The Attitude Era is beloved for many wrestling fans that grew up watching in that time. WWE truly took their success to the next level with record-breaking ratings, attendance numbers and buy rates. Top-level superstars like Steve Austin, The Rock and Mick Foley made fans want to watch every episode of Raw and Smackdown in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, the Attitude Era was not as perfect as many fans like to recall.
Many of the storylines of the time have aged poorly given the nature of the shock value WWE went for at the time. The booking decisions left a lot to be desired when watching some of the segments back. We will look at some of the worst moments that make you wonder how poorly some of the ideas were of the time. These are ten of the worst Attitude Era booking decisions we can’t believe happened.
10 Rikishi running over Steve Austin
The storyline of a mystery wrestler running over Steve Austin with a car to write him off television to deal with an injury was huge for WWE at the time. Austin returned attempting to find the person to run him over after almost a year of build.
WWE went with a wild card of Rikishi as the mystery man. The huge push was a reward for Rikishi’s entertaining face run, but fans just didn’t view him as a top heel. Rikishi failed to present an equal presentation to his rivals Austin and The Rock. WWE eventually gave up and changed the angle to reveal Triple H as the one to pay Rikishi to run over Austin.
9 Triple H marrying Stephanie
The marriage storyline between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon created a real romance between the two that is still impacting the industry today. WWE however started the angle in one of the worst possible ways.
Triple H drugged Stephanie ahead of her marriage with Test and married her against her will at a chapel. It was later revealed that Stephanie was in on it to get revenge on her dad, but the decision was a poor one in general. WWE rarely shows the controversial moment on productions today.
8 Vince winning the Royal Rumble match
Vince McMahon became a focal point of WWE television around 1998 as the biggest enemy of WWE Champion Steve Austin. Following months of tormenting each other, McMahon made his way into the ring at the 1999 Royal Rumble event.
There were some fun moments like Vince training with his son Shane in segments parodying Rocky. Unfortunately, WWE got too cute with the angle and went all the way with their booking decision off Vince winning the Rumble. It made the rest of the roster look horrible that a non-wrestler won the Rumble match.
7 Mark Henry becoming Mae Young's boyfriend
The “Sexual Chocolate” gimmick of Mark Henry was funny enough to help him stand out. WWE took it to another level by having him get involved in a romance with the elderly Mae Young. The segments between the two often crossed the line and went too far.
One specific moment that fans still find hard to process featured Mae getting pregnant with Henry and giving birth to a hand. The Attitude Era created many regretful moments that are hard to watch today, and this booking decision is the perfect example.
6 McMahon family reunion in the main event of WrestleMania 16
WWE started to run into issues when they made the McMahon family the most important part of the show. WrestleMania 16 was the peak moment of this with the premise of a McMahon family member in every corner of a wrestler in the fatal four-way main event.
The big swerve featured Vince McMahon turning on The Rock to reunite with his daughter Stephanie, son Shane and now son-in-law Triple H. Rock taking the loss allowed Triple H to retain in the first WrestleMania main event featuring a heel winning. It was viewed as a disappointing moment and one of the worst angles of 2000.
5 Vince as the "Higher Power"
The infamous “Higher Power” storyline featured a mystery person leading The Undertaker to wreak havoc on Steve Austin, the McMahon family and others in the WWE. Vince McMahon was playing a face for the first time since becoming a legitimate on-air character.
It was revealed that McMahon was the “Higher Power” all along using his family as pawns to get revenge on Austin. The huge storyline ended with the worst possible reveal in true soap opera fashion. WWE missed a chance to make a star out of a young wrestler just for yet another Vince turn.
4 Hawk's addiction issues leading to him falling off Titan Tron
WWE tried to implement reality into their storylines in the Attitude Era. One controversial angle featured Hawk of the Legion of Doom dealing with addiction issues much like real life. The presentation consisted of low moments like Hawk stumbling and failing to walk on his own during matches.
However, things would escalate even lower when WWE teased that Hawk wanted to jump off the Titan Tron to end his own life. Droz tried talking to him leading to the fall from the tall structure. The RUSSO SWERVE came in when Droz was shown to actually push Hawk off the stage and reveal he was the one loading up Hawk with booze and drugs to take his place in L.O.D, but it just came off as cheap and tasteless.
3 Debra winning Women's Championship after losing match
The women’s division had some of the worst moments of the Attitude Era that WWE would try to ban from being shown again today. WWE sexualized the division with little to no credibility involved in the matches from an athletic perspective.
One low moment featured Debra ending Sable’s long reign as Women’s Champion after losing a Bra and Panties Match. Despite Sable winning by stripping Debra, WWE Commissioner Shawn Michaels awarded the championship to Debra for looking good in little clothing. The company has come a long way in portraying women over the past two decades.
2 Big Boss Man crashing funeral of Big Show's dad
The first WWE Championship reign of Big Show featured an emotional storyline that failed to connect. Big Boss Man was his first opponent as champion and WWE tried to gain sympathy by running a storyline that Big Show’s dad passed away.
Boss Man started harassing Big Show and his family during the sad time. A low point and horrible booking decision featured the segment of Boss Man crashing the funeral, linking the casket to his automobile and driving away. It did nothing to help Big Show’s reign as he lost the title a few weeks later.
1 Steve Austin turning heel at WrestleMania 17
WrestleMania 17 was the culmination of the Attitude Era in many ways. The historic event showcased the loaded talent roster, it was the first show after WWE purchased WCW to end the Monday Night Wars, and the main event of Steve Austin vs The Rock gave us the two biggest stars in a classic.
Despite a superb match and electric atmosphere, the booking provided a regretful moment with Austin turning heel to align with Vince McMahon. WWE would see their ratings and overall success start to decline for the first time in years. Austin even revealed he regretted the idea and wishes he stunned McMahon to end the night.