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Wrestling / WWE New Era

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The Man benefits greatly from an Era like this one.

This is the era of the WWE we are currently in.

The WWE of 2016 had a lot of faults and genuine promise. The Roman Reigns as a main eventer experiment was still very much in effect, NXT was firing on all cylinders, and a big splash was needed to begin what would be considered the next "era" of the world's biggest wrestling promotion.

That splash would come in the form of AJ Styles, the former ace-up-their-sleeve of TNA, debuting for WWE. This sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling world, as Styles had been so loyal to TNA, and was unusual in that he skipped NXT entirely and became a big deal main eventer from the first day he showed up. Indeed, the "New Era" is one of consolidation of power for the WWE, as their current strategies revolve around mass talent gathering now that they have both a dedicated performance center to build new stars in-house and NXT to help hone them. Many of the current stars of the New Era came up through NXT, and the yellow brand has branched out quite a bit in terms of getting talent from all over the globe. The WWE Network would also begin to get major PPV level shows that were shown only on its own service, meaning fans had plenty to choose from if they wanted to branch out from the main shows.


This new era would also spark the re-creation of the Brand Split, with the conceit being that Vince McMahon believed that his children Stephanie and Shane should face off to see who could make the better show of both Raw and SmackDown, and cut the roster in half to facilitate this. SmackDown in a coup ended up with the WWE Championship, and to counter, Stephanie created the WWE Universal Championship, and started its existence off impressively with a genuine new star in Finn Bálor winning it over established main-eventers like Reigns and Seth Rollins. SmackDown Live, as it was now called, would get the last laugh as fans generally conceded that while both in this new ecosystem had its ups and downs, the blue brand had once again reclaimed its title as the "work-rate" show, as many fantastic feuds and storylines, as well as emphasis on the undercard storylines, gave it a boost it hadn't had in quite some time. To the point that, when looking for a new channel for SmackDown (as it usually ends up needing), the juggernaut Fox was willing to bring it aboard in 2019. This coincided with a face-lift for both brands with much flashier visuals, a sorely missed part of production that had become muted in recent years. This was also a time for bold experimentation, not just of gimmicks, but of content; The Mae Young Classic and Cruiserweight Classic, a women's and cruiserweights tournament respectively, gained near universal praise to the point that the Mae Young Classic is pegged to become an annual event hosted on NXT, and the Cruiserweight Classic was so beloved it created its own show in 205 Live.


Even better were the women's storylines across brands, which moved away from the "Divas" branding for good, replacing it with simply calling them "Superstars" like the male wrestlers, and the rise of the Four Horsewomen, all of whom would end up women's champions of either Raw or SmackDown Live at some point. This mass injection of talent meant that now women's wrestling is now being taken much more seriously than it's been, and it culminated in the first women-only pay-per-view in Evolution. Some, like Becky Lynch, became so popular during this time they went a step beyond just main eventing NXT events, in 2019... the women's title match main evented WrestleMania.

But, with a lot of good, comes a lot of controversy. The WWE began a working relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2014, and thanks to an extremely lucrative contract with the Saudi government, began airing PPVs from the kingdom in 2018 starting with the Greatest Royal Rumble. This attracted a lot of negative attention that will go relatively unremarked upon from here on, and the company suffered a massive PR hit for working with the country. The company also began to receive a ton of flak for the long-time use of the phrase "independent contractor" to describe what their wrestlers are legally, and the toll their bodies being on a worldwide, every-night-a-week schedule had. WWE also took major criticism for mishandling 205 Live and the reborn cruiserweight division's implementation, which remains a show filled with fantastic workers... that nobody watches. And those that become big stars almost immediately get scooped up into Raw or SmackDown.

As for what the future holds, who can say. All we know is that since 2019 WWE has something it hasn't had in a long time: Competition. How it reacts to said competition remains to be seen.


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