What wrestling fans think of the “Attitude Era” nearly 20 years after it first appeared on World Wrestling Federation television varies per person. Some see that time as the golden age of pro wrestling North America, which was the case as it pertained to television ratings and overall national interest in a product that has earned its share of criticisms over the years. Others, however, look back and believe that those old shows do not live up decades after they first aired. Whatever your opinion, there is no question that the Attitude Era changed the face of pro wrestling forever, and it is something that will likely never be repeated by a company such as World Wrestling Entertainment.
Some of the biggest draws in the history of the business made their names and fortunes working during the Attitude Era. Steve Austin was nothing more than a midcard performer before he was linked with the “Stone Cold” gimmick that helped make him the top act in the World Wrestling Federation. He was followed by all-time greats such as The Rock and Triple H. Meanwhile, World Championship Wrestling was responsible for the New World Order storyline that managed to both boost and ultimately sink that organization all within a matter of five years after Hulk Hogan turned heel in the summer of 1996.
Not all of the acts that were featured in main event feuds during that time would become superstars in today's pro wrestling environment. That list includes a man who was given the opportunity to become of the top babyface characters in the WWF, an individual who lived his dream and won the world championship during an edition of Raw. That title change is one that has been relived time and time again on WWE television and via the WWE Network, and it is a moment that very well may have turned the tide in the real-life battle that was known as the Monday Night Wars.
10 Big Show
9 Shawn Michaels
8 “Road Dogg” Jesse James
One of the best overall talkers in the WWF during the Attitude Era and a member of D-Generation-X, “Road Dogg” Jesse James along with Billy Gunn found great success in the company as the tag team the New Age Outlaws. Of the members of that incarnation of DX, it is James who would be the most likely to have difficulties making it in the WWE today. He never had the supposed “look” that the company supposedly looks for in performers, and James was never a worker capable of putting together five-star matches. James was an ideal tag-team worker for his time, but he would possibly be just another guy in 2015.
7 Jeff Hardy
6 Scott Hall
There are two hurdles that are standing between the Goldberg who was turned into the top babyface character in all of WCW from making it in the pro wrestling world today: He was somewhat of a clunky worker at times, and he was not great on the microphone. Goldberg legitimately injured Bret “Hitman” Hart during a WCW match to the point that he is often “credited” with ending Hart's career. Such a worker would be relegated to NXT duties if not cut entirely by the WWE today, and he certainly would not be trusted to have matches with the highest-paid wrestlers in the company.
The Goldust character went through multiple shifts during the Attitude Era, each one a bit weirder and more bizarre than the one before it. The WWF was more than willing to push the envelope with Goldust and with other characters during the Attitude Era, but it is now a different time for the company. The WWE is concerned, maybe even a little too concerned, about offending sponsors who pay to advertise during shows such as Raw. Those companies would probably be not at all pleased to see the Goldust character of the Attitude Era appearing on nationally televised programs.
3 Rob Van Dam
One does not have to speculate on if the former legend of Extreme Championship Wrestling would be given a fair chance to today's WWE. Rob Van Dam has, for years, lived his life his way regarding what he would and would not put into his body, and doing so cost him a main event run in the WWE last decade when the company resurrected the ECW brand. That version of Van Dam who eventually headed to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling would struggle to get off a suspension list let alone make it as a WWE champion in the wrestling industry today.
2 Steve Austin
1 Mick Foley
One way that the wrestling business has improved since the Attitude Era is that the health of the athletes is more seriously monitored than it was two decades ago. While that is nothing but a positive for everybody involved, it also limits who may get a shot in the WWE today. Mick Foley was a hardcore icon who had sacrificed his body and years of his life to the pro wrestling business before he was given an opportunity to become a true superstar in the WWE. Would that individual who is a legend of the business even pass a WWE physical in 2015? It is a good thing that we'll never have to learn the answer to that question.