The Attitude Era was and is regarded as the golden era of WWE by a vast majority of people, and rightfully so. It was a time when ratings were decent, crowds were fanatically crazed, babyfaces were cheered and heels were booed and JR was on commentary. Evidently, people with such beliefs had indisputable justifications.
Forward a decade and WWE is in its darkest era (we just had a Nikki Bella title reign). There is a lot wrong with WWE today—from neglected divisions to neglected titles to ignored relevancy to pathetic booking to Miz and much, much more.
Resorting to typical escapism, we choose to idolize history and cite examples from those fantastic days as ‘what WWE should do today.' We want the passion, the aggression, the attitude but ironically we don’t want the instruments of it all.
The Attitude Era got where it was due to its fictional aspect—an aspect that was gladly fed to masses who gained inert satisfaction from cheering an anti-hero douse his boss with a truckload of beer or stun him in front of millions. A man who rose from the dead whenever his instincts or Paul Bearer wished him to could control the arena lights and had a Deadman Gong hidden somewhere behind the Titantron was showered with perpetual adulation. Even if he suddenly transgressed all logical barriers and somehow lost his immortality and started to prefer riding bikes down really short distances with a different hairstyle and persona, he was surprisingly loved even more.
There was no logic, and we didn’t want any. It is no Anonymous General Manager-esque secret that there is a fine line between reality and WWE shows and we loved the show despite that. As long as Undertaker could give us spectacular matches, who on Earth cared whether he threw acid on his half-brother’s face or much less importantly, is living or dead?
If someday you’re really idle and have finished watching all of WWE’s Youtube shows, take a precious moment to watch, say, Royal Rumble 2000. The entrants in that Rumble included—D’Lo Brown, Grand Master Sexay, Gangrel, Rock, Kane, Godfather, Billy Gunn, Val Venis, Al Snow, Road Dogg, Albert, Farooq, Edge, Viscera, Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi.
If you just skimmed through the list, I’d say read it again and recollect those personas. None of them were just a name and classified under good or bad (face or heel), which sadly is the case with Barrett, unmasked Rhodes, Miz, Alex Riley, Kofi Kingston, Ted DiBiase, the new Jericho and Evan Bourne. Even if some of them have a background of sorts, their gimmicks haven’t been developed into something the character lives through on every show.
The Attitude Era was filled with a variety of nonsensical, way over-the-top gimmicks that on paper shouldn’t have worked even in the most whimsical of carnivals but they somehow did on television.
For WWE to ‘get real‘ is a lost cause. It’s like asking Michael Cole to wrestle a 5 star match with Ezekiel Jackson.
A company that has made a name for itself over being scripted and fake, and still continues to have a colossal fanbase that towers above those of shows that portray reality, shouldn’t be looking to lessen this gap that separates artificiality.
Which means for such a show to allow a mechanical Jobber Terminator from the future whose portal opens just behind the ramp the moment a jobber says, “This is my first time.” is acceptable. It is acceptable for a jiggling semi-dino to make his way through head butting opponents and it is acceptable for a green mist spitting tattooed Lord from the land of the rising sun.
The thing with these gimmicks is that they have a slightly lesser chance of turning stale, or boring you—which is a more perilous crime than crappy wrestling skills in sports entertainment. The fact that a person is something more than a name and a face carries with it a baggage of potential for gimmick expansion and consequently, feud development. In no way am I saying that a over-the-top gimmick is a necessity, but if a character does come up with something unique and new it should be embraced. Not unless he has the wrestling skills of Hornswoggle, and so far I’ve seen Funkasaurus and Ryback put up decent moves and Lord Tensai even more.
So why do people wish to usher in a Reality Era into a show that is and will undoubtedly remain fake?
Thanks for the read all.
Shalaj Lawania is now virtually old enough on the Internet for you to recognize him, but still miraculously n00by enough for you to keep being mean to him (at least there's some progress, however minimal). He is also a contributor for WrestleEnigma.com, so do check it out if you love him and his works and are very sweet. For more love, you can follow him on Twitter if you have a good annoying tweets threshold. For the rest, use Wikipedia.