When it began in 1992, the New Generation era of WWE was a necessary change for the roster at the time. The stars of the 80s that fans were accustomed to were being shipped out in exchange for a host of new main event stars and a new look for the company. Instead of the old standbys, such as Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, headlining shows, new stars like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels began to take their place. Ultimately, the New Generation served as a bridge for the next movement within WWE, the Attitude Era, which saw the company achieve its highest ratings ever, taking the product to unprecedented levels through an overall edgier persona.
As it turned out, there was a plethora of individual wrestlers who made their debut in the New Generation and were able to successfully cross over to the Attitude Era. Some benefited from new gimmicks, and some had always been consistent draws, carrying over their usual performances to the new audience. Most of these names are instantly recognizable to any wrestling fan, and it is a testament to their ability that they were so easily adaptable to multiple situations within the WWE landscape.
Ranked below are 15 wrestlers in WWE who spanned both the New Generation and the Attitude Era.
Before he embraced the fire and brimstone with his Kane character, Glenn Jacbobs portrayed Isaac Yankem in the mid-90s WWE landscape, a dentist who was affiliated with Jerry "The King" Lawler. As was the case with many of the gimmicks at the time, it wasn't built to last, and Jacobs found himself in the lower-card, and his time with the company seemed on the rocks. After switching to Kane in 1997 however, he hit paydirt. Kane was one of the central figures that ushered in the Attitude Era, and Jacobs found a character that has been relevant for the past 20 years. Ultimately one of the best decisions by WWE creative was giving Jacobs this character, and it ended up elevating his career into super-stardom. Kane has been a staple of WWE television in that time span, and one of the most popular characters as a whole.
Entering WWE as one half of the Men On A Mission tag team, Mabel was fairly successful in the New Generation, and was able to sustain a career in the Attitude Era and beyond, mostly with his Viscera character. With his gargantuan size, he was able to excel as a true super-heavyweight, and was consistently a notable attraction at WWE shows throughout the years. He was able to change gimmicks, and maintain a consistent presence on the roster, no matter the kind of product that WWE was putting out at the time. Overall, one of the most recognizable faces in mainstream wrestling throughout the 1990s, and probably underrated for what he was able to accomplish.
13 The Godfather
Charles Wright had a plethora of characters he portrayed while in WWE, but his most popular came during the Attitude Era, as The Godfather. Collectively, the WWE fanbase had no problems getting aboard the "Ho Train", and Wright carved out a niche for himself in one of the most fondly remembered mid-card gimmicks of the time. During the New Generation, he shifted between Papa Shango and Kama Mustafa, neither of which were as successful, but definitely had a place for their respective storylines. Wright was one of the more versatile wrestlers of his day, and that allowed him to stay relevant in multiple eras of WWE, playing different characters in the mid-card scene.
12 Billy Gunn
Before he was a staple member of The New Age Outlaws and D-Generation X, Gunn broke into the WWE scene in the mid-90s as one half of The Smoking Gunns, and had considerable success in the tag ranks. After a brief stint as the Rockabilly character managed by The Honky Tonk Man (which was a woefully terrible idea), Gunn teamed up with Road Dogg and never looked back, becoming one of the longest tenured names on the roster as the years progressed. With natural charisma and a defined style, Gunn was able to sustain himself in WWE no matter which era, but particular excelled with the edgier late-90s product. Many of his antics wouldn't have been able to be shown during the New Generation, so the change of philosophy definitely suited his character as the years went on.
One of the first relevant tag teams of the New Generation was The Headshrinkers, which Rikishi was a part of as Fatu, and he was able to stay relevant within the company for the next decade or so. From the tag ranks, he adopted The Sultan gimmick, before settling on his staple Rikishi gimmick and joining Too Cool. It was there that he became one of the most memorable gimmicks of the Attitude Era, and solidified his name forever in the WWE ranks, Stink Face and all. Through the years, he was quietly able to establish himself as one of the most consistent WWE talents, working in both singles and tag competition effectively. The longevity factor paid off, and Rikishi is well-remembered from Attitude Era fans the world over.
10 Mick Foley
By the time he arrived as Mankind in 1996, Foley had already established himself as a wild hardcore staple that was willing to take the bumps that no one else would. Such a figure was important to integrate in WWE, and ultimately was one of the catalysts that shifted the company from the New Generation to the Attitude Era. Alternating between his Mankind gimmick, along with the Cactus Jack one he used previously (and sometimes throwing in Dude Love for good measure), Foley excelled early and often. His role only expanded when the Attitude Era hit, and it was a tailor made fit for his style. Between the memorable storylines and vicious bumps, Foley's importance in late-90s WWE is incalculable. One of the most integral figures in the history of the company.
Ron Simmons was first prevalent in WCW as a heavyweight champion, but found his greatest overall successes in WWE. Starting with a bland gladiator gimmick, he then joined the Nation Of Domination, a premier stable at the time, and one which helped usher in the Attitude Era. It was as one half of the A.P.A. however, where he would establish his character for the long-term. Along with Bradshaw, they were one of the foremost power-tag teams in WWE during the Attitude Era, and quickly became fan-favorites because of their stiff, hard-hitting style in the ring. All things considered, this was Simmons' highest peak as a wrestler, though he was certainly relevant for his efforts in the New Generation era as well.
8 "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
After making his way from WCW, Austin was slotted into a terrible "Ringmaster" gimmick with Ted DiBiase as his manager. This did little to showcase his true abilities and charisma, and slotted him firmly of the no man's land mid-card division. Little by little however, his true colors began to show, and Austin had broken out into the "Texas Rattlesnake" just as the company was beginning to shift from the New Generation to the Attitude Era. The shift in Austin's character was dynamic, and allowed him to become one of the main event stars that led the promotion into it's new light. His character change was paramount for the future of WWE at the time.
7 Big Bossman
Starting out in the WWE scene of the late-80s, Ray Traylor found his niche as the Big Bossman, and it continued for the better part of 15 years, with a short break in WCW. He was a reliable face character in the early days of the New Generation, but really hit his stride when he changed to the all-black attire during the Attitude Era. He became one of the better heels in the company, and was involved with numerous big-time angles and storylines. He's a distinct example of being able to play the same character in two different styles, which allowed him to span multiple eras. All in all, he became one of the most recognized WWE talents during that overall time period, and a staple on the roster.
6 The Headbangers
Against all odds, this tag team gimmick survived during both the New Generation and the Attitude Era, and actually were able to prove themselves as consistent players in the tag division. Their gimmick initially didn't seem built to last, but in the confines of the New Generation it seemed acceptable. As many characters from that era began to fade as the late-90s took over, Thrasher and Mosh unexpectedly stuck around. They stayed on WWE television well into 2000, and really carved out an effective role for themselves within the company. Ultimately, they probably weren't the most memorable tag team of the era, but one that has to be included when rounding up the most consistent duos from the latter half of the 1990s.
5 The Rock
Much like Austin, the earliest WWE gimmicks for The Rock weren't up to par with what he would later become. Playing a true babyface in ever sense of the word as Rocky Maivia, his character was stale and played out. He started to form his identity of The Rock as a member of the Nation Of Domination, and his new antics fit right in with the burgeoning Attitude Era of the time. It was only uphill from there, and obviously, The Rock turned into one of the biggest stars in entertainment as a whole, and a lot of it had to with the WWE transitioning to the Attitude Era. Luckily, he didn't have to suffer through the later days of the New Generation long before he found paydirt, and found his catch phrases, character and sports-entertainment swagger dominating the Attitude Era.
4 Al Snow
Snows went from being a complete nobody in WWE during the New Generation, to sticking it out and actually becoming quite recognizable later on. Many of his misfortunes in the early going were to management's awful gimmicks they applied to him, and as a part of failed tag teams like the New Rockers with Marty Jannetty. Once he was able to develop his own persona in the Attitude Era, his career trajectory improved, and he ended up staying in WWE in some form for the next decade or so. He was finally able to get over, and the end result was in his favor. Unfortunately, he had to see the worst days of the New Generation first hand before he could find his success.
3 Triple H
First arriving in 1995 as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, he did find marginal success during the New Generation. However, like many others of the time period, when he was permitted to enhance his character, it paid off even more. With the addition of Chyna as his bodyguard, and the formation of D-Generation X, Triple H found more stardom than ever before, and was another talent that laid the groundwork for Attitude Era staples and storylines. Little by little, Triple H was able to further solidify his role in the company, until he saw himself as a main event star. He did so by making slight alterations to his personal gimmick, and the changes made him instantly more viable in the new WWE landscape. Another example of being in the right place at the right time.
2 Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid was arguably the biggest star of the New Generation, and was a major player in the main event scene throughout the 1990s. While he was having his own personal success, as the decade progressed, the company as a whole wasn't, and Michaels was able to alter his character for the Attitude Era, joining D-Generation X along with Triple H and Chyna. The stable proved to be one of the premier factions of the new face of the company, and Michaels proved that he could exist successfully in both eras. While he didn't stay during the Attitude Era as long as some others, he was still a pivotal force for WWE as they overtook WCW in the ratings war, and Michaels proved that he was a main event star in any era, providing classic matches and unparalleled charisma all in one.
1 The Undertaker
In some ways, the Undertaker is the hallmark character in WWE, and has seemingly never been out of the spotlight of the company. He's remained relevant in every era of the promotion since his debut in 1990, and has seen the ups and downs that have come with them. He hit his peak in the late-90s, bridging the gap between the New Generation and Attitude Eras with ease. His character developed into something darker and more sinister, establishing new feuds with the main event talent of the time. His appeal was endless, and is the main reason that he was able to stick around so long. Even in the company's worst hour, the Undertaker was a consistent draw, and held on to his main event standing, always being willing to re-invent himself just enough for the audience of any given era. Truly a staple figure in the history of WWE.
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