that ad revenue was dropping also. So, if you're losing viewers and you're losing money, then why would you continue with the status quo?
As many have said already, the PG initiative has many things going for it. One of these things is, that it was a way for the WWE to cater to a different market segment, parents and children.
OK, I know that a lot of children were watching before the PG era but, how much money could WWE really make off those kids (visa vie "ad revenue")?
Now that WWE had the PG rating, it's safe to assume that a lot more sponsorship opportunities opened up for them. This is why WWE continues to be a multi-billion dollar corporation. The WWE realized that they had tapped out all they could from the Attitude Era and that a change could bring in more profits and grow their declining fan base.
Another reason, I believe we have PG is the WWE's way of improving their overall public image. Now to some, that may not sound like a very good reason. However, when you factor the amount of wrestlers that have died way too young, the steroid investigation & the fact that former CEO Linda McMahon is running for public office, it becomes pretty obvious why WWE has taken this path.
These facts and others, which many have stated in previous comments and articles, leads me to believe that a more mature rating is not in the cards any time soon.
Again though, I don't think a more mature rating alone is really going to give fans what they want anyway.
It wasn't too long ago that WWE was TV-14, and their ratings were not much better then what they're scoring now. Also, in my experience, a more mature rating is not a guarantee that fans will be getting a better quality product. Don't believe me? Then Google Katie Vick or Vince McMahon (Dr. Hiney).
Now, I'm not saying that all the stories were bad when they had the more mature rating. What I am saying is that a change in rating alone isn't guaranteed to yield a more exciting and entertaining product. It's also not going to solve any of the perceived problems of talent being buried or stories that don't make sense.
All a ratings change would do, is give a small portion of their fan base a nostalgia moment that would soon pass. Leaving those same fans upset, realizing that going backwards didn't solve the issues they are having with the product.
While I was researching for this piece, I read an article by a fan named Blair who summed it up best.
"I've read plenty of different articles on how we should bring back blood, swearing and the Attitude era. But we need to be realistic, times are changing and we as fans and reporters have to understand this" (full article here ).
He's right, History is to be learned from. Trying to repeat elements from the past is at best, a short term solution that will just isolate the new fans the WWE is trying to attract.
Consider this for a second. If you're upset that WWE isn't listening to you, and your solution is to change the product in a way that will alienate the fans who currently enjoy it, how is that fair?
I think what all fans want, is a product that is able to be engaging and appealing to the majority of wrestling fans, not just a select few.
With that being said, the question then becomes, how do you appeal to the majority of fans without excluding others?
Obviously this is a difficult question to answer, because different people like different things. Having said that, I believe the answer can be found by trying to find a commonality between the younger and older fan bases, and to me that starts with well written stories.
Engaging, interesting, well-written stories that make sense, are something I believe could bridge the gap between children, teen, and adult fans alike.
This is what I view as one of the WWE's major shortcomings, a program that a lot of times is really unsure of its direction. Wrestling has always been about story telling and when the story gets confusing, people get upset and feel disappointed.
What the Attitude Era taught me is that WWE and wrestling in general, is a lot more entertaining when there is competition. When competition is there, the writers are under the gun to produce better stories and should they fail, the fans still have the competition story to fall back on.
When the WWE doesn't have this competition and is left on its own, they seem to get lost and do things we, a lot of times don't understand.
As a writer, it's great, because these errors in continuity give me lots to write about. But as a fan, it has me yelling Stone Cold's now infamous catch phrase, "WHAT?" at my television on a regular basis.
Now before I get backlash from WWE marks, let me just state the very obvious point that WWE's wannabe competitor is also guilty of this. TNA's whole, no faces no heels, "Crash TV" story style is, at times, even more confusing and therefore is less engaging for both the long time and casual fans.
This is sad, because I believe that TNA are the ones who hold the key that could open the door to a new competitive era. A strong TNA could be the catalyst for a brand new and exciting era that would benefit fans, wrestlers and professional wrestling as a whole.
So what does this all mean you ask?
Well, I think it means that right now, TNA's success or failure (given its current position) will determine either a new exciting era, or the status quo. TNA needs to find a way to appeal to the masses, which I believe could be found through better marketing of their own talent and better more believable story lines.
My belief is that until that's accomplished and their ratings pose a threat to WWE, the WWE will continue to ignore TNA. This, in turn, will leave the WWE to their own devices, which will continue to produce stories that many times are poorly written and confusing.
Leaving many fans with a lot more "WHAT'S?" and many bloggers with a lot more material.
This is my view, how about yours? Comments welcome.
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