On December 15th, 1997, the WWE fully embraced a raunchier, more cutting edge, creative product, causing viewers of Raw is War to multiply exponentially in the coming years. The move was reactionary to rival WCW, with chairman Vince McMahon formally announcing that the WWE (WWF at the time) would no longer adhere to a traditional “good guys versus bad guys” ideology. It would instead blur the lines of reality, and fully explore the gray area of characters, in hope that the product became more entertaining to viewers. Deemed by many to be the most successful time in wrestling history, the Attitude Era lasted for five years and revolutionized the way we view professional wrestling.
The above statements are all facts, with the transition of professional wrestling being documented for audiences around the world. What isn’t so much fact, is whether or not that edgier product was the greatest in wrestling history. I know it’s blasphemy to even suggest that the Attitude Era wasn’t perfect, but nothing is perfect, and the time period of 1997-2002 in the WWE is no different.
With the accessibility of content on the WWE Network, it has never been easier to rehash some of our favorite moments during the Attitude Era. While searching for the golden moments, like Stone Cold delivering Stunners to Vince McMahon, you end up wading through lots of…well...garbage.
Don’t get me wrong, even the moments that were not that great were still somewhat entertaining. For example, we all loved watching The Godfather dance out to the ring, and we recited along with him as he invited us aboard the hoe train; but in retrospect is he that much different than someone like Adam Rose? They both come out with a group of people, both have a catchy song that gets the crowd fired up, and both always have a good time.
Keyboard warriors will say “this guy is a jerk, Godfather had way more charisma than Adam Rose. You can’t even compare those two.” Thank you keyboard warrior, you have proved a point for me, being that the reason superstars and acts like The Godfather appeared to have more charisma or connection with the crowd, is because they had no filters. In 1997 WWE literally did whatever they wanted to on Raw, to the point of showing near nudity, and barely bleeping out expletives. The PG era superstars could thrive, if they didn’t have to stick to scripts, and weren’t afraid of losing their jobs for being creative.
After saying all that, I am now going to tell you why the Attitude Era as a whole is overrated. Going into this list, I am going to need you to remain objective, and remember that the writer of this article was also raised on the Attitude Era.
If you don’t agree (which you won’t) with our reasoning, please sound off in the comments below and tell us how you feel.
10 Too Many Title Changes
While we still have too many title changes today, the Attitude Era started this trend and the trend of title reigns becoming meaningless has proven to be tough to break. Having an abundance of titles, such as the European, Hardcore, Light Heavyweight championships didn't help either, and we would often see a new champion every month. We also got some unworthy champions.
While Vince McMahon holding the title isn't as bad as David Arquette winning the title, it still was flat out ridiculous and something often dismissed by Attitude Era apologists as entertainment. To put it this way, as great as The Rock is, his longest reign as champion was four months. Don't you think the WWE should have had their top stars define the era with long reigns?
9 Lots of Forgettable Characters
While it’s true that the Attitude Era brought us some of our favorite iconic characters, it also gave us a slew of forgettable ones. Do you remember Tom Brandi? How about Mr. Hughes, or Meat? If the answer is yes to all of these, then obviously you have employed Google. It seemed like at the time, WWE just threw everything out there, and hoped that some of their characters would stick with fans. For every Rock we got a faction of forgettables like The Oddities, and I dare you to try to name all of The Oddities without looking.
8 Not Much Wrestling
During the Attitude Era, WWE focused heavily on following through with storylines. This meant that wrestling often had to take a backseat to backstage segments, and in-ring promos. If you were forced to name five great matches that happened on Raw, you would be hard pressed to do so. And to those who say that they were building up to the pay per views, the Ruthless Aggression Era delivered great matches on Raw, SmackDown, and the pay per views.
It’s not that Attitude Era stars weren’t capable of having great matches, it’s just that WWE would rather show you Mae Young giving birth to a hand, than a five star match in the year 2000.
7 Degradation of Women
Understanding what we do now in regards to target demographics, it makes total sense that the WWE would parade women around the way they did during the Attitude Era. Their target audience was men aged between 18 and 34 years old so they did what any TV show in search of ratings would do. However looking back in retrospect, how can you not consider the time period as one of the most misogynistic times in wrestling?
Women were over-sexualized, and treated as props, with commentator Jerry Lawler serving as the mouthpiece to perversion. The women were beautiful, but equally athletic; so why were were woman who can do a moonsault forced to participate in a Bra and Panties match? Not to mention that I would never want my sister watching a women’s stable named P.M.S., or watching the time that Vince McMahon made Trish Stratus bark like a dog on all fours.
6 No Shawn Michaels
It’s almost like Shawn Michaels missed the entirety of the Attitude Era. Shortly after he lost his smile in 1997, HBK entered a feud with The Undertaker and severely injured his back. Despite a short run as commissioner, and some sporadic appearances, Michaels didn’t return to in ring competition until SummerSlam 2002.
Because of his absence, Michaels missed out on a feud with The Rock, most of the Monday Night Wars, The McMahon-Helmsley Era, and the entire Invasion Angle. The WWE history books are missing an integral Superstar, during of its hottest run.
5 Stone Cold was Injured
Stone Cold is undoubtedly the most popular and recognizable star from the Attitude Era, but the Former WWE Champion was often out hurt. In another case of moments versus matches, Steve Austin spent more time participating in storylines than matches during the Attitude Era. He injured his knee at In Your House 13: Final Four in 1997, and suffered a broken neck during a match with Owen Hart the same year.
These two injuries would continue to plague the Rattlesnake, even forcing him to take a year off in 1999 for a fusion surgery. All of his injury and recovery were right in the middle of his huge run on top during the Attitude Era.
4 It Had the Perfect Set Up
The Attitude Era was able to reap the benefits of following a very bad period of wrestling. The cartoony 90s was the precursor to The New Generation, which led to the Attitude Era shortly after. Fans who had grown up with Hulk Hogan telling them to eat their vitamins and say their prayers were itching for something new and different.
Vince McMahon created the polar opposite of what the fans had been getting, which made them happy...and blind. Blind to the fact that the reason that they loved the new era so much, was because it was not the old one.
3 It Was Really Repetitive
Without looking, I bet you could tell me the format for an old episode of Raw. Better yet, I bet you could tell me which segment The Rock would come to the ring and cut a promo; you could probably predict the beginning, middle, and end of that promo as well.
The era was established under the guise that anything could happen, yet we always knew what would happen. We knew that there was going to be a brawl, and that a match wouldn’t end by pin or submission. The WWE audience became so conditioned to “unpredictability” that we came to predict it, which undermines the entire reason for the era.
2 The Nostalgia Factor
Remember your first roller coaster that you got on as a kid, and remember going back to it as an adult and not being as excited. That analogy is similar to the WWE’s Attitude Era; you appreciate it for being great, but only because it’s framed in such a way that you remember the experience more than the content.
If you would go back and watch some of your favorite moments from the era, you might cringe a little, or at the least not find things as entertaining as you once did. A common theme in the Attitude Era was that a lot of matches were slow and lacked a good pace, save for a few stud performers.
1 It Doesn't Hold Up
I’m sorry but it hasn't aged well, and it doesn't belong in the world of today; the Attitude Era fits perfectly in the zeitgeist of the late 90s, and early 2000s. Watching Steve Austin get crucified was surreal at the time, but watching it now can make you wince in embarrassment.
It’s not that it’s shameful to still cherish the era for the memories it gave, but the entire world has outgrown its flawed ways. When you compare it match for match the Attitude Era can’t hang with the era that preceded it, or followed it; the only thing it does better than those two time periods, is use shock value.