The world of pro wrestling is an ever changing game. And in WWE, one of these more recent changes has been the move back to being a PG rated show. Gone are the risque storylines, Diva jello fights in mini pools, and we had to say goodbye to blood. Yes, the attitude era is a thing of the past.
But was toning down the product to a PG rating really a good idea? From a marketing point of view you would probably say yes. Being more family friendly brings in more money from parents who are now able to bring their kids to the shows, and especially since those kids want merchandise, and lots of it. Of course there are those that feel that the real reason that WWE went PG was because of Linda McMahons political dreams. That could be true also. But for whatever the reason, we have been living through what most fans are starting to feel, is the most boring time that we have witnessed in years.
And it isn’t just showing up on blogs and websites. Those in power could care less that some of us in the internet wrestling community aren’t happy. No, this is starting to hit them where it hurts. In the ratings, and pay per view buyrates. RAW has been a ratings roller coaster at times, but is nowhere near as popular as it was even five or ten years ago. And pay per views are reportedly down 25% domestically, and are on track for their worst year since 1994-1995 when they only ran 5 pay per views.
Aside from all this, there is the argument that being a PG rated show has handcuffed the talent, and not allowed them to express themselves properly. Can you imagine what promo’s from The Rock, or Stone Cold Steve Austin would have been like had there been a PG rating?
But what did WWE hope to gain from this, besides more money, due to drawing in the younger audience, and merchandise? The answer to that is, future consumers. When people like myself first started watching wrestling in the late 70′s, you really had to love the sport to enjoy it. But then came Hulkamania, and the explosion of pro wrestling into the mainstream. This was considered the “Golden Era” of the WWF. During that time in the 80′s, the show was also considered to be PG rated, and fans like me were just starting high school. Those years were the seeds that got planted in the minds of millions of kids that later became the hardcore fans that we are now. This is what the WWE is hoping to do again. Draw in this younger audience with its new PG era, and the long term benefit will be that these kids will be fans for life. The major difference however, is that this time around, the product itself is very different than it was when Hogan and company were around. That, and the kids aren’t the same either.
What WWE is failing to realize is that the “Attitude Era” worked, because even the younger crowd has moved on and matured. Today’s 12 – 15 year old, is radically different than my generation was at that age. And if their goal is to hook children younger than that, then they are truly deluding themselves. Seeing an eight year old fan in the stands, wearing a John Cena shirt is cute, but I wouldn’t bet the future of my company on him still caring about wrestling ten years later. Which is why the WWE needs to drop the PG rating, and start thinking about entertaining the fans that they still have now.
It was a nice experiment, and I am sure in some regards it seemed like it was working, but things in WWE need to start changing, and the sooner the better.