Roughly 11 years ago, the WWE started up an IPO (initial public offering), allowing fans and companies alike to buy stock in the company. As years passed, the WWE's TV standards have changed. Long gone are the days of beer drinking, crotch-chopping and foul language.
Now, we tune in weekly to see, a kinder, gentler WWE. A WWE that has to work a bit harder to not offend anyone, in fear of losing corporate sponsors.
This WWE does not want to be called a wrestling company. Instead they use the term "sports-entertainment." At one point, this term allowed the WWE to not have the same standards as mainstream sports (ie: baseball, football, etc.). They did not have to do drug testing nor did they have to adhere to state sporting rules in regards to hand-to-hand contact sports like boxing. Instead, the WWE could be looked at as being no different than a rock concert.
Ever since the 2007 Chris Benoit incident, drug testing has become a big part of the WWE and a "Wellness Policy" was established. This policy has helped several current and former wrestlers recover from their addictions.
Now, let's take a look at the history of wrestling. In general, wrestling was based on stereotypes and making fun of other people's shortcomings. It provided an escape from the everyday, a place where you could give your boss the middle finger and still be employed. In fact, up until about two years ago, WWE still used stereotypes to get characters over.
A prime example of that was the tag team Cryme Time. This tag team was loosely based on the stereotypical street thug, who liked to played by their own rules.
Prior to Cryme Time, there was the gay themed tag team Billy and Chuck. The WWE went so far as to attempt a gay marriage on TV. Which of course, garnered them some serious mainstream press.
Ultimately, the TV union never happened.
Then about two years ago, the content drastically changed to be more family friendly. In fact, they had to adhere to certain standards to maintain a TV-PG status.
Most promos were child-like in manner and even the most dangerous of matches almost never drew blood. John Cena went from a rapper with "a degree in thug-a-nomics" to a fan-friendly superhero-type character. Similar to that of Hulk Hogan in the '80s.
Several stars of the '90s made their return to the WWE during this time. Many, if not all of them, were not been able to use their old shtick.
Even '90s anti-hero "Stone Cold" Steve Austin received some heat with the WWE. One year ago, Austin served as guest host on RAW; this appearance got him into trouble with WWE management.
The problem stemmed from Austin calling for his signature on-air beer toss. In fact, he was told never to do that again as it was not authorized, nor a part of the WWE's current standards.
Then a few weeks ago, The Rock came back to the WWE and RAW. During his promo, he used some language that is no longer allowed on the WWE's TV shows.
At first, the words were bleeped out.
However, as the promo continued, The Rock's language made it on air. Many fans were surprised yet excited, as the hopes of the end of the "PG-era" seemed imminent.
One week later, the face of the WWE, John Cena, came out to respond to The Rock's promo. Cena went from squeaky clean, back to the "Doctor of Thug-a-Nomics." He made some innuendos about "The Brahma Bulls" sexuality, which caused a stir in the GLBT community.
However, it was a week later that the WWE and Cena garnered serious heat. The problem started when, Cena cut a promo on Alex Riley and The Miz also questioning their sexuality.
GLAAD immediately contacted the WWE and an apology was made, along with a new anti-bullying partnership between the two.
Then, this weekend Michael Cole tweeted a derogatory term to fellow announcer Josh Matthews. He later apologized and now has to go through sensitivity training.
Many often wonder: what would have been had the WWE stayed a privately owned business?
If they didn't have to answer to shareholders or corporate sponsors, would they be so quick to bow down to special interest groups?
Would they have kept that circus feel and relied on stereotypes and shortcomings to get people over?
Or would they have changed with the times and be in the same situation?
Personally, I am not a fan of shareholders being involved in a product that they have no clue about. Most of them are in it for monetary reasons only, as they should be, and I highly doubt that the bigger minority owners have any clue as to what wrestling was.
Instead, they want safe content and quick results if there is any controversy—which I also get. However, there is really no place for that attitude in wrestling . Wrestling is a controversial and risque business, relying on sexuality, muscles and tough guy promos to make their money. If it weren't for the '90s being so over the top, the WWE may very well have closed up shop.
Not saying, that the "Attitude-era" was the end-all-be-all of wrestling, just saying it helped it thrive, as the major wrestling companies started to tap into an older, more adult audience.
As a wrestling fan, I feel there has to be a way to cater to both audiences. The fact is, kids are going to grow up, and if the content stays the same or gets even more "safe," as adults they will tune out.
There is no doubt that Cole was out of line with his tweet. However, getting so worked up over John Cena's promos seems to be too much. Although, I really should not comment as I was not the subject of his humor.
Fans should keep in mind, that when he is on air he is not playing John Cena the person, he is John Cena the character.
His job is to bring some humor and entertainment to the masses. Granted, he may offend some people with his words, but they are just that...words.
Yes, he has influence over fans and how they feel, but his promos were made in jest and not hate. If he was using actual hate speech and talking about beating up people for their sexual orientation, then yes, he should be punished.
This was not the case and one has to wonder, how far the WWE will go to please outside interests in order to keep the money flowing?
So my question to you is: Would the WWE have changed if they were privately owned? Or were they going to have to go PG and cater to outsiders in order to survive?