Lighter And Softer: Professional Wrestling

  • Between the eighties and the early aughts, WWF's wrestling evolved from male niche entertainment, to a teen marketing gimmick (what seemed adult at the time was actually even more juvenile) to wholesome "family" television, as even promoters who already had, say, a large female audience, tried to imitate it. These days the WWE is nothing more (or less) than watered-down MMA for children, women, and hobbyists, as even Jim Cornette has admitted.
  • Prior to coming to the WWF, The Sheepherders were one of the most hardcore tag teams in pro wrestling. Upon their arrival, Butch Miller and Luke Williams changed their name to the Bushwhackers, became faces, and played their brawling style more for laughs than for heat.
  • When Mick Foley hit legitimate main event status in late 1998, he traded in a lot of the more sado-masochistic elements of his gimmick for a more humorous approach (which Triple H referred to as a "human muppet") that included a sock puppet and a more child-like demeanor. He, however, still retained bits of his Crazy Awesome tolerance for pain which, combined with his new more innocent behavior turned into The Woobie of the WWF.
  • If a wrestler gets a start in a promotion with a much different target audience before jumping ship to another, which can be said of practically anyone who started of in ultra violence encouraging no language filter CZW who went on to be a Chikara regular. Also can happen in a single promotion if it has different shows with different ratings, such as when Gateway Championship Wrestling decided it was going to discontinue its "adult" shows, meaning everyone now had to clean up for a family audience at all times or when a WWE wrestler moved from TV 14 rated Raw/Heat to PG rated Smackdown/Velocity. Then the whole of the WWE turned PG, except for pay per views up until Hell In A Cell turned pay per view PG too, making all of those continued shows afterward lighter and softer.
  • Despite what its name implies, Total Nonstop Action had plenty of T&A on display when it first started, along with a hearty serving of hardcore Gimmick Matches and a general grungy atmosphere meant to be appeal to more mature audiences than WWE's. After they got a deal with Fox Sports Net though, TNA went family friendly, from "Sex Appeal" to "Six Appeal" with its six sided ring. Their pay per views were not quite as toned down and the atmosphere of the product got much heavier after leaving Fox but it has never descended to the level of the early days.
  • The entire CHIKARA wrestling league is built around this. Television production is broken into distinct "seasons", with each season's DVD release being designed as a comic book cover. Several wrestlers are based on video game and comic book characters. There is no swearing whatsoever, to the point where attempts to start a swearing chant by the crowd are shouted down by the rest of the audience. Rule of Funny holds sway, with stunts like holding the first minute or so of a match in slow motion, while another has a wrestler who doesn't like where the match is going, so he pauses and rewinds the match several seconds, starts again, and this time reverses a move he now sees coming.
  • SHIMMER is noticeably more family friendly than its older sister company, Ring of Honor. A casual glance may not reveal it, as the wrestling style is more or less the same, but watching enough of the matches the same wrestlers have on Ring Of Honor as opposed to SHIMMER will reveal it. Neither promotion hides blood but in SHIMMER it's rarely more than wounds from the scrapes and cuts unavoidable in sports, rather than the outright blood baths ROH's "fights without honor" can degenerate into. Language on SHIMMER also rarely gets stronger than "Pretty Bitchin"note , with a single "F Bomb" dropped shocking the audiencenote . At ROH events, the audience themselves drop plenty of F Bombsnote . Finally, SHIMMER wrestlers are hardly ever played up for sex appealnote  and sexual themes are never central to angles. Ariel and SHIMMER co founder Allison Danger were previously part of the "Christopher Street Connection" in Ring Of Honor, a stable of exoticosnote , beloved exoticos at that. "The Lovely" Lacey, who was part of SHIMMER's first main event, was also central to one of ROH's biggest angles where her having sex with Jimmy Jacobsnote  lead to The Age Of The Fall, which ended up spilling out of ROH into several other feds, including some overseas. Lacey then leaving Jacobs after having sex with Austin Ariesnote  lead to the end of said Age Of The Fall. Another point on violence, the other events that lead to Age Of The Fall and later brought it to an end involved Lacey requiring reconstructive surgery after being struck by a railroad spike.
  • WWE shifted their free TV programming from a TV-14 rating to TV-PG starting in 2008; this was done to help distance the current product from the "anything goes" Attitude Era (especially in light of the Chris Benoit tragedy and the steroid scandals brought to light by a Sports Illustrated article in 2006 that named names), due to the company realizing that they are able to fit John Cena in the same kid-friendly superhero role that Hulk Hogan played in the '80s, as well as to help attract new advertisers (and a younger demographic). It's also been speculated that the shift was to accommodate Linda McMahon's run for the US Senate; an attempt to portray her as a CEO of a "family-friendly" organization, even going so far as to attempt to block all videos on YouTube taken during the Attitude Era. Nevertheless, when the campaign failed, it didn't result into the TV-14 rebound some fans were hoping for. Which may or may not cast doubt on if this was ever really a factor at all. Though teasing a few times that it might be getting edgy again, so far WWE hasn't followed through, and probably aren't going to anytime soon.
  • WWE's revived "ECW". It was used more as a launching platform for up and coming wrestlers and a place to dump useless ones.
  • John Cena's "FU" (a common internet acronym for "Fuck You") was renamed to the "Attitude Adjustment". Similarly, the STFU ("Shut The Fuck Up") was renamed to the STS and then the "STF Crossface Combo" (in short, they only had one good name for the move).
    John Cena: "I know that kids are watching my every move and there are a lot of parents know their kids look up to me and [...] I kind of live by the motto — 'Hustle, Loyalty, Respect'. If someone is out of line, I think instead of giving them an FU, it's better to give them an attitude adjustment."
    • The F-U was also a Take That to the F-5 finishing move of Brock Lesnar. Officially, one of the reasons for changing the name was that the reference was beyond outdated, as a lot of Cena's present fanbase wasn't even toilet-trained when Lesnar was first wrestling. Curiously, they kept Five Knuckle Shuffle.