The end of the attitude era has ushered in a renewed push by WWE to appeal to a broader fan base. The company still knows where its bread is buttered, continuing to enthrall the public with interesting and often controversial storylines, but there is no mistaking that a shift has been made to be more “family friendly.” These changes have been evident in its lineup of television shows as well as at its marquee events.
Much of the profuse bleeding from the use of foreign objects and the broken bones from throws atop a of a Hell in the Cell cage seem to be a thing of the past. There are still tables, ladders and chairs (TLC) used as props, big air leaps from turnbuckles and blasts followed by fire that still light up the ring with Kane, but “R-rated” superstars have been replaced.
Hooking the young wrestling fan, as well as introducing the female fan to the drama that even WWE Divas have to face, are both high priorities in the new WWE. The product has been tamed, the sexual acts of Lita and Edge have been eliminated, vulgar language has been reduced and the WWE has moved into the mainstream.
Consider these 10 reasons why the WWE is now as popular as ever.
10. Randy Orton, Attitude Era and Arrogance
The attitude era might be a thing of the past, but don’t tell that to Randy Orton. The “Viper” is one of the few current stars that still seems to have that attitude and arrogance of Shawn Michaels and many stars of the past. Even though he is not one to use an excessive amount of words to get his point across, Orton’s display of flexing and intimidating fearless looks, do his talking for him. Orton is not afraid to mix it up with any WWE star, especially after the bell rings. He is the closest thing there is to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and is a wrestler that many fans can not only relate to, but idolize as well.
Remember Orton’s wild battles with Wade Barrett and the time their brawl spilled from backstage into a parking garage where they destroyed a car that got in the way of an RKO from Orton? Orton also attacked Alberto Del Rio and his manager Ricardo Rodriguez. These antics by Orton have added some extra flavor and drama to the often predictable storylines of the WWE. This has helped make for more riveting television and has gone a long way towards making the usual feuds more believable to the delight of the fans.
9. Many Legendary Comebacks
Two of the biggest recent comebacks are surely The Rock and Brock Lesnar, but other major stars have come back recently as well. Rey Mysterio made a comeback only to get injured once again. Batista has also made a comeback that is still going and entering new storylines. There have been several others including Rob Van Dam, the New Age Outlaws with Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, and even Ric Flair. The legendary comebacks help renew the interest of older fans, while connecting with younger fans who use YouTube to see all their legendary matches.
Probably one of the more compelling comebacks belongs to Hulk Hogan, who served as host of WrestleMania 30. He is probably one of the most recognizable professional wrestlers in the history of the sport. WWE also brought back The Rock, Steve Austin, Mr. T, Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 30 to the delight of the crowd. All these comebacks have worked well for the WWE, but the development of new stars needs to improve so the comebacks don’t have to be such a big part of current WWE events.
8. CM Punk, Straight Edge and Anti-Establishment
CM Punk brought a little anarchy and anti-establishment bitterness into the usual assortment of storylines during his time with the WWE. Currently on sabbatical, Punk took the form of iconoclasm to a new level as part of his gimmick and real life views. Punk has been part of the straight edge movement, disdaining drugs and alcohol, bad behaviors like smoking and promiscuous sexual behavior, while also refusing to conform to authority and the WWE brass at the same time. He has managed to create a significant following and has carved a pretty large niche from non-conforming fans in the WWE.
Punk has seemingly always felt disrespected, despite his lengthy 434 day reign as the WWE Champion. Punk proclaimed himself the “best in the world,” as a shot towards the WWE brass who always seemed to do all they could to knock him down. Punk is like a hero to the working class who have issues with their bosses or do extra work without getting any recognition. His message also tells young fans that they can just say no to drugs, alcohol and sex. A blend of attitude era with squeaky clean.
7. More Television Exposure
The WWE now has several shows enabling it to showcase its product and reach a more diverse television audience. Smackdown and Raw, still carry most of the action and promote the storylines that are at the heart of the WWE. The WWE Divas now receive extra exposure and attention with the show, WWE Total Divas. Many WWE stars have also been appearing in various TV shows, with The Miz, Edge and even Chris Jericho leading the way.
WWE also launched WWE TV that cable subscribers can add to their service. There are many new shows, headlined by the shows, WWE Main Event, WWE NXT, WWE Countdown, WWE Superstars and several other complimentary shows to Raw and Smackdown. The WWE Network allows fans to get more access to the WWE, while providing an opportunity for the company to get more revenue to help improve its product in and out of the ring.
6. Highly Successful WrestleMania Events
WrestleMania has become the “mania” that WWE executives have always envisioned. The return of The Rock helped power WrestleMania 27, setting up additional appearances by The Rock in the following three events. WrestleMania 28, where the Rock defeated John Cena, became a historic event with pay-per-view sales that set a record for having 1.3 million buys. Following this highly successful event in Miami, WrestleMania 29 at MetLife Stadium in New York, became the second highest attended WrestleMania event ever by drawing 80,676 fans to see Cena defeat The Rock.
These highly successful events have helped promote the sport and move it into the conscience of mainstream America by receiving more attention and reaching more fans. The end of The Undertaker‘s 21 match winning streak at the hands of Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30, even drew ESPN and national sports talk radio show attention. The pay-per-view totals have also been quite consistent through all of these star-studded events.
5. Daniel Bryan, The Average Joe
The success of Daniel Bryan has done wonders to promote the WWE. Daniel Bryan is far from enormous, lacking the bulging muscles that are highly visible in most WWE stars, and is very approachable and humble. The man might not be that strong, but he is a great athlete despite his “average Joe” appearance that makes him so endearing to the crowd. He comes out with a scruffy beard and hair to match, looking like a hillbilly or member of Heath Slater’s rock band and is always so good at getting the crowd involved. The Rock might be the “People’s Champion,” but Daniel Bryan is simply just one of us.
Daniel Bryan is also a breath of fresh air for the WWE followers of the Attitude Era who have struggled to buy into John Cena‘s Rated-G persona. In an era where some stars appear to be on steroids and others are so gigantic that they can hardly move, Daniel Bryan does not fit the mold. His excellent technical wrestling skills are what make his rise to stardom totally legit.
4. The Credibility Brock Lesnar Brings
In 2012, Brock Lesnar not only came back to the WWE but also did so after establishing himself as a legitimate contender in the UFC. Despite losing his final match to Alistair Overeem, Lesnar did unify the UFC Heavyweight Title by beating a previously undefeated Shane Carwin at UFC 116 and defeated Frank Mir in a UFC Heavyweight Title rematch at UFC 100. Lesnar also beat one of the biggest names in UFC history, Randy Couture, at UFC 91 in the early stages of his short but successful UFC career.
Lesnar’s success in the UFC heavyweight division brought a legitimacy to the sport of professional wrestling as well as the WWE. A UFC Champion pit up against some of WWE’s best helped garner attention from many different fight fans. Lesnar also brought a toughness back to the sport, reminding people that many of the throws and submissions in the WWE were based on reality. His toughness really needed no storyline but just to be on the safe side Lesnar recently defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania 30, adding to his legacy.
3. The Comebacks of The Rock and the John Cena Feud
While John Cena was busy establishing himself as the face of the WWE, The Rock was busy starring in leading roles in an assortment of family-friendly movies. Between them, they both have developed quite a following with the younger fans that have helped contribute to the growth of the WWE. When The Rock came back to the WWE to label John Cena “a big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles,” “homeless Power Ranger,” and “Vanilla Ice,” the feud quickly became one of the best in modern times. This led to two epic matches, including headline events at WrestleMania 28 and 29.
This feud between two major stars of the modern era has helped the WWE capture more pay-per-view viewers and experience great success at two critical WrestleMania live shows. The Rock took the first encounter in a grueling match and fell to Cena in their next encounter where The Rock suffered an injury to his abdominal and abductor tendons. This feud added superstar quality and galvanized the evenly split WWE fans.
2. Social Media and the WWE
The WWE has become “hip” and is tied into the internet, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and most of the social media outlets prevalent today. Currently, WWE has over 200 million followers on 11 social media networks. There are 130 million people who follow the WWE brand and individual superstar pages on Facebook alone. This incredible number of followers has increased by 70% in the last 12 months alone, ranking WWE as one of the most influential brands in all of social media today (Klout).
This rapid explosion has provided the WWE with even more of an outlet to hook fans. The wrestlers, through social media, appear more approachable and even more likable to their millions of fans. This has allowed fans to get closer to their heroes, share their interests and make fans feel like they are a bigger part of the show. Including events at WrestleMania, charity work and many other forays into the supportive fan base, these stars appear to be more accessible to the public than other sports stars.
1. Kid Friendly Shows and Events
The WWE has cleaned up its act from the outrageous acts of the attitude era and in turn has started to understand the importance of marketing its product to younger fans. Gone are the days of blood flowing freely from gaping gashes on the head or thumbtacks clinging to bloody backs. Sledgehammers have been replaced by aluminum steps, diva Bra and Panties matches have been replaced by actual wrestling and vulgar language has been significantly reduced. The WWE shows have now become family friendly events.
This has been crucial to the WWE’s success. Kids start to wrestle each other long before they know how to swing a bat, dribble a ball or catch a football. Catching their interest at an early age has created new fans and led to more subscriptions to pay-per-view events, magazines and WWE TV. As women have started to prove themselves in the UFC, the WWE has given them more of a consistent role in the ring. They still have storylines, love interests and do their best to look good but they now face fewer degrading gimmicks. The WWE has even brought in Maria Menounos, Snooki and other women and even started the Total Divas reality TV show in an effort to appeal to women.