Is The PG Era Dead?

3/27/2024 12:36 PM

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Is The PG Era Dead?

Is The PG Era Dead?

March 27, 2024 12:36 PM
Is The PG Era Dead?
WWE News

Welcome To The Renaissance Era.

The March 25 episode of RAW was considered by many to be one of the greatest episodes of WWE’s flagship show. The show had grit, it had intensity, and it managed to bring a feeling back to fans that hasn’t been present since the Attitude Era.

The show featured names such as Cody Rhodes, The Rock and CM Punk delivering TV-14 style curse words, and whilst most of these were censored, it highlighted that WWE talent, particularly those at the very top are pushing the boundaries of what is permitted. The angle that got everyone talking took place at the end of the show, and it saw ‘The Final Boss’, The Rock deliver such a brutal beatdown on Cody Rhodes, that Rhodes was busted wide open. It’s been a LONG time since a blade job of this magnitude has been seen on WWE TV.

It's not just weekly TV that is leading to questions being asked around the PG status, as even on live events, Rhea Ripley is exposing her butt cheeks and delivering stink faces. Whilst WWE live events are more relaxed, WWE and Ripley have embraced these raunchy antics, and have made numerous social media posts regarding the act in question.

Thanks to instances such as Ripley exposing her butt cheeks, as well as wrestlers using explicit curse words, fans are collectively asking, is the WWE PG Era, Dead?

WWE transitioned to a PG product in the summer of 2008, and there were numerous reasons for this, ranging from political reasons to WWE believing that a PG product would make the product more attractive to investors and sponsors. A lot of fans switched off the WWE product when this switch ensued, as some fans enjoyed the edgier presentation that a TV-14 product would allow. For the fans that remained, they mostly stuck by WWE due to their interests in their favourite stars such as John Cena, Randy Orton and CM Punk, and whilst the product would embrace PG elements at times, for the most-part the in-ring product was good, so RAW, SmackDown, and PPV events traditionally made for easy viewing.

A lot of the criticism directed towards the PG era stems from the belief that WWE can’t produce compelling content with the rating. Whilst this argument does have some degree of weight, it’s worth noting that numerous storylines that have been widely celebrated over the past 15-years or so have been presented under PG guidelines. Storylines such as Randy Orton vs. The McMahon family, Kofi-Mania, and who can forget, the on-going Bloodline saga have all been PG. Additionally, SmackDown, WWE’s secondary show which debuted in 1999, has always been a PG presentation, and SmackDown during the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era always had the ability to push the boundaries of what a PG wrestling show would allow.

WWE is in a prosperous place as things stand. Attendance is so high that WWE are modifying sets for RAW to accommodate more fans, and ratings remain consistently great, despite the viewing habits of consumers drastically changing. The product is also acclaimed by many, as most shows receive rave reviews, and WWE Premium Live Events have become must-see viewing. WWE also has so many names that are insanely over with the audience, and these are names that WWE could easily book to win the World Title. Names such as Cody Rhodes, Jey Uso, LA Knight, Sami Zayn, and Drew McIntyre have truly connected with fans, and this is down to strong booking that puts an emphasis on grounded storytelling.

Due to WWE being a PG product, and the company doing as well as it is, is there any need to change direction? If WWE are allowing curse words and blood in a PG environment, what is there to change? According to Dave Meltzer in a recent edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, WWE is still a PG product, and a memo was sent out re-affirming this to the talent:

“There was a memo sent just a few weeks ago to all talent from Nick Khan, Paul Levesque and Dan Ventrelle (Executive Vice President of Talent) which states that this is a PG company, no swearing, and said that includes everything on social media. And then Johnson swears all over his promos on social media each week and even curses during his television promos on FOX, which has bleeped him out or just gone dark…”

Meltzer drew specific attention to The Rock, who stated that talent believes that The Rock should be the one setting the example. Even though Meltzer is adamant that this report is accurate, The Rock himself took to Twitter to question its validity.

WWE have an upcoming move to Netflix, and this has led to speculation that this is finally when WWE will abandon the PG rating, mainly due to Netflix not being on a traditional station such as USA or Fox. Whilst nothing is confirmed, CM Punk did throw a passing comment on RAW on March 25 that cursing will be allowed on Netflix. This may have been a throwaway line from Punk, yet it’s worth dissecting. Netflix is going to give WWE a ton of freedom to do whatever they like, and even though Netflix do use a ratings system, it’s unknown what they plan to rate WWE programming. We will likely know more information surrounding the nature of the Netflix deal as we approach 2025, and WWE begins to heavily market the switchover to fans.

WWE is making record profits virtually every quarter, and it seems like the Netflix deal was signed based on the current positioning of the product. This likely means that WWE and Netflix have agreed to present a similar product on their platform, yet as was previously alluded to, Netflix’s rules aren’t as strict, so WWE would have freedom to push the boundaries of what is allowed.

Outside of Netflix, WWE have endless, high-dollar deals that link to a younger demographic. The PG rating was instrumental in attaining WWE a lucrative deal with Mattel, and WWE and Mattel’s working relationship may drastically alter if the makers of Barbie dolls find out that WWE features curse words and bloodshed. These are key points that WWE will need to think about before they make any bold decisions.

What many fans often forget is that several years ago, it was widely reported by top sources within the wrestling industry that WWE was going to switch back to a TV-14 presentation. This change was only going to affect RAW, yet just a few hours after this initial report circulated, it was reported that WWE had scrapped the plans. It was never made clear why WWE quickly decided against the plans, yet there has always been speculation that a major sponsor or partner may have taken issue with WWE’s sudden attitude change.

The Rock has been pushing the boundaries of the PG Era since he returned to WWE at the start of 2024, and this has been nothing new for The Great One, as even during his 2011-2013 return, he was given more leeway in terms of promo material compared to the rest of the roster. Now with The Rock on the Board of Directors, he is very much a corporate man, whilst still being a talent on TV. The Rock is never going to risk getting WWE in hot water, so it’s likely that 90% of the things he says are either approved, or nobody within WWE has taken exception to.

Some fans on social media are rejecting the claims of this new era being a new Attitude Era, and some are labelling it as The Renaissance Era. The product is red-hot, and as The Rock has stated, pro wrestling is finally cool again. This isn’t just down to WWE pushing the boundaries by allowing their wrestlers to curse and bleed. It’s thanks to Triple H’s masterful booking, who has put care and attention into booking characters like they matter. Triple H puts a lot of focus on storytelling, and compelling, rich storytelling at that. Storylines such as The Bloodline, and Cody Rhodes’ quest to finish the story have been pure cinema, and these have helped WWE get to the advantageous position they are in right now.

WWE may want to be careful of fans promoting the fact that the Attitude Era is back. Whilst the Era was one of, if not the most successful and acclaimed eras in WWE’s history, a ton of their storylines, particularly WWE’s presentation of women is now insanely outdated. Drawing attention to elements of this nature wouldn't do WWE any favours. On the flip-side, casual fans who stopped watching the WWE product years ago realising that WWE is “cool” again, and the product isn’t as cartoonish and kid friendly as it once was could be the next step in WWE reaching the heights of yesteryear.

So, is the PG Era dead? As things stand, no, it isn’t. Yet WWE are pushing the PG guidelines, and if sponsors and relevant networks don’t kick up a fuss, then it’s likely that these edgier and more controversial elements of their presentation are here to stay, especially as WWE enter a new era on Netflix in 2025. Even if WWE did commit to changing the rating to a TV-14 classification, not too much would change. Sure, TV-14 gives WWE more creative freedom in some areas, yet WWE still have to answer to sponsors, partners and networks, and it may be in WWE’s best interest to stay where they are and ride this incredible hype train for as long as humanly possible.

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