By Jack Brady
Cast your mind back to Wrestlemania 21: the night that John Cena won his first WWE championship and begun his rise as the face of WWE.
Brian Fitz, in his 2006 book “Between the Ropes” earmarked Cena to lead the WWE into the future.
“Cena is the man who will carry the company to its next great height.”
The now ten-time WWE champion has done that and then some. The man himself becoming a primary influence of the introduction of WWE’s PG era in 2008; the structure of this era now defines the production practice of WWE wrestling as the storylines, showcased on the company’s shows Raw and Smackdown, have now become a family- friendly substance.
For the WWE too have gone through the programming structures of the 90’s Attitude Era and the Early-2000’s Ruthless Aggression Era, their most recent change of programming to the more jovial PG rating was a bold and not necessarily popular move.
The PG era alienated the long time fans of wrestling as the live crowds and the global wrestling audience became divided over Cena, the face of the WWE’s PG product.
This divide is now personified through the chant “Let’s go Cena, Cena Sucks”.
According to the WWE corporate website approximately 56% of the WWE audience is made up of women and children under the age of 18, this is the audience that chants for Cena.
Vince McMahon’s change of WWE programming to PG saw that he could avoid controversial storylines and appeal to over half of the company’s audience that is women and children.
Since he had already bought out all the other major wrestling companies, McMahon realised he could centre the company more on profits and sponsors throughout the global environment especially through the company’s PG focus in terms of merchandise and the marketing of kid-friendly wrestlers like Cena, Santino Marella and CM Punk.
The resistance, the old-school fans who chant “Cena Sucks” are those that enjoyed the hardcore storylines of wrestling. This form of wrestling according to former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista was killed by Cena.
“The girls love him, he’s good looking guy, says all the right things, does all the right things, but the hardcore fans can’t stand him,” Bautista said in a 2011 interview.
“He is Mr. PG… to me; he [Cena] killed hardcore, edgy wrestling.”
The WWE’s flagship shows, Raw, introduced in 1993, and Smackdown, introduced in 1999, prior to the PG era were embroiled in controversial storylines and the older fans loved the antics of the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era’s: such times that were defined by the beer-drinking, finger-flipping Stone Cold Steve Austin, crowd-favourite The Rock and the emergence and dominance of Brock Lesnar.
Since the emergence of the PG Era, and as wrestling journalist Asif Lalani points out, a lot of cool things had gone away.
Essentially what the PG era and wrestling nowadays encompasses is pretty simple: no boobs, no blood, no controversy, and no swearing.
Long-term fans of the company don’t have the same enjoyment from the current product of the WWE: they are bored by John Cena.
What these fans are failing to realise is that the continuance of the WWE in later years will come from the appealed audience of today, the kids.
More critically: why would McMahon kill something the kids love? They are the future of the company’s success. Many children, whom the company is targeting through its product now wouldn’t even remember the wrestling of old.
There is no need for it to change to secure the businesses global environment. The children take it a face value already and love it as it is.
It will be little Sam’s or little Zoe’s first John Cena shirt that they wore with pride in their childhood who will still be watching Raw and Smackdown in twenty years time with their own children.
These kids in the company’s global audience today are the focus of the business production practice and released mediums of today and of the future. Not the old geezers reminiscing that the WWE was better ‘back in the day’.
Sure. Wrestling isn’t edgy, isn’t as hardcore and may not even be as haphazard in its storylines as it once was. Yet what McMahon has done with his product and with his stars like Cena shows that he is appealing to the majority of the company’s global environment through the company’s expressed media.
It’s just good business.