WWE: 10 Reasons Why the Attitude Era Will Never Be Matched
Ask a handful of wrestling fans what the best period in wrestling history was.
The most common answer? I guarantee that it will be the Attitude Era, and with good reason.
While each wrestling era has had its pros and cons, the Attitude Era provided the fans with some never-before-seen programming that is still talked about more than a decade after it ended.
Some fans will always prefer the type of wrestling programming we got in the 1980s and early 1990s or during the Ruthless Aggression Era of the early-to-mid 2000s.
But no matter what your preference is, it's hard to deny that no wrestling era will ever match what many consider to be the best ever, the Attitude Era.
Here are 10 reasons why.
10. That Type of Programming Is a Thing of the Past
Wrestling is cyclical, but even though that's the case, I'm not sure we'll ever see the type of programming that we got during the Attitude Era again.
Although the outlandish content we witnessed on a week-to-week basis did spill over to the Ruthless Aggression Era, it has, for the most part, become a thing of the past.
The WWE and wrestling as a whole has shifted away from storylines and matches that are done for shock value, making the risqué programming from the Attitude Era almost obsolete.
There are still flashes of the violence, obscenity and debauchery that defined the Attitude Era, but these don't even compare to what we saw back in 1998 and 1999.
Now, the over-the-top programming that defined the WWE 13 or 14 years ago can still be found on TV. Just not on the WWE.
Instead, it's on reality shows on networks like VH1, Bravo and MTV.
With all the smut on the countless TV shows that aren't WWE-related, it seems like the WWE has shifted toward a different type of programming for the long haul.
9. The Writing
At the heart of the WWE's decrease in quality has been the poor writing.
You can blame the superstars, Divas and other performers all you want. But the truth is that if the creative team can't write quality story lines, promos, skits and segments, then the show is going to suffer.
Perhaps the decline in WWE's programing over the years can be attributed to a creative team that just seems to struggle to create entertaining programming.
Though the Attitude Era wasn't always great, it's safe to say that, by and large, the writing staff did a much better job of producing genuinely intriguing and entertaining content.
Everything from in-ring promos to backstage segments seemed to be more well-written and more entertaining than most of what we saw before then or have seen since then.
In turn, this led to more unpredictability with the WWE's angles, programming that could easily attract new viewers and storylines that covered the main event, midcard and even the bottom of the WWE totem pole.
Nowadays, creative only seems to put forth effort into booking its major feuds and angles. But back in the Attitude Era, everything mattered because the creative team made it matter.
8. The TV Absence of Mr. McMahon
The most important non-wrestler was from the Attitude Era was undoubtedly Vince McMahon's character, Mr. McMahon.
The best on-screen authority figure in wrestling history was a pivotal character during this period, playing a huge role in many of the biggest storylines of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
McMahon was involved in major angle after major angle, including his long-running feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin that many fans consider to be the best rivalry ever.
But since the Attitude Era, McMahon's involvement in WWE story lines has steadily decreased, and now, he rarely even appears on TV.
The WWE has tried to replicate McMahon's success by creating other evil bosses like Vickie Guerrero and John Laurinaitis, but no one has been able to come close to matching what McMahon did as the on-screen head of the WWE.
Given that he was such a big part of the Attitude Era's success but is no longer a full-time TV character, it's hard to imagine any era ever producing the same quality that the Attitude Era did.
After all, McMahon set the bar very high.
7. The Downfall of Gimmicks/Characters
If there's one thing about the Attitude Era that really stood out to me (outside of the over-the-top programming), it was its reliance on gimmicks.
Just think about all of the entertaining superstars from that period, and you'll realize that most of them had a clearly distinguishable gimmick or character.
There were Undertaker, Mankind, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and Kane as main event guys who all had gimmicks, but then there were midcarders like Goldust, the APA, Val Venis and The Godfather who did as well.
But where are all the gimmicks in wrestling today?
I mean, what really separates John Cena from Sheamus? What is the basis of The Miz's character? Why should the fans boo Jack Swagger, but cheer for Sin Cara?
While most WWE superstars have some minor personality traits that distinguish them from the rest of the pack, the cookie cutter superstar reigns supreme in the WWE today.
The majority of the wrestlers are cut from the same mold and do little to nothing to develop a gimmick that has layers and depth.
Go back to the Attitude Era, and gimmicks were are the center of the company's success.
But today, they've become one of the biggest lost arts in all of pro wrestling.
6. The Decreasing Interest in the WWE and Pro Wrestling
Pro wrestling is still popular.
Millions of viewers tune into Raw and SmackDown every week, I see John Cena T-shirts everywhere, and Vince McMahon is raking in millions upon millions of dollars.
But just about every wrestling fan can see that the WWE and pro wrestling as a whole aren't nearly as popular as they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago.
Before the advancement of the Internet, wrestling was huge, in large part because the fans couldn't get on a computer and find out what was going on behind the scenes or see the death of kayfabe right before their own eyes.
Now? Although wrestling is big, there is an overall decreasing interest in the WWE.
Quite simply, the fans aren't tuning in to pay-per-views and TV shows or getting excited about matches and story lines like they once did.
The Attitude Era thrived on a rabid fanbase that had a genuine interest in the WWE product, packed arenas every week and emotionally invested themselves in the weekly TV programming.
Unfortunately, most people think they're "in the know" now, and as a result, this has killed a lot of the interest in what many now view simply as a scripted sport.
5. Vince McMahon's New Family-Oriented Direction with the PG Rating
In 2008, the WWE officially went PG.
After spending most of its existence under the TV-14 rating, Vince McMahon's company decided to shift to a more family-oriented product that caters to the masses.
From a business perspective, this makes sense because, at least theoretically, it broadens the WWE fanbase.
But while the new PG rating and family-oriented programming has brought in plenty of new viewers, it's alienated just as many while watering down the content we see on TV each and every week.
The Raw and SmackDown programming that used to be risqué and outlandish is now corny and too kid-friendly.
There are obviously pros to McMahons' decision to change the focus of its programming, but for the most part, the fans seem to agree that the TV-14 rating resulted in higher quality programming from top to bottom.
And as long as the PG rating is around, anything resembling the Attitude Era won't be.
4. Triple H's Commitment to That PG Era
Day by day, Triple H continues to take on more real-life responsibilities from Vince McMahon.
He now has a boatload of backstage duties and, in all likelihood, will be running the WWE in the not-so-distant future.
While many have speculated that this could result in Triple H changing the WWE's focus back to a more Attitude Era-like product, "The Game" has consistently maintained his commitment to the PG era.
Being a father of three and a family man himself, Triple H sees the positives that come along with the PG rating, and all indications are that the PG era will live on as long as he's in charge.
And that's going to be for a really long time.
Triple H isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and assuming he maintains his commitment to WWE PG, that means that the more family-oriented programming we've seen over the last four years will remain the norm.
As long as you see a PG rating before every WWE broadcast, you know that nothing resembling Attitude Era programming is going to happen, and the general consensus is that that means the quality of said programming won't be as good as it was back in 1998.
3. The Loaded Talent Roster
During the Attitude Era, the WWE roster was absolutely loaded with talent.
It's borderline insane to think about just how many great superstars the company had at different points during the era.
There were the obvious top dogs, such as The Undertaker, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind.
But there was also the likes of Kane, Kurt Angle, The Big Show, Chris Jericho, DX, the Dudley Boyz, the Hardy Boys, Edge and Christian, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero.
Not to mention other workers like Goldust, The Godfather, Val Venis, Ken Shamrock, The Big Bossman, The APA, Test and Vader, among a slew of others.
For my money, the Attitude Era WWE had the greatest talent roster from top to bottom in wrestling history, better than anything we saw before or have seen since then.
The WWE had a talent-filled main event, a massive midcard with equally as much as talent and a lower card that featured guys who could be upper midcarders or main eventers in today's WWE.
I'm not sure that Vince McMahon will ever be able to assemble a roster with the sheer starpower that the WWE had during its peak Attitude Era years.
2. The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
When I think of pro wrestling, four names come to mind: Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena.
But only two of those wrestlers peaked at the same time. I'm talking, of course, about Austin and The Rock.
While every era has had its top two stars (Cena and CM Punk as the two current ones), there was never a time in history when two guys were neck and neck for the top spot in the company like The Rock and Austin were during the Attitude Era and even beyond it.
They both revolutionized the wrestling industry in their own unique ways, sparking a huge increase in business and overall interest in the WWE as well as pro wrestling as a whole.
Hogan did it largely on his own, and Cena did, too. But The Rock and "Stone Cold" had the greatest power struggle that resulted in the greatest era that wrestling has ever seen.
There will never be another Rock or another Stone Cold, and chances are that there will never be two men in the WWE at the peak of their careers at the same time.
I mean, who knows where the WWE would even be today if The Rock and/or Austin wasn't there during the Attitude Era?
I don't know.
But I do know this: The greatness that we got from Austin and The Rock will never be matched. Ever.
1. The Competition Created by the Monday Night Wars
Whenever someone asks me why I think the Attitude Era was so successful, I give them a simple one-word answer: competition.
Since WCW folded in 2001, the WWE has had no real competition. Sorry, TNA.
But when the WWE was at its best in the mid-to-late 1990s during the Attitude Era, it was because it had to be. The WWE had to produce great programming because if it didn't, then WCW would have beat it and possibly even put it out of business.
Obviously, that didn't happen, though, as the WWE stepped up its game big-time and delivered incredible programming at a time when it desperately needed to do so.
And the main reason why the WWE performed so well during the Attitude Era was because of that competition that came from WCW.
When the WWE has no rival company, it has no one pushing it to better itself, no one threatening its very existence. That's what's wrong with the WWE product today and what will continue to be wrong with it in the future.
TNA isn't a real threat to the WWE (at least not yet), so instead of producing riveting content on a weekly basis, the WWE sort of just coasts by, knowing that it's not in danger of being overtaken by the No. 2 promotion anytime soon.
Unlike today's WWE, the Attitude Era WWE had a threat breathing down its neck and threatening to overtake it, and that's precisely why the company went all out then, but no longer does.