The days of the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars are fondly remembered by many wrestling fans as the greatest time in wrestling history. That’s certainly one way to look at it, although then, there’s also the argument to be made that those days raised the bar of extreme and excess sex and violence to levels that the current wrestling product couldn’t possibly match, not to mention how the intense action of the day has left many a grappler with longtime health issues or constant battles with demons.
Still, there’s no disputing that the Attitude Era was a hot, heady, and hugely entertaining time for the industry, and the ratings garnered by both the WWF and WCW are the stuff that the current-day WWE could only dream of. For example, a May 1999 episode of Monday Night Raw brought in a remarkable 8.1 rating, while in comparison, the last Raw episode of May 2017 saw a terrible 1.75 rating – a 1.75 rating that is the second lowest in the entire history of the show.
Regardless of how well revered the Attitude Era is, that’s not to say that there weren't some shocking, outrageous, and chilling things going on behind the scenes in both the WWF and WCW during those days. So, with that in mind, here are 20 bizarre and brutal facts and secrets from a time deemed the greatest in wrestling history.
20 'The Chyna 2000s' Breast Implants
Despite her tragic end and far-too-frequent battles with her demons, Chyna was a huge part of the WWF in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.
For anybody who saw The Ninth Wonder of the World’s wrestling career from start to finish, you’ll know full well that Chyna had a hell of a lot of physical changes over the years. Amongst plenty of plastic surgery and ever-increasing muscle mass, the groundbreaking Joanie Laurer also had breast implants.
When her initial implants actually ruptured during an in-ring bout, Laurer shelled out for a pair of custom-made breasts that were suited to her hulking frame. So in-demand were these false boobs, they were marketed to larger-framed ladies and officially named the Chyna 2000s.
19 The Rock’s Beef With Shawn Michaels
When looking at dream matches that we sadly never got to see – such as Bret Hart vs Kurt Angle, or Steve Austin vs Hulk Hogan – one of the ones that come to mind is The Rock vs Shawn Michaels. And even more baffling is that both of these superstars were in the WWF/E at the same time at several points over the years.
In fact, the idea was once put to Rocky to work a feud with Michaels – only for The Great One to flat-out refuse to partake in a major on-screen rivalry with HBK.
As the story goes, the reason for Rock’s dislike of Shawn dates back to the first half of the ‘90s. The Heartbreak Kid was a total ass towards Rocky’s grandmother during a Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling show that she had put on, which was something that the young Dwayne Johnson never ever forgot.
18 The Undertaker’s Biggest Fear
Not so much a chilling or shocking fact, more just a comical note – but it’s definitely one that’s worth a brief mention here.
Think about it. You’re The Undertaker, one of the biggest names in wrestling history, a man who instantly puts fear into all who stand across from him, and somebody who's depicted as an entity far more powerful than any mere mortal. So, what’s the one thing that can put a shot of terror through the cold heart of The Phenom?
Why, that’d be cucumbers.
As per a story from the sadly deceased Paul Bearer, The Undertaker is actually scared of cucumbers to the point that he physically throws up at the mere sight of one of these most popular of vegetables. And all of a sudden, ‘Taker doesn’t seem quite as much of a badass anymore now, does he?
17 Shawn Screws The Bulldog
Where the Attitude Era is concerned – and, to be honest, some of the years that came before it – it saw the regular use of the phrase “Shawn being Shawn.” And what that means is that Shawn Michaels was a complete and utter a-hole.
While the stories of Michaels’s problems with Bret Hart are well known, one slightly lesser known incident saw The Heartbreak Kid horribly screw over Davey Boy Smith.
The place was the 1997 One Night Only PPV that emanated from Birmingham, England and saw The British Bulldog defending his European Championship against Michaels. That was a match that Bulldog was booked to win… until Shawn refused to lose at the last minute.
Bulldog’s terminally ill sister was in attendance, and, in the knowledge that he was winning, Smith had dedicated his upcoming victory to her. In the end, Michaels played politics and ended up needlessly beating Davey Boy and taking his title in front of his distraught family.
16 Nash And Hall’s New Contract Farce
Of course, by this point, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were over in WCW and already helping themselves to some of Ted Turner’s millions. When the WWF announced that Diesel and Razor were to return to TV the following week, WCW panicked and thought that Nash and Hall were returning to New York.
So panicked, in fact, WCW immediately sent Nash and Hall new, improved contracts that included a huge pay rise in order to stop them from turning up on WWF TV. Promptly signing the deals, The Outsiders sat back and laughed as worried WCW brass watched Vince McMahon and Jim Ross wheel out a pair of laughable imposters.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just one of the many huge jokes that surround the now-defunct WCW.
15 Sunny Shares The Love
Tammy “Sunny” Sytch and Chris Candido were a longtime item in the business before Candido’s tragic passing in 2005. That said, Sunny wasn’t exactly faithful to the hugely talented Candido during this time.
Even though the rumors of Bret Hart enjoying some “Sunny days” were false, Sytch was in a relationship with Shawn Michaels while still with her longstanding beau. In addition to that, she also had a few sexual encounters with Davey Boy Smith, not to mention the stories of her regularly offering oral sex in exchange for drugs during her time in ECW.
When taking this all into account, it doesn’t really come as any sort of surprise that these days, Sunny can be found charging people for video calls of her naked and touching herself. Oh, and she totally, totally made a porn film in 2016, too.
You stay classy, Tammy.
14 Bret Hart Refuses To Beat The Rock
It's not so much a controversial fact but more one of the lesser known Attitude Era tales that actually shows that not all of the big names of the time were looking to trample over superstars lower down the card than themselves.
Once such example is the time that Bret Hart refused to defeat The Rock for the Intercontinental Championship.
At the time, both Shawn Michaels and Triple H were doing their best to have The Hitman defeat Rocky for the IC Title, which was an idea that was purely a selfish one on DX's part; the win would have derailed the push of Rocky Maivia while also removing Hart from the WWF Championship picture.
Hart stood his ground and refused to squash the future Great One, instead losing to Maivia by DQ.
13 The Domestic Abuse Angle
From one-half of The Headbangers as Mosh, an injury to partner Thrasher saw Chaz take on the ridiculous gimmick of Beaver Cleavage. With his mother, Mrs. Cleavage, at his side as he asked for “mother’s milk” for his cereal, that awful gimmick was thankfully scrapped… only to be followed by something equally as bad.
From Beaver Cleavage, Chaz cut a worked shoot promo that dropped the gimmick completely. That was good, right? Well, kinda, for it would be followed up by what was planned to be a domestic abuse angle.
With Mrs. Cleavage revealed to be Chaz’s girlfriend, Marianna Komlos, the following weeks saw Komlos appear with a black eye that was done to imply Chaz had been beating her. After playing out for far too many weeks, this whole angle was thankfully dropped as the WWF instead chose to have it revealed that Komlos had been applying makeup to make it look as if she’d been beaten.
12 Mick Foley Was Supposed To Headline WrestleMania XV
The main event for WrestleMania XV is down in the record books as Stone Cold Steve Austin defeating The Rock to become the WWF Champion. But that match was, at one point, meant to be vastly different.
The original plan called for Austin vs Rock vs Mankind for the gold.
At that time, as well as working as the on-screen Commissioner, Shawn Michaels was actually helping out as part of the creative team. And it was Shawn who suggested making the ‘Mania match a one-on-one bout rather than a triple threat. Michaels’s plan, though, was to have Austin be the one to miss out on the main event, with HBK wanting to see The Great One vs Mick Foley.
While the higher-ups did indeed decide to go with a one-on-one main event, it was poor Foley who missed out, with many speculating that Shawn’s initial suggestion was because he was still pissed off with having to lose to Austin at the previous year’s WrestleMania.
11 Terri’s Miscarriage
You may have (hopefully!) forgotten all about this angle, but it’s one that shows how insensitive the then-WWF could be in its attempts to raise the bar when it comes to ‘bad taste’ TV.
When Terri Runnels dropped the Melina gimmick and returned to WWF programming following the ending of her ties to Goldust, she soon ended up romantically involved with Val Venis. In a classy move, The Big Valbowski dumped Terri after she revealed that she was pregnant.
After D’Lo Brown accidentally knocked Terri off the ring apron weeks later, the WWF shockingly did a miscarriage angle. In terms of the most sinister, disgusting things that Vince McMahon and Co. have done over the years, this still ranks right up there.
So bad was the publicity over this whole thing, it was quickly explained that Terri was never pregnant and that she’d lied about the whole thing as the WWF desperately tried to pretend this never happened.
10 Chyna, WWF Champion
Yes, this very nearly happened. At one point in time, Vince McMahon had every intention to make Chyna the WWF Champion.
That was to have happened at SummerSlam ’99, but McMahon changed his mind at the last minute. Chyna, aka Joanie Laurer, became the #1 contender for Steve Austin’s WWF Title in the build-up to that PPV, with the initial plan being to have Chyna defeat the biggest star of the Attitude Era and become the first ever female to hold the WWF’s biggest prize.
The company obviously decided to go in a different direction, with Chyna losing her #1 contender spot to Mankind, who would defeat Austin and Triple H in a triple threat bout to become the WWF Champ. For Laurer, she’d instead go on to become a 2-time Intercontinental Champion before leaving the company in 2001.
9 The Excessive Drug Use
These days, the wrestling business is extremely keen to make sure that all talents are drug-free. In fact, the company even offers to pay for former employees to attend rehab for any demons that they're still battling.
Back in the Attitude Era, this was all totally different, however.
In both the WWF and WCW, drug use was a part of everyday life for many a wrestler. From stories of Shawn Michaels’s infamous drug use in the WWF to tales of how Raven and Perry Saturn would take trips overseas to purchase drugs for the WCW locker room, neither of these huge wrestling companies of the day did much of anything to discourage their talents from using illegal substances.
This was nothing new to the business, with the previous decades also seeing drugs a far too frequent part of the regular life of many a wrestler – which tragically would lead to so many greats of yesteryear passing away far too soon.
8 How Lita Paid For Her Training
From all of the various wrestler stories and recollections over the years, it’s often said how Amy Dumas, aka Lita, had a unique way of paying for her wrestling training.
Back in the mid-'90s, this future Hall of Famer allegedly paid for her training in Mexico by dishing out sexual favors, as she had no money to pay for her tuition. I guess one way of looking at this is that Amy was willing to do whatever it took to try and make it in the wrestling business, while another way to look at it is that she was essentially wh---g herself out.
Regardless of how she got to the dance, Lita has gone on to become one of the greatest female performers that the business has ever seen, and she played a huge part in revolutionizing women’s wrestling during her days as an in-ring talent.
7 The Undertaker Nearly Went To WCW
If you’re of a certain age, you may well remember The Undertaker as “Mean Mark” Callous in WCW during 1989 and 1990. For most casual fans, though, ‘Taker has and always will be ‘Taker, mainstay of the WWF and WWE, and someone who stayed loyal to Vince McMahon during the Monday Night Wars.
It’s a little-known fact, however, that The Phenom very nearly abandoned the WWF ship and headed to the competition in 2000.
That revelation was made known a few years back by Kevin Nash, who explained that the plan was for the whole Deadman gimmick to be dropped and have this multi-time WWF Champion turn up in WCW as simply badass biker Mark Calaway.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, largely down to Vince deciding to offer guys like ‘Taker and Shawn Michaels guaranteed contracts in order to keep them loyal.
6 The Bullying Of Chris Candido
By all accounts, Chris Candido was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Sadly, it seems he was a little too nice for the wrestling business at times.
Even though it was plain and clear that his other half, Sunny, was frequently sleeping with Shawn Michaels and several others, Candido never got as far as confronting the issue as he likely should have – with him fearing professional and personal repercussions if he did so. As a result, he would be openly mocked by The Kliq for not standing up for himself.
Many wrestlers have been vocal over the bullying of Candido over the years, with Bam Bam Bigelow going on record as saying how he had to talk Chris out of suicide at several points due to the horrendous situation he found himself in during his WWF tenure.
5 Goldust Nearly Had Breast Implants
Does anything else really need to be said?
Well, obviously it does, for you should at least get some sort of background detail on all of this. Yes, as stated, Goldust very nearly had breast implants at one point in time.
At the height of The Bizarre One’s Attitude Era popularity, Vince McMahon came up with the “genius” idea of amping up Goldust’s bizarre nature and eerie sexual mannerisms by suggesting that Dustin Runnels have surgery to get some fake boobs.
After being approached with the idea by McMahon, Runnels reportedly seriously considered going under the knife to go along with his boss’s crazy idea. Luckily for all involved, Vince then changed his mind, and the whole concept was completely dropped.
4 The Steve Austin Walkout
2002 is largely seen as the year that the Attitude Era came to an end, and it also happens to be the year that Steve Austin shocked the world by walking out on the WWE.
Many remember that the Texas Rattlesnake famously took his ball and went home for good after refusing to lose to Brock Lesnar in a one-off, unannounced match on Monday Night Raw, but there was more to Austin’s unhappiness. That same year had earlier seen Stone Cold shoot down the idea of battling Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 before Austin then took a week off without permission, and then he shockingly slammed the company’s creative direction live on WWE programming.
Steve Austin is undoubtedly one of the poster boys of the Attitude Era – if not the poster boy – and his walkout shocked the wrestling business to its core, with many fans losing their reason to tune in to WWE programming on a regular basis. It also sadly took some of the shine off of Austin’s place as a big favorite of many, with some seeing this as him walking out on his fans.
3 WCW’s Ridiculous Favored Nations Clause
As yet another example of how ridiculous WCW was during its heyday, the company agreed to have a “favored nation” clause put into the contracts of both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
Basically, that clause meant that any time WCW signed a talent to a contract that paid better than Hall and Nash’s deal, the pair instantly received a pay increase to put them on the same level. Reportedly, that clause excluded Hulk Hogan’s deal as Hogan was on a whole bizarre deal of his own, brother. But elsewhere, it meant that Hall and Nash would openly encourage WCW brass to sign performers to big new deals or bring in WWF stars, such as Bret Hart, on huge salaries, all because that meant The Outsiders would instantly get a pay increase.
It’s shocking stories such as this that go a long way to seeing why WCW would end up imploding.
2 Vince Wanted Incest
WWE programming has featured some ridiculous, bizarre, and frankly offensive content over the years, and one horrendous thing that nearly happened during the Attitude Era was an incest angle.
As the ‘90s came to a close, Stephanie McMahon became a fixture on WWF TV. Ever looking to push the envelope – and come up with something doused in bad taste – Vince proposed an angle where Stephanie would become pregnant. After months of ‘whodunit’, it would be revealed that Vince would be the father of Steph’s baby. Rightly, The Billion Dollar Princess flat-out refused to be a part of such an angle. Undeterred, Vinny Mac then suggested that Shane be revealed as the mystery father. Again, Steph, like any sane person, took umbrage with Vince’s suggestion that she storyline-wise slept with her brother.
If you thought that the whole Triple H/Kane/Katie Vick angle was bad (and it totally, totally was!), at least consider yourself lucky that you never got to see an incest story play out between Vince and his dear daughter.
1 The Real-Life Domestic Assault Incident
As the biggest star of the Attitude Era, Steve Austin was running the road hard and fast, with the Bionic Redneck himself later admitting that he maybe ran a little too hard at times – which, in itself, led to some bad judgment and some horrible decisions.
The most notorious of these centers around an incident in June 2002. By this point, Austin was in a bad place personally and professionally and had walked out on the WWE. It was June 15th that saw Debra, Austin’s wife at the time, call the police due to a domestic assault from her husband. Austin fled the scene then would later refuse a request from police officers to return to the premises or to head to the police station.
Steve Austin would plead no contest to the domestic abuse charge, landing himself a year’s probation, a $1,000 fine, and 80 hours of community service. Steroid use accusations would follow, as would further accusations of violence from both Debra and later girlfriend Tess Broussard. Worryingly, the WWE reportedly knew of these happenings but refused to acknowledge there was a problem.
Sources: WWE, Wikipedia, Sports Illustrated