10 Greatest Moments of WWE's Attitude Era

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2013

10 Greatest Moments of WWE's Attitude Era

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    Photo Credit: WWE.com
    Photo Credit: WWE.com

    World Wrestling Entertainment's Attitude Era was a period in which sports entertainment embraced an edgier, more controversial direction that promoted increased violence, vulgarity and sexuality.

    "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ran around Monday Night Raw, dropping adversaries with Stone Cold Stunners, flipping them off and drinking a beer afterward.

    The Rock told his fellow Superstars to take objects and forcefully insert them in their nether regions.

    Mankind introduced a mixture of comedy and violence to the shows that, in many ways, made him the most complex and layered character on the show.

    Those three men, along with The Undertaker, Kane, Triple H, Mr. McMahon, Chris Jericho and the New Age Outlaws, among others, delivered moments that will live forever.

    Their determination to top the previous week's show and remain ahead of World Championship Wrestling resulted in innovative and revolutionary programming on a weekly basis.

    The 10 moments included in this list helped make Monday Night Raw destination programming and the Attitude Era the most successful period in professional wrestling history.

10. A Radical Debut

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    On the January 31, 2000 episode of Monday Night Raw, WWE Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws met Al Snow and Steve Blackman in a match for their titles.

    The match was secondary to the debut of four noteworthy Superstars who had walked out of World Championship Wrestling just days earlier. Seated at ringside, watching the show were Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko.

    Late in the match, "Road Dogg" Jesse James was dumped over the guardrail and into the laps of the performers. Rather than simply climbing back over the rail and continuing on with the match, James shoved Guerrero and incited an attack by the former WCW stars.

    Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn and Malenko made an immediate impact that, like Chris Jericho a few months earlier, immediately established them as players in their new environment.

    By the time April arrived, Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko had all captured singles title with the company and all four were featured players, working against top stars on a nightly basis. Their bouts with the likes of Jericho, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Triple H and the Hardy Boyz introduced a harder-hitting, more physical style to WWE and brought a workrate that was nearly unmatched by their fellow Superstars.

    Benoit and Guerrero would eventually go on to win heavyweight gold with the company well after the Attitude Era had come to an end but their accomplishments during 2000 and 2001 are more than enough to warrant their debut on Raw's inclusion on this list.

9. Jericho Wins...Wait, No He Doesn't

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    The April 17, 2000 episode of Raw is notable for what could have been than what actually was.

    Chris Jericho kicked off the evening's broadcast by running down the list of insults he had hurled in Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley's direction, drawing the ire of WWE Champion Triple H. The Game and Shane McMahon came to the squared circle to confront Jericho, who goaded Triple H into putting his title on the line.

    Jericho revealed that he had purchased an insurance policy in the form of the Acolyte Protection Agency to ensure that Shane McMahon and D-Generation X did not get involved in the match. Bradshaw and Faarooq stalked towards the ring and, moments later, the bell rung.

    What resulted was a phenomenal contest between Jericho and Triple H that showcased the chemistry they had with one another. Every move was crisp and every sequence meant something. It was a near-perfect match in which even the attempted interference from McMahon and the involvement of the APA failed to hurt it.

    A referee bump late in the match allowed Stephanie to slide her Women's title into the ring. Jericho would counter his opponent's attempt to use the weapon, however, and clock him in the face with it. Referee Earl Hebner would rush to the ring, deliver a fast three count and declare Jericho the winner and new WWE Champion.

    Eventually, Triple H and company would bully Hebner into reversing the decision and fire him on the spot.

    The pop that Jericho received upon his win over Triple H was one of the loudest in Raw history. The "title switch" was completely unexpected and the fans in State College, Pennsylvania welcomed Jericho as the new champion with open arms.

    Triple H would leave with the title intact but it was Jericho who left the greatest impression.

8. This Is Your Life, Rock

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    In the fall of 1999, The Rock and Mankind formed one of the most unique and entertaining tag teams in WWE history. Former rivals who spent the first-half of the year beating each other senseless with steel chairs and putting one another through tables and bloodying one another in several intense wars.

    Now, they came together and focused their attention on common enemies. In doing so, they captured multiple WWE Tag Team Championships.

    On the September 27, 1999 episode of Raw, Mankind wanted to do something special for his tag team partner and presented "This is Your Life."

    Mankind trotted out figures from Rock's past and, in classic People's Champion fashion he ripped them apart on the microphone and sent them back from which they came. Mankind presented Rock with his very own custom sock puppet named Rocko and confetti fell from the ceiling.

    Rock was largely unaffected by what was going on around him and therein laid why the partnership between the two worked so well.

    Mankind was the slightly unhinged Superstar who was looking acceptance from his cooler partner and Rock was the mega star who was too self-involved to accept his disheveled partner as his friend.

    Eventually, Rock did become more friendly with Mankind and did accept him as both but it was a long, entertaining journey to that point.

    "This is Your Life" became the highest rated television segment in World Wrestling Entertainment history, drawing an 8.4 rating.

    While it has drawn a mixed reaction from longtime fans some 14 years later, it remains one of the most surreal moments of the acclaimed Attitude Era.

7. Big Daddy-O Did It

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    "We understand that Mick Foley, who used to wrestle here as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their World Title. Huh, that'll put some butts in the seats."

    With that one statement, uttered by WCW commentator Tony Schiavone at the insistence of Eric Bischoff, fans switched the channel in droves, turning to Raw to see the incredibly respected Mick Foley capture the WWE Championship.

    In the main event of the January 4, 1999 episode of Raw, Foley (as Mankind) would challenge The Rock for the most prestigious prize in the sport. Members of The Corporation and D-Generation X surrounded the ring in an attempt to prevent interference from the one another.

    Mankind and The Rock had their typical hard-hitting match that saw the champion have his challenger beaten on a number of occasions, only for the resilient Mankind to kick out at two.

    Eventually, all hell broke loose outside the squared circle. Then, the sound of glass shattering exploded over the PA system and the crowd in Worcester, Massachusetts erupted into what is arguably the loudest ovation of the last twenty years.

    "Stone Cold" Steve Austin hit the ring, blasted The Rock with a chair and Mankind covered and won his first WWE Championship.

    It was a beautiful moment for one of the most beloved stars in the industry. His dedication of the title to his family and his message to children Dewey and Noelle, in which he stated "big daddy-o did it" added to the moment, making it that much more special.

6. The Y2J Problem Has Arrived

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    In the weeks leading up to his debut, it became clear that Chris Jericho had signed with World Wrestling Entertainment. When the company began running a Millennium countdown on Monday Night Raw, it was not a stretch of the imagination to believe it was to signal the arrival of the charismatic, former WCW star.

    On Aug. 9, 1999, in the middle of a promo by The Rock, the clock ticked down to zero and Jericho made his debut, receiving an amazing reaction from the fans inside Chicago's Allstate Arena.

    Jericho welcomed fans to "Raw is Jericho" and trashed The Rock, the company and the Monday night program. He brash, cocky and arrogant and he made the mistake of cutting Rock off in mid-sentence. 

    The Great One unleashed on Jericho, delivering the classic "it doesn't matter what your name is" before ending Jericho's big night in less-than stellar fashion.

    The manner in which Jericho was presented on the night of his debut instantly made him a star in the company. He was treated as someone important by the promotion and, as a result, the fans treated him the same way.

    Jericho would go on to become one of the most decorated stars of the era defeating Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night to capture the WWE Undisputed Championship.

5. Wedding Shocker

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    On the November 29, 1999 episode of Raw, Test was scheduled to marry Stephanie McMahon in a grand ceremony. Family and friends of the bride and groom had gathered inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the big day.

    Unfortunately, Triple H had other plans.

    The Game interrupted the wedding, despite warnings and threats of termination from Mr. McMahon, and revealed that he had footage that had to be seen.

    For the next three minutes, fans were treated to footage shot in Las Vegas following Stephanie's bachelorette party. In it, Triple H drove a drugged and unconscious Stephanie to a drive-thru wedding chapel. There, he married the boss' daughter in a farce of a ceremony.

    "...and I know you can only have one question on your mind, dad. And that is not did we, but how many times did we consummate the marriage," Triple H taunted his new father-in-law from atop the ramp.

    Test took off up the ramp but Triple H escaped before he could get to him.

    The moment provided fans of WWE a twist they did not see coming and furthered the feud between Triple H and Mr. McMahon. Most importantly, it was the genesis of the McMahon-Helmsley Faction storyline that dominated the first-half of 2000 and resulted in what some consider the greatest stretch of WWE programming ever.

4. D-Generation X Invades WCW

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    One night after the Unforgiven pay-per-view in April of 1998, Triple H led D-Generation X stablemates "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn, "Road Dogg" Jesse James, X-Pac and Chyna in an invasion of World Championship Wrestling's Monday Nitro event at the nearby Norfolk Scope.

    Riding a massive tank, DX spoke over megaphones to fans waiting outside the venue. They revealed that WCW was giving away free tickets to the night's event and tried to breach the front door of the venue.

    Heading around back, they drove down to the wrestlers' entrance of the building and attempted to enter that way but someone closed the garage door seconds before James and Gunn could get there.

    Though their attempts to interrupt Nitro were unsuccessful, the pre-taped vignettes aided in the eventual babyface turn of DX. The group was a rebellious one who bucked tradition and authority and did what they wanted, when they wanted.

    Their invasion of WCW by DX was also a middle finger from the Vince McMahon-owned promotion to the competitors. For 83 straight weeks, Eric Bischoff and WCW bragged about their television ratings dominance. Now ahead in the Monday Night Wars thanks in large part to acts like DX, McMahon was allowed to have some fun at the expense of Bischoff and his show. 

3. "I Always Got a Little Bit of Sign Language, so Here's to Ya..."

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    In January of 1998, it was announced that legendary boxer Mike Tyson would be working with World Wrestling Entertainment and would perhaps have a role in the festivities at WrestleMania XIV.

    The night after the Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon introduced Tyson to the WWE audience and was about to make a formal announcement regarding Tyson's involvement with the company when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's music played and he made his way to the ring.

    As confrontational as ever, Austin took exception to the "Baddest Man on the Planet" moniker that had followed Tyson for years.

    "I respect what you've done Mike... but you're out here calling yourself the baddest man on the planet. Right now you've got your little beady eyes locked on the eyes of the world's toughest son of a b****," Austin told Tyson. Moments later, he would flip Tyson off and a pull-apart scuffle ensued between them.

    The moment earned World Wrestling Entertainment much needed mainstream media press and captured the attention of wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike. Suddenly, people knew who Steve Austin was and the sight of McMahon yelling at Austin, blaming him for ruining WWE's chances of landing Tyson for WrestleMania, was a brief hint of what was to come in the weeks and months that followed. 

2. "Bret Screwed Bret"

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    Arguably the beginning of the Attitude Era, the interview with Jim Ross in which Vince McMahon detailed his issues with Bret Hart and the events that unfolded at Survivor Series laid the groundwork for the evil Mr. McMahon character that would go on to become the most hated villain during the hottest period in wrestling history.

    When asked about his role in the controversial outcome of the WWE title match at Survivor Series '97, McMahon answered, "Bret screwed Bret. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Bret."

    The heartlessness with which he spoke of a respected, longtime performer for his company made him a natural villain. He worried only about what he felt was best for the long-term health of his company and would step on anyone, no matter who it was or how long they had worked for him, if it meant he survived.

    The interview was the first time that the potential for McMahon as the evil, corrupt authority figure became apparent. Like any great wrestling mind, Vince recognized when something was working and ran with it. A billion dollars later and he proved that he made the best decision for the sake of business by becoming the most hated man in the industry.

1. The Beer Truck

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    Take wrestling's top star, a charismatic young star coming into his own as a performer, the sport's most hated villain and his son, throw in a beer truck and what do you get?

    The greatest moment of the Attitude Era, that's what.

    Six days before WrestleMania 15 and a war between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock, the Texas Rattlesnake shocked the WWE Champion, Vince and Shane McMahon by rolling into the Pepsi Arena in Albany in a beer truck.

    Austin and Rock hyped their title match by exchanging words. The Rock unleashed his typical catchphrases while Stone Cold responded with threats to burn the fictional SmackDown Hotel to the ground en route to regaining the WWE title.

    Rock began to respond but was cut off when Austin turned a hose on the so-called "Great One" and the McMahons, dousing them with beer!

    The WWE Champion and Shane McMaon slipped and slid around the ring while Vince attempted to swim laps.

    The beer truck incident on the March 22, 1999 episode of Raw remains the most popular moment of the Attitude Era for a number of reasons.

    It was a perfect example of what made Mr. McMahon the ultimate villain. Yes, he held down the rebel but at the end of the day, he understood that the villain had to get his comeuppance. Few performers were able to allow themselves to be humiliated in the manner McMahon was on so many occasions and still keep the crowd entertained each and every time.

    It was also a perfect example of what made Steve Austin the antihero that fans so closely associated with. He not only raged against the machine, he not only ran his mouth, he backed it up in the ring and in situations where he could make a fool out of his boss.

    Finally, it was a key moment in the build to one of the biggest matches of the era. Those have a tendency to be remembered more fondly than one that took place on the third Raw of October with little or no effect on an upcoming pay-per-view.