The PG Era is over!
For those who haven't seen the January 10, 2011, edition of Monday Night Raw, many are already speculating that PG policy is getting thrown out the window.
Last night, CM Punk reinitiated members of Nexus with severe pain, punishment and beatdowns involving leather straps, 450 splashes and even a surprise appearance by Big Show.
It was reminiscent of gang initiations, trial by fire and even holy inquisition.
He even acted brilliantly, teasing an act of self-sacrifice, making everyone think he was ready to jump off the top of the big screen.
Even though he didn't do it, I was laughing off the couch when he pulled up his new yellow Punk logo t-shirt and said, "Look! I'm wearing a harness and I have two people to spot me! I'm safer up here than you are down there!"
Cena even got on the Tron via satellite at the very end, saying he's gonna whip Punk's ass!
Ass! He dropped an A-bomb, ladies and gentlemen, an A-bomb that is blowing up the internet! Haven't heard one of those in a while.
However, let's not get ahead of ourselves and instead, look at things from a calmer perspective.
Take a breath...in, deep breath...out, deep breath...there you go.
After WWE's Attitude Era spearheaded the movement to bring violent, sexy, obscene wrestling into the foreground of popular culture, making an announcement that its programming would be strictly PG was a quick, certain and sure end to such material.
There is no way on this planet that WWE is going to reverse their decision as outwardly and quickly, by simply making an announcement about it—that's first of all.
You hold press conferences when you want to apologize and tell everyone you're changing your ways for the better; you don't, under any circumstances, hold a press conference to let everyone know that you're turning to a life of debauchery.
Maybe when I'm famous, I'll hold one like that, but until then, do yourself a favor and don't hold your breath—at least, not until you turn purple.
One thing many people forget when discussing WWE Eras is the Ruthless Aggression Era. It was a transitional time period on the heels of Attitude that had some of the violence and sexy ladies, but wasn't quite as out there and in everyone's faces.
It's the Era that saw all of us appreciate John Cena for his raunchy raps, his badass chains and his unstoppable resolve. Just like Vanilla Ice before him, I don't want a single one of you to sit there and tell me that you didn't like him back then, because you know you liked both Cena and you know you liked Ice.
By making the announcement that WWE was going PG with their programming, they were making a very simple move: They were basically saying to the world that they were going back to the good old days. The days when wrestling was about matches and drama and not about blood and naked girls.
Notice when you watched Raw last night, or have seen things on Raw in the recent past? During the show, you were probably saying to yourself, "That's not PG!"
More likely, you were yelling it at the screen. I'm doing it and I'm sure tons of others are as well.
WWE has basically reset the clock on us and, in doing so, they've once again made even the slightest bit of violence or profanity risque again.
TNA? They bask in blood, gratuitously sexual Knockout costumes and other mature themes. They imply that Abyss actually eviscerated RVD with "Janice," they have old wrestlers like Foley and Flair bloodying each other and Madison and Tara kiss on their way into the ring.
What does it get them? Practically nothing.
WWE, on the other hand, has attempted to change its image by focusing more on young, charismatic wrestling talent, including new faces like Barrett, Bryan and Del Rio and yet, in the background, pro characters like CM Punk are upping the stakes on the "face of the company."
They've turned back time on their parental rating, and let's face it, after the massive Nielsen figures WWE was pulling in with the Attitude Era, it seemed really silly of them to pull back the parental rating to what it is now.
But in doing so, they've enabled themselves to make the simplest of things seem that much more extreme, while increasing the quality of their core wrestling talent.
They seem to be in the process of adjusting their programming so that it's risque enough to tease and intrigue grown-ups, without being so ridiculously violent that the kids can't watch it without their moms' and dads' approval.
Even hardcore TNA marks have to agree—WWE's approach is pretty genius.
Cena saying "ass" every so often isn't going to inspire kids to run around and curse, but it does make the guy look tougher in the eyes of grown-ups once again.
Not only that, but even if they decide to keep Smackdown "cleaner" and more kid-friendly, WWE can always write off what happens on Raw as Live TV. They can go back to the days when commentators would (kayfabe) slip in something about a guy getting fined or punished and make every little thing look like a major problem in the eyes of management.
You know, just like they used to!
Any Attitude Era mark remembers the days when Vince came out to the ring, stomping his feet about guys like Austin and Rock causing trouble. How they were crossing all sorts of lines, how they were inspiring the fans to start major ruckus with all their cheering and chanting and "The Boss" needed to be present to put such activities to a stop!
That right there is the bad part about the Attitude Era that no one seems to realize.
If you live in an Era with no rules, people can do whatever they damn well please and SHOCKER, if they're no longer breaking any rules by being sexy and violent and crazy, then they can't do a single thing to shock people anymore.
By specifically implementing a PG format for their programming, WWE reestablished a concrete set of rules that, quite frankly, weren't really nailed down in wrestling—ever.
After all, isn't that why the Golden Era was allowed to push boundaries all the way up to Attitude anyway? Because there really weren't that many rules laid down?
Like I've been saying in past articles, please don't hope and pray that Attitude is coming back because at the very least, it's not guaranteed. But we can at least hope that WWE programming will loosen up a tad.
People don't go from being straightedge virgins to porn-star drug addicts overnight. Expecting a wrestling company to do it is unfair.
However, with John Cena and CM Punk leading the way, we may see WWE loosen up just enough.
In my opinion, there's no need to push the envelope near as far as they pushed it during the Attitude Era. They've done it, they've gone there, nothing to prove in that arena.
All they need to do is a little of bit of implication, throw in some innuendo in promos and commentary.
I'll end on two classic examples:
Back in the day, when we heard JR mention that he'd like to take a Diva out to the woodshed, we knew exactly what he meant. Or, at least, we could use our imaginations and figure out something fun that WE would like to do with a Diva in the woodshed, as there are plenty of fun things to do with Divas, in all shapes and sizes of woodsheds.
For him to say things like that was risque without crossing boundaries.
Watch what would happen if management told Matt Striker that his smart mouth could be used in slightly naughtier ways. Watch how Striker's popularity would skyrocket if he made less Dennis Miller level comparisons and more overt sexual jokes, over the heads of kids but right on the level with smart adults.
Watch all the people spring up, thinking he was hilarious then.
All I have to say is...PUPPIES!