By Todd Roberg
With WWE producing a new Saturday morning show targeting children specifically, the sound of which makes me recall that horrendous show hosted by Todd Pettengill in the early 90s “WWF Mania”, a lot of people are thinking that the E is going to be embracing the so called PG era more than ever before.
I’ve read a lot of opinions expressing the idea that the PG rating WWE is trying to keep for their shows is ruining wrestling. But does having a PG rating really hurt the show at all?
First, lets look at what the PG rating is supposed to cover. Here, from www.tvguidelines.org is the definition of the PG rating:
An article in the Los Angeles Times from January 11, 1997, the TV PG rating was discussed as it pertained to sitcoms. The article stated that “This week, for example, NBC's "Friends" and "Men Behaving Badly" both included humorous scenes about friends overhearing another couple noisily making love. Both were rated PG”
The point is that a rating of TV PG does not prohibit the WWE from pushing the envelope, or producing some edgy TV. Look at many of The Rock and John Cena’s promos on Raw prior to Wrestlemania this year, there was a lot of “attitude”in those, and they were all done on a PG platform; in fact that made them even more memorable. Instead of having 2 hours full of crotch chops, middle fingers, sexual references, partial nudity and cussing, their was some edgy comments made in 10-20 minute segments in the show which made their rivalry seem more genuine, because the “attitude” wasn’t over used
So unless you’re pining away for the days when HHH was crawling into coffins to simulate sex with a dead girl, or when Vince McMahon bared his 60+ year old ass on TV for the world to see so that one of the wrestlers could kiss it, or The Big Show going for a ride on his dead father’s coffin as The Big Bossman drags it away, then there really isn’t a whole lot to miss about the attitude era; with one condition…
One of the biggest things WWE is missing on a regular basis is the excitement that the Attitude era gave to the fans. Watch a typical Monday Night Raw audience in 1998 and then watch one now. In 2012 for much of the 3 hour show, it looks like nap time in the crowd. Sure there are exceptions, there are times when the fans wake up and are enthralled by what’s going on, but sadly those moments are few and far between.
If TV in the 1970s and 80s had a rating system, pro wrestling likely would have been given the PG stamp. That era of wrestling geared itself towards adults, but made the programming watchable by younger viewers as well. Back in 3rd grade my friends and I all watched WWF, NWA, AWA, Stampede and All Star Wrestling. Kid’s parents were not afraid to let them watch the shows alone, but also since the TV wasn’t watered down, many adults enjoyed the shows as well.
That is one of the big issues with WWE and TV PG, they choose to water down their product more than is necessary given their rating. The WWE in many ways doesn’t seem to understand what this principle is and they go overboard in enforcing their version of the guideline. For example; the recent firing of A.W. for simply making an off color reference to the Kobe Bryant rape case. All World Promotions & The Prime Time Players were becoming a pretty entertaining act, and at a time when Triple H is claiming that he wants to rebuild the tag team division they are obviously one of the teams that he is going with for the time being. Their act was starting to get over and then all of a sudden, one comment (that no kid understood anyway) caused a key element of the team to be taken away. That wasn’t the first time something like this happened, remember when NXT invaded Raw? Daniel Bryan was fired for choking Justin Roberts with his tie. So an argument can certainly be made that WWE is hurting themselves as a result of the TV PG rating, but it’s clearly self inflicted. The rating itself gives them plenty of room, they just have to be smart enough or creative enough to use it properly.
The question is does the lack of that same passion from the 90s have to do with the TV PG rating? I don’t think it does. We already established the WWE can still push the envelope and be edgy; and we have seen plenty of examples in the past year of lively, thoroughly entertained crowds (the post Mania Raw for example) and intense matches (Cena-Lesnar, Bryan-Punk,Punk-Jericho, Bryan-Sheamus) proving that even in the TV PG era WWE has the ability to present their audience with occasional moments of truly great stuff, the question is does WWE have the ability to do that on a regular basis? If they don’t, then the TV rating system is not to blame, their “creative” department is.