WWE loves to boast the fact that they’ve been the leaders in sports entertainment since the early 1960s. It's more or less a fact that the McMahon family business has indeed been running the wrestling world for decades. With such a long lifespan, producing tens of thousands of hours of content (and that’s a modest estimate), it’s almost impossible for a wrestling fan to actually watch every program WWE has ever produced. Fans can, however, pick a favorite era and watch everything that the company created over the span of a few years, and those that consume their wrestling that way would mostly agree one of the best eras to start with would be the Attitude Era. The Attitude Era is a loosely defined term, so for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about 1997 to 2002.
While some fans look upon the Attitude Era with rose tinted glasses and assume it was unquestionably the best period in WWE history, the total view of those 5 years would present the Era as spotty. Even though there were the occasional unforgettable moments that will forever be etched in wrestling history. In order to properly present both sides of the Attitude Era, we’ve compiled 8 of the best and 7 of the worst moments on WWE television and Pay-Per-View during what is still proclaimed as perhaps the finest example of WWE batting on all cylinders. The peaks may have you agreeing with the acclaim, while the lows will no doubt have you shaking your head and wondering what the hell the McMahon’s were thinking. Check out our list of some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the WWE Attitude Era.
15 High - Rock: This Is Your Life
Mankind presenting The Rock with his version of the 1950's TV show, This Is Your Life, has grown to be somewhat of a controversial incident among WWE fans. Yet, one thing absolutely cannot be denied about the almost 30-minute comedy segment: the ratings. With an 8.4, it received the highest rating in the history of Monday Night Raw. This is especially impressive considering modern Raw episodes are receiving some of the show’s lowest ratings ever. Yet, even at the time, the average rating for the show was somewhere around 6. The Rock 'n' Sock Connection may not have pleased technical wrestling fans, but when it came to their comedic skills, they were immeasurably better than most of WWE’s attempts at comedy, and they got the rating to prove it.
14 Low - Austin Shakes Hands With The Devil
From a creative standpoint, Stone Cold Steve Austin allying with his most heated rival, Vince McMahon, in order to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania X7 made perfect sense. The idea was that Austin was older, growing paranoid about his capabilities, and willing to do absolutely anything to succeed. Austin played the role brilliantly, as well, slowly hinting that a major change could be coming since his return, and then creating classic comedy segments after he turned heel. The problem, however, was that fans just didn’t want to see it. It didn’t matter how good or how funny Austin was after he shook hands with Vince McMahon at WrestleMania; the crowd was always waiting for the Stone Cold Stunner that would prove it was all a sham and Austin was just using Vince, or whatever else it would’ve taken for them to be allowed to cheer Austin again.
13 High - HBK's Riotous Surprise
Talking about the TV ratings of a program that’s been on the air for nearly 25 years can be a little tricky, especially if you don’t want to get too technical about how ratings work. To keep it simple, we’ll just explain that while Rock: This Is Your Life was the highest rated segment in Raw history, it wasn’t part of the overall highest rated episode. That came a few months earlier, on May 10, 1999, which received an overall rating of 8.1. There were two things that contributed to this rating: Nitro wasn’t on the air that night, and then-commissioner Shawn Michaels was responsible for one of the most incredible surprises in Raw history.
12 Low - Hawk Falls Off The Titantron
The Road Warriors are arguably the most dominant tag team in sports entertainment history, and were one of the most popular teams of their era as a result of said destruction. Hawk and Animal were meaner, bigger, and tougher than the usual tag teams of their day, and quickly connected with fans due to their power and attitude. Unfortunately, the peak of The Road Warriors’ powers came somewhere around the mid 1980s, and the team decided to stick it out for over two decades after that. They wrestled for NWA, WCW, and WWE with diminishing returns for several years, but still managed to get the crowd excited as long as they stuck to the basic formula. Then the Attitude Era came along and destroyed the formula.
11 High - Shane McMahon Buys WCW
The Attitude Era was about many things, but mostly it was about constantly exciting the crowd, and giving them what they wanted at all the right times (or at least that’s what it was about when things were going well). Plenty of factors went into WWE becoming such a powerhouse of wrestling creativity during this timeframe, but one that can’t be ignored is the influence of WCW causing the McMahon’s to retaliate and keep one-upping the competition. WWE wasn’t always winning the battle, but in a reverse of the old saying, they did win the war, and before long none of those battles mattered. In March 2001, all that was left was the victory speech, and WWE delivered a big one in classic McMahon fashion.
10 Low - The Hardcore Evening Gown Match
Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco are both wrestling legends, both due to their decades-long contributions to WWE as two of Vince McMahon’s most trusted confidants, and the incredible careers they each had long before Vince, Jr. had anything to do with them. Patterson is known as the first ever WWE Intercontinental Champion, and Brisco wasn’t without his fair share of regional titles both as a solo wrestler and tagging with his legendary brother Jack. Yet, their championship success didn’t stop once they left the ring and started stooging for Vince.
9 High - Hell In A Cell 1998
Pro wrestling can be an extremely dangerous industry, regardless of where the matches take place, and regardless of how well thought out the stunts are. Dozens of superstars have made their entire careers on this knowledge by repeatedly throwing caution to the wind, proving how brave and fearless they are, showing the fans just how far they’ll go to stand out, win matches, and succeed in sports entertainment. No one person represents this mentality to a greater degree than WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, and the one match that cemented his second to none abilities in taking punishment took place at the 1998 King of the Ring against The Undertaker, inside Hell in a Cell.
8 Low - Harvey Wippleman Wins The Women's Championship
The WWE Women’s Championship went through a series of low points around the turn of the millennium, and it’s actually somewhat hard to pick out what the biggest offense to the belt was. All you need to do is look at the names of the competitors who held the belt from October of 1999 to January of 2000, and you’ll see a 76-year-old woman, an untrained manager most famous for flashing her breasts on Pay-Per-View, and a man. Since we’re discussing the worst of the worst here, let’s focus on the man.
7 High - The Rock Wins the WWE Championship at Backlash
WrestleMania 2000 occurred directly in the middle of the Attitude Era, and as such, it had the potential to be the ultimate showcase for the best WWE had to offer at the time. That wasn’t really the case, and instead, fans were treated to a solid but disappointing show, where nothing really changed and the bad guys got all the glory. That was fixed with next month’s Backlash, a top to bottom great card capped off with a huge win for the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment History.
6 Low - The Kennel From Hell
The Hell In A Cell match has had a few clunkers of its own, but never has the idea been ruined quite as succinctly as with the Kennel From Hell. The Kennel From Hell was a one-time match that featured the Hell In A Cell cage placed around a smaller blue cage surrounding the ring. In between the two cages was supposed to be a pack of vicious dogs, but instead, WWE settled for docile and excitable bulldogs, instead.
5 High - Y2J Introduces Monday Night Jericho
When WWE first introduced their Countdown to the Millennium clock, fans may not have even noticed the fact their calculations were significantly off, no matter how you slice it. It wasn’t long, however, before it became obvious the clock was actually counting down to August 9, 1999, a date which has since gone down in wrestling history. The clock wasn’t counting down to the new millennium, but as far as wrestling fans are concerned, it may have been foreshadowing something far, far bigger: the debut of Y2J, Chris Jericho on Monday Night Raw.
4 Low - Mae Young Gives Birth to a Hand
WWE has done plenty of questionable things to women over the years, and possibly even more questionable things to the definition of the word “comedy.” One fateful evening in the year 2000, they decided to combine their offensive powers to create something that not only made a disgusting joke of the female reproductive system, but also managed to do so in a way that was completely unconnected to wrestling whatsoever. The important characters in the angle were Mark Henry and Mae Young, respectively 28 and 77 years old at the time, and allegedly in a sexual relationship that resulted in Young’s pregnancy.
3 High - Stone Cold and the Beer Truck
Stone Cold Steve Austin was already the hottest act in wrestling history with two WWE World Championship reigns to his name by the time WrestleMania XV came around, but that didn’t change how rabid fans were to see Austin win the big one once again when he challenged The Rock for the title on that fateful night. The Rock was Vince McMahon’s Corporate Champion at the time, and the real feud going into WrestleMania XV was Austin vs. McMahon, which easily could have been plastered all throughout the highs of our list, but we chose to simply let the feud’s greatest moment speak for itself.
2 Low - Trish Stratus Barks Like A Dog
Professional wrestling history has no shortage of beautiful women, and plenty of them have used their sex appeal to varying degrees in order to stand out and become famous within the industry. There’s nothing wrong with that to a degree, but when women are treated as literal sex objects by the owner of a billion dollar company in front of a rabidly screaming male audience, it should go without saying that it has gone way too far. On March 5, 2001, Vince McMahon led Trish Stratus out to the ring and demanded she crawl around on all fours while barking like a dog, and then told her to take her clothes off if she wanted to keep her job.
1 High - Mankind Wins His First WWE Championship
January 4, 1999 is one of the most significant dates in professional wrestling history. WCW was on a decline, but had plenty of chances to fight back and hold their own against WWE over the past year, but this infamous day proved WWE was the future and WCW was history all at once. Both companies were complicit in the moment, but all we’ll mention about the WCW side is that Tony Schiavone sarcastically claimed what WWE did would put butts in the seats. The only ridiculous think about Schiavone’s comment was his sarcasm.
On Raw, Mankind lost a match to Triple H that meant he wouldn’t be allowed in the Royal Rumble. Mankind was mad about this choice, so he attacked Shane McMahon and threatened to break Shane’s arm unless Vince McMahon gave him a title shot later on that night. Vince complied, and Mankind went on to win his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship against The Rock with the help of D-Generation X and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The match was an encapsulation of everything great about the Attitude Era, and it proved WWE was the company giving the fans exciting and amazing shows they actually wanted to see, while WCW could only sheepishly mock them for doing something new.
Sources: WWE, Wrestlecrap
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