The WWE Attitude Era was the most successful time period in modern professional wrestling history. In my mind, this era began around WrestleMania 14, when attitude stopped being a gimmick limited to Stone Cold Steve Austin and became a theme underlying all aspects of WWE programming.
Previously, the company produced family oriented content. The federal government’s investigation of the company revolving around steroid distribution, and the entrance of Ted Turner into the pro wrestling market place took a toll on the company’s ability to compete, and viewers tuned out. The Attitude Era gave the company a lucrative spot in the market, allowing it to reinvent itself and eventually surpass Turner.
The Attitude Era was a huge success highlighted by the Austin/McMahon rivalry. This rivalry is easily one of the top five in the past 30 years, nothing coming close to the creativity and interest level this program generated. That being said, however, this era has been nothing short of a curse.
All the promotions have been, and still are, affected by this curse: Most of the entrance themes are Attitude Era sounding, very lame, generic sounding heavy metal songs, and in addition to that, all of the promotion’s television show themes themselves are generic sounding and boring as well.
And then there are the characters. They're all pissed off in an over the top, not so believable kind of way. I mean this was cool in 98, but give me a break.
Everyone is a tough guy and/or sadistic like. On TNA, they curse every five seconds. Hey TNA, I’m not going to watch your product just because some overly pissed guys are cursing up a storm. So much of the motivation is driven by hate. Guys stealing each other’s wives or running each other over with cars, so lame and cheesy. You have Ric Flair bleeding every week like a gladiator; I mean, come on! When did wrestling turn into the freaking Pit Fighter? Since when did the only attributes for a character become angry, sadistic, and/or violent? ECW was great back in the day, but the over the top violence in 2011 is cheesy and over the top.
Stone Cold was the character Steve Williams was born to play, so if you are an aspiring wrestler, do yourself a favor and listen to me! You are not Steve Williams, and since there are 100-plus carbon copies of the Stone Cold character running around every North American wrestling promotion, it would probably behoove you to stand out in the crowd and come up with your own original character, instead of becoming another carbon copy tough guy with an attitude.
The companies really have to be careful because it is much easier for tough and violent to come across as over the top and cheesy these days. With the success of MMA, the Attitude Era stuff looks silly and has a very small part to play in wrestling now. The companies better get back to the basics of telling good stories and creating memorable characters, or they will continue to lose viewers.