The Attitude Era is heralded as the most successful time in WWE history. Many of the wrestlers from the time are still celebrated for their legacies during that era. Steve Austin and The Rock are arguably the two biggest stars in WWE history. The Undertaker, Triple H and Mick Foley were all important parts of Raw heading into WrestleMania 33, showing WWE still relies on the star power from that era. While the company loves to talk about the stars of the Attitude Era, they typically refrain from delving deep into the shameful moments of the time.
A TV-14 rating saw the content associated with wrestling reflect the edgy nature of society. People wanted to see sex, vulgarity and violence. WWE doubled down using those styles of storytelling to get record high ratings. Times have drastically changed through the years and WWE now regrets having quite a bit of moments, memories and facts out there regarding things they did in the late 90s and early 2000s. We’ll look at some of the worst things in their history from said time frame that the company either refuses to talk about or hopes gets lost through the years. These are fifteen things WWE wants you to forget about the Attitude Era for the betterment of today’s company.
15. Shawn Michaels’ Backstage Antics
The past reputation of Shawn Michaels is mentioned to show how far he has come through the years. However, WWE rarely goes in depth to how awful of a person Michaels was to the other wrestlers. The WWE locker room universally despised Michaels during the Attitude Era aside from his close friend Triple H. Michaels used his power as a main eventer and one of Vince McMahon’s chosen favorites to hold down the other wrestlers in WWE.
It all culminated with the Montreal Screwjob taking place in the early beginning of the Attitude Era. Michaels made life hell for Bret Hart until one eventually had to leave. Hart left the company in the worst of ways and Michaels remained a jerk to others in the locker room for the rest of his time there. A few returns during the Attitude Era would see Michaels pass out backstage before cleaning up his life for a 2002 full-time return.
14. Hawk Attempts Suicide
WWE went over the line with their edgy storytelling during the Attitude Era when it came to Hawk of the Legion of Doom. The legendary tag team act of Hawk and Animal started to grow old leading to WWE trying to create a new story dynamic. They used Hawk’s real life struggle with drugs and alcohol addiction as a part of his character.
It all led to Hawk climbing the Titantron and threatening to jump off in an attempt to end his life. Droz went to the top and shoved him off in the ridiculous ending to the segment. LOD quit WWE shortly after this segment due to feeling disrespected by the company. No one could blame them. This was one of the more shameful acts by WWE, especially considering Hawk died a few years later via a heart attack likely caused by his addictions.
13. Beaver Cleavage Storyline
WWE has discussed the potential of incest storytelling numerous times, but it luckily appears to always get shut down before truly playing out on television. One that went way too far and became an embarrassing footnote in WWE history was Beaver Cleavage. For some reason, WWE wanted to parody the long forgotten late 1950s television series Leave it to Beaver.
Head Banger Mosh needed a new character with tag partner Thrasher injured. Mosh adopted the new persona of Beaver Cleavage along with his “mother” Mrs. Cleavage. Not even the fans of the risqué content in the Attitude Era enjoyed it, forcing WWE to quickly scrap the idea. The gross idea of Mosh dating his mother proved to be among the worst concepts in WWE history and one that they never want to discuss again.
12. Big Show’s Father’s Funeral
Another tacky incident that took place during the Attitude Era was the death of Big Show’s father in a storyline. WWE tried to get sympathy for Show by having a story portraying his father’s death. Big Boss Man bullied Show’s family following the death and attacked him at the funeral. Boss Man chained the casket to the back of his vehicle and drove off for the low class storytelling from WWE.
Considering Show is still a big star in WWE and may be retiring soon, they definitely don’t want him talking about it in any interviews or future projects unless asked about it. Despite all content being on the WWE Network, there is no way they want fans of today looking it up and finding it for the first time.
11. Gun Publicity Stunts
WWE used the story of having a wrestler threatening to shoot someone with a gun on live television multiple times. One of the first publicity stunts to set the tone for the Attitude Era featured Brian Pillman and Steve Austin. The personal feud culminated with Austin threatening to break into Pillman’s home. WWE built the episode of Raw around Pillman having a gun in his home and waiting to use it if Austin made his way there. The show ended with the camera going out and the sound of gun shots.
Another instance featured more of a comedic route of Austin threatening to shoot Vince McMahon all night. The reveal was he had a toy gun the entire time leading to McMahon’s humiliation being a good laugh. Regardless of the intent, both nights revolved around WWE teasing someone being shot dead on live television in moments they obviously want forgotten.
10. The Undertaker Hangs Big Boss Man
The Undertaker’s phase as the demonic villain forming his own cult known as The Corporate Ministry led to many terrifying moments. The satanic segments and ideas of Undertaker often saw him take it to another level and it peaked in the worst way at WrestleMania XV. Undertaker defeated Big Boss Man in the first ever WrestleMania Hell in a Cell match to continue his undefeated streak.
The aftermath is when things went too far with Undertaker and The Brood hanging a noose from the cell and tying it around the neck of Boss Man. A visual of the cage raising and Boss Man hanging in horror struggling for his breath is horrible to witness looking back today. WWE fired Daniel Bryan for choking someone with a tie in 2011 as a significantly smaller incident. The cell hanging of Boss Man is something Vince McMahon has to regret today.
9. The Kat Flashes On Live TV
WWE tried to use the sex appeal of female wrestlers to attract young male viewers during the Attitude Era. Despite the majority of women being half naked on television most days, they never went all the way with actual nudity. That was until Armageddon 1999 when Stacy “The Kat” Carter intentionally took off her bra to expose her bare breasts on PPV.
Officials covered her up less than a second after the flashing and WWE tried to play it off like she broke the rules. It wasn’t true and was a publicity stunt by the company to get extra attention and make fans believe anything could happen. WWE treating their current women’s wrestlers with respect and credibility makes it even more important that they get moments like Kat’s flashing far away from the memories of fans.
8. The Nation of Domination
WWE talks about past factions like the New World Order, D-Generation X and a few others ad nauseam in various projects. One stable that gets no love in historical production is the Nation of Domination. The inception of the faction was to have the African-American wrestlers in WWE revolt against the company citing racism in the system holding them back.
The fact that WWE had wrestlers refer to them as being a racist promotion is shocking to think about today given the importance of their brand. WWE badly wants to showcase they are forward thinking in representation and equality on the roster. Fans remembering wrestlers used to talk about the company being racist on the show every week during the Attitude Era undercuts that to an extent and that is not something wanted by the powers that be.
7. Goldust’s Early Character Treatment
The early days of Goldust in WWE are fascinating storylines that rarely are discussed today. Goldust pushed the envelope by the portrayal of an openly bisexual character in WWE. However, he was a heel that used his sexual orientation as a negative to get the fans to hate him. Most of the stories at the time are viewed as homophobic today.
Wrestlers like Razor Ramon and Ahmed Johnson were popular faces disgusted by Goldust finding them attractive. The negative portrayal of a gay wrestler is clearly something WWE doesn’t want remembered today. WWE is trying to promote inclusiveness on their roster given the vast variety of fans that enjoy the product. Homophobic content existing regarding a legendary character is one of the worst evidence of the terrible moments of the Attitude Era.
6. Val Venis’ Adult Skits
The Attitude Era was the only time WWE could have ever pushed a character known as an adult star. WWE signed the talented Val Venis to portray an adult star that found his way to the wrestling world. The overly sexualized character work saw Venis involved in numerous risqué segments. They often crossed the line when Venis would reveal his personal videos with members of the WWE roster like Terri Runnels and Ryan Shamrock to get the better of his opponents.
It culminated with Kai En Tai chopping off Val’s “thing” following one of his videos with the wife of their leader. WWE eventually transitioned away from the adult aspect of his character and just made him a ladies man. They clearly don’t want to bring out any memories or moments from his days as the controversial adult star crossing the line.
5. It Peaked Pro Wrestling
A broader fact associated with the legacy of the Attitude Era is that fans stopped watching WWE after it ended. A combination of wrestling changing and society no longer wanting the edgy content led to WWE losing the momentum of staggering success. The Rock and Steve Austin both leaving the industry along with WCW dying likely also played into this, but the Attitude Era was clearly the peak of professional wrestling in the mainstream.
WWE has never been able to match the ratings or overall popularity that came during the Attitude Era. Everyone knew of a handful of wrestlers in the late 90s, but you’ll be lucky to find the average person at work or in a bar that knows anyone but John Cena today. WWE has found new ways to improve their success in different ways, but wrestling will never truly be as popular as when society embraced it in the late 90s and early 2000s.
4. Mae Young Dates Mark Henry
The combination of edgy comedy and sexual content led to the odd pairing of Mark Henry and Mae Young on television. “Sexual Chocolate” Henry and elderly wrestling legend Young were placed together due to Vince McMahon’s enjoyment of the cringe humor. The two would make out on television every week and led to the horrible storyline of Mae getting pregnant.
WWE not only showed her giving birth on television but had her give birth to an actual hand. There was no rhyme or reason for this other than WWE embracing the tawdry humor. It’s still remembered as one of the worst moments in WWE history and has a legacy more shameful than the other moments on this list. Both performers are legends in WWE history, but the relationship is a less proud part of their respective careers.
3. Triple H/Stephanie/Chyna Backstage Love Triangle
A backstage storyline that haunted WWE during the tail end of the Attitude Era was an unexpected love triangle. Stephanie McMahon making her way on WWE television in a romantic storyline with Triple H led to them getting together behind the scenes. The problem is Triple H was still dating fellow wrestler Chyna at the time. It led to Chyna losing her job in WWE so Triple H and Stephanie could continue their relationship without the drama.
Chyna’s life went downhill with various addictions and poor decisions before an unfortunate early death. Triple H and Stephanie rose to power in WWE with their relationship going stronger than ever today. The married couple is viewed as the vision behind WWE’s future and they don’t want people to remember how the relationship started. WWE tried black-listing Chyna until her death on behalf of Triple H and Stephanie to make matters worse. This aspect of their lives is something they don’t want to be a talking point.
2. Unprotected Chair Shots Regularly
A huge rule change over the years saw WWE ban any unprotected chair shots to the head. This used to be a very regular action that happened on just about every television show. Hardcore matches would feature everyone giving and taking stiff chair shots to the head. Concussions and the effects of concussions have been researched since then showing just how dangerous they were.
Many believe the chair shots to Chris Benoit’s head caused him to lose his mind and it influenced his double murder suicide. The fact that WWE used to encourage and demand this action every week during the Attitude Era doesn’t bode well. Wrestlers with serious injuries today prove the dangers of the action back in the time frame. WWE once making chair shots to the head a normal thing is something they have tried to eradicate completely today.
1. Vince McMahon Humiliates Trish Stratus
The worst visual that exists from the Attitude Era featured Vince McMahon and Trish Stratus. McMahon entering a storyline relationship with the most attractive woman on the roster was already a bad look and an abuse of power. One specific segment crossed the line in a way that is still shocking to believe. McMahon humiliated Stratus by having her strip into her underwear, get on her knees and bark like a dog to show his power.
This specific segment looks worse as time goes on. Opponents of Linda McMahon in her prior campaigns for office used the moment to show the McMahon family background of putting together stories like that in WWE. As the company tries to promote equality and women’s rights, the owner and face of WWE’s existence doing something like that will haunt them forever. It was definitely the most regretful and shameful moment of the Attitude Era.
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