Beginning in the summer of 2008, WWE decided to back away from the edgier content the company had thrived on in the previous decade or so.
They decided to be more family-friendly, and appeal to the younger viewers of the WWE Universe, with John Cena being front and centre for this new era in WWE, dubbed the ‘PG Era’. Here are five positive things the era gave the fans.
1. A Phenomenon is Born
As mentioned in the introduction, John Cena was at the forefront of WWE’s newest era at the time. Gone are the days of rap battles, padlock chains and throwback jerseys, we were introduced to the bright shirt wearing, positivity spewing version of the man to appeal more to the children. A new age Hulk Hogan, if you will. We all know John Cena is a real-life superhero, look at his recovery times for injuries and you’ll agree, but this new demeanour gave the younger viewers someone to admire. At the start of the PG Era, he was a four-time World Champion, as I write this in July 2019, he is a sixteen-time holder of the richest prize. He’s been in countless movies, sold untold amounts of merchandise and did his job as the face of the company. People are split on the man, but I will hold my hands up and say, not only is he the greatest sports entertainer of the modern era, but he is the best thing the era ever produced. The only downside to this was his finisher being changed from the ‘F-U’ to the ‘Attitude Adjustment’, not the best name change in the world.
2. One in a Lifetime…Twice
So John Cena is in this article twice…but can you really blame me? Beginning at Wrestlemania 27, after The Rock cost Cena the WWE Title, they set up a match for the following years Wrestlemania. Through various Rock concerts, Cena raps and teaming together at Survivor Series, we had the dream match showdown at Wrestlemania 28, in which The Rock won. Cena’s career would take a slight spiral after this event, was dominated by a returning Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit and Dolph Ziggler at TLC. In between, he failed to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on RAW 1000 and failed to beat CM Punk for the WWE Title at 3 separate PPV’s. He entered the Royal Rumble at number 19, winning the match and his second overall. The Rock won the WWE Title from CM Punk on the same night, setting up their rematch at Wrestlemania 29, which Cena won, along with the WWE Title. This was a great storyline, stretched out across two years which really intensified Cena’s obsession to beat Rock, how his career took a dip because of this obsession and how he overcame the failure of both Wrestlemania 27 and 28.
3. The Yellow Roots are Planted
In 2010, WWE created a reality show in which eight rookies would be paired up with eight pros’, all rookies were members of the FCW roster and the pros from the WWE roster. Each pro would try to develop the mental and physical skills of their rookie, through matches as well as challenges like obstacle courses and promo challenges. The game show aspect lasted for five seasons before FCW was rebranded as NXT and became a developmental, and most popular, brand of the WWE banner. The game show aspect was utterly ridiculous and seemed to have no point to it except embarrassing the rookies. Despite this, it did introduce us to wrestlers such as Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett and Johnny Curtis (the future Fandango), as well as give us the yellow and black brand we all know and love.
4. The Rise of Punk
In 2011, CM Punk was at the height of his popularity, going from the leader of the New Nexus to being the anti-authority, outspoken ‘voice of the voiceless’. After defeating John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio, he earned the number one contendership for the WWE Title. After these wins, he sat cross-legged at the top of the ramp delivering his famous ‘pipebomb’ promo against Vince McMahon and the WWE. He also announced his contract was expiring on July 17th, the night of Money in the Bank, and the night of his WWE Title match. He won, defeating John Cena with the GTS, despite Vince’s attempts to recreate the Montreal Screwjob and have Alberto Del Rio cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. The visual of CM Punk sat on the barrier, holding the title and blowing a kiss to Vince will live on for a very long time as one of the best images in the company’s history. This win began the ‘Summer of Punk’, kickstarting a very well-earned main event push for the Chicago native. Without the events leading up to Money in the Bank, and the subsequent win over Cena, CM Punk would’ve never hit the heights he did in terms of popularity as the new age ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. He would also go on to have an instant classic at Summerslam 2013 against Brock Lesnar, which was awarded ‘match of the year’ by wwe.com.
5. An Underdog is on Top
After CM Punk left WWE after the Royal Rumble 2014, WWE were left without a plucky underdog with a chip on his shoulder and having an axe to grind with the management of the company. Enter, Daniel Bryan. It began whilst CM Punk was still with the company as he was the handpicked opponent by John Cena at Summerslam 2013, where Bryan defeated Cena. After the match, special guest referee Triple H would turn on Bryan, allowing Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. By doing this, they started a series of events which would result in WWE officials, mainly Triple H and Stephanie (dubbed ‘The Authority), holding Bryan back and screwing him out of every single title opportunity he had. Despite this, WWE fans still hijacked multiple segments of RAW with ‘yes chants’ in support of the underdog, Bryan. This all culminated with a win at Wrestlemania XXX, where Bryan toppled ‘The Authority’ and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He became the megastar we all know he could be, and became the face of the anti-establishment role, successfully replacing CM Punk in this role.
With the PG Era officially ending in late 2014, it was succeeded with the short-lived ‘Reality Era’ and the current ‘New Era’ in which the company pushed women’s wrestling to the forefront of the company, and brought back their slight edginess. The PG Era was the low point for many fans of a certain age, due to the watered-down content and the focus being on the younger viewers.
But they weren’t the target audience, families and younger viewers were, and the era successfully catered to the target demographic by drawing in younger fans in 2008, who are probably still fans now, eleven years later, still enjoying the weekly content. I, myself, became a fan in 2006, and I’m still a fan in 2019, showing the era did captivate younger viewers, and keep them as fans for life.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!