The Reality Era has been a huge part of WWE throughout the past decade. It started when WWE began to use the reality-based stories like CM Punk’s contract running out. The company continued to delve into that style of wrestling with the fans having a closer eye on both the scripted and real-life aspects of the performers. Even though some view the era as ending, the company still tries to use the same logic for today’s product.
We will look at things that went down behind the scenes that played a huge role in the era. All these things were legitimately happening in real-life and it would start to move into the on-screen product. Find out just what went down to lead to storylines or moments that defined the era for WWE. These are ten behind the scenes things that shaped the Reality Era.
10 CM Punk wanting a faction
CM Punk’s WWE Championship reign would see him turn heel and become a marked man. The stress of avoiding challengers like Ryback and John Cena put his character against a wall. Punk pitched the idea of a new faction known as The Shield to protect him.
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns were called up with the new act. WWE eventually would have The Shield become their own act since they got over right away and no longer needed Punk’s association. An idea from Punk helped create three new major superstars in The Shield.
9 Paul Heyman's influence
The return of Paul Heyman to manage Brock Lesnar would see him get more and more power backstage. Heyman had close relationships with many top names in the company like CM Punk, Goldberg, and Ronda Rousey. All the talents wanting to work with Heyman led to him having a bigger role.
Things escalated even further when WWE named Heyman as the lead creative mind for the Raw television show in 2019. Heyman is currently the person pitching the big ideas for the storylines on Raw and will have a huge role in the next decade as well.
8 Rise of NXT
Triple H’s idea for the creation of the Performance Center to train new wrestlers and the brand of NXT to showcase the future of the company changed WWE for the better. NXT became a cutting-edge brand that did things different from Raw and Smackdown.
The backstage decisions to make it more athletic based with more versatile talents showed that fans wanted it. We now get TakeOver specials the night before major WWE PPVs to make the entire weekend a special event.
7 Vince McMahon's support of Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns had one of the toughest paths to the top of WWE due to a strange reason. Most wrestlers would trade it all to win the support of Vince McMahon in them as a face of the company. Fans however caught wind of this real story and turned on Reigns due to it.
No one likes being told what to do or who to like and it caused fans to boo Roman out of the building when he won the 2015 Royal Rumble match. The polarizing reaction became part of Reigns’ character moving forward all due to McMahon liking his skill set.
6 Goldberg appearing in WWE 2K ads
Goldberg was not planned to wrestle for WWE again when he did business with the company for their WWE 2K video game series. The commercials put Goldberg back on the fans radar and they heckled a dull Brock Lesnar match at Summerslam 2016 with chants of his former rival.
Brock was inspired to pitch the idea of a feud with Goldberg. WWE shocked the world by having Goldberg beat Lesnar in a squash match at Survivor Series 2016 setting up a later WrestleMania match. If WWE picked anyone else for that 2K ad, Goldberg likely never would have returned to the ring.
5 Shane McMahon's return
One of the biggest pops of the Reality Era came when Shane McMahon returned to WWE after a long absence. The back story of real life tension between Shane and Stephanie looking for control of WWE was referenced as the two couldn’t get along.
Shane eventually would become a traditional character as the Commissioner of Smackdown during the brand split. The heel character eventually dominated the show in a less fun fashion. Shane’s return would overstay its welcome as he’s no longer an on-screen character.
4 CM Punk leaving WWE
CM Punk was essentially the godfather of the Reality Era since he is a huge reason it even started. Fans loved Punk since you always knew what was on his mind and it felt real. Punk often ran down Triple H and Vince McMahon with complaints about how they run WWE that was both real and connected with fans.
However, things would get too real when Punk decided to walk out of the company frustrated the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble event. Punk leaving forced WWE to make bigger changes like pushing Daniel Bryan harder and elevating The Shield as singles stars.
3 Triple H's hiring approach
Triple H is gaining more and more power backstage in WWE as the eventual successor to Vince McMahon. The rise of NXT is Triple H’s biggest success with the hiring process tying into it. WWE used to be a tough place for independent wrestling stars or international names to join.
Triple H’s time as the man in charge of the hiring process would see him put together a team of scouts led by William Regal to sign the best talents in the world. Signings like Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura showed that his mindset was to get all the best performers in WWE by losing the old thought process of only going after people from other sports.
2 WWE not believing in Daniel Bryan
The storyline of Daniel Bryan vs the Authority was special since it genuinely paralleled the behind the scenes story. Bryan became the most popular wrestler in 2013 as a face during his path to the WWE Championship. WWE had Randy Orton beat him seconds after his win to steal the title.
The belief was that Bryan was not face of the company material due to his smaller size. Bryan was slated to work a mid-card feud with Sheamus at WrestleMania 30 with Orton vs Batista in the main event. Fans however hijacked segments with chanting showing their opinion due to their disgust of WWE’s mindset. It changed the company as Bryan would get added to the main event and win the title at WM 30.
1 WWE finally realizing they should push the women's division
The women’s evolution was the biggest success story of the Reality Era. WWE addressed the elephant in the room regarding the division that they were the ones to prevent the ladies from finding success. The shorter matches and embarrassing storylines always hurt the entire division’s credibility.
WWE had both a behind the scenes and on-screen philosophy change when the women’s evolution started. Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch were called up with the ladies finally getting more television time. Various call-ups and historic firsts would see the women of WWE become arguably the biggest draws of the era.