“Can we stop with the TV14 questions? (…)I’m not a guy who lives or dies by a TV rating but rather judges a wrestling, TV show by what I see in the ring headlined by high quality, physical wrestling action and not by the use of edgy language even though I do enjoy that too when effectively utilized. “
- Jim Ross, 22nd Feb 2011
It’s very easy in this day and age to sit at a computer and moan about the wrestling industry. And since WWE reigns at the top of the wrestling hierarchy, they tend to become the target of a lot of hate, most of which can often be illogical. This is not to say that fans should not be allowed to complain about the aspects of a product they invest time and energy into. More that the annoyances which some fans, and in particular a contingency of online fans, express can often be misdirected.
Take WWE’s current status as a PG show as a prime example of something which has drawn the ire of a large portion of the internet wrestling community. For quite some time now, we have been reading and watching as people complain that the PG rating will be the death of the wrestling industry. However, it is our belief that the problems people attribute to the rating have nothing to do with the classification given to the show but rather with the weaknesses which exist in the current booking of the product; weaknesses which would likely exist regardless of a switch back to TV-14.
A bit of blood or swearing may add a little to a product, be it wrestling, television or movies. It makes it slightly more realistic and can add a grit to a storyline or a situation. However, blood and swearing should not make a product, and nor should it particularly break a product. A removal of such things should not be a huge determinate to a show, as the main focus of a show should be on providing strong storylines and credible characters. Especially in a wrestling show, credibility should be established via their in-ring actions and abilities as well as out of ring dialogues. However WWE, it can be argued, is failing to produce the results on either in or out of ring activities at this time, at least on a consistent basis.
Take John Cena for example, the personification of the PG rating and the main target of the internet critics attacks. It would be foolish to say that his character would not improve if he was given the chance to ditch the poopy jokes and revert back to the cutting edge character he portrayed on his rise to the top, and certainly in this regard, he is an example of a wrestler who would benefit from a TV-14 rating. However, his promos are only one reason people have a problem with his character. The other two major faults are his in-ring abilities (e.g. his punches) and the booking of him as a superman character. Neither of these faults would be addressed if WWE dropped the PG rating; if they were so inclined to book him as an unstoppable machine who refuses to sell anything, then a more mature rating would not change this. Nor would it help his ability to throw a punch; if Cena has not made the effort to make them more realistic now, there is nothing about a higher classification which would make a difference.
Some may clamour that the PG rating holds some wrestlers back, but again, that simply is not true. Dodgy yo-yo booking holds wrestlers back. The likes of Evan Bourne or Kofi Kingston do not need to start swearing to get over with the crowds. They need the chance to have a consistent push behind them. The likes of Jack Swagger, Sheamus or Alberto Del Rio do not need mature language to be hated; they can do that by building their credibility in the ring or getting stronger characterisations. However, sustained pushes are very much a rarity these days, as wrestlers are pushed into the main event suddenly and then dropped violently down the card two weeks later without a chance. Anyone under the main event struggles to even get a small story to provide their characters with some realism and thus fans have no reason to get behind them at all.
As far as blood is concerned, we are of the opinion that it can help a match every now and again. however, the real problem lies in the overuse of blood; does anyone care when Ric Flair bleeds anymore? Does it add anything to his matches? A little bit of blood on occasion can add a bit of drama but it should not be a substitute for strong work rates and a connection with the fans. The likes of Rey Mysterio can work crowds into frenzies with his underdog routine without the need for blood. As much as it can contribute to a story, it can also be a tool for lazy wrestlers who struggle to connect with the crowd and that can display a weakness in their abilities.
If people want realism, if people want characters that are believable, then swearing and blood will not help change the current problems, because the current problems are seeded far deeper than the rating. The booking department either will not or cannot provide stories for everyone. Few are given any time to develop and give fans the reasons to care, as time is dedicated to pushing two or three stories and ignoring everyone else. This is not PG’s fault. It’s the fault of poor writing. A change in classification may help a handful of wrestlers but it will not change the booking team’s flaws.