2000 was arguably the best time in WWE history. The company was seeing the peak of The Attitude Era bring in more money than ever. The Monday Night Wars were more like The Monday Night Massacre with WWE dominating the ratings and PPV buyrates. Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker and others led the most top-heavy WWE roster of all time giving us incredible main events every show. Future stars like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam were arriving, adding amazing depth to the midcard. We even had a great tag team division with The Hardyz, Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian.
The entire landscape of pro wrestling was different and the state of society at the time led to fans wanting different things than they want today. Many things have changed drastically over the past sixteen years with new stars, stories, promotions and mindsets causing shocking events to take place. If you entered a coma in 2000 and woke up today wanting to watch pro wrestling, you’d be confused. You may have a hard time figuring out how to use your laptop to get to the WWE Network and you may have a tough time coming to grips with the name WWE after ‘they got the F out’ in 2002.
Most of the shocking events to take place have been via the on-screen product and we’re looking at those here. The most diehard fan in 2000 would have no way of ever imagining these things could happen in the future. The majority of these happenings have taken place in WWE but they have affected the entire wrestling industry. Watch an old PPV on the Network from sixteen years ago and try to go back in time as you read this list. You’ll understand just how shocking these fifteen moments are.
15. The Ultimate Warrior Forms Relationship With WWE Days Before Passing Away
The relationship between WWE and The Ultimate Warrior was strained in the 90s following multiple ugly situations. Warrior was a little off his rocker and demanded more money than he was worth. WWE would sever ties with the legend and bury him in various documentary productions on his career. This caused more hatred from Warrior, but he ended his war on Vince McMahon in 2014 to enter the WWE Hall of Fame. Warrior returned to the WWE family and formed a relationship for future projects with the company. Unfortunately, Warrior would pass away days later but his family is still a part of WWE with his wife Dana presenting the “Warrior Award” every year at the HOF. His final speech on Monday Night RAW was absolutely chilling.
14. Money in the Bank
The Money in the Bank briefcase is one of the coolest new additions to the WWE. Most would have laughed at the notion of WWE having the title change hands through a briefcase cash-in when the champion is vulnerable. The new stipulation actually created new stars with Edge, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins winning their first World Titles through the MITB. Fans love unpredictability and surprises, so the cash-in is always a welcome moment whenever it happens. You likely would have laughed at anyone pitching this in 2000, but it debuted five years later and shows no signs of going away any time soon.
13. JBL Wins WWE Championship
JBL becoming WWE Champion was one of the most unlikely title wins in recent history. He spent the majority of his WWE career as a midcarder or enhancement talent in both singles and tag team action. No one on the planet in 2000 would have predicted that Bradshaw become the WWE Champion at any point in his career. The brand split, with RAW and SmackDown as two different entities with two different World Titles, led to more projects as champion. Bradshaw turned into the rich heel character of JBL and Vince McMahon liked it enough to give him a WWE title run just a few months into the new gimmick. JBL held the belt for just under a year in one of the more shocking and frankly disappointing title reigns of the new millenium.
12. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan Bring Change
WWE had a superficial and stereotypical process for hiring and pushing their stars for a long time. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan were the two biggest names in changing the game for the foreseeable future. Both men signed following successful independent wrestling careers and became two of the biggest WWE stars of the past decade. Punk’s brash personality and inherent charisma showed WWE that his average body type wasn’t going to stop fans from buying into him. The same would be said for Bryan, despite his shorter height and more unconventional look. Their success has put more emphasis on signing performers that connect with the fans, regardless of their look. WWE’s old philosophy was so strong that no one would have bought into Punk and Bryan being mega-stars.
11. PG Rating
2000 was around the height of The Attitude Era with WWE completely dominating the ratings war over WCW and becoming bigger than ever. The era felt like it would never end and the TV-14 rating allowing foul language, sexual content and the use of blood was in full swing. The idea of the rating being changed back to PG was so far removed at the time, but it did finally happen in 2009. WWE has gone the route of losing the edgy content and banning blood from television in an effort to bring in more children and families. They have not budged on the PG rating and it doesn’t appear like it will be going away any time soon.
10. Sting Debuts for WWE… in 2014
WCW was in pretty bad shape in 2000, so some fans could have predicted that Sting would have appeared for WWE, but no one would have called his debut coming all the way in 2014. Sting refused to sign with the WWE following the death of WCW and spent the majority of his time with TNA. After years of avoiding it, Sting finally made his first appearance for WWE at the 2014 Survivor Series at the age of 55. Sting entered a feud with Triple H culminating in his first WrestleMania match. The Stinger would only have one more PPV match against Seth Rollins before officially retiring from the sport during his Hall of Fame speech.
9. Shawn Michaels Returns and is Actually Better Than Before
Shawn Michaels was arguably the best in-ring performer of the 90s, with his tremendous matches stealing the show most nights. A severe back injury forced him to retire in 1998 and it was assumed he would never return to the ring. Michaels shocked us all and made a full-time comeback in 2002. He instantly became the best wrestler on the roster again. His in-ring work was even better than we remembered and he added much more to his legacy. Without the past personal demons of drugs or alcohol and just having a better overall attitude this time, Michaels delivered another decade of outstanding work before hanging them up for good.
8. Bret Hart Makes Peace With WWE
The Montreal Screwjob was still fresh in our minds in 2000, as it was just three years after WWE screwed Bret Hart on his final night in the company. Hart vowed to never return and held a deep hatred for Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Following years of animosity on Bret’s end, he felt it was time to make peace and give fans the ability to see his work through DVDs or other WWE projects. Hart returned to the company in 2010 and would end up having a match against Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XXVI. The most unpredictable thing was Bret burying the hatchet with Shawn Michaels and the two actually becoming friends after all the bad blood from the past.
7. Hulk Hogan’s Racist Tirade
Hulk Hogan was making bank in WCW in 2000 and just about everything he has done since then has been rather confusing. The legend had multiple returns and falling outs with WWE over the past sixteen years and at one point tried to lead TNA into starting a new Monday Night War against Vince McMahon before hopelessly failing. Hogan’s wrestling greed and ego would have been easy to predict, but his racist tirade in a leaked sex video is definitely something no one would have predicted. The public perception of Hogan has gone down big time with his racist comments but he did manage to win millions in a lawsuit against Gawker for leaking the tape. Hulkster has lived the most unpredictable life out of anybody else since 2000.
6. The Rock Becomes Blockbuster Hollywood Superstar
The Rock was the biggest WWE star in 2000 following Steve Austin’s injury and the spotlight was there for the taking at the start of the new millennium. The Rock’s overall success in the WWE and his natural character acting skills made him a hot commodity, giving him a legitimate chance to become a leading man in Hollywood. The Rock has become one of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry with blockbuster hit after hit in the box office. His mainstream success led to The Rock leaving WWE for years before making occasional appearances, typically at a WrestleMania event. The Rock is the biggest star ever to come from the wrestling industry and there are very few entertainers in the world as popular as him today.
5. Steve Austin Retires Early
The rise of the Attitude Era coincided with Steve Austin becoming the biggest star in the wrestling industry towards the end of the 90s. Austin was going through injury issues at the time, but returned as popular as ever. Unfortunately, Stone Cold’s career would get cut short in 2003 with a neck injury forcing him to retire. Austin’s final match was against The Rock at WrestleMania XIX and he has never wrestled another match since then. WWE has brought Austin in numerous times in non-wrestling capacities and he is still a part of the company. Everyone knew Austin wouldn’t be wrestling sixteen years later, but the early retirement was a huge shock that changed the landscape.
4. The Undertaker’s Streak
The Streak was alive heading into 2000 with The Undertaker having an 8-0 record at WrestleMania events, but it wasn’t a big deal at the time. No one was talking about The Streak and most didn’t even realize he was undefeated. The Streak started becoming a focal point in 2004 and would grow with each passing year with amazing matches against legendary opponents. The Undertaker’s streak ultimately ended at WrestleMania XXX against Brock Lesnar in one of the most shocking moments in pro wrestling history. The yearly story of ‘Taker’s WrestleMania match was something unexpected, but wonderful. Despite it ending, it will likely be The Undertaker’s legacy when he eventually retires.
3. Triple H Becomes Most Powerful Man in Wrestling
Triple H was married to Stephanie McMahon on television, but they weren’t an official item in real life at the start of 2000. The couple would imitate art by getting together and ultimately marrying each other. It was the most controversial story in wrestling at the time, with quite a bit of resentment against Triple H marrying his way into power. Hunter denied having any special advantages as a wrestler, but the booking showed otherwise with his constant title reigns and rare losses. The current WWE product sees Triple H as the second in command to Vince McMahon and he will likely be the main person in charge when Vince retires or passes away.
2. WWE Buys WCW… and Does Nothing With It
WWE was dominating the industry in 2000, but we were used to WCW being on television every week despite falling way behind in The Monday Night Wars. WCW was struggling to stay afloat following the horrible decisions and poor television that doomed them. Vince McMahon saw the company was on the market in 2001 and made the huge decision to buy WCW. As he said on the show announcing the deal, McMahon controlled the entire wrestling business considering he also purchased ECW around that time. The bigger shock was McMahon managing to waste the chance of putting together a true WWE vs. WCW storyline. The Invasion angle lasted a couple of months before WCW no longer existed in a horrible misuse of a potential huge money maker.
1. WWE is the Only Relevant Wrestling Promotion
The wrestling industry has changed in many ways since 2000, but the biggest difference is that WWE controls the entire landscape. WCW and ECW were important to the business despite both promotions struggling to reach success around that time frame. The deaths of both promotions caused pundits and fans to hope for new alternatives reaching success on television and challenging WWE like WCW used to. That has not happened in the past sixteen years and it likely will never happen again, looking at how WWE has dominated the market. TNA showed promise but some terrible decisions led to the company failing miserably. ROH is a nice little promotion but will never be able to get a fraction of WWE’s audience. Wrestling fans only have WWE as a mainstream option and the days of competition have died.
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