WWE’s promo team may never shy away from reminding fans that the company has no offseason (they’re also particularly fond of reminding you that WWE is, in fact, not ballet), but you really do have to respect that the world’s largest wrestling company is indeed a 24/7, 365 brand of entertainment. Hardly a day goes by where they are not putting on one kind of show or another.
Among the many, many demands that come with putting out that much entertainment, the biggest among them may just be the need to stay fresh in an ever-changing world. If you think it’s tough for a wrestler to go out there nearly every day of the year and have a match, just imagine what a burden it is for the WWE creative team to somehow come up with new material when it’s all seemingly been done before.
This need to constantly keep the product fresh means that WWE is always changing itself in one way or another. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of switching which wrestler has which championship or making sure there is always a new rivalry ever few months or so, but every now and then they will go so far as to completely change the very philosophy of the company. There are enough regular shifts in direction going on in WWE that missing a couple of weeks can sometimes make it feel like you’re watching an entirely different show.
But when you’re talking about comparing where WWE is now to where it was 10 years ago, you might as well be talking about different shows. WWE has changed so much in the last decade that it’s almost not even fair to compare the two eras. Then again, since it is fun to look at how different things really are, here are the 15 biggest differences between then and now.
15 Women’s Wrestling Involves A Lot More Clothing
While WWE didn’t sexualize their women’s wrestling matches 10 years ago quite as much as they did during the Attitude Era (let’s not forget that we were treated to quite a few “full flashes” back then), you could still expect the majority of women’s matches to feature someone losing their clothes. That's not the case anymore. Not only has WWE moved away from mostly hiring women with “Wet T-Shirt Contest Champion” on their resumes, they’ve actually started to let their female performers wrestle long matches. No doubt some miss their weekly lingerie match fix, but this one is probably a change for the best.
14 Tag Team Wrestling Is Becoming A Thing Again
WWE has always had something of a love/hate relationship with tag team wrestling. They love it when the division is able to make them tons of money without having to directly focus on it, but hate having to actually develop tag teams and give them a chance to distinguish themselves. Following the end of the TLC era of tag-team matches, WWE settled back into their hate relationship with the division by presenting tag team wrestling as an obligation. While progress in this area has been slow, we’re finally starting to see tag matches that are more than an excuse to jam the ring with as many singles wrestlers as possible.
13 The WWE Blacklist Has Gotten Shorter
Ultimate Warrior, Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart…the list of names once on the unofficial WWE blacklist of wrestlers that you’ll probably never see in the company again reads a lot like their current Hall of Fame. Rumors suggest that a big part of the reason the WWE blacklist was so big back then was because Vince still had such an iron grip on the company’s creative control, and had a career full of grudges that he was more than happy to let drag on. Not everyone from those days is back in WWE’s good graces now, but the list is shorter than ever.
12 There Is No More Brand Split
Opinions on WWE’s brand split idea were always mixed. While some saw dividing the company into three “independent” brands as an excellent way to make sure that different stars got the chance to shine, others viewed it as a huge blight on the company that weakened each brand by having them focus on a few major stars simply trading the championship back and forth. Regardless of where you stand on the concept, the brand split is long gone now. While there are rumors floating around it may one day see a return, we can at least be sure there will be no awful ECW reboot this time.
11 WWE Now Acknowledges The Wrestling World
10 years ago, the thought of WWE directly acknowledging that another wrestling company existed seemed about as likely as Vince McMahon skipping leg day. The company’s motto had long been “If it didn’t happen in WWE, it didn’t happen,” and few people ever expected them to budge even a little on that approach. Now, though, stars like AJ Styles have their previous accomplishments acknowledged on day one, and WWE is even working with outside wrestling companies directly for programs like the Global Cruiserweight tournament. If this much progress makes you dizzy, take comfort in the fact that WWE probably won’t be mentioning TNA any time soon.
WWE had maintained a developmental farm system for years, but organizations like FCW and OVW had never been anything more than televised practice sessions that occasionally yielded a match worth scouring YouTube for. NXT started off as something similar, but in the last few years has grown into a unique brand that seems to be in direct competition with other indie organizations. More than that, it has allowed WWE a venue to bring in the kind of wrestlers and run the kind of angles that they would otherwise never do on the main roster.
9 There Are More Part Time Stars
It was never unusual for WWE to bring in a big name for a one-off appearance or short comeback tour, but you never really saw those part time guys actually play a major role in the championship picture. That certainly is not the case anymore as guys like Brock Lesnar and The Rock have had championship runs despite not being full-time members of WWE, and stars like The Undertaker continue to be main draws despite only working a few times a year at most. Though this approach is roughly equivalent to a temp getting to be CEO, it has occasionally resulted in memorable angles.
8 Raw Is Three Hours Long
When WWE announced that Raw would be expanding to a three-hour format in 2012, you could hear the concerned groans of fans and staff clear across the world. Raw had been built for years around a two-hour formula, and many wondered how the show would adapt to having to put on a Hollywood epic every week. Sadly, it seems that the answer to that question is still a work in progress. Many within WWE have expressed concern over the difficulty of the three-hour format, but few believe that the company will be able to move away from this obligation any time soon.
7 There Are Less Ridiculous Segments
Modern WWE television may not be perfect – it never is – but if there is one thing you can take comfort in, it’s that there is a far less chance of tuning into an episode of Raw one week and seeing a storyline involving one wrestler sleeping with the elderly in order to convince another to have a one night stand. WWE was still trying to ween themselves of the Attitude Era 10 years ago, and the result of their efforts was a host of awkward storylines modified for a more PG era. You still see this occasionally, but thankfully not near as much.
6 Gimmicks Are More Down To Earth
Similar to how WWE used to have a lot more love for completely absurd storylines, they also used to be a lot fonder of assigning performers with the most outlandish gimmick they could possibly come up with. Whether it was Chavo Guerrero parading around as a stereotypical white man by the name of Kerwin White or the uncomfortably homophobic tag-team of Billy and Chuck, WWE used to be a wasteland of truly awful character ideas. Again this isn’t completely gone, but gimmicks are far more toned down these days, and mostly allow wrestlers to just be a version of themselves.
5 Blood Is Almost Completely Gone
The PG era of WWE has been in effect for some time, but 10 years ago WWE was willing to do things with a more PG product that you are less likely to see now. Along with the use of the aforementioned bra and panties matches, the most notable new taboo in WWE is blood. Maybe a couple of times a year you will see someone bleed during a match – usually Brock Lesnar – but blood is not nearly as prevalent as it once was when you could expect to see a little bleeding on a monthly basis, at least.
4 WWE Pushes Different Kinds Of Wrestlers
As a rule, if you didn’t look like you could win a bodybuilding competition there was very little chance of you becoming a WWE champion 10 years ago. It was an era where you could accurately order the card standings simply by arranging the performer’s max bench press. While WWE will likely always have a fondness for the biggest kid on the block, it’s hard to deny that this current era allows for a greater variety of stars than ever before. Guys like Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan would have never gotten a title shot 10 years ago, and are now some of the most beloved champions in recent memory.
3 Championships Matter More
Along with over-the-top gimmicks and storylines, one of the most unfortunate carry-overs from the Attitude Era 10 years ago was the popular practice of moving belts between performers often enough until the championships lost all meaning. With the exception of guys like John Cena, champions rarely got to stay champions for long. Thankfully, this is no longer always the case as even mid-card champions often get a chance to run with the belt for a respectable amount of time. While there is a long way to go on this front still, at least the occurrences of championship runs lasting mere days are far fewer.
2 Kayfabe Is Completely Dead
Although true kayfabe that presents professional wrestling as 100% real hasn’t been held sacred for some time, there was always a line when it came to presenting professional wrestling as a scripted show. Recent years have seen that line fade away almost entirely, as even guys like Vince McMahon and Triple H will take to podcasts and discuss the business of professional wrestling in very non-kayfabe terms. While we’ll probably never see the return of the Vince Russo WCW days where the business was exposed weekly, it’s clear that the holy rule of kayfabe is long gone.
1 The WWE Network
Of all the many changes in WWE over the last 10 years, none has had quite the same impact as the introduction of the WWE Network. While the most obvious change the WWE Network has brought about is the way it has pretty much eliminated the concept of traditional WWE PPV’s, it has also been a contributing factor to many of the elements on this list including NXT, the death of kayfabe and acknowledging the rest of the wrestling world. The WWE Network gives WWE the kind of dedicated platform that no channel ever could, and their future is most certainly going to revolve around it.