More than a decade after it ended, many WWE fans still consider the Attitude Era the best period in the company’s 60+ year history. Starting in mid-1997 and lasting until sometime around 2002, the loosely defined time frame is remembered for edgy storylines, pushing the envelope both inside and out of the ring, while achieving record ratings Vince McMahon wishes he could come anywhere near today. As exciting as things were onscreen, things were just as wild and out of control behind the scenes, sending wrestling’s forever spinning rumor mill into overdrive.
The television WWE and WCW produced during the height of wrestling’s fame was regularly controversial and borderline shocking, and yet this doesn’t come close to some of the bizarre and outrageous rumors that were spread in wrestling newsletters and early Internet groups. Amazingly, quite a number of these rumors were based in truth and very nearly became reality, although others were complete speculation with almost no logic or evidence to support them. Either way, they all became popular enough that some people believed that they were all true, but ultimately none of them came to pass. Plenty of these rumors have been commented on by the wrestlers themselves, who either brushed them off or confessed there was more to the dirt sheets than meets the eye. Most of them, though, were entirely speculation picked up and spread around the Internet, and the only reason people remember them is to think back and laugh. Of course, they weren’t all terrible ideas, and some simply left fans shaking their heads and dreaming about what could have been. Keep reading to learn about 15 completely ridiculous Attitude Era rumors you’ll never believe.
15. Jake Roberts As The Higher Power
One of the lesser remembered shots fired during the Monday Night Wars was when Eric Bischoff revealed the Higher Power’s initials were VKM live on Nitro hours before WWE revealed the same on Raw. The Higher Power story, in general, isn’t one that fans fondly look back upon, despite the fact that it happened during a time when WWE was at its height of popularity. Part of the problem was how predictable it was. Bischoff didn’t even know for sure when he made the reveal on Nitro, and WWE backed themselves into a wall so badly that they couldn’t even change things when he did so. Perhaps the Higher Power would have been more successful if the revealed were any of the many people the Internet rumored it would have been. Among the potential Powers is Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who has career connections to both The Undertaker and Steve Austin, the two wrestlers most intrinsically connected to the plot. In actuality, it was going to be Vince McMahon from day one, and Jake was never even on the table. Neither were Kevin Sullivan, Ted DiBiase, Brother Love, or any of the many others people online were baselessly speculating.
14. Yokozuna And The Hart Foundation
Between various incarnations of the nWo in WCW and groups like D-Generation X and the Nation of Domination in WWE, the Attitude Era was a time filled with legendary factions that changed wrestling. Existing just on the cusp of the Attitude Era beginning, The Hart Foundation are occasionally forgotten as one of the more dominant groups of their era. Whether WWE remembers them or not, the Hart Foundation was extremely successful, with leader, Bret Hart, as WWE Champion and his brother, Owen, Intercontinental Champion during various points in the group’s run. The Hart Foundation was an extended family either through marriage or a long history with one another, and thus they escaped the rumors other groups suffered about new members joining each week. Instead, the Hart Foundation had one specific rumor that kept being repeated, in that Yokozuna was said to be joining the family in the summer of 1997. Of course, that never happened, and chances are that the rumor never made it into an actual WWE writer’s room. It was popular enough that many fans were actually waiting for Yoko to aide the Hart’s, even if there wasn’t much storyline justification for him to do so.
13. The “Super” Model Rick Martel
Neither WWE nor WCW treated tradition with much regard during the Attitude Era, which is why the sudden comeback of Rick Martel in early 1998 came as such a huge surprise to his fans. Martel had been AWA World Champion in the mid-‘80s and was a decently successful name in WWE both following and prior to his reign. Martel’s career started slowing down in early 1994, at which time he mostly left wrestling until his big WCW return nearly four years later. It didn’t take much time with WCW until Martel won his first singles title, the Television Championship. Unfortunately, an injury tore Martel’s knees to shreds and his comeback was cut short only a few months after it began. In retrospect, Martel has been open in interviews that the WCW run was actually sort of Plan B, thus meaning his injury could have been avoided if the original plan worked out. At first, Martel intended to make his comeback in WWE teaming with future manager, Don Callis, also known as the Jackyl and Cyrus the Virus, as The Supermodels. The team fell apart when Vince McMahon was unwilling to pay Martel what he felt he deserved, sending The Model to WCW.
12. Someone Plays A Grave Prank On Bret Hart
Wrestling has a long and sometimes hurtful history of superstars playing pranks on one another, and the worst of all might have occurred to Bret Hart in June of 1998. Hart wasn’t the only one affected, as all of WCW could have suffered by his absence during one of the announced main events for the 1998 Great American Bash. Hart was scheduled to team with Hulk Hogan against Roddy Piper and Randy Savage, and earlier in the day, someone got it through to WCW head offices that Hart’s father had passed away. Stu Hart wouldn’t actually pass away for another five years after the incident, but his age made him dying a very believable lie, as did the fact that whoever was pranking Hart went to WCW executives before telling him directly. To their credit, Eric Bischoff and J.J. Dillon were allegedly perfect professionals and offered Hart the night off, although that would prove unnecessary only a few moments later when Bret received confirmation that his father was actually alive and well. Obviously, he was still very shaken by the incident, and the fact that the prank remained largely unreported and unsolved is a testament to how terrible the backstage environment could be at times.
11. Hollywood Hogan And D-Generation X
It would take forever to list every single person rumored to jump from WWE to WCW or vice versa, but there are a few huge names that deserve special recognition for how much the defection rumors would’ve changed everything if they came true. During the Attitude Era, Hulk Hogan transitioned from the biggest face in wrestling to the most hated heel, reinvigorating his career and making him the hottest name in wrestling once again until the rise of Steve Austin. It made sense that Vince McMahon wanted in on the action, and therefore rumors constantly swirled that Hogan would be coming back to WWE and dominate again as a bad guy. Hogan wouldn’t actually return to WWE until after WCW closed its doors, although there were a few key moments when it seemed possible. Hogan’s contract with WCW was short-term and needed to be renewed regularly, and WWE would jump in with their counter-offers every time it did. The closest Hogan came to signing with McMahon was apparently in late 1997, with a plan for him to debut as the new leader of D-Generation X and win the Royal Rumble, starting a feud with Stone Cold while doing so. WWE writer, Bruce Prichard, confirmed that this was in the works, only for it to all fall apart when Hogan re-signed with WCW.
10. Shawn Michaels And The nWo
The flipside of WWE negotiating with WCW’s top star was that WCW was constantly in negotiations with practically every WWE star they could get ahold of. As one of the biggest names and most creative talents in WWE history, Shawn Michaels was high atop the list of wrestlers that WCW wanted to steal. Given HBK’s best friends were The Outsiders, who made the jump in May 1996, it seemed especially possible that Michaels would ask his buddies to help him leave the McMahons and start working for Ted Turner. While this rumor never came to pass, it wasn’t for lack of trying from all parties involved. HBK was actually the most gung-ho about the idea, and he was reportedly looking for ways to get out of his WWE contract or even intentionally get himself fired in order to make the move. Ultimately, Vince McMahon talked him out of it when he told him that WCW wouldn’t allow the same creative freedom WWE did. Part two of this rumor implies that had Michaels went to WCW, he would have immediately joined the nWo, which could have proved McMahon right when one thinks about how crowded that idea would have made things.
9. Bone Street Krew Vs. The Kliq
The antics of The Kliq have become so infamous that virtually every fan knows about Shawn Michaels’ backstage crew, and the alleged rival organization, Bone Street Krew, has gradually been gaining prominence in WWE lore, as well. Outside of Michaels, the Kliq also contained Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Triple H, and X-Pac, all of whom would “make suggestions” to Vince McMahon that often turned into actual WWE storylines. BSK consisted of The Undertaker, Yokozuna, The Godfather, The Godwinns, Savio Vega, Mr. Fuji, and Rikishi, who likewise were simply a group of friends with a close connection to the boss. Despite clichés about strong personalities not getting along, most reports indicate that the Kliq and BSK were actually pretty much all friends. There was definitely some crossover between the groups, as Henry O. Godwinn got his job through his friend Triple H, directly linking him to both groups. The Kliq were also all friends with Mr. Fuji, linking the groups in more ways than one. Even so, many fans for some reason believe the groups could never get along and were a constant source of conflict in the WWE locker room.
8. “The Game” Owen Hart
Few moments in WWE history were as dark as the night that Owen Hart tragically fell to his death live on Pay-Per-View during Over The Edge 1999. Hart’s life was horribly ablated that day, and yet he left behind a legacy of wrestling excellence that matched, if not surpassed, even the most famous members of his family. It may feel pointless to speculate on what could have happened if Owen lived, but many have, and one longstanding rumor about what may have been claiming that Owen was in line to receive “The Game” nickname and gimmick that later went to Triple H. The wrestling world is divided on whether or not this rumor is true, but if you really think about it, it doesn’t mean anything either way. Triple H still could have succeeded if Owen Hart were The Game, and simply calling himself that wasn’t going to promise Owen would create the same legacy that Triple H went on to make. Nonetheless, it would’ve meant that Triple H would have needed a new nickname.
7. Tommy Dreamer Wanted To Get Shot
ECW was the extreme underdog that inspired the Attitude Era, and their size didn’t prevent them from being involved in dozens of baseless and insane rumors just like in the big leagues. Predictably, the craziest rumor in ECW history involved an episode of high violence that the wrestling industry has yet to match. Tommy Dreamer was known for his ability to take extreme and ridiculous amounts of punishment and somehow recover, and he wanted to push that trope as far as possible by getting shot in the middle of a wrestling ring. The point of wrestling is to make it look like you’re trying to hurt your opponent while they’re actually completely safe. ECW occasionally ignored this concept, and Tommy completely threw it out the window when he wanted to hire a sniper to shoot him in the shoulder. ECW owner, Paul Heyman, was against the idea, although Tommy seemed to be convincing him with the argument it would make national news if a wrestler got shot. Lucky for Tommy’s health, Terry Funk was the voice of reason, albeit in the very unexpected manner of explaining it didn’t work when Dory Funk, Sr. did it back in the ‘50s. Tommy dropped the idea because it had been done before, and no one else has been crazy enough to consider getting shot ever since.
6. Goldust Wanted Breast Implants
Vince McMahon called Goldust “The Bizarre One” from the moment he entered WWE in mid-1995, and things would only get exponentially weirder from there. Goldust was originally a deranged Hollywood critic who used sexually-based mind games to confuse and disorient his opponents. Controversy arose over the sexual nature of the gimmick, and Goldust rather suddenly turned face and gradually became less eccentric in doing so. When Goldust turned heel again in late 1997, he decided to get really weird with it, and the weirdest idea was one that Vince McMahon wouldn’t allow him to go through with. Taking his bizarre nickname firmly to heart, Goldust made the suggestion that during his mental breakdown, his character should actually undergo breast enhancement surgery and get implants. Goldust’s idea had nothing to do with gender identity and was just another outlandish way for him to standout in the wrestling world when coloring himself green wasn’t enough. For once, Vince McMahon knew the idea was insane and maybe too controversial even for him, so he told Goldust he wouldn’t pay for the operation, and the idea luckily died without McMahon’s support.
5. Rey Mysterio’s Famous Friend
The love lives of celebrities are occasionally more interesting to the general public than their own, and pro wrestlers are far from free of this fascination. Even among the echelon of fame, few people’s relationships have inspired as much attention as Jennifer Aniston, and one longstanding rumor indicated that Aniston’s heart once beckoned for the wrestling ring. Long before Justin Theroux and prior even to her high-profile romance with Brad Pitt, a few tabloids reported that Aniston had engaged in a brief fling with WCW cruiserweight sensation, Rey Mysterio, Jr. The truth is far less interesting and more expected, in that Mysterio and Aniston never met, and the whole thing was a total fabrication. Mysterio later looked back on the ordeal with laughter and admitted his fellow wrestlers regularly teased him over the ordeal. The fact of the matter was that Mysterio was married at the time, and he claims his wife also found it funny. If nothing else, the rumor was a testament to how popular WCW’s cruiserweight division was, as it occurred at a point in Mysterio’s career when he was opening the show, even though he was far away from the main event sensation he would later take part of.
4. Shawn Michaels And Vince McMahon’s Backstage Secret
As common as it is for two celebrities to be linked romantically, practically every female to work for WWE has been rumored to have an affair with one top superstar or another during some point in her career. No one was safe from allegations of hooking up with male talent or even the boss, and this occasionally extended beyond the women to also include men. Vague rumors have spread about countless superstars, but one superstar to specifically be accused of having a “homosexual relationship” with Vince McMahon was Shawn Michaels. It’s easy to listen to McMahon perform commentary on HBK’s matches and see where this rumor started, although it’s also a huge stretch to go from a promoter celebrating his top star to assuming that there must be a love affair beneath the surface. This rumor started to gain weight when none other than Bret Hart suggested that he believed it was true on The Howard Stern Show. Hart later retracted his comments and apologized to all parties involved, and yet some people still believe there was more to the McMahon and HBK relationship than we may ever know. Reasonable minds, however, realize that there isn’t any validity to this rumor.
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s Racist Writing
“The Texas Rattlesnake” isn’t a nickname that implies warm lovingness, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was anything but friendly during his reign as the preeminent star of the Attitude Era. That being said, fans saw Austin as a man of the people fighting for blue collar folk everywhere, almost turning into a superhero and forgetting about the many flaws every human is destined to exhibit. Austin’s personal problems later became public when he was arrested for domestic abuse in 2002, and his ex-wife later claimed that Austin had been beating her for years while he was WWE’s cash cow. Not only was Austin actually a wife-beater during his time as WWE Champion, but according to a certain co-worker, Stone Cold was also a massive racist. Ahmed Johnson was the first African-American WWE Intercontinental Champion, and yet despite that accomplishment, Ahmed claims to have met a constant barrage of racism during his time with the company. According to Johnson, the racism in WWE is rampant and hardly relegated to any one area. He named Austin as one of the main culprits, claiming that he believed Austin went so far as to write the n-word on Ahmed’s card the very day he made history with the Intercontinental Championship.
2. Alundra Blayze Returning To WWE
Even among the highly political wrestling climate, few superstars had as acrimonious an exit from their place of employment as Alundra Blayze. Blayze was fired from WWE while reigning as the Women’s Champion, a move she felt offended the idea of women’s wrestling everywhere. As a result, when Eric Bischoff offered her a contract with WCW and asked her to bring the belt along for an infamous and controversial angle that saw her throw it in the trash, Blayze was willing to make the deal. Most people assumed this blackballed her for life, not ending until Blayze was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015. While the Hall of Fame did, in fact, become Alundra’s return to the company, there was a dominant rumor in 1998 that she and WWE were on the verge of reconciling decades before they did. Around this time, Marc Mero’s valet, Sable, was getting more popular than he was, leading to the couple breaking up and starting a feud through Mero’s new female valet. According to numerous dirt sheets, the first person WWE officials had in mind to fill the void was actually Alundra. The idea apparently failed to pan out due to females within WWE reminding Linda McMahon of the Women’s Championship incident, causing WWE to give the role to their second choice, Jacqueline.
1. The Reason People Flock To Raven
Amidst the political disarray of WCW, with constant battles for airtime backstage and endless wars between the nWo onstage, a small contingent of outcasts who referred to themselves as The Flock slowly rose to prominence. They were lead by Raven, a former ECW World Champion who would become a WCW United States Champion, among dozens of other titles that would make him one of the most decorated superstars in the expanded WWE history. The Flock were misfits, drug addicts, and loners who were fed up with the tumult of WCW and were ready to do whatever Raven demanded they do at a moment’s notice. A huge rumor circulating on the Internet was that they were all also homosexual. The source behind the “Flock is gay” rumors was as predictably childish as the rumors themselves, stemming from a series of interviews given by Stevie Richards during his public falling out with Raven. Raven and Richards were tag team partners and close friends in ECW, but things got bad when the duo jumped to WCW and Raven’s addictions got out of control. The friendship quickly dissipated, and Richards portrayed extremely poor judgment in starting a rumor that Raven was a closeted gay man in an attempt to embarrass him and damage his reputation. This lead to the rumors that Raven’s character and all of his followers were gay, despite the fact anyone with an adult maturity level would have dismissed them all as ridiculous the second Richards started making things up. Coincidentally, at least one Flock member actually was gay, and yet Stevie never once mentioned Chris Kanyon when inventing his rumors.
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