WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

Hey, another year down, and this time I actually took brief notes while I watched, so hopefully it’ll better trigger my memory. Let’s go through this thing in sequential order/whenever I felt motivation enough to jot down a note.

The Triple H/Mick Foley stuff to start the year was some pretty great stuff, with Triple H fully entrenched now as the top heel with the belt and a hold on the company through his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. They’re both a juxtaposition of styles with Triple H being the more technical wrestler with Foley being of the more whatever-it-takes brawler type, but both meshed in the middle with their skill at hardcore matches. Thus we got an excellent street fight match at the Royal Rumble (including a really fun tables match between The Dudley Boyz and Hardyz that really kick started these TLC gimmick matches in the tag division) draped in blood featuring thumbtacks, barbed-wire bats, handcuffs, trash cans and all that and both men put on an excellent show. Their Hell In a Cell match at No Way Out to blow off their one-on-one feud was also very good and continued the lineage of Foley taking ridiculous Cell spots.

The lead up to WrestleMania was pretty disappointing and lacking to me. The Rock beat Big Show to win the Royal Rumble, but under some controversial means where his feet basically touched before Show’s and probably really shouldn’t have been the winner, I have no clue if this was intended or not, but thus they feuded over the spot for a bit. The different permutations of the main event leading into Mania was maddening, it literally changed every week and basically undermined the Royal Rumble and every new number one contender as they legit just had new number one contender matches each week. I didn’t think they’d actually let Big Show main event Mania, but I guess they got away with it when they finally settled on a four-way between Triple H, The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley, which I was not looking forward to at all. There was a pretty clever twist when each McMahon was backing a man with Stephanie with Triple H, Vince with The Rock, Shane with Big Show and Linda with Foley. The match wasn’t very good and overlong and I thought for sure The Rock would take the belt from Triple H, but nope he retained to cap off a very lackluster Mania. I was really feeling the absence of Austin and Undertaker as they were the stars of the last couple years and didn’t really feel like the other guys did a good job of carrying the show without them.

The funniest thing was that leading up to Mania Big Show was booked as this big, strong, imposing mean bastard who was main event tier and then right after his big show(ing) at Mania 2000 he was booked as a big, dumb comedy act who dressed up in costumes and danced with Rikishi. It was amazing the 180 they pulled.

We also finally got the debut of Christ Benoit, which I was looking forward to, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturan as the defected from WCW. I enjoyed their little storline to begin where they were The New Radicalz and just beat people up as the new guys, but it was eventually clear that Benoit was the main one they would push as they pretty quickly got separated. And of course Eddie wouldn’t get the big push right away, but would do some nice work with Chyna that really sold his comedic chops and acting ability, not to mention how good of a wrestler he was of course.

I finally saw the whole Mae Young giving birth to a hand thing and it was just as messed up and dumb as I imagined. Basically just a reminder that, yep, I am still indeed watching the Attitude Era.

Chris Jericho really started to heat up even more with the fans and they loved everything he touched and said, especially due to them putting him over for the belt on Raw, for however briefly. Even still it’s obvious that with Austin gone on injury that The Rock is still the THE star of the business who gets incredible pops. It’s hard to tell who got a bigger pop at the height of their stardom, but it’s probably Austin by a hair.

I have a special place in my heart for Too Cool, going back to the days when Scotty 2 Hotty was my favourite wrestler when I first started watching all this garbage, for reasons that really boil down to how cool it was that his hair came out the top of his hat. But, anyways, I was surprised how over Too Cool was when they started out and they were actually working some main event matches on TV and ones with Triple H and The Rock, although it didn’t last too long and they wen back to being low card gimmicks. It was also pretty obvious that they wanted to push Rikishi up the card and he was the only one they really cared about because #Samoan.

Speaking of Too Cool, the tag team division was stacked at this time, with Too Cool, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardyz, Edge & Christian, Crash and Hardcore Holly, The Acolytes, Test & Albert, D-Generation X and later Right To Censor. They definitely had options although not all the teams were always at their peak, because they all couldn’t be, but each slided in and out nicely for some solid mid-card matches.

Edge & Christian are the best and their dumb frat boy humour always works on me because it’s so dumb and they both play perma-fried bros so well. They would later get a nice push with Kurt Angle, further doubling down on the dumb, oblivious guy theme. The best running joke with E&C was when they’d always try to fake injuries to get out of matches and would do whatever it takes to not defend their belts. Just the best.

I have another special place in my heart for Right To Censor, and I even vividly remember making their logo as some kind of pop-up art project in school as a kid, and no I have no idea why of all the colourful superstars of the time I picked a Right To Censor logo to ape. I really love their gimmick as an extension and pesudo-commentary on the Attitude Era’s awful treatment of women as just piece of meat to parade around in the smallest amount of clothes possible and book solely in matches where they strip each others clothes off. They would always get immediate heat with their entrance theme which was a bunch of annoying alarms that wouldn’t stop. And even better to fulfill the whole irony quotient The Godfather and Val Venis, the pimp and porn star gimmicks of years past would join and renounce their ways.

So, then at Backlash The Rock finally won the title over Triple H and they feuded into Judgment Day into a one hour Iron Man match which was a super cool concept to actually pull off (that they would never do nowadays) even if the match wasn’t all that great. Shawn Michaels was the special guest referee and The Undertaker made his glorious return in his infamous biker gimmick (lol!) screwy finish, screwy finish and Triple H had the belt back.

King Of The Ring happened with Kurt Angle (more on him soon) amazingly winning the titular title of the PPV and The Rock won the title back because the world championship in the Attitude Era is basically a hot potato that goes from person to person, even in weird tag matches where you can win the singles title, like The Rock did.

And then Chris Benoit’s push coincided with The Rock’s title reign and oh, damn, they let Benoit man event a pay-per-view this yearly and I was surprised, but it was a lot of (brief) fun. He’s not really the best on the mic, but his in ring work was in matched and he literally put on a fantastic match with everyone, so it was always worth paying attention. This also included the Triple H/Chris Jericho feud in a Last Man Standing match which included great work as always by both of them. And then with his sublte into not-so-subtle macking on Stephanie McMahon Kurt Angle’s push into the main event slowly began to crescendo. Thus Kurt and Triple H feuded for a couple pay-per-views, basically over Stephanie, it went on a little bit too long for my taste, but Kurt made it all work. Angle is the best because he’s so good at doing dumb comedy bits and selling them amazingly with his naivety and commitment, but at the same time he’s totally believable as a main eventer who can kick ass and get it done with his technical prowess. He really was the perfect guy in WWE to measure their incessant want for dumb comedy, be entertaining and actually wrestle a good match.

And then everything culminated with Kurt taking the title from The Rock, which I really wasn’t expecting, I thought it was way too soon to put the belt on Kurt, but I always forget how much they love flip-flopping the title. And of course he was great with the belt as a little twerp who tried to get out of everything.

Kurt then took the backseat to the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was awesome to finally have back, but oh my god, like a repeat of the build-up to Mania, the storyline of WHO RAN OVER AUSTIN, took forever and had a bunch of fake-outs and then it was finally revealed to be Rikishi (lol!) who thus turned heel into bad man Rikishi (lol!) with some dumb reasoning about the #Samoan connection between him and The Rock as to why it was done.

To finish off the year we had the big Armageddon Hell In A Cell match between *takes a breath* Kurt Angle, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi. Which one of those names doesn’t belong? Either way, I was really looking forward to the match, and it was indeed good, but nothing great, which was fine by me, because I kind of half-expected everything to cancel out and it’d be terrible.

And so I guess the final thing to end the year was Mick Foley getting ousted as commissioner, oh yeah, Mick Foley was commissioner for the majority of the year after he came back from retirement. I really didn’t talk about it because it didn’t really do much for me, mainly Foley’s comedy schtick where he would always be in random places backstage taking up office and all his pandering to the crowd. He was a pretty hollow replacement for a figure in power, although I do obviously know he was like that to differentiate from the Vince’s and Shane’s in the past.

I honestly didn’t really dig this year as a whole, it was very inconsistent and could never maintain steam, or when it did it would grasp onto something for wayyy too long and drive it into the dirt. The lack of Austin and Undertaker hurt things, as they were huge reasons why I loved the last couple years and of course Taker’s new gimmick takes some getting used to. It also felt less of an “Attitude” type year as the previous ones, I think mainly because they were fully entrenched in this new identity and were set on a pretty straightforward cruise control. The Rock was great, as always, even if he did get semi-overshadowed later in the year, but that was mainly due to Angle with the belt which was a pretty good change of pace. I was gonna take a break after this year (it’s been four years!) since I’m semi losing steam on a lot of things, but the promise of WrestleMania 17 (which I’ve been told is the best) and my intrigue of the whole invasion angle has me piqued to see how much further I can last.

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WWF Attitude Era: 1998

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1998

So, Stone Cold is just a little bit over, isn’t he? Man, just when I said 1997 was the year of Bret Hart, 1998 just blows that out of the water with Stone Cold, he went nuclear times 10. Just if you could bottle the energy the crowd expends when the glass shatters on Stone Cold’s entrance, you could power a small city for a week. This is the Attitude Era I was waiting for ass-kicker Stone Cold Steve Austin taking over, throwing up middle fingers, chugging down a couple Steveweisers and stunning everyone in sight, and feuding with Vince McMahon. Stone Cold/Vince is everything I wanted it to be and literally the defining the storyline of the defining era for the company.

The whole year was basically the Austin/McMahon feud, with Austin basically owning the entire company and everything being fed through his veins. Leading into Mania XIV it was obvious he was going over HBK, how couldn’t he? The crowd went nuclear everytime they saw even a glimpse of him. He would feud with Mankind/Dude Love for a bit, but things really hit their stride when he got involved with the whole Undertaker/Kane thing flip-flopping the belt. That’s one thing the Attitude Era was never afraid of, randomly dropping the top title on RAW or giving out short reigns, like Kane got at King Of The Ring. Austin was just on a tear all year, and what a time to watch him captivate the entire product at the time.

Oh, man, so let’s talk about it King Of The Ring ’98, Undertaker vs. Mankind Hell In A Cell with probably? the most famous moment in wrestling history. I mean, you could debate that, but like top three at least. Anyway, who cares, Undertaker throws Mick Foley (let’s personalize him here for effect) off the top of the goddamn cell threw an announce table. Of course I’d seen this several times before in, like, every WWF highlight package, but jeez, the shock value just doesn’t go away. Mick Foley, Mrs. Foley’s little boy, falls off a ginormous steel structure through a table, and for all intents and purposes he dies. He doesn’t, but it sure she seems like he did. That was before the match even “started,” and Foley gets stretched away and we go on to the next match, still with our mouths agape. Except that’s not what happens, and seeing that moment I never even thought of, I just assumed that was at the end of things, nope, Foely comes back and wrestles a full match and eventually gets put through the top of the cell. Like, man, Foley gets insane credit for this, but wrestling a full match after that is insanity. And then he comes out for the Austin/Kane main event, too! Incredible. This was actually really a great pay-per-view all the way through, and shouldn’t be remembered just for that “gimmick” moment.

If this was Austin’s year, The Rock was just behind, he was just getting his character’s mannerisms down and would start the great beginnings of his feud/partnership thing with Mankind. Like 1997, it was fun watching him become this character that would define the generation and eventually become larger than WWF and wrestling would ever imagine. The Rock was just beginning to pop off, but obviously Austin was running around, but I think it gave him time to bubble under, really get to know his character and be immediately ready to transition into the main event picture in little time, and the fans just starting to go crazy for him more and more where in the coming year he’d get Austin level responses. His Mankind feud was really fun, with these two polarizing characters and was a great storyline between the two, playing well off of each other leading into the coming years.

This was also the true coming out party of D-Generation X, who really started the whole random stupid throwaway comedy that WWF would constantly come back to. They were basically a frat that just went around and caused mayhem, making dumb jokes and occasionally beating people down. Really planting the seeds for Triple H to break away from the group. He had an awesome little feud with The Rock, which culminated in a fantastic ladder match at SummerSlam, but unfortunately saw Triple H go down with an injury that put him out for the rest of the year, really squandering that push and momentum he had.

The official “main player” aspect of Kane really kicked off here, with him slowly edging out of only being associated with the Undertaker and feuding solely with him. As cool as the Undertaker/Kane feud was to begin with, where it started in 1997, but actually picked up in this year, it eventually wore out it’s welcome for the time being, so it was nice to see Kane involved with others. Even if it just was adding Stone Cold for a bit, since he obviously elevated anybody who he was with.

I don’t know if I fully articulated it here, but I had a ton of fun with this year, where no matter how you slice it, the Attitude Era that we know is fully underway. Stone Cold was the through-line through the whole year, especially going against Mr. McMahon, and was certainly what catapulted this whole time period into the stratosphere. Future main-eventers like Triple H and The Rock were just getting their characters in full order like we remember them, and were just getting ready to explode in the coming year.

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

So, basically those 1,500 words that you probably didn’t read from the previous post I didn’t intend to write. I just originally intended to write some background on me and wrestling since I legit haven’t mentioned it anywhere on this blog before, I think? Anyways, whatever, we’re gonna talk about the Attitude era now, which is much more fun than me trying to break down wrestling into a connection to my childhood and growing up and all that.

The Attitude era is the idea of wrestling that people think of when they have no clue about wrestling or don’t follow it. It was the advent of “adult” themes including increased violence, sexuality (exploiting women to the absolute nth degree), swearing etc. You know, basically all that good stuff that pre-teen boys strive for in everything. It’s also the era of stars that everybody knows and that were arguably the most famous and actually transcended into modern everyday culture. You got your The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Undertaker as the big ones that put it into the stratosphere. You ask some rando on the street who doesn’t know about wrestling to name a wrestler and 9/10’s it’ll be one of these guys. We’re pretending Hulk Hogan doesn’t exist.

Now I grew up in the Ruthless Aggression, spanning somewhere around 2002-2006, and I love it because of my previous nostalgia attached to it in my childhood, but of course the Attitude era reigns over all. I missed it and never got to see any of it live, although I’ve experienced a lot of it through various clips, reading, video games and all that. But now with this new fangled Internet thing, I can go back and watch it all, and I have nothing better to do, so that’s what I’ve been doing. People always drone on about how great the era was, and c’mon, mainly just because it was so exploitive and did crazy shit, how about the wrestling, was it actually any good?

Nobody can really agree on when the Attitude era began. Some say it was when Stone Cold won the King Of The Ring in 1996, some say the start of 1997, some say the Montreal Screwjob in November of ’97, some say after WrestleMania XIV in March of 1998. I could not settle on a definitive answer, and everybody had their own definition, so because I’m OCD and couldn’t just start randomly mid-year I started from the first Monday Night RAW episode of January and started my trek.

This is not gonna be a sequential post going through the 1997 Attitude era year in order, because honestly I finished it like a month + ago and am just writing about it now. Anyways, to skip ahead, I found my answer, the vast majority of 1997 I would not consider the Attitude Era. It was definitely a major transitional time into the era, but never would fully become it until 1998 when it just snowballed so fast into it. But, yes, for sure, November of 1997 is when they changed the logo and that definitely was the vast catalyst that sped the process up.

Take for instance Triple H, or I guess Hunter Hearst Helmsley at this time and The Rock, or I guess Rocky Maivia at this time, they were stuck in their old gimmicks and at the start of the year weren’t even close to being the stars we know of them from the era now. That’s why 1997 was so cool, because I could see the small, subtle changes in front of my eyes that would grow into massive changes for these characters, storylines and even arena set-ups. It wasn’t the Attitude era per’se, but it was fascinating watching everything slowly loosen up and fall into the new era. Triple H was always a dick, but he started off as an elitist country club like kid, then in November with the forming of D-Generation-X became an anti-authority dick. Rocky Maivia was this wrestler who didn’t talk and who was only spoke of because of his father, nothing really about what HE actually did. The seeds were planted for these characters, and they would all sprout before anyone really knew it.

But, as you do in wrestling you always like to say “It was the year of ______” if you think of this time who do you think of? And 1997 was definitely Bret Hart and to a slightly lesser degree Shawn Michaels. Hart was by far the focal point of the year, beginning as the the face that everybody loved into the heel that everybody hated. And of course this all culminated in possibly THE defining moment in WWE history, the Montreal Screwjob. This was my first time watching it, and with everything that was built up to it over the years and everything I heard about it, the match itself was pretty underwhelming, although granted the actual match isn’t why the event is remembered, with the finish and all the backstage politics making it what it was. Just watching it in and of itself, with zero outside context and obviously not watching it during the time period and the behind-the-scenes stuff it’s hard to take all the context of it, but it’s still an incredible turning point for the company and the one which catapulted Vince McMahon, the wrestling promoter owner, to Vince McMahon the larger than life antagonistic boss character that would rule over the company in storylines for the next several years.

This review/recap thing, because I wrote it is obviously not in sequential order, so I’m just going to throw out some random thoughts that didn’t really deserve their own paragraph or whatever. I’m so used to wrestling nowadays where they build up a feud or have a reason for people fighting (if amazingly flimsy), but this year is completely different. In April/May they were all like “Uhhhh, Undertaker you’re randomly going to feud with Farooq for some reason, we don’t know why, but, uh, just go for it for a PPV.”

I always knew Ken Shamrock was in the WWF at some point, but I always just assumed it was come bit/celebrity-esque cameo for a pay-per-view or two. I didn’t know he was just legit a full-fledged wrestler on the program, jeez, as if I couldn’t hate him more.

As a Canadian/Albertan the focus of a pay-per-view at and around Calgary and the Stampede was super cool, and it also manages to be underratedly one of the best of the year. Obviously goes to the credit of how over the Hart’s were at this time and how they were the focal point of the year for the company. Ralph Klein was in attendance rocking a cowboy hate. What a year.

How does the first Hell In A Cell match with Shawn Michaels versus Undertaker at Badd Blood not get more shine, that match was incredible. It’s crazy how they nailed the essence and epicness of the Cell match on their first go at it. Just goes to show the quality that HBK/Taker always delivers, and hey, I heard they had a couple decent WrestleMania matches a few years later.

Match of the year was definitely Owen Hart versus British Bulldog for the European Championship. My god, the technician on display in this match, I haven’t seen much like it.

Oh, damn. How could I forget, actually scratch that match of the year statement I just made. Oh my god, Bret Hart/Steve Austin Submission match at Mania. This was a match of course I’ve heard of, and more accurately seen THAT image of, Austin’s faced bloodied screaming in agony after being in the sharpshooter from Bret. You just don’t forget images like that. And this match lived up to everything I’d heard of it and more. It’s just fantastic any way you shape it. Amazing technical wrestling from Hart, and even Austin, throw in some brawling to Austin’s favour, a little ring bell action, a great finish and the beginning of Hart’s heel turn. Damn, I think I might need to watch this again right now.

I guess that’s all I have to say. Granted I’m writing this quite a while removed from finishing this year, and have a couple more under my belt now (those write-ups are coming soon, I hope) and it was definitely an interesting watch. Coming in I wanted the sex and violence of the Attitude Era I’ve heard about all these years, but I came in a bit too early, but you know, I’m really glad I got this context and transition period. I grew up in modern day wrestling conditions and style, so the older stuff from the early 90s and earlier just fails to register with me often and frankly I get bored with it. I was afraid I would with this year when I saw how far removed it really was, I did at parts, but it was fascinating to watch how quickly the landscape of wrestling and weekly television changed for the WWF, how they groomed characters and subtly and not-so-subtly began shifting into the era that would define their product and produce their highest popularity of all time.