At some point between 2002 and today, the WWE made some major changes to their roster and programming. Some of today’s brightest and most loved superstars would find themselves stuck in a rut, if they were even given a chance to begin with during the Attitude Era. In the “good old days”, we saw stars that towered over their opponents, and lots of charisma and intimidation. It was a totally different world for the WWE and its fans. Not one that was necessarily better but definitely one that’s hard to recognize today.
In today’s more kid-friendly wrestling world, we see less nudity, nothing too hardcore, and more family-friendly programming. We recently posted an article about superstars of that era who would not be able to make it on today’s roster. Back then, genuine wrestling talent was put on a back burner in exchange for personality, brawn, and shock factor. Viewers would tune in hoping to see true hardcore matches, blood, beer, and naked women. Nearly fifteen years later the WWE world has drastically changed. They’re less focused on shock and violence, and more on PG programming and genuine wrestling abilities.
So it’s no surprise that many of today’s biggest stars would struggle heavily if taken back in time and given the opportunity to perform during the Attitude Era. Some of their greatest strengths today would have been their biggest downfalls back then. Some of them probably would have never even made it onto the roster in the first place. Things have definitely changed, and these are wrestlers of the new era who would not have been able to survive the Attitude Era.
If we are going by looks and strength alone, you may be surprised to see Sheamus on this list. Sure, Sheamus has the looks and the brute strength that the Attitude Era is known for. The tough, fighting Irishman is all look, but his character tends to get old and stale quickly. His mic skills aren’t half bad, but you’ve probably noticed that his promos always tend to feel forced and dry, plus he has no real charisma to boost his character.
He certainly isn’t the worst we’ve ever seen, not by far, but compared to the high level of talent and charisma we saw back in the Attitude Era, it’s pretty safe to say that a rather mundane character such as Sheamus would bore fans relatively early on. If tossed back in time to the Attitude Era, I don’t think he would have been even close to reaching the level of success that he’s reached today.
9. The Miz
The Miz stands out in this category for some pretty obvious reasons. He’s got great personality, he does great on the mic, and although he’s not a bad wrestler, he doesn’t quite have the look, size, or strength that we saw of the biggest stars in the Attitude Era. His stature wouldn’t quite fit the mold, however many still believe that he would fit in just fine during the Attitude Era – but as a manager, not as a wrestler.
He would be able to talk the talk, but not walk the walk, so to speak. His vocal and mic skills would be able to carry him through as a successful manager during that time period. In the ring, however, he would not have had nearly as much success as he does now. Back then, everyone was clawing for a spot on television, and there was just too much competition at the time. Had he made it into the roster of the Attitude Era, it’s easy to see him being pushed into the background when put up against the superstars of that era.
8. Sasha Banks
Let’s just put it out there now – Sasha Banks is a great wrestler. However, her talent and motivation is exactly what placed her on this list. Banks is known for being interested purely in the wrestling aspect of the women’s division. She has no interest in being seen as eye candy; she wants to be seen and taken seriously as a professional wrestler. It’s nearly impossible to imagine her partaking in the Attitude Era’s infamous bra and panties or bikini matches. Although that era did have a couple of genuinely talented female wrestlers, they were mostly seen as a sexy sideshow. Banks would never fit into that mold, and she joined the WWE at the perfect time – when women are really being utilized for their wrestling skills, and not just their looks.
7. The Usos
The Usos started out impressive and strong, however it didn’t take very long for their gimmick to fizzle out and become mundane and stale. They tend to show us the same things over and over again, and their act is nowhere near as exciting as it was in the beginning. The Usos certainly have potential, and given the right Attitude Era opponents, it is possible that they could have put on a good show.
However, they also lack in the mic and charisma departments – two of the most important traits of Attitude Era superstars. This leaves many believing that if they were around back then, they wouldn’t be able to carry themselves to a very high level of success; at least not as high as they have achieved today.
If it isn’t obvious already, the main reason Kalisto wouldn’t survive the Attitude Era is his size. The 5’6” wrestler would have been considered a cruiserweight back then, and we all know how none of those guys really ever made much of an impact during their time in the WWE. It was all about size, strength, and of course, attitude – which is pretty much everything Kalisto lacks. Today, Kalisto is entertaining in his own right, and is also relatively talented in the ring. Unfortunately, in comparison to the big names of the Attitude Era, we have a feeling that Kalisto would never quite measure up (no pun intended).
5. Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger would never in a million years survive the Attitude Era. He’s got the look, and his athletic ability isn’t half bad either, but he lacks in so many other departments that make it incredibly hard to imagine him gaining any sort of success during that time. He is simply as stale as they come. There is no real personality there, no character development, and his character got old and quite boring over time.
Swagger is hardly even utilized in today’s roster, so imagine him competing for a spot against the major charisma of the stars in the Attitude Era. If given a chance, he may have been able to survive for a short time, maybe make it to low mid-card status, but it’s pretty safe to say we wouldn’t have seen him in upper mid-card, and certainly not main event status. Sorry, Swagger.
Bayley is another relatively cut-and-dry case – a female wrestler with a “good girl” gimmick making it big during the Attitude Era. Okay, I’ll wait for the laughter to die down before continuing…
Bayley is talented, but she would never make it in the Attitude Era; not with her current gimmick, at least. Her character is known for giving out hugs, being relatable, sweet, and likable. Basically, she goes against everything that the Attitude Era was – especially the women’s division. With bras and panties and bikinis galore, the Attitude Era was prime time for scantily clad, naughty women. It’s safe to say that WWE officials would have never even given her a second look. Given a new gimmick, maybe she’d survive, but the “good girl” image would have never even gotten her onto the roster back then.
Neville is another case just like Kalisto – size truly did matter in the Attitude Era. Smaller guys just didn’t have much success. In addition to his lack in stature and strength, there is hardly any personality or charisma there either. Has Neville ever even cut a promo? We certainly don’t remember them if he has. He’s easily forgettable and too far in the background, even in today’s roster. Imagine putting him up against the likes of Stone Cold or The Rock? Forget about it, there is no way he’d survive very long back then. He would most likely be scrapped and forgotten about early into his career; that is, if he was given a chance in the first place.
2. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn wouldn’t survive the Attitude Era for quite a few reasons. His character is an upbeat, relatable, nice guy who is passionate about what he does. The biggest downfall would probably be the fact that he doesn’t have the, well, attitude. It was called the Attitude Era for a reason, you know!
He does lack a bit on the mic, and although he is plenty talented in his wrestling abilities, he doesn’t quite have the build or personality to fit in. His current character just wouldn’t give him the boost he would need to excel in the rough, tough, attitude-filled era of the ’90s. He’s too nice and likable, and that would unfortunately end up being his downfall.
1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan had such passion, and such genuine talent that it ended up skyrocketing him into super stardom in today’s roster. His charisma on the mic, true wrestling skills, and good guy gimmick worked out perfectly for the image the WWE looks for today. However, if Daniel Bryan tried to get a spot on the roster in the Attitude Era, the things that made him so successful today would end up being his downfall. Back then, fans didn’t want to hear how much a wrestler loved his job, or his fans, or his boss and the company.
No, they just wanted someone to get beat up – all the time. Aside from one of the biggest gripes about Bryan being his size and stature, it is also his love of his career, always wearing his heart on his sleeve, and people being able to see themselves in Bryan that would hinder him from being successful in the Attitude Era. The exact reasons that fans love him today, are the exact reasons that he would probably be laughed right out of Vince McMahon’s office back then.