Here's the skinny: everyone knows WWE had an Attitude Era in the 1990's. This Era was very successful and got WWE to a level they could never imagine. This much is true only because an edgier program had to be installed.
You see at the time, WWE had lost Hulk Hogan and were in the same type of PG era in the '80s and early '90s. They were starting to get competition from the likes WCW and even ECW.
WCW was putting out some interesting material and also bringing in some of the top names in Pro-Wrestling. Meanwhile, they had an edgier program called WCW Nitro.
Nitro was a TV-14 show, one that appealed more so the demographic all programs wanted, the young male 18-30 demographic. This was a core thing to have because these were the people who most watched TV weekly and who most watched this type of programming.
WCW knew this and went for that crowd because no other wrestling company on TV was going to. Enter ECW, who countered this by putting their talent through some of the most brutal matches every week. They also almost killed wrestlers many times over.
Plus, their content would never be allowed on TV today as the FCC would demand its immediate shutdown.
ECW was never the highest seen wrestling program, but it did have its core viewers which kept it afloat for a number of years. But it had a rating of TV-MA.
This meant they could not be on at a primetime timeslot on most major networks, therefore they were never a major threat to anyone but they were a key focus in changing Pro-Wrestling.
WWE, then WWF saw this and realized they needed a mix of both areas to become a major success.
The loss of key performers to WCW never really phased Vince McMahon. He installed the 90-day no-compete clause for all of his contracts after Rick Rude was on RAW one night then appeared on Nitro within a few hours afterward.
He is the only one ever to do this while WCW was a separate company from WWE.
WWE realized once again, there is an issue here and we need to fix things. So, all Vinny Mac did was use the talent he already had, and built up the entire program through them.
The loss of Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, for instance, was a major hit to WWE. And even though WCW was soaring in ratings at one point, WWE was profiting more annually than WCW because of all the big money contracts and mishandling of all things business-related.
Eric Bischoff knew how to get attention and could be the best at creating enough controversy to get said attention, but by no means was he considered a great business man.
While he did help to gain money at some points for WCW, in the end he could never really help them profit as they should've. Plus, he could never be that "boss" figure that is key to every work force.
Don't believe me? Ask every WCW performer and see if their answers are majorly different.
WWE knew what they were doing at the end of the day because they knew what Ted Turner and WCW didn't. That it didn't matter the talent held, but how it was used that mattered in the end.
Vince proved this 10 times over and while EB can always say he won the ratings battle for around two years, he's not the one who put WWE out of business.
And the reason for WCW going down is multiple issues, but one reason was because of WWE's success in the "Attitude Era," as it has come to be known.
Obviously it was successful because it got the beloved mark 18-30 demo, which is huge. But the reason for this was edgy stories. But really, it was more so the matches that were seen as the highlight of the show. Every match, even the jobbing ones, weren't bad.
It was a day tag team wrestling was beloved and embraced and women could actually do a wrestling hold and wrestle more than five minutes. Oh, and here's another, they let wrestlers go in the ring, which got fans on the side of so many WWE superstars.
Gimmick wise, there was nowhere better to be than WWE. Guys like Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Diesel, Stone Cold, The Rock, Undertaker, Mankind, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels all had gimmicks that worked and the last few didn't cross over to WCW, which meant that the others didn't leave and WWE still brought in terrific ratings.
But the reason wasn't solely because of storylines that were edgy, but match quality, which WWE lacks. Because the WWE schedule is so brutal, they cannot allow WWE talent to just do whatever in the ring that they would love because they have to conserve their bodies.
Meanwhile if they realize a superstar or two are taking a break, like HBK and Undertaker for instance, then you'll allow them to just go and do whatever they want in the ring to put on a great match because they won't be working the next night.
Why do you think people thought their matches from Mania's 25 and 26 were classics? It's because WWE just let two of the best go in the ring and didn't hold them back at all.
It's not that the Attitude Era had better talent, because saying that is idiotic. The reason it was so beloved is because match quality meant something.
And because the people from that era left, at least most, then the same type of wrestling isn't seen. And the one's who still stick around from that era like Triple H and Undertaker, are allowed to do whatever they want because of who they are and the respect WWE shows them both.
It's not that they are any better than guys like Orton or John Cena, it's that WWE feels they have to brand everything and hold their talent to a few things to make sure it's signature for the character.
Orton was considered the best wrestler in the company at one point, but he goes face and immediately has a build up at the end of matches. It used to be that you saw a great match and an RKO just happened.
The same could be said with John Cena, he didn't used to have the five moves of doom to end the match he was in. He hit an F-U to win (back when WWE was TV-14, the Attitude Adjustment was called the F-U for various reasons) and people seemed to really love the Cena character.
His rapping gimmick was great, but even just Cena is fine character wise but if WWE would stop trying to brand everything and make "signature" this and "signature" that, things would be better. It seems like WWE is trying to make watching Pro-Wrestling an advertisement for the merchandise they sell at stands outside.
Why? I don't know.
But maybe this will change now that Vince is gone. Who knows?
What hurts me most of all is, and I know I could get bashed like crazy for saying this, but John Cena could be seen as the best wrestler in the WWE if they allowed him to do whatever he wanted in a match every week.
The AE just simply allowed more because it was seen as the thing to do, nowadays it's about making money it seems. Which does seem to turn off fans.
This is why people beg for an Attitude Era because they think things will change. No, that Era if brought back today, would be a watered-down version, simply because you cannot duplicate an era.
Today, I feel WWE is just now starting to get it, and that could be attributed to people in the company trying to get Vinny Mac to change with the times.
But keep in mind, they make more money in the PG realm that they did in TV-14. Get this, they kept or increased ratings from 2005 to 2007, two years that WWE was TV-14.
They also didn't have much better ratings dating back to 2003. All were TV-14 ratings, but the reason they didn't do well was because of writing, not talent.
Today they have the same talent pretty much, but writing still sucks most of the time. This is why WWE struggles, it's not the wrestling or even the talent in the end, it's the guys writing stuff out.
But a show does not have to be TV-14 to be good, I've seen PG programs that were great. In fact, you can get away with a lot of edge in PG nowadays that you couldn't back in the '90s. In fact, you're allotted a certain amount of curse words and things like that. Plus edge wise, what do you want to see more of?
Women wearing hardly nothing or something lowbrow like that we just don't need?
Oh, how about blood?
Here is the issue with blood, it's only good if it's real and in a real moment. Hogan and Flair are perfect examples of two men who bleed out of nowhere for no reason. If they bleed like this in real life, they need to see a hematologist stat!
In WWE, there has been blood in PG, but they seem to want to stop it during matches. I don't agree with this aspect, but that is the only blood we need.
If it comes during a match nowadays, I love it more because I know it wasn't planned to happen and it's actually real. In the '90s, I saw way too many people gigging for no reason.
Headshots are done now, there is no need for them and when they do come, they must be protected from the head itself and not land right on it.
In TNA, they allow the headshots still and veterans demand the younger guys to put their hands and elbows up. I believe Team 3D once really dug into Jesse Neal for not doing this.
With all we know about head injuries nowadays, things like that are not needed.
So, without headshots, now we have no need for someone to randomly bleed from the head. A regular punch hardly ever draws a ton of blood unless it was already cut open to begin with, such as a stitch or something.
Case in point, there is no need for blood when it makes no sense to have.
That was basically the Attitude Era if you want to get technical, women hardly dressed and bloody matches involving headshots many wrestlers regret doing nowadays.
But the one thing AE did have is better wrestling and talent seemed to be used better, at this point, I could say we need an Attitude Era like approach. But as far as the whole Era? You must have taken a few headshots yourself because there is no need for it.
This Era is over and one WWE regrets a lot, just as the McMahons.
The AE was good and many fans loved it, but it is gone; why bring back a watered-down version?
I am okay for TV to get a little edgier, but keep in mind, you can be compelled if it's PG too, doesn't matter the ratings only the writing.
WWE should obviously let talent go a little more, it would make for better PPVs. Talent doesn't have to only show up at Wrestlemania. We used to see random PPVs give us great matches. That is where WWE needs to go.
Take things back a bit during the week, but on PPV, let the Superstars and Divas show why they are the best in the world. Otherwise you're just WWE, the most popular Pro-Wrestling company but the worst too.
WWE seems to finally be getting it on giving us compelling TV, which is good. They are also diving into social media and realize the Internet is a massive tool they can use for the good of their company and not one to turn their nose up to.
Remember, WWE used to and still is seen by some as low-brow. Yet the succeeded. So, why not give the IWC a chance to get involved and give them the chance to love the product more and more in that sense?
Can it really hurt in the long run?
All it does is spread the WWE name and make people want to watch the product on TV, which is really what the overall concept is right?
WWE knows that there is a change needing to be made and it looks like they are going down that road. But to say there is a need for the Attitude Era is completely idiotic and one that makes no sense in the long run because it would kill the company instead of progress it.
In a time that progression is everything, why would you go backward?
The idea for this article was from Donald Wood's article, in which he wrote of why we need an Attitude Era. Read his too when you get a chance here.