There’s been a lot of discussion about The Attitude Era lately, and I’m going to go ahead and throw in my two cents. If you’re tired of hearing about this shit, feel free to scroll past this post. However, if you’re as passionate about the era and pro wrestling in general as I am, then you might be interested in what you read below.
What was the draw of the Attitude Era? What was it that made it so exciting? Was it because professional wrestling was literally the most popular thing in the world at the time? Was it because of the characters? Was it because of the way things were globally at the time, and pro wrestling exploiting all of those things?
When I look back at the Attitude Era, what I remember most is the gimmicks. I remember things being hilarious and so far fetched that it was like watching a cartoon at times, but one for adults. Y’know, like Ren & Stimpy, or South Park. You had these characters who essentially made absolutely no sense fighting for absolutely no reason other than “that’s what good vs. evil is”. To some extent, a lot of that is still true in pro wrestling today, but in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, it was REALLY evident.
What I recall from the era are a series of flashes. The Yakuza attempting to cut a man’s penis off, a crucifixion that led into a wedding, a group of immature 30 year olds dressed in army gear and attempting to invade a building, a man commandeering a beer truck to hose down his boss, a grown man talking to a mannequin’s head, a man getting thrown off of a giant steel cage, blood, chaos, beer, boobs, butts, fire, explosions, BOOM!
It all seems so surreal that so many things happened in a 4 year span (I believe that the Attitude Era lasted from around October 1997 until November 2001 when the Invasion ended). Thinking about this chaotic era of professional wrestling is a lot like looking back at the love you had for a cartoon or an old movie. Seriously, right now, go pop in Half Baked, or watch a few episodes of Street Sharks, or listen to Savage Garden, or play with some Crash Test Dummy toys. I’ll wait. Essentially, these things were a blast and likeable and fun because of your stance in life at the time. Looking back at a lot of shit from my youth, it’s apparently that most of it really fuckin’ sucked. Half Baked isn’t the least bit funny save for a few parts, Street Sharks was a God awful cartoon, Savage Garden were so pathetically wussied that it’s embarrasing, and Crash Test Dummy toys were a nightmare because they were a bitch to put back together and something always got lost.
The point is, pro wrestling, The Attitude Era especially, is essentially Saturday Night Live. You remember in the 90’s, when Church Lady, Wayne’s World, It’s Pat (okay, maybe not It’s Pat), Goatboy, Adam Sandler singing dumb lunch lady songs, etc. You think back about these things and think “Man, SNL use to be amazing!” You don’t remember all the dumb, boring skits that made you roll your eyes and wish to God you could have fast forwarded TV. Recently, I downloaded every episode of Raw from 1993 to 2001 and let me tell you, Raw was essentially a boring motherfucker until about 1999, and even then, there was some shit that was just plain stupid.
Everyone remembers Edge for being the Rated R Superstar, but nobody remembers his first feud, with Los Boricuas. Everyone recalls The Brood, but nobody can tell me their favorite Gangrel match (for me, it was Royal Rumble ‘99 against X-Pac). People remember Val Venis, The Godfather, Sable, Goldust, Dude Love, Ken Shamrock, a complete bevy of talent from the era, but not many people can name their favorite 5 matches between 1997 and 2002. Yet, when people look back at this time, they say “Man, it was SO much more fun back then!”
Granted, it was fun. It was a blast to be immature and watch this stupid ass show and get your fill of blood, boobs, and chaos. Nothing made sense, and it didn’t have to. A lot of us (myself included) look back at that time with a gleam in our eye because essentially, the Attitude Era personified what we wished we were, which was grown up and fucking crazy! We all wanted to be the guy who kicked our boss’ ass some day, we all wanted to tell people to suck our dicks, and to just be silly and funny. Nobody wanted to be serious.
Now, we’re all grown up. So is pro wrestling. Professional wrestling went from being borderline cartoony to being a rebellious teenager and has now morphed into a responsible adult. Just like when you were a teenager, you look back and think “Man, what fun I had.” but you don’t remember the nights alone in your bedroom, wishing to God that special someone at school would just give you 5 minutes of their time. Just like, for some reason, people don’t look back at the Attitude Era and fondly recall the time that The Godwinns became Southern Justice and wore suits to the ring when they were essentially Jeff Jarrett’s lackeys, before Phineas Godwinn became Mideon and then became Naked Mideon. People don’t remember that because they blacked it out for how dumb it was, and then said “Oh, but c’mon, you had Stone Cold Steve Austin driving a Zamboni, Kane was lighting people on fire, and Lita’s thong was showing!”
The Attitude Era was exactly that: an era. Eras come and go. Just like any relationship, you’ve got to let it go eventually. It ended, it’s over, move on. Appreciate what you have now. Sure, it’s easy to look back at those fun times but essentially, they happened for a reason, and when that reason met its end, you became a better person. Those who look back at the blood and boobs and chaos with a smirk are the same ones who will forever cling to some lost childhood due to the fact that they aren’t enjoying adulthood and aren’t ready for it.
Today, professional wrestling is the fucking best it’s ever been. The indies are churning out better matches now than Jose Estrada was having against 8 Ball on Raw in 1998 (remember that?). The WWE are signing wrestlers based on pure talent, not some amateur background or some football team. A guy the size of X-Pac (who was an Attitude Era forerunner) is currently the hottest thing in the WWE, and it’s because he’s a fucking GREAT wrestler.
Ladies and gentleman, the Attitude Era is over. It’s not coming back. What happened to that day is that the Attitude no longer matters. The E in pro wrestling isn’t just for Entertainment, it’s for Excitement. No longer are we watching the WWE for what crazy thing is going to happen next or for what wild thing Val Venis is going to say, or even for what Diva might show some sideboob or buttcheek. We’re watching because… it’s wrestling. And we love it.
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