The 7 Greatest Feuds from WWE Attitude Era
In addition to producing countless memorable moments, WWE's Attitude Era featured a slew of iconic rivalries that were among the greatest in company history. Everything about that period in wrestling made it easy for the Superstars to tell compelling stories, as well as have remarkable matches.
Spanning from 1997 to the early 2000s, the Attitude Era was melting pot for some of WWE's most talented performers of all time. The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane and Mick Foley led the charge in the main event scene, while everyone in the midcard had characters worth investing in.
Tag team wrestling was hotter than it had been in decades, while the women's division was starting to make a comeback. Above all else, however, it was the unprecedented evil authority figure storyline involving the McMahon family that made matters interesting every week on Raw and SmackDown.
Not only were rivalries during the Attitude Era exciting and entertaining, but they were also successful in elevating the Superstars involved. There's a reason why they are still being talked about today. Few feuds WWE has done since then have come close to matching their greatness.
From Rock and Stone Cold waging war over the WWE Championship to the beginning of the storied saga between Undertaker and Kane, these were the seven rivalries that ruled the Attitude Era.
The Rock vs. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
WWE was fortunate enough to have two once-in-a-lifetime Superstars in The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin emerge at the same time, and the Attitude Era wouldn't have been what it was without them around.
Shortly before they battled for the company's top title in the main event of WrestleMania XV, Rock and Stone Cold originally clashed for the Intercontinental Championship in the final few months of 1997. It was around that time that Rock found his footing as a performer, and both guys showed their main event potential.
They rekindled their rivalry a little more than a year later. Rock was riding high as WWE champion, and Stone Cold was in hot pursuit of his prized possession. Austin was the perfect rebellious babyface and Rock shone as an elitist heel, especially after he joined The Corporation in late 1998.
It would have been an all-time great feud if it ended with Austin's victory at WrestleMania XV, but they continued to cross paths and raise the bar in the years that followed. Rock filled in for Stone Cold as WWE's lead babyface while The Texas Rattlesnake was out injured in 2000, leading to them renewing hostilities en route to WrestleMania X-Seven.
Whether it was on the mic or in the ring, these Attitude Era icons always brought the best out of each other and made everything they were involved in feel real. Viewers could connect with their larger-than-life characters and tuned in every week to see what they would do next.
Although Stone Cold won most of their matches, Rock never felt any less credible because he constantly had the audience behind him. They closed out their five-year-long feud at WrestleMania XIX when The Great One reigned supreme over his archrival in what would turn out to be Austin's last match.
Triple H vs. Mick Foley
Without Mick Foley, there would be no Triple H. It's as simple as that.
Triple H was already on the ascent by the time he feuded with Foley in 2000. In fact, it was Foley, as Mankind, whom Triple H beat to become the King of the Ring in 1997.
Their series of matches that summer put The Game on the map and kicked off his climb up the card. It was also during their first feud that Chyna was introduced as his heavy, and D-Generation X debuted soon after.
By 2000, both guys had evolved immensely. Triple H pinned Mankind on Raw in August 1999 to capture his first world title and establish himself as a bona fide main event player.
Foley attempted to get the belt back from HHH in a Street Fight at the Royal Rumble in January 2000 and inside Hell in a Cell at No Way Out a month a later. Both bouts were fantastic and went a long way in proving Triple H belonged among the elite at the top of WWE.
Their feud didn't span as long as some of the others on this list, but it made its mark nonetheless and featured some of the best matches of the Attitude Era. If Foley had actually retired following that Hell in a Cell loss—as stipulated—their program would have been perfect.
The Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian
Tag team wrestling in WWE has experienced many peaks and valleys over the last several decades, but one of the hotter periods for the division came in at the turn of the millennium when Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz were battling over the tag team gold.
Edge and Christian kicked off the tag team renaissance with Matt and Jeff Hardy at the end of 1999 when they collided at No Mercy in the company's first-ever tag team ladder match. It was revolutionary and is still considered a classic to this day, but that was merely the beginning of what they—along with Bubba Ray and D-Von—would accomplish together.
The involvement of The Dudley Boyz in the tag team title picture led to the three teams meeting in an unprecedented Triangle ladder matchup at WrestleMania 2000, which was won by Edge and Christian. The bout was so great that rematches were held at SummerSlam that year and again at WrestleMania X-Seven, with each encounter being better than the last.
It was a new age for tag team wrestling, and the wars these teams were having never seemed to get old. They traded the titles back and forth multiple times, yet the contests were entertaining enough that the short reigns hardly mattered.
Tag team wrestling arguably hasn't reached those same heights since. If nothing else, this rivalry did wonders for all involved and cemented them as future Hall of Famers.
The Rock vs. Triple H
Similar to his feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock's rivalry with Triple H can be traced back to their early wars over the Intercontinental Championship. In 1998, the Great One was doing phenomenal work as the leader of the Nation of Domination, while D-Generation X was entering a new era with Triple H at the helm, so it was only a matter of time before the two factions would face off.
Rock initially retained his title against Triple H in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match at Fully Loaded 1998 before dropping the strap to him a month later at SummerSlam. Despite all the interference, their ladder matchup that night is widely regarded as one of the greatest involving that stipulation.
Their rivalry revved up once Stone Cold went down with a serious injury in late 1999. Rock and Triple H had to carry the company in his absence, and they did so seamlessly with an amazing series of matches.
Triple H was arguably the MVP of WWE in 2000 and shone against every opponent put in front of him. But the chemistry he had with Rock in particular was phenomenal. No one was a better heel than him, and Rock's level of popularity was on another level.
Their bouts at Backlash and Judgment Day are well worth checking out, as they encapsulated everything that made their feud (and the Attitude Era on the whole) so special.
The Undertaker vs. Kane
One of the first feuds to ring in the Attitude Era was The Undertaker vs. Kane, which kicked off right around the time this boom period in wrestling was getting underway.
The general gist of their rivalry was that Kane was returning to exact revenge on his brother, The Undertaker, who allegedly killed their parents in a fire years earlier. On paper, it sounded like a silly story, and it was. But their ability to make it a compelling story spoke volumes.
When Kane finally emerged to target Undertaker at Badd Blood 1997, it was a huge deal and is rightfully regarded by many to be the greatest debut in WWE history. Their simple brother vs. brother feud from there was beautifully built and culminated in a highly anticipated encounter at WrestleMania XIV.
They went their separate ways for a brief bit, but no matter what they did throughout the Attitude Era, their paths always inevitably crossed.
Whether it was as rivals in the WWE Championship picture or as allies in the tag team ranks, the duo that became known as The Brothers of Destruction was essentially inseparable. Since their matches against each other were never anything too tremendous, the masses preferred to see them team up more often than not, and that proved to be where they did their best work.
Undertaker and Kane revisited their rivalry in 2004 and 2010, but their original feud at the dawn of the Attitude Era will forever be remembered as being the best.
The Rock vs. Mankind
For all intents and purposes, Mick Foley should not have succeeded at the level he did. He was never supposed to be anything other than a threat The Undertaker would quickly vanquish in 1996. But because he caught on so well with the audience, he stuck around and achieved great things.
Mankind played the heel role well but was best suited as a babyface later on in his WWE career. He didn't fit well within the corporate ranks, and that was why Mr. McMahon passed on him as the face of the company at Survivor Series 1998 in favor of The Rock.
If anything, that series of events only further endeared Foley to the fanbase, and by the onset of 1999, those same fans were ready to see him win the big one. Sure enough, the first Raw of the year featured Foley beating Rock to claim the championship in epic fashion (albeit with help from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin).
Foley vs. Rock was a glorified filler feud ahead of Rock's rivalry with Stone Cold heading into WrestleMania XV, yet it was more thrilling than anyone could have ever imagined.
The WWE Championship changed hands a total of three times in the span of a month and a half, but all of their matches delivered. Their brutal bout at Royal Rumble will never be forgotten, while their Halftime Heat clash shortly thereafter was historic for airing from an empty arena during halftime of the Super Bowl.
Rock did everything in his power to get Foley over as the ultimate underdog and maintained his own heat as well. Their time spent as a tag team later on was also entertaining, but this feud did wonders for Foley's career in the same way Foley vs. Triple H did for the latter one year later.
'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon
A case can be made for Mr. McMahon being the best bad guy in the history of WWE. Despite not being a regular member of the roster, the chairman of the company was incredibly convincing as the conniving corporate leader, especially whenever he opposed a likable babyface such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or The Rock.
The Brahma Bull gave Austin some of his best matches, but McMahon gave him his most memorable moments and was the biggest reason why he was positioned as the face of the Attitude Era. Without such a fantastic foil in Vince, Austin's anti-authority shtick wouldn't have been the same.
Austin's first Stunner to McMahon in September 1997 laid the groundwork for their legendary rivalry. The Texas Rattlesnake made an effort to infuriate McMahon every chance he had, which caused McMahon to seek other alternatives to ensure Austin never won the WWE Championship.
From Austin invading McMahon's hospital room to filling his car with cement, the stunts he pulled at the expense of his despicable boss provided fans with a reason to want to tune in every week. The few times they did go one-on-one were nothing special, but Vince's heel work outside of the ring was second to none.
Their long-running rivalry ended in anticlimactic fashion at WrestleMania X-Seven, when Austin and McMahon buried the hatchet in Austin's home state (a booking decision Austin regrets to this day). But at least the memories of their unforgettable feud remain.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.