Welcome all marks, hulkamaniacs, and jericholics alike. I'm back once again to continue my stroll down memory lane summarizing the most prominent eras of mainstream professional wrestling. I hope you all enjoyed a very safe and fun Christmas and New Year's.
Last time I left you with the previous wrestling era known as the Next Generation Era. An era which heralded the rise of Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Bret Hart. All three easily can be considered the greatest of all time. The very three that almost single handily saved the WWF from the very brink of collapse, both business and quality wise. Some consider the Next Generation Era to be the worst era of professional wrestling, to which I respectfully disagree and continue to argue it's importance to wrestling as a whole, but I digress. Rising from the ashes of the so called "dark age" of professional wrestling arose a mighty phoenix that shot the wrestling industry into heights it at never seen before even in the Golden Era. Of course I'm referring to the all important and almighty Attitude Era!
Before we begin, let me first elaborate on how this new and improved wrestling boom sent shockwaves across the whole world. At the tail end of the Next Generation Era, the WWF was facing fierce competition from it's rival WCW who exploded onto the scene with one of the most important and legendary moments in all of professional wrestling. With this event, the WCW laid waste to WWF's throne as the king of wrestling promotions. With this event WCW declared a new world across the industry, a New World Order!
The following article entry has been paid for by the New World Order. The seeds of arguably the greatest wrestling stable and trademark of all time were planted on May 27, 1996 on Monday Night Nitro when Scott Hall emerged from the shocked and bewildered crowd to interrupt a match taking place. It was there that the man formerly known as Razor Ramon in the WWF declared war on WCW and issued one of the most famous speeches in wrestling history which forced fans to ponder what was fake and what was reality. Towards the end of the broadcast Hall interrupted head broadcaster Eric Bischoff to promise a little....no..BIG surprise. Then on the following week's broadcast Hall revealed his big surprise to be none other than Kevin Nash formerly known as Diesel in the WWF. Now with his partner in crime at his side, Hall and Nash carried out their promise of declaring war on WCW which saw the newly christened Outsiders wreak havoc on the following Nitro broadcasts. Then at the Great American Bash pay per view The Outsiders rebuked claims they were sent by WWF to sabotage it's competition and got their wish when Bischoff gave them a match that Hall had previously requested against three of the company's top guys before the two assaulted Bischoff and powerbombed him through the stage. The match was known as the Hostile Takeover Match after Bischoff chose Sting, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage to represent the company's leading knights against the brutal invaders. The match would take place the following month at the Bash at the Beach pay per view on July 7, 1996, a date that will forever live on in wrestling lore. When at the start of the match Hall and Nash would arrive without their promised third member and demanded that the match start without him. During the match, Luger would become kayfabe injured and be taken backstage, leaving Sting and Savage to even the odds against the Outsiders. Towards the end of the match after things began to become hostile with all four men on the mat amidst the pleas and inquiries among the broadcasting team of Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes, and the legendary Bobby Heenan concerning the identity of the Outsiders' third partner, the fans in attendance turned their attention to an emerging figure heading to the ring, not just A figure, THE figure, the legendary immortal himself Hulk Hogan. With Hall escaping from sight as the almighty one ripped his shirt off among the roars and cheers of all the hulkamaniacs. After an intense staredown between Hogan and the Outsiders, it was then that the most infamous moment in wrestling history happened when Hogan dropped a lumbering leg drop across his fallen brother Savage's head instantly plunging the deafening roars and cheers into stoic and stunned silence. It was then that Hogan revealed himself to be the third man in turn sending seismic shockwaves across the entire wrestling plain. After Hogan and the Outsiders continued their assault on Savage, Sting, and the ref. Mean Gene Okerlund entered the fray to question Hogan's earthshattering statement. It was then that Hogan would embark on a verbal tirade against his fans and the entire wrestling industry as a whole as the ring slowly began to be engulfed with loads and loads of garbage, forcing Okerlund to mention the piles of crap that was filling the ring, to which Hogan in one fell despicable swoop would wrench every fan's heart and flood every child's eyes with tears as he compared all the crap to the fans. Leading every fan and hulkamaniac worldwide to question why their ultimate hero and idol would turn his back on them. Then as the turncoat in yellow and red concluded his tirade feet deep in the discarded paper cups, popcorn bags, and nacho boxes, he would echo his closing statement, declaring a New World Order of wrestling.
July 7, 1996. A day that will live on in infamy.
Following Hogan's declaration. The NWO would move on to lay siege across the WCW in a gang like fashion, as they viciously assaulted wrestlers, branding them with their signature black and white NWO logo with spraypaint. Hogan would go on to win the World Heavyweight Title from the Giant culminating the NWO's ultimate conquest as they spraypainted the prestigious title with the wet black letters. Throughout the next few months the NWO began to recruit more members and surprisingly more fans. As fans would show up to WCW events adorning the familiar black and white, even Hogan's legions of children were proudly displaying their brutal heroes' colors which discarded the familiar red and yellow for black and white.
With the explosion of the NWO onto the wrestling scene bringing enormous popularity and propelling merchandising sales to skyhigh levels. It was with this amazing exposure and incredible profits that allowed WCW's President Eric Bischoff to confidently and smugly slap Vince McMahon's wrestling crown right off his head and take a seat at the once red and yellow clad but now graffiti laced and cash adorned throne of wrestling.
This new in your face attitude would force McMahon to take drastic measures to save his broken company from the rubble. Following the old motto "an eye for an eye", McMahon took WCW's gangland mentality and disrespectful attitude and shoved it down their throat with a game changing adjustment.
Sometime in mid 1996 the WWF began debuting adult oriented characters such as the flamboyant and sexually abmbigious Goldust and introducing Brian Pillman as a psychotic and insane loose cannon. Most believe the foundation of this new content was laid on June 23, 1996 at the King of the Ring when after defeating Jake Roberts to become the newly crowned king of the ring, Steve Austin uttered the immortal line "You sit there and you thump your bible, and you say your prayers and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16...well Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!!" What began as a simple insult to Roberts' newly found religious enlightenment gave birth to a much larger movement. The movement of the Attitude Era.
Following WCW's lead on the anti-establishment movement of the NWO. The WWF took it two steps further with sexually suggestive females, vulgar language, and violent matches to the delight of the young adult demographic. Much like WCW's eventual success before it, the Attitude Era ushered in a monstrous wave of popularity and profit for the WWF resulting in surging ratings and record high pay per view, attendance, and merchandise sales. Leading the charge of this new era was without the doubt the second most popular superstar of all time and the only one truly worthy of being Hulk Hogan's equal. Of course I'm referring to the aforementioned Texas Rattlesnake.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The unquestionable king of the Attitude Era. Austin was the living embodiment of the era itself with his blue collar image, beer swilling, profanity spewing lifestyle that average wrestling fans begged for. It wasn't until Austin's historic feud with resident good guy Bret Hart that catapulted Austin into superstardom. Already exploding onto the scene with his profanity laced tirades and middle finger flipping attitude that wrestling fans ate up as they finally had wrestling's first anti-hero. Austin represented the carefree, anti-establishment generation that defined the 90s. For the first time ever, wrestling fans were cheering for a bad guy against the good guy Bret Hart which climaxed at their historic match at Wrestlemania 13 in a Submission Match which saw Austin's blood drenched face scream in agony as he suffered the vice like grip of Hart's Sharpshooter submission hold. Even through all the punishment, Austin refused to submit or give up and defiantly passed out from the pain, causing fans to stand and applaud the amazing and relentless never say die attitude that Austin projected. From then on Austin established himself as the face of the company which peaked in his feud with his boss Vince McMahon himself in an onscreen role as the evil and corrupt Mr. McMahon. With this feud, every average joe's dream of telling off or assaulting his boss was finally brought to life in the form of Austin and McMahon.
Austin would not be the only anti-establishment figure in the Attitude Era as the WWF introduced their own version of the NWO in the form of three degenerate figures.
Unlike the NWO which promoted a gang like mentality. DX went into another direction, promoting the mentality of juvenile delinquents. DX was formed by Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Hemsley joined by Hunter's bodyguard Chyna and Rick Rude. DX began when Shawn Michaels started adding in racy and immature comments in promos, soon after he was joined by Hemsley as the duo endeavored in sophomoric pranks, adult humor, and f**k you attitude as they pointed to their crotches and shouted Suck It! to everybody within range. After Michaels was forced into retirement following a severe back injury, Hemsley was left to continue DX's legacy by recruiting the former 123 Kid now dubbed X-Pac and the tag team of Road Dogg Jessie James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn, the New Age Outlaws. With this new cabal of cretins, DX transformed the WWF into an MTV esque spring break special as Hemsley and his crude compatriots urged and sometimes begged female fans in attendance to flash their breasts much to the delight of the horny adolescent males or creepy old perverts within eyesight. After causing the audience to roar with laughter, DX would normally end their promos with one last big FU to "the man" by dropping their pants and mooning the worldwide audience.
With Austin and DX representing the vulgar rebels. The WWF would also introduce a more violent style of matches by introducing one of the most violent wrestlers of all time.
Mankind was a deranged and psychotic sadist who enjoyed hurting himself sometimes more than hurting his opponent. A very disturbed individual who pulled his hair out, talked to rats, and violently squealed as he stuffed his fingers into people's mouths to paralyze them. Mankind made his presence felt in his debut when he brutally attacked the Undertaker that began a legendary feud which culminated in one of if not the most famous highlight reel in wrestling history, more on that later. Mankind's real name was Mick Foley who was already a very established wrestler in WCW and another promotion that I'll get into later as well as an innovator of a new wrestling style called hardcore which discarded the high flying and technical wrestling style to a much more violent and bloody brawls. Foley would go on to perform as two other characters in WWF, one a dancing hippie and the other a violent wildman.
The hippie being Dude Love
and the wildman being Foley's staple character Cactus Jack
Foley would go on to become one of the most beloved and respected superstars of all time. Helping the WWF win the Monday Night War by first winning the WWF Championship which WCW tried to spoil during it's live broadcast by having announcer Tony Schiavone spoil that night's Raw broadcast by smugly saying "that'll put some butts in seats" he couldn't have been more right, as 600,000 butts were planted in seats..but not for Nitro as all 600,000 viewers changed the channel from Nitro to Raw in order to see Mrs. Foley's baby boy's dream finally come true. Foley wasn't done yet as he perhaps delivered the final dagger in WCW's heart during the war as he presented a humorous skit with the Rock called "This is your Life". This would prove to be Raw's highest segment of all time with an unprecedented 8.4 rating, the likes of which will never before be seen again. Foley will be featured again in my memorable moments section in the next article.
Austin, Foley, and DX wouldn't be the only staples of the Attitude Era as another superstar emerged. A superstar that would simply electrify.
No other superstar is as entertaining or electrifying as the people's champ. This third generation superstar would find his calling when Vince McMahon made the fateful choice of placing a microphone in Rock's hand. From then on it was pure magic, the wizard had his wand. From his very first arrogant promo referring to himself in third person, the audience instantly hung onto his every word as the silver tongued stallion would rip into his fellow superstars with a mixture of mesmerizing charisma and creative insults all peppered with a bit of humor. The Rock can also claim an achievement that no other wrestler can claim, spouting off words like jabroni, smackdown, roody poo and candy ass, branding all three words and terms into the basic human vocabulary. Rock's talent wasn't limited to the microphone alone, he also entertained us with incredible agility and creative maneuvers which matched his words in excitement and humor as well. Rock can also claim another milestone that no other before him can bolster, Hollywood Megastar. After departing the WWF in 2003, Rock moved on to conquer Hollywood, and conquer it he did with over a billion dollars in box office earnings. Along with Austin, Rock would define the Attitude Era and emerge as Austin's equal to become the cornerstones of this era, much like Hart and Michaels, and Hogan and Andre did the eras before them. Whether you love him or hate him, you cannot deny the fact that The Rock remains one of the greatest and most entertaining superstars the wrestling world has ever seen and will go down as the most electrifying man in sports entertainment period, if you smell what The Rock is cookin'!
But Austin, DX, Foley, and Rock weren't the only superstars to emerge from this era as WCW would introduce their own superstars as well. Starting with an already established star in his own right.
At the risk of sounding a tad homosexual I can say with all confidence that no other superstar has or had a finer physique than Lex Luger's. Luger arrived in WCW when they perhaps needed him the most, even though Hall and Nash are often credited with firing the first shots of the Monday Night War, you could say that it was Luger who loaded the guns when he appeared on the very first episode of Nitro just days after ending his stint in WWF. Luger would serve as the company's resident powerhouse and eye candy for female fans. Luger would eventually take a backseat to the likes of NWO, Sting, and Ric Flair, but would once again make his presence felt joining with Nash and Savage to form the NWO Wolfpack. Following his wrestling career, Luger would face tough and challenging times dealing with drugs and being accused of murdering his girlfriend and ex-wife of Savage, Miss Elizabeth, he would later be cleared of all charges. It appears lately that Luger has finally turned over a new leaf with the help of his real life best friend Sting. Even though he may be lost in the shuffle of the Monday Night War and the Attitude Era, there will never be another wrestler that comes close to having a total package like Luger.
Diamond Dallas Page
Much like Austin represented the blue collar never say die mentality for WWF, DDP represented the very same for WCW. Embodying a relentless spirit and refusing to be held down or bullied by the likes of Hogan and the NWO, Page would emerge as WCW's second savior along with Sting to push back the black and white tide of the NWO. DDP would bring WCW much mainstream popularity by bringing in NBA All Star Karl Malone and talk show host extraordinaire Jay Leno. The teaming of Malone to battle the team of Hogan and fellow All Star Dennis Rodman would represent the company much in the same way as the Rock 'n' Wrestling Era represented the Golden Era for WWF, attracting legions of NBA fans to give this wrestling thing a chance and tune in. Along with Sting and the next entry, DDP would emerge as a WCW original, proving that you don't have to be established in the much popular WWF to make a name for yourself and get noticed. DDP is one of the most entertaining and down to earth guys in the business, I can speak from personal experience by meeting the man himself, truly a highlight for any wrestling fan's life. It was then and it remains to this day.
On September 22, 1997 the WCW was hit by a runaway train, a living breathing juggernaut of a man called Goldberg. Easily overpowering and bulldozing his way through the entire WCW roster. The human wrecking ball finally earned a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship and against the king himself Hulk Hogan. The powerhouse completed his siege of the WCW by defeating Hogan and winning the ultimate prize. On his way to the title Goldberg racked up an unprecedented winning streak of 173-0 with his loss coming to Kevin Nash with Hall's assistance with a taser. While Austin, DX, and the Rock would serve as the WWF's defining images of the era, Goldberg would join Sting, DDP, and the NWO as the defining images for WCW of the era.
Now onto another promotion that arose through this era. A promotion that achieved underworld fame and ascended into a movement, an extreme movement.
Extreme Championship Wrestling
In late 1992 Eastern Championship Wrestling broke off from it's agreement with NWA and carried on as it's own promotion. Much like WCW before it, it also would struggle to find it's footing and exactly like WCW, it too would find it's ambitious genius in Paul Heyman. Heyman would be handed the reins of the fledgling company and transform it into an underground movement with the newly christened name, Extreme Championship Wrestling. Heyman began showcasing many international styles of professional wrestling including lucha libre, puroresu, and technical wrestling, but more importantly hardcore wrestling. Hardcore wrestling developed in Japan in the late 80s/early 90s and had never really been witnessed by American eyes, that is until ECW. ECW took the traditional American wrestling style and profoundly smeared blood all over its face, as their fans ate up every single broken table, Singapore cane, and bloodstained mat. The true heart of ECW is without a doubt its passionate and archaic fans, who alone took a struggling underground promotion and lifted it into mainstream. You could say that ECW was attitude before even the era was attitude, with their barbwire violence and adult storylines. ECW would breed their own bloodthirsty stars along with hardcore mainstays Foley and Terry Funk, like The Sandman (the original Steve Austin), Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Sabu, Tazz, Rob Van Dam, Rhyno, and The Dudley Boyz, many of these performers would go on to great success in the WWF after it's purchase of ECW. Through all the record high television ratings, skyhigh pay per view and merchandise sells, and enormous mainstream popularity of WCW and WWF in the Attitude Era. No promotion lived and breathed with every drop of blood, sweat, and tears attitude more than the little promotion that could. ECW's legacy will certainly live on in the hardcore lifestyle it introduced and the ravenous fans who eat, drink, and sleep ECW.
It would be impossible to summarize how important and game changing this era was to professional wrestling in just one article. Therefore I will continue to cover this groundbreaking and amazing era in my next article. So until then, stay tuned for Attitude Era part 2 and good fight, good night.