Some would indeed argue that it isn’t at all over. There were rumors this summer that WWE was planning on moving past the more recent ‘movement’ in professional wrestling, but despite Triple H moving in as head of creative, the product hasn’t at all changed all that much in that department.
Sadly it was after the news broke—a few short weeks after—that WWE seemingly put an end to the plans to move forward to a rumored TV-14 sort of programming. What was to be expected was unclear, but more aggressive matches, and perhaps talent being able to be a bit looser with some expletives on the microphone was hoped for by many.
Today, we’ll be looking at the PG Era in its entirety, and how it changed the landscape of professional wrestling and the WWE specifically, but not necessarily for the better.
How many eras have there been in WWE?
According to WWE themselves, there have been 7 distinct eras since the eighties specifically, as is shown on their website. I guess we can collectively call anything before that ‘the old days’ of WWF, or rather WWWF, or even Capitol Wrestling….
The distinct different eras in WWE have been:
The Golden Era (Age) – Eighties to the early nineties
New Generation Era – Early portion of the nineties until the mid-nineties
The Attitude Era – 1997 to 2002
The Ruthless Aggression Era – 2002 to 2008
PG Era – 2008 to 2013
Reality Era – 2014 to 2016
The New Era – 2016 to Present
Why they moved from the pushing-the-envelope approach and when
The PG Era started in 2008. Coincidentally that was after a very difficult time for McMahon and company. Chris Benoit and his family had died and the way they died cause a steroid allegation to start back up again…many in the press and the federal government looking into WWE and the physiques of its many enormous stars.
In order to deflect all of that attention—McMahon who also was tired of all the attention that violent and racy storylines were getting—decided to move the company in a whole other direction…a softer direction if you will.
So finished were the giant muscles on the men, finished were the women’s mud fights in lingerie, finished were the loose language on the microphone, and finished were the physical pro wrestling matches and hardcore matches as well.
And it was also in this era that McMahon would focus in on CM Punk, who was straight edge (clean, didn’t drink or do any narcotic, and wasn’t at all a man with the body of a Greek God…but still a great athlete). He did this for obvious reasons.
What was the PG Era?
So to be clear, the era was one rich in well…not much in terms of very physical wrestling matches; there were no hardcore matches, but with the development of the John Cena character to be more of a hero and a do good ‘face,’ (a massive departure from where even he had been during the Ruthless Aggression Era), many children were drawn to the product….
He was coincidentally forgiven his epic shape thankfully and remained well-muscled for the entirety of his run at the top of the company—its figurehead, if you will.
The pros of the PG Era
I guess I’ve started to get them underway…the aforementioned bringing in of that younger audience definitely did amazing numbers when merchandise was concerned…loads of big numbers, and many John Cena shirts were sold in the process.
Also it was during this time that many other stars came to the surface and got attention…stars that perhaps wouldn’t have fared as well during the Attitude Era.
It did have some milestone moments…CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb is one (2011) – certainly pushed the envelope, so to speak – and a few others, too, but the Pipe Bomb and some other epic moments can probably be counted on one hand maybe (Rock vs. Cena is another); as far as thinking outside the box is concerned…something that happened a lot in previous eras.
The negatives of the PG Era
I believe we’ve sort of already been through them, really…WWE isn’t pushing the envelope as it once had, and that certainly hurt the product overall, specifically for the demographic they had amassed for themselves during previous eras.
The product was essentially too soft and many had turned away from the company. The drop in the ratings is proof of this. What was at one time—specifically May of 1999, as per the OSW Review—9.17 million viewers for an episode of Raw…now in 2022, specifically on Monday, the 7th of November, the very same show-Raw- did a mere 1.59 million viewers, according to the Wrestling Observer.
Proof’s in the pudding, dear readers.
The weird thing is though, sometimes, they pushed the envelope whenever they felt like(yes, in the PG Era!). This however did not deter or rather convince the older fans to return and only further drenched the WWE in further controversy…
What it did for pro wrestling in general…and what it’s still doing
Some would argue that AEW would never have gotten under way if WWE was still putting out quality risky material. Matches—aggressive matches—would still be being put on, and there would have been no need for the indie scene that developed over the last two decades or so in order to make up for the lack of a riskier and edgier product in the big leagues of pro wrestling—WWE—which include hardcore matches and 60 minute pro wrestling matches.
To be clear, there were great matches during these years, but they were limited in the aforementioned ‘softer’ ways. Some would say that the era is over, including WWE themselves, but their insistence in calling Liv Morgan a hardcore wrestler, one who is ‘unhinged,’ shows me that they still aren’t at all firing on all cylinders, the product way too soft to be considered anything but PG.