The Attitude Era is one of the most celebrated eras in pro wrestling history, if not the most celebrated. Stretching from roughly late 1997 until around 2002 with the advent of ruthless aggression and the brand split, the Attitude Era is generally considered one of the most successful periods in WWE history, led by Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Triple H, Mick Foley and Mr. McMahon.
Despite the fact that the Attitude Era ended 15 years ago, people still talk about it fondly (constantly) and often wonder if WWE will ever return to the PG-14 antics that defined those boom years.
WWE’s face of the company in the years since, John Cena, was recently asked about fans who pine for the Attitude Era, and he offered up a really long answer to The Independent attempting to explain why things are different in 2017 than they were in 1997.
“What I can tell you is that we’re a PG program, and if you look at the Attitude Era, it was TV-14 or TV-MA. We’re a PG program, there’s nothing else I can tell you. There will be no cussing, there will be no blood, there will be no headshots, there will be no inappropriate clothing, and those aren’t our laws; those are the laws of the rating system. So to operate under a PG platform, which has totally globally expanded the WWE and created more fans — albeit geeky or not geeky — around the world, and allowed all of these performers including myself to go to new and wonderful places, like places in South America, China for the first time. We keep returning to Japan, the Arab Emirates — just because we have made our program more digestible.
Cena sympathizes with those who want more adult language on WWE shows, which is something he thrived on when he first burst onto the scene as a foul-mouthed rapper circa 2003 and 2004. In his opinion, this is also just basic thuganomics.
“I totally understand, as a 40-year-old man, and if you’ve seen me in Trainwreck I have a pretty adult sense of humor, I totally understand someone saying, ‘I miss mature content in sports entertainment’. We are not the place for that. We are not. And that’s our business model. And until it changes I am merely a carpenter building with the tools that are given to me.
“Is a promo easier when you can cuss? Sure, because you’re talking trash and trash talk is filled with cusses. But, as a professional, you can’t speculate and be like, ‘Agh I wish I could just say this,’ because you can’t, those are the rules, and every once in a while we can walk the line and push into grey, but at the end of the day the program is PG and has to be treated as such, because that’s the business model of the folks who own the place.”
Cena also mentioned that the Attitude Era is what drew him back to WWE as a fan, but he noted what really matters to him.
“That’s when wrestling drew me back, the Attitude Era, because I was 21 years old, and that’s what I wanted to watch. But until we get the go-ahead to make TV-MA stuff, [WWE is] gonna [stay] PG. So I think everyone who’s involved in the Attitude Era appreciates all the respect, and I know [those of] us who aren’t in the Attitude Era — and I’ve kinda seen both sides of the spectrum, because I came in on the tail end of it and was a primary reason for the transition — I don’t feel slighted at all, because that fact that you watch and complain at least means you’re watching.”
You can watch the full interview Cena did with The Independent below.