By John Napolitano
The ravenous fans of the WWE Universe tend to habitually categorize different time periods in professional wrestling in order to track the evolution of the business. Inquisitive enthusiasts are continuously curious as to what time period produced the best of sports entertainment. These time periods are commonly referred to as eras, and fanatics over the last century have witnessed the Television Era of the 1960s and 70s, the Golden Era which was defined by the birth of WrestleMania and the Rock n’ Wrestling Connection, and the Modern Era of pro-wrestling.
The Modern Era can be further dissected into periods of time that the trailblazer of pro-wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment, has conceptualized. These eras within the WWE’s tenure as the premiere sports entertainment juggernaut have been dubbed the New Generation, the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era, and the PG Era.
The opening and closing of an era is a monumental moment because it signifies the evolution and revamping of pro-wrestling internally, culturally, and creatively. For example, the New Generation, featuring budding superstars like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Razor Ramon was a refreshing change of pace from the Golden Era, which saw Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and the Ultimate Warrior constantly claiming victory over their adversaries.
When the New Generation and their antics became passé, it took the cutting edge conducts of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Mankind, to name a few, to bring WWE into the Attitude Era and back into relevancy. In essence, each subsequent era in WWE brings something new to the table, and that alone is cause for sheer excitement.
The “Reality Era,” the “Social Media Era” and even the “Network Era” have been candidates in identifying what course the S.S. Sports Entertainment is currently sailing. This time period in WWE has not been officially christened, as labeling eras is a practice done retrospectively, but it has never been more apparent that we have embarked on a new chapter with breakout characters, contemporary storylines, and greater appreciation for the sport itself.
The trekking of a new creative campaign officially resonated with me as I watched the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan hoist his titles in front of the WrestleMania XXX set, as a flurry of pyrotechnics erupted in the background, and Michael Cole cried, “Tonight, Daniel Bryan's arrived!” This WrestleMania moment not only left me with chills but paralleled WrestleMania XIV when Austin won the WWE Championship and Jim Ross epically exclaimed, “The Austin Era has begun!”
Whenever an up-and-coming superstar defeats the more experienced incumbent on The Grandest Stage of Them All, one can assume a shift is imminent. We have witnessed these shifts following events like Shawn Michaels defeating Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII, Brock Lesnar vanquishing Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX, and John Cena and Batista capturing their first world titles at WrestleMania XXI.
Another component of this shifting tide in WWE is the updating of the WWE Logo. Seldom does WWE change the design of its visual representation, and when it is changed, captivating content is in store. The former scratch logo was introduced to the WWE Universe in 2002 at birth of the Ruthless Aggression Era. This era is widely regarded as the most action packed and wrestling appreciative time period in WWE history.
Coincidently, I have noticed the production of more wrestling-oriented shows in the WWE as of late. There is a welcomed absence of dance competitions, watered-down comedy, and pointless tag-team matchups that benefit no one involved. Even more importantly, I feel as though there is a bigger effort to utilize a wider spectrum of the talent in storylines and angles in order to generate interest up and down the card. Whether the content overhaul is an effort to increase the WWE Network subscriber count or usher in a newer and more competitive era, the change is highly appreciated.
Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta, S.H.I.E.L.D! The former members of one of the greatest factions in WWE history, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are the biggest telltale signs that not only are we entering a new era in WWE, but that this new era is in good hands. The objective of a faction is to spinout a surefire star; the S.H.I.E.L.D. unprecedentedly manufactured three surefire stars and future world champions. The “Attitude Era” is commonly glorified because it had two megastars in Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock at the helm of the ship. I would contest that we have THREE megastars captaining us into the next era.
In my eight years as a professional wrestling fan, I have never been more confident about the future of the business than at this very moment. I assure you that as we voyage through these uncharted waters, we will soon reach the Promised Land as WWE airs a new era.