Planet Kayfabe: No TV-14? No Problem.
By: Paul Matthews
Tiverton, Rhode Island
Hello everyone and thanks again for choosing to read Planet Kayfabe right here on NoDQ. It’s nice to be back in the swing of posting regular columns again and the response from you has been greatly appreciated. In this piece, you can tell by the title I’m going to get into my thoughts on WWE’s potential move back to TV-14 which seems to be dropped for the time being. Given the way things are now, it seems like a pretty minor story to discuss, but at the time it was creating headlines and those reporting on it being a possibility have since backtracked their reports a bit.
If you want more thoughts on how AEW should handle CM Punk’s situation and how it differs from past backstage fights, I will touch on that in my wrap-up below.
Back in July, which seems like a year ago now, it was reported that WWE would be moving Raw to a TV-14 rating. Then you know what happened — all the stuff with Vince McMahon. The whole story ended up getting buried. Vince resigned. AEW had reports of locker room issues that came to a head with the CM Punk drama a week ago and there hasn’t been much said about Raw’s supposed move to TV-14. While initially, it seemed like a decent possibility that Raw could change ratings, there is currently no plans to do so.
Any do that I say… Fine.
In fact, when the rumors first flared up of a move to TV-14 I was actually against it. You may be surprised if you’re a long-time reader, but with changing times, so has my stance on WWE being an edgier product. The big difference now is that wrestling fans have AEW. A show where half the roster and commentary staff regularly use words like “shit” and “bitch” and even occasionally drop an F-bomb. A show that routinely features blood. A show where half the roster if flashing middle fingers at the camera. A show that has gone out of its way to make it clear they are not a PG show… even if it is a bit gratuitous at times.
So, what should WWE do? Be the same show with more dirty words? Trust me, you’re not going to out “shit” AEW. Don’t even try. If anything, WWE should present its product as a more family-friendly alternative. Now, I said “more family-friendly”, that doesn’t mean a squeaky clean cut, conservative, corporate politically correct show. WWE already tried that from 2009 through the 2010’s and it was boring.
Many wrestling fans scoff when they hear the term “PG”. I even see many equate that to it meaning it’s a kid’s show. PG literally means “parental guidance”. PG sitcoms are usually family shows that may feature some light adult language and humor with the occasional sexual reference. Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, and Star Trek are all family-friendly, but you wouldn’t say they are “for kids” because they aren’t. They are just appropriate enough for more mature kids to watch with their parent’s permission.
That’s what WWE is. It’s also what the WWF was in the Golden Era that many look back on so fondly. You know what else? It’s also what Smackdown was during the Attitude Era. Yes. Smackdown in the age of T&A and 4-letter-words was a PG show. For much of the 2000’s, before WWE made Raw PG in 2008, most people would say Smackdown was a better show. The PG program was better than the TV-14 program for much of that decade. So, what’s the point of going TV-14 if it’s not going to make the show better? Just watch Dynamite if you want your swear fix.
Perhaps you still disagree with me, but I also think your stage of life also factors into that. Ten years ago I would have been all for a TV-14 rating making a return, but that’s when I was 24, no wife, no kids, and no real responsibilities for anyone outside of myself. Today I’m 34, with a wife, a young impressionable daughter, and a baby on the way and I can tell you right now that I’d never allow my daughter to watch AEW television and it’s really not a show that is packaged and presented for her demographic anyway. WWE on the other hand, I feel comfortable with her watching. I know what to expect. Even if the stray bad word pops up in a promo, she is at an age where she knows better than to repeat it. In AEW, it’s too much… and that’s fine — for them. As a wrestling fan, I’m glad there is still a family-friendly alternative in this demo-obsessed world.
That’s funny thing about the demo. Everyone is going for the 18-34 year-old males. The demo that has the least money to spare, but winning with families is seen as a lesser achievement. I know why. It’s all because when you rate high with young adults, the perception is that your product is cooler with the current generation. Well, what difference does it make if people 35 and over are able to spend more money on what you’re selling than a bunch of 22-year-olds who can’t buy shit and probably still live at home?
Regardless, as a parent myself now, I’m glad WWE is still PG and as a fan, I’m glad they’ve relaxed their PG-ness a bit. When I watched this show a decade ago they really went out of their way to be as clean as possible. No swearing. No blood. Aaron Rift used to call it the “PC era” (as in politically correct era) and I agree. That’s what it was. A show that tried too hard to appeal to everyone and offend no one and what actually ended up happening was appealing to no one and running off the audience by 10%-20% every year for the past decade.
One thing that makes me laugh about AEW is their fans and wrestlers probably consider their product “edgy”, but it seems like every time someone slightly shoots there are people backstage getting butthurt and every time there’s some social media outrage about something said on TV, Tony Khan is quick to apologize for it. It really makes me think of that Paul Heyman promo a few years ago when he pretty much said you all want the Attitude Era back when in reality none of you can handle it anymore when things get a little too extreme for you. I bet they think of WWE as the “kids show” while they’re wearing retro Rugrats shirts and complaining about how the new Ninja Turtles series isn’t true enough to the original 80’s cartoon.
Whatever. My point is, that the TV-14 crowd already has theirs. WWE should just be WWE. It’s not like the late ’90s. It’s not like AEW is beating you in the ratings… especially now with the gap widening in WWE’s favor. The good thing about having two major promotions is having options both for the wrestlers and the fans and as a fan, I like that there is both a family-oriented product and a more adult product out there for us to watch and I’m fine with things staying that way.
Alright, my thoughts on CM Punk’s future… He needs to go. The run is over. Shit, even without the issues at the press conference where he shit on the guy paying him 5 million dollars right in front of him for 20 minutes, I don’t see how you can put a major title on this guy ever again. He’s 44 years old and both times he won it the title had to be vacated because the dude is a fucking crystal chandelier. Yet another serious injury for Punk after a world title win and suspension or not, he’s out the rest of the year. Screw this guy. When he’s around, he’s a fucking locker room cancer and when you build the show around him and get a belt on the guy he shatters like glass. Modern phone screens are more durable upon impact than this guy.
The return was exciting at the time, but the experiment has been a failure. It’s clear he has no respect for the company, his boss or the executives in place anymore and it’s not like a business has boomed. If anything, they’re colder now than they were a year ago when they brought him in. It’s just like Hogan in TNA. They should have given Hogan a year and then evaluated the situation and then let him and Bischoff go. Instead, they hung on while the ship sank. Now is the right time to let Punk go. Otherwise, what kind of message do you send out if you’re Tony Khan? That’s you’re his beta cuck bitch with no control over your own company. What kind of image is that for your brand? You got a bunch of EVP’s who joke about being executives and don’t even really take the position seriously and a guy you built around as your top mainstream star for a year starting fights and burying the company to the press.
Tony Khan has to make some tough decisions and in my opinion, letting go of Punk isn’t the tough one. I think he should also demote the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega and put actual real adult executives in their place who won’t make a mockery of the promotion that they helped start and build. This ain’t some indy fed pandering to the same 250 hardcore fans every week. Either take your roles seriously as executives or just be wrestlers. Of the entire bunch, Cody Rhodes was the most mature and he saw this shit and left.
Through all this, CM Punk always harps on being a leader, but once the smoke cleared I think we know who the real leaders are. Leaders don’t do what Punk did and fragment the locker room backstage and to the public and then bury the company while making 5 million dollars and sitting there with the world title by his side. Leaders unite the locker room and handle issues backstage without allowing them to become major stories to the public and make the company look bad. Like Jericho did at the press conference and like Jon Moxley did on Dynamite who cut the babyface promo of the year for that company when they needed it the most. Both guys who originally weren’t even scheduled to be on the show but then had to be because CM Punk is still the petulant little baby that he’s always been. It’s just in WWE the company wasn’t built around him, so you could let him bitch in the corner and it wouldn’t make a difference much. In AEW he just drags them down.
By the way, ya know who saw this coming? (Other than Eric Bischoff.) Yep. Me. Here’s an excerpt from the column I wrote right after CM Punk’s AEW debut.
“The one negative I see with Punk is that he isn’t afraid to be vocal when he feels things aren’t working for him. I mean, that’s good for us fans and us writers and podcasters, but AEW prides itself on having a very harmonious locker room all focused on the same goal of furthering this company. Do I think CM Punk really cares about furthering AEW? Not really. If he did, he would have signed back when Tony and crew first contacted him back when this whole thing started. Instead, Punk declined and was even publicly critical of their ways of negotiating. Punk even mocked Khan for calling him “Phil” as if they are friends. Punk can be difficult to deal with. That “Phil” thing cracks me up because that’s how sensitive some wrestlers are about the dumbest shit. If Tony calls him “Phil” without knowing him personally, he’s overstepping his bounds. If he calls him “CM Punk” he’s a mark. You can’t win.
There have even been a lot of rumors and reports about Cody not getting along with The Bucks and Kenny Omega and despite this, they remain coy about the issue and deny all claims. If Punk has a problem with Khan or one of the EVP’s do you think he’s not going to let everyone know? They kind of need him more than he needs them and he knows it. The company is probably going to have to go out of their way to keep him happy and… it’s probably going to be well worth it. Even if working with CM Punk comes with a bunch of headaches and arguments, you can’t say it wasn’t worth it if one day we see a headline reading “AEW Dynamite passes WWE Raw in ratings” someday. I’m not going to tell you I’ve always been one of Punk’s biggest fans and supporters, but in terms of business, it always made sense for Punk to go to AEW.”
Well, guess what. AEW never beat Raw and they are further away from doing that now than they were a year ago when this whole thing started. All you have no is a fragment locker room, one less EVP and the same old fans you had before. For the most part anyway. Fewer females watch the show than did before.
See, you can always trust me to call it the way I see it. This ain’t just some gimmick where I pull stuff out my ass for clicks. Pretty much every problem that I said Punk could likely cause happened. The dude’s a headcase and a whiny man-child. This shit ain’t worth it, Tony.
Thanks again for reading, everyone. See you here next time. For NoDQ, I’m Paul Matthews. Take care and God bless.