If you’re the parent of a boy, there’s a strong chance there’s at least one toy wrestling ring in your house somewhere. There are several in mine, although in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll confess a few of them belong to me.
I’ve been a pro wrestling fan since I was a kid. And, now as a father, I enjoy sharing my love of the pseudo-sport with my two sons. I’ll have at least one of them in tow when WWE returns to the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night with its Road to WrestleMania tour.
Although it’s understandable for some parents to have reservations about exposing their children to the simulated violence depicted by pro wrestling, they should know that WWE has made strides in recent years in making their product more family-friendly.
Its weekly cable programs "Raw" and "Smackdown" are rated TV-PG (the same as "Modern Family"), and its product is far toned down from its risque late-1990s “Attitude” era.
WWE’s top star, John Cena, is a spokesman for Fruity Pebbles cereal, and the special guest celebrity at this Monday’s televised "Raw" event from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is none other than Scooby Doo. (The cartoon dog is teaming up with WWE in his next DVD release, "Scooby Doo!: WrestleMania Mystery.")
And now, WWE wrestlers are starring in an animated series of their own. Earlier this week, the company launched "Slam City," a new web series, WWESlamCity.com, and the Cartoonium YouTube channel. The animated shorts feature stop-motion animated wrestling stars, including Cena, The Big Show and Alberto Del Rio, looking to apply their unique job skills in new careers after being fired from WWE.
On its “Slam City” Web page, WWE said the new series “is committed to providing age-appropriate, fun, entertaining and educational content, designed and created specifically for kids who are fans of WWE.”
For what it’s worth, my 5-year-old could not get enough of the first four episodes of "Slam City," and got a particular kick out of watching the sinister Kane in a hair net and serving pizza to kids in “Cafeteria Chaos.”
Although some wrestling fans may lament the loss of “hard-core matches” and four-letter-word spewing characters like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, as a dad, I wholeheartedly embrace WWE showing its softer side. In fact, I’d like to see WWE take it a step further by using "Slam City" not only to entertain children, but help educate them, including on how to solve disputes without violence.
For now, I’m just happy to have more wrestling to watch with my kids.