WWE's Attitude Era is considered one of the golden ages in professional wrestling. One of the edgiest and most entertaining periods of wrestling history, it gave birth to some of the most entertaining and incredible wrestlers/teams to be mimicked and used as reference for years and years to come. But which of these wrestlers, taken directly from this period in time, and dropped into the current world would succeed?
The Reality Era is a whole different monster in terms of professional wrestlers and their connection with the fans. Where kayfabe is dead and wrestling fans feel like they can write better television than WWE Creative, characters and gimmicks that worked during the Attitude Era may fall flat with today's audiences. Due to many people understanding that it's a show, the show is live, and these people are trying to put on a show under the guise of athletic competition, their suspension of disbelief barely ever comes into play. People have a hard time getting lost in the WWE's storylines nowadays because they know that if a person isn't acting real, they jump on it immediately and boo them until they're Blue Meanie in the face. So what does a wrestler have to do in the Reality Era to get over?
We look at the wrestlers who are very much over right now and those who are not. The wrestlers that are truly over with the fans are the one's who act as real as they possibly can. John Cena is probably the most over person in WWE just because he garners such a huge reaction from how he genuinely is in real life. Though his Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect moniker is about as over done as a hanging piece of meat in a Rocky movie, the fact that his wrestling persona and his real persona generate such a huge response every single time he comes out of that curtain, it accomplishes what most wrestlers dream of. So who among the Attitude Era wrestlers/teams, babyface or heel, would provide the biggest pops and sustain success in this smarter-than-you era of fandom?
Note: Any Attitude Era wrestlers who are currently wrestling in the Reality Era, like the Dudleyz or Big Show, won't be included.
This list will act somewhat as a rebuttal to this piece: Attitude Era Wrestlers Who Wouldn't Make It Today. Many of the entries don't overlap and are completely on the same page regarding their feasibility in the current landscape, though there are a couple that we're going to look at from a slightly different angle, like the first one on our list...
One of the Samoans from the Wrestling Anoa'i Family, the dancing machine known as Rikishi was one of the most athletic big men to ever wrestle and his ability to connect with fans with his dancing ability after matches proved to be a huge staple during the Attitude Era. It's that same ability to connect with fans, impressive skills, and look that would not only set himself apart from other wrestlers in the Reality Era today, but make him a possible WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He also would have options to create a faction with his two sons beside him. Think of it: The Usos and Rikishi dancing, flying, and running through everyone while showcasing the Anoa'i Family's ability at its finest. Drop Rikishi into the now and you have one of the best performers working in a time where people not only appreciate skill, but also entertainment value as well.
14 The Acolytes Protection Agency
The APA had one of the simplest gimmicks in wrestling history: drink beer, smoke cigars, play cards, and take jobs protecting various wrestlers from whatever tries to hurt them. Being that Farooq and Bradshaw were two very mean, very big, and very bad ass individuals, their services were sought out by many a cowardly wrestler. However, they were also two highly entertaining wrestlers as well. The whole concept of the stand-alone door and entering their "office" was one of the funniest gimmicks during the Attitude Era. Now they can be heel or babyface, depending on who hires them, but there are a multitude of scenarios that could play out in the Reality Era that would not only be great television, but give us believable storylines. Seth Rollins hiring them for bodyguard reasons or Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose using them against the Wyatt Family. The Authority using them for their own sinister purposes or the APA spearheading the tag team division and winning championships. Whatever their use, it would be believable, it would be violent, and it would be awesome.
The Ninth Wonder of the World was one of the most intimidating wrestlers of her time. She was a physical specimen, being able to wrestle in the men's division and capture the Intercontinental Championship. Now since she was the strong, silent type, she was not too keen on the mic, but imagine if Chyna was dropped into the Reality Era now. A sense of legitimacy and athleticism would follow her as she would gorilla press her way through the Divas division. She would be a revolution in herself in that she's big, strong, and beautiful. Gone would be the Bellas and their (though it has gotten better) inability to wrestle when it wouldn't even feasible for Nikki Bella to defeat Chyna in any match, Twin Magic or not. Matches against Charlotte, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch would need to be taken to a whole new level if the Attitude Era Chyna came into play.
12 New Age Outlaws
The Tag Team extraordinaire of the D-Generation X faction, Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gun were a fantastic tag team. If Billy Gunn was the muscle and skill of the group, Road Dogg was the joke-cracking, rhyme laying mouthpiece of the duo. Now, The New Age Outlaws made a brief appearance as old timers when they and Corporate Kane took on The Shield about two years ago at WrestleMania 30, which was nothing but a squash match. However, if the Attitude Era New Age Outlaws and their wisecracking, old school insulting ways hit the screen against say, the New Day? Oh my goodness, that would be tag team television gold. Xavier Woods and Road Dogg going back and forth in one of the most brilliant shouting matches would destroy Twitter with so many hashtags, it would crash the Internet. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Mr. Ass having brilliant matches with one another would be so fantastic, even the IWC wouldn't have anything to complain about.
11 Edge & Christian
E & C was one of the more interesting acts in the Attitude Era. Their ability to wreak awesomeness no matter where they went, along with giving people the chance with flash photography to enjoy their visages forever, made them one of the most entertaining acts in WWE. That's what is severely lacking from the tag team division today. Besides New Day, no team is being entertaining outside of their ability to wrestle. And that's what sets New Day apart from everyone else and gets them over with fans. This is what E & C could bring to the table. A team that is not only gifted inside of the ring, but outside of it as well. A team that could trade barbs with New Day and The Dudley Boyz now that they're back in the fold.
10 The Hardy Boyz
Team Xtreme set the bar for the most dangerous spots and their entertainment value in the ring being among the most....well...extreme. We got Swanton Bombs and Diving Leg Drops from atop 20 foot ladders along with some of the most beautiful tag team moves ever in history. It literally was Poetry in Motion with these brothers. Their high flying spots would fit in perfectly with The Lucha Dragons, The Ascension, and Prime Time Players. Their ability would also raise the bar for these teams.
On top of that, their entrance is one of the few entrances that incited fans to start rocking out as the guitar riff hit and Jeff Hardy in his glowing paint (albeit possibly drugged out of his mind) started head banging like he's trying to shake the demons out of his head. The Hardyz would be a welcome addition to the Reality Era, if they could make sure their personal problems don't derail them like it did in the past.
9 Chris Benoit
Technical prowess and otherworldly skill have become valued by both hardcore and casual fans alike. Today, most fans can tell when a wrestler is performing top technical moves while also being able to sell opponent's moves like a sugar high telemarketer. This is why the Rabid Wolverine would be welcomed with open arms in the Reality Era. Before Brock Lesnar was tossing people around with the German Suplex, Benoit was the original mayor of Suplex City. What may also be beneficial for Benoit: the Drug & Wellness Policy. If the policy of now was employed during Benoit's time, we may have had many more years of the Wolverine than we got and a less gruesome end as well.
8 Kurt Angle
The Kurt Angle of the Attitude Era was the good, wholesome American Hero with a better-than-thou attitude. What makes this version of Kurt Angle so convincing as a character is because of his pedigree: he's an Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time NCAA Champion. This type of character that acted better than you because he was legitimately better than you and flaunted it like a peacock pissed people off. Bo Dallas may have done the watered down version of this by having people "Bo-Lieve," but it was Angle's legitimacy, mat skills, and overly better-than-thou attitude on the mic that really angered people. I's enough that a person is better than you at something in life, but it's made thousands of times worse when that person rubs that, their medals, and their ass right in your face because they just want to. This kind of persona and how easily Angle hit it home during the Attitude Era shows that it can work in any day and age.
7 The American Badass Version of The Undertaker
The reason why we think the American Badass Undertaker would fit in better with the Reality Era versus the Undead Undertaker is simply because kayfabe is dead. For wrestling fans as a whole to believe that an undead wizard who controls an army of druids, constantly comes back from the dead after being buried alive and set on fire, and shoots lightning at his whims in a live action setting is impossible. This is why kayfabe was so important to a character like The Undertaker, in that he needed kayfabe to protect his undead character and give him the aura of an undead warrior who (for reasons only known to him) wrestles for the WWE title.
However, The Undertaker went through a change during the Attitude Era that also showed him to be a badass that was part of the Brothers of Destruction. That character would thrive in the Reality Era because of his realistic gimmick. The biker gimmick is taken from Taker's own penchant for motorcycles and legitimizes this gimmick of a bad ass who walks into his yard, disposes of all who come before him, and then rides out. A simple formula that works with The Deadman because he's tall, strong, and can tell one hell of a story in the ring.
6 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho was known to be a jack of all trades. A utilityman so to speak. In most intelligent circles of wrestling however, he was seen as the real deal. He could mat wrestle, he could fly and he had mic ability on par with the best this industry had to offer. His only knock (and which knocked him down pretty far) was his size. Given that in the Reality Era, size is no longer equal to being a top commodity in the WWE, Attitude Era Jericho would fit perfectly in the Reality Era. In fact, Jericho was one of the very first indie wrestlers who broke into WWE (after his frustrating stint in WCW) and had mountains of success. Sounds familiar doesn't it? CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Hideo Itami, Dean Ambrose and so many more followed the footsteps of Jericho after he took the lead. Seeing as how he was the pioneer and how far he has come, it only makes sense that Jericho would fit in perfectly.
5 Triple H
The Cerebral Assassin is now the COO of the company, but The Game was also one of the most integral parts of the Attitude Era. A conniving, manipulative sociopath of a character with an equally evil moveset, Triple H's character during the Attitude Era would definitely fit in with the Reality Era. Seeing as how Seth Rollins is essentially a clone of this character, why not have two of these characters? Two overtly evil, yet brilliant wrestlers working together to create a Two-Man Power Trip that is genuinely evil. It was hard to get behind that idea when Stone Cold and Triple H did it, but if Triple H and Seth Rollins were at the head of this abomination, it would be fantastic TV. The fact that Triple H was a fabulous worker in the ring, understood ring psychology, and was awesome on the mic only makes him that much more valuable to be had in any era.
4 Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid. Need I say more? The greatest performer in wrestling history could fit himself into any era. With the best selling ability and in-ring skill set, along with a wide range when it comes to his personality on the mic, Michaels is simply one of the best. What makes Michaels work so well is because he lived his character. He was HBK. He was the Showstopper. He was Mr. WrestleMania. That's why if you dropped him in an era, people could legitimately believe that the Attitude Era HBK was as legit as they come.
One of the most interesting characters from the Attitude Era, Mankind was the insane person. The guy who ripped his hair out, wore a leather belt mask, and scared the crap out of kids. Now, the Mankind character was nuts. He was downright unhinged. But, wouldn't that make for a great confrontation with Bray Wyatt? Two crazed individuals who have conversations with themselves, talk about ending opponents and believe their targets to be the bane of their existences...wouldn't that kind of crazed and disturbing behavior make for awesome TV? Now the big question for this to all succeed is if Mick Foley could portray this character all the time. That is how Wyatt succeeds at his character and keeps the mystique of the Wyatt character. This is Foley we're talking about, so we're just gonna put the big ol' check mark next to "yes" on that one.
2 The Rock
Attitude Era Rock was where it all began for him. Where he became the brash talking, elbow dropping, eye brow raising, Rock Bottom delivering son of a bitch we all know and love. However, could that Rock survive in the Reality Era? Well, he'd have to act within the parameters of the more PG marketing of the Reality Era, but seeing as how "ass" is being more and more readily accepted in TV today and seeing how "ass" is the....butt of most of Rocky's insults, The Great One's character would definitely be accepted. The kind of electricity only this Rock could deliver would not only be accepted, it would be welcomed with open arms by the people because they'd finally have a character that is something you'd love to be. A person loved by all and who talks enough trash to make a garbage truck whimper in terror.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Now, before a bunch of you go nuts into thinking because Stone Cold's character could never make it in the Reality Era because of the parameters set by PG Era that preceded it, why don't we look at Dean Ambrose's success in the Reality Era now? The only reason Ambrose hasn't stepped up into Stone Cold's status as the most popular superstar ever is because the writer's won't allow it, which is the logical concern and the reasoning behind Austin not making it in the article we featured at the start of this article...
However, imagine a character that did push all the boundaries and took now COO Triple H to the limit by doing dastardly things and raising all sorts of hell. You would love to see a rattlesnake come up and bite the boss in the ass and make him rue the day that they ever crossed him. Now, what do you think the company is more worried about when a person is garnering all kinds of attention to the product, good or bad, and creating more viewership? The parents who are complaining about their children or the gobs of money being poured into their machine because some beer drinking, ass kicking, loud mouth blue collar fighter is letting people live vicariously through him? That is the essence of what Stone Cold was and why people loved him so much.Now, could Austin live up to that persona in real life, which is required in this era? Oh, hell yeah.