WWE Attitude: The Return To a Time No One Will Ever See

Marc MattalianoCorrespondent IIINovember 16, 2010


I'm going to attempt to make this one of my shorter articles, as I'm once again becoming irritated at the impulse reactions of my fellow members of the IWC.  I love being a part of this very analytical bartering of ideas on professional wrestling, but some days...I don't know.

Brief recap: for those who have yet to see last night's Monday Night Raw, it featured a  three hour live event dubbed "Old School," in which WWE Legends and Hall of Famers were present, and on-screen graphics were even changed to be nostalgic.  They brought back Piper's Pit for a night, the King even wore his old wrestling tights and regal jacket, and Cole wore Vince McMahon's old mustard colored coat.

I'll try not to ruin too many of the other surprises for whoever watches it on Universal HD on Saturdays, as it was a really entertaining three hours, but suffice to say, many are already crowing about the return of WWE to the Attitude Era.  I'm going to attempt to dispel these thoughts as concisely as possible.

Some things appeared on last night's Old School Raw that took many of us by surprise, as it relates to PG standards:

1) Mark Henry entering the ring to his old Sexual Chocolate theme song.  For those who saw, the crowd chanted "chocolate, chocolate, chocolate."  I was watching during the whole Attitude Era and I don't remember one time any crowds chanting that back then.  Everyone, please do me a favor and stop reading too much into Mark Henry's gimmick last night.  It was PG enough and didn't cross any lines.  "But...but kids don't know what sexual means!"  Sexual can refer to gender, not just intercourse.  Look it up in a dictionary.

2) 87-year-old Diva, Mae Young, spouted a few words unexpectedly during an interview.  Laycool appeared, and Mae Young called them "bitches" and "sluts."  First off, old liberals often have very loose mouths.  Use your imagination.  Second, let's break this down further, she's old as dirt, she saw her biggest level of popularity during HER time in the Attitude Era, and since she still gets her mail by pony express and carrier pigeon, she likely didn't get the email weblink to the computer video feed showing Vince's announcement about toning down the language.  Lastly, they can write it off as Live TV and put the blame on her and her lack of control as an elderly woman.  Get over it.

Another history lesson for you, readers, at absolutely no charge.  The change from WWE's Golden Era to that of the New Generation was pretty seamless.  It was basically a time when the fluffy costumes, puffed up egos, and overblown personalities got deeper, and the gimmicks of yesteryear were stronger and able to shine.

New Generation was an evolution. However, the change made from that time period to the Attitude Era, for those who didn't see it, was extraordinarily...wait for it...GRADUAL!

A little naughty word here, a little bit of boob there.  Some suggestive themes here, some interesting mature (yet acceptable for kids) angles there.  It all started as creatively done implication and insinuation, and although I wasn't opposed to any of it, every time they'd do something questionable, I found myself saying to the TV, "dude, you can't put that on wrestling TV!"  But they did and it went over pretty well for a little while.

Fact is, we didn't just see one episode of Monday Night Raw with Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, and then the very next week, girls were pulling their shirts off and large, bodybuilding women were pulling their tights down.  No...there was buildup to content like that.

While some of you remember the news story you read, or even the footage you watched, of Vince McMahon making the official announcement that WWE was changing its formatting to only contain PG level content, there was no official announcement made that WWE was going from New Generation to Attitude.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say that the title of Attitude was really only a label given to the state of the WWE at the time, in an attempt to sell t-shirts.

We can look back on that time and refer to it as The Attitude Era, but get real.  I read an article here recently quoting Attitude as lasting from 2002-2006.  Seriously?  Because I remember NWO and DX being prominent when I was a senior in high school in 1998.  Point being?  Any of us can look back at different bundles of years and call them whatever we like.

Many forget the time BETWEEN Attitude Era and PG Era.  Any takers on the Ruthless Aggression Era?

Look, my point here is simple.

1)  Attitude was a fun time period, but a lot has changed since then.  Legends have died, passed away, committed suicide, etc.  The state of the country has changed, the landscape of the wrestling industry has changed, standards that wrestling companies are held to have changed, and WWE's quality of competition has changed.  WWE going PG made the most sense where it was at the time.

2)  Attitude was a fun time period not only because of sex, violence and profanity.  It was fun because WWE (formerly WWF) was living up to its slogan: "Anything can happen in World Wrestling Federation."  These days, angles and themes are still family friendly.  But with new belts, titles unifying, new characters, stables, and wrestlers arising, we're ever so gradually returning to a great time for wrestling.  Not returning to Attitude...but returning to the days when "anything could happen."

3)  Attitude was an alternative marketing solution to WCW's family friendly programming, and that worked for them at the time.  People complain all over the IWC that WWE isn't cursing and violently bloody and sexual anymore, yet I don't see any of those same people crowing about TNA's camp of hooker-esque Knockouts, their gratuitous use of blood, and their loose standards on language.  They curse, bloody up their performers, and have their Knockouts straddle the middle rope and shake their asses.

And for what?  A 1.2 rating on average?  True, WWE has been hovering around the 3.0s lately with their PG programming, and it's not nearly the ratings they were getting during the Attitude Era, but like I've been saying...

It's all gradual!

IWC, I beseech you, do NOT sit around holding your breath that the Attitude Era is right around the corner because it is NOT.  People refer to the "PG Era," including myself, and I'm offended by that considerably because calling it an Era means it has an end.  From this day forward, in this moment, this will be the moment, of my moment (did all that on purpose, by the way) of ending my references to this period as the PG Era.  No more...

We've all been watching PG WWE shows for quite a while now and no one who complains seems to be doing anything about it.  You complainers all just watch with bated breath that the content will change.

I'm not going to give you a simple answer, like "grin and bear it," "get over it," and "stop your bitching."  But if the Attitude Era sees a resurgence (and again, don't count on it), it will be...what's the word of the day?

Gradual.  Exactly.

If WWE programming goes anywhere with its standards, it will probably head into Ruthless Aggression style territory first.  After all—do your research—how did WWE programming get to Attitude in the first place?  By slowly and surely pushing boundaries, little by little, baby step by baby step.  It didn't happen over night, it didn't take ONE profanity-laced tirade by a woman close to 90, it didn't take ONE instance of The Kat threatening to take her clothes off on national TV (which, hopefully, no one actually thought was going to happen), and it didn't take ONE night of Edge and Lita threatening to have sex on TV...

It was what?  Say it with me, loud and proud...


I want this business of declaring the end of PG to stop.  It's silly and immature.  We're all free to voice our opinions, and if all you complainers and detractors keep doing it, feel free.  I'm merely saying what I want.

When I say "The Return to a Time No One Will Ever See," it's not the TIME that no one will see...it's the RETURN that no one will see.  So many of you want Attitude back instantly.  Not happening.

I'm not counting on WWE keeping their PG content policies intact forever, and I will acknowledge that WWE seems, in the most microscopic of ways, to be loosening up a tad to make their themes entertaining for adults, yet still keeping their mature themes so over the head of kids, they can watch and enjoy as well.

After all, New Generation did that for a long time before WWE decided to move into more mature territory.  But remember, one is not an indication of another.  Just because WWE is loosening up, that doesn't mean Raw and Smackdown will be the swinger's club we once knew it to be.

Keep in mind...PG is an abbreviation.  It means Parental Guidance.  A kid hears two naughty words that aren't even "curse words" and provided they have the right parents or guardians guiding them, they won't be corrupted.

In case I haven't pointed this out before, I used to watch Dallas with my parents when I was seven.  You know, the whole "who shot JR" fiasco?  That's Dallas.  I had good parents who answered all my questions and taught me right from wrong.  When Attitude hit, and I began listening to heavy metal?  They really weren't terribly concerned that I was going to run with bad crowds and become a sex addict.  Know why?  I was guided parentally.

I'll leave you with this...

Think back to the flashback episode of Friends (which I believe aired during part of the Attitude Era, incidentally...so glad I stopped watching it before it ended).  It's the episode that shows all of them meeting and becoming a group of six.  Chandler mentions that the BAR they so loved to drink beer and play pool in was turning into a COFFEE SHOP!

And yet, they still hung out there till the very last season, didn't they?