The Attitude Era was a time when WWE had decided, once and for all, that it was about time to change with the times. ECW was enjoying some success with its edgy and oftentimes teen- and young adult-oriented product, while WWE was just coming off its nadir at the time, an era when every midcarder had a day job, and only a select few main eventers had gimmicks fairly close to their real personas. It meant more realism, and for WWE’s creative team, it also meant more violence, more sexual innuendo, and, largely for the benefit of the 18-34 male demographic, more female talents, or WWE Divas, as they were often called until the term was officially retired last year.
When defining a WWE Diva from the Attitude Era, we’re looking for a few things – one, she should be primarily associated with the era. Two, if they were prominent figures across multiple eras, they should have been involved in a poorly-received career highlight during the days of Attitude, as you’ll see in a couple examples on this list.
Having said that, let’s go back to the raunchiest time in WWE history, and take a look back at 15 things the WWE would like you to forget about the women of the Attitude Era.
15. Sable’s Backstage Attitude
Now here’s something both WWE AND Brock Lesnar would want you to forget. And that’s because of the fact that it involves Brock’s wife, Rena Lesnar, or as you used to know her back in the Attitude Era, Sable.
Just like her contemporary Sunny, Sable was not a pleasant person to deal with backstage, if most accounts are to be believed. She was been described as an arrogant and lazy prima donna, and not a very grateful student when it came to Luna Vachon’s mentoring, which ultimately ruined their tenuous-as-it-was friendship. The heat between both women, as Luna recalled, came to critical mass when she and Gangrel had a husband-and-wife backstage scuffle with Sable and her then-hubby, Marc Mero.
Despite all that backstage heat, Sable’s good looks would set a precedent for many years to come, as WWE would oftentimes push women for their good looks, regardless of how unskilled they were in the ring.
14. Pretty Mean Sisters
Vince Russo sure loved his double-entendre acronyms, and while this wasn’t as risqué a name as his Sports Entertainment Xtreme stable in TNA, he did greenlight an all-female faction in his WWE days, one that was dubbed the Pretty Mean Sisters, or PMS for short. Their shtick was that these three women – Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, and Ryan Shamrock – were fed up with the sexist, entitled attitudes of their male colleagues that they’d turn them into weak, pathetic slaves. Or, in Shawn “Meat” Stasiak’s case, a love slave. This was girl power done horribly wrong.
In the end, PMS was one of those factions that did no favors to anyone who was involved in their feuds. But if you think of all the plans that were ultimately deemed too risqué, even for the Attitude Era, it was, at least, a step up for Alicia Webb, who, as Ryan Shamrock, was allegedly asked to do an incest angle with her kayfabe brother Ken Shamrock, an idea which the MMA legend fortunately shot down.
13. Sunny Manages L.O.D. 2000
The Road Warriors achieved a lot in their storied career as a tag team, though there have been some cringeworthy moments during their WWE runs as The Legion of Doom – Rocco the dummy, Hawk’s personal demons getting turned into a storyline, Heiden-freaking-Reich as Hawk’s replacement. But since we’re talking Attitude Era Divas here, we should also include that brief period of time when Sunny took over as the manager of the new, ostensibly improved L.O.D. 2000.
It was an awkward fit from the get-go, and Animal and Hawk probably knew it, even as Sunny was in charge when they won a number 1 contender battle royal for the WWE Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania XIV. WWE, realizing that Sunny lacked chemistry with the Road Warriors, split her from the team, and we then saw the introduction of Puke (a.k.a. Droz) as a third member. Which, as you know, was the catalyst for that tasteless “Drunken Hawk leaps off the Titan-Tron” storyline.
12. Jerry Lawler Quit WWE Over The Kat’s Firing
Younger fans may think that Jerry Lawler has been a loyal WWE soldier for a good 20-plus years, showing up without fail, whether as the middle-aged man who squealed for “puppies,” or the senior citizen whose idea of commentary is rapid-fire dad jokes. But there was, in fact, a brief period of time in 2001 when the King was not a WWE employee, a time when he apparently quit the company in support of his then-wife, Stacy “The Kat” Carter, who was fired right after her storyline with Right to Censor storyline ended.
There are many theories as to why The Kat and Lawler left WWE simultaneously in February 2001 – The Kat’s alleged bad attitude backstage, creative having nothing for her, WWE wanting Lawler out and firing his wife in an attempt to convince him to leave. But since WWE probably wants you to think of the King as one of their most loyal employees ever, we think they’d rather you forget about those nine months he was working the indie scene and stewing over his wife’s dismissal.
11. Fondle Me Elmo
We’re probably stretching the timeline of Attitude a bit too much here, as this segment aired in January 1997 on Shotgun Saturday Night, which was WWE’s immediate pre-Attitude attempt to offer something more edgy and adult. But in one of Sunny’s multiple entries in this list, we’ve got her involved in a vignette where she seductively talks about the kind of man she’d spend her nights with – Todd Pettengill in an Elmo costume. With a thong, just like the one Sisqo sung about. Oh, good heavens.
Yes, Sunny was lusting over Fondle Me Elmo, which was an obvious riff on the Tickle Me Elmo toys that were all the rage in those days. Tickle Me Elmo’s “big, bad, strong older brother” spoke in the same annoying high-pitched voice the Sesame Street muppet spoke in, and after some quick “foreplay” (if you could call it that), the screen went black as Sunny and Fondle Me Elmo presumably did the nasty, with FME asking Sunny afterwards where his man parts were. (They apparently fell off.)
10. Miss Kitty Shows The Puppies
One way WWE made sure the Attitude Era had a lot of sexuality in it was by having its female wrestlers take part in gimmick matches that were all about the fanservice. Chief among these was the Evening Gown match, and it was at Armageddon 1999 where Ivory defended her WWE Women’s Championship against Jacqueline, Barbara “BB” Bush, and Miss Kitty (aka The Kat), who was then working a Chyna mini-me gimmick.
With Miss Kitty winning what thankfully was her only WWE Women’s title, she cut a quick victory speech where she complained that she was forced to wear underwear beneath her evening gown. And with the fans screaming, and Jerry Lawler shrieking with glee as he was about to see his wife as he presumably did every night, Kitty stripped down to her birthday suit, giving the audience a quick flash before that spoilsport Sgt. Slaughter covered her up.
9. Sable’s Handprint “Bikini Top”
Technically, Miss Kitty wasn’t the first woman in WWE history to go completely topless. That honor goes to Sable, who won a bikini contest at the Fully Loaded PPV in July 1998 by getting the biggest audience response and defeating Jacqueline by posing with black handprints painted on each of her bare breasts. To be fair, there were no naughty bits actually visible to the average TV viewer, but she was, for all intents and purposes, topless on pay-per-view.
As we mentioned above, WWE’s product is PG, and it’s been that way for nearly a decade now. Many fans still long for those days when women were still allowed to pull off such stunts on WWE TV and PPV, but we’ve got to face it – as long as that PG rating remains, the best these fans can hope for is something like Eva Marie’s scripted, safe-enough-for-television wardrobe malfunction from last year.
8. All Those NSFW Moments In General
Hey, why not include all the times WWE’s female talents bared their puppies, whether on purpose or by accident, during the Attitude Era? With the era’s product catering specifically to teenage boys and young men, wardrobe malfunctions were fair game in those days, and so were gimmicks such as Miss Kitty/The Kat’s, which was essentially an exhibitionist gimmick years before Kelly Kelly officially had one. (She even feuded with the Right to Censor over her “right to nudity,” and unlike Kelly Squared, she actually did let the girls out in front of WWE audiences.)
Likewise, WWE would prefer that you forget about the times when Debra unbuttoned her blazer to distract Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart’s opponents, even if she was wearing a bra underneath it. Or Terri Runnels’ own wardrobe malfunctions – she had a couple back in the day. It was all well and good in the Attitude Era, but not in today’s far more kid-friendly WWE climate.
7. Violence Against Women
Moving on to another general entry, let’s talk about how WWE had no qualms about allowing its male talents to physically attack women. And when we say “attack women,” we aren’t talking about the matches Chyna had against male wrestlers. We’re talking about stuff like Jeff Jarrett’s misogynist gimmick, where it wasn’t just female wrestlers he attacked, but also special guests such as model/onetime internet sensation Cindy Margolis. Or what about the storyline where Chaz was framed up for abusing his valet Marianna? Also, think of all those times “Stone Cold” Steve Austin hit Stone Cold Stunners on women, or those times The Dudley Boyz drove women (most notoriously Stacy Keibler) through tables, all for a cheap pop or cheap heel heat.
It shouldn’t shock you that a lot of these male-on-female violence segments were written by a certain Vince Russo, who has always come about as a rather chauvinistic individual. We should be thankful that WWE has no more room for such garbage, even if a lot of the edgier aspects of Attitude are missed, and oftentimes quite justifiably, by older fans.
6. Mae Young Gives Birth To A Hand
Does Mae Young qualify as a Diva from the Attitude Era? As she was, as of 1999, a 76-year-old woman who had been competing since the ’40s, you probably wouldn’t see her as such. But we’re qualifying her anyway as one, given her prominent role in several storylines from 1999 to 2000. Kudos to her for being a complete professional, and for being badass enough to let male wrestlers such as Bob Holly attack her as part of Attitude’s almost-anything-goes storylines.
But shame, shame, shame on WWE Creative for adding that one twist to Young’s persona as a horny grandma – that angle with Mark Henry where she ended up giving birth to a hand. This angle is routinely mentioned as one of the Attitude Era’s most ludicrous ever, and since WWE has named its upcoming women’s tournament after the late, great Mae Young, we’d think they’d be more comfortable if you didn’t think of the kayfabe “kid” she had with Sexual Chocolate.
5. Chyna’s Adult Film Career
Triple H himself had said it when his ex-girlfriend Chyna was still alive – he doesn’t want the Ninth Wonder of the World in the WWE Hall of Fame because he doesn’t want children, especially his own kids, Googling her name and discovering evidence of her career in the “other industry.” That’s a pretty flimsy excuse, because Chyna is by far not the only woman (or man) from the wrestling industry who’s cut adult films or taken part in adult photo shoots to pay the bills.
After Chyna’s wrestling career ended, she appeared alongside then-boyfriend X-Pac in the infamous 1 Night in Chyna, and she filmed a total of six titles in that genre, including parodies of comic book heroes The Avengers and She-Hulk. WWE appears to have done a public about-face on its original stance since Chyna’s untimely death last year, but who knows if Triple H and company are still secretly uncomfortable about her adult film career?
4. Sunny Was (And Still Is) A Hot Mess
For our third and final entry featuring Ms. Tammy Lynn Sytch, we’re going to be summing it all up and discussing that one thing about Sunny that WWE wants you to forget, considering she’s in the company’s Hall of Fame – she was a complete and absolute mess, even in her younger, sexier days. I mean, what else have we NOT told you about Sunny across several articles on this here site? Affairs with men such as Shawn Michaels and (as Shawn so infamously alleged) Bret Hart, bad locker room behavior, a taste for drugs and alcohol, you name it. She was on a path to self-destruction even when she was a young woman.
We do understand why WWE wanted to enshrine Sunny in the WWE Hall of Fame – she proved that women could be marketable in the sausage party then known as the WWF. But given her backstage issues then and her myriad personal problems now, there are so many things WWE doesn’t want you to remember about this woman.
3. How The Game Won The Heart Of The Billion-Dollar Princess
In 1999, Stephanie McMahon was introduced to WWE television as the sweet, squeaky-voiced boss’ daughter, and at that time, she was seriously in love (in storyline) with a kayfabe Motley Crue bodyguard named Test. And just as she was about to become the kayfabe Mrs. Andrew Martin, it was revealed that someone else wasn’t too happy about their relationship – a onetime Greenwich snob by the name of Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
As it turned out, Triple H got Steph to marry him by drugging her, then driving to Las Vegas for a quickie marriage. Later on, Steph would tell daddy Vince that she was in on the plan…as revenge for his role as “The Greater Power” dictating The Undertaker when he kidnapped her and threatened to marry her in a demonic ceremony. Oh, those Attitude Era storylines. Sometimes they are THAT crazy-sounding in hindsight.
As Trips and Steph would eventually fall in love and get married for real, it’s safe to say that neither present-day WWE exec is too comfortable with the fact that their storyline relationship began with a drugging.
2. Vince Demeans Trish On Monday Night RAW
Although you would be right to classify Trish Stratus as a Ruthless Aggression Diva for the most part, she did debut in the last few years of Attitude, which was when this unfortunate angle took place. And we’re guessing that everyone in WWE’s upper brass would want you to cleanse this tasteless angle from your memory. Heck, Trish would especially want you to forget this whole deal ever happened, even if she did have a fantastic career in the years that followed.
Naturally, we’re referring to that early-2001 episode of Monday Night RAW, where a contrite Stratus appeared in front of Vince McMahon, begging for forgiveness and pledging her sincerity to the evil boss of WWE. Being the evil Mr. McMahon that he was, Vince then asked Trish to prove that sincerity, which she did by barking like a dog, while on all fours. He would then continue demeaning her to the point that he demanded that she take off all her clothes…before ultimately accepting her apology.
What’s also cringeworthy about this angle is the fact that the fans were actually cheering Vince, especially during the part where he was forcing Trish to strip. Sometimes, the Attitude Era just brought out the worst in the WWE Universe, and this was a classic example.
1. Triple H Essentially Dumped Chyna For Steph
As this site and others have previously established, there was some overlap in Triple H’s relationship with Chyna and his relationship, and later on marriage to Stephanie McMahon. It was shortly after the kayfabe McMahon-Helmsley marriage when Chyna had supposedly discovered that HHH and Steph were getting serious behind her back, and that the feelings were getting to be more mutual than ever. Sadly, her life was never the same again.
Chyna was unquestionably one of the most influential female wrestlers of all-time, and she had more than proven her worth as a two-time Royal Rumble entry, former Intercontinental Champion, and one of the few women in WWE history who could legitimately wrestle against men. But since she essentially fell off the rails after she and Hunter had broken up, the messy manner in which the two had split is something WWE would definitely want you to forget about her.
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