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Easily one of the most heavily scrutinized aspects of the WWE today is their commitment to keeping their entertainment PG. While the WWE often points out how successful it is over all age demographics, and being more family friendly opens up more advertising options, fans who were enamored by the outrageous Attitude Era continuously squawk for more adult themed content. But is the WWE being rated PG really as big of a problem as some people make it out to be?
Personally, there are plenty of times when I miss the WWE of old, where almost anything went. Anytime the WWE edits out CM Punk from saying "b---h" or "ass" I cringe at what the WWE has become. In hardcore matches like Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber, it seems dumb to have these matchups being booked as the most brutal events anywhere, however the WWE prohibits bloodletting and chair shots to the head.
Although all those things bother me, in the grand scheme of things the PG policies that the WWE has has a very minimal effect on the overall state of the product. Sure we may never see someone like Austin chugging beers in the ring, or see the Undertaker crucify the boss's daughter, but that doesn't make that great of a difference on how good the on-screen product can be.
For a majority of the WWE's existence its programing has been more family friendly. Only for about a ten year stretch in the 90s-00s did the WWE really become more adult oriented. During the extremely profitable 1980s, the WWE was as childish and corny as it gets, yet nobody was complaining about it being too family friendly. It wasn't until the fans got a taste of adult programming in wrestling did they decide that wrestling could only be presented in a way that highlighted outrageous sex and violence.
The fact of the matter is that although being rated TV-14 gives the WWE more flexibility in what they can do creatively, it does not completely prevent them from putting on a good show. Limiting how aggressive and outlandish the WWE can be does not prohibit them from coming up with good storylines, creating interesting characters or showcasing great matches. The CM Punk walk-out storyline was absolutely fantastic, and it was all done in the PG-era. Some of the best wrestling matches of taken place over the last 5 years, and they have all been done with that controversial "TV-PG" box located on the top of the screen.
Not to sound like a WWE public relations representative, but there are some really good reasons why the WWE is currently PG. Although it is a mostly unpopular opinion, the WWE is probably making the best choice business wise to be more family oriented, even if it does alienate some of their fans.
The most obvious reason for the WWE being PG is actually BECAUSE of the Attitude Era. The Attitude Era was when the WWE had its largest fan base, therefore, even almost 15 years later, they can still draw from that fan base. A tremendous percentage of the fans during the Attitude Era where fans in their late teens or early twenties. Today, those fans are all in their early to mid-30s, with a lot of them married with young children. Taking small children to an event filled with profanity, blood and scantily clad women is not necessarily a popular parental decision. To try and rope in those young families, the WWE has to make their programming more accessible to small children.
Another big factor is just how much the television market has changed over the last 12-15 years. In the late 1990s, the WWE had a very exclusive market on things that were considered tasteless by most other cable brands, such as advertising sex and incredible amounts of violence. TV was just different back then, and the WWE and pro wrestling was one of the few places where you could find that kind of content. Now, in 2013, the WWE has way more competition in those departments. Cable giants such as HBO and Viacom are almost entirely built on programs that highlight sex and violence. The WWE simply cannot compete in that form of entertainment anymore, so they have to change their philosophy on what kind of content they are going to highlight.
Lastly, I would like to point out a large misconception that a lot of people have about PG and how it affects the WWE's business. We look back at some of the mind-numbing numbers delivered during the Attitude Era, with the WWE sometimes receiving triple the rating for Monday Night Raw then they do today. One can look at the WWE's content during that time period and look at the content today and draw the obvious conclusion that the WWE should revert back towards it's old ways, TV-14 and all, in order to improve business and resuscitate it back to the level it was at during the late 90s.
However, the WWE converting to PG did not destroy WWE business like some people may believe. Starting in 2001, the WWE's numbers began to slip from their lofty heights, even while the product was as eccentric as it ever was. Even though the WWE remained TV-14 until July of 2008, the business end of the WWE had spiraled downward throughout the decade, proving the age old business cliché that nothing stays hot forever.
The WWE converting to PG hasn't necessarily reversed the trend in declining numbers, but it hasn't accentuated it either. Frankly, you cannot draw a direct conclusion between PG and the lack of business for the WWE, because the trend the WWE is currently on has been occurring long before they switched to PG programming.
Would converting more towards an adult oriented show perk up the numbers for the WWE? Hypothetically it is possible, but the WWE has made it very clear that they are dedicated to staying family friendly, and judging by the history and the benefits, it is hard to argue against them.