When people complain about the current WWE programming, one of the most common laments is that they need to go back to the way things were done during the Attitude Era. For a lot of you, the Attitude Era is when you fell in love in wrestling or came back after some time away (with some help from the NWO of course). So it resonates in a way with you in way that the Ruthless Aggression Era did not and the current PG Era does not. I get that. But like with a lot of things from way back when, after close examination going back to it may not be the best idea. I loved and enjoyed the Attitude Era when it was going on, and I’m not going to get all revisionist history and say that it actually sucked. Because it didn’t. But that doesn’t mean I want to bring it back, for a few reasons:
Violence against women
One of the staples of the Attitude Era that absolutely does not look so good in hindsight is the amount of outright violent acts that were routinely performed on some of the women on the roster. I’m talking Terri Runnels getting put through a table by the Dudley Boyz, or Lita catching a 3D from the Dudleys during the TLC 2 match at WrestleMania 17, or Stephanie McMahon catching a Rock Bottom from the Rock followed by a Pedigree from Triple H a few months later. There was a time when a woman being struck was either an accident to further some angle or something to get one of the bad guys over as a heel. But during the Attitude Era some of the things I mentioned were done by the good guys to the cheers of the crowd. Now I’ll admit that I wasn’t put off by that stuff when I was a 24 year old watching it, but at 40 years old with a wife and two kids who we tell that it’s not ok to hit girls or women…..I’m not trying to have to explain why it’s ok to watch women get beat up for laughs after telling them that kind of thing is not cool in real life. Because there really isn’t a good explanation to be honest with you.
Papering over mediocrity
Every week for over four years you had one or both of these guys driving Monday Night RAW and carrying the show. Two of the biggest stars in WWF/E history doing their best work. The Mount Rushmore of Vince McMahon Jr’s ownership tenure has both of these guys on it and they were there at the same time. Everyone else on the show save Degeneration X was boosted by having them around to play off of, especially prior to mid-1999 when Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and some others began to arrive. Mick Foley and Triple H would not have gotten where they did without the Rock and Austin to work against. Jericho debuted in a back and forth on the mic with the Rock. Kurt Angle became a certified main eventer working with Rock and later Austin. Both men would have a long promo segment (sometimes more), backstage vignettes, and a match almost every week. When Austin or the Rock came out it was a put down the remote and drop everything you’re doing moment. Sounds great, right? Well, yes and no. Those moments covered for a lot of mediocrity on the rest of the show in the ring and out. In 2015 the overall in-ring work is much better than it was from 1997 to 1999; you no longer need matches that are are shorter than the mic work before them to cover for guys who weren’t even good workers, or garbage hardcore matches to cover for the same.
The Booking wasn’t really that great
You had a lot of angles and characters that were jettisoned after a week or two, and some bad payoffs to ones that were allowed to run for while (Higher Power, anyone?). You had hostshot title changes, some which totally invalidated the results of Pay Per View matches the night before, put on the show just to counteract what was going on over on WCW Nitro on TNT at the same time. Half the stuff they did back then would get absolutely crushed if they tried it today so why do it again?
And you can’t talk about bad booking without mentioning the Invasion. The worst blown angle in wrestling history happened during the Attitude Era. You cannot dismiss how badly Vince and Co. messed that up by refusing to put over the WCW and ECW guys if you’re going to talk about that time period. Whatever legitimate complaints you may have about the way the whole Nexus thing went down pale in comparison to how they fumbled the ball with the Invasion. So please spare with any talk of how the Attitude Era was so superior; the Invasion ends that argument before it can even start.
I loved the Attitude Era as much as anyone, but it’s not time to try and reclaim it. It was good for it’s time but that time has passed.