Despite the fact that professional wrestling is a world based on simulated violence, in the present day, WWE's product isn't actually very violent at all. Some fans may argue that, but when today's WWE is compared to certain periods in its past, the violence level is pretty tame. That's not to say that's a bad thing, however. Considering the advances in medical science—specifically damage to the brain—compared to when WWE would let their Superstars smash each other over the head with anything they could lay their hands on, it's only natural that Vince McMahon has reigned in the blood, gore, and hits to the head in his company.
With all that being said though, it certainly feels like there something is changing in the WWE. At the height of Roman Reigns feud with Braun Strowman, we witnessed The Big Dog intentionally crash an ambulance with the Monster Among Men helpless in the back. Yes, certain precautions were taken, but the image of something like that is akin to what we'd see on Raw during the "Attitude Era" (a period in the 1990s where the WWE was more edgy and violent). Even more notably, and more recently, we saw Kevin Owens deliver a devastating headbutt to Mr. McMahon, splitting the boss's head open.
With that last example in mind, you have to think if McMahon is getting involved in angles like that, then he is more OK with violence on his programming than we've been led to believe. The biggest sign that WWE is looking to revisit their more violent side came this week though. The company often sends out surveys via email to fans looking for feedback on what they like and what they want to see more of. This week, WWE continued that standard practice, but the questions asked are making fans speculate on the direction the company will head in the future. Wrestling News revealed the survey asks fans about the much talked about tier system relating to the WWE Network.
Another question asked if fans would want New Japan Pro Wrestling—a promotion known for its more realistic, hard-hitting wrestling—fetured on the network. but that isn't what got fans talking. Not only does the survey mention an ECW reboot, but apparently it also asks fans whether they would like to see edgier original programming included on the Network. ECW was a small promotion based in Philadelphia during the 1990s and early 2000s that was known for hyper-violent matches and very mature programming. The company went out of business, however, and the WWE acquired all of the rights to the promotion. They even tried to reboot ECW at one point, but for a variety of reasons, it didn't quite work.
At the tail end of the last decade, WWE seemingly had a similar idea to try and return to the edgy feel their programming had during the late '90s. With the ECW name and library under their umbrella—as well as a few of its former stars—WWE attempted to recreate the extreme brand. It did not go well. WWE failed to capture or recreate any of the aspects that made ECW so special in its heyday. They thought that simply calling a show ECW and staging hardcore matches on it would be enough when, of course, the original ECW was so much more.
WWE's brief forays into a more violent product recently may not be for everyone, but one thing's for sure, they have fans talking. Kevin Owens headbutting Vince McMahon will be remembered for years to come, and edgy content from the John Cena and Roman Reigns rivalry is creating buzz on a weekly basis. It's likely that kind of attention has them thinking there is a market for a return to a more violent product. If they're going to do it though, they need to do it right and learn from their mistakes. If WWE recreates anything like the ECW reboot, then their attempts to be more violent to appeal to some fans will fail before they have even begun.