Watching Raw this week was particularly difficult. The show was so bad that I turned it off after Paul Heyman’s perfectly executed promo, knowing full well that his diatribe would be the high point of the night. That left me with an hour or so of free time that would have otherwise been devoted to watching wrestling. What did I do with this unexpected gift of time, you ask? I thought about wrestling, of course. But not about today’s wrestling, no. I thought about the good old days. I thought about the Monday Night Wars, and how a couple of guys going to work for a different company changed an industry. I fondly recalled the Attitude Era that was born out of necessity to compete with the newer, edgier product in WCW. That had me longing for the glory days of my youth, the days when Austin 3:16 meant that someone just got their ass whipped. I remember the sweet aroma of whatever it was that The Rock was cooking that night. I remember laughing the way only high school boys could laugh at the juvenile toilet humor of DX. And I remember watching every week, hoping that someone, anyone, would kick Vince’s ass, because that was funny no matter how old you were. But alas, those days are long gone. They have been replaced by the PG Era, with John Cena in his colorful attire. Shouts of “Hell Yeah” have morphed into “Yes”, where the only hint of attitude is leaving off the “Please”. Why? Why can’t we have a little bit of Attitute in this PG Era?
The Attitude Era died when the WWE became a publicly traded company. Once WWE went public, the company became most concerned with how to maximize profits as opposed to putting on a good wrestling show. I also understand that maximizing profits means catering to a younger demographic. Where an adult fan buys a ticket to a show and a shirt of his favorite wrestler to wear to the show, kids make their parents buy the tickets to the show, all of the newest colorful John Cena attire(even though their parents just bought them the same shirt, hat, and wristbands in a different color last month), and all of the action figures and toys they can get their grubby little mitts on in the toy isle at Target. But the thing the WWE doesn’t seem to understand is that these kids eventually become teenagers(shocking, I know). What happens when kids become teenagers? They don’t want to be associated with anything they think is childish. John Cena isn’t cool anymore. They don’t believe hat the Undertaker made that bolt of lightning. To them, it is just a trick a baby would fall for. Wrestling becomes very uncool to a teenager very fast these days, and the WWE doesn’t seem to want to do anything about that. I have the perfect solution. It is so obvious that I can’t possibly be the first person to have thought of it. It is time for a brand split.
If you only count Raw and Smackdown, that is 5 hours a week of programming. Five hours is more than enough time to satisfy everyone. Why not have Smackdown remain a TVPG show focusing on more traditional wrestling characters(think 1980s, larger than life characters like Hulk Hogan), and give Raw a TV14 rating and gear it towards the teenagers and adults who are dying for edgier content? Smackdown could minimize the storylines, keep them “family friendly” and just have great wrestling with larger than life characters, while Raw can go deeper into the stories, make them more personal, and still have great wrestling, just less in ring action than Smackdown. I don’t expect the WWE to ever get back to the wild west that was the Attitude Era. The days of bare asses, dick jokes, and in-ring blood baths are gone for good. But watching a guy like Dean Ambrose, who is not the best wrestler by any stretch of the imagination, try to perform on a PG show is painful. Ambrose was simply born at the wrong time. Can you imagine the feuds he could have had with Austin or the Rock? I get excited just thinking of the hard core wars he could have had with Mick Foley or Tommy Dreamer. Why not have a show where a guy like Ambrose could be a little edgier, or at least not be reduced to dumping popcorn in JBL’s hat. That is like Doink the Clown material right there. I’m not saying he needs to cheese grate someone’s face off, like ECW circa 1996, but maybe something in between childish pranks and assault with a deadly weapon.
Let John Cena do his “Never Give Up” thing for as long as they want him to on Smackdown. He can be a hero to all of the kids who love him while not alienating the older fans who have grown to loathe his stale, squeaky clean character. Let the Uso’s have fun with their face paint and high fives on Thursdays. All of the clear cut good guys and clear cut bad guys could have traditional wrestling feuds on Smackdown, where the kids can easily root for the hero to vanquish the dastardly villain. Raw should be where all of the, for lack of a better word, “tweener” characters thrive. HHH always talks about this being the Reality Era, and that might not be a bad thing. Keep the believable, reality based storylines on Raw. Let them get a little edgier with their promos, but keep them separated from the kid friendly content. Think of how much more entertaining the Rollins/Orton storyline could have been without the childish, “who’s side is he on” aspect that wasn’t fooling anyone over the age of 7.
The WWE is trying to please everyone right now, and it seems like they are pleasing no one over the age of 12. Teenagers and young adults are tired of the juvenile content and childish storylines, while parents don’t want their young kids watching the more adult themes. The solution seems so simple to me, maybe I am missing something.
Tags: attitude era, Falls Count Anywhere, John Cena, paul heyman