I am officially not interested in the WWE. Not wresting, per se. I’m only referring to the WWE’s line of programming. This kind of creeped up on me but I discovered that I haven’t been watching any WWE shows for a couple of months now. I haven’t tuned into RAW for a good number of weeks now. That period has been much longer for Smackdown. But, like I said, I still haven’t given up on wrestling. In fact, I’ve been watching other wrestling programs recently. I loved every bit of AEW’s recent Double or Nothing event. Maybe the matches were a little too high octane because they didn’t put their foot off the gas and I just wanted a breather or a comedy bit here and there.
It was still a whole lot better than WWE’s more recent shows. I’ll even say AEW’s Double or Nothing outshone this year’s Wrestlemania! It’s hard for me to say that but that’s the truth of the matter. AEW just put on a program that was better than what is supposed to be the equivalent to the Super Bowl in the wrestling world.
I can’t say Double or Nothing was better because of the wrestlers because I hardly know anyone who was there. The only guys I was really familiar with were Cody Rhodes, Kharma/Awesome Kong, Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega. And I only know them because they appeared in the WWE… and one of them plays Street Fighter. Everyone else, I have no clue. Yet I was totally into their matches, even thought I didn’t have years of emotional investment behind them. Yes, the matches were really good but even the ones that weren’t stellar, I was engrossed. The Women’s Fatal Four War may have had Awesome Kong but she looked tired and beat up. She hardly did anything I would’ve called awesome. But, even still, I loved it because the other wrestlers did really exciting stuff.
I couldn’t figure out why I liked watching AEW. It seemed new and yet so familiar. I put this in the back of my mind and kind of forgot about it until I saw that WWE’s upcoming pay-per-view Stomping Grounds was coming up! I didn’t even realize they had a new show because, like I said, I haven’t been watching both RAW or Smackdown. Then it suddenly hit me why the AEW matches were so good in my eyes. It made me feel like a kid watching WWE programming for the first time.
It reminded me of the Attitude Era.
I grew up watching WWE programming during the Attitude Era, which may seem rather… not appropriate for my age, especially considering I was around 5 years old or something like that when I got hooked on wrestling. A lot of fans remember this time period where Undertaker took things too far a chokeslammed Mankind through the Hell in a Cell roof or when Bra and Panties matches were the norm for female WWE Superstars. Yes, those things did happen. But I also remember the weird and almost kiddie stuff. Stone Cold spraying the Corporation with a beer hose. Mankind gifting The Rock with a This is Your Life retrospective. Vince McMahon’s Kiss My Ass Club. Mae Young giving birth to a hand. The first appearance of Dude Love. I loved all of it, despite them being rather silly.
Yes, the WWE’s Attitude Era was a mixture of sophomoric humor, over the top violence and strange/silly/confusing scenarios but it was a grand combination that made it greater than the sum of its parts. The reason why it all worked, in my opinion, came down to two reasons. One, they were competing with WCW. But the bigger reason was, during the Attitude Era, they allowed themselves to take risks. Why? Because they didn’t have that pesky PG rating to deal with.
Basically, what I’m saying is the WWE took a whole lot more risks during the Attitude Era because they weren’t all that concerned about making sure their programming was appropriate for kids. Could a wrestler start bleeding in the middle of the match? Sure! Can you have the daughter of the company get kidnapped by an undead wizard and then it turns out it was a plot by her father to get even with an unruly employee? Yep. Could you have a male porn star get kidnapped by a bunch of stereotypical Japanese yakuza and threaten to cut off his pee-pee for sleeping with the leader’s wife? Most definitely!
I’m not saying that they should go back to doing crass and misogynistic stories, which was kind of a staple of the Attitude Era. What I’m saying is that the WWE were more open to doing weird and crazy things then. They definitely didn’t play it safe. This meant storylines could go in weird and surprising ways. Feuds weren’t just all about going for the championship because they could turn out to be much more personal. Midcarders could have more screentime because they had that one odd story that everyone liked for one reason or another. They did all sort of crazy things during the Attitude Era and that kept viewers like myself wanting to see what was going to happen next.
Compare that to today’s WWE programming. Each and every week, it feels all so same-y. I have genuinely never felt surprised while watching a RAW or Smackdown show. Feuds don’t have the same heat as things never escalate to a personal level. The wrestling is still good. I’d say it’s objectively better today. But because I don’t feel anything for the Superstars nor do I feel there’s going to be anything of consequence that happens, I generally don’t care for the outcome. But the WWE has to keep it that way to ensure that they keep the PG rating. They don’t want to ruffle any feathers or do anything that may make parents upset because their children saw someone shed a drop of blood during a match.
I’m not suggesting that they need to go back to the Attitude Era. I’ll be the first one to say that not everything that came out of the time period was gold and a lot of stuff, like the Bra and Panties matches, would be a step back when it comes to the current state of Women’s matches in the WWE. What I am suggesting is that the WWE try to do more creative things in their programming. But the only way they can do that is to break away from the shackles of the PG-rating. They have to be brave enough to attempt storylines that may seem a little out there, maybe even a little more mature. But that’s the only way to freshen up the stale state of the WWE right now.
Do you think the WWE should leave the PG Era behind? Let me know in the comments section below!