The decision of WWE to move to PG has caused much debate among wrestling fans but it is a decision in many ways that reflects the companies desire to hold onto the same core audience Wrestling has had since the 80’s
When Vince McMahon first brought Wrestling mainstream in the 1980’s he did so by having over the top characters. The gimmicks used by the WWF at this time were aimed at replacing the ‘rasslin fan in the front row of the arena and to bring in families. Hulk Hogan is the most obvious example of the kind of OTT gimmick used at the time and Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling was one of the techniques used to market toward children.
The 90’s was a decade defined by edginess. Grunge came to the fore in the early 90’s and replaced hair metal and other 80’s favourites gradually fell out of style. By the time Hogan had a failed run in WWE 1993 and the steroid trial further tarnished his image he was considered no longer crucial by Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon himself had fallen out of touch and it was Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff who gave the wrestling fans of the 80’s (now in there teens and early twenties) what they wanted from a 90’s wrestling company. The SARSA formula employed by Bischoff (Story, Anticipation, Reality, Surprise, and Action) was illustrated by Luger’s shock appearance on the first Nitro. It took WWE a while to find how to apply a similar formula and the Attitude Era and Vince’s decision to move in a ‘New Direction’, closer to Jerry Springer and more shock TV than traditional wrestling programme brought Vince’s audience back to the WWF.
So now Vince’s original audience are all grown up. Inconsistent ratings in the early 2000’s may be as much down to the new responsibilities of this audience (work, relationships and children) as other contributing factors. Now the audience of the 80’s can reconnect with wrestling through watching the new family friendly WWE alongside their children, as such creating a new audience and restarting the cycle.