Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy, or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember…?”
This week: Holy Crap! Remember…The WWF Attitude Era!?
The past week, I’ve been getting back into the gym, trying to tighten things up for Wizard World/Chicago Comic-Con in August. My training partner and I have been watching WWF Attitude-era DVDs while we work out, and it makes us both reminiscent and saddened by the current state of the WWE product. Let’s hop into a time-machine set for the late ’90’s/early 2000’s, and crap ourselves in rememberance of The WWF Attitude era.
In 1998, coincidentally following the infamous Montreal Screwjob incident, the then WWF began to take on an edgier tone. Gone were the cookie cutter faces and easy-to-boo heels, and in came the anti-heros you loved to cheer and the villains you would spit on if you saw them in the street.. Gone were the classy ladies like Miss Elizabeth, and in came the plastic chested, straight-out-the-strip-club ‘Divas’. The cage match and the ladder match birthed the exponentially more violent Hell-in-a-Cell and TLC matches. The WWF wasn’t for kids anymore (even though it technically was), and the Attitude era was born, just in time for the Monday Night Wars.
The product began to take on more of a ‘realistic’ tone, and with it came characters that, themselves, were rooted in reality. Stone Cold Steve Austin, the beer drinking, expletive muttering, bird flipping redneck echoed Austin’s real life persona. An in-ring tussle between Austin and former Heavyweight Champ Mike Tyson was the lightning rod of mainstream exposure that gave the WWF a boost against the then leading WCW. The pompous, cocky, vulgar Rock was merely Dwayne Johnson with the volume turned to full blast. The most frighteningly realistic character of the Attitude era was undoubtedly that of Mr. McMahon, the a-hole boss everyone would love to kick in the balls.
Stone Cold and The Rock were undoubtedly the marquee names of the Attitude era, but the roster of wrestlers during that time was deeper than any we’ve seen since. Mick Foley took his twisted Mankind character and his body to the limits. The Undertaker, a mainstay from the early 90’s, took on a satanic spin to his character, and continued his path of destruction. The Undertaker’s deranged brother, Kane, would prove to match his sibling in strength, size, and viciousness. The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels led the first incarnation of the raunchy Degeneration-X, and following Michaels’ sidelining back injury, his second in command, Triple-H, would take the reigns of the faction, leading Chyna, the New Age Outlaws, and X-Pac into pro-wrestling infamy. The tag-team division at the time was blowing the doors off, including teams like the Dudley Boyz, the APA, the Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian. WWF’s Divas were just beginning to come into their own at the time, and garnered some high-caliber exposure as It-Girl Sable was one of the first WWF Divas to pose nude for Playboy. As the WWF began to overtake WCW in the ratings, some of WCW’s most promising talent began to make the jump, including The Big Show, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero.
During the time between 1998 and 2000, it was rare to experience a WWF event without getting goosebumps at some point during the course of the show. Almost every Raw ended with a bone-chilling climax, and every PPV match was water-cooler fodder the next day. However, WWF would later defeat WCW (and ECW) once and for all, as both competitors would fold, the WWF (which would later change to the WWE) fielded the free agents from the two companies, and without any semblance of competition, the WWF/WWE product began to falter.
Miss the Attitude Era? Wish the WWE would return to its former glory? Be sure to read my article, ‘Retcon This! – Pro-Wrestling’ for my solutions to what ails the business.
While you’re reading that, I’m gonna go watch the 2000 Royal Rumble from Madison Square Garden.
Filed Under: Holy Crap! Remember...