For the WWE Universe, it hasn't been the greatest time to be a fan of pro wrestling.
Pay-Per-View buys and attendance are down, along with television ratings. Even though we all owe a lot to Vince McMahon, it appears that every booking decision he makes these days ends up being a questionable one.
No one agreed with the idea of having Brock Lesnar end The Undertaker's streak. Absolutely nobody knows why Roman Reigns has gotten more love than Justin Bieber would at a high school party. And NOBODY knows why he poorly books Dean Ambrose and The Wyatt Family.
As the WWE draws more fans 10-and-under (the trend it has been for the last decade or so), they had no choice but to abandon the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras. It made perfect sense to transition into something more family-friendly. Yes, it's been quite disastrous, but no, it's not automatically staying that way forever.
It's going to take plenty of time and patience before WWE fans can make a decision as to whether or not the PG Era has worked out. For the first few years, it seemed just fine. But with stars like Batista, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and others leaving, the likes of Ambrose and Reigns haven't lived up to those veteran wrestlers.
Time is running out to show us the PG Era was well worth the money, work, and time. As we continue to head that way, we need to review what will define it most. Here are the 15 things that will define how the PG Era plays out the rest of the way.
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15 The Internet
The Internet Wrestling Company (IWC) has given fans the ability to read spoilers everywhere. Fans can also write opinion pieces about it, while places like Wrestlezone, WrestlingInc and eWrestlingNews have been able to provide us with news behind the scenes and in-depth analysis.
In previous Eras, the internet wasn't capable of giving fans all the chances to break spoilers, view opinion pieces, and understand the real-life politics of professional wrestling. Now with so much wrestling-related information on the web, many fans have been left jaded.
14 Pay-Per-View Buys
The WWE has seen a poor trend in PPV views, but who can blame them? Even as a proud (?) owner of the WWE Network, I have no problem ONLY watching the main event in most of their PPV venues.
WWE's booking is terrible. What was so special about Fastlane, besides the No. 1 Contender's match to face Triple H at WrestleMania? Oh, it was even worse to predictably have Roman Reigns win. How has that worked lately, Mr. McMahon?
It was recently reported that this year's Fastlane PPV purchases were way down from last year. Thought that's partially because of the WWE Network, it still isn't a great sign. If the trends keep going down for other Sunday night venues, then it'll go to show how the PG Era has dried up so much to the point where fans don't want to invest any money.
13 Rise of the Young Guns?
While Roman Reigns, John Cena, Dean Ambrose, and Brock Lesnar, plus Randy Orton and Seth Rollins (when they return from injury), occupy the main card, the likes of The League of Nations and The New Day take up the mid-card.
However, something's budding here. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, Kalisto and others. The WWE has plenty of young Superstars to work with. The only question is whether or not they'll rise fast enough or if they'll be the latest wave of stars that McMahon underused.
12 Brock Lesnar
Though he was one of the biggest Superstars in his first run with the WWE prior to departing in 2004 (during The Ruthless Aggression Era), Lesnar remains one of the most marketable names in the company.
His character hasn't completely changed since then. Paul Heyman still does the talking for him while the machine now sends people to Suplex City as he destroys anything in his path. Even though he's supposed to be a heel, the fans cheer for him. But will he go anywhere?
WWE missed out on the rightful chance of making him headline WrestleMania this past year in what could have been a more marketable main event, considering the location and size of the event.
11 The Future of SmackDown
I remember the days when SmackDown was arguably more exciting than Monday Night Raw.
SmackDown had The Undertaker, John Cena, JBL, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle, and Big Show. Then a few years later, it became obvious that they weren't going to compete with Raw anymore.
It became so bad that there's no longer a brand split. But with the poor ratings SmackDown gets, we can't help but wonder if they'll either scrap it, go back to the brand split, or find a way to change it.
But so far, the PG Era has absolutely ruined it.
For years, Facebook was the Undisputed Champion (see what I did there?) of social media. But Twitter has made a name for itself and WWE has used the powerhouse company as a way to build up feuds.
Who else remembers the way John Cena and The Rock used Twitter to hype up their first match at WrestleMania? They took their characters outside of the ring and mastered the trash talk off-screen.
While not as big as Rock/Cena, Twitter has been used to fuel other feuds in WWE as well. Something only made possible in the PG Era. That's why we'll remember the two so well together.
9 The Return of Part-Timers
Well, I guess we can't expect Hulk Hogan back any time soon. But if the last three WrestleManias have been an indication of anything, we'll always see some legends return to make The Grandest Stage of Them All that much better.
One thing we've seen a lot more in the PG Era is the return of part-time Superstars. This almost never happened in The Attitude Era and rarely in the Ruthless Aggression Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and others make the rare, yet awesome, appearances.
Meanwhile, guys like The Undertaker and Chris Jericho have returned to fight on-and-off, then leave for a couple of months before returning again.
They're used to make some of the best shows that much better. Though it's a great thing for WWE to do, we can also look at it in a sense that perhaps they're so worried about the lack of star power that they need old-timers to help maximize the entertainment.
8 NXT Movement
The NXT brand is starting to build up many big-named Superstars. Triple H deserves full credit for the way he's grown it, proving that he's ready to help his wife Stephanie McMahon run the company when Mr. McMahon steps down.
With the likes of Seth Rollins, The Wyatt Family, and Kevin Owens among some of the best wrestlers coming out of NXT, the WWE is looking promising when it comes to their up-and-coming stars.
But will they be able to sustain the momentum? This will be huge for the PG Era if WWE can pull off what the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL do: Let veteran stars retire/walk away and replace them with new rising stars. Every. Single. Time.
7 Future of Seth Rollins
The former Shield member committed one of the most awesome heel turns in 2014 by turning on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Then he committed what remains the most awesome Money In the Bank cash-in ever at last year's WrestleMania to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
He defeated John Cena, Sting, and Kane to already build up an incredible legacy. But the sad part? He tore his ACL during a house show and has been out for several months, just as he was in the middle of an awesome championship run.
We'll see how WWE treats him when he comes back. If they fail, we'll wonder what could have been different if he didn't get hurt.
6 Roman Reigns
We could easily consider the PG Era a huge flop if they don't figure out what to properly do with Roman Reigns. Do they keep trying to give him a major face push and have John Cena pass the torch down?
Or do they finally do the right thing and officially turn him heel, something that should have been done several months ago? Whatever it is, they have one major Superstar here and still haven't quite figured out his direction.
For what it's worth, part of the reason WCW lost was because they didn't use Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Rey Mysterio well. Those guys flourished and became main-card Superstars in WWE. Will McMahon and co. make a mistake that ended the Monday Night War, thanks to WCW's miscue?
This is going to get interesting.
5 Fan Power
The WWE Universe has been stronger than never before when it comes to dictating the decisions of the company. If Reigns does in fact turn heel, it's going to be all because of what the fans were able to do. They booed him heavily and WWE will have been given no other choice.
Meanwhile, Batista returned and won the 2014 Royal Rumble. What should have been a huge face return ended up having The Animal receive a bunch of boos, prompting him to turn heel and leave the company several months later. Not exactly what they planned.
So basically, WWE crowds can choose who plays good guy and who plays bad guy. WWE has no choice but to follow what they want. Just look at Daniel Bryan and the "Yes Movement." The PG Era will be remembered as the one that started the fan movement when it comes to booking decisions.
4 Women's Wrestling
There's no debating that the Divas division has been an absolute disaster in recent years. Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, Mickie James, and others became huge stars for the WWE. But then, the female talent pooled dried up in WWE.
But the current women of WWE have changed the game. No longer known as "Divas" but now referred to as "Superstars," the modern female talents have revolutionized women's wrestling.
The Women's Championship is back and now the division feels exciting once again.
3 Where John Cena Winds Up
As far as I'm concerned, we've been lucky enough to see a man who will go down as a top-five all-time great in the WWE. But the main question is if we've seen the best and won't see the greatness anymore.
John Cena is nearly 39-years-old, has fought off multiple real-life injuries, and before his most recent one, was moved to the mid-card to fight for the United States Championship. Though he does of course play the face, he isn't as exciting to the crowds as he used to be.
So after his triumphant return at WrestleMania, will we see a vintage Cena run? Will the major heel turn finally take place? Hulk Hogan's heel turn to join the nWo altered the industry. Perhaps Cena abandoning Cenation could bring a brand new Era of wrestling.
2 The Action
Google The Rock, Steve Austin, and Mick Foley, and go watch their highlights from the Attitude Era.
You'll see there was more violence. More blood, more chair shots to the head, more hits with weapons, and more action that your parents would strongly condone you watching. But that's not happening much in the PG Era.
Chair shots to the head are no longer a thing. Blood appearances come very rarely and we don't see many matches that allow weapons these days. It simply has defined what the PG Era is about: Family entertainment and nothing more.
1 The Authority
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, along with Mr. McMahon (from time-to-time), have been the central focus of the PG Era in recent years. Their storyline, which has them in power and trying to screw over the main faces, has become maybe the most exciting storyline to fans during this Era.
But now, with Shane McMahon entering the picture, we don't know how the real-life things are going backstage with the McMahon family. Who does Vince want in power most? And how much longer will these storylines drag on?
The Authority controls everyone on-and-off screen. If they move away from appearing on television, who knows what's next?
They're the ones responsible for the PG Era. Now it's a matter of seeing if they'll keep going in that direction or head into a brand new one.
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