Think back to the first time you got hooked on wrestling. For many of you it was probably when you were a child. A child full of wonder and awe at the amazing moves the superstars would perform, and this great product you were just beginning to discover.
Now remember when you learned that wrestling was scripted. Did that take some of the magic out of the product for you? If you’re like me it sure did. But there had to be something that kept you in. Something that kept you going to your television every night the WWE was on.
What was it that made you stay? How did the WWE grow up with you?
For me, I was lucky. I had gotten interested in wrestling as a sixth grader after several of my classmates had described it to me. Of course, this was before I knew that pro wrestling was scripted. It took my mother breaking the news to me at an incredibly sad time for me after the Chris Benoit double-murder suicide.
After that, wrestling lost its magic for me. All of a sudden the product didn’t seem so special anymore, and I stopped watching along with my classmates who had introduced me to it in the first place.
It wasn’t until I was in ninth grade that I got back into the product. This time, however, I had something to keep me watching. I was now a full-fledged member of the Internet Wrestling Community. Finally, I was among a group of people who made wrestling look a lot less childish than it had before.
Wrestling had grown up with me.
But out of those five classmates, I am the only one who still watches wrestling. The others decree it as too childish for their now “grown-up” interests.
Wrestling did not grow up for them.
So finally we’re at my point. Should the WWE move away from the PG rating that so many people will say is the reason for a lackluster product?
Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that. For the immediate future, no it should not. But should the WWE move towards a TV-14 product in the next, say, five years?
Absolutely. Because wrestling needs to grow up with the fans.
What the WWE is doing right now is creating fans at the level it is marketing to, kids. The demographics released by the WWE back in January show that the viewership amongst the age groups is actually pretty equal.
The first age group that encompasses 22% of the viewership are the children, ages 2-17*. They are the ones who the WWE is currently catering to with a product fit for a PG rating. It’s what the WWE did back in the Golden Era where they had Hulk Hogan become the hero of children everywhere.
But ratings went down in the time between the Golden Era and the Monday Night Wars. Partially because WCW was gaining popularity, but also, those children who adored the product in the Golden Era had simply outgrown the product. They too had decreed it as too childish.
The WWF had to do something or they would fall to WCW. They needed those viewers they had gotten in the 1980s as children to come back and watch it as young adults.
Those children had grown up, so the WWF grew up also.
Suddenly, the ratings started to swing towards the WWF as the Monday Night Wars raged on. The fans that had started to watch wrestling as children were now teenagers and young adults with an attitude, and they were welcomed into the Attitude Era with wrestlers that had the same type of mindset as them. The mindset that swear words added so much to a sentence or that skimpily dressed female wrestles were a very good thing.
The WWF was successful in the Monday Night Wars because it grew up with its audience. They had turned the fans they had gained as children into lifelong fans because it was now a mainstay in childhood and young adulthood.
But life went on for those fans. Those young adults continued to grow into mature adults. Many settled down and started families. Suddenly, the product did not seem as appealing to those fans anymore for two reasons. 1) A product catered towards young adults was seen as too immature for mature adults. 2) Most of those adults didn’t want their kids to be watching Stone Cold flip off Mr. McMahon week in and week out. They weren’t able to watch wrestling with their kids, so they didn’t watch at all.
So the WWE started over with a new generation of fans, while keeping the old fans as well.
And now here we are. Those who grew up with the WWF in the Golden Era as kids and with the Attitude Era as young adults are now the parents of the kids who are watching the WWE right now. Right now, the WWE is a great product for the entire family, for wrestling fans young and old. The old fans are watching with their kids and are creating new fans all the while.
It’s when those kids grow into teenagers and young adults that the WWE should move back to a TV-14 product. The cycle to create lifelong fans needs to continue.
It has worked before in wrestling, and it has worked in other areas as well. For example, one of the reasons the Harry Potter series was such a massive success was that children would read the first book, and then get older as Harry did in the books. By the time those children were young adults, the final book had come out and was considerably more darker as the series went along. The books grew up with the readers, and now it is one of the most famous book series ever because of how people grew up with it.
We can already see a move towards a more mature product in the present. The WWE champion is CM Punk, who will push the PG limits. We’ve even seen the face of the PG era John Cena get more mature, mixing in some swear words into his more heated promos.
The WWE is growing up with its fans right now. So yes, the WWE should move away from the PG rating in the next few years or so. The PG era has lasted long enough that the fans it was marketed to are now starting to enter into their teenage and young adult years. It is time for the cycle to continue.
By following this formula, the WWE creates lifelong wrestling fans. They are fans as children with PG content, fans as young adults with TV-14 content, and then fans as adults with PG content they can watch with their children.
The WWE is unlike any other form of entertainment because it can meld itself into a popular entity based on the viewership they choose to cater to. By melding into a product by following the cycle they have started, the WWE will create lifelong fans, no matter what the rating.
Thank you for reading. Make sure to check out Joe Burgett’s article as well and don’t forget to vote!