What The WWF Attitude Era Did For Me
November 1, 2005 by Edwin Omieh
Now love it or loathe it there's no denying that the WWF's Attitude Era is probably the most talked about, controversial, and popular periods in all of professional wrestling. Talked about, because of the superstars it created such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Vince McMahon, Mick Foley and HHH to name but a few; because of the memorable angles and feuds it gave us such as Austin vs. McMahon, DX vs. the Nation, and HHH vs. Mick Foley; Controversial in the fact that like shows such as Jerry Springer and Howard Stern, it brought about an era of smut television, Montreal screw jobs and the Anti heroes, who were now the popular ones. Oh yeah, let's not forget the Attitude Era is the single most profitable time period in wrestling history.
For me, all of these elements - the superstars, the soap opera-like storylines, the controversy and the shock television combined to give me the best 3 - 4 years of wrestling I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Perhaps it was everything other than actual wrestling that had me hooked, but believe me, having survived through the mid 90's, it was exactly the shot in the arm I, as a long time fan growing tired of the same old same old needed. I appreciate that the change in direction was not welcomed by all, but for me it was perfection. It was reflecting exactly what I was going through at the time. I'd just entered secondary education (or grade school for any Americans reading) and felt like I was growing up, and the WWF was growing with me. Whether or not I was actually maturing is a completely different matter altogether.
Whilst I understand that the Attitude Era was not for everyone (as it did somewhat at times fail to remember the wrestling, and focused primarily on storyline, build up and shock factor), what everyone must understand is that the change in direction was a necessary one. It was a necessary response to the counter culture ECW and rebellious nWo that at the time, were threatening the WWF's existence. And for those who may criticize the WWF for the direction change, they must also remember that it was the Attitude Era that arguably helped it survive and ultimately win the promotional war with WCW.
Now onto the point; what did attitude do for me" Well for one it gave me stars who I could relate to. I was an absolute wrestling nut during the Hulkamania era and was drawn in by characters that made an impact and were very colorful, hence my affiliation towards Savage and Warrior. However, as I matured I began to look for reasons to get behind certain superstars. With WWF's tendency to stick with cartoon like characters, something I had grown out of, only Bret Hart managed to really reel me back in.
My inability to relate is what I believe caused my interest to wane. The introduction of attitude solved this however. With guys like Austin and The Rock playing on elements of our human psyche that we all aspired towards, we finally had guys who reflected and mirrored what we wanted to be, or at least what I wanted to be. Who didn't just want to flip their teacher's the bird and stunner him/her when you got annoyed with them" Who didn't want the ability to trash talk as well as the Rock to someone who was just getting under your skin!" All characters of the era seemed to have elements within them that we could either relate with or aspire towards. Edge and Christian reeked of awesomeness and revealed our cheeky side; The Hardy boys brought out the side of us that would like to live life to the full and on the edge. How many of us have ever been told we can't do something" Just like Mick Foley was told he couldn't be at the top of any serious wrestling promotion, yet ended up becoming champ. This tapped into our basic human need to overachieve and prove the contrary. The WWF even managed to make us care about guys who previously had been non entities, no one more so than Bob Holly, who in becoming "Hardcore" Holly gained more popularity and more empathy from the fans than even he could have thought possible because all of us at some point in our lives have wanted to just let go and become a little hardcore!
As well as revitalizing my faith in wrestling, the Attitude Era managed to gain me a lot of new friends. Without the wrestling boom, a lot of the friends I have today may not have come out of the closet as fans of wrestling. As ridiculous as it may be, during the mid 90's a lot of people were denying liking wrestling at all, or merely claiming that they "only watched it when Hulk Hogan was in wrestling". As an avid fan and a very vocal one at that, this annoyed me. With Attitude and the boom that came with it, the WWF managed to once again gain a place in popular culture, no longer was it deemed "uncool" to watch men in tights fake fighting, not when a badass like Stone Cold was doing it. In some ways attitude once again gave the WWF and wrestling some credibility. (I know WCW and the rise of nWo was the catalyst but over here in the UK WWF always reined supreme, at least where I was from). Thanks to the fact wrestling was no longer looked upon as a joke, wrestling fans, some whom were a lot more knowledgeable than me, began to come out in force. Small groups of wrestling fans were formed at the dinner tables, discussing how McMahon was going to try and screw Austin over on this weeks RAW, all this whilst spouting the latest Rockism. This was the start of my fascination with how wrestling works, wrestling history and what goes on behind the scenes, for this I am grateful to the attitude era.
The attitude era also brought about the explosion of the gimmick match. Not one for wrestling purists, but not even they can deny its impact and the way in which it helps push on a feud. Not only did the gimmick matches push on feuds and or help to end the feud, it gave us many memorable moments. Now don't get me wrong, in hindsight the gimmick match was somewhat overused throughout the era with numerous cage matches, hardcore fests and what not, but honestly, who at the time was complaining!" Not many of us. That's because we were too busy gasping for air and watching in amazement at the sight of Foley being flung from the top of the cell by the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker squaring off in the 1st and best HIAC, the TLC series, Shane McMahon falling 50ft, Kurt Angle Moonsaulting from the top of a cage, Street fights, Strap matches, Ladder matches, I quit matches, Last Man Standing matches, 3 stages of hell, No DQ, Triple threat, Fatal 4 ways and more. I'm not saying that all of these concepts were put together during the Attitude Era, far from it. I do, after all, know some of my history. What I am saying though is that thanks to the Attitude Era, the gimmick match became to be more than just a stipulation, creating it's own personality, and popularizing itself to not only me, but to countless others as well.
WWF Attitude did not only leave positives on me but it also left one very sour negative; the Montreal screwjob. Now as an absolute mark for Bret Hart, I at the time in spite of his awesome heel turn (Heel Bret hart along with heel rock and heel Savage are the best of all imo) was still firmly behind him and everything he did. I was also a massive fan of the new Heart Foundation. At the time of the screwjob, I was very naive in the way in which I viewed wrestling and was still in the habit of forgetting that they were playing characters and had real life personalities. Now unbeknown to me was that Bret Hart was unhappy with the direction the WWE was going and that Vince could not afford to keep his "star man" with WCW kicking their butts. Watching the screwjob and seeing the Hitman's reaction and Vince's response of "Bret screwed Bret" left me with an uneasy feeling at the time. I still couldn't grasp exactly what went down, I could only see that Bret was "walking out" on the WWF and I could not understand why the WWF was letting their leader go so easily. Looking at the whole thing now I tend to side with McMahon on the whole thing, but still see it as something that needn't have had happened. I think the Hitman's new badass heelish attitude would have been perfect for the Attitude Era, and I firmly believe he would have became a bigger star than he already was. In my mind he could have become the biggest heel of all during WWF attitudes heyday. Still, both parties moved on, and the WWF if anything gained from this decision, for it created Mr McMahon, the monster heel!
The Attitude Era brought me and many others many other pleasures and displeasures such as Mick Foley finally reaching the top of the wrestling mountain, the deaths of Brian Pillman and Owen Hart, and the sensational buyout of WCW, along with the subsequent botched invasion angle, depending on which way you look at it. It was the era of the trash talking foul mouthed badasses, the beginning of T & A and the dawning of a new era in general. Yes, Attitude may have frowned upon the tradition of wrestling, and yes, it relied heavily on storyline rather than match quality, but with me it hit a nerve A nerve the likes of which I'm not sure the wrestling business is capable of doing ever again.
In spite of how fond I am of the Attitude Era, I do agree that its time has come and gone. As much fun as it was I do not wish to see the era itself return. Elements of it maybe, but the era itself should stay locked away in the past and remain a fond memory.
If this sucks let me know, all feedback will be good feedback. Plus tell me what the attitude era did for you, good or bad. Thanks!
by Edwin Omieh ..
zed zeppelin wrote:
BEST TIME EVER IN WWF/WWE WHEN I LOOK BACK AT IT NOW AND I HEAR THEM IMMORTAL WORDS 'IF YA SMELL WAT DE ROCK IS COOKIN' AND 'THATS THE BOTTOM LINE CUZ STONE COLD SAID SO' THEY STILL SEND SHIVERS DOWN MY SPINE AND THE SMACKDOWN VIDEO GAMES ON PLAYSTATION WITH SUPERSTARS SUCH AS ROAD DOGG, X-PAC, STEVE BLACKMAN, VAL VENIS THE GOD FATHER, KEN SHAMROCK AND MANKIND THE BEST ERE EVER AND I DONT THINK IT WILL BE THE SAME AGAIN THE WWE IN MY OPINION STARTED TO GO DOWNHILL WHEN THE DFART WAS MADE AND THE 2 BRANDS SPLIT UP BUT IT HAS STARTED TO IMPROVE YET AGAIN AND I HOPE IT CAN REACH THE DIZZY HEIGHTS OF THE ATTITUDE ERA AGAIN VERY SOON
I agree without the WWF attitude era many wrestle wouldn't be known like Stone cold, The Rock, Mankind. In that era the WWF had good story lines compared to now.
Dev Hassan wrote:
Nice artical. You did one before me! I loved the WWF Attitude Era. I always go on about that. Nothing was better than the times watching Austin vs McMahon - D-Generation X vs The Nation of Domination. Even those crazy feuds with The Rock and Triple H. Especially when it was Triple H vs The Rock at Summerslam 1997. In my opinion - it started mostly with Bret vs Stone Cold. That feud just set the WWF to a new level, especially their match at WrestleMania. It was on bubbling point there and it exploded once Vince screwed Bret at Montreal and he turned into the "Devil Himself" Mr. McMahon.
I hope they turn the "RAW" name back to "RAW IS WAR" cause RAW just sounds stupid...I miss the old skool RAW theme as well. The Thorne In Your Eye theme was just sick when it came out..yes the one on the WWF Attitude game also on PS1 - It sounded violent, extreme, bad mouthed, full of attitude and they still got that crappy Across The Nation theme...like what the hell.
Billy Bob wrote:
Yea man it was a great time in wrestling, great time to be a fan. I remember some of the angles they did where just amazing. One angle inparticular that comes to mind was the night the Undertaker wanted to marry Stephanie and the only way Vince could stop it was to get help from his arch nemesis Stone Cold. It was just so fun to watch and very dramatic, the writers really had somethin back then. The WWE really caught lighting in a bottle. Great column!
Joel Ellmes wrote:
This era rocked. Vince Russo you ruleD. Now Russo doesn't know anything. But back when he started in 1998 he was the best. Also the music director rocked back then too. Everything rocked. The factions (ministry, dx, nation) the raw song. Also The Undertaker's gimmik when he turned heel. Also when you watch it now it still has the old day scene that makes you feel like it's still 1998/99. Great era, I agree excellent
Jonathan Ayres wrote:
Deffinatley the best period in wrestling. I remember the times when i couldn't wait to see what would happen with so much crazy stuff goin on. Not only would you care about the WWF title but the tag teams were amazin such as the new age out laws, the Dudleyz, the Hardeyz and E And C as well as many others. I also remember hating wrestlers for the right reasons such as Triple H holding the title so long and i couldn't to see him loose, not because he annoyed me or i saw him as useless, ( like i see John Cena) because he did so many good matches and i still wanted to see him. You had the greatest legends ever in the Rock and Austin who really got the crowd goin. And titles like the European and IC titles were amzin, which showed the WWE had so much depth to them in those days.
I actually want to cry now as the WWE has gone so bad compared what it used to be.
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