New Era
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The logo used by WWE throughout the New Era
PromotionWWE
DateMay 1, 2016 (2016-05-01) – July 22, 2022 (2022-07-22)
WWF/WWE eras chronology
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The New Era was a period of professional wrestling within WWE, which spanned from 2016 to 2022. The period within the "New Era" from March 2020 to July 2021, where the company produced their main shows behind closed doors during the COVID-19 pandemic in a bio-secure bubble, has been referred to as the "ThunderDome Era".

Initiation and the rise of Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns is promoted by WWE as the face company during the New Era
Roman Reigns is promoted by WWE as the face company during the New Era
AJ Styles became one of the most prominent wrestlers in The New Era, and won the WWE Championship multiple times during this period as well as main event many major shows during this time
AJ Styles became one of the most prominent wrestlers in The New Era, and won the WWE Championship multiple times during this period as well as main event many major shows during this time

After the Reality Era ended, the 2016 WWE Payback pay-per-view was dubbed as the start of a "new era". The event was headlined by Roman Reigns and AJ Styles.[1]

Much like what happened to John Cena during the PG Era, Reigns would become a prominent figure in major storylines during the New Era to mostly negative reactions. Roman Reigns emerged in victories in "passing of the torch matches" against top stars of the former eras such as Triple H, John Cena and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 and No Mercy (2017) and SummerSlam (2018) respectively but his push was halted in mid-2018 due to his leukemia diagnosis.[2] Since his return from leukemia in early 2019, crowd response to him has been more positive.[3] After returning from another brief haitus at SummerSlam in 2020, Roman Reigns would turn heel, allying with his former rival Brock Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman.[4] Roman Reigns would ally with The Usos and form the stable "The Bloodline of which Reigns would be the leader under the title "The Tribal Chief".[5]

Seth Rollins,[6] Drew McIntyre,[7] Braun Strowman[8] and Bray Wyatt[9][10] with his new "The Fiend" persona have also become top stars during this period.[11]

Becky Lynch is regarded as one of the most popular women of the New Era
Becky Lynch is regarded as one of the most popular women of the New Era

The Women's Revolution

Further information: Women in WWE § Divas Revolution (2015–2016)

Charlotte Flair, along with Sasha Banks, made history in 2016 by being the first woman to main event a WWE pay-per-view at Hell in a Cell (2016) in the first ever women's Hell in a Cell match. Charlotte Flair also became a record 13 time women's champion.
Charlotte Flair, along with Sasha Banks, made history in 2016 by being the first woman to main event a WWE pay-per-view at Hell in a Cell (2016) in the first ever women's Hell in a Cell match. Charlotte Flair also became a record 13 time women's champion.

As a continuation of the Diva's Revolution that began in 2015, the Women's Evolution picked up further momentum in the New Era, with women have regularly competed in stipulation matches that were previously reserved for men, including the Royal Rumble match, Elimination Chamber, the Money in the Bank ladder match, Hell in a Cell, WarGames, and TLC matches.[12] On the Raw-branded Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event in 2016, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks made history being in the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view event. This match was also the first women's Hell in a Cell match.[13]

Beginning in 2018, WWE recognized the women's titles as world championships equivalent to the men's world titles.[14] Flair and Becky Lynch in particular received much success during this period, with them being interchangeably considered the "face of the women's division" in the New era.[15] Flair, Lynch and Ronda Rousey headlined WrestleMania 35[16] in a triple threat match which Lynch won on April 7, 2019, making them the first women in WWE history to main event WWE's flagship event WrestleMania.[17][18]

On January 31, 2021, Bianca Belair made history by becoming only the second African American (after Dwyane Johnson/The Rock) to win a Royal Rumble match and the first and so far, the only African American woman to win a Royal Rumble match. [19]

On night 1 of Wrestlemania 37, Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks became the first African American Women to main event a Wrestlemania as well as the only two Black Woman to main event Wrestlemania.[20]

The second brand extension

Further information: WWE brand extension

As part of the New Era, WWE would reintroduce the brand extension in the Summer of 2016.[21] [22] The new brand split became effective with the 2016 WWE draft on July 19, 2016, with SmackDown changing its name to SmackDown Live and moving to Tuesday nights.[23]

While the WWE Championship would be moved to the SmackDown brand, the new WWE Universal Championship was introduced for the Raw brand, with Finn Balor becoming the inaugural champion winning the title by defeating Seth Rollins at the 2016 SummerSlam event.[24]

The NXT brand, which primarily serves as a developmental territory for WWE, had gained increasing prominence during The Reality Era, with its weekly television series and NXT TakeOver events frequently receiving critical acclaim.[25][26][27][28] In particular, NXT TakeOver: Dallas was viewed as a superior event to WrestleMania 32, the latter being held the following night to mixed-to-negative reviews, and has been cited by some pundits as the point where the brand can no longer be considered a farm league.[29][30]

During the New Era NXT TakeOver: New York held on April 5, 2019; received critical acclaim, reputed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter praised all the matches, in particular giving the main event of Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole 2 out of 3 falls match a 5.5 stars, making it his highest rated WWE match in history.[31]

WWE NXT would later move from the WWE Network to USA Network on Wednesday nights and expanded to a two-hour format to complete against the upstart wrestling promotion All Elite Wrestling and its flagship show Dynamite on TNT; a move which marked the beginning of Wednesday Night Wars.[32][33] Raw and SmackDown talent would begin to make more frequent appearances on NXT programming, while the likes of Finn Balor would return to the brand full time.[34] NXT's creative staff would also gain oversight of the 205 Live brand, with talent appearing on WWE NXT, and the Cruiserweight title being renamed as the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.[35] The title would be unified into the NXT North American Championship at New Year's Evil on January 4, 2022 when North American Champion Carmelo Hayes defeated Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong.[36][37][38]

COVID-19 and the "ThunderDome" era

Main article: WWE ThunderDome

As with other industries, WWE was affected by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. WWE was barred from having live attendance and held Raw, SmackDown, and 205 Live's events behind closed doors at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, although WWE later used some of their own crew as part of a limited crowd in a protective environment.[39] NXT events continued to be held at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, but also without fans, while the NXT UK brand would go on hiatus.[40][41][42]

Beginning in August, WWE moved events for Raw and SmackDown, and briefly 205 Live, to a new virtual crowd and arena staging, a bio-secure bubble called the WWE ThunderDome. The ThunderDome allowed fans to attend events virtually for free and be seen on the nearly 1,000 LED boards within the arena.[43] The bubble was hosted at three arenas in Florida: Orlando's Amway Center,[44] Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg,[45] and the Yuengling Center in Tampa.[46]

A similar setup, the Capitol Wrestling Center, was introduced for the NXT and 205 Live brands in October, hosted at the WWE Performance Center with a small crowd. Meanwhile, NXT UK resumed operations in September without any fans at the BT Sport studio.[40] WrestleMania 37, held in April 2021, would be WWE's first major event to be held outside of the ThunderDome and with live fans, though to a limited capacity.[47]

By mid-July 2021, WWE had left the ThunderDome to resume a live touring schedule for Raw and SmackDown.[48] The period of time from "August 2020 to July 2021" would be recognized and referred to by WWE as the "ThunderDome Era."[49][50][51]

Change in leadership and end of the New Era

On June 17, 2022, amidst an investigation by WWE's Board of Directors into reported "hush money" paid to a former employee by Vince McMahon following an affair, McMahon stepped down as Chairman and CEO of WWE and was replaced by his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, as the interim Chairwoman and CEO of WWE.[52][53] On July 22, 2022, Vince McMahon officially announced his retirement on Twitter, saying, "At 77, time for me to retire. Thank you, WWE Universe. Then. Now. Forever. Together."[54] Triple H was then announced as the head of talent relations and would assume all of Vince's previous role of head of creative, while still retaining the position of Executive Vice President of Talent Relations. Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan were also announced co-CEO of WWE. The 2022 SummerSlam event was the first WWE pay-per-view event to be held under the leadership of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H in the next era.[55][56] The following month after the end of the New Era, on August 4, 2022 top WWE superstar Becky Lynch also confirmed that the retirement of Vince McMahon with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H taking charge of the WWE had initiated the start of a new era in the WWE.[57][58]

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