Being born in the early 2000s, I never really experienced a WWE that wasn’t PG rated. I only have vivid memories of watching the likes of Jeff Hardy, Edge and Chris Jericho around 2007/2008, but I even feel those memories may be jumbled with memories of an older version of myself going back to watch shows from that era. Recently, I’ve watched shows that I watched in my childhood years and shows from times before that and it’s crazy to see the fall of WWE.
When I go back and watch the ‘Attitude Era’ and the ‘Ruthless Aggression Era’ wrestling just seemed more fun. Storylines were wacky and creative, the crowds seemed invested in everything, even if they didn’t like a certain person being pushed, and there was no need to worry about political correctness or anything like that. It was as if WWF/E was its own world and an escapism from the real world for the fans. Now, WWE doesn’t feel like an escapism, there’s hardly anything creative about it and there’s nothing edgy about being a WWE fan. I don’t even know if I can say that I’m a fan of WWE because I criticise it more than I praise it.
Those are some of the major issues I have with WWE now compared to the late 90s and 00s but I personally think the minor things irritate me more than the major things. Things like the lighting. The colours of Raw and Smackdown are so overbearing and it makes the show literally look like trash. I’ll never forget the Smackdown stage with the massive silver fist because that was something different, something memorable. I look at the stage now and I just see an unnecessary array of blue with nothing to remember it by apart from the fact that it’s blue. In fact, the cinematography is average in general. The excessive cutting between cameras and needless shots of the virtual crowd are two things that I can’t stand about the production of the shows.
The commentary in WWE now is mediocre, when you compare the likes of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler to Tom Phillips and Bryan Saxton, who are two of the most boring commentators to brace pro wrestling, it is horrible. I don’t mind Corey Graves, Renee Young and Michael Cole. I actually think Cole doesn’t deserve half of the abuse he gets because most of his cringe lines are force fed to him through Vince backstage and he has some brilliant moments on commentary, such as ‘The heist of the century,’ and ‘Mankind has achieved his dream,’ and ‘Miracle on Bourbon Street.’ However, everyone else doesn’t have that passion. They sound so tame, bland and boring. I think it’s crazy that 90% of the time when a wrestler jumps on commentary, they do a better job than the actual commentators. WWE’s saving hope was Mauro Ranallo, who although he makes mistakes here and there, has a clear passion for what he does. That mans commentary made any match he touched in NXT twice as good as it already was. This may just be a huge coincidence but, I find it interesting that when Mauro was on commentary, NXT matches were rated higher by reviewers such as Meltzer and I think his gripping commentary had something to do with that. Vic Joseph is pretty good, but when you compare him to Mauro, they aren’t even in the same galaxy in terms of excitement brought to the table on commentary.
The only thing that in my opinion is better now than before, is the wrestling itself and that’s only because most of the guys now are athletes first and entertainers second. However, with the quality of talent they have, I’d expect better matches if I’m being honest. WWE has the most diverse and talented roster in wrestling by far and half those guys and girls don’t get to show their talent to the world. Also even with the best selection of wrestlers in the world at their disposal, AEW, NJPW and others have better matches than WWE.
I completely understand that the company makes more money now from sponsors because of the show being ‘PGfied’ but a lot of the things I’ve mentioned has nothing to do with that. The quality of the shows are simply bad. I can deal with a show being PG, no problem whatsoever, what I can’t deal with is a show being bad because it has been ‘PGfied’ which allows for them to be lazy because their most profitable audience doesn’t know a thing about production and doesn’t care for quality.
Maybe I’m being to harsh, but from my perspective this is what I see.