It is the end of the PG Era in WWE! Let us all rejoice! Finally, they can be more free and not be worried about the sponsors and advertisers! Surely, this is what is going to save WWE and turn things around so it is good again, like the Attitude Era, right?
Hold your horses. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but while we should indeed all celebrate this as a definitive win, I think people are too quick to let their guards down.
Let’s Take a Step Back and Reassess
For those who didn’t see it, Andrew Zarian tweeted that WWE Raw will be switching over to a TV-14 rating starting with the next episode.
Starting July 18th WWE Raw will have a TV-14 rating moving forward on USA Network.
— Andrew Zarian (@AndrewZarian) July 14, 2022
That is it, meaning we don’t know if this will apply to NXT on USA or SmackDown on Fox. It is just a straight-up announcement (not even on WWE’s or USA’s end, mind you) that this switch will happen.
It presents no promises of anything changing for WWE’s product or presentation; just the potential.
In fact, I would go so far as to say if and when WWE/USA acknowledges this at all, they will be quick to put it out there that they still plan on having “family-friendly programming” and that it “won’t change much” but will just “allow more creative freedom” and nothing more. That way, they can still try to mitigate any sponsors who might have issues with leaving the PG landscape. It will also minimize fan expectations who think it will be a return to the Attitude Era next week.
But This is Good…Right?
Yes! It is definitely a good thing. I doubt many of us are annoyed about this or think of it as a step back.
WWE will have more freedom to explore more adult themes by switching over to this rating. By no means does that equate to becoming “raunchy” or pushing the boundary toward TV-MA. You’re not going to see Monday Night Raw turn into The Boys (a much better show) with the Herogasm orgy and people exploding.
But it does mean WWE won’t have to play it as safe, which is 100% a positive. It just isn’t the saving grace that will provide all the answers.
What are the Benefits?
No longer do promos have to switch “get your goddamn ass out here” to “get your sorry butt out here” or something that will make your eyes roll because grown men are speaking like they’re in elementary school and don’t want the teacher to punish them.
It also allows for more suggestive content across the board beyond just profanity. For instance, remember this video of Alexa Bliss “topless” being interrupted while changing in her dressing room?
That was EXTREMELY tame compared to the old days of Triple H getting a planted model to flash her fake breasts in the crowd, or Sable whipping off her top to expose just some hand print pasties. And yet, this video from January 2019 has 14 MILLION VIEWS on YouTube. It got 4 million of those views in one day. And all it shows is her back. Her BACK. And people still talk about it like it was something special.
Sex sells. Bliss is one of the many incredibly attractive Superstars on the roster, and you can see how much people are interested in just that alone by checking out anyone’s Instagram accounts, the subscribers to their OnlyFans pages (for ex-WWE stars, at least) and so on.
Now, WWE can tap into that market better. Superstars can wear clothing that shows off more skin. They can be in sexier angles. Maybe WWE even will relax on the OnlyFans type ban and create its own service where fans can pay for more risque photos and the Superstars can get a cut of that profit, similar to how WWE had its partnership with Cameo.
I highly doubt we’re going to see any use of drugs or substance abuse increase on WWE programming. It isn’t likely Raw is going to start featuring someone with a gimmick that they’re a drug dealer pushing their product in the locker room or something.
But violence is going to get an upgrade. WWE will still keep it safe and not want people to hit each other in the head with steel chairs, but maybe we won’t see the stupid black and white filter over videos and photos when someone is bleeding, for instance.
But This Isn’t a Catch-All Solution
Celebrate this. Enjoy the changes that will come. But do not lose sight of how this is not going to be the easy fix to solve all the problems going on in WWE.
TV-PG was constricting and a hindrance, but not the only reason for the bad product we see. It isn’t as though WWE’s one and only issue was that there wasn’t enough sex appeal or profanity or violence.
You can make great PG content if the writing is good. Just look at Pixar. Is the first Toy Story movie bad because Buzz Lightyear doesn’t say “To infinity and beyond…asshole!” or is it just one of the best animated films of all time? If an R-rating was all it took to be good, slasher horror films would win Oscars. They don’t because they’re gore fests with jump scares and hot people boning to distract from the terrible acting and awful script.
WWE’s core flaws are much bigger problems than TV-PG. Namely:
- There is little to no continuity. Plans change for arbitrary reasons at random times.
- Writers are having their scripts ripped up just prior to the show, leaving a small window to plot a new course. They just throw something together to get the job done, rather than taking their time to craft the best story.
- The writers have awful ideas, too. Whoever keeps pitching the Dana Brooke 24/7 Championship run has long proven they should be fired.
- The talent pool isn’t the same as it was a few years ago. Too many people were let go.
- All the crutches and tropes will still remain. People will watch monitors backstage at a weird angle. Interviewers will ask one question, hold the microphone and stare in silence into the distance as the Superstar walks off screen, rather than saying “Vic and Wade, back to you” like McKenzie Mitchell does in NXT, which is more natural.
- It will still have an overabundance of video packages, recap material and copy/paste segments. Rematches aren’t going to stop because of a switch to TV-14. They’ll have the same feuds carry on for months at a time just as much as ever.
- WWE is still going to phone it in. You think Main Event is going to be anything more than two undercard matches filmed before Raw just to fulfill the Hulu deal until that expires? Are you really expecting Roman Reigns to now appear on Extreme Rules, rather than just take that event off because it isn’t a stadium show like SummerSlam or Clash at the Castle?
- Does the Intercontinental Championship stand a better chance at being defended on a pay-per-view now? No. Are either of the WWE/NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships in a better position? Nope. So on and so forth.
- None of this helps Vince McMahon’s public image right now. If anything, if they go ahead and do anything remotely risque, that could lead to more criticism that this is the environment WWE breeds and that the whole company and everyone associated with it are all heathens.
Maybe this is Stephanie McMahon using her pull to make some changes, and it is just the first sign of good things to come. That’s the optimistic perspective. Certainly, this isn’t a bad thing, even if it’s just a response to poor ratings and WWE’s latest attempt at an easy one-size-fits-all solution to inject some adrenaline into the product and turn things around.