During its nascent stages, WWE was all about big guys and cliched storylines that usually involved good reigning supreme over evil. People had had enough of ‘eating vitamins and saying prayers’ and they clamoured for a product that was contemporary and did not insult their intelligence.
Vince McMahon, the creative genius behind the show, gave in to their demands as he ushered in the “Attitude Era” which catered to a mature audience, replete with storylines that broke taboos. The divas weren’t merely eye-candies, they had their work cut out too! All in all, the Attitude Era was seen as a product that would trump the WCW to an uneasy second position.
Here are 15 events that define this infamous period in professional wrestling history:
1. Y2J’s switch from WCW to WWE
Who could ever forget the clock countdown to the new millennium, acting as a precursor to one of the most awe-inspiring entrances ever? Though Chris Jericho’s debut promo was maligned by The Rock, it proved to be one of the greatest eeeeverrrrrrrr… promos in the history of ‘Raw is Jericho’.
2. DX invades WCW
Adding fuel to the already blazing fire between the Monday Night Wars, Degeneration-X led by Triple H invaded WCW, clad in army clothes, amidst cheers from fans as they demanded the release of ‘hostages’ Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
3. The Corporate Ministry
How can you forget The Undertaker’s portrayal of a satanic megalomaniac as he joined forces with another megalomaniac, Shane McMahon, against a common enemy… Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
4. The birth of Degeneration X
The beginning of crude/slapstick humour in WWE culminated in this faction known as Degeneration X, which was the collective brainchild of Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Monday Nights were never the same again, because this foil to “The Hart Foundation” always had something to keep you entertained.
Watch the video here.
5. Kane’s debut
Exit Dr Isaac Yankem, enter ‘The Big Red Monster’. Kane’s debut at WWF Bad Blood, spawned a rivalry between him and his storyline brother – The Undertaker; something that changed the course of wrestling history forever- “two egos, bonded by blood.”
6. Judgement Day is Now!
Triple H squared off against The Rock in a memorable 60-minute Iron Man match. But as The Rock was being decimated by Triple H’s cronies, Kid Rock’s American Badass blared through the speaker systems and out came The Undertaker; riding his Harley to the ring, clad in biker attire.
7. The ‘Montreal Screwjob’
They say wrestling is all scripted, but this event, till date, stands out as a sore thumb. Vince McMahon, in cahoots with WWE employees, “screwed” the outcome of match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. At Vince’s behest, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell, despite Hart not tapping out to Shawn’s sharpshooter finishing move.
8. The birth of Austin 3:16 and the middle finger
Though this event happened way before The Attitude Era officially sought conception, it sowed the seeds for it. At King of The Ring 1996, after defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Stone Cold Steve Austin cut one of WWE’s greatest promos. This event anchored the birth of Austin 3:16, an anti-hero character, that changed the course of WWE and catapulted the business to the top spot, trumping WCW Nitro.
9. Mike Tyson – Steve Austin segment
Getting Mike Tyson to play a part in WrestleMania served as an important keystone in getting a competitive edge over rivals WCW. Choreographing a confrontation between Tyson and Austin, the night after the Royal Rumble, made headline news on ESPN! Need I say more?
10. Stephanie’s marriage to Triple H
Stephanie was all set to marry wrestler Test but Triple H had other plans. During Stephanie’s wedding night, Triple H rolled a footage that showed him driving an unconscious and drugged Stephanie through a drive-thru wedding chapel. This unholy alliance spawned (what would later be known as the) McMahon-Helmsley era.
11. Radicalz’ influx
With WCW going through a downward spiral, many superstars chose to jump the bandwagon. Notable out of the lot were Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Perry Saturn. The showmanship and technical skills they exhibited, catapulted them to instant stardom.
12. Stone Cold Steve Austin gives a stunner to the boss and gets arrested
Defying orders from the boss became a common feature and Stone Cold Steve Austin was always the insolent S-O-B, playing the outlaw. This feud became the first of many, leading to increased TRPs.
13. Austin’s beer truck moment
As a precursor to the iconic “Rock v/s Stone Cold” match, this event added all the requisite hype. After an exchange of words by both men, Stone Cold rolled out a beer truck into the Pepsi Arena, dousing The Rock and The McMahons in beer!
14. Mick Foley being thrown off the cell by The Undertaker
Whenever we think of ‘The Attitude Era”, this very incident froths to the top of the list of ‘most remembered, yet most what-the-fuck moments’. The Undertaker literally grabbed Mick Foley and threw him from the top of the cell (during a Hell In A Cell match) on to the announcers’ table below, eliciting JR’s famous “By God Almighty” phrase.
15. The Rock crowned as the Corporate Champion
In another “screwjob”, albeit storyline; Mr. McMahon gift-wrapped the WWF Championship for The Rock and handed it to him in 1998’s Survivor Series. This made him the “Corporate Champion” and the night ended with Vince, Shane and The Rock in a huddle.
Watch the video here.
Vince “opened the creative envelopes” as he pronounced the beginning of the Attitude Era on live television, aiming to cater to a mature audience, in a more contemporary way.