WWE: A Ranking of Historical Eras
The WWE's roots go back to the 1940s when Vincent Kennedy McMahon's grandfather Jess McMahon began promoting shows in the northeastern region of the United States. He eventually formed Capitol Wrestling Corporation in 1952, which would later become the WWE.
Throughout the WWE's history there have been ups and downs, good times and bad times but today it reigns as the global king of professional wrestling and its promotion.
The WWE can easily be broken up into eras, with some lasting a couple of years while others lasted longer. This is a list to rank the eras based on my own subjective opinions.
On with the list.
Honorable Mention: Reality Era
Date: 17th July 2011 -
World Champions: John Cena, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, Christian, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan
Other Stars: Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, R-Truth, Sheamus, Santino Marella, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Kane, Zack Ryder, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, Evan Bourne, Epico, Primo
I'm not really sure yet if I would I call this a distinct era, as there are still a lot similarities with the PG era.
Things have changed though; we don't see Randy Orton and John Cena on top anymore (world championship-wise, anyway). The content has gotten a little edgier with the likes of Rock and Cena and we have seen better story lines.
But aside from that, we still have the same theme music for the shows and titantrons which should change with a new era.
We still have the mediocre commentating we saw throughout the PG era as well as the awful Tag Team and Diva's divisions.
We've also seen the rise and fall of the Twitter fiasco in the last couple of months.
I think I'll give it a year before I truly recognize it as an era.
8. Capitol Wrestling Era
Date: 1952 - 24th January 1963
World Champions: Lou Thez, Whipper Billy Watson, Dick Hutton, Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Gene Kiniski
As the CWC was an NWA territory at the time, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was defended there.
Other Stars: Bruno Sammartino, Eddie Graham, Johnny Valentine, Gorilla Monsoon, Jerry Graham, Killer Kowalski, Bobo Brazil
This era is ranked at the bottom because I can't find a lot of information about it, wrestling-wise. It was formed in 1952 after Jess McMahon had been promoting in the northeast area for years. His son Vince J. McMahon took over shortly after following the death of Jess.
During the 1950s the CWC was one of the NWA's main territories and in later years actually held most of the booking of the World Championship.
Controversy arose when McMahon and his partner Toots Month wanted to put the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on Buddy Rogers who was a showman rather than the traditional wrestler who usually wore the belt.
Rogers did eventually win the belt, but following a loss to Lous Thez CWC withdrew from the NWA, bringing Rogers and others with them.
7. New Generation Era
Date: August 1994 - 9th November 1997
World Champions: Yokozuna, Bret Hart, Bob Backlund, Diesel, Shawn Michaels, Sycho Sid, The Undertaker
Other Stars: Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon, Triple H, 1-2-3 Kid, Jeff Jarrett, Goldust, Lex Luger, Tatanka, The Steiner Brothers, The Rock, Davey Boy Smith, Vader
It's such a shame that arguably two of the greatest in-ring performers in WWE history were top guys in one of the company's worst periods.
This era followed the Hulkamania era and following the steroid trial in the early 1990s the WWF decided to focus the company on smaller, more technically sound wrestlers.
A couple of factors hurt the WWF during this period, number one being the growth of WCW. WCW had taken many of the top guys from the WWF and were showing more realistic and edgy programming compared to the cartoon-themed WWF.
Another problem was that the undercard was often way too weak. Most Royal Rumbles had a lot of guys who weren't even signed with the company which showed how thin the roster was.
On the bright side, we were given some great matches like Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania XIII, Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII and Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X.
6. PG Era
Date: July 2008 -
World Champions: Triple H, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Batista, John Cena, Edge, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, The Undertaker, Sheamus, Jack Swagger, Rey Mysterio, Kane, The Miz, Christian, Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan
Other Stars: Kofi Kingston, Santino Marella, JBL, John Morrison, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Ted DiBiase, Evan Bourne
Yes, the era everybody loves—loves to hate, that is.
The PG Era came around because of the aftermath of the Chris Benoit double murder suicide and several superstars getting caught buying performance-enhancing drugs. It was also a ploy to win Linda McMahon more votes in her senate campaign.
This era has got nothing but criticism from the mostly male 18-35 year old fan base who grew up on the 1997-2007 era of the WWE, when it was rated TV-14. With the PG Era came the end of blood, swearing and sexual material.
We also saw (well we didn't see but we knew of) the Hollywood and Soap Opera writers brought in to write scripts for Raw and Smackdown which has lead to the mediocre babyface promos from guys like John Morrison and Kofi Kingston.
For most of the last four years John Cena and Randy Orton have been on top of the company and usually they've been involved in the title picture, although both men have stepped away from the title picture for the last six months.
One of WWE's boldest moves was to eliminate the word wrestling from the company as well as other wrestling terms. I think they've realized their mistakes in recent months though as we've see John Cena, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Chris Jericho use it a lot.
In my humble opinion I don't think the WWE truly realized what they were doing during this era until late 2010. 2009 had to be the worst year since 1994 or 1995.
We have seen improvements in the last year and as I mentioned before, a lot of people think we are now in a new era. I'm not fully convinced.
5. WCW Era
Date: 26th March 2001 - 14th March 2004
World Champions: Steve Austin, Booker T, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels, The Big Show, Goldberg, Eddie Guerrero
Other Stars: Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Christian, Rob Van Dam, Randy Orton, Batista, Ric Flair, Scott Steiner, Test, Kevin Nash, Jeff Hardy, Kane, William Regal, Rhyno, John Cena, Dudley Boyz, Worlds Greatest Tag Team
Hear me out before you rant about this being the Ruthless Aggression Era. When Vince McMahon said he wanted to see some Ruthless Aggression, he wanted to see some young guys come in and make an impact. In this time period, other than Lesnar who did?
Throughout the three years the WWE tried and failed to recreate WCW. They tried the nWo, they brought back Hogan, Steiner, Nash and Goldberg with each guy failing, they brought back The Great American Bash, and don't forget the InVasion storyline (I almost did).
There were even rumours about Sting and Lex Luger coming in and Smackdown being renamed Nitro. They settled on renaming John Hennigan to Johnny Nitro.
Besides WCW guys, the other top guys were Kurt Angle, Triple H, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. We also saw the debut of some future stars in John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.
4. Ruthless Agression Era
Date: 14th March 2004 - July 2008
World Champions: Eddie Guerrero, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, John Cena, Edge, Rob Van Dam, Randy Orton, Triple H, Chris Benoit, Batista, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, King Booker, The Undertaker, The Great Khali
Other Stars: Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Ric Flair, John Morrison, Jeff Hardy, Umaga, Santino Marella, Chris Masters, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Bobby Lashley, Finlay, Mr. Kennedy, Montel Vontavious Porter, Matt Hardy, Christian, Dudley Boyz, Billy Kidman, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, The Miz, Mark Henry, Big Show, Kane
This was the era where the young guys broke through the glass ceiling.
Ohio Valley Wrestling for most of the 2000s was WWE's development territory where they developed young wrestlers with hopes that they would become stars. The mid-2000s were when they all came into the WWE and became major players.
Cena, Orton, Batista, Benjamin, Carlito, Morrison, Umaga, Marella, Masters, Punk, Lashley, Kennedy, London and Kendrick all honed their skills down there and would go on to become important players in the WWE.
Of course they still relied on guys from the early 2000's like Triple H, Edge, The Hardys, Christian, Jericho, Guerrero etc. They all gelled well together.
For me, this is my favourite era as I was a teenager and understood it more than when I was a kid during the Attitude Era.
3. Madison Square Garden Era
Date: January 1963 − 23 January 1984
World Champions: Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino, Ivan Koloff, Pedro Morales, Stan Stasiak, Billy Graham, Bob Backlund, The Iron Sheik
Other Stars: Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, Gorilla Monsoon, Andre the Giant, Killer Kowalksi, Stan Stasiak, Pat Patterson, Ken Patera, Don Muraco, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, Luke Graham, Chief Jay Strongbow, Mr. Fuji, Professor Tanaka, Haystacks Calhoun, The Blackjacks, Larry Zbyszko, The Wild Samoans, Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson, Pete Maivia, Freddie Blassie
I have to respect the longest-reigning WWE Champion and put this era high up on the list.
This was when the WWE was still being promoted under the old territorial system so all of their shows were in the Northeastern states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Most of their big shows were either in the Shea Stadium or more frequently Madison Square Garden, where Bruno Sammartino, Billy Graham and Bob Backlund sold out almost every night.
The early years of the WWE were different times where only babyface World Champions were allowed long reigns, any heel champions only held on to the belt for no more than a few months before dropping it to the next babyface.
This was the case for the passing of the torch onto a new superstar and new era when The Iron Sheik beat Bob Backlund for the WWE Championship in December 1983 before dropping it a month later to Hulk Hogan.
2. Rock 'n' Wrestling Era
Date: 23 January 1984 - August 1993
World Champions: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Yokozuna
Other Stars: Shawn Michaels, Mart Jannetty, Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Honky Tonk Man, Mr. Perfect, Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana, Rick Rude, Davey Boy Smith, The Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation, Demolition, Razor Ramon, Legion of Doom
This was the first boom period in professional wrestling.
Hulk Hogan had gained a lot of mainstream popularity due to his role in Rocky III and was a star in the AWA, but because he was more of a showman than a wrestler, they wouldn't put the world title on him.
Vince McMahon capitalized on what Verne Gagne couldn't and brought Hogan in to be the star of the WWE for years. Hogan had a polarizing look and endless charisma that would make wrestling mainstream.
Celebrities were brought in for WrestleMania I to go along with the Rock 'n' Wrestling name and without them we probably wouldn't have WrestleMania today.
Along with Hogan they also had stars like Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper and Ted DiBiase.
Hogan's ego had spiraled out of control by the early 1990's and he began to take breaks from the WWE, but when he was there he was always in the title hunt and if he wasn't he was still in the most-promoted feud. Fans began to grow tired of Hogan's act, much like John Cena today.
Hogan left the WWE in the summer of 1993, spelling the end of the Rock 'n' Wrestling Era.
1. Attitude Era
Date: 9th November 1997 − 26th March 2001
World Champions: Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Kane, The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, The Big Show, Kurt Angle
Other Stars: Ken Shamrock, Val Venis, Road Dogg, Goldust, The Godfather, Jeff Jarrett, Edge, Christian, D'Lo Brown, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Rikishi, Eddie Guerrero, Billy Gunn, The Hardyz, The Dudleyz, X-Pac, Big Boss Man, APA
The WWE had never before and has never since seen anything like the Attitude Era.
During the mid-1990's, WCW began gaining popularity due to their new edgy product, and the WWE had to do something. They decided to step away from the cartoon-oriented product and put out something that was a mix between WCW and ECW.
They also decided to get behind Steve Austin who spent years as a mid-carder in WCW before coming to the WWE. When Bret Hart left for WCW in late 1997 it was time to get fully behind Austin and he won the Royal Rumble.
He was WWE Champion within five months.
The Attitude Era set records for TV ratings and PPV buys. Superstars like Steve Austin, The Rock and DX set merchandise sales records.
The WWE was so popular that they put their competition WCW and ECW out of business and ended up buying WCW in March of 2001, marking the end of the Attitude Era.
Those four years hold a special place in my heart as it was when I got into wrestling as a kid and I'm among the majority that think it was the best time for the WWE.
With the WWE being around 60 years old it would be impossible for everyone to agree with this list. Those who grew up in the 1980s probably think those were the better years, the same with those who grew up in the 1990s.
Leave you comments below, if you have any opinion on the matter.