The transition. The golden. The New Generation. The Attitude. Ruthless. The PG. The Reality. The NEW. The generation eras that sparked change, attitude, vision, and talent of the future for WWE spanning over 50 years since McMahon’s personal takeover from his father.
These were the eras that revolutionized a social and economic impact on the company’s progression toward the world-dominating entertainment company it proves to be today. As we begin to see a shift in wrestling and sports entertainment in the new decade, wrestling fans yearn for a spark that will revitalize the current platform and launch itself into uncharted territory.
From the rise of fresh talent to the growth of new organizations, the challenge to fight against the sole dominance of wrestling in America is among us. And for the first time, we are starting to notice a real shift in the way fans watch, enjoy, and follow American professional wrestling. For the largest professional wrestling company in the world to compete, it must adapt to its ever-changing progression. Four years since the last landscape change now is the time. It’s time to reinvent, reemerge, and reimagine the future of WWE. It’s time for a new era in professional wrestling.
If you’re like me, you might start to notice change happening already. Hopefully, you have already started watching WWE Network’s documentary of Ruthless Aggression and are seeing changes in the attitude of WWE from years past. There are clues all over live TV tapings, from week to week, the new era has slowly been transforming. When will it emerge? What would it be called? Who will take over the reins of this new period of wrestling? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, history has repeated time and time again; it’s awfully close to its historical restart.
I won’t have to explain each era in detail, as a lot of us already know of its rich history; we lived through at least 3 or 4 of them. We have our favorites, we have ones we care never to remember. There are eras we forgot existed, and ones we wish we had back. Some eras were part of our childhood, and some during a period where we left wrestling to find something else interesting. Some of us grew out of wrestling because of a particular era, and some of us stayed through every one of them. Through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awkward, each era had a profound impact on not only WWE but the entire landscape of American professional wrestling as a whole.
In order to understand what lies ahead, we must understand what has come before us, eras that shaped the industry, eras that made wrestling the entertainment spectacle we love and hate today. Wrestlers from every era share a similar bond, a bond to entertain kids, teens, adults, and the young at heart. This process repeats with each generation, leaving a special place in our heart for the cycle to continue forever, and we can eternally be entertained by our love for a sport that originated hundreds of years prior.
A few things to consider as you understand the eras we’ve been part of, and what lies ahead. Each generational era is solidified by the core principles of professional wrestling. I call these the Core Declarations of Wrestling Eras. Not all of these declarations are used during each era, however, we can study how these factors spark change. They may seem perplexing or weird at first, but I promise you, you can apply these to any era in WWF and WWE from 1972 to today.
Core Declarations (A new era is proclaimed after …)
- Substantial industrial decline, either by viewership, revenues, attendance, stock price, or a combination of any or all. While mostly for financial reasons, a new era is needed to break free from such past performance uncertainty.
- Talent, once a top star of the company, is either gone or can no longer keep being the top guy, and no such top star has yet to be defined or showcased (i.e., Who is willing to grab that coveted Brass Ring).
- Long term socioeconomic changes that exist outside the wrestling industry which are drastically changing how society acts, lives, and transacts with the rest of the world.
- Competition forces behavior changes on historical views of the current wrestling product.
In the beginning, generational changes, or new eras, would just organically appear. And we’d go back and name them years later. Typically new eras in WWE would happen shortly before or after WrestleMania. And recently, eras would be chosen, appropriately named for us and ran with for the foreseeable future as a signal of a major change in the company’s future direction.
WWE has an official list of what they call their 6 eras of WWE history: The 80s Boom (‘82-’85); The Dawn of WrestleMania (‘85-’90); The New Generation (‘90-’96); The Attitude Era (‘96-’01); The Postwar Era (‘01-’05); and The Modern Era (‘05-Present).
Unofficially, fans and wrestling historians have divided WWE’s history, post-WWWF timeline, into 7 uniquely defined eras: The Golden Era (‘82-’93); The New Generation Era (‘93-’97); The Attitude Era (‘97-’02); Ruthless Aggression (‘02-’08); The PG Era (‘08-’13); The Reality Era (‘14-’16); The NEW Era/Women’s Revolution (‘16-Present).
The Golden Era
History has shown us that wrestling eras are born organically, but also because the business forced changed upon itself. When McMahon purchased Capitol Sports from his father, it rejuvenated a what-if world of professional wrestling. The old days of traveling from city to city in search of that new territory of wrestling were about to be gone, and McMahon knew that in order to differentiate itself, it needed to bring in well-established stars and change everything we knew about them to the masses.
McMahon’s vision set apart the mentality of the old and reinvented professional wrestling, making it mainstream. Television networks, Pay-Per-View, closed-circuit, all exploited the entertainment aspect, challenging the decades-old way of doing business. This explosion is changing the way we understand wrestling in North America set up Vince’s first and most risky era. It was appropriately named years later to the Golden Era.
The big boom
It was almost the big bust when McMahon’s focus on entertainment set up his most endearing venture, a wrestling extravaganza, WrestleMania. The show was a hit because of the change it needed and focused more on entertainment rather than sport. Using MTV as an added platform, the company challenged itself to reimagine promotion and attracting worldwide appeal. Its success can be measured by the formation of quarterly special events on Pay-Per-View, and the influx of mainstream appeal of its larger stars such as Hogan, Piper, Savage, and Warrior.