The Ruthless Aggression Era gave us some of the greatest wrestling and stories in WWE history, but it is not as celebrated a period as it deserves to be.
Nostalgic fans often think back to the days of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind and The Undertaker helping WWE push past WCW in the ratings. In the current toned-down era, fans longing for the return of the Attitude Era fill comment boards and online wrestling forums.
Where is the nostalgia for the Ruthless Aggression Era?
While this era from 2002 to 2007 featured some of the company's biggest stars and greatest matches, it simply doesn't get the same kind of wistful attention as the celebrated Attitude Era.
When WWE bought out WCW (h/t Money.CNN.com) in 2001, the need to compete with a worthy rival was gone, but WWE also benefited from an influx of talent. Just like the 1976 ABA-NBA merger brought superstars like Moses Malone and Julius Erving to a rival league, WWE found itself flush with great wrestlers.
Pick a random pay-per-view during the Ruthless Aggression Era and count the number of Hall of Fame stars, present and future.
Unforgiven 2002, for example, featured Rey Mysterio, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Kane, Booker T, Trish Stratus, Rob Van Dam, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar.
Some of the greatest events in WWE history and some of the most unforgettable matches happened during this period. Why doesn't an era that boasts shows like WrestleMania XIX or Backlash 2004 and matches like Lesnar vs. Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell or Angle vs. Chris Benoit at Royal Rumble 2003 get as much love and longing as the Attitude Era?
In terms of the lack of nostalgia products WWE itself puts out, the answer is partly in the last name mentioned.
For WWE to properly document and celebrate that era, it would need to feature Benoit, something the company just won't do. As CM Punk said at ComicCon, "We're not trying to erase Chris Benoit from history but due to the obvious, horrific nature of what he did, it's not right to promote him."
A Ruthless Aggression Era DVD won't have so many of the classics that Benoit was a part of. Take out the Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Benoit match at WrestleMania XX, Randy Orton's first world title win, the 2004 Royal Rumble match and so on.
How does one explain fans lack of attention on the Ruthless Aggression era compared to that of the Attitude Era, though? It's not as if fans are restricted in their flashbacks the way WWE is.
It may simply be a case of taking things for granted.
The Attitude Era was not only groundbreaking, but it injected new energy into a stale product. It invigorated WWE when it was at a creative stalemate.
The era that followed it, however, may have been just as good in many ways, but wasn't as drastic a change.
We remember the Attitude Era because it was revolutionary, infusing irreverence and moxy into a product that was for the most part, cheesy.
The Ruthless Aggression Era simply carried on many of its predecessor’s traditions and continued its greatness. In that way, the era may get lumped together with the days of attitude and not treated as its own period, or at least not talked about as much.
It wasn't the savior that the Attitude Era was and so does not get the respect it deserves.
Perhaps it's also because it hasn't been that long since the Ruthless Aggression Era winded down.
Time has a way of altering memories and making the past seem more grand and perfect than it truly was. Fans who hunger for a return of the Attitude Era often only remember that period's peaks while letting its valleys fade away.
In a few years, fans may do the same thing to the Ruthless Aggression era. Everything great about that period will grow brighter in the glow of nostalgia, leaving fans to hunger for it in spite of its warts and black eyes.