A few years ago, Triple H was making a lot of noise about the "Reality Era" on WWE television, probably hoping to rebrand the PG Era as something edgier than it should be, which could start a new wrestling era of his own. While that term never caught on like it should have, one could say that WWE is at the dawn of a new era following PG, one that's more willing to recognize the fact that fans are hip to the latest wrestling news and rumors, and don't just acknowledge that it's predetermined. It's an era that's not quite Attitude or even Ruthless Aggression, but edgier than PG. And it's an era where women and smaller wrestlers are getting the breaks they didn't get in previous years.
Of course, WWE isn't acknowledging that this new era may be dawning, much less giving a name or a branding to it. But there are a few signs of this era's ascendance, five of which we've listed below.
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5. A Changing Of The Guard
It would seem that WWE's 40-plus crowd is slowly, but surely making way in earnest for the younger guys. Mark Henry retired earlier this year, and we may or may not have seen the last of Big Show. The Hardy Boyz are drawing closer to where The Dudley Boyz were at the same point in their last WWE return, while John Cena is easing into a more part-time role, and Mickie James, who just turned 38, is barely on TV anymore. Youth appears to be where it's at for this increasingly millennial-oriented WWE as the company phases out more top names whose careers date back to the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras.
4. Women's Wrestling As We Currently Know It
The Mae Young Classic has just concluded, and one week before the talented Kairi Sane won the tournament, we saw her countrywoman, Asuka, get announced as the latest addition to the Raw roster, fresh off a record-setting run as NXT Women's Champion. The WWE's Four Horsewomen might be working a program with MMA's Ronda Rousey-led Four Horsewomen. And if you look at the female rosters of all three WWE brands (NXT included), you'll see a slew of legitimately talented women. Sure, a lot of the women's booking might not make sense (see: Bayley), but in terms of talent and media attention, WWE's ladies haven't had it this good.
3. Violence Is Amped Up
We probably won't see another era in the WWE where the onscreen violence is on par with what we saw in the Attitude Era. But these days, you've got Braun Strowman, who, when not flipping ambulances over because he's not finished with a certain Roman Reigns, does a variety of other things to justify his Monster Among Men moniker, while on SmackDown Live, fans got to see Kevin Owens make Vince McMahon bleed with a vicious headbutt, bringing back memories of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, albeit with the heel/face alignments reversed. Suddenly, on-air violence isn't quite as PG as it used to be.
2. Comedy Making A Comeback
When the UFC became a bigger mainstream presence in the late-2000s, WWE doubled down on what it started in the Attitude Era by further toning down the outrageous and ensuring that most of the top names were essentially playing themselves turned up a few notches. But The New Day proved in recent years there is a place in the WWE for goofy, outrageous personalities who win more often than they lose. And while the same cannot be said about Breezango's win-loss record, they are, at least, tremendously over and entertaining with their "Fashion Police" gimmick. We haven't even mentioned Southpaw Regional Wrestling, WWE's hilarious YouTube parody of the same regional promotions Vince McMahon conquered way back in the 1980s.
With all that said, comedy is still mostly a mid-card staple. But it's great to see more wrestlers letting their hair down and adding some levity while getting some good returns out of it.
1. More Reality-Based, Self-Aware Promos
By the looks of things, John Cena might have started a new trend with his promo on Roman Reigns on Monday Night Raw a few weeks ago. While we've long been accustomed to the stuff we read on the dirt sheets staying on the dirt sheets, we're now hearing the likes of the aforementioned Cena/Reigns promo duel, as well as The Miz referencing Enzo Amore's backstage heat when he had Amore on the last episode of Miz TV. And while we're talking about The Miz, why not include his epic argument with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack last year?
As we mentioned above, WWE isn't just acknowledging that virtually all of its fans know the deal with pro wrestling. It also seems that WWE is more willing than ever to admit that its fans read the dirt sheets, and that could mean more worked shoots like the ones we mentioned.