I’ve been around the block enough to know that the current WWE product is utter unadulterated shit compared to what they used to offer in days of yore. Youngsters like Thanos and Tall Mnyambo who are just exiting their teenage years may not know that, WWE has been constantly evolving in its style of programming to cater to new generation of audiences, while also keeping up with the moral standards of the day. New styles are showcased over several years in what is known as eras. There have been several eras, but the most pivotal of them are the golden and the attitude eras. The Golden Era was introduced in the mid to late 80s, and was characterized by heroes and antiheroes. This was the Hulk Hogan’s era, and he was the face of the company. It was during this era that Vince McMahon transformed the WWF from a popular wresting promotion, into a heavyweight in the industry. However, it was during the Attitude Era that WWF truly became a dominant force not only in wresting, but in the global entertainment industry, and it was during this era that the WWF/WWE reached its peak.
Mondays in the 90s witnessed a huge TV war pitting two rival wresting companies, WWE and WCW in what was known as the Monday Night Wars. The two companies went toe to toe in ratings, and their respective creative departments would work tirelessly to come up with storylines that would see them gain more viewers.
A little background, the WWE had introduced Monday Night Raw in 1993, and later in 1996 it’s rival WCW, introduced a similarly-named program, Monday Nitro.
WWE was initially the big dog in this fight, until Ted Turner, the media mogul invested his $$ in WCW. This gave Eric Bishoff, WCW’s main man, a huge war chest that tipped the scale to WCW’s favor. Bishoff would use the millions to poach top talent from WWE, buying the likes of Hulk Hogan, Razor Ramon, and Lex Luger. Unlike WWE which still clinged to its bad guy-good guy storylines of the 80s, WCW was more edgy and unpredictable, making it more popular among the primary target audience of the time, college-aged young adults. Vince McMahon’s WWE had to adapt or die. Hence the Attitude Era was birthed.
2. THE SUPERSTARS
Any list of WWE all-time greats is dominated by wrestlers who were birthed during the Attitude Era. Edge and Christian, Jeff and Matt Hardy, Kane, Kurt Angle; we can all agree that these are GOATS of the WWE. But neither of these were even headliners during the Attitude Era. Goes to show how much talent Vince had at his disposal. The era’s heavyweights like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, need no introduction, and they were all introduced during this era. These three were the audience baby faces, and they needed a villain to go up against. Enter Triple H, WWE’s best badguy bar none. Not to mention the previous era’s megastars like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and the Undertaker.
Speaking of the Undertaker, his match against Mankind was the epitome of what the Attitude Era represented.
3. THE STABLES
Stables are wrestlers who come together to form a group and have each others backs. It was during this era that stables really dominated, and would seem like an unstoppable force, not to be messed with. Some stables were so domineering, audiences thought they were unstoppable. The Nation of Domination comes to mind on this front. This unstoppable force had big men like Farooq, Bradshaw, The Rock, D-Lo Brown, and Mark Henry. D-Generation X (DX) is another force that blew people’s minds with their explicit content. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chyna, The New Age Outlaws, pushed boundaries in unthinkable ways. Then came the Ministry of Darkness, which made WWE feel like the set of a horror movie.
4. THE STORYLINES
The WWE creative department was on steroids during this era, as it gave us storylines that were more riveting that your kunguru’s favorite soap opera. There are many that I can point to, but the best by far was the debut of Kane during the Undetaker Vs Shawn Michaels match in 1997 Badd Blood. By this time the Undertaker had solidified his reputation in the WWE as an unstoppable evil force, who would tear down opponents without breaking a sweat. The deadman had fallen off with his former manager, Paul Bearer, who kept telling him that he would tell the world his big secret, that his brother who he thought dead, was still alive. Then on that October Hell in A Cell match, the Big Red Machine debuted. Maan, that storyline was goood.
5. THE ATMOSPHERE
The fans were central in making the Attitude Era the best time to be a WWE fan. Instead of smartphones, fans had posters. Ebu listen to this crowd reaction to the New Age Outlaws, who by in 2000 were merely mid-carders and heels (villains)
5. THE COMPETITION
As earlier stated, Eric Bishoff was tearing down WWE in ratings and stealing its top talent. He even had placed a huge offer on the company’s then top-dog, Bret Hart. Then the Montreal Screwjob happened, and people thought WWE wouldn’t survive such a setback. Lakini Vince ni nani, he transformed into his own bad-boss persona where he would bully his wrestlers and have his way. The audience needed an antihero and that’s when the stars aligned for Steve Austin, WWE’s all-time greatest. This match featuring the two (Vince and Austin) is when Vince killed and buried WCW forever in their Monday Night Wars. Vince would later in 2001 acquire WCW, making the end of the memorable clash.
The ruthless aggression was equally great, as it allowed both WWE and WCW fans to have their dream matches, pitting wrestlers from these two companies against each other. And amazing matches they were. The hilarious feud between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Booker T is a great example, not to mention the iconic Hollywood Hulk Hogan Vs The Rock match in Wrestlemania.
We also saw the emergence of amazing wrestlers like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero, na Rey Mysterio, and major stables like Evolution.
Lakini however great the Ruthless Aggression Era was, it didn’t achieve the success that the Attitude Era had.