What's in a Rating? The PG History Of Wrestling
PG. Two letters, that when joined together can have a rather large impact on wrestling fans psyche. These two letters are also known to spread discontent, start conversation of nostalgia along with dreams of remembrance for the way things use to be.
For a little over a week now, the community has seen a string of articles complaining about the current state of wrestling in the WWE.
There were a large degree of suggested fixes to improved the WWE, spanning from incorporation of new titles to throwing out the Diva division, however the overall consensus made by writers and comments alike pointed to a total dissatisfaction with the WWE's PG rating.
Another thing that the articles and comments shared in common, besides a few acts of dissension , was a longing for the Attitude Era and a PG-14 environment that goes along with it.
Who could really disagree with those sentiments? The era revolutionized wrestling like nothing we seen before. It made make-believe characters come to life and spoke to the audience with awe-striking promos and larger then life matches.
Now comes the time where I must end your dreams and days of nostalgia with one single sentence.
The Attitude Era and the PG-14 rating was an anomaly, and not a true representation of wrestling's entire history.
Why? The answer is simple: there was wrestling before the Attitude Era and TNA. What I mean by this is that wrestling as a whole operated under gimmicks and shows dedicated to what would now be labeled as a PG rated audience throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s.
Fabolus Moolah and Mae Young were great female wrestlers during this day, and were not trying to compete in a Bra & Panties match as they attempted to do in the Attitude Era.
Bobo Brazil, Bruno Sammartino and Killer Kowalski were not the types to say "I will take a broom stick, turn it sideways, shine up real nice, and stick it up your candyass," with a smile and iced out sunglasses on during a promo or an interview.
If they did say such things, their in-ring characters might have suffered during that era. Similar to how a Cena heel turn could hurt the WWE in terms of merchandise sells and his kid fanbase.
The interview and matches that Sammartino, Kowalski, 1980s Hulk Hogan, and Dusty Rhodes did were more about demonstrating an artform and acts of power, then being controversial or creating an edge to their character.
The 70s and 80s also proved that you can have a mainstream status without full on violence and blood. The perfect example is The Rock & Wrestling Connection and the creation of Wrestlemania in the 80s.
Perhaps the most important thing fans must not forget, is that these eras were a success, and paved the way for the future, without the things that PG-14 fans clamor for today in blood, violence and over the top characters.
A Misconception of The Attitude Era
As wrestling fans it is important to remember that we will never always like the same thing. We each have our own opinions about what makes a product special, and the things that make it unwatchable.
Another thing that fans must remember, is that the WWE knows this. How else could you explain Vince McMahon and the WWE creating a PG show in Smackdown , during days of attitude.
No that is not a typo. Smackdown since its one night stand on April 29, 1999, and its first official episode on August 26, 1999, has always been PG.
Did fans complain about the show then? No, we loved it and wanted more of it.
Looking back, Crash Holly running around the Smackdown arena with the Hardcore title, trying to befriend the APA for support; is no different from Santino lobbying for Vladimir Voslov support on RAW. The difference being the delivery.
The creation of Smackdown was the WWE's way of continuing the path of "E for everyone" they already were accustomed too. Looking throughout the history of the show, the program rating has continue to be PG, from The Rock to Jack Swagger.
This underlines the true purpose of the Attitude Era. It was started because of competition and the pressure to compete. Vince McMahon was pushed by necessity and motivated by ego.
If WCW and ECW never came along and pushed the WWE, Stone Cold Steve Austin would have remained The Ring Master and stuck facing Matt Hardy , I mean High Voltage, in a normal singles match on RAW.
The WWE's game plan only changed once the forces around them changed. The Attitude Era backdrop was centered around an eat-or-be-eaten approach reflected in the WWE's characters during the era.
The plan slowly changed as Vince McMahon and company took the competition out in 2001. The failed Alliance angle was the last attempt to showcase the dog-eat-dog nature that the Attitude Era was.
From that moment on there was no need for any attitude and slowly the WWE calmed down and in early 2008 made RAW join Smackdown in what it was always suppose to be: E for everyone.
A Summary in 30 seconds
There is one major theme that I wanted to bring forth to Bleacher Report Nation in this article. That is the WWE's, and wrestling's, current problems have nothing to do with a PG program rating, but rather creative and storyline control.
If the WWE went back to capturing the imagination of audiences like it did in the days before the Attitude Era, fans would complain less and enjoy the product more.
Instead they gave us the PG rating, but only gave us 40% of the content which made the other eras fun. This led fans longing for the days of skull bashing excitement that 90s and early 2000s brought.
Once the WWE delivers the other 60%, it is pretty safe to say that we could easily be headed towards a new generation of greatness, with new faces delivering the same bone chilling moments that made us tune in each and every week with excitement.
So what are your thoughts, do you feel wrestling can return back to the level of excitement it had in the past?
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