When thinking about the defining moment that signaled the end of the Attitude Era and the ushering of new times, two events immediately pop out in my mind:
The purchase of World Championship Wrestling and the ending to WrestleMania 17.
In early 2001, it was announced that Vince McMahon had purchased his rival from AOL Time Warner. However, on a famous Monday Night Raw segment, it was written as Shane McMahon actually purchasing the company under his father's nose.
Not much is paid attention to the significance of the on-screen storyline of how the buyout of WCW was handled. But I believe it foreshadowed many things.
For one, this would be the start of Vince McMahon's character having a huge importance on screen.
Yes, Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin's rivalry was the symbol of the Attitude Era. However, I believe that rivalry focused mainly on the Austin aspect and his constant defiance of authority.
I believe the ratings, by the time the Attitude Era was at its thickest in popularity, would've been high without Vince on screen, as they were still during the 2000s when the McMahon-Helmsley regime of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H ruled over the WWF.
But when its acknowledged on live television that the WWE had conquered its adversary, the message was clear: Vince was THE man in running sports entertainment.
In the end of it all , Vince was dominant. He went from being a boss who couldn't control his big time employees, to truly being the "boss" not to "cross."
This would translate to the end of WrestleMania 17.
The main event of WrestleMania 17 featured THE two biggest superstars of the Attitude Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson battled it out for the WWF Championship.
It was literally the Clash of the Titans, and the ending was as if Perseus had joined the other side.
During the ending of the battle, Vince McMahon would interfere on behalf of Austin, helping him become the new WWF champion. McMahon's biggest foe for five years would become his biggest ally in five minutes.
Again, the power of Vince McMahon was coming to fruition in front of our very eyes. WWF had won the Monday Night War. And he himself had finally won over the war to make Stone Cold Steve Austin the superstar that he wanted him to be.
And life would mirror art in real life. A huge group of former WCW and ECW superstars signed with WWF later that year. Booker T, Raven, and Diamond Dallas Page were just some of the few many names that made their way towards a WWF stadium.
The same stadium Eric Bischoff each Monday Night Nitro gave spoilers to viewers. The same stadium Vince Russo attempted to write circles around.
Vince McMahon was building the empire that he wanted.
WrestleMania 17 brought another change that would rock (no pun intended) the federation: a change that would effect the business more than people would've ever thought.
It was one of the last moments of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a regular professional wrestler.
He would go on to leave after the following Monday Night Raw to to film scenes for "The Mummy Returns." The year 2001 began The Rock's transition from "WWF Superstar" to a "Hollywood Star."
At the time,Rock's disappearance was not thought of much. After all, the WWF still had the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, and the Undertaker to sell tickets. Coupled by the fact that The Rock would return later for The Invasion storyline.
However, 2001 to me was the last year that The Rock was a regular-time performer. I think it was starting to become clearer that The Rock had a bigger future without wrestling.
What would become unclear, however, was whether wrestling could have a bigger future without The Rock. The value of The Rock and losing him to Hollywood would be felt more as WWF would try hard to fill in his role.
We will explore this in the later years.
It would also foreshadow other wrestlers seeing the opportunity to make a name for themselves outside of wrestling. Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar are other names that come to mind. However, we will expand on that more also.
In all, 2001 due to these factors, would signal the end of the Attitude Era. The new era would glorify the business strength and genius of Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. and his need to expand and make the WWF more powerful than it ever was before.
Ushering in big names from his rival over to his side. Pushing wrestlers such as The Rock to make WWF bigger than wrestling itself.
But we will see that later on, Vince and WWF's power would be force to swallow a pill of humility within themselves.
For now though, the future seems brighter than ever.
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