05th Sep2019

Top 10: Terrible Things that WWE Did During The Attitude Era

by Chris Cummings

The WWF’s Attitude Era is a beloved moment in time, and a moment that I was lucky to experience during my teenage years in the 90s. It was a time where wrestling was a smaller product and the WWE wasn’t the only circus in town. WCW was raging on with ratings often topping WWF (for 83 weeks in a row, at one point, if you haven’t heard) and ECW, smaller for sure, was making waves as an underground radical grungy wrestling movement that existed on the fringe and created a buzz for a good while. WWF, in the mid-90s, were struggling to find something to pull the fans back in and reinvent themselves, but once Steve Austin turned “Stone Cold” and became the biggest thing going, and other characters and wrestlers like The Rock and DX began to shake the walls, WWF became a huge deal again. It was, for a time, cool to be a fan of pro-wrestling. People who didn’t talk about wrestling were actually talking about it. People who didn’t watch wrestling were watching it. The casual audience was huge, and us die-hard fans went along for the ride too. It was a lot of fun. It was full of weird ideas, crazy moments and iconic sequences that are still a blast to go back and watch. Still, for every Austin Beer Bash and Hell in a Cell classic there were some pretty damn bad ideas too. Vince Russo had some good ideas when he wrote for WWF but he had some pretty terrible ones too. He isn’t on his own. Every writer who has written WWF television has had great ideas and awful ones. The Attitude Era, though, is often lauded as the greatest time in wrestling. It was edgy, it was exciting, everyone has a character and a storyline, the list of Hall of Fame level talents is exceptional, hell, even the announcing was amazing… but, we all know about the amazing things that happened during that time, so I wanna just go back and point out ten of the terrible things. I mean… I hate to be negative, but I think it will be fun to look back on the things that The Attitude Era did badly. So, let’s go.

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10. The Greater Power

Now… I’ll begin with a storyline that ended with a guff rather than a kaboom. The higher/greater power angle in WWF was all about revealing a persona that was leading The Undertaker and The Ministry of Darkness in their evil ways. It was said that Christopher Daniels was considered at one point. In the end, though, WWF went back to the same-old and revealed Vince McMahon as the Greater Power in the tired and over-done “it was a set-up all along” finish that WWF played to death in the late-90s. This was a terribly anti-climatic end to a storyline. They did this a lot. I mean… Rikishi being revealed as the guy who ran down Steve Austin? Anti-climax too. Still… when I think of missed opportunities in this era and moments where I sighed and said to myself “wow, that sucked”… this is up there. “IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, AUSTIN!”… Oh dear.

9. Blood, Blood and more Blood

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I always thought (and still do, to some degree) that there was a place for blood in wrestling. Sometimes, when used in the right place at the right time, blood could up the drama of a match and create something more violent and intense than it would otherwise be. Look at the incredible Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Steve Austin match at WrestleMania 13. It’s iconic. The blood helped. The Attitude Era, however, did it to the point where blood just didn’t matter anymore. People were bleeding on RAW every week. Every hardcore match had a bloody forehead. Every match with a chair-shot had a bloody face. It was everywhere. Big matches. Small matches. Matches between guys who weren’t even feuding. Blood was… just there. It took away the drama. It took away the effectiveness. Now, we very rarely see bloody in a match, and when we do its most often accidental. Do I wish we got more of it? Meh… I don’t know. Maybe sometimes I think blood could help a match feel more vicious and dramatic, but… this era made me indifferent and tired of seeing it. Like a lot of things in this era, it was over-done and WWE had no choice but to pull back massively.

8. The Light-Heavyweight Division

Now, the WWE Cruiserweight Division and 205 Live isn’t perhaps booked the best (although, if you watch 205 Live weekly, the booking is much better and the matches are regularly excellent) but it’s way better than WWF’s attempt at it back in the late-90s. It all began with good intentions in 1997 with Taka Michinoku winning the belt, but then… he had hardly any opponents. WWF just didn’t care and so they didn’t sign any guys for Taka to work with. He had Brian Christopher, sure, and a few lucha guys that they brought in sometimes (Pantera, Aguila) but overall… it was doomed from the start. Over on WCW they were doing it correctly. WWF, though, and their views on smaller-guys back then, treated their Light-Heavyweights as a joke. As the division went along, it became less and less of a thing. I mean… the guys in WWE who are in the Cruiser weightless now are phenomenal athletes and entertaining as hell, be is Murphy, Ali, Drew Gulak, Chad Gable or Cedric Alexander, but back then… it was just Taka on his lonesome and then eventually… nothing at all.

7. The Roster Wasn’t Better, Guys!

The Rock. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. D-Generation X. The Undertaker. Kane. Mick Foley. Goldust. Edge & Christian. Kurt Angle. Jericho. Benoit. Eddie. The Attitude Era had an array of unbelievable talent at the top part of the card. Some of the biggest and most popular guys came out of this era. It’s hard to not count is as the greatest of times when you look at that list. There were other awesome talents too, in the mid-card and such. It was a good time, for sure. BUT… the roster now is deeper and absolutely packed with talent. Perhaps men and women who are more talented than the rest of WWF’s roster back then. Beyond the names above and a few others, we had a lot of duds in the WWF. We had jobbers and guys who weren’t exactly the most exciting to watch, and some pretty bad wrestlers too. The top of the card was stacked and heavy, for sure, but the remainder was a mess. Guys who were past their prime years, guys who had never been over. Brakkus. Midian. Gillberg. Tom Brandy. “Marvelous” Mark Mero. I could go on and on. I think overall, today’s roster is a much more talented group overall. Can the top guys now compete with the top guys then? Not really. But… with folks like AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, The Undisputed Era, The New Day and the depth of rosters across WWE and NXT, it’s hard to look at this incredible current scene as anything other than incredible too, and there’s more of them.

6. Wrestling?

Ok, now this will divide opinion, but it must be said that today’s in-ring wrestling product is superior to much of what we saw in this era. Now, there were some exceptional matches to be found in the 90s, undoubtedly, and The Attitude Era had its fair share of stunners, but there was also a whole lot of stinkers. The in-ring was much more based around storylines, weapons, ref-bumps, run-ins, screwy finishes and gimmicks than it was an in-ring battle. The athleticism of today’s talent is so obviously better, and I think it’s fairly obvious that WWE in 2019, when it comes to the matches themselves, is better. Is the product as exciting? Are the characters as interesting? Are the promos as energetic and edgy? No. Not always. But the wrestling? It wasn’t the best time for that. It really wasn’t. Back then it didn’t stand out just how disjointed it all was. The matches were often really short and overbooked, and going back to watch a show from 1998 or 1999, it really does stick out like a sore thumb.

5. The Exploitation of a Legend

WCW did it with Scott Hall (remember “Last Call” Scott Hall, anyone? Ugh) and WWF did a similar thing with one half of one of the most legendary and beloved tag-teams in the history of pro-wrestling, The Road Warriors. It was widely known that Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) had his demons and went through issues with drugs and alcohol that would ultimately lead to his untimely death in 2003 aged only 43. WWF decided to book an angle in which Hawk would begin walking to the ring appearing inebriated and out-of-it. He would fall off the ring apron, he would stumble and lose matches, and the announcers would put over how he was not in good shape. The angle would end with Hawk attempting to jump off the top of the Titantron in order to end his pain, but was “pushed off” by Droz. This whole sickening storyline was shameful stuff from WWF. Hawk having to act drunk and messed-up was one thing, but the fact that he had his own struggles made it all the worse. You could see that the Legion of Doom didn’t enjoy this stuff, and WWE never mention it now. Terrible.

4. Mae Young’s Little Bundle of Joy

One of the angles in The Attitude Era that I always cringed at and found awfully difficult to enjoy back then, and still today, was the one involving Mae Young and “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry. A romance storyline, it saw Mark and Mae dating, it saw Mae stripping as Mark tried to over her up with his jacket, it showed them in bed together, but the most well-known moment of this story (for obvious reasons) was the time that Mae, a legendary wrestler in her own right during her day, gave birth to a bloody mannequin hand. The segment, in which we saw Gerald Brisco heaving into a trash-can as Mae Young delivered the gloopy sloppy slimey hand from her nether-region was terrible. It was brash and juvenile humour, something that was part-and-parcel of this era, but it just wasn’t funny or entertaining to me, or to many people back then. I think, due to its absurdity, it’s looked back on much more fondly now, which is odd. This was dire.

3. Too Many Headshots

Going back and seeing the sheer amount of shots to the head with weapons like steel chairs back in this era is painful. Knowing just how much damage these shots to the head would turn out to be makes them incredibly difficult to digest twenty years later. Mankind’s ordeal at Royal Rumble 1999 in his match with The Rock is one example of this going too far. Suffering countless chair-shots to the head (more than they’d agreed upon beforehand according to Mick Foley in his book), this match shows just how far past the line WWF went with this stuff in the 90s and early 00s. We don’t see any shots to the head anymore because of the lasting damage we now know it can do. The 90s, especially this era, swung for the heads like it was going out of fashion, and it was, thankfully.

2. Brawl For All

When WWF decided to go ahead and grab a bunch of the more underused wrestlers and have them fight each other in shoot-fights each week on RAW, nobody was pleased. The Brawl For All tournament featured a bunch of guys, from Bradshaw (JBL), Bob Holly and Dr. Death to eventual winner Bart Gunn, Savio Vega and The Godfather. Nobody came out of this in a better position than they went in, except for Gunn perhaps, but it didn’t last when he was knocked out in record-time by Butterbean at WrestleMania 15. Many of the guys were injured, many ended up looking weak and the fans chanted “we want wrestling” and “boring” on a weekly basis as this boxing style tournament plodded on. Terrible stuff. Interesting to see, sure… but badly executed and ill conceived.

1. Sexualisation Season

Whether it was Mr. McMahon making Trish Stratus bark like a dog, The Kat taking her top off on Pay Per View, Sable ripping her clothes off every ten minutes or the various other moments in which women in that era were portrayed, WWF back then was a different world. In 2019 we’re lucky enough to see women wrestling each week and having some damn fine matches on the regular. Back then, and yes it was a different time, we saw women treated and portrayed as sexual objects, often to be used by the men. It’s super awkward to go back to watch this stuff now. I mean, sure… Sable was incredibly popular with the fans in this era and got a huge pop when she went out there, but the way she and the rest of the women (except Chyna) were portrayed was iffy. It was a time when scantily-clad women were pouring beers down their shirts, having bra and panties matches and bikini contests, and it took a long while for this type of stuff to go away. Now that it has, it’s even weirder to see this stuff. I, for one, don’t miss it. I watch wrestling, and always have, for the wrestling. Seeing women kick some ass is much cooler than seeing women spanking each other in a pillow fight.
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There you have it. I want to say though… because this is a bit of a negative piece, and I like to be a positive wrestling fan. I loved this era. I have so many fond memories of it. From the various moments involving Steve Austin beating up Mr. McMahon and driving to the ring in various vehicles, to the chicanery of DX, to the exciting debuts of guys who jumped-ship from WCW like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and X-Pac, to the various wild and brilliantly thrilling matches. I loved being a teenager in this era. I love to go back and watch it too, and though the things above stand out to me as reasons I’d prefer to not see it ever return, it was of its time, it worked, and it created this amazing time in wrestling. Man, it was cool. Keep your eyes out for an article where I’ll be talking about 10 of the BEST things from The Attitude Era.


Thanks for reading!

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