With the biggest event in wrestling looming just over a week away, it's hard for many diehard wrestling fans to contain their enthusiasm for the pay-per-view. After what was widely regarded as a low point in the company's storied history with last year's WrestleMania, the WWE seems serious about really delivering the goods this year.
A closer look at the card, however, reveals something particularly interesting about this particular 'Mania, a common theme amongst the most heavily-hyped matches on the card: This WrestleMania is meant to signify the beginning of a new era.
Before delving too far into what is meant by this, it is appropriate to first take a look back into the history of WWE, and that certainly involves looking back to the mid-to-late-'90s. This was the time of the Monday Night Wars with WCW, and heralded the beginning of the Attitude Era.
The Attitude Era could be considered to have started at several points, one being the infamous "Montreal Screwjob" at 1997's Survivor Series. Steve Austin's victory over Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV the following year could also be considered a possible catalyst.
Before that, however, came Austin's infamous "Austin 3:16" promo on June 23rd of 1996, an unscripted segment featuring not-so-wholesome language, which was a complete rarity in the company up to that point.
Whenever the era truly started, however, is up to debate, and while WWE's present situation is not entirely similar to that of the late '90s, it's not entirely dissimilar either.
First, it is very important to note the overwhelmingly positive response the company received during the Attitude Era.
During this time, they received record buy rates of pay-per-view events, and their television ratings were through the roof. It was completely distinct from the time before, and it was something new and fresh, a reinvention of the company's image to battle possible stagnation.
What was different?
For starters, the company chose to bypass their previous approach of family-friendly entertainment, choosing to appeal to the young adult demographic with an edgier overall product. This tactic was highly successful, as evidenced by their buy rates and television ratings.
They also had new Superstars and stables coming into the mix, such as the aforementioned Austin, Rocky Maiva's reinvention as "The Rock" and the rise of D-Generation X.
Former WCW talent also factored into the mix, perhaps most notably Paul Wight, better known as The Big Show, and a young "Y2J" Chris Jericho. For our purposes, it's also well worth mentioning Kane's debut, in which he attacked The Undertaker, and the invention of the Hell In a Cell match.
Now fast forward to the present.
The match card for this year's WrestleMania is impressive, with no less than three top-caliber matches which easily serve as a passing of the torch, so to speak, from that era to this.
As the main event at this year's WrestleMania, viewers are being treated to a match between Attitude Era Superstar The Rock, and the current face of the company, John Cena. This Attitude Era meets PG Era clash could truly prove to be a turning point in the direction of the company.
The streak of Undertaker will also once again be put to the test, this time going up against Triple H in a rematch from last year's WrestleMania. This time, however, the special guest referee will be Triple H's DX peer, Shawn Michaels, and the match will be Hell in a Cell. This match is being touted as "The End of an Era," and it may well prove to be truly that.
The battle of the "Bests in the World," a highly-anticipated matchup between Chris Jericho and current WWE champion CM Punk is also prominently featured on the card, another true continuation of the theme for this year's WrestleMania. Punk and Jericho, two incredibly capable performers both in the ring and on the mic, will be sure to steal the show, or, at the very least, turn a few heads their way.
While not as heavily featured or hyped, the matchups between Intercontinental Champion, Cody Rhodes, and The Big Show, along with the World Heavyweight Championship match of current champion, Daniel Bryan, and Royal Rumble winner, Sheamus, also supplement the theme nicely. The former is a quality matchup between a man from that bygone era, The Big Show and young talent Cody Rhodes, and the latter a true showcase of the young talent in the company, a nod ahead to what the future holds.
WWE, all but roped in by its PG Era of the past several years, is being injected with a dose of "Attitude." The younger talent is urged—nay, begged—to pick up that torch being passed to them by the Superstars of the past and light the way for this new era in the WWE.
Regardless of the outcome of the matches at this year's event, one thing is for certain: This year's WrestleMania is going to be one hell of a ride.
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