Why WWE Will Never Go Back to a TV-14 Rating on Raw or SmackDown

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2019

Triple H, Lee Zeldman and Stephanie McMahon holding a check donated to "Children's Health" on behalf of Roman Reigns.
Triple H, Lee Zeldman and Stephanie McMahon holding a check donated to "Children's Health" on behalf of Roman Reigns.Credit: WWE.com

If you ask any pro wrestling fan what they think would help WWE improve its viewership and overall product, almost all of them will say it would be going back to a TV-14 rating. 

It has been a little over a decade since WWE opted to change its programming to a PG product, and since then, we have seen ratings fall to new lows. Many fans are choosing to skip Raw and SmackDown in favor of watching other promotions like Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground and New Japan Pro-Wrestling to get a show for a more mature audience. 

It sounds like it would be an easy solution to just go back to TV-14, but there are a lot of reasons why that's not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

                        

Sponsorships and Partnerships

When WWE was at its edgiest during the Attitude Era, a lot of advertisers looking to appeal to families didn't want to be associated with the company. 

These days, thanks to its PG rating, WWE is able to attract organizations like Susan G. Komen, the Special Olympics and various youth outreach programs to form partnerships.

WWE Superstars have granted thousands of wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and spent countless hours representing the company at other charitable events.

The company likes the mainstream exposure and positive press these things bring. Going back to a more violent and risque product would harm those alliances.

On top of that, WWE has to worry about sponsors. Snickers and KFC might not be willing to shell out big bucks for advertising space during Raw and SmackDown if WWE Superstars are constantly bleeding from the head and calling each other curse words.

                            

Prime-Time Programming

The USA Network gives WWE two nights of prime-time programming every week, and by the end of 2019, one of those nights will be provided by Fox.

The reason certain hours are referred to as prime time is that those are the most-watched hours of the day, especially for families.

This is when most major networks will air its biggest shows, but the most prominent cable and broadcast networks tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to controversial programs.

Sitcoms, the less-violent police procedurals and reality competitions dominate these hours most of the year, and for WWE to have five of those prime hours every week is a big deal.

Changing back to an edgier format might cause USA and Fox to rethink these time slots and push the shows back to a later hour, or in the worst-case scenario, cancel them altogether.

                          

Kids Control Everything

WWE wants to appeal to all of its fans, but younger viewers have always been the company's bread and butter, especially when it comes to merchandise sales.

The Attitude Era worked because the entertainment industry as a whole was trying to be more controversial at the time, but that has all changed and WWE chose to change in order to survive.

Parents want to know their children are watching something they approve of, and WWE has pulled back just enough to be considered appropriate for today's kids.

By keeping parents happy so they allow their little ones to watch Raw and SmackDown, WWE has ensured it will keep selling video games, action figures, posters and anything else it can slap a logo on. 

                         

TV-14 Was Not Good for the Women's Division

The past few years have been a renaissance for the women's division in WWE. Not only are female Superstars being given real storylines, longer matches and prime booking, but they are no longer being promoted primarily on their sex appeal to the WWE audience.

For every great Trish Stratus vs. Lita match we got during the Attitude Era, we also got 10 pillow fights or Bra and Panties matches. Guys going through puberty probably loved it, but many saw it as a low point for the industry.

WWE still occasionally does things like have Mandy Rose appear in a towel to distract Jimmy Uso during a match, but that actually helped further a storyline with Naomi. It wasn't just an excuse to get her in a towel, especially considering most WWE performers' ring gear (including Rose's) is more revealing than a towel anyway.

Having an edgier product doesn't necessarily mean WWE would automatically start pushing its female promoters based on their perceived sex appeal, but it would probably lead to some Superstars being asked to do things they didn't think would have to do when they were hired by a PG company and could be uncomfortable with.

                       

Shocking Moments Stand Out More These Days

The Attitude Era gave us a lot in a short amount of time, but when everything is designed to be surprising, nothing ends up being a surprise after a little while.

WWE has learned less is more when it comes to shocking moments. By only allowing a few curse words to be spoken on occasion, they have more weight than when Steve Austin was throwing them around every week.

When the company uses fewer violent moments, every instance of blood becomes more engaging to the audience. These days, if someone starts bleeding during a match, you know it happened the hard way without a blade.

WWE still pushes the envelope on occasion, and by doing it sparingly, we as fans tend to respond more than we would if we saw this kind of stuff all the time.

As much as it infuriates some fans, a PG product is better for everyone, and that includes the indy scene. Smaller promotions that like to think of themselves as the new ECW wouldn't get as much attention on social media if WWE was doing the same kind of risque and violent segments every week.

                       

The World is Changing

We live in an interesting, and sometimes equally inspiring and frustrating, time. The world, or at least part of it, is trying to become a more open and accepting place for everyone.

WWE might be changing a little slower than some people would like, but positive changes are taking place right in front of our eyes.

The women's revolution, an increased focus on wrestler safety, building the next generation at the Performance Center and working with several charities focused on helping kids were all things that seemed out of reach for WWE during the Attitude Era.

Returning to TV-14 wouldn't reverse all of these changes, but it would be a step in the wrong direction.


Do you think WWE will ever go back to a TV-14 rating?

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