WWE: Defending Pro Wrestling's PG Era
A lot can be said about the WWE's apparent "PG era."
Many internet based fans will confidently throw their arms behind their heads, swing back into their desk chairs, proceed to kick their feet up and with a pretentious "gather 'round children" before continuing in smugly informing you why—the PG era sucks.
Many internet based fans will confidently remind you—"gone are the days of extreme violence."
ECW's style—shock and awe wrestling in the 1990s—became a central influence on the WWE.
Witnessing an increasingly growing fan base for the Philadelphia-based promotion's wild crash and bash match making, the WWE acted accordingly—establishing its own "Hardcore" championship (November 1998).
While matches of brutality became an iconic part of the late 1990s WWE product, it would be hard-pressed to find a match displaying sound in ring psychology working around the hardcore formula during such a period.
So much so, in fact, within two years the WWE's hardcore division was a comedic side show.
While credible talent held the belt from 2001 until it's unification in 2002, the lifespan of centralized hardcore or garbage wrestling like the championships representing them are limited.
Since midway through the decade, focus has turned towards psychology and storytelling. Wrestling at it's core in the WWE has never been better.
HBK, Undertaker, Edge, Orton, Punk and Jericho are masters of such—displaying a refined sense of in-ring psychology, building and creating a story.
Extreme violence still exists though.
There was there the day Jeff Hardy leaped from the Titan Tron.
Or when Edge speared Mick Foley through a flaming table.
It was there when Chris Jericho hit Shawn Michael's wife, Rebecca.
Extreme violence was there when Randy Orton snapped—assaulting Stephanie and Vince McMahon.
Limiting such a trait in professional wrestling means these moments were special.
Many internet based fans will then insist—"gone are the days of blatant sexuality."
Where there was violence, there was sex.
And lots of it.
The core outlet for such were the Divas of the time—mostly average-looking women displaying large, fake breasts.
By 2002, things began to change.
Trish Stratus had become the staple of the WWE Women's Championship division.
Within the next five years, Mickie James, Lita, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, Melina, and Victoria wore the gold.
Blatant sexuality had been replaced by the idea of being "Smart. Sexy. Powerful."
A professional young woman, young girls could potentially look up to.
A young woman who was not only smart, sexy, and beautiful—but athletically gifted.
While it took a few years for the links to Playboy to fade, focus was turned on creating stars and developing characters.
But more importantly, wrestling—within limitations.
Something fans have always asked for in this division.
We saw female General Managers in Stephanie McMahon, Vickie Guerrero and Tiffany (Taryn) Terrell—while stars like Candice Michelle, Kelly Kelly, Maria, Maryse and Michelle McCool emerged in coming years, thanks to the shift in approach the WWE took towards its female talent less than a decade prior.
Many internet based fans will then continue—"But what about the bad language?"
Like a 15-year-old thug screaming for attention.
The Attitude era did just that.
If it wasn't trying to tempt you with some extreme violence and anti-social behavior or trying to solicit sex, it was mouthing off.
From jokes about the male genitalia to simply saying naughty words.
Like hardcore wrestling, swearing or implying someone is a homosexual has its limitations.
By midway through the decade, it was a tired and exhausted formula for generating a response.
John Cena made his career on it.
As did Triple H, The Rock and Steve Austin in many ways prior.
Yet by 2005, suddenly John Cena's constant crude jokes and riddles were as relevant as a Rage Against the Machine album in 2010.
It didn't matter what was said—we had heard it all before
When the WWE said, "Where it all begins again" many—if all of us—missed what was being said.
Today, we have fantastic wrestling matches focusing on storytelling and ring psychology.
We have characters being built and developed with purpose and motivation.
We have feuds and stories with meaning and substance.
When the WWE made such a statement, it meant it.
And they did so by going back to everything that made professional wrestling the industry it is today—the fundamentals.
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