It's March 29, 1987 and what I thought would be a typical day would turn out to be one of the greatest days of my childhood. Along with my Uncle and Cousin, I witnessed Wrestlemania III which took place at the Pontiac Silverdome, which ironically was only about a 20-30 minute drive from where I lived.
A few weeks prior to that day I had been introduced to a product known as World Wrestling Federation. I'll admit I didn't know much about wrestling then, but in an effort to enjoy the time I was spending with my cousin I sat down and watched an episode of WWF Superstars.
I was introduced to superstars like Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Andre The Giant and of course Hulk Hogan.
My interest had been peaked, but by the time Wrestlemania III ended I was hooked!
Savage vs. Steamboat was classic and who'll forget 93,000 people screaming when Hogan slammed Andre?
The effect that Wrestlemania had on a then six-year-old is still with me to this day.
Fast forward 22 years later (boy am I getting old) and the same six year old who fell in love with wrestling then, still loves it to this day.
It's a strategy that Linda McMahon has dubbed "Cradle To The Grave". An initiative to recruit young wrestling fans who stay fans for life. This initiative has become a main focus for the WWE recently.
In this article I would like to examine why I think the strategy by WWE is effective and mainly focus on the effects of merchandising/marketing, TV product, and the WWE Superstars.
The WWE has developed WWE Kids Magazine and WWEKids.com all as ways to hook the young wrestling fan. A great marketing strategy by WWE.
With articles that cater to youngsters and a website where parents who are WWE fans can feel comfortable sending their kids knowing they won't sneak and look at the Daily Diva (LOL) is a great way to reel in both parent and child.
When I was younger I remember the WWE (then WWF) had a cartoon that included Hulk Hogan and The Junkyard Dog among others. "The Cradle To The Grave" strategy was in the WWE's blueprint back then.
During the Christmas holiday I scoured the earth looking for a John Morrison and The Miz action figure for my son. He's seven years old and loves WWE. He then saw one of the DX Christmas promos that aired on TV and wanted the Elimination Chamber playset.
My son has enough wrestlers to spilt them up into separate brands. He has Smackdown superstars and RAW superstars.
WWE action figures were huge when I was a kid and remain extremely popular to this day.
I still remember my Macho Man action figure that was made of rubber.
As I go through my son's closet I find a foam "Brama Bull", a souvenir from my son's first WWE live event a few years ago. He says he will always remember the first time he went to a WWE show.
Cradle To the Grave.
The "Attitude Era" was arguably the era in which the WWE was at the height of its popularity.
It was also the era where the WWE was at it's most raunchy. Don't get me wrong, during this time I was in my late teens and early 20's so I loved it. But in no way was RAW suitable for a young kid to watch. Smackdown was more of the "kid friendly" show.
I understand that WWE's most popular demographic is 18-34 year old men. I'm currently in that demographic. At some point, whether we like it or not, we're going to get older and with age comes responsibility.
We may not be able to go to as many live events or order as many pay-per-views as we use to because of bills, kids, etc.
Using myself as a case study, between the ages of 18-21 I probably ordered 6-8 pay-per-views a year. Now it's Wrestlemania and that's about it.
The WWE is aware that the current 18-34 year olds will become 40 and 50-year olds and may not be as gung ho about wrestling as they were in their younger days.
How can the torched be passed and WWE stay viable in the future if they can't present a product on TV that young fans can watch now?
This is why RAW isn't as...well raw as it used to be. It's part of the reason you see more wrestling on Smackdown than in the past.
Cradle To The Grave.
If you were a kid in the 80's like me, then you probably were a Hulk Hogan fan. Let's face it, as Shane stated in an article, he is the Michael Jordan of the business. He's your favorite wrestler's...favorite wrestler. When you heard "Real American" come on you jumped on your couch started posing and cupping your hand to your ear.
He was the one superstar that made me a wrestling fan.
In the mid 90's wrestling started changing and it became cool to like the "bad guy". Even our hero Hulk Hogan became a heel in WCW and people loved it.
Hogan eventually returned to the red and yellow and I got that nostalgic feeling....
For just a brief moment. I became a kid again.
Now as we are in a new era, we have John Cena. He is wrestling's ultimate good guy.
The Hogan of this era.
Us adults are begging for WWE to turn him heel. We're tired of seeing him smiling and saluting the crowd, so we grown-ups boo him.
I can't boo him....
I see a young kid with his John Cena T-shirt, his Cena action figure, and his replica spinning belt smile from ear-to-ear as his favorite superstar walks down the aisle.
I see my son with the same excitement in his eyes as I had when I saw Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III.
I see a kid who will be a wrestling fan for life.
Cradle To The Grave.
Linda McMahon knows that guys like John Cena, Jeff Hardy, John Morrison and Evan Bourne hold the key to attract a new generation of wrestling fans.
She sees that creating a website and a kids magazine is a way for younger fans to stay in touch with the product and a way for the WWE to keep them coming back for more.
Us old guys may not like it but it's a brilliant plan.