When you ask a lot of WWE fans about the PG era that the WWE is in right now, they’ll tell you that it lacks the energy and magic of the Attitude Era which elevated the WWE to the levels it has reached today. They aren’t wrong; fights are tamer, bloodshed is mostly avoided, and anti-heroes like Stone Cold Steve Austin have been replaced with tamer rebels like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.
But is this bad for business? One can argue that moving away from what made them popular is a bad move, but there are elements that aren’t considered by most viewers. Here’s why we feel that the PG Era is actually good for the WWE:
Less Hardcore, Less Wellness Violations
One of the things that people absolutely loved about the Attitude era were the hardcore matches. Unguarded chair shots, people thrown through windows and off cages, brass tacks on the mat. People were nuts for it. But it also led to a lot of injuries, both minor and major. Injuries were dangerous because being gone from the spotlight too long meant that momentum they built was lost.
In order to avoid having to take time off, a lot of superstars turned to painkillers and alcohol which has led to some of wrestling’s most infamous matches, like the match where Jeff Hardy showed up too drunk to fight. Other wrestlers, such as Paige have been suspended or released due to wellness violations. The safer PG era makes these matches less intense, and thus less injury.
Less Focus On Kayfabe
Kayfabe is the conceit that pro wrestling cultivates that everything in wrestling is real. The gimmicks are real, the feuds and personas are real, the Undertaker is really a supernatural force of evil, etc. this was strictly enforced during the Attitude era which mean that superstars had to be practically invisible to the public eye when not in character. This understandably created a lot of stress for the performers.
In the PG era, kayfabe still exists to a degree, but now it isn’t uncommon to see rivals in the ring hanging out and playing videogames together. This makes it a much more relaxed environment, which is better for the mental well being of the superstars. After all, a happier working environment makes for happier, more productive employees!
Longer, Healthier Careers
The Attitude Era was about hitting extremes, making fights look as dangerous and real as possible. The thing is, in order to make a match look dangerous and serious, you do have to expose yourself to real danger. This is very evident in the amount of injuries that professional wrestlers endure over the course of their careers. Some injuries have even ended careers of wrestlers in their prime.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Edge, and Kurt Angle are all wrestlers who have been forced to retire from in-ring action due to injuries sustained while performing in the attitude era. That isn’t to say that injuries don’t happen in the PG era (Paige is a prime example of this), but the number of accidents and injuries since the shift to PG have decreased dramatically.
In the end, the key to a successful business is sustainability. Superstars won’t stay long in a business that has high risk of cutting their effective careers short. The shift to a PG era ensures that stars can be safer and happier, which means a longer lifespan for the WWE.