To reinvigorate a dying product in the 90s, World Wrestling Entertainment had no other choice but to drastically change its product to combat World Championship Wrestling in the ratings. Luckily for Vince McMahon, the bold move worked. Enter the birth of one of the most talked about periods in wrestling still to this day - The Attitude Era.
Long gone were the days of goodie goodie wrestlers like Hulk Hogan telling you to eat your vitamins and say your prayers. We had Stone Cold Steve Austin chugging back beer as if it fueled him to whoop ass. The Rock was entertaining millions and millions around the world as the king of talking trash. We roared with D-Generation X when they told everybody to suck it. Beautiful women were showing us things we didn't believe possible on live television. Mick Foley had three personalities, each of which more violent than the other. Speaking of violence, to be a fan of wrestling in the late 90s, you had to be okay with offensive, crass, crude, and brutal content. And if you're reading this, you probably were.
When we think of the Attitude Era, many great moments will rush to your head. Here at TheSportster, we believe that all these great moments can be defined with photographs. And since we all adore the Attitude Era so much, here are a whopping 15 images to paint the perfect definition of what it truly meant to be a fan of WWE at the greatest period in sports entertainment. We're fairly certain all these images will be familiar to you.
15 Tyson! Right Hand! Down Goes Michaels
The main event between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIV has to be one of the defining moments in the early days of the Attitude Era. Not only did it mark Austin's first reign as champion, but Michaels' momentary swan song from professional wrestling due to a back injury that would require immediate surgery.
Guest star Mike Tyson would act as the special enforcer for the contest, siding with the Rattlesnake in the end after clocking out the Heartbreak Kid with a single punch after Michaels decided to get in his face for costing him the match. As you can see from the photograph above, it made for one hell of a moment. At the time, Tyson was one of the biggest names in sports and his appearance at WrestleMania gave WWE the boost it needed in battling WCW in the ratings. Also, who does attitude better than Iron Mike?
We're lucky Michaels stuck around for the event because if the same thing were to happen today, there is no way he would have been cleared to wrestle with a broken back.
14 Shock Value
With the amount of gun violence on the rise in North America, chances are practically zero that you will ever see a gun on WWE television again. However, in the Attitude Era, anything could happen. Remember that one time on Monday Night Raw when Stone Cold Steve Austin had a gun pointed directly at Vince McMahon's head on live television? This wasn't a taped segment either like the incident with Brian Pillman. It was in the middle of the ring in front of thousands of screaming fans (a lot of them even concerned for poor Vince). Austin would bring the chairman to tears, and McMahon would plead for his life in order to stop the Rattlesnake from painting the ring red with the chairman's brains. Ick!
As it turned out, the weapon was actually a toy and unfortunately for McMahon, he would pee himself before figuring that out. Shocking television. Yes. But also hilarious? Oddly, yes.
13 Brothers of Destruction
What happens when your manager sleeps with your mother, who births a half brother who just so happened to be locked in the funeral home you decided to burn down because you're an evil maniac and you hate your family? Just ask Kane, the brother you wish died in that funeral fire. And the brother who also happens to be a fireball shooting maniac hellbent on exacting revenge.
What sounds like a ridiculous plot more suitable for a slasher movie turned out to be one of the best feuds of the Attitude Era, with Kane's debut in 1997 providing fans many memorable moments, including epic promos, and an incredible encounter at WrestleMania XIV, as well as Kane and Undertaker's Inferno Match at Unforgiven '98 (pictured above). In fact, the brothers of destruction are so bada**, they're some of the only survivors of the Attitude Era to still wrestle to this day. Something tells me they need one more encounter.
12 Hell in a Cell
The Hell In A Cell Match first introduced in '97 has since become historic, popularized with the help of The Undertaker at the beginning of the Attitude Era. The match has proven so popular that WWE has now included an annual pay-per-view event dedicated to the barbaric spectacle with the last HIAC event featuring The Phenom himself and the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. We then got another HIAC match at WrestleMania between 'Taker and Shane McMahon. But if you want to ask our opinion, none of the Hell in a Cells from recent memory compare even remotely to the originals. That is probably a good thing though as WWE has toned down the violence for the sake of their performers.
Although the first Hell in a Cell with Shawn Michaels was special (actually marking the debut of Undertaker's evil brother Kane), the second with Mankind proved to be even more of a success. The reason? Mick Foley's willingness to destroy his body for the sake of entertainment. What was more brutal? When Foley was thrown off the cell or through it? You decide.
11 A Roster Like No Other
There is no denying how stacked the roster was at the peak of the Attitude Era. Not only did we have top stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Mankind, we had Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and the Dudley Boyz bring a much needed rejuvenation to the tag team division. D-Generation X (The New Age Outlaws, Chyna, and X-Pac) all helped to contribute to the success of the Cerebral Assassin, as much as he may not like to admit it. Before Jeff Jarrett was smashing guitars over people's skulls elsewhere, he was doing it in WWE. Sable's popularity grew so large, it led WWE to bring back its women's division.
Superstars like Goldust, Mark Henry, and Val Venus never failed to shock audiences with their outrageous behaviors week in and week out. And if you look at the image above, you can see the list goes on, further solidifying the fact that every Superstar or Diva in the late '90s managed to get themselves over with the fans. It seemed as if everyone had something to do as a result of the fast-paced nature of the product at the time, something we hope the New Era implements better than has been seen in recent years.
10 Rock N' Sock Connection
These two are a perfect example of how to turn two bitter enemies into tag team gold.
One thing you have to give a lot of credit to the Attitude Era for is how hilarious the content could be. It also didn't hurt that The Rock had the charisma to draw in millions, and millions, anytime he appeared on screen. Pair that up with having him team with one of the most lovable faces of all time in Mankind, and it made for must-watch television when the two formed The Rock 'N' Sock Connection in 1999. And must watch it was, as when Mankind hosted the hilarious "This Is Your Life" segment for The Rock on a September episode of Monday Night Raw.
As a wrestling fan, if this is something you've never had the chance to watch, you're in the minority as the segment broke records, and became the highest rated segment to ever occur on WWE programming.
9 Invading WCW
WWE had to do anything and everything they could in order to combat World Championship Wrestling in the Monday Night War, and they did it with wild success. WWE had little choice as WCW had been turning fans away from WWE programming by spoiling pre-taped episodes of Raw live on air (jerk move, Bischoff!). Vince McMahon would have to take it one step further by sending his top stars directly to the competition!
With both Raw and Nitro live on Monday night, luck would eventually have it that both shows would set up tents in the same spot - the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. So what did Vince McMahon think up in that genius brain of his when this would happen? He had D-Generation X ride a war tank directly to the building wherein WCW was hosting Nitro. What resulted was must-see television, scoring WWE a point in the Monday Night War that we of course know would be ultimately won by McMahon.
8 Sex Appeal
Not only was the Attitude Era littered with extreme violence, but you can't forget about the sexual content abundant during this period in professional wrestling. The WWE Divas were so successful, in fact, that Vince McMahon would continue to showcase his women in states of undress for upwards of a decade before having to tone it down for a new PG product. Rightfully so, as Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte are too good for Bra & Panties and Lingerie matches. I think we all can agree on that. You could argue that Sunny began the trend, but Sable would bring it to a whole new level.
Sable and Jacqueline met in the first Bikini Contest in WWE at the Fully Loaded PPV event in 1998. The recent Hall of Famer Jacqueline's bikini was so revealing, we didn't think Sable could top it. However, if you take a peek at the picture above, she did. After this event, fans would come to expect titillating outfits from women's wrestling for years.
In the Attitude Era, things could get ultra violent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
After Mankind was the inaugural champion of the Hardcore Championship, it didn't take long for the belt to become mega-popular, with the title being defended pretty much every episode of Raw and Smackdown throughout its four-year activity. And when Hardcore Holly's younger cousin Crash won the belt, he took it to the extreme when he decided to create the 24/7 rule. This rule would allow the belt to be defended any time, as long as an opponent brought a referee along to officially count to three. It may sound ridiculous, but it actually was one of the most entertaining titles active throughout the height of the era.
Fun Fact: The longest reign would be for 97 days by The Big Boss Man, while the shortest reign would last 12 seconds, held by one of Godfather's Ho's!
Tables, ladders and chairs. Oh my!
With hardcore wrestling gaining more popularity at the start of the millennium, new match types would be invented. Although some were stinkers (like the Kennel From Hell Match featuring the Big Boss Man and Al Snow), others are still featured on WWE programming to this day. Take for example the TLC Match first introduced in 2000.
And we're not talking about tender, love, and care. We are talking about heavy and painful tables, ladders, and chairs that would be used in a way these instruments were never intended.
With the tag team division being dominated by popular teams such as the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, and the Dudley Boyz, Commissioner Mick Foley would create the unique match that catered equally to each team's strengths. These matches catapulted all six of these men's careers in professional wrestling and will go down in history as some of the very best that ever played out.
Although current WWE programming can be quite bizarre (the Wyatt Family comes to mind), it doesn't compare to the stuff we were fed in the Attitude Era. Not only was one wrestler fed a plate of his dead dog (another Big Boss Man and Al Snow reference, sorry, not sorry), but other wrestlers were being murdered on national TV. Murdered!
People were being buried alive. People were being drowned in wet cement. People were running over people in their cars. It's quite horrific really. And to top it off, when The Undertaker had his own Ministry of Darkness thing going on, he decided to sacrifice a few poor individuals to try and gain control of the company. One of those people was Vince McMahon's sweet and innocent daughter Stephanie (innocent at the time, in her earlier appearances with the product). It would all wind up to be part of some lurid plot of Vince McMahon's, but of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin would save the day.
It was one of the crazier storylines in WWE we'd have no choice but to learn to love.
4 An Olympic Gold Medalist
Although WWE already had tons of top tier talent, Vince McMahon would never fail to introduce newer talent to appeal to the masses. And Kurt Angle had to be the cream of the crop.
It's fairly obvious the introduction of the real life Gold Medalist was a way to bring more attention to the WWE, but did anyone actually expect Kurt Angle to be so freakin' good!? Not only was he amazing in the ring, but his promos were so top-notch, it didn't take WWE long to thrust him into the main event scene, working side by side with Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock, to name a few of his superstar cohorts.
It's a shame Kurt Angle is no longer wrestling for Vinnie Mac because we all know damn well that if Kurt ever does make a return, the ratings will skyrocket.
Oh it's true. It's damn true!
3 Making the Switch
Throughout the Monday Night Wars, many great moments were made when wrestlers would jump ship from the WWE to WCW. When Alundra Blayze dumped the Women's Championship in the trash bin, it had every fan of professional wrestling talking. When Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall made the jump from WWE to WCW to form the New World Order in '96, it helped WCW immensely.
But in focusing on older stars, WCW failed to capitalize on the younger talent, one of the major reasons for WCW's decline towards the end of its run. But what was WCW's loss would be WWE's gain because not only did WWE bring in Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn before buying out WCW, but they would also hire Chris Jericho - one of WWE's smartest moves in 1999.
On an August 9th episode of Raw, Y2J would mark his debut by interrupting The Rock. And from that moment on, Raw was Jericho, and the Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla would go on to become one of the biggest Superstars in professional wrestling.
2 Beer Please
What happened if you appeared on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown and you decided to cross Stone Cold Steve Austin on national television? Well, most likely you would get a Stone Cold Stunner. But that was only if you were lucky. Sometimes, you would get something much worse! Remember that time he destroyed Triple H's vehicle with a forklift just because? Recall, that time he poured cement into Vince McMahon's corvette? How Stone Cold got away with doing all this without repercussion from local authorities since there was obvious video footage of the crimes being done is beyond me. But this is professional wrestling after all. It's so silly, it's amazing!
One of the most entertaining Steve Austin moments from the Attitude Era comes from the picture above, when he decided to race to the ring in a beer truck before proceeding to douse the Chairman (of course), his son Shane, and The Rock with a hose full of beer! It's a moment that tops most best moments of Raw lists, so it should be no surprise it's listed here!
1 The Rock vs. Stone Cold
It's pretty obvious what's going to be said about these two individuals. There will never be another Stone Cold Steve Austin and there will never be another Rock. These two could never be involved in a bad segment even if they tried. The Attitude Era may have given these two the platform to become the mega stars they did, but these two took the ball and ran with it each and every week, helping to establish World Wrestling Entertainment as the top wrestling company in the world. The Rock and Stone Cold would wrestle each other numerous times with numerous classics, three of which would occur at the grandest stages of them all, WrestleMania XV, X-Seven, and XIX.
With the New Era upon us, and with WWE trying to reinvigorate its product with the recent brand extension, us fans are hoping stars like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Kevin Owens can duplicate the success of our past Superstars. The Attitude Era may have been a special time in professional wrestling, but we believe it's possible a new era can be what everybody starts talking about. Let's make it happen, WWE! We believe in you!