You'll notice most of the people on this list played a key role in WWE's success in the 1990s. After all, the company helped define shameless television during this time. It grew up right alongside lowbrow tabloid talk shows like Jerry Springer, Maury, Ricky Lake which covered controversial subjects like violence, sexuality, homophobia, and others. Of course, unlike talk shows like Oprah, which might cover these subjects in educational, informative ways, Springer and others relied on malicious and self-depreciating humor to get people talking.
The WWE never really wanted to enter the "Attitude Era." It, like Springer, was forced to because of plummeting ratings. By the end of Jerry Springer's first season, for example, ratings had dipped exponentially, and the network was thinking about cancelling the show. It quickly hired a new producer who transitioned the show into the raunchy TV series we now all know and love. The WWE went through a similar transition. With increasing competition from WCW's Monday Nitro, WWE began to switch up its formatting. It started to air two-hour live episodes every Monday night and portrayed more aggressive, controversial content.
Without the "Attitude Era" and its many shameless stars, the WWE might not exist today. Of course, not all of the people we cover are from this Era of wrestling. One, in particular, is from The Realty Era and gave one of the industry's best, most realistic pipe-bomb promos ever aired only a few years ago. Of course, his anger and outrage was mostly directed at those who proceeded him—wrestlers from the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era who didn't want to step out of the spotlight.
There aren't many wrestlers as shameless as Goldust. When he returned to the WWE in September 1995, Dustin Runnels dressed in gold and black, wore a long blond wig, painted his face, sported a flowing robe and moved and spoke in suggestive mannerisms. Back then, his character was weird, spooky, and certainly ahead of its time.
14 Hulk Hogan
For years Hulk Hogan was the quintessential company guy. He was the face of the WWE in the 1980s and early 1990s before eventually leaving for WCW. Yet, when he came back to McMahon's company in the early 2000s, there was no love lost between Hogan and Vince McMahon. The former was in a high profile match at WrestleMania X8 with The Rock, and in 2005 was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
13 Mick Foley
12 D-Generation X
D-Generation X (DX) defined the word shameless. After all, their signature move and slogan was a "crotch chop" and the catchphrase "suck it!" DX didn't care what they did, when they did it or who they did it to. The group was a vital part of the Attitude Era's success and a crucial component of the WWE beating out WCW in the Monday Night War.
11 Shawn Michaels
"The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels did more than break hearts and bodies on his way to becoming Mr. WrestleMania. He destroyed relationships and almost himself along the way. Michaels never shied away the spotlight in the ring or backstage. He was part of a notorious group called "The Kliq" and was infamous for trying to hold back superstars such as Vader, The Rock, and later on CM Punk.
10 Macho Man Randy Savage
Based on his history in the wrestling business, Randy Savage's last name fits him well. His toxic and public relationship with Miss. Elizabeth is well documented as is his potential one with Stephanie McMahon. He basically treated Elizabeth like crap off the air. A 2013 story from the New York Post spotlighted Savage's relationship with Elizabeth saying he'd order her to "keep her gaze fixed on the ground backstage so she wouldn't make eye contact with any of the other guys."
8 The Rock
7 Mae Young
Mae Young was a legendary performer even up to her final appearance on the March 4, 2013 "Old School" edition of Raw. She debuted in 1939 and wrestled in various associations around the country. In September 1999 she debuted in the WWE on SmackDown!. Jeff Jarrett welcomed her into the promotion by smashing a guitar over her head. That incident would set up Young's WWE career which can be defined, even at 76 years old, as fun and spontaneous.
6 Divas Before the PG Era
One characteristic that defined the "Attitude" and "Ruthless Aggression Eras" was scantily clad women. This was a time period when announcers, like Jerry "The King" Lawler, could say "puppies" (in reference to women's breasts) on TV and hoot and holler with zero repercussions.
Sunny didn't usher in the Attitude Era, but she certainly helped lead the way. Prior to Sunny, women were mainly used as valets or managers. While they weren't treated much better during the "Attitude" and "Ruthless Aggression Eras," Sunny showed the world that women could do way more than just escort men to the ring. She had no problem using her intelligence, beauty, and charm to win over the crowd and showcase to everyone that women could hold their own in front of the camera and on the microphone.
Chyna is a two-time Intercontinental Champion and arguably the most dominant woman to ever step foot in the squared circle. She can, or at least used to be able to, bench press up to 325 pounds. She was a founding member of D-Generation X, a member of The Corporation, and part of The Corporate Ministry, three of the most dominant groups in wrestling history.
3 Stone Cold Steve Austin
2 Vince McMahon
1 CM Punk
To say Punk left WWE on bad terms is an understatement. Although Punk held the WWE Championship for over 400 days, he still believes he was underutilized and taken advantage of. Through the years, Punk's anger built up and he eventually unleashed a fury of insults at the company, its legend,s and management in a 2011 live pipe-bomb promo. While some believe the act was a work, he'd repeat much of that promo in various ways after he left the company.
In later interviews, Punk called out Ryback for injuring him and blamed the company for asking him to sign visas and take drug tests. He also blamed Vince McMahon and Triple H for constantly burying him as he tried to climb the corporate ladder to grab McMahon's "brass rings." Along with calling out employees, notably those who kissed McMahon's ass like Cena, Triple H, and The Rock, Punk was also upset the company forced him to wrestle while injured.
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