Because of the Monday Night War, the WWE roster was forced to up their game and up it in a big way. Just about every superstar who came to the WWE in late 90s peaked at the right time. Vince McMahon’s ability to promote and tell stories peaked, The Undertaker found new ways to be evil, DX got more audacious, The Rock started trash talking, Stunning Steve became Stone Cold, Mick Foley made not one but three characters famous, and ladies like Sunny and Sable made men melt to their knees.
While the boys and girls knew how to get it done in the ring, a lot of the credit for how everything gelled together has to go to Jim Ross, who was head of talent relations at the time. On his podcast, he will occasionally mention how he put this roster together like a manager would assemble a team. He’d look for good workers and tried to see who would mesh well together. When problems arose backstage, he’d call on his locker room leader, The Undertaker for advice and support on how to handle the situation.
It was a time when everyone clawed for a spot at top and while many of these men would find World Championship gold or legendary status, no matter how great you were, there was very limited space at the top and many stars got left by the wayside, until now. Read on for the most underrated stars of the Attitude Era.
15 Jeff Jarrett
“Ain’t I Great?!” Jeff Jarrett would exclaim as he applied his figure–four or wound up his guitar for the ol’ El Kabong. Vince McMahon might look down on the second generation star due to the way he left (he held McMahon for more money otherwise he wasn’t working Unforgiven 1999), but until that time, Jarrett was a prime hand for the company, doing whatever was asked of him, be it portraying a lip–syncing country star, wearing some sort of Roman gladiator getup, or being part of a stable with Southern Justice. Double J deserves a lot more credit than he has ever been given, one of the few times Russo was right in WCW was when he booked Jarrett to win the strap.
14 D'Lo Brown
It might be cliché to say, but if you looked up “underrated” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of the first “EuroContinental Champion.” D'Lo Brown had it all, catchy theme, a strut to the ring, and dynamite moves that included one of the best Frog Splashes in the business. Sadly, Brown’s underratedness might be his own fault. After a botched powerbomb spot which Brown rendered Darren Drozdov a paraplegic, D’Lo has said himself that while the accident could have happened to any wrestler, he would second guess every move he performed in the ring since that day. Second guessing every move and still a solid worker–imagine if the accident didn’t happen what could have been.
13 Dan Severn
They call Brock Lesnar "The Beast," but he wasn’t the first. Dan Severn was The Beast during the Attitude Era. Severn, a fighter who dominated the MMA world while UFC was still in its infancy, was the NWA Champion when the company invaded the WWE. Severn came in with Jim Cornette and once that angle fizzled out, Severn would form an uneasy alliance with Ken Shamrock. It should have led up to a big time WrestleMania match between the two MMA foes, but instead, according to the Beast, Yhe WWE wanted him to tattoo 666 on his head and become a member of The Undertaker’s Ministry, which he had zero interest in doing. Despite debating if he should shoot on everyone in the Royal Rumble, The Beast and the WWE parted ways amicably.
12 Molly Holly
When fans think of Attitude Era Divas, they usually think of the ones who were all too willing to roam around in barely–there clothes. While some of those Divas could wrestle, few could hold a candle to Molly Holly. Trained by Dean Malenko and coming from being “Miss Madness” in WCW, Holly would go on to win the WWE Women’s Championship two times but is seldom mentioned alongside names like Trish Stratus and Lita. Rest assured, the fairest of the Holly cousins is every bit as deserving of the accolades that those two have gotten over the years and should be a role model to all of the current Main Roster and NXT Divas.
“X-Pac Heat” is not a term of endearment, it means that the fans are booing you more in a “get off my TV” fashion then you’re a great heel. But before X-Pac heat became a thing, Sean Waltman was one of the premier catalysts of the entire Monday Night War. After a stint in WCW as Syxx, he returned to the WWE and aligned with DX. After giving one of the best shoot promos of the day, Pac would continue to have great matches and be the punk degenerate DX was famous for. Sadly, as Triple H matured and Yhe Outlaws split, X-Pac’s antics fell flat and the “X–Pac Heat” term was born.
10 2 Cold Scorpio / Flash Funk
How underrated is 2 Cold Scorpio? How about award–winning, as the guy was named Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer 1997 Most Underrated Wrestler. An extreme aerialist who dazzled audiences in WCW and ECW as 2 Cold, he arrived in the WWE as Flash Funk and brought his 450 Splash with him. Even being accompanied by The Funkettes couldn’t help, as the guy never gained traction in the WWE. Having never even won a title in the company, Funk would revert to his Scorpio namesake to team with Farooq shortly before leaving the WWE for Japan.
Whether it was Tina Ferarri in GLOW or Ivory in the WWE, Lisa Moretti owes her entire wrestling career to a friend who dragged her to an audition for GLOW, and fans owe Moretti’s friend too. Like the rest of the gorgeous ladies, Moretti was trained by Mondo Guerrero and would eventually transition to the WWE, where she would accompany D'Lo and Mark Henry to the ring before going out on her own, winning the Women’s title three times, being part of the Right to Censor group, and a head trainer during Tough Enough. If Ivory doesn’t get inducted into the Hall of Fame, it would be a crime.
8 Steve Blackman
Blackman proved his toughness while working for Stampede Wrestling and was set to make his WWE debut in the late 1980s, when he would contract dysentery and malaria while wrestling in Africa. It would take Blackman six years to fully recuperate and once he had, he returned to the WWE and fought with both Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock. But aside from being involved in a match that saw Shane McMahon take a dive off the SummerSlam scaffolding, Blackman was reduced to comic relief with Al Snow, when instead he should have had a nice long feud with any incoming stars like the Radicalz, Tazz, or Kurt Angle.
7 Val Venis
The Ravishing Rick Rude of the Attitude Era, Venis will forever be remembered for being involved in vignettes with adult entertainers like Jenna Jameson and the infamous Choppy Choppy Pee Pee segment of Raw. However, underneath all of the antics lies a pretty good worker that never got his due. While he should be remembered for his in-ring work which won him European, Intercontinental and Tag Team gold, Venis is remembered more for his less–than PG angles with the likes of Kaientai, Terri Runnels, and The Godfather.
In a podcast with Colt Cabana, Gangrel claimed that Vince McMahon had no interest in bringing a vampire character to the WWE and had less interest in putting him over. Taking a cue from the film, “the Lost Boys,” Gangrel not only got over as the leader of both incarnations of The Brood, but The Brood itself will go down as one of the more popular stables of the Attitude Era. Once The Brood disbanded, Gangrel’s weight issues got him released and he never was given a fair shot as a singles star. But the Vampire Warrior continues to have an impact to this day, as he trained Rusev.
With his hulking frame, it came off as a shock that Test simply appeared as a bodyguard to Motley Crue when they appeared on Raw, instead of having vignettes and fanfare heralding his arrival. Unfortunately, the big guy couldn’t gain any traction and merely simmered around bigger stars of the day, whether he was part of The Corporation, The Union, or marrying Stephanie McMahon. Test wasn’t the first big man Vince McMahon tried to mint as a star, and certainly not the last, but considering he was trained by legends like Leo Burke, Bret Hart, and Dory Funk, Test might be the best big man to have never made it big.
Making his name in Japan, Vader would come to the states and decimate everyone WCW put in his path. When Vader would make his debut at the 1996 Royal Rumble, he also unfortunately needed surgery and he would be suspended in order to get the surgery. By his own admission on Stone Cold’s podcast, Vader came back too early and was a mere fraction of the monster he was in WCW. He never won a title in WWE, but still had memorable matches against the likes of Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Along with Goldberg, Vader remains the only WCW star that had more success there than in the WWE
3 Owen Hart
Owen Hart had every tool a wrestler could want–aerial and mat skills, charisma for miles, and he was part of the one of the greatest wrestling families, but according to his widow, Martha, Hart had continually searched for profitable careers outside of the wrestling ring. If you believe that, then it is easy to see why Owen Hart was always near the top of the card but had never cracked through. However, his in ring work shows a different story, as the King of Harts could have amazing matches with anyone he stepped in the ring with, and for that fact alone Owen deserved a run with World Title.
2 Terri Runnels
Sunny, Sable, Lita, Trish. The Attitude Era had a bevy of hotties running around and none were sultrier than Terri Runnels. Debuting as Goldust’s “director,” Marlena, the diminutive bombshell would play a part in several of the more risqué storylines of the Attitude Era. First, as Brian Pillman’s servant for 30 days, then as one of Val Venis’ conquests and eventually as one of the devilish women of PMS. Seldom a wrestler and always a sexpot, Terri Runnels was able to push the boundaries of good taste, which is exactly what you needed in an Attitude Era star.
1 Ken Shamrock
The fact that Ken Shamrock never became World Champion is a shame. The fact that Bret Hart endorsed it, even wanting to drop the belt to him instead of HBK, makes it even more of a letdown. Throw in the fact that several months after the World’s Most Dangerous man would leave to continue his MMA career, Kurt Angle would debut and have a similar in ring style makes it a travesty. In any other era, Ken Shamrock reigns supreme for at least a year, but in the Attitude Era, where every single wrestler peaked, Shamrock got overlooked for more colorful stars and was a perennial top mid–carder instead of the legend he deserved to be.