WWE Power Rankings: Rating the Top 25 Singles Superstars of the Attitude Era
The Attitude Era. To this day, whoever was privileged enough to experience the World Wrestling Federation product during this exciting, must-see period of professional history looks back upon it with fond remembrance of the thrilling stories and action-packed in-ring product presented.
It was a time of profane language, suggestive verbiage and acts, and increased sexuality. Superstars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sable, The Rock, Triple H, Mankind, The Undertaker, Kane, and hundreds more invaded the living rooms of fans everywhere and left their mark on the world of pop culture.
Join me as I take a trip down memory lane and rank the top 25 stars of the "Attitude Era."
*Information included in this slide was taken from the Online World of Wrestling. For more information on your favorite Attitude Era stars and Divas, check out www.onlineworldofwrestling.com
These rankings were based on several different factors. Wrestlers were based on their overall impact and influence on the business. They were also judged on their marketability, their ability to sell merchandise, their place in pop-culture, and their in-ring abilities.
The Attitude Era, for the purposes of this article, is defined as the period spanning from November 10, 1997 until April 1, 2001.
This list is based solely on singles stars. Stars such as Billy Gunn, Road Dogg Jesse James, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Edge, Christian, the Hardy Boyz, and the Dudley Boyz are not on the list because of this.
Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart are NOT included on the list. Shawn's significant back injury limited his involvement on the shows leading to his Wrestlemania XIV match with Steve Austin and even before that, the limited in-ring role he played hardly warrants his inclusion at the expense of others on the list.
Owen Hart is not included due to his untimely death in the middle of the Attitude Era. While he was a featured performer for most of the period, I believe he and his family members would agree that his work after Bret Hart left for WCW was hardly his best. There will be arguments made to the contrary, but I personally feel better not including him or some of his lesser work in these rankings.
Unlike my previous article, based on the top Superstars of the 1980's, women will be included on this list.
25. The Big Bossman
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his WWF return as the mysterious body guard of company owner Vince McMahon
-November 30, 1998: Defeated Mankind in a Ladder Match to become the new Hardcore Champion
-December 14, 1998: Teamed with Ken Shamrock to defeat the New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-January 24, 1999: Defeated the Road Dogg in the opening contest of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view
-March 28, 1999: Was hand-selected by Mr. McMahon to face the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania XV.
-July 25, 1999: Defeated Al Snow at Fully Loaded to win the WWF Hardcore Championship
-August 26, 1999: Defeated Al Snow to recapture the Hardcore title
-Feuded with the Big Show, capitalizing on the recent passing of Show's father.
-December 12, 1999: Received, and lost, a WWF Championship match against Big Show at Armageddon
-April 2, 2000: Teamed with Bull Buchanan to defeat Godfather and D'Lo Brown at Wrestlemania 2000
-April 30, 2000: Teamed with Buchanan to defeat the APA
One of the underrated "big men" for much of his career, Big Bossman saw a sort of career renaissance in 1998 when he returned to the World Wrestling Federation following a five-year run at the competition, World Championship Wrestling. As the body guard and, later, the enforcer for Vince McMahon's Corporation, Bossman was often featured in several high-profile segments and matches.
Bossman was often sent to the ring to do the evil owner's dirty business, whether it be beating on Steve Austin or the Rock or taking care of the brash, loud-mouth New Age Outlaws. From 1998-99, Bossman (real name: Ray Traylor) enjoyed success he had not seen since his late-80s rivalry with Hulk Hogan.
An early star of the entertaining Hardcore division, Big Bossman amassed several reigns as champion and is considered one of the final true, quality champions before the title was watered down by the 24-7 stipulation.
Deceased far too early, Ray Traylor, and his immense in-ring talent for a man of his size, is often forgotten by many fans for his contributions in the industry. In both his initial and second runs with the company, he served as a solid mid-card performer who could be trusted to venture into the main event picture if necessary. He had a knack for either turning the fans against him or for him at the drop of a hat.
A championship performer in many aspects, the Big Bossman and his accomplishments in the Attitude Era should not be ignored.
24. D'Lo Brown
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Debuted as a member of Faarooq's Nation of Domination
-July 20, 1998: Defeated Triple H to win the WWF European Championship
-July 26, 1998: Defeated X-Pac to retain his title at Fully Loaded
-August 30, 1998: Successfully retained his title at SummerSlam with a disqualification win over Val Venis
-October 5, 1998: Defeated X-Pac to regain the European Championship
-July 25, 1999; Defeated Mideon to win the recently-resurrected European Championship at Fully Loaded
-August 2, 1999: Defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the Intercontinental Championship
-September 26, 1999: Defeated Mark Henry to win the European Championship
-Formed a moderately popular team with the Godfather
There may not be another Superstar on this list more underrated that D'Lo Brown. Left for dead as an afterthought in the Nation of Domination faction, Brown made the higher-ups take notice with his solid wrestling abilities and in-ring charisma.
In July of 1998, Brown was awarded the European Championship after defeating Triple H on an edition of Raw Is War. The result of this daring title change was a series of contests between D'Lo and D-Generation X member X-Pac that would be among the best in either WWF or WCW in 1998. The two mid-card Superstars, whose styles would have previously appeared to clash, engaged in a rivalry that brought legitimacy to a title that had been made a joke and prop of while around the waist of Triple H.
D'Lo would remain a vital part of the company's roster throughout 1999, even enjoying a short reign as Intercontinental Champion during a rivalry with Jeff Jarrett. Unfortunately for D'Lo, however, a tragic in-ring accident derailed any momentum he had built for himself and left another man paralyzed.
During a match taped for the Smackdown program, D'Lo accidentally dropped Darren Drozdov on his head during a powerbomb attempt, leaving him without feeling from the neck down. Brown was labeled a wreckless worker and his push disintegrated. He was shoved down the ladder and never again achieved the level of stardom he had prior to the unfortunate occurrence.
There is no telling what could have come of D'Lo's push had the Drozdov event not have happened. Rumors indicate a renewed push was planned for the talented star. While many will unjustly remember D'Lo as "that guy that crippled Droz," what he should be remembered as is the greatest European Champion of all-time, a man who brought a certain legitimacy to that championship, and one of the great stars never to hold a world championship.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Former bodyguard for Motley Crue
-March 8, 1999: Scored his first major victory over X-Pac after Shane McMahon interfered
-Made his Wrestlemania debut at XXV, teaming with D'Lo Brown in a losing effort against Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-May 23, 1999: Teamed with Mankind, Ken Shamrock, and Big Show to defeat the Corporation in an Eight-Man Tag Team Match
-Began a months-long storyline that featured him dating, then becoming engaged to Stephanie McMahon.
-August 22, 1999: Defeated Shane McMahon in a "Love Her or Leave Her Street Fight" at SummerSlam, a match many believe stole the show
-September 20, 1999: Teamed with Stephanie to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Debra
-November 11, 1999: Teamed with Shane McMahon, Kane, and the Rock to defeat D-Generation X in a Survivor Series-style tag team match
-Had the wedding to Stephanie McMahon interrupted by Triple H, who revealed he had secretly married Stephanie after her bachelorette party
-January 17, 2000: Defeated Big Bossman to win the Hardcore Championship
-In early 2000, formed T&A (with Albert) and was managed by the gorgeous newcomer Trish Stratus
-April 30, 2000: T&A defeated the Dudley Boyz at Backlash
-T&A feuded with the Hardy Boyz and Lita in one of the major storylines in the summer of 2000
-September 14, 2000: T&A defeated Triple H and Kurt Angle
-January 22, 2001: Defeated William Regal to win the European Championship
Every so often, WWE dubs one of its young, impressive Superstars the "Next Big Thing." While not literally given the nickname as Brock Lesnar had been in 2002, many backstage believed Test was the hot young rookie that would breakthrough and become a major star for the company. During the Attitude Era, it certainly appeared it would be that way.
One of the rare Superstars to come into the company with very little in-ring training and quickly transform into a competent worker, Test rapidly evolved from bodyguard for Shane McMahon to a performer trusted with a major storyline, such as his on-screen relationship with Stephanie McMahon.
At SummerSlam 1999, just eight months into his WWE career, Test and the equally as in-experienced Shane McMahon crafted a spectacular Street Fight with the Canadian Superstar's relationship with Shane's sister on the line. A match with as much fan emotion invested into it as any the entire year, the match made Test a bona-fide Superstar.
After wrapping up a weeks-long "mini-feud" with the newly formed "McMahon-Helmsley Era," Test was left in limbo. In March of 2000, he formed the team of T&A, with Albert as his partner and Trish Stratus as their manager. They would prove to be a serviceable team throughout the year but Trish was the true star of the team.
In December, Test broke away from the team and reestablished himself as a popular young star. As the Attitude Era came to a close, Test enjoyed a reign as European Champion and appeared ready to, once again, make a leap into the upper-echelon of WWF Superstars.
22. Val Venis
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Billed as an adult film star, made his debut in a series of videos from the set of his latest pornography films.
-May 18, 1998: Defeated Too Cold Scorpio in his debut match on Raw
-Feuded with Kaientai when it was revealed that he was having an affair with Mr. Yamaguchi-san's wife.
-August 30, 1998: Lost his first championship match via disqualification to European Champion D'Lo Brown at SummerSlam.
-Feuded with Goldust over an affair he had had with Terri Runnels
-Feuded with Ken Shamrock after it was revealed he had been "involved" with Ken's on-air sister, Ryan.
-February 14, 1999: Defeated Shamrock to win the Intercontinental Championship at St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
-Feuded with The Rock and Mankind in a very high-profile angle in the fall of 1999
-October 17, 1999: Defeated Mankind using a "testicular claw" at No Mercy
-December 12, 1999: Defeated D'Lo Brown and The British Bulldog in a triple threat match to win the European Championship at Armageddon
-In the summer of 2000, joined Trish Stratus and T&A to form a moderately successful mid-card heel faction.
-July 5, 2000: Defeated Rikishi to win his second Intercontinental Championship on Raw
-July 23, 2000: Defeated Rikishi in a Steel Cage Match at Fully Loaded to retain his Intercontinental Championship. It would prove to be one of the most memorable matches of the year.
-After breaking away from Trish and company, Val dropped his porn star ways and became the newest member of the Right to Censor.
Val Venis was, undoubtedly, one of the most controversial WWF Superstars of all-time. With a character that was anything but child-friendly, Val's character was the first real, blatant example of Vince McMahon and the writers' willingness to do anything during the era.
As outlandish as Val's character was, with his pre-match double-entendres and his grinding, many often forget how talented an in-ring performer Venis really was. He had several high-quality matches with the likes of D'Lo Brown, Mankind, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, and The Rock. He collected several of the (at the time) prestigious mid-card titles and was one of the shining examples of the youth movement that engulfed the World Wrestling Federation during the Attitude Era.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his debut shortly before the Attitude Era and became a legitimate main event star from 1996-97.
-Following an on-air split from real-life wife Terri Runnels, Goldust became even more bizarre and even more controversial. He adopted the name "The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust" and Luna Vachon served as his new valet.
-With Luna, feuded with Marc Mero and Sable leading into Wrestlemania XIV
-March 29, 1998: With Luna, lost a mixed-tag team match to Sable and Marc Mero at Wrestlemania XIV.
-May 11, 1998: Dustin Runnels burned his Goldust attire and adopted his real name. Became a preacher-type character who was quick to turn to prayer. The character did not click in a time where controversial storylines and characters dominated the landscape of the business and as a result, Runnels was relegated to the role of a jobber-to-the-stars.
-Feuded with Val Venis, who had been involved with Dustin's former wife, Terri. After losing a match at the Breakdown pay-per-view, Dustin began preaching about "the return," which was in reference to Goldust.
-October 18, 1998: Goldust returned to defeat Val Venis.
-Feuded with Jeff Jarrett and his valet, Debra McMichael.
-December 13, 1998: Defeated Jeff Jarrett via disqualification in a "Striptease" Match. As a result, Debra was forced to strip down in front of the live audience and the viewers at home.
-February 14, 1999: Defeated the Blue Meanie. Soon after, Goldust and Meanie formed an unusual relationship, with Meanie repeatedly calling Goldust "mommy." It was another attempt to make the Goldust character more controversial, more "unique."
-March 29, 1999: Defeated Road Dogg to win the Intercontinental Championship
Goldust is one of the defining Superstars of the 1990's and, more specifically, the Attitude Era.Many credit Steve Austin with the dawning of the Attitude Era but, in all actuality, it was the controversial, outside-the-box character of Goldust, which debuted in 1996, that started the ball rolling towards the more adult-oriented Attitude Era.
Without the success of the character and, more specifically, Dustin Runnels' performance as Goldust, there may not have been an indication that a character that broke the mold as much as Goldust did could succeed and pique the viewer's interest.
There is no denying that others in the Attitude Era were more successful than Goldust. There is also no denying that the majority of Goldust's success came just before the Attitude Era officially kicked off. However, he was a vital part of the creation of the storylines and characters that were invented from 1998-2001.
20. Jeff Jarrett
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Returned from what could only be considered a failed WCW run in 1997.
-Aligned himself with Jim Cornette and the "invading" NWA faction, also featuring Barry Windham and the Rock & Roll Express.
-Reigned as NWA North American Heavyweight Champion
-April 26, 1998: Performed a concert during the Unforgiven pay-per-view.
-May 31, 1998: Defeated Steve Blackman at Over the Edge
-Adopted a new attitude. Gone was the country singer and in its place, a guitar-swinging Superstar whose motto was, "Don't Piss Me Off."
-Adopted Debra McMichael as his valet.
-December 13, 1998: Lost, via DQ, to Goldust in a "Striptease" Match at Rock Bottom. As a result, Debra was forced to strip in front of the entire viewing world.
-Began teaming with Owen Hart.
-January 25, 1999: With Hart, defeated Ken Shamrock and the Big Bossman to win the WWF Tag Team Championship
-February 14, 1999: Successfully defended the tag team championship against D'Lo Brown and Mark Henry at St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
-March 28, 1999: Jarrett and Hart defeated Test and D'Lo Brown to retain the tag titles at Wrestlemania XV.
-May 31, 1999: Defeated The Godfather to win the Intercontinental Championship
-July 25, 1999: Defeated Edge to regain the Intercontinental Championship
-August 22, 1999: Defeated D'Lo Brown to regain the Intercontinental Championship
-Jarrett began insulting women, claiming they were not near the equal of men.
-September 26, 1999: Jarrett defeated Chyna to retain the Intercontinental Championship via disqualification when the Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young interfered.
-October 16, 1999: Lost the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna in the first-ever "Good House Keeping Match."
In many ways, Jeff Jarrett was the glue that held together the mid-card scene in the World Wrestling Federation during the Attitude Era. A skilled veteran that had survived the territorial days, working for his father’s promotion in Tennessee, Jarrett had already enjoyed a moderately successful run in Vince McMahon’s global company.
When the two could not come to a financial agreement, however, Jarrett jumped to WCW and had a what could only be called a failure of a run. In late 1997, Jarrett returned to the WWF and would enjoy the most high-profile portion of his career to that point.
Jarrett’s return to the WWF was not without a few early bumps in the road. His "Aztec-like" attire failed to register with the fans and the alliance with Jim Cornette and the less-than-stellar NWA faction could be classified as a "dud." From there, Jarrett once again adopted the Country Music Superstar gimmick that he had utilized in the early nineties.
With the Attitude Era featuring more complex, less-gimmicky characters, Jarrett once again found himself saddled with a failed gimmick. It would not be until Jeff lost a few locks of hair and his temper that "JE-double F JA-double RE-double T" would find success in the Attitude Era.
At SummerSlam 1998, Jarrett lost a "Hair vs. Hair" match to X-Pac. The humiliation of having his long blond locks cut set Jarrett off. He adopted the motto of "Don’t Piss Me Off" and smashed guitars over the head of anyone who dared cross him. He also scored Debra McMichael as his valet. Together, they would become the anti-Macho Man & Miss Elizabeth of the Attitude Era.
In early 1999, Jarrett would team with the late Owen Hart and reign as Tag Team Champions from January 25 until March 30. They would remain tied to one another until the untimely, tragic death of Hart in May.
Jarrett would become Intercontinental Champion and, with the exception of a few short intermissions, would reign as champion from May until October. He was responsible for holding together the mid-card of the company while more and more focus was placed on Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Mr. McMahon, and Kane.
Jarrett’s matches with D’Lo Brown, Edge, and Chyna elevated those stars to a new level within the company. A ring general, Jarrett brought the in-ring work-rate that was missing from the more brawling-friendly main events. He was responsible for reminding fans that, although the story-telling was at an all-time high, the business was still based on the in-ring product.
More than anything, including the rivalry with Chyna that resulted in him becoming the first male to lose a major championship to a female, Jarrett will be remembered for his in-ring contributions from 1998-99, a twelve month span where great, quality technical wrestling matches were few and far between.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his return to the World Wrestling Federation in late 1999. After a few dominant victories on Sunday Night Heat, was paired with the white, hip-hop wannabes Too Cool.
-Strangely, a Superstar who may or may not have been meant to get over with the crowd became one of the more popular acts on the show, mainly due to his dance moves. Rikishi and Too Cool evolved into a monstrously popular mid-card act.
-February 27, 2000: With Too Cool, defeated Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn at No Way Out.
-April 2, 2000: Teamed with Kane to defeat Road Dogg and X-Pac at Wrestlemania 2000
-May 21, 2000: With Too Cool, defeated Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle at Judgment Day
-June 20, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit to win the Intercontinental Championship
-June 25, 2000: Advanced to the Finals of the King of the Ring tournament before losing to Kurt Angle
-July 23, 2000: Lost a Steel Cage Match to Val Venis for the Intercontinental Championship at Fully Loaded but executed one of the most memorable moves of all-time: a 350-pound splash from the top of the cage onto Venis.
-In October, it was revealed that Rikishi was the Superstar who had ran down and struck Steve Austin with a vehicle back at Survivor Series 1999. Rikishi explained his actions, said he did it for the Samoan people and, more importantly, he did it for The Rock.
-October 22, 2000: Fought to a NO CONTEST with Steve Austin at No Mercy.
-November 19, 2000: Lost to The Rock at Survivor Series
-December 10, 2000: Fought in, and lost, a Six-Way Hell in a Cell match for the WWF Championship at Armageddon. In a memorable moment, Rikishi was choke slammed off the top of the cell and into the bed of a pick-up truck brought to ringside by Mr. McMahon.
Rikishi was a prime example of a star who may not necessarily be meant to "get over" with the WWF fan base but managed to anyway. A big man dancing with the grace of a cruiserweight, Rikishi managed to gain the adoration of the WWF fans and quickly shot up the card as a result.
Winning the Intercontinental Championship within six months and taking his place in the main event just four months later, Rikishi became one of the fastest-rising stars in the company, a description usually reserved for young stars who made an immediate impact. Rikishi, however, was a veteran who had found a second life for himself as a major star in the biggest wrestling company this side of Japan.
Arguably, Rikishi’s most lasting moment in his second stint with WWF was the revelation that he was the man that was responsible for running over Stone Cold Steve Austin with a car and putting him out of action for a year. The search for the culprit went on for months.
Each week Commissioner Foley searched for new suspects but, for whatever reason, no one ever questioned Rikishi. When the revelation finally came, some reacted with shock. Others reacted with disappointment and anger. Whatever the case, the idea that a big, fun-loving Samoan like Rikishi could commit such a horrific act was a twist no one saw coming.
While his run in the Attitude Era was reserved for the final full year of the influential period, the impact Rikishi made during that short time more than qualifies him as one of the great Attitude Era stars in WWF history.
18. Eddie Guerrero
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-January 31, 2000: Made a shocking debut on Raw, appearing at ringside with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko shortly after walking out of World Championship Wrestling.
-Suffered a very serious dislocated elbow in his first match, teaming with Dean Malenko in a losing effort against the New Age Outlaws.
-Began to take a liking to the "Ninth Wonder of the World," Chyna.
-April 2, 2000: Teamed with Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn in a losing effort to Chyna and Too Cool at Wrestlemania 2000
-April 3, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho to win the European Championship after Chyna interfered. It became evident that Chyna could no longer resist Eddie's "Latino Heat."
-April 30, 2000: Successfully defended the European Championship against Essa Rios at Backlash
-May 6, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho to retain the European Championship at the United Kingdom-exclusive pay-per-view event, Insurrection.
-May 21, 2000: Defeated Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn in a Triple Threat Match to retain the European title at Judgment Day.
-Became one of the most popular acts in the company while partnered with Chyna.
-August 27, 2000: Teamed with Chyna to defeat Val Venis and Trish Stratus. As a result of her pinning Trish, Chyna became Intercontinental Champion. This created a riff between Guerrero and his on-screen lover.
-September 4, 2000: Defeated Kurt Angle and Chyna in a Triple Threat Match to win the Intercontinental Championship. Did so in a less-than-honest manner.
-During this time, Eddie slowly became a heel, choosing personal success over Chyna.
-Reunited with Benoit, Malenko, and Saturn as 2000 came to a close.
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Test to win the European Championship
The Radicalz exploded onto the WWF scene in January 2000 and became featured performers in the No. 1 company in sports-entertainment. While Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn had decent careers in the McMahon-owned company, it was Eddie Guerrero, as well as Chris Benoit, who broke out as the stars of the bunch.
Shortly after debuting, Eddie showed an infatuation with the "Ninth Wonder of the World," Chyna. Eddie vowed to show her some of his "Latino Heat." He claimed she would not be able to resist. Initially, he was wrong. Chyna dominated the talented, second-generation star and pinned him at Wrestlemania 2000 as a part of the six-person tag team match. It looked as though Eddie had failed in wooing Chyna. Then came the following night on Raw.
When Eddie Guerrero challenged Chris Jericho for the European Championship, Chyna turned on her on-air acquaintance Jericho and aided Guerrero in winning the title. She had given in to the irresistible "heat."
For the better part of 2000, Eddie and Chyna were one of the most entertaining acts in all of professional wrestling. They were the odd couple that fans were attracted to and as a result, Eddie enjoyed the most success he had ever had in his long and storied career.
Unfortunately for Eddie, the end of 2000 saw two major events cause the early success he had enjoyed to fall apart. The partnership with Chyna was dissolved far too early and, as a result, it left Eddie the performer to dwindle in the wind with little to do.
The end of the year also saw Guerrero become more dependent on prescription medication and less dependable in the ring. It hurt his personal life and professional life and, by November of 2001, Eddie would be released from his contract with World Wrestling Federation until he was able to work out his personal demons.
While Eddie’s year long, Attitude Era run ended less than spectacularly, it is impossible to ignore how much success he enjoyed in such a short period of time. Often ignored in WCW and used only when a quality match was necessary, Eddie was able to establish himself as one of the most entertaining in-ring and out-of-ring performers in the entire sport.
His run with Chyna confirmed that Eddie could succeed when given the opportunity. His year-long stint in the company served as the building blocks for Eddie’s even more successful, even more entertaining, and Hall of Fame-worthy second run with the company from 2002 until his untimely death in 2005, at the age of 38.
17. The Big Show
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-February 14, 1999: Made his WWF debut at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre pay-per-view, tossing Steve Austin through a steel cage and inadvertently giving him a victory over Mr. McMahon.
-February 15, 1999: Aided The Rock in a victory over Mankind in a Ladder Match for the WWF Championship.
-March 28, 1999: Lost via DQ to Mankind at Wrestlemania XV. Turned babyface immediately following the match by knocking Mr. McMahon out with one punch.
-With Mankind, Test, and Ken Shamrock, formed the Union faction to help combat the Corporate Ministry.
-May 23, 1999: The Union defeated the Corporate Ministry at Over the Edge.
-July 25, 1999: Defeated Kane at Fully Loaded.
-August 22, 1999: Teamed with the Undertaker to defeat Kane and X-Pac for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-In October, began a storyline with the Big Bossman in which Bossman made fun of the fact that Show's dad, in storyline, had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was terminally ill.
-November 14, 1999: After single-handedly defeating Big Bossman's team earlier in the evening, Big Show defeats The Rock and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match to become WWF Champion.
-December 12, 1999: Defeated Big Bossman to retain the WWF Championship
-February 27, 2000: Defeated The Rock to become Number One Contender to the WWF Championship
-April 2, 2000: Participated in, and lost, the main event of Wrestlemania 2000 for the WWF Championship.
-April 30, 2000: Defeated Kurt Angle
-In the summer of 2000, Big Show was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling to learn some discipline, to lose some weight, and to change his attitude.
-January 21, 2001: Made his return in the Royal Rumble match. Was eliminated by The Rock.
-February 25, 2001: Defeated Raven to win the WWF Hardcore Championship at No Way Out
If ever there was a disappointing Superstar in the Attitude Era, it was the Big Show.
Debuting as a part of the Corporation in early 1999, Show was repeatedly given opportunities to compete in high-profile, even main event, matches but could never capitalize on the opportunity and earn himself the right to remain a star cemented at the top of the company. He was either too lazy, too fat, had too-large an ego. Whatever it was, Show managed to botch more than one main event run for himself.
The closest Big Show came to realizing his potential and maintaining a main event push was when he became WWF Champion in late-1999, in the midst of his program with Big Bossman. He was working hard, showed renewed interest in his work and seemed on his way to gaining Vince McMahon’s trust as a main event performer.
When the title was taken from Show and put on Triple H for storyline purposes, Show reverted to his old ways. He was featured in the Wrestlemania 2000 but would soon shoot back down the card. Eventually, he was sent to OVW for disciplinary reasons.
Show would return just as the Attitude Era was coming to a close but would fail to reach main event status again until 2002. For a Superstar who was repeatedly handed the ball over the course of a two-year period, it is hard to deny that Show dropped the ball and disappointed many.
Big Show made these rankings because of the time he did spend in the main event and the WWF Championship reign he enjoyed. But make no mistake, without the success he did achieve, he would have been left off in favor of a more consistent star.
Luckily, Big Show recovered from his earlier missteps and, as of now, has built for himself a Hall of Fame-worthy career, something I am not looking to take away from him with my negative words about his career during the Attitude Era.
16. Ken Shamrock
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his WWF debut as special referee for Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XIII
-Made his in-ring debut in May of 1997 and was immediately pushed to the upper-card. Was a decidedly big star entering the Attitude Era.
-December 7, 1997: Defeated Shawn Michaels by disqualification in a WWF Championship match at the D-Generation X pay-per-view
-Began what would be a nearly six-month feud with The Rock and the Nation of Domination
-January 18, 1998: Let his temper get the best of him and was disqualified during a match against The Rock at Royal Rumble for the Intercontinental Championship.
-February 15, 1998: Teamed with the Disciples of Apocolypse and Ahmed Johnson to defeat the Nation of Domination in an Eight Man Tag Match at No Way Out of Texas.
-March 29, 1998: Defeated the Rock via submission at Wrestlemania XIV to seemingly win the Intercontinental Championship. When Shamrock refused to break the submission hold, the referee reversed his decision and disqualified Shamrock.
-June 28, 1998: Defeated Jeff Jarrett and The Rock in the semifinals and finals, respectively, to become the 1998 King of the Ring.
-August 30, 1998: Defeated Owen Hart at SummerSlam in a Lion's Den Match
-Shamrock turned heel in late 1998
-September 27, 1998: Competed in, and lost, a Triple Threat Steel Cage match to The Rock (also involved Mankind).
-October 12, 1998: Defeated Steve Blackman, Val Venis, and X-Pac in a one-night tournament to win the vacant Intercontinental Championship.
-October 18, 1998: Defeated Mankind to successfully retain the Intercontinental Championship at Judgment Day.
-November 1998: Joined Mr. McMahon's Corporation faction
-November 15, 1998: Advanced to the quarterfinals of the WWF Championship Tournament at Survivor Series before losing to The Rock.
-December 14, 1998: With Big Bossman as his partner, defeated the New Age Outlaws to win the WWF Tag Team Championship
-Feuded with Val Venis over Val's relationship with Shamrock's on-screen sister, Ryan.
-Broke away from the Corporation in April of 1999; formed the Union with Mankind, Big Show, and Test.
-May 23, 1999: The Union defeated the Corporate Ministry at Over the Edge.
-July 25, 1999: Defeated Steve Blackman in an "Iron Circle" Match at Fully Loaded
-August 22, 1999: Defeated Steve Blackman in a Lion's Den Match
Debuting in 1997, fresh off a stint as the star attraction of Ultimate Fighting Championship, Shamrock arrived with a distinct fan following and was pushed to the top of the card.
Shamrock brought with him a legitimate "tough-guy" presence that endeared him to many fans during the tougher, rougher Attitude Era. He was a bad ass who often let his temper get the best of him but never allowed himself to get into a fight without doing serious damage to his opponents. The first North American star to popularize the ankle lock, Shamrock was a different breed of star than anyone else in the company.
Ken popularized the submission style of wrestling that Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit later perfected. He was a very popular star that, for whatever reason, was never able to fully break through the proverbial glass ceiling and achieve consistent main event status.
It would be a mistake not to mention injuries. On more than one occasion, injuries played a major role in derailing Shamrock’s momentum. As a matter of fact, Ken’s career in the WWF ended when injuries sidelined him for a period of several months. As a UFC fighter, who was used to training his body on a daily basis for only a certain number of real fights a year, Shamrock’s body could not withstand the nightly grind of performing in the professional wrestling industry.
Ken Shamrock was a missed opportunity for the WWF, and the WWF was a missed opportunity for Shamrock. Ken had all the tools necessary to succeed, but the injuries shortened his career. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, had a bona-fide star just waiting to break through and become a major name in the wrestling business and for whatever reason, Vince failed to pull the trigger on the major push.
15. Shane McMahon
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his Attitude Era debut as a commentator on Sunday Night Heat
-November 15, 1998: At Survivor Series, shocks everyone by aligning himself with his father and screwing Stone Cold Steve Austin out of the WWF Championship Tournament.
-Teamed with Kane to defeat Triple H and X-Pac. As a result of pinning X-Pac, Shane became the new European Champion.
-March 28, 1999: Defeated X-Pac at Wrestlemania XV to retain his European Championship
-Brought together the Ministry of Darkness and the Corporation to form the Corporate Ministry.
-June 27, 1999: With his father as his partner, defeated Steve Austin in a Handicap Ladder Match to regain control of WWF.
-Shane began to disapprove of the budding relationship between Test and Shane's sister, Stephanie.
-August 22, 1999: Was defeated by Test in a "Lover Her or Leave Her" Street Fight. This was the first indication of just how talented a performer Shane McMahon could be.
-November 11, 1999: Teamed with The Rock, Kane, and Test to defeat D-Generation X
-February 27, 2000: Returned to WWF after a months-long absence and aided Big Show in defeating The Rock
-May 21, 2000: Defeated Big Show in a Falls Count Anywhere Match
-August 21, 2000: Defeated Steve Blackman to become Hardcore Champion
-Lost to Blackman at SummerSlam after taking a thirty-foot fall from the top of the entrance to the arena floor.
-Returned in March of 2001 and attacked his father after Vince had spent months tormenting Linda McMahon with blatant displays of affection involving Trish Stratus.
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Vince McMahon in a Street Fight at Wrestlemania X7
Shane McMahon was a self-admitted "mark" for the WWF product while growing up, so it was no shock that he took great care to perform to the best of his abilities when given the opportunity.
Out of the ring, Shane McMahon played the role of spoiled rotten son of the owner who thought his status in the company would negate any consequences he may face from the WWF Superstars. He was loud, cocky, and did whatever he felt he could get away with and it worked. The fans hated Shane and relished in the opportunity to see someone like Steve Austin, Mankind, X-Pac, or Test beat him mercilessly.
Inside the ring, however, Shane showed an ability to entertain that no one could ever have imagined. Like a Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Batista, Shane was far from the best in-ring worker. Instead, he understood crowd psychology. He knew when the right time was to break out the spectacular moves and when to keep things simple. He took risks no son of a billionaire should ever take and the fans slowly began to appreciate him more because of it.
More than anything, Shane McMahon earned his place on the list because of the high-profile presence he had on the show and the high-energy environment he created when he performed inside the squared circle.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-March 30, 1998: Returned to the World Wrestling Federation the night after Wrestlemania XIV. On that same night, DX was reformed. It included Triple H, X-Pac, and the New Age Outlaws.
-June 22, 1998: Defeated Dustin Runnels in his first match in nearly a year.
-June 28, 1998: Defeated Owen Hart at King of the Ring
-August 30, 1998: Defeated Jeff Jarrett in a Hair vs. Hair Match at SummerSlam.
-September 21, 1998: Defeated D'Lo Brown to win the European Championship
-September 27, 1998: Teamed with the New Age Outlaws to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Southern Justice at WWF Breakdown
-October 12, 1998: Advanced to the finals of a one-night Intercontinental Championship tournament before losing to Ken Shamrock
-October 18, 1998: Defeated D'Lo Brown to regain the European Championship
-Feuded with Shane McMahon over the European Championship in early 1999
-March 30, 1999: Teamed with Kane to defeat Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-July 25, 1999: Teamed with Road Dogg to defeat Billy Gunn and Chyna and earn the rights to the DX name
-October 28, 1999: Turned on Kane during a tag match against the Dudley Boyz
-Tori turned on Kane and aligned herself with X-Pac.
-February 27, 2000: Defeated Kane at No Way Out
-Teamed with Road Dogg through the course of early 2000
-May 21, 2000: Road Dogg and X-Pac def. the Dudley Boyz in a Tag Team Tables Match
-June 25, 2000: With Tori and Road Dogg, defeated the Dudley Boyz in a Handicap Tables Match at King of the Ring
-August 27, 2000: Defeated Road Dogg at SummerSlam
-September 25, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho in a First Blood Match on the debut edition of Raw on TNN
-X-Pac would miss the rest off 2000 with a neck injury
-Formed X-Factor with Justin Credible and Albert at the end of the Attitude Era
After suffering a near-career-ending injury in WCW, X-Pac returned to WWF and rejuvenated his career as a part of D-Generation X. While Triple H was the leader of the group, X-Pac served as the mid-card workhorse of the faction. His rivalry with D’Lo Brown provided solid undercard in-ring action and his team with Kane in the 1999 helped to stabilize a tag team division in a transition period.
As a heel, X-Pac was as hated as any and his rivalry with former partner Kane provided a solid upper-mid-card program for the company during the highly-successful McMahon-Helmsley Era in 2000.
X-Pac has always been what one could consider an underrated talent. When his head was one straight, and he was motivated, there was no other Superstar he could not hang with inside the squared circle. He was innovative as the 1-2-3 Kid during the early nineties and throughout the Attitude Era, he continued to utilize a unique style used by no one else.
Much like Jeff Jarrett, D’Lo Brown, and the majority of the tag teams that existed from 1998-99, prior to the invasion of the Radicalz and the arrival of Kurt Angle, X-Pac was responsible for supplying a solid in-ring product when the rest of the roster was embroiled in storyline-heavy, brawling matches.
13. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-April 25, 1999: Is abducted by The Undertaker at the conclusion of the Backlash pay-per-view.
-Was very close to an unholy wedding to the Undertaker but was rescued by an unlikely hero: Stone Cold Steve Austin.
-Was featured in an on-air relationship with Test and was scheduled to marry him in October.
-October 2, 1999: The British Bulldog threw a temper tantrum at the Rebellion pay-per-view, threw a trash can, and it struck Stephanie. She had amnesia and could no longer remember Test.
-Finally remembered Test and the wedding was scheduled for late-November.
-November 29, 1999: Was scheduled to be married to Test but it was revealed that Triple H had married a drugged Stephanie at a drive-thru chapel in Las Vegas.
-December 12, 1999: Turned on her father and joined her husband, Triple H, following the Armageddon main event.
-Took a noticeable liking to Kurt Angle, which would play into a major angle later in 2000
-March 30, 2000: Defeated Jacqueline to become WWF Women's Champion
-Became a major rival of Chris Jericho, who never missed the opportunity to label her a "dirt, disgusting, brutal, bottom-feeding, trash bag ho!"
-June 8, 2000: Defeated Lita to retain the Women's title
-June 12, 2000: Once again defeated Lita to retain the title
-August 3, 2000: Teamed with Kurt Angle and Triple H to defeat the Dudley Boyz & Lita
-Became the centerpiece of a rivalry between Kurt Angle and Triple H
-August 21, 2000: With Lita, became the first two females to main event Monday Night Raw. In the match, Lita finally defeated Stephanie to win the Women's Title.
-September 18, 2000: Teamed with Triple H and Kurt Angle to defeat Test, Albert, and Trish Stratus
-Once the feud between HHH and Angle wrapped up, Stephanie decided to manage Angle in his quest for the WWF Championship. Stephanie had been barred from ringside by Triple H, who was feuding with the dangerous Chris Benoit.
-In late 2000, began an intense rivalry with Trish Stratus, who had been involved in an affair with Vince McMahon.
-January 21, 2001: Engaged in a major pull-apart cat-fight with Trish during the Triple H vs. Kurt Angle WWF Championship match at Royal Rumble.
-February 25, 2001: Defeated Trish Stratus in a surprisingly good match at No Way Out
From late-1999 until the end of the Attitude Era at Wrestlemania X7 in April 2001, Stephanie McMahon was as hated as any other WWF Superstar on the roster. As the on-screen (and later, off) wife of Triple H, the "Billion Dollar Princess" was not shy about tossing around her authority and often made many a Superstar and Diva’s life a living hell.
When Vince McMahon took time off following two years of, at times, overexposure on his company’s television programs, Stephanie was trusted to assume the position of the evil McMahon and she did so perfectly.
Whether it was aiding her husband at ringside, threatening the likes of Chris Jericho and The Rock will hellish consequences for their actions against the McMahon Helmsley Era, or pulling off the spoiled brat temper tantrums expected when things did not go her way, Stephanie proved herself a natural in front of the camera.
Perhaps the most memorable angle of Stephanie’s time in the Attitude Era was her involvement in the Triple H-Kurt Angle feud. For years, professional wrestling has been called a soap opera for males and for the first time, the company illustrated just why that description fits perfectly. Triple H became jealous of Angle, who had seemingly caught Stephanie’s eye.
Suddenly, "the Game" was forced to wonder what may happen if his very powerful wife chose another Superstar over him. At the same time, Angle began to show hints that maybe he was not as wholesome as he pretended to be. It was compelling television and, for the first time since her relationship with Test, Stephanie McMahon appeared to be the innocent party in and amongst the chaos.
While Stephanie often found herself in the middle of storylines involving male Superstars, she was also a part of two very entertaining programs involving other WWF Divas. After winning the Women’s Championship in March of 2000, Stephanie found herself in the path of the most popular woman to enter the company in quite some time, Lita.
The fiery red head, who had befriended the Hardy Boyz, had several chances to defeat Stephanie for the title but, for whatever reason, be it interference from Triple H, T&A, or Trish Stratus, was never able to wrest the title from the spoiled brat. Then, on a memorable edition of Raw, Lita and Stephanie did battle in the main event for the Women’s title. Lita finally won the gold and put an end to the continuous "rivalry" that ran throughout the summer months of 2000.
Stephanie’s most memorable feud with a WWF Diva came at the end of 2000 and ran into 2001. Trish Stratus had began an on-air relationship with Vince McMahon and seemingly ended Vince’s marriage to Linda. Stephanie’s disdain for Trish became evident until the Royal Rumble, where Stephanie and Trish engaged in a humongous catfight that needed to be broken up by Vince McMahon, who had come to ringside during the WWF Championship match between Triple H and Kurt Angle.
The tension at its thickest, Trish and Stephanie took to humiliating one another over the course of January before a match at No Way Out. The contest proved to be infinitely better than expected (rumor had it that Triple H laid the whole thing out for the girls). The blow-off of the feud would come at Wrestlemania X7, when Trish turned on the McMahon family, tired of being treated as lesser than human, and chased Stephanie from ringside during the McMahon vs. McMahon street fight.
12. Chris Benoit
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his WWF debut in January of 2000
-February 3, 2000: In his first match with the company, Benoit was defeated by Triple H in a match that more than announced to the world that Benoit had what it took to hang with the best the business had to offer.
-February 14, 2000: Defeated The Rock on Raw
-April 2, 2000: Won the Intercontinental Championship in a two-fall Triple Threat Match against Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania 2000
-April 30, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho by disqualification at Backlash to retain the Intercontinental Championship
-May 8, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho to regain the Intercontinental Championship
-May 15, 2000: Intercontinental Champion Chris Benoit Defeated WWF Champion The Rock in a Submission Match
-May 21, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho in a Submission Match to retain the Intercontinental Champion at Judgment Day
-July 23, 2000: Was defeated in his first WWF Championship match by The Rock at Fully Loaded
-August 27, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho in a Best Two-of-Three Falls Match at SummerSlam
-October 23, 2000: Was defeated Triple H in a technically sound, hard-hitting match at No Mercy
-November 2, 2000: Defeated Triple H on Smackdown
-December 10, 2000: Defeated Billy Gunn at Armageddon to win the Intercontinental Championship
-January 21, 2001: Lost the Intercontinental Championship to Chris Jericho in one of the great ladder matches of all-time at Royal Rumble.
-April 1, 2001: Lost a technical wrestling masterpiece to Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania X7
Chris Benoit was the best wrestler in the No. 1 company during the hottest period in wrestling history, PERIOD. Benoit was so talented at what he did inside the squared circle that the previous sentence applies to either World Championship Wrestling or World Wrestling Federation, depending on the period of time in question. For the sake of these rankings, we’ll focus on 2000-2001, WWF.
Frustrated and pissed off with the direction he was headed in WCW, Benoit and several other largely-talented Superstars defected from the Ted Turner-owned company and found a new home, with open and accepting arms for a talent with the abilities of the "Crippler."
In 2000, Chris Benoit proved to a worldwide audience why so many considered him the benchmark for in-ring performance for so long. With surrounding talent such as Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, The Undertaker, Triple H, and The Rock, Benoit had as productive a year as any non-Heavyweight Champion had ever had. He sniffed the main event almost every month of the 2000 calendar year.
In July, at the Fully Loaded pay-per-view, Benoit appeared in his first WWF pay-per-view main event. At that show, a show that saw the company attempt to elevate three young talents by pairing them with established main event stars, Benoit attempted to wrest the WWF Championship from the Rock. For the first time in his career, The Rock was forced to adapt his skill set to match that of a brilliant, technical wrestler. It worked and The Rock had what many considered his best match of the year.
In October of that same year, Benoit matched up against a man who was having a banner a year, a man on the hottest streak of his career, a man many considered the best overall professional wrestler in the business: Triple H. "The Game" had out-performed every star he had worked opposite of in 2000. He was just perfectly hitting his stride on the microphone and in the ring.
Benoit, on the other hand, was as good as anyone inside the ring and, since arriving in the WWF, had seen his mic skills continuously improve. There was little doubt the match would impress and it did just that. Again, Benoit was on the losing end of the contest but, again, he came out of the contest better than he had going into it.
Chris Benoit’s arrival in the company was significant in that it ushered back into the McMahon-owned company and in-ring product that could match the spectacular storytelling the company had displayed for the better part of two years. Now, the matches that came from the stories could match the hype that preceded it.
While Benoit’s name has become taboo because of the way his life, and the lives of his wife and young son, ended, it is hard to deny just how important Chris was when it came to shifting the focus of the shows back to the in-ring activities.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Served as a valet for D-Generation X throughout 1998
-Was involved in a short program with Mark Henry, who had taken a liking to Chyna
-January 11, 1999: Won a "Corporal Battle Royal" and earned a spot in the Royal Rumble
-Became the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble match
-Turned on DX, joining the Corporation during an "I Quit" match between The Rock and Triple H
-February 14, 1999: Chyna & Kane defeated Triple H & X-Pac at St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-Chyna and Kane formed what appeared to be a friendship heading into Wrestlemania XV. The "Big Red Machine" was crushed when he accidentally sent a fireball into the face of Chyna, sidelining her for weeks.
-March 28, 1999: Interfered in the match between Kane and Triple H at Wrestlemania XV, getting Triple H disqualified by turning on Kane and blasting him with a steel chair. Triple H and Chyna reunited in a heart-warming moment...only to turn on DX and join the Corporation later in the evening.
-September 2, 1999: Earned a shot at Jeff Jarrett's Intercontinental Championship by defeating Billy Gunn on Smackdown.
-September 26, 1999: Lost to Jeff Jarrett via disqualification on a referee's reversed decision after Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young interfered.
-October 17, 1999: Defeated Jeff Jarrett in a "Good House Keeping Match" to win the Intercontinental Championship, becoming the first female to win a major male title.
-Feuded with Chris Jericho over the title for the remainder of 1999
-January 3, 2000: Became co-Intercontinental Champion when she and Jericho pinned one another at the same time.
-Associated herself with Jericho early in 2000
-April 2, 2000: Teamed with Too Cool to defeat Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko in a Six-Person Tag Match
-April 3, 2000: Turned on Jericho and helped Guerrero win the European Championship. Eddie and Chyna would prove to be one of the most entertaining acts of the year.
-August 27, 2000: Teamed with Eddie Guerrero to defeat Val Venis and Trish Stratus in a Mixed-Tag Match for the Intercontinental Championship. Since she pinned Trish, Chyna became Intercontinental Champion.
-September 25, 2000: Playboy magazine featuring Chyna on the cover and inside is released.
-January 2001: Autobiography titled "If They Only Knew" is released
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Ivory to win the WWF Women's Championship at Wrestlemania X7
There is no woman in wrestling history that was originally not meant to succeed but did, and did BIG, like Chyna.
Dubbed the "Ninth Wonder of the World," Chyna evolved from muscular Amazon woman bodyguard for Triple H to a fearless female who had no problem mixing it up with the guys to a bona-fide pop-culture superstar who appeared on the cover of mainstream magazines, including Playboy. One of the most popular women of all-time, Chyna was as big a star as many of her male co-workers proved to be.
While a key member of D-Generation X, the Corporation, and the valet of Triple H throughout 1998 and 1999, it was not until Chyna broke out on her own in the fall of 1999 that she achieved the success so many associate her with.
In September of 1999, then-Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett showcased his male chauvinistic ways and claimed no woman was equal to a man. He assaulted women such as Jacqueline, Ivory, the Fabulous Moolah, and Mae Young for weeks leading to his first Intercontinental Championship defense against Chyna at Unforgiven.
The match proved not to be too bad for one involving a relatively inexperienced woman and a veteran in-ring performer not all that excited about feuding with a female. It would be their next match that would cement Chyna as one of the top performers in all of professional wrestling.
At the October 1999 pay-per-view event, No Mercy, Chyna made history by becoming the first female to win the Intercontinental Championship. She did so in a "Good House Keeping Match," which saw Chyna and Jarrett work over the other with common, ordinary household items. For weeks prior, Jarrett had claimed Chyna belonged in the kitchen so the stipulation of the match fit the storyline it concluded.
Chyna would be featured in several high-profile programs throughout the remained of 1999 and 2000, including one with Chris Jericho over the Intercontinental Championship, an romance storyline with the newly-dubbed "Latino Heat" Eddie Guerrero, and the subsequent breakup angle that resulted. In November of 2000, Chyna appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine and her career took off as a result.
A long and storied rivalry with Ivory made up the rest of the Chyna’s Attitude Era. In December of 2000, the Right To Censor had targeted Chyna. Val Venis delivered a vicious spike piledriver to the "Ninth Wonder of the World" that, according to the storyline, injured her neck and left her contemplating retirement. Chyna would return at the Royal Rumble, against all suggestions, and once again injured her neck, this time against Ivory in a Women’s Championship match. It appeared as though Chyna may never compete again.
The storyline concluded at Wrestlemania X7, when Chyna demolished Ivory and picked up her first and only Women’s Championship. Something seemed different about her, however. As the Attitude Era came to a close, it appeared as though Chyna’s interest in her work had diminished. By May of 2001, Chyna was gone from the company and rumors persisted that she had developed quite the attitude following her Playboy cover appearance.
Regardless of how her run with the company came to an end, Chyna belongs on any list of the greatest stars of the Attitude Era. She was something different. For the first time, a woman proved she could hang with men in lengthy, quality championship matches. She also broke the mold of thin, skinny, model-looking women and paved the way for the likes of Beth Phoenix and Kharma to be hired by the biggest sports-entertainment company in the world.
10. Chris Jericho
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-August 9, 1999: After weeks of a Millenium Countdown clock ticking away, Y2J debuts in one of the most memorable moments in Raw history.
-September 23, 1999: Defeats Ken Shamrock in a First Blood match on Smackdown
-October 2, 1999: Defeated Road Dogg at the UK-exclusive pay-per-view event Rebellion
-November 14, 1999: Lost his first championship opportunity, pinned by Intercontinental Champion Chyna at Survivor Series
-December 12, 1999: Won his first championship match, defeating Chyna by submission at Armageddon
-January 23, 2000: Defeated Hardcore Holly and Chyna in a Triple Threat Match to become undisputed Intercontinental Champion at the Royal Rumble
-April 2, 2000: Won the European Championship in a two-fall, Triple Threat Match versus Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle.
-April 17, 2000: Seemingly defeated Triple H to become WWF Champion. Later, the referee's decision was reversed and the title was returned to "the Game."
-May 4, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit to win the Intercontinental Championship
-July 23, 2000: Lost a Last Man Standing match to Triple H at Fully Loaded but became a bigger star because of it.
-September 24, 2000: Defeated X-Pac at Unforgiven
-October 22, 2000: Defeated X-Pac in a Steel Cage Match at No Mercy
-December 10, 2000: Defeated Kane at Armageddon in a Last Man Standing Match
-January 21, 2001: Defeated Chris Benoit in a great Ladder Match to win the Intercontinental Championship at the Royal Rumble.
-February 25, 2001: Defeated Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac in a Fatal Four Way match to retain the Intercontinental Championship at No Way Out.
-April 1, 2001: Defeated William Regal to retain the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania X7
August 9, 1999: Chris Jericho debuts in one of the most anticipated, critically acclaimed segments of all-time. He interrupts the Rock and claims that he has come to save the fans from a boring WWF product. Immediately, he becomes a player in the company, a bigger star than he ever was allowed to be in his three-plus years in World Championship Wrestling. He, along with Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Eddie Guerrero, would reintroduce wrestling to the company. Jericho would prove to be the perfect mix of showmanship and technical ability.
Before he could succeed, however, Jericho was forced to overcome a locker room who strongly disapproved with his attitude. In his latest book, Jericho admits he took the wrong approach with some of the things he said in his promos and as a result, had to spend time eating crow before he was given something productive to do. That "something" turned out to be a rivalry with Chyna over the Intercontinental Championship.
The program with Chyna allowed Jericho to show his range as a performer. He went from a cocky, arrogant heel to a sadistic villain capable of tying Chyna down and breaking her thumb with a hammer. As far as his in-ring work went, Jericho was able to guide Chyna to a series of high-quality one-on-one encounters that proved to the office that he was every bit the wrestler they assumed he was when they hired him.
From Chyna, Jericho moved on to the likes of newcomer Kurt Angle and former WCW competitor Chris Benoit. The three talented in-ring performers showcased their wrestling skills in a number of critically acclaimed contests. At Wrestlemania 2000, the three stars did battle in a two-fall, triple threat match for the Intercontinental and European titles. At the end of the evening, Angle lost both titles without being pinned.
From there, Jericho moved onto a singles feud with Benoit, which stretched from April into May, then resumed in August at SummerSlam. In between, however, Jericho faced his first major test in the World Wrestling Federation. The Fully Loaded pay-per-view event was to feature three contests in which Jericho, Benoit, and Angle would face established main event stars in hopes that they could all be elevated into the main event picture. For Jericho, it meant squaring off with "The Game," Triple H, in a Last Man Standing Match.
The match featured a star-making performance for Jericho. In the biggest match of the young Canadian’s career, he hung with Triple H in a brutal match that called for Y2J to receive to majority of the beating, to build sympathy for himself, then make the triumphant comeback only to fall short in the end. Jericho succeeded in his role and came out of the match with more respect from the fans, management, and the boys in the back than he had going into it.
The remainder of 2000 saw Jericho engage Kane and X-Pac in rivalries that kept him in the upper card of shows but were ultimately lackluster compared to the way in which Jericho had started the year.
In January of 2001, Jericho and Benoit resumed their intense rivalry, competing in a classic Ladder Match at the Royal Rumble for the Intercontinental Championship. Jericho would walk away from New Orleans with the title, then travel to Las Vegas for No Way Out and successfully retain it in a great Fatal Four Way match against Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and X-Pac. As the Attitude Era came to a close, Jericho focused on WWF Commissioner William Regal and keeping his gold.
The following the conclusion of the Attitude Era, Jericho would go on to become a multiple-time World Champion and one of the greats the industry has ever seen. That greatness may not have been achieved had Jericho stumbled in his first full year with the company. Chris was handed the ball by Vince McMahon and company and ran with it. He proved himself as one of the most popular, marketable stars in the promotion. Despite his smaller size, Jericho became a star in the land of bigger, meaner, more muscular men and that alone is a testament to his ability to entertain.
9. Kurt Angle
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-November 14, 1999: Defeated Shawn Stasiak in his debut match at Survivor Series
-December 12, 1999: Defeated Steve Blackman at Armageddon
-January 6, 2000: Defeated The Rock by DQ on Smackdown
-February 3, 2000: Defeated The Rock and Tazz in a Triple Threat Match on Raw
-February 10, 2000: Defeated Val Venis to win the European Championship on Smackdown
-February 27, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho at No Way Out to win the Intercontinental Championship
-March 13, 2000: Defeated Tazz and Chris Jericho in a Triple Threat Match on Raw
-May 6, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit at the UK-exclusive Insurrection pay-per-view event
-June 25, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho, Crash Holly, and Rikishi to win the King of the Ring tournament
-August 27, 2000: Fought in and lost his first WWF Championship opportunity against the Rock and Triple H at SummerSlam
-September 24, 2000: Lost an emotionally-charged match to Triple H at Unforgiven
-October 2, 2000: Defeated Triple H to become number one contender
-October 22, 2000: Defeated The Rock at No Mercy to become WWF Champion for the first time
-November 19, 2000: Defeated The Undertaker to retain the WWF Championship
-December 2, 2000: Defeated Rikishi, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock in a Fatal Four Way match at the UK-exclusive pay-per-view event Rebellion
-December 10, 2000: Defeated Undertaker, Triple H, Stone Cold, The Rock, and Rikishi in a Hell in a Cell match to retain his title
-January 21, 2001: Defeated Triple H at the Royal Rumble to retain the WWF Championship
-February 25, 2001: Lost the WWF Championship to The Rock after a four month reign
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania X-7
Kurt Angle broke the long pattern of amateur wrestlers who were strong in their sport but failed to make a successful transition into the professional wrestling business. An in-ring performer who grasped the intricate details of the industry faster than any rookie to that point, Kurt wasted little time in constructing a Hall of Fame career.
After defeating both Shawn Stasiak and Steve Blackman in successive pay-per-view events, Angle began trumpeting an undefeated streak. He bragged on Raw and Smackdown and challenged anyone to a match at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in January.
The debuting Tazz would answer that challenge and soundly defeat Angle. Kurt disputed the loss, claiming Tazz used a choke hold, and would continue to claim and undefeated record. That is, until The Rock defeated him on Raw weeks later.
With the undefeated record out of the way, Angle turned his attention to collecting championships. Within three months, Angle had won the European and Intercontinental Championships, holding both at the same time.
At Wrestlemania 2000, those reigns would come to an end when Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho wrestled them away, despite Angle never being pinned or made to submit. Angle rebounded with a victory in the King of the Ring tournament, adding about accomplishment to his short career.
The summer of 2000 was interesting because Angle was catapulted into the main event. First, in July, he was plugged into a program with the Undertaker. Angle was beaten decisively but there was something about his performance both in and out of the ring during the rivalry that indicated that the moment was not too big for him. He seemed comfortable and one month later, the writers would revisit a program hinted at way back in December of 1999.
Shortly after Angle’s debut, Stephanie McMahon took a liking to Kurt. She would mention to her on-screen husband Triple H how impressive and how cute Kurt was. The comments were one-offs and seemingly were forgotten by the creative team. Then, in July, Stephanie’s infatuation with Angle resurfaced.
This time, it drew the ire of Triple H. "The Game" began wondering if there was or was not something going on between his wife and this "Olympic dweeb." Prior to SummerSlam, Angle even crossed the line, kissing an prone Stephanie after a nasty bump during the main event of Smackdown.
The problems between Triple H and Kurt continued through SummerSlam, where they were on the losing end of a Triple Threat Match against The Rock for the WWF Championship, and into the Unforgiven pay-per-view. At that show, Stephanie was forced to choose between her husband and her friend. She chose Triple H and "The Game" destroyed Angle with the Pedigree to end the rivalry for good.
Angle recovered quickly. The following month, Angle captured the biggest prize the industry had to offer: the WWF Championship. With Stephanie at his side as his manager, Angle defeated The Rock to win the gold, accomplishing the goal just eleven months into his career. It was a defining moment for the former Olympic gold medal winner and evidence of the confidence Vince McMahon had in him to lead the company into the new century.
Angle would retain the title at Survivor Series against the Undertaker, in a brutal and bloody Six-Man Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon, and in a convoluted singles match at the Royal Rumble against Triple H. His luck would run out, however, at No Way Out, as he dropped the gold to The Rock four months after beating "The Great One" to capture the title. Angle would close out the Attitude Era by defeating fellow in-ring technician Chris Benoit by less-than honest means at Wrestlemania X-7.
Kurt Angle proved to the world, in one year, that it was absolutely possible for a rookie in the business to achieve greatness in a short period of time. He became a polished performer at the tail end of the Attitude Era and found the right mix of athleticism and showmanship to become a well-rounded sports-entertainer. The Attitude Era provided the launching pad for one of the greatest technicians of all-time and a sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-In the summer of 1997, shortly before the Attitude Era got its start, Sable's popularity began to rise while real life husband, and on-screen charge, Marc Mero was recovering from a knee injury. When Mero returned, he was jealous of Sable's new-found popularity and its showed.
-A rivalry erupted between Sable and Mero and the bizarre duo of Goldust and Luna Vachon leading into Wrestlemania XIV.
-March 29, 1998: Teamed with Mero to defeat Goldust and Luna Vachon in a Mixed Tag Team Match at Wrestlemania XIV.
-April 26, 1998: Lost an Evening Gown Match to Luna Vachon at Unforgiven. The match was designed solely for the purpose of parading Sable around in her bra and panties.
-May 2, 1998: Is defeated by Mero at Over the Edge. As per the pre-match stipulations, Sable is forced to leave the WWF.
-Vince McMahon re-instated Sable. She returns just as Marc Mero introduces new valet, Jacqueline.
-July 26, 1998: Sable loses a bikini contest to Jacqueline when Mr. McMahon deems the body-painted hand prints covering Sable's breasts to be illegal.
-July 27, 1998: Broke free from McMahon's rule by flipping him the middle finger and stripping off her Sable Bomb shirt to reveal a skimpy bikini
-August 30, 1998: Teams with Edge to defeat Marc Mero and Jacqueline at SummerSlam
-September 1998: Defeated Jacqueline in an Evening Gown match on Raw
-November 15, 1998: Defeated Jacqueline to win the WWF Women's Championship
-December 6, 1998: Teamed with Christian to defeat Jacqueline and Mero at UK-exclusive pay-per-view event Capital Carnage.
-January 1999: Defeats Luna Vachon in a Leather Strap Match at the Royal Rumble to retain her title
-March 28, 1999: Defeated Tori at Wrestlemania XV to retain the title
-In the spring of 1999, Sable dropped the Women's Championship in a controversial Evening Gown match to Debra on Raw. She would leave WWF immediately after.
Sable is the most immediate example of a Superstar achieving huge success and allowing their ego to ruin all of the hard work both they and the company behind them put in to make it possible.
In the summer of 1997, Marc Mero had suffered a severe knee injury and was forced from in-ring competition. While he recovered from the injury, Sable continued to appear on-screen, modeling new WWF merchandise. As the weeks progressed, fan reaction to the beautiful blond continued to grow.
When Mero returned in the fall of 1997, he had developed a new attitude. He appeared to be jealous of Sable and would do whatever he could to embarrass her and shuffle her to the background so that he could bask in the spotlight. The fans became sympathetic towards Sable made her that much more popular. With this in mind, Sable rode a wave of sympathetic popularity into 1998, the first full-year of the Attitude Era.
Heading into Wrestlemania XIV, Sable was forced to deal with a jealous charge and two bizarre characters in Goldust and Luna, who had seemingly set their sights on humiliating and tormenting the gorgeous fan favorite. The program culminated in a Mixed Tag Team Match at Wrestlemania XIV, which served as a star-making performance for Sable.
Unleashing her pent-up frustrations on Luna and Goldust, she brutalized the veteran Vachon with a Sable Bomb and T.K.O. to pick up the win for her team. Shortly thereafter, Sable would leave all the negativity in her rear view mirror, breaking free of Mero’s oppressive rule.
Over the course of the summer, Sable feuded with Mero’s new valet, Jacqueline. At Fully Loaded, Sable broke out a body-painted bikini top, featuring two hand-prints barely covering her breasts. She would be disqualified by Mr. McMahon but the following night, would strike out against the attempted censorship of her boss, flipping him the bird and stripping down to a skimpy "Raw" bikini. Over the course of four months, Sable had proven to be an independent woman who needed no man to tell her what to do.
At SummerSlam, she teamed with mysterious new star Edge to defeat Marc Mero and Jacqueline in a Mixed Tag Match. Three months later, she defeated Jacqueline to capture her only Women’s Championship.
As Sable’s popularity reached a fever pitch, those in the outside world began to take notice. Sable appeared on various magazine covers, in Super Bowl commercials, video games, and was immortalized via action figure. At her peak, she was as popular as Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X, The Rock, and other Attitude Era mega-stars. Finally, Hugh Hefner took notice and offered Sable the cover of his Playboy magazine. She accepted and the cover quickly became one of the all-time best sellers.
Unfortunately for Sable and for the World Wrestling Federation, the huge success of the Playboy cover prompted an increased, ever-growing ego on Sable’s part and rumors persisted that she had become quite the "diva" behind the scenes. Her attitude had changed and she was no longer the respectful young woman she had once been. She complained...a lot...about what she was asked to do and often flat-out refused to do some of it. Soon, there was no choice but to part ways with one of, if not THE most successful woman in the history of the business to that point.
A lot of the way the relationship between Sable and the WWF ended is blamed on Rena Mero, as it should be. It can be argued, however, that she achieved such success in such a short period of time that there was no way to sufficiently coach her in properly handling that success. As a result, that rapidly-building popularity and media exposure led to Sable both believing she was bigger than the WWF and bigger than the entire wrestling business.
The relationship between Sable and the professional wrestling industry ended less-than amicably, at least during her first run with the company. That should not lessen the legacy that she built for herself in the span of twelve months. Sable did what no other woman had done up to that point in wrestling history.
For the first time, a woman became as popular, as marketable, and as big a star as any of her male counterpart. Her sex appeal was as responsible for the dawn of the Attitude Era as was Stone Cold Steve Austin’s anti-authority, middle finger-flipping, curse spewing actions. When speaking of the Attitude, the most immediately recognizable stars are Austin, The Rock, D-Generation X, and Sable. That is a legacy no Internet lore or backstage gossip stories can ever change.
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-Made his debut at the Badd Blood pay-per-view event in October 1997, one month before the start of the Attitude Era.
-December 6, 1997: Cost his brother, The Undertaker, a match via disqualification against Jeff Jarrett at the D-Generation X pay-per-view
-January 18, 1998: Cost Undertaker the WWF Championship in a Casket Match against Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble.
-February 15, 1998: Defeated Vader in his first pay-per-view match at No Way Out in Texas
-March 29, 1998: Loses to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XIV in the "Dead Man's" most physical match to date
-April 26, 1998: Loses the first-ever Inferno Match to the Undertaker at Unforgiven
-May 2, 1998: Defeated Vader at Over the Edge
-June 1, 1998: Defeated The Undertaker to become number one contender to the WWF Championship
-June 28, 1998: Defeated Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring to become WWF Championship
-July 13, 1998: Teamed with Mankind to defeat the New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-August 10, 1998: Defeated the New Age Outlaws, Stone Cold and The Undertaker, and the Nation to regain the WWF Tag Team Championship
-February 14, 1998: Teamed with Chyna to defeat X-Pac and Triple H at St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-March 28, 1999: Defeated Triple H by disqualification at Wrestlemania XV when Chyna interfered and turned on him
-April 5, 1999: Teamed with X-Pac to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart for the WWF Tag Team Titles
-August 9, 1999: Kane and X-Pac defeated the Acolytes to regain the tag titles
-November 14, 1999: Defeated X-Pac by disqualification
-December 12, 1999: Defeated X-Pac in a Steel Cage Match
-April 2, 2000: Teamed with Rikishi to defeat X-Pac and Road Dogg at Wrestlemania 2000
-June 25, 2000: Teamed with Undertaker and The Rock to defeat Triple H, Vince McMahon, and Shane McMahon in the main event of King of the Ring
-August 27, 2000: Fought the Undertaker to a No Contest at SummerSlam
-November 19, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho at Survivor Series
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Raven and Big Show in a Triple Threat Match at Wrestlemania X-7 to win the Hardcore Championship
Kane was the first Superstar since The Undertaker to take an absurd gimmick and master all of its mannerisms and details to make it absolutely believable in the fans eyes. After a series of failed gimmicks, Glenn Jacobs found a character he could embrace and he took the opportunity and made the best out of it. A character originally slated to wrap up following the program with the Undertaker has endured and remains to this day one of the most popular acts in the company.
Kane entered the WWF and immediately set his sights on his brother, The Undertaker. Believing him to be the man responsible for the fiery death of their parents, and for the disfigurement to his face, Kane unleashed hell on his brother. For the first time, the Undertaker looked weak when compared to another WWF Superstar.
At Wrestlemania XIV, Kane came within seconds of ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak before it really got going. As a matter of fact, it took an unheard-of three Tombstone piledrivers to put Kane down for the count. The following month, Kane once again battled his brother, this time in an Inferno Match. Again, Kane failed to defeat his brother but he served notice to the WWF fans, management, and Superstars that he was going to be a major force in the company.
Kane remained a major part of the main event scene throughout 1998, even scoring his first of two WWF Championships when he defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring. He would hold the gold for twenty-four hours. In July, he partnered with Mankind to score two WWF Tag Team Championships and in September, he and the Undertaker were responsible for removing the heavyweight gold from the waist of Steve Austin.
As a member of the Corporation in 1999, Kane was often ordered around and treated as less than human. Then Chyna defected from DX and the two formed a special relationship. It had been the closest Kane had gotten to a human since Paul Bearer and, for the first time, he had fallen in love. Ultimately, as we would bare witness to over the course of the next year, a trusted friend betrayed Kane as Chyna reunited with Triple H in the Corporation. Now a beloved babyface, Kane would form an unexpected alliance with another major WWF Superstar.
Kane and X-Pac enjoyed several reigns as WWF Tag Team Champions throughout 1999. Born out of the betrayal of Triple H, the team meshed well and were responsible for some highly-entertaining tag team bouts over the course of the year. Kane, it appeared, had hit his stride as a performer.
In October, Kane would once again taste the bitter pill of betrayal when X-Pac turned his back on him to rejoin the reformed D-Generation X. Kane rebounded with Tori as his girlfriend, standing by him in his battles with his former partner. Just when it appeared as though Kane was beginning to regain happiness in his life, Tori completed the trifecta, turning on the "Big Red Machine" to become X-Pac’s girlfriend.
After finally dispatching of X-Pac at Wrestlemania 2000, Kane embarked on what would be a relatively quiet 2000. He resumed the rivalry with his brother, the Undertaker, but it lasted only two months and was quickly forgotten. A lackluster feud with Chris Jericho, which began because of spilled coffee, ended the uneventful year for Kane.
Kane began 2001 with the watershed moment of his career. In one of the finest single-night performances by any Superstar in any period of history, Kane lasted nearly an hour in the 2001 Royal Rumble match. He was the final man eliminated and by the end of the match, many WWF fans were disappointed that it was not the "Big Red Machine" that won the match. Kane was on a roll heading into Wrestlemania X-7 and appeared to be destined for big things at the "show of shows."
The "big things" Kane was destined for was a Hardcore Championship match three contests into the show. While it proved to be a high-quality match, it was quickly overshadowed by bigger and better matches on what would prove to be the greatest wrestling event of all-time.
The impact Kane had on the Attitude Era is immeasurable. A main event-level talent from the moment he debuted in late-1997, the monstrous man wreaked havoc through a company in which his portrayer, Glenn Jacobs, and consistently failed in the past. His high-profile feuds with the Undertaker, Steve Austin, Mankind, and X-Pac were major, featured storylines every Monday and Thursday night on WWF programming.
Kane had a presence about him that made the people sit up and take notice. His look, his entrance music, the pyro that accompanied his every arrival were fresh, exciting, and even scary to some. Everything about Kane screamed "Superstar," from his red and black streaked mask to his long, rockstar-like hair to his different-colored eyes and his larger-than-life size. He was different from the other stars of the time and it showed in his ability to capture the fans imaginations.
6. Mick Foley
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-January 18, 1998: Became the first, and only, WWF Superstar in history to enter the Royal Rumble match as three different personas.
-Teamed with Owen Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Chainsaw Charlie to defeat the New Age Outlaws, Triple H, and Savio Vega in the Eight-Man Tag Team main event of No Way Out of Texas.
-March 29, 1998: Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie defeated the New Age Outlaws to win the WWF Tag Team Championship in a Dumpster Match at Wrestlemania XIV. After a controversial conclusion, the titles were held up and the Outlaws regained them the following night.
-April 26, 1998: Dude Love defeated Steve Austin by disqualification at Unforgiven
-May 4, 1998: Defeated Terry Funk in a No Holds Barred match on Raw
-June 28, 1998: Was defeated by the Undertaker in the most memorable Hell in a Cell match in WWF history.
-July 13, 1998: Mankind and Kane defeated the New Age Outlaws to win the WWF Tag Team titles
-August 10, 1998: Defeated the New Age Outlaws, the Nation, and Undertaker and Steve Austin to regain the tag belts
-November of 1998: Became the first Hardcore Championship when he was awarded the belt
-November 15, 1998: Advanced to the finals of the WWF Championship Tournament at Survivor Series before being screwed by The Rock, Vince, and Shane McMahon in the finals.
-January 4, 1999: Defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship!
-February 1, 1999: Defeated The Rock in an Empty Arena Match to win the WWF Championship
-February 14, 1999: Fought to a No Contest in a Last Man Standing Match versus The Rock at St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
-March 28, 1999: Defeated the Big Show by DQ at Wrestlemania XV. Refereed the main event for the WWF Championship
-April 25, 1999: Defeated the Big Show in a Boiler Room Brawl at Backlash
-August 16, 1999: Defeated Chyna to become number one contender
-August 22, 1999: Defeated Steve Austin and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match to become WWF Champion
-August 30, 1999: Teamed with the Rock to win the WWF Tag Team Championship from Undertaker and Big Show
-September 20, 1999: The Rock and Sock Connection defeated Viscera, Mideon, and Big Show to regain the titles
-"Have a Nice Day" reaches the number one position on the New York Times Bestseller List.
-November 4, 1999: Mankind and Al Snow defeated the Hollys to win the WWF Tag titles
-January 23, 2000: Loses a Street Fight to Triple H for the WWF Championship
-February 27, 2000: Loses a Hell in a Cell Match to Triple H for the WWF title and must retire
-April 2, 2000: Loses a Fatal Four-Way for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 2000
-June 26, 2000: Was named WWF Commissioner
Arguably the most beloved Superstar in WWF history, Mankind experienced rapid career growth he most likely considered impossible during the Attitude Era. A character that had endured darker times in the WWF, when business was down and fans were few and far between, Mankind embraced the bright and shiny lights that came with being the number one wrestling company in the world and became a much bigger star than he had been at any time in his career.
In early-1998, Mick Foley was in the midst of a transformation. Leaving the Mankind character behind, Foley became Cactus Jack and enlisted Terry Funk, under the guise of Chainsaw Charlie, to serve as his tag team partner in a war with the New Age Outlaws over the WWF Tag Team Championship. The two teams had hellish brawls in arenas across the globe.
The feud culminated in March at Wrestlemania XIV, when Jack and Funk seemingly won the tag belts from Road Dogg and Billy Gunn in a Dumpster Match. Controversy ensued and a steel cage rematch was held the following night. The Outlaws, with the help of their new D-Generation X stable-mates, regained the titles as Cactus and Funk were left battered.
Foley turned himself heel the following month, reappearing as Dude Love and joining Vince McMahon in his on-going rivalry with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Foley and Austin had two extremely tough, hard-hitting pay-per-view main events that were both won by the "Texas Rattlesnake." A distraught Foley once again switched gimmicks, leaving Dude Love behind and popping up as Mankind in June of ‘98, a gimmick he would retain until early 2000.
The summer of 1998 saw Foley do battle with The Undertaker in a match immediately recognizable by fans and wrestlers alike. The Hell in a Cell match at the 1998 King of the Ring event was one of the scariest, most brutal matches in the history of the sport and the match that single-handedly elevated Mick Foley to the upper-echelon of professional wrestling.
By the time late-1998 rolled around, Mankind had become the second most popular star in the company and was embroiled in a feud with The Rock over the WWF Champion. Once a man no one would have ever considered for the role of champion in a Vince McMahon-owned company, Foley accomplished his boyhood dream on the January 4 edition of Raw, winning the WWF Championship in one of the most historically-significant moments in professional wrestling history.
Foley and The Rock traded the WWF Championship for the remainder of early-1999. While Mankind would be considered the loser of the rivalry, seeing as how he walked away without the WWF Championship, Mick Foley had achieved the pinnacle of the sport. The summer months saw a lack of quality storylines for Mankind and an injury put him out of action from May until August.
At SummerSlam 1999, Foley regained the WWF title in an upset over Steve Austin and Triple H. He would lose the gold the following night. A month later, Mankind and The Rock teamed to form the "Rock and Sock Connection," a duo responsible for several of the most entertaining, most-viewed segments in the history of the sport. They would collect several tag team titles and were clearly the babyface stars of the company while Steve Austin recovered from neck surgery.
It was around the time that Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweat Socks hit book shelves across America that Mick Foley appeared to be on his last legs as an in-ring performer. His knees were shot and his body was beginning to feel the effects of years of physical pounding.
In early-2000, the Mankind character was once again on its way out, replaced with Cactus Jack as Mick Foley planned his final WWF angle. It would be a storyline featuring Foley standing up to the now-powerful McMahon-Helmsley Era and being fired for it. Triple H and the rest of D-Generation X poked fun at the newly-unemployed Mankind. When the Rock staged a strike with the entire WWF roster, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley had no choice but to re-instate Mick Foley.
After being physically dismantled on an edition of Raw, Mankind admitted to Triple H that he would be unable to face "The Game" at the Royal Rumble for the WWF Championship. Instead, Cactus Jack would challenge for the WWF title and it would be in a Street Fight. What resulted would be one of the greatest matches in Royal Rumble history and the match that gave Vince McMahon the confidence to push Triple H as the company’s featured heel performer. Triple H won the bloody brawl but the issues between the two were far from over.
At the February No Way Out event, Triple H and Cactus Jack would do battle in a Hell in a Cell match. This time, Jack’s career would be on the line. For the second month in a row, Mick Foley worked to establish Triple H as the new star in the company, bumping around the ring before being put out to pasture by the younger, more athletic WWF Champion. While Foley would return one month later for a spot in the Wrestlemania 2000 main event, he largely lived up to the retirement clause of the match.
In the summer of 2000, Foley re-appeared on WWF television as the Commissioner of the company. He made the tough decisions when needed and was there to reassure the fans that the bad guys would not get away with their wrong-doing. He and the team of Edge and Christian are responsible for some of the funniest bits of comedy in the era. Despite his nonexistent in-ring role, Foley continued to entertain fans just as he did as an in-ring performer.
5. The Undertaker
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-March 28, 1998: The Undertaker pinned Kane at Wrestlemania XIV following three Tombstone piledrivers
-April 26, 1998: Defeated Kane in an Inferno Match at Unforgiven
-June 28, 1998: Defeated Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring
-July 26, 1998: Teamed with Steve Austin to defeat Kane and Mankind for the WWF Tag Team Championship at Fully Loaded
-August 30, 1998: Lost the WWF Championship Match against Steve Austin at SummerSlam
-September 27, 1998: With Kane, defeated Steve Austin in a three-way dance; the WWF Championship was held up as a result of a double pin
-In early 1999, The Undertaker turned heel and formed the nearly-Satanic Ministry of Darkness
-February 22, 1999: Defeated Kane in an Inferno Match on Raw
-March 15, 1999: The Ministry of Darkness waited outside the McMahon family home, waiting for "her" to arrive. After a while, they burned the Undertaker's cross symbol in McMahon's front yard.
-March 28, 1999: Defeated Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell Match at Wrestlemania XV
-March 29, 1999: The Ministry of Darkness abducted Stephanie and held her hostage inside the boiler room of the arena before Ken Shamrock came to her rescue
-April 5, 1999: Undertaker and the Ministry repaid Shamrock by sacrificing his sister on the Raw stage
-April 25, 1999: Defeated Ken Shamrock at Backlash
-April 26, 1999: Undertaker attempted an unholy wedding with Stephanie McMahon but was interrupted by Ken Shamrock and ultimately undone by Stone Cold Steve Austin, an unlikely hero to say the least.
-April 29, 1999: The Ministry of Darkness merged with the Corporation, creating the Corporate Ministry
-May 17, 1999: Defeated The Rock in a Casket Match on Raw
-May 23, 1999: Defeated Steve Austin to win the WWF Championship at Over the Edge
-June 27, 1999: Defeated The Rock to retain the WWF Championship at King of the Ring
-August 22, 1999: Teamed with Big Show to defeat X-Pac and Kane for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-September 9, 1999: Teamed with Big Show to defeat The Rock and Mankind in a Buried Alive match an regain the WWF Tag Team Championship on Raw
-May 21, 2000: Returned to the WWF after an eight month absence and cost The Rock the WWF Championship via DQ in an Iron Man match when he helped to fend off the McMahons and DX
-June 25, 2000: Teamed with The Rock and Kane to defeat Shane and Vince McMahon and Triple H in the main event at King of the Ring.
-July 23, 2000: Soundly defeated Kurt Angle at Fully Loaded
-August 27, 2000: Fought to a No Contest with Kane at SummerSlam
-December 2, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit at the UK-exclusive pay-per-view, Rebellion
-April 1, 2001: Defeated Triple H at Wrestlemania X-7
What is there left to say about The Undertaker? The most respected star to ever grace a WWF locker room, the Attitude Era saw the "Dead Man" evolve from a talented, popular wrestling star to a recognized mainstream name and face based solely on the merchandising and marketing done to promote him and the rest of the stars during the most successful period in the history of the sport.
For the first time in his WWF career, the Undertaker had television exposure that reached tens of millions of fans around the world each and every Monday and Thursday night. The leader of the Ministry of Darkness made the most of his new-found fame and put in some of the most interesting and memorable work of his long and storied career.
The Attitude Era for the Undertaker kicked off with an emotionally-filled angle featuring the debut of his "brother," Kane. The "Big Red Machine" had been missing for twenty years and in 1997, he reappeared and looked to make Undertaker pay for setting the fire that killed his parents and permanently disfigured Kane. Initially, Undertaker refused to fight his brother. When Kane trapped Undertaker inside a casket and lit it on fire at the Royal Rumble, the "Dead Man" had no other choice. He returned in March and promised to "walk through the fires of hell" to face his brother at Wrestlemania XIV.
The match between Kane and the Undertaker was among the most hotly anticipated contests at the show and it lived up to the hype. A power match-up saw the two gigantic Superstars throw everything at one another. Undertaker broke out the over-the-top-rope plancha and Kane used a number of his brother’s own moves against him. In the end, it took three hellish Tombstone pilderivers from Undertaker to Kane to put the "Big Red Machine" down for the count.
The following month, an innovative match would put the brothers at risk of extreme heat exhaustion and burns to their bodies. The Inferno match at Unforgiven was one of the most unique contests in history. The stipulations called for one man to light the other on fire if they wanted to walk away victorious. The match was awkward but only because of the ludicrous environment in which Undertaker and Kane did battle. In the end, the older brother once again got the best of the young brother.
In June, The Undertaker and Mankind stepped foot inside the Hell in a Cell structure and crafted one of the most brutal, unforgettable matches in wrestling history. The images of Mick Foley being thrown from the top of the cell and through the announce table, then climbing back up to the top of the cage, only to be choke slammed through the structure’s ceiling and to the mat, are burned in the memories of the fans who have seen it. The match was a star-maker for Mankind and reaffirmation of the Undertaker’s overall bad-assery.
The summer of 1998 was focused on one, seemingly-epic match between Undertaker and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for the WWF Championship. Set to "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, videos hyped the match for weeks. Anticipation was at a fever pitch for the match between the two most popular stars in the company and for the first time, the annual August event felt as big as Wrestlemania.
The match did not disappoint. Both men pulled out moves not typically associated with their arsenals and in the end, it was an uncharacteristic low blow, followed by the Stone Cold Stunner from Austin for the win. While the match was considered a success for both men, Undertaker would soon align himself with his brother in an attempt to take the gold from Austin.
Undertaker spent the fall and winter attempting to collect the WWF Championship. When he and Kane pinned Austin at the same time, the title was vacated. In the title tournament at Survivor Series, Undertaker was defeated by The Rock in the semifinals, missing out on another chance at winning his third championship. After losing a Buried Alive match at Rock Bottom to Steve Austin, Undertaker took a hiatus for a few weeks but return as nasty, as evil as ever.
The Ministry of Darkness was formed in January of 1999 and it featured a collection of Superstars serving under the much darker, much more demented and evil Undertaker. He "sacrificed" men and women in the name of his Ministry and repeatedly threatened Vince McMahon and his family.
On one memorable edition of Raw, twenty-four hours removed from Wrestlemania XV, Undertaker had Stephanie McMahon abducted and held her hostage before Ken Shamrock came to her rescue. One month later, he planned an "unholy marriage" to the daughter of the company owner but was interrupted by Stone Cold Steve Austin. "The Dead Man" would have his revenge later in May when he defeated Austin and captured the WWF Championship.
Undertaker’s reign with the gold was shortened as he lost it just four weeks after winning it. It was around this time that the 6’10’’ frame of the veteran began to break down on him. He moved slower and appeared to be in pain several times throughout his matches. Undertaker was teamed with Big Show in hopes of taking some of the load off of him and the team proved to be successful in the short run.
The gigantic team defeated Kane and X-Pac at SummerSlam 1999 to win the tag titles, then regained them from The Rock and Mankind on an early episode of Smackdown in a Buried Alive match. Just as it appeared as though the team was gaining momentum, however, Undertaker had no choice but to take a hiatus from the ring, have surgery, and hope to heal his ailing body. When he returned, the Ministry of Darkness Undertaker, the "Dead Man" as we knew him, was gone.
At the 2000 Judgment Day event, Kid Rock’s "American Badass" trumpeted the arrival of a new Undertaker. Now wearing leather trench coats, bandanas, sunglasses, and riding a motorcycle to ringside, Undertaker cleared the ring of D-Generation X and the McMahons, accidentally costing The Rock the WWF Championship to Triple H in the process. The new, more vocal and more human Undertaker would be wrapped up in the Rock-McMahon family saga for the first two months of his return.
Throughout the remainder of the summer of 2000, Undertaker decisively dispatched of Kurt Angle and his brother Kane. In the fall, he remained a fixture in the WWF Championship picture, losing a Fatal Four Way match at Unforgiven to The Rock and a singles contest to Kurt Angle at the Survivor Series. In December, he stepped back inside Hell in a Cell and, despite a memorable moment of choke slamming Rikishi off the top of the cell, once again failed to win the championship.
Wrestlemania X-7, in the Undertaker’s hometown of Houston, Texas, featured a classic brawl between two of the industry’s finest. Triple H had been the best, most complete professional wrestler for over a year by the time April 1, 2001 came around and many wondered if the still-rusty Undertaker could hang with him on the big stage.
For the first time since returning, Undertaker stepped up and performed at the level many expected of him. The match was a brutal, chaotic, bloody brawl that saw the two stars fight through the crowd. At many times, it appeared as though "The Game" would end the unmentioned streak of the "Dead Man" but Undertaker still fought through the sledgehammer strikes and the pain to pick up the victory following a thunderous Last Ride power bomb.
The Undertaker’s role in the Attitude Era will forever be recognized as one of transition. A long-time babyface who the fans cheered despite his dark edge, the Undertaker became a hated villain. He took the near-Satanic character of the Ministry of Darkness and embraced it, going further than his character had ever gone before. It made many uncomfortable as they watched Undertaker speak in tongues while sacrificing an innocent Superstar or Diva. It worked and it only added to the mythology of the Undertaker character.
When he returned in 2000 as the American Badass, it showed the range of Undertaker as a performer. No longer did he play dress-up as a "Creature of the Night." He was a man, a normal motorcycle-riding man who had taken everything he was willing to take and now it was time to show his attitude, to beat people up, and to be unapologetic for it. Straight out of Easy Rider, the Undertaker adapted his character to fit the times and it was an underrated, strategic maneuver that added years to a career many assumed was coming to a close.
4. Triple H
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-December 6, 1997: Defeated Sgt. Slaughter in a Boot Camp Match at the D-Generation X pay-per-view
-December 22, 1997: Defeated Shawn Michaels to win the European Championship on Raw when HBK laid down
-March 17, 1998: Defeated Owen Hart to win the European Championship
-March 29, 1998: Defeated Owen Hart to retain the European title at Wrestlemania XIV
-March 30, 1998: Became the unquestioned leader of the new D-Generation X
-April 26, 1998: Defeated Owen Hart at Unforgiven to retain the European title
-July 26, 1998: Fought to a DRAW in a Best 2-of-3 Falls Match with The Rock at Fully Loaded
-August 30, 1998: Defeated the Rock in an underrated Ladder Match to win the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam.
-March 28, 1999: Lost, via DQ, to Kane at Wrestlemania XV. Later, Triple H and Chyna would turn on DX and join the Corporation, completing a heel turn for the future "Game."
-April 25, 1999: Defeated X-Pac at Backlash
-July 25, 1999: Defeated The Rock in a Number One Contender's Strap Match at Fully Loaded
-August 23, 1999: Defeated Mankind to become WWF Champion for the first time
-September 26, 1999: Defeated British Bulldog, Mankind, Kane, The Rock, and Big Show in a Six Pack Challenge match at Unforgiven to regain the WWF Championship
-October 17, 1999: Defeated Steve Austin in a No Disqualification Match at No Mercy
-November 29, 1999: Interrupted the wedding of Stephanie McMahon and Test and announced that he had secretly married a drugged Stephanie at a drive-thru wedding chappel in Las Vegas
-December 12, 1999: Defeated Vince McMahon in a Street Fight; embraced Stephanie, who had turned on her father.
-Triple H and Stephanie ruled over the WWF through the winter and spring as the "McMahon-Helmsley Era" was in full-swing.
-January 3, 2000: Defeated Big Show to regain the WWF Championship
-January 23, 2000: Defeated Cactus Jack in a Street Fight at Royal Rumble to retain the WWF title
-February 27, 2000: Defeated Cactus Jack in a Hell in a Cell Match to retain the WWF Title
-April 2, 2000: Made history by becoming the first heel to leave Wrestlemania as the WWF Champion, defeating The Rock, Mick Foley, and Big Show in a Fatal Four Way Elimination Match
-May 21, 2000: Defeated The Rock in an Iron Man Match at Judgment Day to regain the WWF Championship
-July 23, 2000: Defeated Chris Jericho in a Last Man Standing Match at Fully Loaded
-September 24, 2000: Defeated Kurt Angle at Unforgiven to put an end to the love triangle that had developed between them and Stephanie McMahon throughout the summer
-October 22, 2000: Pinned Chris Benoit
-Was revealed as the mastermind of the vehicular attack that put Steve Austin out of action from late-1999 until the fall of 2000
-November 19, 2000: Fought to a No Contest with Steve Austin at Survivor Series
-February 25, 2000: Defeated Steve Austin in a "Three Stages of Hell" Match, winning the final two falls and decisively pinning Austin, something no man had done since the "Texas Rattlesnake's" run as champion began in 1998
-April 1, 2001: Battled Undertaker in a brutal brawl but came up short and was added to the long list of Undertaker's Wrestlemania victims.
There was no better, more complete professional wrestler during the Attitude Era than Triple H. That statement may elicit a strong reaction but the truth typically does. A lackey to Shawn Michaels as the highly-successful era began in November of 1997, Triple H slowly worked up the ranks over the course of two years and ultimately achieved his life-long dream of becoming WWF Champion in August of 1999.
Given the proverbial "ball" and the opportunity to stand at the top of the most recognizable company in the sport, Triple H upped his game and had a Ric Flair-esque string of classic matches throughout 2000 and into 2001. No man out-performed Triple H and the work he put in during the Attitude Era served as the emphasis for every major accomplishment he enjoyed the rest of his career.
At Wrestlemania XIV, Shawn Michaels wrestled his last match. The next night on Raw, Triple H wasted no time in restructuring D-Generation X. As the leader of the new version of the controversial faction, which including the returning X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws, Triple H would finally take the starring role he had been denied while working with Michaels.
At the height of the Attitude Era, in the summer of 1998, DX became as popular as any other act in the company. Their merchandise sold nearly as well as Steve Austin’s and it was far from uncommon to see children and teenagers walking the streets, crotch chopping and yelling "suck it" at anyone that would listen. They were highly controversial and they relished in every backstage scolding warning them to tone it down.
During the first run with DX in 1998, Triple H and The Rock had a feud that conceivably could have been the main event in any arena in the world. The D-Generation X/Nation rivalry was among the hottest in wrestling and every week, the two factions would do something that would have the fans talking the next day. The culmination of the feud came in August of 1998 when Triple H defeated The Rock for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. Unfortunately for the leader of DX, an untimely knee injury would sideline Triple H and the title would be vacated.
As 1999 approached, it became more and more evident that the DX faction was losing some steam. Everyone seemed to be going in their own directions and Triple H more than appeared ready to make a run at the top of the card. Wrestlemania XV would signal the end of the DX chapter of Triple H’s career and the beginning of what would be one of the greatest singles careers of all-time.
During the European Championship match at Wrestlemania, Triple H betrayed X-Pac and dropped him with a Pedigree. From there, he would dispatch of his former friend at Backlash and move on to The Rock. The two rekindled their rivalry, with Rock picking up a DQ win at the Over the Edge pay-per-view but Triple H would end the rivalry, for the time being, by winning a Number One Contender’s Strap Match at Fully Loaded. As the summer surged on, it appeared Triple H’s time at the top of the card was rapidly approaching.
Many expected Triple H to win the WWF Championship at SummerSlam 1999. When Mankind left Minnesota as the champion, many wondered whether or not the company and halted any plans to advance Triple H to the top spot in the company. Any questions were answered the following night on Raw, when Triple H pinned Mankind and won his first WWF Championship. As the most hated villain the company, Triple H would feud with Steve Austin and Vince McMahon in September and October, even dropping the gold to McMahon before regaining it at the Unforgiven pay-per-view event. As the winter of 1999 approached, there was no hotter star in the industry than Triple H.
In November, Mr. McMahon cost Triple H the WWF Championship to the Big Show. From there, Triple H made it his personal vendetta to destroy McMahon, to make his life a living hell. He accomplished that by secretly marrying Stephanie McMahon and then turning her against her father. Vince disappeared from WWF television while Triple H and Stephanie ruled the company for the better part of four months.
In January, "The Game" recaptured the WWF title from Big Show and engaged in a personal feud with Cactus Jack. In two career-making performances, Triple H defeated Jack, first in a Street Fight, then in a Hell in a Cell match. The matches did more to make Triple H a legitimate main event attraction than any booking or match prior.
Triple H capped an amazing January-to-April span by becoming the first heel to leave Wrestlemania as the WWF Championship when he won a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match over Mick Foley, Big Show, and The Rock, thanks in part to the returning Vince McMahon.
From the Backlash pay-per-view until the King of the Ring event, Triple H and The Rock engaged in the top program in the company. At Backlash, Rock captured the WWF Championship from Triple H, putting a kink in the plans of the McMahon-Helmsley faction. At Judgment Day, a returning Undertaker inadvertently cost Rock the title and Triple H was once again on top of the world as champion. At King of the Ring, Rock once again won the title. As the summer approached, Triple H and Rock distanced themselves from one another and "The Game" shifted his focus to two young stars who had made names for themselves early in the year.
In July, Triple H and Chris Jericho did battle in a bloody Last Man Standing match that Triple H barely won. Then, throughout the remainder of the summer, Kurt Angle provided the opposition for the Greenwich native. Angle had taken a liking to Stephanie and as a result, Triple H took exception to the Olympic gold medal winner’s blatant lust for his wife.
At SummerSlam, the love triangle that had developed between the two had distracted both Angle and Triple H and The Rock was able to defeat them in a Triple Threat Match to retain his title. The feud would be blown off at Unforgiven when Triple H defeated Angle after Stephanie chose her husband over her friend.
Triple H would spend the remainder of 2000 as the biggest heel in the company and would remains constantly in the WWF Championship picture. As 2001 approached, he continued his run atop the card but had little direction until a Wrestlemania X-7 program with the Undertaker was booked. The two men crafted a classic brawl that saw Triple H nearly end the "Dead Man’s" undefeated streak.
As the Attitude Era came to a close, Triple H partnered with Steve Austin in the Two-Man Power Trip. Ironically, following the conclusion of the Attitude Era, Triple H suffered a serious quadriceps injury and missed nearly a year.
3. Mr. McMahon
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-November 9, 1997: Vince McMahon screws Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship in front of the entire world at Survivor Series. Uses this very real event to turn himself into the wrestling business' biggest on-air heel.
-From March 30, 1998 until the July 1999's Fully Loaded pay-per-view, feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin in one of the most financially successful and critically-acclaimed programs in wrestling history.
-November 15, 1998: Screwed Mankind in the finals of the Survivor Series WWF Championship Tournament, costing him the title and awarding it to his new "Corporate" Champion, The Rock.
-January 24, 1999: Won the Royal Rumble Match, last eliminating Stone Cold Steve Austin
-February 14, 1999: Competed in his first pay-per-view main event, losing a steel cage match to Austin at St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-June 27, 1999: Teamed with Shane McMahon to defeat Steve Austin in a Handicap Ladder Match at King of the Ring, regaining control of the World Wrestling Federation
-September 14, 1999: Defeated Triple H to become WWF Champion
-December 12, 1999: Lost to Triple H in the main event of Armageddon
-April 2, 2000: Turns on The Rock and aids Triple H win retaining the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania 2000
-June 25, 2000: Was pinned by The Rock in a Six-Man Tag Team Match, costing Triple H the WWF Championship
-December 7, 2000: In an on-air storyline, demanded a divorce from his wife Linda
-March 23, 2000: In the real business world, purchased WCW from Ted Turner
-April 1, 2001: Lost a Street Fight to Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania X-7; Later in the evening, shockingly aligned himself with Steve Austin in the main event
It has long been said that every dancer is only as good as his dance partner. Steve Austin was as hugely successful as he was because he had the evil owner character of Mr. McMahon to play off of. For the better part of two years, McMahon spent his time doing whatever he could to try and keep the WWF Championship off the waist of Stone Cold. Sometimes he was successful, sometimes he was not. One thing he always was, however, was entertaining.
The WWF Attitude Era was based almost solely on an anti-authority idea. That idea would not have existed without the evil, billionaire owner Mr. McMahon. He was the corporate type who wanted a certain kind of Superstar to be champion and anyone other than whom he deemed worthy was unacceptable. It was his way or the highway and if you did not like his decision, you were free to walk out the door or have your life turned into a living hell.
Following Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWF Championship victory over Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania, McMahon made it clear that he did not want a foul-mouthed, finger-flipping, beer-chugging Superstar as his company’s champion. He threatened Austin, ordering him to conform to corporate standards or face the consequences.
Austin, as one would imagine, laughed in the face of threats and was forced into competition with some of the company’s best. He was matched against Mick Foley’s Dude Love persona, Kane, and The Undertaker in consecutive weeks. McMahon even formed an evil Corporation faction in hopes of punishing Austin to the point that he has no other choice but to lose the title.
Things appeared to be taking a turn for the better, however, in the spring of 1999. The Undertaker had begun threatening the McMahon family, specifically Stephanie McMahon. For the first time, Vince put his vendetta against Austin on the back burner and showed genuine concern for his daughter and her safety. When Steve Austin saved his daughter from a truly unholy wedding, McMahon even thanked his hated rival.
The hints of a good guy underneath all of the villainous acts that McMahon had perpetrated over the previous years were washed away, however, when it was revealed that he was the high power that was orchestrating the entire Ministry of Darkness. Vince revealed that he had set up the abduction of his daughter, that he had given the orders to have her nearly married to the Undertaker, and that the whole scenario was done to lure Austin into a false sense of security.
The revelation of McMahon as the Greater Power was one of the great missteps during the Attitude Era and it killed momentum that had been gained the entire year before it. Soon, McMahon was banished from television via an Austin victory over the Undertaker at Fully Loaded.
Mr. McMahon returned to WWE television in September of 1999 when he began a feud with the hottest heel in the industry, Triple H. It was during the program that McMahon scored his first, and only, WWF Championship, courtesy of Steve Austin’s attack on "The Game." What appeared, at first, to be a routine evil heel versus slightly less-evil owner storyline quickly evolved into an emotionally-fueled program.
In November, Stephanie McMahon was to marry Test. When it was revealed that she was drugged and married to Triple H at a drive-thru chapel in Las Vegas, the entire nature of the feud between Triple H and Vince McMahon changed. It was personal now and Vince was forced to physically defend his daughter at the Armageddon pay-per-view. If he won, the marriage would be dissolved. In what was one of the better Vince McMahon matches, the owner of the company
count. To make matters worse, it was revealed that Stephanie had aligned herself with Triple H.
Vince would take several months off before returning and siding with his daughter and her husband, claiming that time heals all wounds. The McMahon-Helmsley faction would attempt to make The Rock’s life a living hell but, after a few months of pay-per-view matches, the "Great One" came out on top and McMahon was once again gone from television.
As 2000 came to a close, McMahon reappeared on television and demanded a divorce from his wife, Linda. This sent her into a catatonic state and allowed Vince to have an affair with Trish Stratus. At the same time as the relationship with Trish and the rivalry between his mistress and his daughter, Vince had done a preliminary deal to purchase the remains of WCW from Ted Turner.
Just as McMahon gloated on the March 26 episode of Raw, his son Shane appeared an announced that he had snuck in and bought the company out from under his dad. With all of these storylines whipping around at the same time, it was evident that they would conclude at Wrestlemania X-7.
At the "Showcase of the Immortals," and the event that signaled the end of the highly successful Attitude Era, Shane McMahon defeated his father with the aid of his mother, who rose from her chair and paid Vince back for months of humiliation with a hard kick to the "grapefruits," and Trish Stratus, who had grown tired of being treated as a piece of meat and slapped the WWF’s chairman square in the face.
While it appeared as though McMahon had gotten his comeuppance, Vince had one more shocking surprise in store for the fans. At the conclusion of the Rock-Austin main event, McMahon aided Stone Cold in capturing the WWF Championship. The two shook hands as the show faded to black, leaving the fans in shock and awe of the unholy alliance they had just seen formed. The Attitude Era had come full-circle and the wrestling industry would never be the same again.
2. The Rock
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-December 8, 1997: Won the Intercontinental Championship via forfeit from Steve Austin
-January 18, 1998: Defeated Ken Shamrock via DQ to retain the title at Royal Rumble
-March 29, 1998: Defeated Shamrock via reverse referee decision to retain the title at Wrestlemania XIV
-May 3, 1998: Defeated Faarooq to retain the Intercontinental Championship at Over the Edge
-June 28, 1998: Advanced to the finals of the King of the Ring tournament
-July 26, 1998: Fought to time limit draw with Triple H in a Best 2-of-3 Falls match at Fully Loaded to retain the Intercontinental Championship
-September 27, 1998: Defeated Ken Shamrock and Mankind in a Triple Threat Steel Cage Match at Breakdown
-November 15, 1998: Won the WWF Championship Tournament, defeating Mankind in the finals and joining Mr. McMahon's Corporation
-January 24, 1999: Defeated Mankind in an "I Quit" Match to regain the WWF Championship.
-February 14, 1999: Fought to a Draw with Mankind in a Last Man Standing Match at St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-March 28, 1999: Lost the WWF Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania XV to Steve Austin
-May 23, 1999: Defeated Triple H by disqualification at Over the Edge
-August 22, 1999: Defeated Billy Gunn at SummerSlam
-August 30, 1999: Teamed with Mankind to defeat Undertaker and Big Show for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-September 20, 1999: Defeated Big Show, Mideon, and Viscera to regain the Tag Team titles
-October 17, 1999: Pinned the British Bulldog at No Mercy
-January 23, 2000: Won the Royal Rumble
-January 31, 2000: Handed Kurt Angle his first loss
-April 30, 2000: Defeated Triple H to win the WWF Championship at Backlash
-June 25, 2000: Teamed with Undertaker and Kane to defeat Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Triple H at King of the Ring; The Rock pinned Vince and as a result, won the WWF Championship
-July 23, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit at Fully Loaded to retain
-August 27, 2000: Defeated Kurt Angle and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match to retain at SummerSlam
-September 24, 2000: Defeated Chris Benoit, Kane, and the Undertaker in a Fatal Four Way match at Unforgiven to retain
-November 19, 2000: Defeated Rikishi at the Survivor Series
-February 25, 2000: Defeated Kurt Angle at No Way Out to regain the WWF title
-April 1, 2001: Lost to Steve Austin in the main event at Wrestlemania X-7
Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson is a world-wide, internationally recognizable pop culture icon. A major Hollywood celebrity, he has starred in such motion pictures as The Scorpion King, The Rundown, Walking Tall, The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy, and Fast Five. The Rock exceeded even the loftiest of goals set for him upon his arrival in the World Wrestling Federation and now enjoys fame of the highest level. The foundation for his celebrity was laid during the influential Attitude Era of the late-90’s, early-2000’s World Wrestling Federation.
By the time December of 1997 had rolled around, and The Rock had collected his second Intercontinental Championship, it was evident that there was something about him that made him stand out amongst the other young talent that was being prepped for Superstardom. The Rock had a natural charisma about him that the people took a notice to.
Rocky Maivia may have been a one-note, boring babyface snatched from the Rock and Wrestling era of the sport in the 1980’s but The Rock was hip and cool. He came up with one-liners that made the fans laugh, even if he was supposed to be a hated villain. He moved inside the squared circle with a smoothness and confidence that made his work more believable, as well as more exciting.
Early in 1998, Rock feuded with another newer arrival to the company, Ken Shamrock. Shamrock had dominated competition for the better part of six months and had made a name for himself as the legitimate "World’s Most Dangerous Man," both in mixed martial arts and in the world of professional wrestling.
The rivalry was easy to invest yourself in. Here was a cocky young newcomer in The Rock, a third generation Superstar who often acted as if he were owed something. He was the cocky jock everyone hated but most found hard to dethrone. Shamrock, on the other hand, was a badass, take no prisoners type of athlete who would as soon as loose his temper and attack officials as he would win matches. The fans got behind the program and it ran for the better part of five months.
At the Royal Rumble, a controversial finish saw Shamrock disqualified and The Rock retained his Intercontinental title. At the February pay-per-view event, No Way Out of Texas, Shamrock captained a team that defeated The Rock and the Nation of Domination. Finally, the two matched up in a rematch at Wrestlemania XIV.
With the eyes of the wrestling world on them, Shamrock defeated The Rock by submission to seemingly win the gold. When his temper got the best of him, however, and he refused to release the ankle lock he had on his rival, the referee had no choice but to reverse his decision and return the title to The Rock. Shamrock snapped and attacked several of the referees.
The feud with Shamrock would never be resolved as Shamrock was programmed with Owen Hart next and The Rock moved onto a man that would become a familiar foe over the course of the Attitude Era.
There was no better example of evolution in the sport during the Attitude Era than the rivalry between The Rock and Triple H. The leaders of the two most visible factions through the summer of 1998, they were destined to cross paths sooner or later. Despite the interaction between the Nation and D-Generation X over a four-month period, there are three moments that define their rivalry.
The first is the DX parody of the Nation that is still considered by many to be one of the funniest promos cut in Raw history. The second is the Fully Loaded match, a two-of-three falls match in which Rock defended the Intercontinental Championship against Triple H. The match ended in a 30:00 time limit draw and settled nothing between the two. The third moment was a vastly underrated Ladder Match for the title at SummerSlam. The match was an indication that both men could perform at a main event level and as a result, the fans subtly began cheering The Rock.
A teased babyface turn was quickly erased and, at the Survivor Series, The Rock won his first WWF Championship when he joined Mr. McMahon as the "Corporate Champion." Now the biggest heel in the company, The Rock feuded with Mankind in the early weeks and months of 1999. The most memorable match in their series was the "I Quit" match from the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, which was immortalized in the 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat.
They also did battle in a Last Man Standing match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, an Empty Arena Match on Halftime Heat during the Super Bowl in 1999, and a Ladder Match on Raw that effectively ended the program. The rivalry allowed The Rock to grow into his role as a main event villain and prepared him for a much more important run against Steve Austin heading into Wrestlemania XV.
The Rock’s first Wrestlemania main event came in Philadelphia at Wrestlemania XV when he defended the WWF Championship against Stone Cold Steve Austin. The match was a classic Attitude Era brawl featuring a young main event talent hitting his stride and another at the peak of his stardom. The Rock would not leave the "City of Brotherly Love" with the gold but he would leave with more respect from the WWF audience.
After an unsuccessful rematch with Austin at Backlash, and an increasing fan response to the "People’s Champion," the decision was made to give the fans what they wanted and The Rock was turned for good. Through the summer and fall of 1999, he feuded with the likes of Triple H, Billy Gunn, teamed with Mankind to form the highly successful and entertaining Rock and Sock Connection to feud with the New Age Outlaws, and the Big Show.
As 2000 arrived, The Rock was inarguably the most popular star, and the biggest attraction, the sport of professional wrestling had to offer. He was featured as guest host on Saturday Night Live, was rumored for a number of movie roles, and had his face plastered on mainstream magazine covers. It was clear very early on that the self-proclaimed "Great One" would dominate the industry throughout the year.
He started by winning the Royal Rumble. While Wrestlemania 2000 did not go his way, largely due to Vince McMahon turning on him and aiding Triple H in retaining the WWF title, The Rock would make good at Backlash. One month later, he and Triple H had an Iron Man Match at Judgment Day. The match proved to be a setback for The Rock but one month later, he would end the game of back-and-forth by regaining the title. Rock would enjoy his longest reign as champion, defeating the likes of Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Triple H before losing the gold to Angle.
As 2000 came to a close, it became more and more apparent that Hollywood was calling the Rock’s name. He was slated to star in the Scorpion King and several other projects had prevented themselves.
In February of 2001, Rock recaptured the WWF title by defeating Kurt Angle at No Way Out. He was on a crash course with Steve Austin for Wrestlemania X-7 and despite several encounters in the past, fans anticipated the showdown of two icons of the ring.
The Wrestlemania X-7 main event, pitting Austin against Rock, is the most significant match in the history of the Attitude Era. It featured every single nuance the era had become known for. It was the definitive end to the most exciting period in wrestling history, a period The Rock was an integral part in championing.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Notable Highlights from Online World of Wrestling:
-December 7, 1997: Defeated The Rock at the D-Generation X pay-per-view to retain the Intercontinental Championship
-January 18, 1998: Won the Royal Rumble, lastly eliminating The Rock
-February 15, 1998: Teamed with Owen Hart, Cactus Jack, and Chainsaw Charlie to defeat Triple H, Savio Vega, and the New Age Outlaws in the main event of No Way Out of Texas
-March 29, 1998: Defeated Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV to win the WWF Championship
-April 13, 1998: The segment featuring Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon helps end the 83-week dominance of WCW over the WWF and swings the tide in Vince's company's favor.
-May 3, 1998: Defeated Dude Love to retain the WWF Championship at Over the Limit
-June 29, 1998: Defeated Kane to regain the WWF Championship on Raw
-July 26, 1998: Teamed with the Undertaker to defeat Kane and Mankind at Fully Loaded for the WWF Tag Team Championship
-August 30, 1998: Defeated The Undertaker in the main event of SummerSlam to retain the WWF Championship
-December 13, 1998: Defeated the Undertaker in a Buried Alive match at Rock Bottom
-February 14, 1999: Defeated Vince McMahon in a Steel Cage Match at St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-March 28, 1999: Defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania XV
-April 25, 1999: Defeated The Rock at Backlash to retain
-July 25, 1999: Defeated The Undertaker in a First Blood Match at Fully Loaded to retain the WWF Championship
-A neck injury kept him out of action until September of 2000
-October 22, 2000: Fought Rikishi to a No Contest at No Mercy
-October 30, 2000: Defeated Rikishi in a Steel Cage Match on Raw
-November 19, 2000: Fought to a No Contest with Triple H at Survivor Series
-January 21, 2001: Won the Royal Rumble, lastly eliminating Kane
-April 1, 2001: Defeated The Rock in the main event of Wrestlemania X-7 to win the WWF Championship
Steve Austin epitomized the World Wrestling Federation’s Attitude Era. He was the symbol of anti-authority, in-your-face attitude that defined the era. He spit in the face of authority, flipped middle fingers, chugged beers, and greeted his fans with an often-thunderous "Hell Yeah!" He was the symbol for the common man who was frustrated with his boss and wanted to strike out against the system.
Austin took a struggling, floundering WWF, strapped it on his his back, and took it to places it had never been. With Stone Cold as its main attraction, the World Wrestling Federation achieved its finest financial success and global expansion. Steve Austin was a pop culture icon, appearing on magazine covers, hundreds of different tee shirts, books, video tapes, and various other merchandise items and marketing materials. Kids even wore tee shirts sporting the "Austin 3:16" catchphrase to school. Austin made professional wrestling cool and the business prospered because of it.
The most lasting impression Steve Austin made was his rivalry with Mr. McMahon. Austin was the rebellious Superstar, doing what he wanted, when he wanted regardless of whether or not it complied with the standards the corporate side of the WWF wanted. McMahon was the evil owner, hell-bent on keeping his employees and their actions in line with his expectations.
They had to dress a certain way, speak a certain way, and act in a certain manner. If they failed to do so, they were unfit to hold a championship in his company. The story seems complex but the reason it worked, the reason so many fans associated with it, was that it featured the most simplistic emotions.
From March of 1998 until July of 1999, McMahon did everything he could to make Stone Cold’s life a living hell. He forced him into brutal, hellish matches with the likes of Dude Love, Kane, The Undertaker, and The Rock, all in hopes that one of those men would wrest the WWF Championship from Austin. It worked, temporarily.
At the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view, Austin lost the title in a controversial finish to Kane. The victory for the "Big Red Machine" and his boss, however, was short lived as Austin regained the gold one night later in a moment that proved the old mantra that "anything can happen on Raw." Austin would carry the title, uninterrupted, until the Breakdown pay-per-view, when it took both Kane and Undertaker to defeat him in a Triple Threat Match.
At the Survivor Series, in a tournament to decide a new champion, Austin was caught off guard when Shane McMahon, Vince’s son, turned his back on him and screwed him out of his semifinal match with Mankind. Austin would rebound by defeating the Undertaker at Rock Bottom in a Buried Alive match. Now focused on recapturing his WWF Championship, Austin set his sights on the Royal Rumble match.
Also entering the Rumble, however, was Mr. McMahon. With the idea that preventing Austin from winning the match fresh in his mind, McMahon utilized the Corporation and, later, The Rock to eliminate the "Texas Rattlesnake" and hand the billionaire boss the unlikely victory. Austin recovered less than a month later when he beat, battered, and brutalized McMahon inside a steel cage at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Wrestlemania XV would add to Austin’s legacy. In the main event, at the height of the Attitude Era, Stone Cold dethroned The Rock and picked up his third WWF Championship in a year. Stone Cold was as hot as any professional sports act and was beloved by millions and millions across the globe. It did not seem like the Stone Cold train could or would ever be derailed.
Austin would have another banner year through most of 1999. Still the top act in the top company for wrestling in the world, Austin picked up one more WWF Championship in July, all the while doing battle with the likes of Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Rock, and Triple H. As SummerSlam approached, however, rumors began to swirl regarding a potential injury that Austin was working with.
At SummerSlam, Austin lost the WWF Championship to Mankind in a Triple Threat match, also involving Triple H. Many believed the injury to be involving his knees. When Austin returned to the ring in October at No Mercy, many assumed the injury had healed. However, by the time November rolled around, everyone knew that was no the case.
From November of 1999 until September of 2000, Stone Cold Steve Austin was sidelined with a severe neck injury that threatened his career. When he returned, it was evident that he had lost a step and that he may never be the same full-throttle, high impact type of performer he had been previously. A slow start on his road back saw sub-par performances against Rikishi and Triple H in October and November. In December, he was surrounded by five other main event talents in a Hell in a Cell at Armageddon.
January saw the return of the Steve Austin the fans knew and loved. Finally regaining confidence in the squared circle, Austin won the Royal Rumble match in impressive fashion, eliminating Kane, who had last nearly an hour and tossed a record eleven stars from the match. At February’s No Way Out, Austin blew off a rivalry with Triple H that had lasted for since November. The match, a Three Stages of Hell match, was one of the great matches in a year chocked full of them. Steve Austin was finally back and, some claimed, better than ever.
At Wrestlemania X-7, Steve Austin and The Rock closed out the Attitude Era as only they could. In a match full of emotion, full of excitement, and full of world-class storytelling, Austin and The Rock showcased what made the Attitude Era such a golden time for the sport. As the match wore on, and Austin failed to put the Rock away, he became increasingly frustrated.
Eventually, it was revealed that Stone Cold, the ultimate rebellious anti-hero and anti-authority figure, had sold his soul to Vince McMahon in exchange for the boss’ help in defeating The Rock. The Steve Austin character had come full circle, whether it worked in the long term or not.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is the greatest attraction in the history of professional wrestling. While Hulk Hogan made it the entertainment form it is today and really established it in the 1980’s, Stone Cold picked the weak, barely-breathing sport off the ground and carried it into uncharted territory. The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, and Mick Foley were vital parts of the era, parts that were essential to the growth.
But Steve Austin was the engine. He was the piece that made the machine that was the World Wrestling Federation run. Every man, with the possible exception of the Undertaker, became as big of stars as they did because they worked with Steve Austin. Later, he took stars such as Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, and Chris Benoit and made them household names by association.
The Attitude Era was an era of tremendous evolution in the sport of professional wrestling. Every year, Wrestlemania is held in football stadiums across the country, bringing in tens of thousands of WWE fans to the show. It is because of Steve Austin and the era that he ushered in, the stars that were created in that period of time, and the fans that were made as a result of spectacular story-telling and in-ring performance, that the company and the entire business continues to thrive.