There is no time in wrestling that is more romanticized than The Attitude Era and looking up and down the rosters of the major wrestling companies at the time, there may be a good reason for that. Inducting a select few performers, tag teams and now factions into the WWE Hall of Fame has become a major part of WrestleMania weekend, which many fans look forward to. We can safely assume that the theoretical hallowed halls of wrestling’s best known historical institution will be inundated with people who performed between 1997 and 2002 in years to come.
Whittling down the list of potential inductees to make our list was a difficult task. It pained us to not include Bam Bam Bigelow for instance, a man whose incredible look and agility for a man his size made him stand out. Diamond Dallas Page may have deserved the moniker of the People’s Champion and his efforts in helping other retired wrestlers are admirable but he never truly earned a slot at the top of the business or our list. On the other hand, performers like Kane and The Big Show were a lot easier pills to swallow, they deserve the distinction but neither performer has given us much to be excited about in years.
Like the WWE, we considered wrestlers who hold a distinct place in wrestling history that particularly make them deserving of the honor. Tag Teams and Factions were very much up for inclusion taking up a single slot. With our rules stated and a few standout acts that didn’t make the cut mentioned let’s get down to business.
10 The Hardy Boyz
Real life brothers who created a true connection with the fans, The Hardys bring in ratings to this day. Remembered best for their legendary feud with The Dudleys (who barely missed our list) and a couple of Canucks, they were more than willing to sacrifice their bodies for our enjoyment. Two-thirds of Team Extreme with Matt’s then girlfriend (and Hall of Famer) Lita, they were dynamos at the merchandise stands for good reason.
If their time together isn’t enough for you then surely their singles success should more than satisfy any nay-sayers. Matt’s title history includes a tag team run with MVP, the Cruiserweight, Hardcore, European championships and most impressively the WWE version of the ECW strap. Matt’s best work by himself in our eyes came due to the creation of his version one character, his entrances alone were highlights of every show he appeared on. Jeff’s, even more, impressive resume includes Hardcore, European, Light Heavyweight, WWE Champion and two-time World Champion wins, he was a true main eventer. No hall would be complete without these North Carolina natives.
9 Chris Jericho
A man who has plied his trade in rings across the world, he spent the Attitude Era wrestling in both WCW and the WWE after a short tenure in ECW. Never given a fair shake during his time under Eric Bischoff, despite some incredibly entertaining promos, for example, his never ending list of moves he performs, he finally was allowed to shine in the fed.
Thrust into a major feud immediately upon his debut, Y2J truly punched through when a segment where he won the title to thunderous applause, only to have it stripped moments later, turned heads. Tapped years later to be the first Undisputed Champion, after defeating the company’s biggest stars in a single night, Chris went on to main event WrestleMania. Reinventing his persona multiple times throughout his career, his time as a suit-clad heel feuding with Shawn Michaels, in many viewers opinions, is the best he ever was. It seems like it is only a matter of time before he is chosen by Vince and company and we couldn’t be happier.
8 Molly Holly/Ivory/Sable/Stacy Keibler/Torrie Wilson/Victoria/Jacqueline
Alright, alright, it may be a bit of a cop out to group together so many women but we think that speaks mostly to the way in which women have been historically used. Every year the WWE picks one women to make the cut in comparison to many more men which is a shame but so many more than that deserve to find themselves behind the podium.
Sable was arguably one of the biggest stars the company had during its peak after she easily stole the spotlight from her husband while valeting for him. Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler, a duo of transplants from WCW, like Sable were brought in largely due to their looks became long lasting stars for the company whose assets put asses in seats.
Jacqueline, one of Sable’s biggest enemies, was a very talented wrestler who carried lesser athletes to passable matches; unfortunately, she doesn’t get the respect she deserves from some. Molly Holly, Victoria, and Ivory were all mainstays in the division and very important to the division, upping the ante athletically speaking and forcing many to look at women wrestlers differently. All of these women cast a wide shadow over the business for many years and should never be forgotten.
7 The Hart Foundation
It is just a fact that all wrestling fans know that Owen Hart should be enshrined amongst his peers which would have happened by now had his wife not strongly opposed it. Luckily for us, he was a member of a faction consisting of men who’ve all made a monumental impact on the industry which could and should be inducted, circumventing the problem. Bret Hart, the team’s leader, is already inducted and obviously deserves to be there. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, was imperative to Bret’s climb to the top of the company and an accomplished tag team wrestler. The British Bulldog, an incredibly powerful man, gained huge fame alone and alongside The Dynamite Kid, especially in his home country. Finally, Brian Pillman’s loose cannon character kept everyone guessing what would happen next due to his propensity to go places no wrestler had been before.
That’s not even taking into account their time together as a faction, during which they feuded with all of America. Cheered endlessly all over the world, they were hated as soon as they entered an arena in The United states which was a dichotomy that worked to perfection. An induction that would right the wrong of Owen’s exclusion as well as introduce three other men, two of whom are no longer with us, we love, seems like a no-brainer to us.
6 Kurt Angle
To us, nobody has ever taken to the unique world of Sports Entertainment better than this former Olympic Gold Medalist. Winning the European and Intercontinental belts (which he rechristened the EuroContinental Championship) King of the Ring and WWF Championship early on his career, he took the company by storm. Arguably the best indicator of how important he became was the decision to place him into a love triangle with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, which resulted in incredible television.
Main eventing television shows, Pay Per Views, and even WrestleMania during his tenure, Kurt was a company MVP before his shocking sudden departure. Taking his skills to TNA, a company that has largely been based around him in the decade since, he continued to entertain at the very highest of levels. Although his relationship with his former bosses has been strained for years, Angle’s incredible career was far too good for the drama to not be put aside before too long.
5 Edge & Christian
The WWE is quickly running out of headliners for their yearly event so it is a no-brainer for beloved characters like Edge to follow in Ric Flair’s footsteps and be inducted more than once. Christian his long-running partner and best friend absolutely deserves the distinction on his own merit but it seems clear that Vince McMahon has always been blind to his charms. With that said we are more than happy to see E & C added as a duo since their years together were massively entertaining and frankly, we loved it.
Arguably the best tag team in history, this Canadian duo brought a powerful combination of character and wrestling together which ensured they would always be synonymous with one another. Winning tag gold seven times, there are very teams that are more decorated but it isn’t the number of times they secured the championships that make them such a valuable act. Had they never won the belts a single time their comedy chops, memorable matches, great feud with one another and charisma makes them shoo-ins.
Consistently called The Franchise in WCW, Sting started out as a happy go lucky surfer type but it was when he underwent a huge change that the people began to see him in a different light. Spending the majority of the Attitude Era standing in opposition to the all-consuming nWo, it serves as a testament to the way he was seen that this one man stood strong against such a massive organization. Spending months on end in the rafters observing as the company he loved was overrun with a new type of villain; once he descended to the ring with his trusty bat the audience would become unglued.
Staying down South until the bitter end, there is no telling what would have come of his career had he worked for the competition but his small run in the WWE showed very clearly that he has their respect. The WWE writes wrestling history for many and as such they no longer see wrestling’s past strictly through the prism of their own television so there is nearly no way Sting doesn’t get the call.
3 D-Generation X
A group that took the ethos of the era they were created in and ran with them, DX pushed the boundaries almost every time they appeared during their heyday. With Triple H being deigned the heir apparent to the WWE an insanely popular group consisting of some of his best friends seems far too difficult to deny their place. Chyna, despite her achievements, would almost assuredly be excluded but Rick Rude, an often forgotten early member of the team, could also be included which we’d love.
Hunter has had a career worthy of distinction, Shawn is considered the best ever by many, The New Age Outlaws were a marvelous team and X-Pac’s high flying skills truly stood out. Whether they are grouped together or standing alone, DX were a joy to view since they seemed to have a really great time every time they appeared. We’d like to forget the final run of the group when it was just HBK, HHH and for some reason Hornswoggle but since they can forget stories at a moment’s notice, we can try to here.
2 The Rock
Dwayne Johnson, a former football player and a member of a wrestling family, may just be the most famous wrestler in the world these days. Acting as franchise Viagra again and again on screen, he packs them in wherever he goes but if he’d never done anything on a film set his place would still be cemented. Initially reviled for his over the type good guy antics, he took the disrespect that was shoveled on him and turned it into some of the best promos we’ve ever seen. No heel turn has ever been so well executed and more beautifully explained.
After joining, leading and leaving The Nation of Domination, Rocky began a feud that defines his career against Steve Austin which saw them main event WrestleMania. Two men who truly seemed to want to destroy one another, they fought intensely to become the number one act in the company and Maivia came close to unseating Stone Cold. Holding his own against the biggest box office draw wrestling has ever seen, The Rock deserves his own wing in any building WWE ever builds to house their Hall of Fame.
1 The Undertaker
From all accounts, there is no man who has ever held more respect in the locker room than The Undertaker and that holds true amongst the audience as well. Debuting all the way back in 1990 and wrestling off and on to this day, Taker’s staying power is unrivaled and somehow the man just got better with age. Adopting an even more gothic, cult leader style persona during the Attitude Era, his followers like Bradshaw, Farooq, Viscera and Mideon had their careers forever altered due to the power of Taker.
Undefeated at WrestleMania during his first 21 appearances, his matches though often not for any title became arguably more important to the biggest WWE event every year. His run of Mania matches against Batista, Edge, Triple H and most of all Shawn Michaels are amongst the best of all time. His two battles against HBK are especially magnificent and an easy choice to show the uninitiated why we love professional wrestling. The Undertaker is a once in a lifetime performer who took an outlandish character and made it mean something more than ever could have in another man’s hands. He will be greatly missed when he hangs his boots up but getting to join in as he is embraced by the company, fans and industry he helped build will lessen the sting.