When the WWE moved away from the Attitude Era, John Cena was given the duty of leading the Ruthless Aggression Era as the next major face of the company - now that 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin was retired while The Rock headed to Hollywood.
And as WWE moved away from Ruthless Aggression into the PG Era, Cena and Daniel Bryan were the main faces of the company, and both had the responsibilities of leading the much more family-friendly product.
Cena did also compete in the Attitude Era, but he wasn't the big superstar we all know and love today. Cena did an interview with Screen Rant and explained why the Attitude Era wouldn't work today.
"Coming in in 2002 you’re still riding the coattails of the Attitude era. It’s 18-35-year-old males, it’s very visceral, the entertainment is very extreme. Fast forward to 2004, 2005, 2006, more families are showing up. and I don’t feel comfortable saying the things I was saying on the microphone because I got to look at a little kid and at that point, I’m supposed to be the good guy?...
I can do a butt chug scene if you put an ‘R’ on the movie but when you put a TV-PG on the show and you’re out the re doing stuff that makes your audience feel uncomfortable, your career longevity is going to be nothing.
You take the tools that you have to fix the problems in front and everybody’s like, hey, would you bring back the rap guy? It would bomb right now. It would bomb. One, because all those punch lines are inappropriate...
I had to preface it with like earmuffs, kids, because it’s about to get pretty raw and even still meandering through all that I had a double entendre my way through something that I could possibly only do for one night, or it would not work right now. Neither would the attitude era."
There's no denying just how tough it would be for the WWE to maintain the Attitude Era today. The rebellious, finger flipping and beer drinking Steve Austin wouldn't quite get the warm and insanely epic reaction today that he did during the late '90s and early 2000s.
The Attitude Era also involved many sexual segments and storylines, which would not fly with so many younger fans and families watching today -as Cena noted. And D-Generation X? Good luck getting by with swearing, obscene gestures and other rebellious segments that parents would never let their kids see.
Vince McMahon launched the Attitude Era in the late '90s to save the product, as WCW nearly put the WWF out of business during the Monday Night Wars. The transition to rule-breaking babyfaces, terrifying heels and attractive women wrestling in bikinis and panties was a major turning point for the wrestling world, and it may have all saved Vince's business.
But at the end of the day, Cena hit the nail on the head. There's just no way these superstars would get by today's family-friendly audience, especially in a time where society takes things much more seriously than ever.