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Attitude or PG – Which is the better era?

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Now before everyone goes ‘Attitude Era is the best!’ on me, let me explain what I meant by the title. I was watching all the old episodes of Monday Night RAW during the Attitude Era (Yeah, I need to get out more), but the one thing I noticed more than anything else was the beating every guy was willing to take during the Monday Night Wars. There is a lot more than that meets the eye, and that is exactly what happened during the Monday Night Wars. For those who aren’t aware of what that is, it was the tug of war between WCW and WWF for the ratings at a time when professional wrestling was at its peak, thanks to the stiff competition between both the companies, who weren’t willing to let the other win. WCW absolutely dominated the WWF for 84 straight weeks, but the WWF clawed their way back thanks to guys like Mick Foley, Steve Austin, the Undertaker and the Rock.

So, when the WWF turned the tide in their favour, WWF got their noses in front. And after Austin became the face of the company, they took off and never looked back. WCW had their share of great performers like Sting and the NWO, who were involved in one of the best feuds in professional wrestling history. After a year of NWO running rampant, the time for redemption happened when Sting took on Hogan, as WCW had its savior. Although that part, and the following stories after it were horribly botched, WCW was still hoping to catch up with WWF, and both the companies would have/were doing everything they can to one up their opponents. What resulted was almost careless bumps, and high risk moves taken by performers of both the companies.

One such example resulted in the tragic death of one of the most loved performers in the business, Owen Hart. Owen was being lowered down from the rafters in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, during Over the Edge PPV in ’99, and due to a malfunction of the cable, the harness was released, which resulted in Owen falling to his death live on PPV. People said they heard Owen screaming while falling down, and the referee had said Owen shouted down to him to move away, thus protecting his life! Now these kinds of things were rare in the professional wrestling business, because precautions were always taken. But that raises the question: How much is too much?

The time during the Monday Night Wars also saw the increase in performers using painkillers and performance enhancers. Professional wrestling business is a tough job to be in. If you’re hurt, or taking time off, there are always other guys ready to take your spot, and once they do, getting that spot back is almost impossible. Imagine Tiger Woods being replaced by 20 other guys who are as good as him! It’ll be almost impossible for him to climb the ladder and get his old rank back, and when you triple that, you get to what the performers felt like. And that was a time when neither of the companies could afford taking their foot off the accelerator. When you’re competing to be the best in the world, you do not take a step back. And so, even though the performers were hurt, they’d still compete, and because of that, they’d take a lot of pain pills along with alcohol, which is a lethal combination.

You add the performance aspect to it, and it becomes even more dangerous. This was a point when both the companies were pushing the big guys – guys like Nash, Hogan, Hall, Giant, Sid, etc – and so, as the mentality was for decades in professional wrestling, people wanted to get bigger to get higher spots. So, you bring in the performance enhancers, the anabolic steroids and the like, and when you add all of this, it’s no wonder that so many guys passed away when they were just in their mid 30s! You had all these guys working their heart out, going back, doing drugs and pain pills along with alcohol, and they’d do it all over again the very next day! In a circus like professional wrestling, you seldom see guys willing to take time off. They’re so indulged with getting the spot light that they’d rather die!

This brings me back to my original point. So, as I was watching the old tapes, I couldn’t help but see all the guys willing to take unprotected chair shots. Now, it is a rule in professional wrestling that you at least put your hands up, so that you reduce the impact. But taking an unprotected chair shot was how you’d show your commitment, and there were a lot of people who did just that. This all adds up to the tragic Benoit incident, where his brain was as damaged as a 90 year old’s! Benoit was one of the ‘stiff’ workers, who’d rather get hurt than to make things seem ‘fake’. Remember all the Swan dive headbutts he used to give? Benoit and Dynamite Kid ended up being the same way because of their similar styles of wrestling, which is fatal.

The WWE, now in the so called ‘PG Era’, has completely banned these high risk moves, and chair shots to the head. Imagining how much the guys used to blade, back in the Attitude Era, it’s remarkable to know that WWE has a strict ‘No blading’ policy as well! So, not only does that mean that high risk moves such as a piledriver can’t be done anymore in the organization, but chair shots to the head have been banned, along with blading! Which can be nothing but a boon to all the performers, who’re risking their lives every time they step into the ring.

I’ve seen people clamoring for the Attitude Era to return. I see how they keep saying guys beating each other senseless exemplifies true ‘professional wrestling’. No, professional wrestling is all about psychology, storytelling in the ring, and when you’re really lucky, an excellent brawl/technical match to top it off. Some classic examples are that of Bret – Owen match at WrestleMania 10, and the most recent Cena – Punk match at MITB ‘11, or even on recent RAW. You do not need to take bumps, or do high risk spots, or blade yourself to make it a classic, and sadly, since Attitude Era was all about ‘Crash TV’, the guys had no other choice. It’s absolutely fantastic that WWE has a strict policy against all of that now, as even legends like Taker are slapped with fines when they do take risks.

I loved the Attitude Era, no doubt about that. The one thing I loved most were the compelling storylines. I, for one, do not miss all the open chair shots, or the constant bleeding by the performers. In the end, these guys are human like us. They put their bodies through excruciating pain for the fans to get their money’s worth. So, instead of looking at it from our perspective, when we look at things through their eyes, the PG Era has given them a lot of relief. Not only that, but WWE now has a very strict drug testing, and anti – drug policy, as well as rehabilitation for those who’re suffering from any addiction or other problem. This tells me one thing: while we miss the Attitude Era and the great action, PG Era’s toning down the product has helped superstars preserve their bodies for a longer duration, thus not only increasing their life span, but their careers as well, which can be nothing but good for the fans. So, this answers the question that I raised in the title – PG Era has certainly given more benefits than the Attitude Era.

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