The Golden Era was a time that showcased Hulkamania, the rise of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the early days of WrestleMania. That was followed by the Attitude Era, one that saw both WWE and WCW at its greatest point with stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash leading the way.
What followed was the Ruthless Aggression Era. And while it’s less heralded from the two that came before it, many will argue that it was the best in company history.
During the span of 2002-2009, the WWE went away from over-the-top storylines and instead put wrestling at the forefront. Stars like John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero got their start as main event talents during that tine, and the in-ring competition was at its best. Mind you, the era didn’t come without its share of offensive storylines and questionable booking decisions, but it was definitely an improvement over the Attitude Era in many ways.
But while there were many wrestlers that came out of the era as household names, there were talents that many may have forgotten about.
Let’s take a look at 15 forgotten wrestlers of the Ruthless Aggression Era and see what they’re doing today.
During the Attitude Era, Matt Bloom was seen as a freak show, as his hairy body, odd piercings, and menacing size made him a perfect fit for professional wrestling. As the Ruthless Aggression Era rolled around in the early-2000s, the creative team decided to make Bloom a more serious character, and A-Train was born. Sure, he was still hairy and had those piercings but his agility and athleticism for a big man was on full display. Under Paul Heyman and working side by side with Brock Lesnar, he took on the likes of The Undertaker and Chris Benoit on the SmackDown brand before being traded to RAW and becoming a comedy act with Scotty 2 Hotty.
Nowadays, Bloom is still employed by the WWE as he is the head of the Performance Center in Orlando and is considered a key figure in all aspects of the NXT brand.
14. Chris Masters
Joining the company towards the latter years of the Ruthless Aggression Era, Chris Masters appeared to be destined for stardom. An impressive physique catapulted him to a prominent position as Masters held a “Master Lock Challenge,” in which he offered people $1,000 to break his full nelson submission. His cocky attitude put him in feuds with future Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, which was further evidence that Vince McMahon had high hopes for him.
Despite fighting for the WWE Championship, Masters’ personal demons got the best of him. In addition, his ever-changing body led to a failure of the Wellness Policy which resulted in his release. Masters made his last television performance in 2015 with TNA and continues to wrestle for various independent promotions today.
Like Masters, Montel Vontavious Porter joined the WWE roster in the later years of the Ruthless Aggression Era. And like Masters, it always seemed like MVP was on the cusp of stardom. Noted for his strong in-ring ability, charisma, and mic skills, MVP was a fixture in the mid-card of SmackDown, even simultaneously holding the United States and Tag Team Championships in 2007. While he continued to inch towards the main event scene. MVP was never able to do so.
Seeing as though he was never going to be the star many pegged him to be, the two sides agreed to part ways. After stints with New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA, MVP was supposed to join Lucha Underground in 2016. Unfortunately, however, his contract was terminated before he could appear due to violating the terms of the agreement. MVP is still active on the independent circuit as he’s most recently competed on House of Hardcore shows.
In what is becoming a theme on this countdown, Carlito — like Chris Masters and MVP — could’ve been a main event player. On the night of his WWE debut, he defeated John Cena for his United States Championship and was immediately pushed as an upper mid carder, feuding with Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, and Rey Mysterio, amongst others. Making the switch to RAW in 2005, Carlito once again won a title on his first night as he defeated Shelton Benjamin for the Intercontinental Championship. He flirted with the main event scene on Monday nights, but unfortunately, he was never able to capture the WWE’s top prize.
After working in various random tag teams with Masters, Ric Flair, and Santino Marella, amongst others, Carlito captured the Tag Team Championships with his brother Primo before turning on him a couple of months later. After refusing to go to rehab for drug addiction in 2010, he was released from his contract. Ever since his departure from the WWE, Carlito has become one of the World Wrestling Council’s top stars and also competes for various independent promotions across the U.S.
11. The Hurricane
Originally known as “Sugar” Shane Helms, he was a lower-card act with WCW before they closed their doors and worked in the same role with the WWE when they purchased his contract. Helms, however, knew he needed something to help him stand out. With his love for super heroes and comic books apparent, he settled with becoming The Hurricane. Using the character at the inception of the Ruthless Aggression Era, The Hurricane became a beloved figure due to his likeable character, comedic nature, and impressive in-ring ability. While he was never a main event player, Helms was a focal point on WWE television as he had a famous feud with The Rock and captured the WWE Tag Team Championships with Rosey.
After changing his character to the more serious Gregory Helms for a while, he once again went back to The Hurricane gimmick before being released in 2010. Today, Helms works as both and on and off screen character for TNA, as he’s an agent backstage and is the manager of the tag team of Trevor Lee and Andrew Everett, known as The Helms Dynasty.
A lot of WWE fans believe that today’s crop of women’s talent — Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nikki Bella, and Alexa Bliss, among others — are the best the company has ever had. While that case could be made, it’s hard to deny what the women did in the Ruthless Aggression Era, despite the fact they weren’t given nearly as much time to show what they can do. One of the focal points of the division was Victoria, as her great in-ring talent and eerie facial expressions combined for a terrific heel.
A two-time Women’s Champion, Victoria feuded with the likes of Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, and Lita, before departing in 2009. After wrestling in TNA for four years, she joined the indies where she’s most recently competed in Chikara. Victoria also opened up “The Squared Circle,” a wrestling-related restaurant, before turning it over to others.
9. Shannon Moore
Similar to the situation with Gregory Helms, Shannon Moore was a lower-level talent on the WCW roster when they were bought out by the WWE. After training in their developmental territory during the dying days of the Attitude Era, Moore made his WWE debut during the Ruthless Aggression Era on the SmackDown brand while working under Matt Hardy. While Moore accompanied Hardy more than wrestling, the tandem unsuccessfully fought for the Tag Team Championships. Over the rest of the decade, Moore was a frequent member of the Cruiserweight division, was released, and then re-signed under the newly-formed ECW banner.
Despite receiving vignettes hyping his return, Moore was — once again — rarely utilized, and after moving on the SmackDown brand, was released again. After wrestling in TNA for a number of years, Moore has moved on to small independent promotions and continues to wrestle to this day.
8. The Mexicools
It’s pretty sad to see what Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, and Super Crazy did once they finally were signed by the WWE. During their heyday in the mid-90s, the threesome were some of the most heralded luchadors on the planet as they worked for and starred in ECW and WCW’s Cruiserweight divisions. Unfortunately, however, their stint during the Ruthless Aggression Era hardly showcased the talents that made them known around the world.
Working as the not-so-subtly racist group known as The Mexicools, Guerrera, Psicosis, and Super Crazy carried Mexican flags, rode to the ring on lawn mowers, and were hardly featured on television. Nowadays, both Guerrera and Psicosis wrestle in Mexico under the AAA banner while Super Crazy is enjoying retirement from the squared circle.
7. Charlie Haas
Noted for his accomplishments in the world of amateur wrestling, Charlie Haas made his WWE debut alongside Shelton Benjamin as Team Angle, a duo of collegiate wrestlers who were looking to stake their claim in sports entertainment. Under the tutelage of Kurt Angle, Haas and Benjamin found much success once renamed The World’s Greatest Tag Team as they won the WWE Tag Team Championships three times. Despite being a top team during the Ruthless Aggression Era, the draft separated Haas and Benjamin — and while the latter found much success, Haas floundered. After creating a tag team with Rico, Haas was released from his deal in 2005. Re-hired in 2006, Haas and Benjamin reunited for a brief time before Haas took on a comedic role.
After a stint in ROH in the early-2010s, Haas is considered a semi-retired wrestler. Besides jumping into the ring from time to time, Haas also owns the Custom Muscle Nutrition and Smoothie Shop with his wife.
6. The Basham Brothers
The Ruthless Aggression Era was good for many things. One division that failed to see success, however, was the Tag Team division. During that time, many random wrestlers were paired together and, as a whole, there wasn’t much competition — all the more reason to forget about Doug and Danny Basham. Members of the SmackDown brand during their tenure with the WWE, The Basham Brothers became two-time Tag Team Champions while working in forgetful feuds against The World’s Greatest Tag Team, The Dudley Boyz, and Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi, among others.
After working in JBL’s Cabinet and as bodyguards for Paul Heyman in ECW, the duo was released in 2007 and made their way to TNA. In what may be a surprise to some, The Basham Brothers continue to work together to this day as they’re a part of the IWA roster in Puerto Rico.
One of the more perplexing characters of the Ruthless Aggression Era, the early memories of Heidenreich on the SmackDown brand was his obscure obsession with Michael Cole which — fortunately — went nowhere. Working under Paul Heyman, Heidenreich entered a feud with The Undertaker which saw the two work a program over the last few months of 2004. After a short-lived allegiance with Snitsky, Heidenreich became a fan favorite and challenged for the United States Championship. From there, he became a tag team with Road Warrior Animal which saw a new version of the Legion of Doom.
Despite some backlash due to using the Hall of Fame gimmick, Heidenreich and Animal won the Tag Team Championships in 2005. Released from his deal in 2006, Heidenreich wrestled in Puerto Rico and the United States before calling it quits on his wrestling career.
4. Chris Nowinski
Chris Nowinski didn’t have a long career during the Ruthless Aggression Era in the WWE. A runner-up on the first season of Tough Enough, Nowinski eventually worked out a deal with the company and was a snobby-like character due to his real life education from Harvard. Unfortunately, however, he was never more than a lower-level player during his two-year tenure and eventually retired from in-ring competition due to post-concussion syndrome. Those injuries, however, have catapulted him into his post-wrestling career.
Nowadays, Nowinski is a massive advocate for concussion detection as he’s created the Concussion Legacy Foundation while also speaking on various panels about head trauma and CTE. He may have not made a huge impact as a wrestler but his presence will be felt in a bigger way than he could’ve ever imagined.
On the season where Chris Nowinski was the runner-up on Tough Enough, it was Maven who walked away with the top prize. Someone with a great presence and look, the youngster was positioned in a strong way early on as he eliminated The Undertaker from the Royal Rumble match. He entered a feud with the future Hall of Famer for his Hardcore Championship, which he eventually captured from The Undertaker. While Maven was featured in some prominent feuds — including one against Evolution — he was never able to gain much success as a wrestler.
Released in 2005, Maven wrestled across the independent circuit before calling it quits on his wrestling career in 2007. He did, however, get the itch for a comeback as he made his return at Create A Pro Wrestling Academy in 2015. He’s also been active on television as he’s been featured on shows on VH1 and BET, among others.
2. Zach Gowen
Zach Gowen may have been around for a short amount of time but there aren’t many wrestlers that accomplished as much as he did during his stint in the WWE during the Ruthless Aggression Era. Between 2003 and 2004, Gowen worked alongside Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper and wrestled matches against The Big Show, Brock Lesnar, and Vince McMahon himself. Made famous for due to his prosthetic leg, Gowen was a fan favorite during his short tenure on the SmackDown brand.
Released from his deal in 2004, Gowen returned to the independents where he found more success than ever before. On top of spending time in Ring of Honor and IWA, Gowen is currently a member of the Juggalo Championship Wrestling roster. He also started a non-profit organization for children with medical issues and competed in the qualifying round of the American Ninja Warrior competition.
1. Muhammad Hassan
When thinking back to the Ruthless Aggression Era, Muhammad Hassan may not immediately come to mind. But once you hear his name, it’s hard to forget the impact he had in the WWE. Arguably the most controversial figure in WWE history, Hassan debuted a couple of years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was seen as a sympathizer. During his time with the company, both he and his manager Daivari were featured in some high profile moments, including a beat down from Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 21 and a tag team match at the following pay-per-view against Hogan and Shawn Michaels.
His feud with The Undertaker, however, received the most backlash. After Daivari lost to The Undertaker on an episode of SmackDown, he began to pray, which brought five men in ski masks down to the ring to choke out and beat down ‘Taker. The unfortunate events of the bombings in London took place days later, on the same day the segment aired, and the WWE received much criticism from the angle. The plan was for Hassan to be a monster heel and World Champion, but that was obviously put on the shelf after multiple media outlets picked up on the segment. Despite appearing for autograph signings today, Hassan has retired from the wrestling business and is far removed from his on-screen character.
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