WWE has only ushered its New Era halfway through the door.
The heavy-handed transition to a new period for the company has seen WWE add fresh faces and elevate emerging stars. Still, there are ingredients missing in the formula.
To truly move forward, there needs to more substantial changes, a shift in tone and style, something that will more clearly define what WWE's latest era actually is.
The branding has already arrived, though. Since Payback, WWE has managed to slip in the words "New Era" so often that it has become a running joke.
Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter wondered just how often the company has uttered that phrase on Raw:
But is WWE delivering on this tagline? Did Payback really mark a passage into a markedly different period?
That's true in terms of personnel.
Last week, WWE cut ties with a number of Superstars, from Damien Sandow to Cameron. Those moves felt like the company was giving up on wrestlers on whom higher-ups were never sold and making room for new blood.
Since WrestleMania, WWE has rearranged its roster by adding a whole troop of NXT stars.
Apollo Crews charged onto the stage. Baron Corbin won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and has since been tangling with Dolph Ziggler. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady arrived in emphatic fashion.
A look at the card for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view is an indication of just how committed WWE is to showcasing fresh talent right now.
AJ Styles is in the main event against Roman Reigns, with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson lurking. The Vaudevillains are set for a tag team title match against The New Day. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Cesaro are all challenging The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. Rusev will battle Kalisto for the United States Championship.
Styles, Gallows and Anderson were all working for New Japan Pro Wrestling at the beginning of the year. Zayn, Kalisto and The Vaudevillains are among the many NXT transplants who are now a part of the main roster.
That adds up to five wrestlers set for the card who weren't even part of the WWE lineup the last time the PPV came around.
But that's not enough. As Voices of Wrestling columnist Barry Hess wrote, "Sure, we have new characters, but that alone isn't precedent for the pronouncement of a new era—it's an inherent aspect of the business."
The roster recycles every few years thanks to retirements, firings, hirings and call-ups. Those changes don't signal a new era; something bigger does.
The overall product has to reflect a shift to a new era. And in many ways, that hasn't happened.
For one, WWE is still using many of the same formulas. Raw still opens each night with a lengthy promo. SmackDown is still not essential viewing as much as it is bonus material. And victories by way of distraction come way too often.
Jason Solomon of PWMania is among those tired of seeing that same result each Monday night:
Overseeing it all are Shane and Stephanie McMahon. WWE is still heavily featuring the McMahons, a byproduct of both the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras.
Even considering how well the two siblings are getting along, one can only assume that a clash between them will get underway. There is too much contentious history for brother and sister to just start working as a cohesive team.
Once they begin to battle for control, that threatens to be the dominant narrative. And how is that different from The Authority's reign the last few years or The Corporation running the show during Steve Austin's heyday?
In addition, the roster won't remain as it is. Marquee names are set to reclaim their spots.
There is no John Cena on Raw right now, but that will change come Memorial Day. There is no Randy Orton, but once he's healthy, he will be a major player again. And it's not as if WWE is going to keep Triple H out of the limelight for the long run, either.
WWE has to tell the audience what is inherently unique about this period.
During Hulk Hogan's rise, we saw WWE begin to infuse celebrities and pop culture into the product to mark the march into the Rock 'n' Wrestling Era. Raunchier stories and edgier characters made it clear that the Attitude Era was new ground.
To truly be a new era, the present needs to see a change of that magnitude, something we can look back and point to as what made 2016 and beyond different from what had come before it.
No amount of repeating the term "New Era" will bring on that change.