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.
As the WWE shifted towards the "Attitude Era," so too did Goldust who began to use a highly illegal move called "Shattered Dreams." Goldust would prop his opponents up on the second turnbuckle and kick them in the groin.
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.
The problems came years later when he was captured on tape using racial slurs with his daughter Brooke who he accused of sleeping with a black man. Soon after the tapes leaked, WWE immediately removed all mentions of Hogan on its website and terminated his contract with the company.
13 Mick Foley
Foley was one of the WWE's most unlikely champions, but he deserved it nonetheless. Working his way up through the independent circuit and WCW, Foley earned a reputation as a brawler and someone who could take punishment. During one WCW match, Foley tore off two thirds of his ear and underwent surgery the same day. Later that year, Foley had to choose between getting further surgery on his damaged ear or wrestling for the WCW Tag Team titles. He chose to wrestle and won his only championship with the company. He was later pissed that WCW refused to create a storyline revolving around him losing his ear.
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.
While the group, as a whole, never shied away from controversy, neither did their individual members. When DX's run ended, Triple H became embroiled in a backstage affair with Stephanie McMahon and two of its members, X-Pac and Chyna, created an adult-oriented tape.
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.
Michaels backstage run-ins with McMahon are also famous. Vince Russo recalls one time, prior to WrestleMania XIV, when Steve Austin was getting a push over Michaels. Michaels, once the company's go-to guy, reportedly felt jealous and wasn't afraid to tell McMahon off. Russo thinks that Vince was simply "too afraid" to talk to Shawn at that time and their relationship quickly deteriorated.
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."
While employed by the WWE, Savage also reportedly had a relationship with an underage Stephanie McMahon. While rumors still persist as to whether that truly happened, Dave Meltzer noted on Wrestling Observer Radio that he didn't believe the story at first but that, "you know, after a certain number of years when it's just, you know, ideas are brought up for Randy Savage and the reaction--there's something real, real bad because, let's face it, I mean, I couldn't count the number of times Vince said he would never do business with Hulk Hogan, and he always does."
Once a member of the controversial D-Generation X, X-Pac has since had trouble staying in the good graces of the WWE. After leaving the company, X-Pac participated in an adult-themed home movie with Chyna, attempted suicide, and had numerous run-ins with the law. While X-Pac did make an appearance at WrestleMania 31, time will tell whether the company will fully trust him again.
8 The Rock
While The Rock today is one of the most humble Hollywood actor's you'll ever meet—he bought his housekeeper an SUV in 2014—"Attitude Era" Rock was a whole different story. His character was brash, sexist, and intimidating. He had no problem bullying others who he believed to be lesser in stature than himself. Of course, this was kayfabe, but it still took guts to use words like "jabroni" or reduce female entertainers to nothing more than objects in front of a live audience.
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.
In 2000 Young was named "Miss Royal Rumble" for winning a bikini contest against a group of beautiful WWE women. From there, she took part in numerous segments with the Dudley Boyz who put her through tables. One of the lasting memories fans have of Young is her infamous on-screen relationship with Mark Henry who impregnated her (kayfabe). That set up an ongoing story line that eventually concluded with her giving birth to a disgusting, bloody hand.
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.
Women often took part in evening gown, pudding and lingerie matches. In the 1998 evening gown match at the Unforgiven Pay-Per-View, between Sable and Luna, Jerry Lawler yelled out, "Sex is the most beautiful and natural thing money can buy J.R." So there you go, that about sums it up. Pretty sure you'll never hear those words again on WWE programming.
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.
If that isn't shameless enough for you then maybe this will do the trick: She also recently agreed to star in an adult film with Vivid Entertainment. She originally turned down a $100,000 offer from Vivid because it wasn't enough money, but the two sides came to an agreement soon after.
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.
So, where did it all go wrong for the "9th Wonder of the World?" Things began to fall apart when she decided to strip down for Playboy, became inadvertently part of a love triangle between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and joined the adult entertainment industry following her WWE release.
3 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Whether it was dousing his boss, Vince McMahon, in beer, swimming in booze with Goldberg, flipping off the crowd, or abusing his ex-wife Debra Marshall, Stone Cold has always been surrounded by controversy. Much of it he created himself. In a 2007 interview with Hannity & Colmes, Marshall said, "The last time—and I've never talked about this. The last time Steve attacked me, alcohol was involved. He jumped on me. He's on my back with his knee in my back, pounding me in the back and in my face. I thought I was going to die."
2 Vince McMahon
McMahon's shameless theatrics go well beyond the squared circle, as he's been a part of numerous cover ups (i.e., steroids, love affairs) and cheating scandals. In an interview with Howard Stern in 2002, McMahon was asked whether he was having sex with "just the girls hanging around wrestling or whether or not he went outside." Vince responded, somewhat remorsefully, "no, no, you know, fair game." McMahon is certainly as shameless as they come.
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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