The numbers do not lie. The Attitude Era of the WWE was the most successful period of time for the company when it comes to the number of eyes on the product. The WWE needed a shot in the arm after losing to WCW in the ratings over the course of 84 straight weeks, mainly due to the buzz The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) created, which seemed like a real-life story line that eventually turned into the nWo.
That shot in the arm came in the form of a few different WWE Superstars breaking out and changing personas to more of a realistic character that had an edgy side that was not TV-PG. Included in that group were Stone Cold Steve Austin and his epic battles against Vince McMahon, the formation of Degeneration X that paired together real life best friends in Shawn Michaels and Triple H, and finally the evolution of The Rock from a smiling white meat babyface to the persona that has become famous worldwide.
This particular article takes a look at several of these WWE Superstars from the Attitude Era then and today. Some of these wrestlers have great longevity as there are some guys that are currently active in the WWE such as Chris Jericho, the Dudley’s, Big Show, Kurt Angle, and Jeff Hardy. The Attitude Era did a great job in establishing stories for the midcard talent as well, making them stars. This article will include some of those wrestlers such as Ken Shamrock, Hardcore Hardy, and Val Venis.
Continue on to see the differences between these wrestlers from over 15 year ago to today.
30. THEN – Chris Jericho
We were all intrigued in 1999 when there was a Countdown To The Millennium Clock that started at 671 hours and some change and finally ended on August 9, 1999 when Chris Jericho made his WWE debut in a classic promo with The Rock. By the following December, Jericho was already a WWE Intercontinental Champion. Jericho further made history in December 2001 by defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night to be the first ever Undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
29. NOW – Chris Jericho
Even at the age of 45, Chris Jericho is still going strong with his current run of the WWE. Jericho is currently on the longest stretch of wrestling on television in quite some time as he has had some great feuds with AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. He also had a 50-minute run in the 2016 Royal Rumble before Ambrose tossed him out. This run seems to be coming to a close though with Fozzy going on tour soon, but he definitely can still deliver at his current age, which he thanks DDP Yoga for.
28. THEN – Hardcore Holly
If you weren’t a wrestling fan, you might think Hardcore Holly is someone in the adult film industry, but in the wrestling world, he is anything but. Bob Holly made a mark in the WWE with his tough style after surviving terrible gimmicks such as Thurman Sparky Plugg. He was one of the main players in the WWF Hardcore Championship picture becoming champion on six different occasions. Probably the best ever Hardcore Championship match is pictured on this entry when Holly took on Al Snow and the match ended up going into the Mississippi River.
27. NOW – Hardcore Holly
As you can see in this picture, Hardcore Holly is still in tremendous shape at age 53. Though he hasn’t wrestled in the WWE since 2009, he still remains active with appearances on shows here and there, most recently Pro Wrestling Showdown in the Netherlands in May 2016. When it was all said and done, Holly was a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion with the 1-2-3 Kid, Crash Holly, and Cody Rhodes, and will forever be remembered as a player in the WWF Attitude Era.
26. THEN – The Dudley’s
One of the most decorated tag teams in professional wrestling history would be The Dudley’s that consist of DeVon and Bubba Ray. Between WWE, ECW, and TNA, the Dudley’s have a total of 21 world tag team championships. They debuted in the WWE back in 1999 at the height of the Attitude Era and put the TLC (Tables Ladders & Chairs) match on the map with their battles against Edge & Christian and the Hardy’s. Just in the WWE alone, they have been tag champions 10 times from 1999 to 2005.
25. NOW – The Dudley’s
After being away from the WWE for ten years, the Dudley’s made a shocking return during Monday Night Raw in August 2015. It wasn’t just for a nostalgic run, they were back to being full time wrestlers wrestling the full WWE schedule. They returned as a face to take on the (then heel) New Day, but now the tables (no pun intended) have turned and the Dudley’s are the bad guys now and have been feuding with the Usos, New Day, and Enzo & Cass. They have made a great addition to the WWE’s renewed focus on the tag team division.
24. THEN – Big Show
Big Show made his debut literally in the middle of the Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon feud during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay per view in February 1999 by coming up from under the ring through the canvas to slam Austin through the steel cage, and inadvertently giving him the victory over McMahon; which allowed him to face The Rock at the following WrestleMania. Big Show would be at the forefront of the main event scene during the Attitude Era including the “McMahon In Each Corner” main event of WrestleMania 2000.
23. NOW – Big Show
It is amazing to see a man the size of Big Show still going strong in the WWE today at age 44. While he hasn’t been featured as much in 2016, he was still a consistent performer over the past few years. While we are unsure if the Big Show is starting to wind down his career or not, he has only made three appearances in 2016, with the last one being in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal where he had a much talked about showdown with former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.
22. THEN – Edge & Christian
Edge and Christian are regarded as one of the best tag teams in WWE history, but when you look at the history, they were not a team for all that long. They formed in 1998 under the faction of The Brood with Gangrel. After The Brood ended, they went on to be very successful in a short amount of time winning a total of seven tag team championships within the WWE. As mentioned previously, they have made their mark in history with the Dudley’s and Hardy’s in their Tables Ladders and Chairs battles with the specialty of Edge and Christian being the steel chair.
21. NOW – Edge & Christian
Edge retired with an emotional ceremony in 2011 due to spinal stenosis, while Christian retired quietly in 2014. Edge would go on to take on various acting roles, most notably with Haven that was on SyFy for a few years. He would also go on to be inducted into the 2012 WWE Hall Of Fame class. Today, you can see Edge and Christian together in what is one of the best shows on the WWE Network today, The Edge And Christian Show That Totally Reeks Of Awesomeness. The first season just wrapped up in the past week, and hopefully they come back for another.
20. THEN – D-generation X
There is no doubt that D-generation X was the catalyst of the Attitude Era, a new era of brash and explicit content that many think ECW was the fuel to that fire. The group started out with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna and later expanded when Shawn had to leave due to injury. But at its core, DX was Triple H and Shawn. Michaels was more established and would become the WWF Champion with DX, while Triple H was a star on the rise who would win the WWE European Championship. Their time as a duo in the initial DX run was short, but very meaningful.
19. NOW – Triple H & Shawn Michaels
As we fast forward to 2016, most wrestling fans are very aware of Triple H nowadays as he’s the Chief Operating Officer of the WWE on television, or his real title is Executive Vice President of Talent. He is also the creator of NXT as you see it today. The growth of NXT over the past two years has been exponential. He still is on WWE television regularly with The Authority regime. Shawn Michaels will make occasional appearances in the WWE as an ambassador, but today he’s more focused on his hunting television series. However, the shape Michaels was in at WrestleMania 32 makes us all wish he was back in the ring again.
18. THEN – Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle became the first ever Olympic Gold Medalist to set foot into the WWE when he debuted late in 1999. He would go on to have one of the most successful first year in pro wrestling history; which was an amazing feat with not having much of a pro wrestling background prior. He picked up on every aspect of the business very quickly, and that led to Angle winning the WWE Championship against The Rock at No Mercy in 2000, less than a year after his debut.
17. NOW – Kurt Angle
At age 47, Kurt Angle is still wrestling, just not as much as he once was. Angle left the WWE in 2006 for Impact Wrestling and stayed there for nearly ten years before finishing up his “Farewell Tour” in March of 2016. Angle was inducted into the TNA Hall Of Fame in 2013, and many believe the day will soon come that Angle is a headliner for the WWE Hall Of Fame, maybe even with another final run. He has definitely changed his life around for the better over the past couple of years after alcohol issues, and that could go a long way to seeing a much anticipated return.
16. THEN – Ken Shamrock
In 1997, Ken Shamrock left the UFC in the prime of his career for a career in professional wrestling. It was an interesting move as the UFC was quickly gaining popularity over boxing, but at the same time, Shamrock made the move during the best era in pro wrestling history. He only stayed in the WWE for a little over two years, but definitely made an impact as a part of the huge Corporation stable that was taking on Stone Cold Steve Austin. He held both the WWF Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships once, and was also the 1998 King Of The Ring winner.
15. NOW – Ken Shamrock
At age 52, Ken Shamrock is still actively fighting in the world of MMA, most recently at Bellator 149 in February 2016 in a loss to Royce Gracie. He lost by technical knockout only two minutes into the first round, and that was the second straight fight Shamrock lost by technical knockout in the second minute of the first round. Overall in his MMA career, Shamrock is 28-17 with most of those losses coming in the twilight of his career. He’s only 2-9 in his last 11 fights, but as long as he still enjoys the fight and is healthy enough to do it, more power to him.
14. THEN – The Hardy Boyz
The final piece of the Tables Ladders and Chairs trifecta is the Hardy Boyz, Matt and Jeff. They were charismatic daredevils that would wow the WWE Universe when they broke out in the late 90’s. In the WWE, they were tag champions a total seven times from 1998 to 2002. They were known as Team Xtreme with the beautiful Lita by their side, and it was a fresh energetic shot into the WWE roster. Their crazy style fit well in the Attitude Era. Eventually the team would split, and both brothers would go onto success as singles wrestlers, and Jeff would even become a three-time world champion.
13. NOW – Jeff & Matt Hardy
Since Matt and Jeff Hardy were relatively young when they broke through in the WWE, they are still very active today on Impact Wrestling as they are currently feuding with each other. Jeff has been the TNA World Heavyweight Champion on three occasions; while Matt won his first ever world title late in 2015, and had another reign in 2016. With the status of Impact Wrestling way up in the air, there have been rumors that Matt & Jeff will one day return to the WWE. Jeff Hardy said it’s “inevitable” at Jim Ross‘ One Man Show during WrestleMania Weekend in Dallas this year.
12. THEN – Val Venis
Val Venis was the epitome of the edgy / non-PG Attitude Era because, well, he’s an adult star. When he was introduced through a series of vignettes, they were basically on the set of an adult film set with a lot of sexual innuendos along the way. Venis would have a lengthy career in the WWE spanning from 1998 to 2009. During the Attitude Era, Venis would find success in the very strong midcard with WWF European and Intercontinental Championship reigns. He was also in a great tag team that didn’t last long enough with The Godfather called “Supply And Demand”.
11. NOW – Val Venis
Venis would wrestle for various independent promotions, and a brief stint with Impact Wrestling in 2010 after his run with the WWE came to an end in 2009. While he’s not listed as retired from the ring, he has not competed in quite sometime, but rather has focused his life on a different subject altogether, marijuana. Using the online persona of “Kaptain Kannabis”, Venis has been a huge proponent for the legalization of marijuana, and also is the owner of a very successful medical marijuana business originally called the Purple Haze Lounge, but now Health For Life in Arizona.
10. THEN – The APA
During the WWF Attitude Era, tag team wrestling had great depth, and it has only taken until the past year or so for that depth and importance to be placed back into this division of the WWE. The APA is a tag team that morphed from The Acolytes, heavies for The Undertaker to do his dirty work with the Ministry Of Darkness, to the beer drinking, fun loving, bar fighting Acolyte Protection Agency. This team of lifelong friends formed in 1998 and lasted until 2004 when Bradshaw would transform into John Bradshaw Layfield. Everything about The APA was fun, and embodied the Attitude Era in their own unique way.
9. NOW – John Bradshaw Layfield & Ron Simmons
Any wrestling fan knows that they’ll see John Bradshaw Layfield every Monday night on Raw and every pay per view on the WWE Network. Ron Simmons also makes the occasional cameo, and as pictured above, he was a guest on a recent Legends With JBL on the WWE Network that aired earlier this year. Over the past several years, Simmons made a name for himself by showing up on backstage segments at completely the wrong time, have a disgusting look on his face, and with a long pause he utters the word that has made him famous today, DAMN!
8. THEN – Road Dogg Jesse James
After being “The Roadie” for Jeff Jarrett to start his career, the “Road Dogg” Jesse James would etch himself into pro wrestling history as part of one of the greatest tag teams of all-time with Billy Gunn, The New Age Outlaws. Even before they joined D’Generation X, the Outlaws made a name for themselves feuding with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie. Road Dogg was a great talker on the mic, and with his trademark entrance that got the crowd involved, it turned him into an instant star. With Billy Gunn, the Road Dogg held the WWE Tag Team titles six times, and he also held the Hardcore and Intercontinental Championships on one occasion.
7. NOW – Road Dogg Jesse James
Since 2011, Road Dogg has been a valuable asset with the company in the form of being an agent helping with putting together matches and promos for the wrestlers. Early in 2014, he reunited with Billy Gunn to reform the New Age Outlaws, and even regained the WWE Tag Team Championship after nearly 15 years since their last reign as tag champions. You can catch up with the life of Road Dogg on the WWE Network right now as he recently did a great sit-down interview with John Bradshaw Layfield on Legends With JBL. If the fences with Billy Gunn and the WWE are mended, we could maybe see another run with the Outlaws as both men are still in great shape.
6. THEN – Lita
When you look at how the women’s division was revolutionized before the arrival of Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, it was Lita that did things that no other woman did prior in the WWF back when she debuted as a wrestler in 2000. She broke into the WWE with Essa Rios, but made her splash as part of Team Xtreme with the Hardy Boyz. It was her feud with Trish Stratus that really put the division over the top. Lita held the WWE Women’s Championship four times and was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2014.
5. NOW – Lita
We last saw Lita over WrestleMania weekend in Dallas as she announced that the WWE was going to go away from the Diva’s Championship and move towards the WWE Women’s Championship. She also appeared on Monday Night Raw the night after WrestleMania to present the title to Charlotte. She currently works for the WWE in a producer and trainer role, and was also on this past season of Tough Enough. At the age of 41, it is uncertain if we will ever see her in the ring again, but we could possibly get one last match. Maybe a dream tag team at WrestleMania with Trish Stratus.
4. THEN – The Rock
As a complete white meat babyface, Rocky Maivia was TOO much of a good guy to the point where people were booing him. When he transformed into The Rock, he became one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history. From the Nation Of Domination to The Corporation, The Rock was one of the greatest heels in the Attitude Era and had some classic battles with a gentlemen I’ll talk about next. When it was all said and done, The Rock was a 10-time world champion, 5-time tag champion, and a 2-time Intercontinental Champion.
3. NOW – The Rock
If you don’t know who Dwayne Johnson is today, you are living under a rock (pun intended). He was the highest grossing movie star in 2013 bringing in $1.3 BILLION for his movies worldwide. His recent movies include San Andreas and Furious 7; while a remake of Jumanji and a big screen adaptation of Baywatch are on tap for next year. The Rock also appeared at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas this year to announce the attendance record was broken, while defeating Eric Rowan of the Wyatt Family in a six-second match. Rumor has it that he may face Triple H at WrestleMania 33.
2. THEN – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Due to the Kliq’s “Curtain Call” that punished Triple H and gave Austin the push to win King Of The Ring in 1996, along with given information on a promo Jake “The Snake” Roberts cut that night, we were witnesses to the Austin 3:16 Era. It’s hard to fathom that if these events didn’t occur, that Stone Cold Steve Austin would be what he was in the Attitude Era. His battles against Mr. McMahon and The Rock are legendary and are what put the WWE over the top eventually in the Monday Night Wars. Austin is a six-time world champion, the only three-time Royal Rumble winner, and was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2009.
1. NOW – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Even 13 years after his retirement from the squared circle, Steve Austin definitely keeps himself busy and in the public eye. He is currently hosting two podcasts a week with the Steve Austin Show on Podcast One, and he has two hosting gigs on CMT: Broken Skull Challenge and the reality series Redneck Island. He made a return to the WWE at WrestleMania 32 alongside Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels to take out the League Of Nations and dance with The New Day before Austin delivered a stunner to Xavier Woods (who sold it brilliantly).