On wrestling sites that I frequent, whenever the subject of low ratings, low PPV buy, Linda's political campaign, etc, the vast majority of comments complain that if they would only go back to PG-14 or Attitude-level of "adult" programming, that it would fix everything. That or a John Cena heel turn.
Personally, growing up with wrestling far longer than the Attitude Era like yourself, I've seen a successful wrestling product that was kid-friendly. Hogan's WWF era comes to mind. Possibly WCW around the same time. I also know that for all the success WWE had in those days (and wrestling in general), it wasn't without a lot of really stupid, insulting ideas just because they could. Katie Vick and Pat Patterson's underwear shit stain when he would strip and do the stinkface. Also, I'm REALLY sorry to everyone for that reminder.
Anyway, my point (and most intelligent people's point) is that WWE's lack of success or especially its stale product has nothing to do with its audience rating. Argument's I've read for a higher rating never include anything that could be done in a PG product.
What would you say, then, are the most damning things WWE is doing these days that has nothing to do with its PG product? You've mentioned 50/50 booking. I'd add in the generic names, a lack of distinctly different matches (though, with the tag division returning, that's changing a little), ADHD-level of writing, Vince's inability to know pop culture, etc What say you?
All of that, yeah. No emotional investment from the fans is a big one for me. I have no reason to care if Randy Orton is beating Michael McDougall or David McKickflip a week after they debut out of NXT because none of these doofuses get any characters worth caring about. Ooo, it's Fandango, who offers a subtle comment on the lameness of Dancing With The Stars, what a winner. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again -- the last guy fans were given any kind of emotional investment opportunity in was Zack Ryder, and that was purely accidental and was shot down immediately afterwards for being the "wrong" reaction. We are supposed to be cheering Sheamus, the smiling goof who loves to fight and doesn't care about the World title he held for six months because he'll just get another shot for no reason anyway, fella, not the guys who actually put in the time and improve themselves in or out of the ring.
But yeah, all that other stuff too. And as noted, PG or 14 has nothing to do with it. HHH drugging Stephanie and marrying her in Vegas works as a PG storyline or a 14 one because he's a sleazeball jackass who ruined someone's life for his own personal gain, not because he can say "ass" or bleed on TV or whatever.