There is one question about the WWE that no person, alive or dead, can truly answer. The question is: “When did the Attitude Era start and finish?”
This question is impossible to answer.
Some say it was with the birth of Austin 3:16. Some say it started at Survivor Series 1998 when The Rock joined The Corporation.
But, I’m not here to tell you when, why, how, where or anything like that. I’m simply here to give my opinion on the 10 Superstars of the Attitude Era that made it what it was!
10. Road Dogg Jesse James – Most people would just say DX, but not only were the New Age Outlaws one of the most dominant tag teams of the late 90s, Road Dogg had the microphone skills that could carry anyone (like Billy Gunn). His microphone skills also helped push X-Pac and Triple H to bring themselves up a notch.
Road Dogg had attitude from the moment he stepped in front of a camera to the moment he was off-air. I can hardly think attitude without thinking about his shake rattle and roll knee drop, his wild hair all braided up and those pants tucked into his DX boots.
Who didn’t laugh with some of his stuff and who the hell can say they didn’t run around quoting him? If they can, they are liars!
9. The Godfather – Let’s face it. The Godfather will never win awards for his wrestling. He’ll probably never get an award for his microphone work either. I will certainly give him an award for the total pimp attitude, the music and THE HOOOOOOOOOSSSSSS!!!!!
His ‘Ho Train’ that came with him every Monday night was a draw. Guys wanting the ‘Ho Train’ to come their way and the women wanted to be a part of the ‘Ho Train’. It was a great move to go Godfather instead of staying Kama Mustafa. However, the ‘Goodfather’ was a bad idea. I really can’t even watch Brodus Clay anymore without thinking about the sexy ladies The Godfather brought weekly that put Cameron and Naomi to shame. He was a big part of the Attitude Era.
8. Hardcore Holly – Ok, the guy was shit on the mic. His wrestling ability was NEVER showcased right. However, if it had not been for Hardcore Holly then the Hardcore Title might have never been as important and entertaining as it was. He was a six-time Hardcore Champion and five of those came within the first year of the championship’s existence.
If not for him tagging himself as ‘Hardcore’ Holly, Bob ‘Sparkplug’ Holly would not have survived in the hardcore scene. He would not have been known as the toughest hardcore bastard the WWE has seen and the Hardcore Championship might have failed within a few months.
Sadly, he took a back seat after WWE acquired ECW guys and then the “InVasion” took over and the 24/7 rule came into effect.
He was the evil, nasty, ruthless aggression boss persona of the WWE Chairman personified. Without him, there wouldn’t have been the Stone Cold Steve Austin you now know. There would have been no Corporation, no Corporate Ministry and there’s a chance the “InVasion” angle might not have opened up the way it did with Shane trying to get revenge on his evil, tyrant of a father.
Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that Mr. McMahon was a CRUCIAL on air character during the Attitude Era.
6. HBK – HBK was only around for the beginning of the attitude era. I’d be contrite to rule him out of this list though. HBK founded Degeneration-X with Triple H. DX could very well be the most iconic stable in WWE History now. Sadly, Shawn had to leave with a back injury that he needed surgery for. This was a turning point in the WWE. With Shawn leaving it was time to crown a new WWF Heavyweight Champion.
Someone that’s never been champion and someone who was gaining momentum everywhere you looked. Shawn not only dropped the title to Steve Austin, he passed the torch to the next generation.
So, #6, HBK founded one of the greatest stables of the past 25 years, but also passed the torch to one of the greatest superstars in history. That sounds like a very crucial member of the Attitude Era to me, even if he missed most of it.
5. Triple H – Triple H is just a mound of hot button topics and questions. No matter what you think about his rise to fame in comparison to him dating Stephanie, you cannot deny that he took the reigns of DX and catapulted it even higher.
You can’t deny the fact that he has limitless talent in the ring. You can’t deny the fact that without Triple H, there might not have been The Rock. There might not have been DX. There might not have been many things that he had his hands on.
His feuds with The Rock over the Intercontinental Title will always be one of the best feuds of the past 15-20 years and made some AMAZING matches. It was a blood feud that Triple H carried with him into the WWE Title scene where he kept trying to get one over on The Rock.
Without that Intercontinental Championship feud, The Rock might not have caught on like wildfire.
4. Undertaker – You can make any list for any ‘best of’ for the past 20 years and Undertaker will probably be in the top 5 of many of them. The Undertaker formed The Ministry during the Attitude Era that really brought a new depth to him and to the product.
How can anyone forget the Monday Night Raw when he tied Stone Cold to The Undertaker symbol and hoisted him high up into the air? The show ended with Undertaker looking up at Austin high above the stage, as if offering him as a sacrifice.
The Undertaker also reinvented himself in the later attitude years as The American Badass. He changed his look, cut his hair and road a motorcycle to the ring with Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’ blasting. He lost the Tombstone and still kicked ass.
Without Undertaker there would be no Kane. Mankind never would have been as famous and huge as he got because no one would have thrown him off the Hell in a Cell. There would be no Ministry and hence, no Corporate Ministry. No Paul Bearer, no Buried Alive matches, no Inferno matches and the Hell in a Cell might not have even existed or at least been as famous as he made it in 1998.
3. Mankind – How can I put Foley ahead of Hunter? Easily! The WWE Universe will always know Foley as Mankind even though he was also Cactus Jack and Dude Love. He gave the Attitude Era three great characters. He created Mr. Socko. Undertaker threw him from the cell in 1998. He was the man that The Rock and The Corporation screwed over at Survivor Series 1998 where some say the Attitude Era officially took over.
What about his first Biography? How about The Rock n’ Sock Connection, Corporate Mankind, the first ever WWE Hardcore Champion, Undertaker’s mortal enemy and the man who won the WWE Championship on Raw in January 1999? This was the night that Eric Bischoff made Tony Schivanoe announce on Nitro stating: “That’ll put butts in the seats!”
Everyone turned to RAW and WCW never beat WWE in the ratings again!
P.S. Foley and The Rock created the highest rated segment in RAW history that will probably NEVER be beaten. 8.4 segment rating for “This Is Your Life.”
2. The Rock – Speaking of The Rock, as much as I dislike the guy, I cannot deny his impact on the Attitude Era. From his time with The Nation, his microphone work could leave people speechless. His charisma really was unmatched and if you don’t believe that, go watch him take a Stone Cold Stunner or see the look on his face as he realizes he’s in for a beating.
He was so into his character that he NEVER once said the words ‘I’ or ‘Me’. “The Rock is gonna win!” “The Rock will lay the Smackdown on a jabroni…”
He always talked in third person and never slipped once he started it up. His feuds with Austin and Triple H could be talked about for decades and probably will be. His matches against Mankind and with Mankind were excellent. His work with Foley created the 8.4 history setting rating for a Raw segment and no one will ever forget, “This Is Your Life, Rock”.
I hated The Rock, but even I went around quoting that segment in school for weeks. Someday, he will pass the torch to this new generation of stars. The Rock was one of the biggest draws in WWE history and it seems he will be cemented into the Hall of Fame…probably next time WrestleMania is in Miami.
Intercontinental, Tag Team, Heavyweight…he held them all and had unforgettable feuds to get and keep them all.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Even if this list were in no real order, Stone Cold Steve Austin would have to be #1 anyways. He struggled early on before the Attitude Era started. He was The Ringmaster Steve Austin, the Million Dollar Champion.
Then he won King Of The Ring (beating Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts) and delivered the most important promo in the history of wrestling:
“You sit there, and you thump your bible and say your prayers and didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass! “
That was it. Austin 3:16 took off like a bat out of hell. The fans used it and the fans bought it. Austin sold BILLIONS of dollars of merchandise over the years. He sold out arenas all over the country. He entered into a feud that many watched WWE just to see what he’d do to Mr. McMahon next.
My own father would sit down and watch wrestling with me while admitting he just wants to see what Austin will do next. Never watched before, doesn’t watch now. Austin was the face of the company and he was a household name. Everyone was dying to get his or her hands on his merchandise! Steve Austin was the Hulk Hogan of the late 90s.
His feuds with The Rock and Triple H were nothing less than superb. His short time fighting off Ministry Undertaker was beyond enjoyable. It was so great to watch and wonder what the hell Austin would do next and to whom. He was the epitome of attitude!
Austin didn’t care who was in his way. Friend, Foe, someone he doesn’t’ know…he’d stomp a mud hole, walk it dry and reach the top. The fans ate it up. How couldn’t they? Everyone dreams of being the rebel that does what he wants, when he wants and gets to beat the shit out of his boss (Mr. McMahon) in the process.
Everyone was jealous, but also in love with the attitude and persona that was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He did main event MANY WrestleMania shows. He and The Rock can claim they are the sole reason WM 19 was a sold out success and you’d be hard pressed to find someone that could argue it. Even a decade after he had to bow out due to injuries, the fans still want him.
He’s still relevant as CM Punk keeps egging him on and the fans, myself included, cannot wait until the one night Punk rips on him and you hear that glass shatter! Steve Austin might not have been a technical wrestling God, but he was good, he could tell a story, he could draw the crowd in within seconds!
He could drag the fans through every emotion with him. He was killer on the microphone and he took the simple concept of flipping people off to a new level, making it practically as ‘household’ as his name.
I’m sure not many will agree with the first half of my list. Guys like Godfather, Hardcore Holly, Road Dogg…but I think most of you, if not all, can agree with 1-5. Who the hell would you put in there and why?
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Before I go, I must give 100% credit to The Wrestling Wrealm on Blog Talk Radio. They are doing a radio show about their list of most prominent figures of the Attitude Era that I’m listening to as I write. Go ahead and check them out along with PWPRadio!