WWE has enjoyed a long history, and much of it is broken down into "eras." The Golden Era with Hulk Hogan led to Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels ushering in the New Generation Era. Up next was the most successful era in WWE history with the Attitude Era. When John Cena showed up in 2002, the Ruthless Aggression Era began.
In 2008, the most maligned era began with the PG Era (2008-2013). While some fans mistakenly believe the PG Era is still in effect, the Reality Era started in 2014 when CM Punk left WWE, and the Internet fans got louder. With the New Era (2016-present) in action, the PG Era has been gone for six years but still leaves a shadow over WWE to this day.
John Cena was the face of the Ruthless Aggression Era. He was one of the wrestlers who coined the term, using it in his debut when he challenged Kurt Angle after Vince McMahon called for wrestlers to show ruthless aggression in the ring. However, Cena remained on top of WWE longer than anyone before him.
Cena was the WWE World Champion when the PG Era began, and it was his wholesome attitude and refusal ever to turn heel that almost defined the PG Era. Cena was the perfect spokesman when it came to the kids and was the face of two consecutive WWE eras.
Edge stretched his career through three eras. He was one of the biggest names in the Attitude Era and was one of John Cena's top antagonists through the Ruthless Aggression Era. When the PG Era began, Edge was part of La Familia with Vickie Guerrero as his manager.
By 2009, Edge broke the record for the most tag team title reigns in WWE history when he teamed with Chris Jericho to win the WWE World Tag Team Championship. During the PG Era, Edge won his first Royal Rumble (2010) and then won the world championship at the end of the year. Sadly, Edge retired in 2011 due to injuries but was one of WWE's top stars for all but two years of the PG Era.
People seem to forget how popular Dolph Ziggler was at one point in his career. He was initially a member of the Spirit Squad but was repackaged and came back as Dolph Ziggler in 2008, at the start of the PG Era. He was a heel with a manager in AJ Lee and bodyguard in Big E.
Ziggler won the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2012 as a heel, and when he finally cashed it in on Monday Night Raw against a babyface Alberto Del Rio, the fans gave Ziggler the biggest reaction of his career. No one was bigger than Ziggler in 2013, but a concussion ended his push, and he settled into the mid-card title scene when the Reality Era began.
While he has a lot of detractors, Alberto Del Rio fit into the PG Era as a solid heel with a great look and a gimmick that made everyone hate him. He was such a great heel that when WWE tried to turn him into a sympathetic babyface, fans turned Dolph Ziggler face when they faced off.
Del Rio made his WWE debut in 2010, two years after the PG Era began in the company. He had a similar gimmick to JBL, coming into the arena in an expensive car and then talking down to the fans with an aristocratic gimmick. He even had his own ring announcer who became a fan favorite over the years. Del Rio won four world titles before leaving WWE.
Daniel Bryan was a massive star on the indies when he finally made his way to WWE in 2009 as part of NXT when it was a reality competition series. Bryan debuted as part of Nexus before breaking away and eventually winning his first titles in WWE. After winning the world title in 2011 as a heel, the fans rallied, and something extraordinary happened.
Daniel Bryan became one of the biggest babyfaces in WWE when the Yes Movement began in 2013. By the time the PG Era ended in 2013, there was no one bigger than Bryan in WWE, and much of that is what ended up creating the Reality Era that followed.
Sheamus made his way to the main roster in 2009 on WWECW and was so successful there that WWE moved him to Monday Night Raw, and he became an immediate star of the PG Era. By December, Sheamus beat John Cena to win his first world title while still in his rookie year in WWE.
Sheamus ended up winning three world titles during the WWE PG Era (and a fourth during the Reality Era that followed. Sheamus has slowed down a lot, mostly working tag team matches due to a degenerative neck issue, but he was a massive star in the PG Era.
The Miz got his start in the Ruthless Aggression Era, a former reality TV star who worked in the tag team scene early in his career. While fans did not give him any respect early on, The Miz worked hard to develop his gimmick and in-ring skills and over time became a legitimate WWE superstar.
By 2010, The Miz shocked the world when he won the WWE world championship and then not only worked the main event at WrestleMania but beat John Cena in the match. Consider the fact that CM Punk never worked a WrestleMania main event to see the level The Miz reached in his career during the PG Era.
When John Cena made his way to the main roster in 2002, he was not alone. In helping usher in the Ruthless Aggression Era, Cena was joined by Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and Batista. Out of those names, Orton matched Cena almost title-for-title through much of the PG Era.
In 2004, during the Ruthless Aggression Era, Orton became the youngest world champion in WWE history. During the PG Era, Orton remained on top, the WWE Champion when the new era started and then winning multiple more world titles along the way. Orton is a 13-time world champion in WWE.
Chris Jericho jumped from WCW to WWE during the Attitude Era and became an instant star. He cemented his status as a legend when he beat Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night to become the Undisputed World Champion. Jericho then did the unthinkable and kept reinventing himself to remain relevant.
During the PG Era, he returned and feuded with Shawn Michaels and then won the world title again. He left and returned in 2011 to feud with CM Punk and was as big a star as ever, proving always to provide a spark when WWE needed it in the PG Era.
Easily, the biggest star in the PG Era was CM Punk. What is really interesting about Punk is that he was the catalyst of the Reality Era, but that did not officially become a thing until after Punk walked out on the company in 2014.
However, during the PG Era, CM Punk became a self-made star. Hard work and determination forced WWE to take notice. He won the ECW title in the Ruthless Aggression Era and then won his first major world title in the PG Era. By the time he retired, CM Punk was a five-time world champion, beat John Cena multiple times, and was easily the most popular WWE superstar of the PG Era.