WWE's Evolution in the 2000's: From Attitude to Entertainment
Throughout the 80's and 90's the WWE reached new heights of popularity with big name stars. In the new millennium the WWE continued to succeed on many levels of popularity.
The decade would usher in a new era of younger talent, the demise of two big-name wrestling companies, the return of legendary superstars and the creation of an all-new wrestling company to compete with WWE.
This is the 2000s
As the new millennium began, the WWE would soar into the decade with the popularity of The Rock. In late 1999 Stone Cold Steve Austin would endure neck surgery that left him out of action until late 2000. The Rock was the top man in the WWE before his days of becoming a Hollywood actor.
With his electrifying ring ability to his amazing mic work, The Rock was the new top star. Throughout 2000, the top feud would be between The Rock and Triple H (Who would become the top heel in the company).
The two would feud over the WWE championship in some classic matches. The Rock would capture the WWE Championship twice in this year.
The tag team division would heat up again as The Hardys, The Dudleys and Edge and Christian would put on some memorable matches throughout the year including the tables match with The Hardys and The Dudleys at the Royal Rumble, the triangle ladder match at WrestleMania and the historic first ever Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at SummerSlam 2000, which included all three teams.
By the end of 2000, Stone Cold would return and Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle would win the WWE Championship from The Rock in only his first year in the WWE. In early 2001, many changes would begin to take place in the wrestling world.
In February 2001 ECW would go out of business and owner Paul Heyman would join WWE. On March 26, 2001, the historic Monday Night War between WWE and WCW would come to an end.
In one of the WWE’s most historic moments, Vince McMahon would purchase WCW and the WWE would win the war and it would be the only wrestling promotion left.
After the successful purchase of WCW the WWE would hire former WCW superstars and form a “watered down” version of WCW in the WWE later in 2001.
Just days after the historic purchase of WCW, WrestleMania X-Seven would take place at The Astrodome in Houston.
Many fans consider this WrestleMania to be the best one ever for many reasons. The event had it all.
Vince McMahon and his son Shane would do battle in a street fight, three of the greatest teams in history would square off in TLC II, A gimmick battle royal, Triple H and The Undertaker and for the second time at WrestleMania Stone Cold and The Rock would battle over the WWE Championship in the main event.
Fans were shocked at the conclusion of the match which saw a bloody Stone Cold strike The Rock repeatedly with a chair and then shake hands and align himself with his arch-rival, Mr. McMahon.
In the months that followed WrestleMania, Stone Cold would be a heel as he would stand by Vince McMahon. Kurt Angle would get involved which made for some funny segments. In the summer of 2001, the invasion would begin as WCW would be brought back into the WWE.
WCW and ECW stars would align themselves with Shane McMahon and Paul Heyman and form the alliance.
Honestly this storyline would have been more interesting if more of WCW's top stars were involved, instead the storyline went on for about 5 months and quickly started to get boring.
In my opinion, it could have been better.
Now what can I say about 2002. It was probably one of the best years ever in the WWE. Throughout the year fans were treated to returning legends, debuts, and a match that no one ever thought they would ever see.
In early 2002 Vince McMahon announced that he would be bringing in the nWo, meaning that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would be returning to the WWE since they left for WCW in 1996, but the big story was that for the first time in nine years Hulk Hogan would return to WWE as well.
The nWo would return at No Way Out in February, but the big story is what happened the next night on Raw.
Hulk Hogan would come out and just minutes later The Rock would make his presence felt as he would challenge Hogan for a match at WrestleMania X8.
At WrestleMania, it was a match no one thought they would ever see as the two stared each other down in front of 68,000 fans in Toronto's Sky Dome.
The crowd reaction for this match was amazing. Hogan would lose the match, but this night would prove to be the rebirth of Hulkamania.
Shortly after WrestleMania, Hogan would battle Triple H for the WWE Championship a few weeks later and would become WWE Champion for a sixth time. Hulkamania was indeed back in WWE.
In the middle of all of this the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) would sue the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
For the first time since the early 1980's, the WWF would be renamed WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). The attitude era had ended and the era of entertainment had begun.
As the year moved on fans were treated to some classic matches that featured Edge and Kurt Angle as well as Rob Van Dam and the late Eddie Guerrero.
This period would also se the debut of Brock Lesnar and three of the WWE's current top stars. Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena would all debut in 2002.
2002 also shocked the wrestling world as Vince McMahon announced that former WCW president Eric Bischoff would be the new GM of Raw. Brock Lesnar would defeat The Rock to become the youngest WWE Champion (at that time) at SummerSlam.
In the summer 2002 after spending four years out of action Shawn Michaels would return and start a legendary rivalry with his best friend Triple H.
These two would face off at SummerSlam in a non sanctioned match that proved Shawn Michaels was still able to put on one amazing show.
Shawn would cap off his amazing return by going on to win the World Title by defeating Triple H in the first ever Elimination Chamber match at the Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden.
It was also during this year that another rival wrestling promotion called TNA (Total Nonstop Action) would start. Today, TNA resembles what WCW used to be. They have many former WWE stars, they are competing with Raw on Monday nights and they are being run by two guys (Hogan and Bischoff) who helped put WCW out of business.
I am not knocking TNA by any means. I do give TNA a lot of credit as they really do a lot for their fans and their stars can put on some great matches.
I wish them the best of luck. Honestly I wish TNA would get bigger and really start to compete with WWE.
At WrestleMania XIX in March 2003, the WWE would put on a spectacular show in front of 54,000 fans at Seattle's Safeco Field.
Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon would face off in a match that would be dubbed 20 years in the making.
Shawn Michaels would battle Chris Jericho in a classic, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle would put on a memorable for the WWE Championship and for the third time The Rock and Stone Cold would once again do battle on the grand stage as The Rock would finally gain a victory over Stone Cold.
This would be Austin's final WWE match, as his career would be over due to neck injuries.
Over the next year the WWE would begin to promote WrestleMania XX. On March 14, 2004 WrestleMania celebrated its 20th anniversary at MSG in NYC.
The show featured The Rock's return (which would be his last match to date), Kurt Angle and Eddie Guererro for the WWE title and a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Chris Benoit.
Later that year, Triple H and Shawn Michaels would continue their rivalry in a Hell in a Cell match that lasted for nearly one full hour.
At WrestleMania 21 in April 2005, the WWE would usher in its two new top stars as Batista and John Cena would both win championships on this night.
Hulk Hogan would be inducted in to the Hall of Fame, Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle put on a classic wrestling match and a first ever Money in the Bank ladder match was held.
In June of 2005 ECW would return and hold the fist of two PPV's that were both called One Night Stand.
Of course all of this was overseen by the WWE, but that did not stop ECW from putting on a classic event in New York City. Probably some of the best PPV's in the last 10 years. ECW would return for good in 2006.
I do miss the original ECW.
In November 2005 the WWE lost a legendary star as Eddie Guererro passed away from a heart attack. Just like Owen Hart, the WWE devoted entire episodes of Raw and Smackdown to Eddie.
Superstars would share their memories of Eddie as others dedicated matches to him. In 2006 Eddie was inducted into the Hall of Fame and is still greatly missed by fans to this day.
It was around this time that John Cena would garner a great deal of controversy as champion. Many fans liked him and many hated him (still to this day).
Cena would hold the title until early 2006 when he was defeated by Edge. One night later Edge and Lita would have a "Live Sex Celebration" on Raw which would give Raw its highest ratings in a long time.
I believe that 2006 was probably the closest that WWE has come to the Attitude era.
WrestleMania 22 featured a brutal hardcore match between Edge and Mick Foley. Chairs, thumbtacks, barbed wire and a flaming table were all used.
ECW would return and for the first time since 1998 DX would reunite (and be toned down a little bit) to wreak havoc and hilarity in the WWE against the McMahon family.
DX was riding high going into 2007 until Triple H would tear his quadriceps muscle and require surgery. Shawn Michaels would take on John Cena in a classic main event match at WrestleMania 23 for the WWE title.
A few weeks later HBK and Cena would meet again on Raw in a classic match that lasted for almost one full hour.
In June 2007 the wrestling world was shocked yet again when the news broke out that Chris Benoit had murdered his wife and son before taking his own life. The WWE once again took a big hit in the media because of this.
In early 2008 one of the most legendary careers would come to an end as Ric Flair would have his final match (which until now was short lived) against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.
One night earlier, Flair would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with a sendoff that at this point was pretty much a waste considering that he is now involved with TNA wrestling.
By the summer of 2008 the WWE would go with a more family friendly PG rating for their company. There would be no more blood, cursing and barbaric matches that fans had been used to seeing for all these years.
The PG rating basically caters to kids and many fans like me are tired of it. I believe that John Cena had a huge part in this.
In 2009 the WWE was just plain boring. Vince McMahon would incorporate a slew of celebrity guest hosts each week to host Raw, some of which knew nothing about the WWE.
Most of WWE's classic PPV events would undergo name changes and be replaced with gimmick titles that were just not good ideas. DX would also return yet again and it just was not funny anymore. It was stupid.
2009 also saw the debut of some new stars to the main roster. Now the current rule in WWE must be that if you make a debut (or if you are friends with someone who is high up in the company) you automatically get pushed to the top and are given a championship right away.
Let's just forget about all of the other guys who have been around longer and are more deserving of the opportunity.
This was one another one of the things that irritated fans in 2009.
Of all of the things that took place in 2009 the one match that stands out is the match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania.
While this was without a doubt one of the worst WrestleMania's ever, HBK and the deadman would put on a match that would be forever remembered. Shawn would come closer than anyone to ending the Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania.
With near fall after near fall the crowd was emotionally involved in this match all the way until its conclusion which saw the Undertaker go up 17-0 at WrestleMania.
In conclusion the WWE is still catering to their young fans. The celebrity guest host's still continue every week on Raw and most of the PPV's are gimmick oriented.
John Cena is WWE's top star as his popularity has soared to the heights of Stone Cold, The Rock and Hulk Hogan that preceded him.
The WWE has evolved a great deal in the last three decades. From the golden days of the 1980's to the attitude of the 1990's and the current PG era of today. Over all of these years WWE has still proven one thing. They are the most dominant wrestling company in history.
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