The Attitude Era was a period in WWE history in which Vince McMahon's company embraced the edginess and controversy that had made Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling an underground success in the mid-1990s and injected it with its talented roster of wrestlers and revolutionary characters.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin drank beer and flipped the bird. D-Generation X embraced degenerative behavior and made "suck it" a household phrase and the dark nature of the Undertaker, Kane and Mankind characters provided a demonic feel to their segments.
While vulgarity, foul language and violence were staples of the Attitude Era and fueled the company's success, sex appeal was equally as important and that was provided by a stunning blonde known simply as Sable. Her rise to stardom resulted in a breakthrough into mainstream consciousness and an appearance on the cover of Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine.
Few could have expected the level of stardom and success that she would achieve when she first stepped through the curtain at WrestleMania XII as the latest arm candy for Hunter Hearst Helmsley. She was stunningly beautiful, a fact that commentator Vince McMahon brought up more than once.
Following Helmsley's embarrassing loss to the Ultimate Warrior, the Connecticut blue blood verbally berated Sable. Marc Mero, Sable's real life husband and debuting Superstar, took exception and began brawling with his future rival. Mero and Sable became immediately linked as competitor and valet.
The gorgeous blonde guided Mero to the Intercontinental Championship in September of 1996 but by the following January, Mero would be sidelined with a knee injury and Sable was left with no direction.
Over the course of the summer of 1997, she modeled the latest WWE merchandise and gained popularity as the sex symbol she was. Sunny may have been the first true Diva but it was Sable who had gained the attention of the audience by the time the fall rolled around.
Mero returned in November with more of an edge to his character than before. There was noticeable jealousy on his part as he realized that in the time he was sidelined, Sable's star had eclipsed his own. He treated her terribly, ordering her around in an attempt to steal back the spotlight.
December of 1997 saw Mero, in a further attempt to demean Sable, order her to the ring wearing a potato sack. Rather than disrobing her charge, however, she took off the sack and revealed a very small black bikini.
The moment really catapulted her into the stratosphere as not only the most popular female performer in WWE but also one of the most popular acts on a surging television show.
Sable would continue to overshadow Mero, to his dismay, well in to 1998. An unlikely pairing of Mero and Goldust would lead to the first rivalry of Sable's career. An intense rivalry with Luna Vachon became one of the hotter feuds on WWE Raw and introduced an edge and attitude to Sable's character that had not been seen before. No longer willing to sit back and be the nice girl, she lashed out at Mero, Goldust and Luna.
After Mero and Goldust split and the latter and Luna humiliated Sable on an episode of Raw, the heels issued a challenge for a mixed tag match at WrestleMania XIV. The match was, in many ways, the coming out party for Sable. The aggression she showed in defeating Luna only added to her complete package.
The following month at April's Unforgiven pay-per-view, she competed in the first-ever Evening Gown match against Luna. A distraction from Mero resulted in Sable being stripped of her gown, losing the match as a result.
After losing a match to Mero at May's Over the Edge pay-per-view, she was banished from WWE. A deal with Mr. McMahon, which was never explored or explained in any sort of detail, led to her return.
Mero moved on from Sable, introducing Jacqueline to WWE fans and a feud between the women ensued. At Fully Loaded in July of 1998, Sable and Jacqueline competed in a bikini contest. Under orders from McMahon, Sable's bikini was fairly tame...until she bucked authority and removed her grey top to reveal hand prints, applied with body paint, covering her breasts.
The rivalry with Jacqueline and Mero continued into SummerSlam, where Sable teamed with Edge to defeat the villains, and Survivor Series, where Sable defeated Jacqueline to capture the Women's Championship. Her popularity was reaching its height and mainstream media came calling, most notably with the aforementioned appearance in Playboy.
As her star grew, however, Sable's attitude backstage changed and, soon, her on-screen character did as well. Full of herself and assured of her sexuality, Sable talked down to the audience. She performed the "grind" for men and repeatedly reminded the female fans how much they wish they were her.
Her actions became less-than-admirable as she transitioned from popular-yet-humble baby face to egotistical heel. Behind the scenes, she was becoming harder and harder to work with. Her attitude, as well as an increased crop of beautiful women including Ivory, Tori and Debra made her expendable.
In April of 1999, she made her final noteworthy appearance on Raw, defeating Debra in an Evening Gown match, yet still losing the Women's Championship in the process.
In June of that same year, Sable filed a lawsuit against WWE. In it, she claimed she was sexually harassed and that the company practiced unsafe working conditions. The suit appeared to be the burning of the bridge between Sable and the company that made her a star and many wondered if she had any future in business.
Fast forward four years and those fans would receive their answer when Sable made a shocking return to WWE following WrestleMania XIX.
The first Diva to appear in Playboy, she targeted the magazine's latest cover girl, Torrie Wilson. Every week that passed saw Sable play up her sexuality in an attempt to prove that she was hotter than Torrie. The feud came to a head in May at the Judgment Day pay-per-view when they met in a Bikini Contest.
Despite a very fine showing from Sable, Torrie was declared the winner.
Sable would go on to have an on-screen relationship with Vince McMahon and feud with his daughter Stephanie, but her return to the company proved to be short-lived. After a third Playboy photo shoot, this one with Torrie Wilson, and a tag team Evening Gown match against Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie, the revolutionary female performer disappeared from television.
In 2006, she married Brock Lesnar. The couple has two sons and live in Minnesota.
Sable was the first, and a rare, female performer to transcend wrestling. While Sunny may get credit for being the original, Sable was the first to refer to herself as a Diva. She injected WWE with pure sex appeal at a time when the company needed it to help differentiate itself from, and defeat, WCW in the Monday Night wars.
While her time at the top of the industry was shortened due to her own ego, no one can take away from her what she accomplished in the three years she spent with WWE.
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