Matt O’Brien writes and maintains the Wrestleview.com poll.

The latest Wrestleview poll asked the WV readers what they preferred between WWE’s current product and that of the Attitude Era. The results are as follows:

How would you compare the quality of the WWE product to the Attitude Era?

Both are great 7% (305 votes)
Prefer Attitude Era 88% (3,999 votes)
Prefer current product 5% (204 votes)

Total votes casted: 4,508

This was by far the widest gap between choices in the last year for Wrestleview polls. 88% of the Wrestleview voters said they prefer the Attitude Era to today’s product. The Attitude Era is a legendary time in WWE history. There was Steve Austin chugging beer and beating up his boss, The Rock brought thousands of fans to their feet with the raise of his eyebrow, and Triple H banged the owner’s daughter. It was a wild time that brought in fields of fans as wrestling morphed into adult entertainment and left the days of saying your prayers and taking your vitamins at the door.

The vast majority of voters prefer the Attitude Era and based on the comments left, they feel very strongly about it. Only 5% of the voters prefer today’s product while 7% hold both in high regard. Hands down the Attitude Era wins out. Was it just that great or is there something about today’s product that turns them off?

There are plenty of criticisms of today’s product and why it is inferior to the Attitude Era. These criticisms made their way to the comment section on this poll. While they tend to be more symptoms than problems themselves, they are worth taking a look at since voters felt they were important. While it is understandable that people draw these conclusions, today’s product does need a little defense in the face of such an overwhelming majority in this poll. Common sentiments of today’s product include:

John Cena is stale and needs to turn heel

Perhaps someday Cena will turn heel, but right now that is simply not an option. Rock, nor Austin was the top guys in WWE for the length of time Cena has been. Rock’s run, while fantastic, was fairly short. Austin’s run at best was five years long, and that is not counting the year he was out with a neck injury or the eight month sabbatical he took in 2002. Cena has been the top baby face in wrestling for nearly six years. You can’t just turn that off. Wrestleview’s VIP area has discussed this at length how Cena is the top baby face, and if WWE turns him, they need someone to take his place. The Attitude Era began to die when Steve Austin turned heel in 2001. There was no baby face for him to go against. What should have been one of the most intriguing times for the company turned into creative limbo for a number of months. John Cena has now been the top baby face in WWE longer than anyone since Hulk Hogan. If they turn him, they need someone else to take his place. As popular as Randy Orton is, he is not that guy right now. Legends like Triple H and The Undertaker are not those guys. If they were, they would have been used that way during their primes. The lack of a guy to put in that top position is not a knock on the talent roster, but a testament to Cena’s value, a value that should be treasured and not toyed with to satisfy a few.

There is no blood

The current lack of blood is a result of WWE’s PG programming. With the advent of the PG era the days of the crimson mask seem to be gone…for now. Fans loved watching Austin, Triple H, Foley and even Vince McMahon bleed buckets in the ring. Blood was used to escalate the drama of a match, and did so brilliantly when done right. Sometimes it was overused. Not all matches called for blood. Actually, in no match is blood necessary to make it a good match, although it certainly does add to it. Fans who are accustomed to seeing the crimson mask are validated in their frustration that blood is no longer featured on WWE television. Sometimes a match happens where the story calls for it. However, it is important to keep in mind that when WWE does begin splashing blood on the mats again it will mean that much more. In the meantime, things are being toned down.

Why sell to kids?

Another aspect of the PG Era is that WWE markets to kids. Wrestleview readers made it clear that they would rather watch a more mature product. What WWE has done with the PG approach is actually a very good idea from a marketing perspective. If you want to see a movie like Machete, you buy a ticket, but if your child wants to see Tangled, you have to buy two tickets to take them. A PG-13 or R movie can still outdraw the PG film, but it still is a wise approach for WWE for the time being.

Ratings are down

A number of comments left on the poll sited ratings numbers as proof of the inferiority of today’s product. The ratings are down. There is no denying that fewer people watch wrestling on Monday night than they used to. The ratings system is very confusing and it is very easy and understandable for someone to look at the ratings and say they are significantly lower. Wrestleview’s own Adam Martin did a fantastic radio show on the subject back in August. Ratings are based off how many people get that channel and watch it. Today the channel is open to a lot more people, so the even if the same number of people watch a show, the ratings will go down. Martin took numbers from a Raw in July of 2000 and matched it against the ratings of a Raw in July of 2010. The difference? The 2000 episode had five million viewers while the 2010 show came in with 4.8 million. That’s it. The ratings were down, but not by much at all. However, more people did indeed watch wrestling on Monday nights because there was a fairly decent audience that watched a little show called Nitro. So while wrestling has become less popular overall, Raw still pulls a strong audience. Nobody can make the argument that wrestling is as popular today as it was during the Attitude Era. It is simply not true. But to say that the ratings are nowhere near what they were is also not true. The actual ratings numbers are down and drawing the conclusion that the audience has essentially been cut in half is understandable, but holds no water when you get down to the numbers.

Many fans came up during the Attitude Era. Likewise, many came up during Hogan’s run atop the industry in the 80s. Another thing to keep in mind when criticizing today’s product is that fans from the 80s were turned off by the Attitude Era, much like fans of the Attitude Era are turned off by today’s product. It like the toys and cartoons you had as a kid. What kids have today isn’t as good as the stuff you had as a kid. They don’t make ’em like they used to.

There will never be a time like the Attitude Era again. It’s become a great memory like your college years or that time in high school, or that summer you spent up north. Nothing can compare to it. It’s a memory that you hold dear and treasure. The stars, the matches and the storylines all thrilled fans to no end. The fast-paced matches and witty promos brought the crowd to its feet. Austin, Rock, Foley, and other stood atop the business while the mid-card featured Benoit, Jericho, Angle and countless others. Tag teams made a resurgence with the New Age Outlaws, Edge & Christian, Hardyz, Dudleyz, Too Cool and APA. It was an incredible time to be a wrestling fan and there will never be another era quite like it.

Be sure to vote in the current Wrestleview poll asking what letter grade you would give TNA for 2010!

Matt O’Brien
Columnist, Wrestleview.com
mattman5436@yahoo.com