The New Era
The logo used by WWE throughout the New Era
PromotionWWE
DateMay 1, 2016 (2016-05-01) – present
WWF/WWE eras chronology
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The New Era is a period of professional wrestling within WWE, which spans from 2016 to the present day. 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

Roman Reigns is promoted by WWE as the face of the New Era
Roman Reigns is promoted by WWE as the face of the New Era

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 at SummerSlam in 2020, Roman Reigns would turn heel, allying with his former rival Brock Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman.[4]

Seth Rollins,[5] Drew McIntyre,[6] Braun Strowman[7] and Bray Wyatt[8][9] with his new "The Fiend" persona have also become top stars during this period.[10]

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, 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

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.[11] 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.[12]

Beginning in 2018, WWE recognized the women's titles as world championships equivalent to the men's world titles.[13] 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.[14] Flair, Lynch and Ronda Rousey headlined WrestleMania 35[15] 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.[16][17]

The second brand extension

As part of the New Era, WWE would reintroduce the brand extension in the Summer of 2016.[18] [19] 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.[20]

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.[21][22][23][24] 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.[25][26]

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.[27][28] 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31][32][33]

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.[34] 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.[35][36][37]

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.[38] The bubble was hosted at three arenas in Florida: Orlando's Amway Center,[39] Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg,[40] and the Yuengling Center in Tampa.[41]

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.[35] 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.[42]

By mid-July 2021, WWE had left the ThunderDome to resume a live touring schedule for Raw and SmackDown.[43] The period of time from August 2020 to July 2021 would be recognized and referred to by WWE as the "ThunderDome Era."[44][45][46]

Other notable occurrences

At WrestleMania 35, Kofi Kingston became the first African-born WWE Champion.[47][48]

Former multi time world champion Edge made his in-ring return from a nine-year hiatus at the 2020 Royal Rumble.[49]

The Undertaker retired on June 21, 2020 after 30 years with the WWE, having wrestled his final match against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 36 in a cinematic Boneyard match.[50]

In 2021, WWE announced that NBCUniversal Television and Streaming had acquired the exclusive U.S. distribution rights to WWE Network's content, and that the service would be folded into the NBCUniversal-owned streaming service Peacock on March 18, 2021 ahead of the 2021 Fastlane event. Existing and future WWE Network content would migrate to a branded channel within the Peacock service beginning with Fastlane.[51] Peacock's censorship of historical content and footage attracted early criticism by fans and critics.[52] The service would receive further negative backlash for technical issues during their stream of that year's Money in the Bank event.[53][54]

On the March 1, 2021 episode of Raw, veteran wrestler Bobby Lashley defeated The Miz in a lumberjack match to win the WWE Championship for the first time; becoming only the third African-American to win the title.[55]

Triple H retired on March 25, 2022 after 27 years with the WWE due to a health scare.[56][57]

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