WWE established itself as the top rated sports entertainment brand in the world and continued its reign for decades. But since the last few years, the excitement for WWE and its gimmicks has faded away.
Redundant concepts, “family-safe” shows, lack of iconic superstars or just a shift in the fan-base?
What caused this change? Let’s take a look for the when, why and how :
The late 80’s to early 2000’s was arguably the greatest period in the history of the WWE. The resurgence of the “Attitude Era” and the super-stardom of its professionals such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the duo of Triple H and Shawn Michaels (who formed the notorious DX) and many more names were responsible for making WWE a pedestal of controversy and worldwide fame.
Then came the 2nd phase of superstars such as Jeff Hardy, Edge and finally, the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton and the ratings went through the roof. But what was once the defining factor of the company had been lost.
The Attitude Era of the company was famous for a reason. Shift to adult-oriented content/story-lines, loads of cuss words, resurgence of WWE Divas, lack of respect for higher authorities and being an outlaw were some of the most popular gimmicks used by the superstars during this time. There was no set-play and every day at Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown was unpredictable.
The gimmick of the rivalry between the WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and its most famous superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin was the central onus for the company’s success.
But ever since 2002 and the end of the Attitude Era, things haven’t looked all bright for the WWE. Sure, John Cena became arguably the most popular superstar in the company after Stone Cold and for a good decade maintained that but FOR HOW LONG? The same “Hustle Loyalty Respect” gimmick has been ridiculously overused and has become stagnant.
WWE endured a major shift in its content after the transition where they minimized the factors which weren’t essentially “family material”. Rivalries became less intense and more humorous, superstars were either heels or faces but rarely a couple of them had an anti-hero gimmick, plots became silly and it was almost as if it was done to make John Cena look better than everybody.
And I don’t even say this because I didn’t like John Cena. In fact, I was a huge fan.
What pissed me off was the over-use of an established superstar at the expense of other talent.
John Cena’s rise to super-stardom was followed with the inflow of a lot of “politically correct” superstars and “good boy vs bad boy” themes.
This led to a further increase in stagnancy as the company pushed for a more mellow image and didn’t incorporate anything new when it came to conceptualization. The fan-base of the brand which was over the age of 25 saw a heavy decline and the young fans saw a heavy escalation.
To make things even more redundant, newer brands like NXT didn’t revitalize the trend. The newer stars were too alienated and only a handful of them didn’t trun out to be forgetful (Wade Barrett, etc.). The Pay-Per-Views lost their essence, WrestleMania was reduced a showstopper event of utterly predictable story-lines and nothing new was offered to bolster creativity.
Although this was viewed as a good move by some sections but was it really worth it?
I don’t think so.
The older verion of the brand wasn’t working because of cuss words entirely but because the superstars could relate to the people. The fans knew the players and felt connected and props to the players, they connected right back! That link could never be estblished again as WWE still lacks a high-profile superstar who’s as good as Cena ; be it on the mic or in terms of profile.
Larger-than-life personas, showboating and iconic catchphrases of the 90’s are absolutely gold and the late 2000’s could never replicate or emulate them. The change in the target audience of the WWE has only affectd what it’s about : sports entertainment.
For now, there’s no entertainment. Just plain ol’ sports.
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