It’s hard to argue that the Attitude Era wasn’t the most affluent time in WWE’s entire history. Once Vince McMahon found a formula that worked and started winning the ratings war against WCW again, WWE became a train that simply couldn’t be stopped. Both companies discovered that fans wanted an edgier, more adult product and it was McMahon’s men who managed to really take advantage of that. From half naked women to bloody brawls to risque characters, there were a lot of elements to WWE at the time that made up exactly what they needed to make it through the rain.
When fans fondly remember the Attitude Era a lot of the credit for WWE’s success goes to a small handful of names. The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels, The Rock; it was probably the best roster WWE has ever had. That didn’t just include the very top of the pile either. There are a lot of men and women from that time in WWE that are forgotten but who also played key roles in the company’s success. Yes they may not have been as influential as the names mentioned above, but the big stars couldn’t have done what they did without their terrific supporting cast. Here are 15 names that all played a part in the success of the Attitude Era that you might have forgotten, and what they’re all up to 20 years removed from pro wrestling’s greatest era.
15. Pete Gas
During the height of the Attitude Era Vince McMahon decided that he wanted certain members of his family to take a more active on-screen role in WWE, himself included. That meant his son Shane actually competing in matches. Naturally the boss’s son needed his very own entourage, and who better than Shane O Mac’s actual childhood friends? With that, the Mean Street Posse was born. One member of that Posse was Pete Gas. Pete has recently been doing the rounds on a lot of pro wrestling podcasts and telling his story. Apparently his and the rest of the Posse’s run in WWE was only supposed to last a short time but they were so good at what they did that it wound up lasting three years. The reason Gas has been on so many podcasts lately is to promote his new autobiography, Looking At The Lights. Nowadays other than writing Pete is a Sales Executive for an office supplies company.
14. Hardcore Holly
There are only a handful of wrestlers that stuck with WWE for the entirety of the Attitude Era and beyond. One of those wrestlers was Hardcore Holly. A lot of fans may not realize that because he had so many gimmicks in such a short space of time. Spark Plug, The J.O.B Squad, The New Midnight Express, nothing really stuck with Holly until he was playing himself. Once he became Hardcore Holly he remained as such until his time with WWE came to an end. He even had a WWE Title shot against Brock Lesnar in 2004 after The Beast legitimately broke his neck and Holly sought out revenge. Despite being well into his fifties Holly still wrestles around the world on the independent circuit today and is still in great shape, fair play to him.
Too Cool weren’t the only guys that didn’t really have a place in WWE once the Attitude Era started coming to a close. That time in WWE is remembered for the likes of Sunny and other attractive women wearing not a lot coupled with wrestling that was barely allowed to be aired on television. Alongside those important aspects it also featured some pretty strange characters. One of those was Gangrel whose gimmick was that he was a vampire. Insane right? But for some reason it worked and he portrayed a vampire for a few years in WWE. In fact since his release from the company in 2001 he has continued to play Gangrel on the independent circuit. He also made a cameo appearance in The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence).
12. Val Venis
A return to crazy gimmicks that thrived during the Attitude Era now with Val Venis. Younger fans may have been innocent to it at the time – I know the ten year old version of me was – but Val’s character was a porn star. Insane right? On top of that his finishing move was called The Money Shot which WWE likely wish they could erase from their history. Venis was probably cut loose from WWE once that era came to an end just like Gangrel and The Godfather, or so you would have thought. No in fact Val remained a wrestler with the company all the way up until 2009. Since his release he has wrestled on the independent circuit and briefly for TNA. Nowadays though most of his time is dedicated to his medical dispensary in Arizona.
11. Essa Rios
A key part of WCW’s programming during the Monday Night War was their cruiserweight division. WWE needed something to rival that, so they introduced the Light Heavyweight Championship. It didn’t really make much of an impact, but one forgotten member of the division was Essa Rios. Rios signed for WWE in 1997 at the age of just 19. His time there didn’t really take off for a couple of years at which point he was paired with Lita. The future Hall of Famer would copy Essa’s finishers as part of her gimmick, and that’s where she got the moonsault from, which she would use for the rest of her career. Being so young when he signed for WWE, Rios is only 39 today and still wrestles, currently in CMLL in Mexico as Mr. Aguila.
The last few years in WWE have sparked a change in the tides when it comes to women’s wrestling. The company’s females are now judged on their in ring ability as opposed to how they look. The Attitude Era effectively had the opposite effect, although there were still a few women in WWE who were terrific wrestlers and it’s a shame they’re not still able to compete today. One of those women is Ivory. In a world of bra and panties matches and Playboy cover girls Ivory was a Superstar who could legitimately be on both sides of the coin. In the last couple of years Ivory has become more involved in WWE once again, including an appearance on the Network show Table For 3. Most of her time is dedicated to animals though and has her own animal daycare and grooming centre called Downtown Dog.
9. Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn is very similar to another entry in this list, Hardcore Holly. The two of them are even the same age. They survived the entirety of the Attitude Era in WWE, stayed for years after, and underwent a lot of gimmick changes. For Billy his best gimmick came when he was a part of D-Generation X and the New Age Outlaws. After that he turned into The One Billy Gunn as well as partnering with Chuck Palumbo but obviously nothing would ever be as good as what came before. On and off Billy was with WWE all the way up until 2015 and at that time he was released for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. That hasn’t slowed down his career too much though. Gunn has been competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling for the past twelve months and still does today.
8. Road Dogg
Road Dogg made up the other half of The New Age Outlaws alongside Billy Gunn. As a team they enjoyed tremendous success and became Tag Team Champions six times. Arguably Road Dogg was the bigger star of the two though. Known outside of the ring as Brian James, Road Dogg was the better wrestler of the two and by far the better speaker. He was even Intercontinental Champion at one point. Unfortunately years as a pro wrestler, and as a US marine before that, took its toll on James and he turned to illegal substances and alcohol. Thankfully though he has since managed to turn his life around and now works for WWE once more. Triple H convinced Vince McMahon to give him a shot on the creative team and clearly so far so good as he is now the Head of Creative on SmackDown Live.
Earlier in this list we touched upon the changing of the guard when it came to women in WWE during the Attitude Era with Ivory. Well the woman that instigated that change was undoubtedly Sunny. Sunny wasn’t hired by WWE to wrestle, she was hired because she looked good while not wearing much clothing. There will have been very few men watching the product at the time who didn’t have a crush on Sunny. Unfortunately it has been far from smooth sailing for the former Diva since she left the business. She has had a foray into the adult film business and more worryingly been in trouble with the law and had issues with drinking. Sunny has even spent some time in jail for a variety of reasons.
6. Too Cool
The Attitude Era was a terrific time for tag team wrestling in WWE. The aforementioned New Age Outlaws are a team that get thrown around a lot when referring to why tag wrestling was so good back then, as are the likes of The Dudleys and Edge and Christian. One team that often gets overlooked though are Too Cool, made up of Scotty 2 Hotty, Grandmaster Sexay, and a lot of the time Rikishi as well. Despite the team disbanding around the same time as the Attitude Era came to an end in 2001, Scotty and Sexay have continued to team together in various promotions ever since. In fact in 2014 they re-recruited Rikishi for an Old School edition of Raw to take on 3MB. Scotty actually still works for WWE as a trainer at their Performance Center.
5. The Godfather
Speaking of strange Attitude Era gimmicks, it would be remiss not to bring up The Godfather at this point in time. Charles Wright managed to combine weird characters and things that would definitely not fly on TV in 2017 with the creation of his persona, The Godfather. A Superstar who played a pimp and would come to the ring for his matches accompanied by his ‘hoes’. When you lay it out for people who weren’t fans at the time it sounds almost too ridiculous and offensive to be true but believe me, it happened. Towards the end of the Attitude Era The Godfather clearly saw the error of his ways as he joined the Right To Censor and became The Goodfather. After leaving the wrestling business Charles almost lived his old gimmick though, going on to manage an exotic dance club called “Cheetah’s” in Las Vegas.
4. D’Lo Brown
The second half of the 1990s was a strong time for factions across all of pro wrestling, not just WWE. You had D-Generation X, the nWo, Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness, and also the Nation of Domination. A key player in the Nation was D’Lo Brown. A terrific wrestler who is part of a unique club. D’Lo is one of only four men to have held the European and Intercontinental Championships at the same time. The other three individuals are Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett, and Rob Van Dam. Unfortunately for D’Lo he is the only one of those four who didn’t go on to become a World Champion. Since his release from WWE in 2003 Brown has bounced around a multitude of wrestling promotions, including a brief return to WWE years later. Most recently he was giving a weekly class at the Future Stars of Wrestling training center in Las Vegas.
Those of you who remember Funaki might think that the Japanese Superstar is another wrestler who falls into the category of not having a place in WWE once the Attitude Era came to a close. Well that’s where you’d be wrong. For his first few years in WWE Funaki was a part of the tag team Kaientai alongside Taka Michanoku. In 2001 Michanoku left the company, but Funaki stayed. In fact he wasn’t released from WWE until 2010, thus bringing an end to a 12 year run with the company, pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. What’s even more impressive is that he has since returned. Funaki began appearing in NXT as Hideo Itami’s translator and then even teamed with him at Full Sail to take on The Ascension. To this day he is employed by the company and makes up one half of their Japanese announce team.
We’ve already discussed the tough as nails Ivory in this list and also the woman who basically coined the term WWE Diva, Sunny. Well the woman who fired the females of the Attitude Era into the stratosphere was undoubtedly Sable. When you list Superstars who made that era in WWE what it was Sable is unquestionably one of them, which is extremely impressive considering the other names that fall into that category are the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and D-Generation X. Whoever pinned down the two time Playboy cover girl was going to be one lucky man, and that man wound up being Brock Lesnar. They remain married to this day and have two sons together, as well as both of them having children from prior relationships.
1. Ken Shamrock
WWE’s most prolific years to date aren’t referred to as the Attitude Era by accident. From the top of the roster to the bottom of it there were Superstars that embodied the era’s name, some of which WWE brought in purposefully to help instill that in their product. One of those men was Ken Shamrock. UFC was in its infancy at the time and Shamrock was one of their bigger names. WWE’s signing of Ken was a major coup and he brought something never seen before to the pro wrestling industry. Sadly for Shamrock the fighter/wrestler just doesn’t know when to say enough is enough. While he can’t find his way back into a wrestling ring, up until 2016 he has managed to continue fighting despite being in his fifties. Many in the industry have openly said Shamrock needs to call it a day, including Dana White and Jim Ross, and now that he has had his fighting licence revoked for failing a substance test maybe he finally will.
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