Passionate World Wrestling Entertainment fans fondly remember the “Attitude Era” of the late 1990s and early 2000s for different reasons. Some grew up at the same time as that era, while others fell in love with the product for the first time thanks to acts such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Triple H and so many others. While the Attitude Era undeniably had its flaws and doesn’t live up to today’s standards of pro wrestling in many ways, the WWE nevertheless could use a return to a time when so many more millions of fans throughout North America watched shows and special events than today. It’s for that reason that viewers, and perhaps even individuals working for the promotion, yearn for a new Attitude Era in 2017.
Those running WWE cannot merely turn the clock back and repeat everything that worked starting in 1997 when the company began to overtake former rivals World Championship Wrestling in production, quality and, eventually, television ratings. That was, after all, 20 years ago, and much has changed in the business and in the world. For starters, new viewers who weren’t even alive when the “Montreal Screwjob” and the subsequent events that led to the rise of the Mr. McMahon character are now following the product via social media platforms that weren’t thought of in the fall of 1997. WWE needs to find ways to get those fans and, more importantly, new customers interested in doing more than merely watching occasional clips on YouTube if the organization is to truly spark a new Attitude Era.
15 NXT On TV
The WWE already has its own alternative to Raw and SmackDown in the weekly NXT shows that air on WWE Network. A problem with this is that only a fraction of the millions of fans who tune in to watch Raw and/or SmackDown every week subscribe to the WWE Network, and not all of those subscribers actively follow NXT outside of the amazing Takeover shows that air a handful of times each year.
Removing NXT from the WWE Network and putting it on television could introduce acts to fans before they ever debut on the main roster, and that would be a massive positive for wrestlers and for viewers. This would only work, of course, if the same logic used for booking NXT today remained intact once that product made the switch over to regular TV.
14 Eliminate Scripted Promos
One of the biggest aspects of the current state of the WWE that is preventing certain acts from getting over among fans is the idea that they must also be actors who memorize scripts. This wasn’t always the case in pro wrestling, as performers used to be given talking points ahead of time before being asked to either sink or swim with microphones in their hands.
Allowing wrestlers to be more themselves than pre-programmed WWE performers wouldn’t make everybody a star, obviously, but it would, theoretically, result in the figurative cream rising to the top and give future stars better opportunities to establish themselves. Imagine if The Rock had to work in the current WWE environment all the way back in 1997. It’s likely he never would’ve become the international Superstar he is today.
13 Scrap “50-50 Booking”
One reason so many fans prefer NXT over weekly WWE programming is that the so-called “developmental” portion of the company often abandons or even ignores the idea of “50-50 booking.” In NXT, there are stars who win almost every match, and there are men and women who are lower on cards and who often take losses to better performers. This is hardly a reinvention of the business, as pro wrestling used to be molded on such a principal back in the Attitude Era.
Steve Austin is just one example of a wrestler who was protected throughout his best days in the 1990s. Keeping wrestlers such as Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka special did wonders for their characters in NXT, and there’s no reason to believe doing so wouldn’t work on the main roster.
Probably the biggest single reason the Attitude Era began in the first place was because WWE had to do something drastic to catch up with WCW after that promotion introduced the New World Order in the spring of 1996. In any industry, competition can force an entity to have to think outside the box and go in a different direction, and the WWE could use such a push from a different promotion heading into the upcoming WrestleMania season.
Perhaps ROH or even New Japan Pro Wrestling can grab attention from enough casual fans to take some viewers away from the WWE and lead the WWE to consider the best ways to create a new Attitude Era. We won’t be holding our breaths expecting Global Force Wrestling/Impact Wrestling to generate a new “Monday Night Wars.”
11 Return of Managers
It takes a special type of talent to be able to routinely cut five-star promos in front of thousands of fans and behind curtains even in an environment where scripted interviews don’t exist. WWE using even a few managers on both brands of the main roster could do wonders for so many acts currently signed by the company.
Enzo Amore is just one example. Enzo unquestionably isn’t the best worker on any WWE brand at the moment, but nobody can deny he knows how to get over via his words and promos. Utilizing the best portion of that act and having Enzo serve as a mouthpiece for a Superstar who could use that type of charisma behind him could benefit both, so long as Enzo wasn’t restricted by scripts that make fans roll their eyes.
10 New Factions
One could easily argue there were a few too many factions in the WWE during portions of the Attitude Era. Truth be told, you may not be able to remember all of them without help (“The Union” was pretty forgettable). Still, stables and factions are often popular among fans as long as those groups are booked properly, and they allow the wrestlers involved to get over as individual performers over time.
We can only guess where Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns would be today had those three not been put together to form The Shield years ago. A handful of factions battling with each other in matches, perhaps during a contest such as a War Games, could play a role in igniting a 2018 version of the Attitude Era.
9 Four Horsewomen
We remain hopeful about this one because the WWE has repeatedly teased it since August 2015. Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Sasha Banks are all tremendous workers on their own, but the four of them could ignite a different kind of WWE women’s revolution and add a unique spice to a new Attitude Era if they were grouped together to form the Four Horsewomen.
It’s possible the WWE would need to put the entire Women’s Division on one brand and then introduce Women’s Tag Team Titles to make this work, and doing so could be worth it if the faction is allowed to thrive as did the Four Horsemen in the 1980s. The breakup and following feuds that could arise from such a storyline could all be money for WWE.
8 One World Champion
So many specific things are remembered about the Attitude Era that it often gets lost that the top feuds in the WWE, at the time, usually involved wrestlers fighting over the WWE Championship. The Rock, Austin, Undertaker and Triple H all wanted to hold what was said to be the top prize in the industry, and storylines were built around that title.
Raw and SmackDown serving as brands independent from each other isn’t a horrible idea, but the WWE has to realize having two top champions isn’t doing anybody any good. After all, even casual fans don’t view Jinder Mahal as they do Brock Lesnar. Having one World/Universal Champion would allow long-term storylines to grow and remain fresh in the minds of fans, and it would add importance to a championship that needs it.
7 Bullet Club/The Elite
We cannot talk about the WWE possibly igniting a new Attitude Era without mentioning the company acquiring and then pushing Bullet Club and/or The Elite. It’s nice that the promotion already has A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson under contract, but the WWE is still missing a few acts.
The Young Bucks have revolutionized the way wrestlers can maintain freedom and still earns tons of money as independent performers, and Kenny Omega may, all things considered, be the best wrestler on the planet as of the summer of 2017. Signing these three men and then pushing either Bullet Club or the Elite as a dominant force that plays by its own rules could produce enough attention to generate the start of this decade’s version of the Attitude Era.
6 Ronda Rousey
One of the worst-kept secrets in the industry today is that former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey is a big fan of pro wrestling and has allegedly spent some time training in the WWE during the summer. Rousey may no longer be the Superstar she was before she lost what will likely be her final two matches in the UFC, but she would still offer something different and unique to the Women’s Division.
Rousey has proven, over the years, that she can cut entertaining and headline-worthy promos, and she could serve as the division’s version of Brock Lesnar so long as she was protected in booking. At this point, using Rousey for even a year or so could do enough to spark the women’s portion of a new Attitude Era.
5 New TV Deal for 2 Hour Raw
We continue with two aspects of the conversation that must be addressed if the WWE is serious about igniting a new Attitude Era. A plethora of fans, journalists and observers around the world would admit three hours for any weekly wrestling program is just too much. It overexposes performers and leaves little to be desired. As things currently stand, the WWE and USA Network/NBC have a contract that includes three-hour editions of Raw. Once that deal expires, however, the company would do well to put pen to paper on an agreement that limits editions of both Raw and SmackDown to two hours at absolute most.
We promise television executives and those within the WWE that fans wouldn’t miss those extra 52 hours of programming each year.
4 New Advertising Agreements
The WWE getting either NBC or some other television company to agree on a contract that takes editions of Raw back down to two hours is only the beginning. Those hoping the WWE will abandon PG TV and go back to a TV-14 format even for portions of shows that air either on cable or via the WWE Network must realize the promotion can only do so with the blessing of advertisers.
Logic suggests the only way WWE will be able to pull this off would be to convince certain current or would-be advertisers that making the move back to a more adult-focused product will generate additional revenue for all involved. If the promotion can pull this off, the type of programming that was featured throughout the bulk of the Attitude Era could slowly but surely return to the WWE.
3 Sign & Push Matt Riddle
In order to ignite a new Attitude Era, the WWE needs to find a performer who has the goods to get over with those who watch the product every week as well as with customers who have walked away from pro wrestling for whatever reasons. Matt Riddle, seen by many as the hottest free agent in the industry, could be the perfect man for the job.
Riddle is a mixed martial artist who spent time in UFC. He has a great look and the personality required to be a star in a gigantic promotion such as WWE. He's improved as an in-ring worker. Best of all, he’s different than anybody else who is currently signed. Riddle could become a new type of babyface the WWE desperately needs at a time when Roman Reigns is still being booed out of buildings.
2 Ring of Honor Invasion
Here is a twist that could realistically happen in the WWE at some point over the next couple of years if the company isn’t afraid of pushing supposed outsiders for a long period of time. The team of Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish, better known as reDragon, was reunited on the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III show, and that pair was then joined with Adam Cole to form a new faction that could become the top heel group in NXT during the fall.
This could be the start of an ROH faction that dominates NXT before eventually invading either Raw or SmackDown in 2018. Invasion angles, such as when the Nexus stormed Raw so many years ago, spark interest among diehard and casual fans, and this one could ignite a new era as long as the ROH group isn’t immediately buried.
1 New Anti-Hero
Anti-heroes became the biggest stars of the Attitude Era in both WWE and WCW. The WWE had Steve Austin, and WCW had Goldberg, a loner who rarely talked, during his best run, and who aligned with nobody but himself.
The WWE could have that type of character already signed in Aleister Black, who has a look unlike anybody else currently on the roster and who works a style that makes him stand out among others in either NXT or the main roster. Black could be pushed as a heel or a babyface depending on the feud, and the gray aspect of his character is what makes him appealing. Black clearly isn’t a “corporate pick” as are John Cena and Roman Reigns in the eyes of some fans, and that could make him the star a new Attitude Era would need.