WWE's Top 25 Attitude Era Stars: Where Are They Now?

Travis TaylorFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2012

WWE's Top 25 Attitude Era Stars: Where Are They Now?

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    The WWE has gone through many different eras, each defined by a theme and the style of wrestling.

    One of the most popular eras was the Attitude Era, a period of time when the WWE changed its programming to a more adult theme. Gone were the cartoony gimmicks and standard good guy vs. bad guys routines.

    Wrestlers had an edge to them, as the line between good and bad was blurred. Matches became more violent, as tables, ladders and chairs were all introduced on a regular basis.

    Many huge names developed during this time. But since the Attitude Era ended in 2001, many of these big names have disappeared.

    Where are they now?

Mr. McMahon

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    Vince McMahon’s in-ring alter ego appeared after the Montreal Screwjob with Bret Hart.

    He spent a large portion of the early days of the Attitude Era feuding with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He even won the WWF championship by beating Triple H.

    The Attitude Era would not have been what is was if Mr. McMahon had not been there. His portrayal of the boss, who everyone wants to hate, perfectly captured the mood of wrestling fans at the time, with the idea that absolute power corrupts.

    Since the era ended, he has appeared sporadically throughout the years, most recently wrestling CM Punk on an edition of Monday Night Raw.

The Big Show

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    Paul Wight famously captured the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in his debut match in WCW in 1995, so expectations were high when he signed with and debuted in the WWE in 1999, right in the middle of the Attitude Era.

    He was an instant success, feuding violently with both The Undertaker and The Big Boss Man. His size and athleticism allowed him to step up his game and keep pace with the new demands faced by late '90s wrestlers.

    Before the Attitude Era ended in 2001, Wight had won the WWE championship.

    Wight is still with the WWE today, facing Sheamus for the World Heavyweight title at Hell in a Cell 2012.

The New Age Outlaws

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    No other tag team in the WWE was as good on the mic as they were in the ring like Jesse James and Billy Gunn. They were so good that, according to WWE.com, they were the most popular duo of the Attitude Era. 

    They debuted in 1997 as heels, but quickly became fan favorites with their catchphrases and their skills in the ring. By the time they broke up in 2000, the duo had won five tag team titles.

    James left the WWE in early 2001, and Gunn was released in 2004.

    After time spent in TNA and on the indie circuit, James returned to the WWE in 2011, as an agent and producer. He also co-hosts the web series Are You Serious?

    Gunn currently performs on the independent circuit, most recently winning the Bad Boys of Wrestling Federation tournament for the BBWF Aruba Championship.

Val Venis

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    Sean Allen Morley debuted in the WWE in 1999 as Val Venis, a supposed porn star. He was a hit with the fans who liked the extreme edge and storylines that his character brought to the WWE.

    Venis would go on to win two Intercontinental titles, one European title and one tag team title before he was released by the WWE in 2009.

    After leaving the WWE, he spent roughly two months wrestling for TNA in 2010 before he decided to depart.

    These days he can now be found on the independent circuit. Currently, he is wrestling for Elite Xtreme Wrestling, where he is a former tag team champion.

Chris Jericho

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    Chris Jericho famously made his debut in 1999 when a clock counting down finally reached zero.

    It would be the start of a long relationship with Jericho and the WWE, which now may be winding down.

    Jericho was a dominating force both inside the ring and on the mic. In 2001, he beat The Rock and Steve Austin to unify the WWE and WCW championships.

    Jericho continued to wrestle for the WWE until 2012. After he left to tour with his band Fozzy, it was announced that he and the WWE could not come to terms on a new contract.

    It is unclear if he'll be returning to a WWE ring any time soon.

The Hardy Boyz

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    The team that the WWE ranks as the fifth greatest tag team of all time debuted in 1998 and helped change the face of tag team wrestling (via WWE.com

    In 2000, their popularity took off as they began to face the Dudley Boys and Edge and Christian in a series of matches. They helped popularize the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match format.

    Jeff Hardy left the WWE in 2009 and Matt followed in 2010. Both men went on to wrestle with TNA.

    Matt Hardy currently appears in Ring of Honor. Jeff Hardy is still with TNA and is the group's World champion.

The Dudley Boyz

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    Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley arrived in the WWE in 1999 and quickly took over the place.

    They were initially portrayed as heels, with Bubba Ray driving popular women in the WWE through tables. But their roughneck style was perfect for the Attitude Era’s penchant for hardcore wrestling, and they soon soared in popularity.

    The Dudley Boyz went on to win the tag team titles eight times, in addition to Bubba Ray winning the Hardcore title on multiple occasions.

    The Dudleys left the WWE in 2005, with the WWE retaining the rights to the Dudley name.

    Both men now wrestle for TNA, with the two feuding with each other.

Edge and Christian

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    In 1998, Edge and Christian debuted in the WWE, initially being billed as brothers, even though they were really life-long best friends.

    They were quickly aligned with Gangrel in The Brood, before the two broke away shortly after The Brood joined the Ministry.

    Once freed from Gangrel, they went on to become what the WWE called the greatest tag team of all time (via WWE.com).

    Christian still wrestles for the WWE, holding the Intercontinental title as recently as 2012. Edge was forced to retire in 2011 due to a neck injury. He has appeared in different films and television shows.

Kane

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    After missing the mark with several other early gimmicks, Glen Jacobs hit the big time with Kane, the long-thought-dead brother of The Undertaker.

    Clad almost from head to toe in red and black, with his face covered in a huge mask that spouted long hair, Kane made his debut at Badd Blood in 1997, interfering with his brother’s match.

    He went on to feud and team with The Undertaker, winning several titles in the process.

    Today, Kane is still an active member of the WWE roster, having won two world titles and nine tag team titles. Currently, he is one half of the tag team champions, Team Hell No, with Daniel Bryan.

Shawn Michaels

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    The Showstopper debuted in the WWE in 1988. Because of an injury he sustained in 1998 that forced him to retire, he missed most of the Attitude Era as a wrestler. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t play a big part.

    His match with Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997, also known as the Montreal Screwjob, is considered by many to be the start of the Attitude Era.

    After his injury, he played many non-wrestling roles, including WWE Commissioner.

    Today, Michaels is retired although he continues to make occasional appearances on WWE television. Most recently, Brock Lesnar attacked him and broke his arm before Lesnar’s match with Triple H at SummerSlam.

The Big Boss Man

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    The Big Boss Man would have made the history books even if he hadn’t returned to the WWE after his first run in the federation and his run in WCW.

    When he did return in 1998, he was no longer a prison warden but was instead the personal security for Vince McMahon. Now clad in black but still carrying his nightstick, Boss Man slid in perfectly in the hardcore division, winning the title four times.

    After a brief feud with Big Show over the WWE Championship, his television time slowly began to whittle.

    He was released by the WWE in 2003 and died of a heart attack on Sept. 22, 2004.

The Undertaker

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    The Undertaker first appeared in the WWE way back in 1990, being eliminated by countout in a Survivor Series match.

    But in 2000, in the middle of the Attitude Era, the Deadman remade himself into simply Undertaker, and was nicknamed “The American Bad Ass.” He wore his hair in a ponytail, wore leather and rode a motorcycle to the ring.

    It was a brilliant move that revitalized his career and allowed him to display a meaner, more real side that fit in perfectly with the times.

    Today, he is the Deadman once again and is one of the most respected wrestlers of all time. For the past few years, he has competed only at WrestleMania.

Triple H

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    The Attitude Era would not have been the same without Triple H, the man who defined the word attitude.

    Triple H debuted in 1995 as the “Connecticut Blueblood” Hunter Hearst Helmsley. In 1997, he formed Degeneration-X and his name was shortened to Triple H. By 2000, he had dubbed himself “The Game” and became involved onscreen with Stephanie McMahon.

    He went on to win multiple titles, including 13 world championships.

    Today, Triple H is semi-retired, focusing the majority of his time on his current role as Executive Vice President, Talent and Live Events for the WWE.

Goldust

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    Goldust never would have existed without the Attitude Era.

    With his head-to-toe gold suit and his overly sexual mannerisms, he became an instant hit for those looking for a wrestler with a little edge.

    Performed by Dustin Runnels, the son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, Goldust would capture seven hardcore titles, three Intercontinental titles and one tag team title with Booker T.

    He left in 1999 for WCW, then bounced around from promotion to promotion, eventually returning to the WWE in a non-wrestling position. He was fired from his role as a backstage producer for the WWE in 2012 and now wrestles as Goldust for NWA Ring Warriors.

Droz

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    Darren Drozdov should have had a longer career.

    Drozdov, first known as Puke, then simply Droz, made his WWE debut in 1998 after a short NFL career and an equally short run in ECW. With his multiple piercings and tattoos, plus his bizarre persona, Droz fit the mold of the Attitude Era perfectly.

    Sadly, his career was cut short when, during a match with D-Lo Brown, a powerbomb was botched. Droz landed on his head and fractured two disks in his neck, resulting in his paralysis.

    Today, Droz is still employed by the WWE, writing articles and essays for online and print.

D-Lo Brown

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    D-Lo Brown, the WWE’s first African-American European champion, made his WWE debut in 1997 as part of the Nation of Domination.

    Once the Nation broke up, Brown embarked on a widely successful singles career where he eventually held the European and Intercontinental titles simultaneously, a feat only copied by Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and Rob Van Dam.

    In 1999, he botched a powerbomb on Darren Drozdov, which left Drozdov paralyzed.

    After leaving the WWE in 2003, he wrestled for All-Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA, plus a brief return to the WWE in 2008.

    Today, he is a road agent for TNA.

X-Pac

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    Sean Waltman may have been in the WWE from 1994 to 1996, but it wasn’t until returning from his first stint in WCW that he truly found his mark.

    After being fired by Eric Bischoff, Waltman returned to the WWE in 1998 as X-Pac when Triple H was reforming Degeneration-X. He went on to win the WWF European Championship and won two tag team titles with Kane.

    Later, he became the only person to hold both the WCW Cruiserweight Championship and the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship at the same time.

    In his last two years, Waltman had virtually no angles to pursue. He and the WWE parted ways in 2002.

    Waltman is now working on the independent circuit, recently winning the Bad Boys of Wrestling Federation Tournament to win the BBFW Caribbean championship. He is also working on a film about his life in wrestling.

Savio Vega

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    Savio Vega debuted in the WWE as Kwang the Ninja in 1994. Despite some early ring success with the name, he never really went over with the fans.

    In 1995, he re-debuted as Savio Vega. When the Attitude Era began to pick up steam, so did Vega. He gave both Steve Austin and The Rock their first televised loses. He eventually joined The Rock in The Nation of Domination.

    While he never won a major title in the WWE, he did score some very impressive wins over Tripe H, Yokozuna and JBL.

    Today, he is a trainer for TNA in Ohio Valley Wrestling.

Hardcore Holly

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    Hardcore Holly first debuted in the WWE in 1994 as Thurman “Sparky” Plugg.

    But when the Attitude Era really began to go full swing, he became Hardcore Holly and fully embraced the emerging hardcore division. He became well known for his toughness.

    Holly went on to win three tag team titles and seven hardcore titles.

    After he was released from his contract in 2009, he began wrestling for Varsity Pro Wrestling in England.

    His autobiography will be released in 2013 (via Slam Wrestling).

Kurt Angle

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    Kurt Angle, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, signed an eight-year contract with the WWE in 1998 and made his television debut in 1999.

    Angle found instant success in the Attitude Era. He won both the European and Intercontinental titles at the same time. He also won every other major title available in the WWE.

    Citing frustration at having to continue to work while injured, Angle asked for and was granted his release in 2006.

    He now wrestles for TNA.  

Mankind

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    After he appeared for some time in WCW and ECW, Mick Foley made his WWE debut in 1996 as Mankind, a deranged wrestler who hid in the boiler rooms of various arenas and used the Mandible Claw as his finisher.

    Mankind quickly found success in the Attitude Era, where he took the idea of hardcore wrestling to new heights. Along the way, he won three world titles and eight tag team titles. He was also the very first hardcore champion.

    Since retiring in 2000, he's made sporadic appearances on WWE television, as well as showing up in TNA and various independent organizations.

    Foley also became a best-selling author, with most of his works making the New York Times best-seller list.

Al Snow

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    WWE legend Al Snow started off in 1995 wrestling under masks, first as Avatar and then as Shinobi, a ninja assassin. Still trying to find a footing, he became Leif Cassidy in The New Rockers.

    In 1997, the WWE and ECW began to cross-promote in order to battle WCW. Snow was sent to ECW where, once again billed under his own name, he took on the schizophrenic persona he is most famous for. He also debuted his well-known mannequin head, known simply as “Head.”

    After he fought for the ECW Championship, Snow returned to the WWE, along with his gimmick. Despite winning the Hardcore Championship six times and remaining very popular, he was released from his contract in 2007.

    Today, Snow is a road agent for TNA.

Ken Shamrock

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    UFC legend Ken Shamrock came to the WWE in 1997, debuting on Monday Night Raw in February of that year.

    He went on to referee a submission match between Steve Austin and Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. Afterward, he began to wrestle full-time, engaged in various feuds, won the 1998 King of the Ring tournament and captured the Intercontinental and World Tag Team Championships.

    After he left the WWE in 1999, Shamrock returned to MMA and UFC. He also made appearances in Ring of Honor, TNA and Juggalo Championship Wrestling.

    In 2007, he became the coach for the Nevada Lions in the International Fight League, before it shut down in 2008. 

    Today, he still has the occasional fight, with his last bout being in 2010.

The Rock

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    Along with Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the most famous alumnus from the Attitude Era.

    The Rock debuted in the WWE in 1996 as Rocky Maivia and quickly began to move up the ranks. After he became “The Rock,” he went on to win his first world title in 1998. From that point on, he was a dominant figure in the WWE, where he won 16 titles, including nine world championships.

    In 2000, The Rock successfully hosted “Saturday Night Live,” which resulted in him receiving numerous offers from Hollywood.

    In 2004, he officially became a part-time wrestler and left for the greener pastures of Hollywood. From 2001 until today, he has appeared in 25 films and numerous television shows.

    According to Forbes.com, he is the fourth highest paid actor in Hollywood. 

Steve Austin

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    “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is one of the two most recognized faces from the Attitude Era.

    After a rather lackluster stint in WCW, and an even shorter one in ECW, Austin arrived in the WWE in 1995, as The Ringmaster and was managed by Ted DiBiase. After DiBiase left, Austin began to wrestle as “Stone Cold.”

    From 1996 to 2002, he captured numerous championships, including six world titles. A series of injuries to his knees and neck forced him to retire from the ring in 2002.

    Aside from occasional appearances in the WWE, Austin has gone on to a successful acting career, appearing in 12 films and numerous television shows. 

Honorable Mentions

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    There are many more wrestlers who did not make this list but who were valuable parts of the WWE’s Attitude Era.

    They include:

     

    Gangrel

    Gangrel came to the WWE in 1998 with a vampire gimmick. He formed The Brood with Edge and Christian, eventually joining The Ministry of Darkness. He was released from the WWE in 2001. Today, he wrestles in independent organizations, such as Territory League.

     

    Eddie Guerrero

    Between 1996 and 2001, he captured the United States, Intercontinental and Cruiserweight Championships. He died in 2005.

     

    Chris Benoit

    He came to the WWE in 2000 and quickly won the Intercontinental Championship. He committed suicide in 2007.

     

    Rikishi

    After a run in the WWE in the early ‘90s, Rikishi returned in 1999 with a new look and attitude. He quickly became popular with his Stink Face move. After a heel turn, he feuded with Steve Austin, resulting in a brutal No Holds Barred match in 2000.

    He left the WWE in 2004, returning briefly on the special 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw.

     

    The Godfather

    Charles Wright was known by many names: Papa Shango, Kama Mustafa and, most popularly, The Godfather. He won the Intercontinental Championship in 1999 and the Tag Team Championship in 2001. According to WWE.com, he now manages several night clubs in Las Vegas.