It’s a debate that message boards the web over have been taking part in for just over a decade – what is it that made the WWF so much more fun and entertaining than the current product, known since 2002 as the WWE.
Of course, it is worth noting several possible pitfalls when approaching the topic, such as the blinding power of nostalgia. Growing up as yours truly did in the supposed Golden Age of Wrestling, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Randy Savage, it is tempting to have a rigid, fixed idea about what the product should be. Not to mention, our more easily pleased, less judgemental attitude as kids is likely to skew our overarching view of the product then, compared to a more subjective, critical opinion on it now as adults.
After all, how much can a logo and a brand name inherently change a product? Naturally, the argument is not that simple; the post-2000 era of wrestling marked a great period of cultural change for several reasons, many of which are detailed below.
That said, my prevailing opinion as an adult is that the WWE is absolutely not the hugely entertaining product it used to be, owing almost as much to situations outside of their control as to creative deficiencies.
10. Internet Culture
While the Internet Wrestling Community was fully established even when the Attitude Era was around, the pervasive, know-all nature of modern dirt sheets removes practically every element of surprise and wonder out from professional wrestling, such that when something actually manages to slip through the cracks – such as Kurt Angle’s shocking 2006 departure from WWE to TNA – we are genuinely blown away by it.
Still, wrestling was a very different product 15-20 years ago, prior to the predominance of the web. There was less a focus on wrestling as an artificial entertainment product, and more a focus on it as a legitimate sporting spectacle, albeit a larger-than-life one starring colourful cartoon characters. Departures, new signings, wins, losses, and heel and face turns largely went undocumented by the mass media as, frankly, staged wrestling events were not considered newsworthy.
With the onset of the blogosphere and dedicated wrestling news sites, this changed; now creative leaks and rumours spill out every day, making us surprised by little. Add to this a more technologically attuned age, in which even the youngest kids have Smart Phones, and our collective youthful innocence is no longer what it was a few short decades ago. Naturally, this is completely out of the WWE’s control.