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The Cradle Shock TNA Wrestling Column

21st July, 2009

So Wrestling is for kids?

So a while back Vince McMahon came out and said he wanted to make WWE more family oriented by no longer having his Divas pose in Playboy and coming across as aimed at kids because that's where the money is. This is what got me thinking on what is considered family viewing for a wrestling show, of which the main purpose is men and women simulating violence.

I myself have been watching wrestling since I was 6 years old , this was a different generation of wrestling where Hulk Hogan was the idol of millions and he had the message to his Hulkamaniacs of “eating their vitamins and saying their prayers”. Back then there was a much clearer line of cheer the face and boo the heel, kids who grew up watching this were subconsciously receiving messages on right and wrong. The good guy fights with honour and pride whereas the stereotypical heel, lets say Earthquake or Ric Flair takes cheap shots, unsporting behaviour like using weapons or outside interference, kids look at this and think who do I want to be like? The good guy adored by millions or the asshole getting booed and jeered by everyone in the arena.

Fast forward a few years and we see things start to evolve. ECW starts up and things start getting more hardcore. Chair shots and blood are becoming more common in the ring we start to see Ladder matches with men doing things that at the time seemed ultra high risk, Shawn Michaels diving off the top of the ladder at Wrestlemania was a moment from the mid nineties many will remember. Despite trying to make things more interesting and more dangerous viewing figures were slumping and something had to be done to take it to the next level. McMahons solution to this at the time was simple, be more outrageous and get something kids relate to. Within a year of the launch of the Attitude era we seen Stone Cold Steve Austin stick two fingers up to the management and raise hell, we had D-Generation X start up one of the most popular factions of all time in wrestling, Mick Foley not once but twice got himself launched off the hell in a cell in 98, we had an ex porn star and a pimp (complete with ho train) and not forgetting we seen the first Inferno match in which the loser was set on fire. Now at this point I was in my early teens and loving it. This was a long way from the family viewing I watched as a small child but I felt this was what I wanted to see.

Now we look at how things have changed over ten years since the dawn of the attitude era, we are running out of ways to become shocked by what we see in this industry. Storylines are popping up that really do go above and beyond the border of bad taste, at Wrestlemainia 1999 they actually hung The Big Boss Man in the middle of the ring, we see more controversial and in some cases disturbing storylines such as the Jeff Hardy one earlier this year. There really are too many to mention over the last decade.

With guys in the company like Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Edge and Randy Orton the WWE cannot help but attract armies of kids under their banner, especially when they advertise on products like Wagon Wheels and churn out different action figures every 6 months and countless sticker albums as well as all sorts of other merchandise that they know kids will scramble for. Now bearing all this on mind, take it a ten year old who watches this will all his little buddies in school wants to buy Wrestlemania 25, but oh that's right he can't because it is rated for 18+. So if WWE are really looking to make their product more family friendly then surely it needs to be age appropriate and not advertise an 18 rated product to a ten year old audience. Pure and simple the attitude era was what the industry needed but many of the teens who were taken in by that have now become adults and are not as easily bought off by gimics as they were ten years before.

As an adult I love wrestling and I watch it and I appreciate the skill involved and take it for what it is, entertainment. If I wanted real violence I would go watch UFC (which I also do) and watch two no nonsense guys pound each others heads in for real. Folk can blame parents all they want and say well you shouldn't let your kids watch it, that is only part of the problem. Companies have a responsibility to ensure that their product is appropriately marketed, for example do you see Playboy advertising in a Spiderman comic book? No, but you see WWE advertising in it, not long ago a kid would see that and think hey I want to watch that, so they tune in and they see WWE advertising their latest Divas photo shoot in Playboy.

Kids have always been stupid, they imitate their idols it's just what they do. Wrestling companies can put as many don't try this at home signs up as they want kids will piledrive and powerbomb each other anyway because they are kids, it's what they do and it's what I did when I was a dumb kid! Sledgehammers and baseball bats becoming as common as a half nelson or German suplex what's to stop kids trying that? With society degenerating and juvenile crime figures constantly rising is this something we really want to encourage them to watch with ever elevating and extreme storylines?

In my opinion it is past the point of no return and is damage limitation from here on out. Companies like TNA who come out and don't pander to kids as much are a breath of fresh air, they have their target audience of late teens and young adults and cater for them. Kids will still watch it inevitably but at least Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett can claim they were not purposefully targeting kids. The WWE have chosen kids as their target audience because that is where the money lies for them, in one point fair enough it's good business in another it is socially irresponsible and they will need to clean up their act big time to even come close to acceptable family viewing at a time when kids aren't even allowed to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep for fear of someone taking it as racist. McMahon is going to the bad fire no doubt but he'll be a multi billionaire until the day the real reaper comes knocking.

Realistically should I have been watching it at 6 years old? Probably not. Should anyone allow their 6 year old watch wrestling in the state it is in at the moment? Defiantly not. If you're aiming it at kids, make it for kids and don't expect most of us to hang around and watch John Cena pretend he's a wrestler. As a grown man I'm now off to watch other grown men throw each other through some flaming tables and launching themselves off high structures. Bai.

Feel free to discuss this on the Smackdown Zone Forums or e-mail me direct if forums aren't your thing.

by Gary Kean

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