The Attitude Era, that boom period in WWE that took weekly TV ratings to new heights and spawned many wrestling mega-stars that will never be replaced. Yet for every Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, there was an old lady giving birth to a hand or a convoluted Brawl For All shoot tournament.
Having recently gone back and re-watched the the entire Monday Night Wars, I’ve compiled a list of gimmicks and concepts that many people have probably forgotten, but exemplified this experimental time period of wackiness and car crash TV.
One thing I’ve noticed about the Attitude Era was that it portrayed what might be described as a youth movement. Nearly everybody on the roster was young, new to the company, or had at least been given a new gimmick never seen before. DX exemplified this new generation with their over the top rebellious actions.
It was a throwing out of the rulebook that pro wrestling had previously adhered to, and it drew a young male audience who had never been fans previously.
This was of course incredibly successful, but several veterans were treated quite badly along the way. Vader for example lost all direction and ended up being scripted to call himself “a fat piece of sh*t” after a losing streak.
Dr. Death Steve Williams was pressured in to entering the infamous Brawl For All shoot tournament and got injured, which ruined his bad ass persona. Then there was LOD 2000, a supposed revamp of the Road Warriors with new member Droz/Puke and Sunny as as valet in the beginning.
After returning with great momentum a storyline developed where Hawk suffered from alcoholism and would show up to matches drunk and cost the group victories. This peaked with a controversial angle where Droz pushed an emotionally fragile Hawk off the Titan-Tron.
Along the way Hawk and Animal would do the job to the rising New Age Outlaws (who put hem though the announce table) and all in all they looked like complete losers.
While there’s no problem with putting over younger talent, the Road Warriors and the likes of Vader were already tailor made for the Attitude Era. LOD had always been no nonsense bad-asses and were the APA before the APA. Vader was just the right amount of crazy with just the right amount of history to remain an important element. Instead he became fodder.
What do we do with a life long wrestling star hot off the heels of helping to put ECW on the map? Put tights on his head, give him a fake chainsaw, and call him Charlie. This crazy horror film looking dude was of course Terry Funk, somebody who did not need a name change to let people know he’s a complete nut job.
However being the great talent that he is, Funk made the gimmick thoroughly entertaining. His hardcore brawling with Cactus Jack in the Royal Rumble 1998 match is one of my fondest childhood wrestling memories. But I just can’t get my head around why this ever happened.
Thankfully it didn’t last long and he soon went back to plain old Terry Funk. He and Foley then essentially made the Outlaws by putting them over in the famous cage and dumpster matches.
The Kennel From Hell match took place at Unforgiven 1999 and was the culmination of a storyline between the Big Boss Man and Al Snow. The Cobb County corrections officer had stolen Snow’s pet chihuahua Pepper, cooked it and secretly fed it back to him!
I suppose it looked ok on paper considering what other crazy things were going on at the time – We’re going to have a Hell In A Cell, and then a traditional cage secured to the ring. In-between, rabid dogs will be running around ready to attack the wrestlers. Of course in execution it was ridiculous. Far from being rabid, the dogs had handlers and were totally uninterested.
Poor Boss Man will be forever remembered as the man that had the two worst Hell In A Cell matches in history. This and his other stinker with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 15, when he was hung from the cell ceiling.
Meat? You know … as in penis!
Before Shawn Stasiak went on to do a whole lot of nothing in WCW, he was known as Meat in the WWF, the man slave of female faction Pretty Mean Sisters (PMS) lolz.
The group consisted of disgruntled ho bags Terri (I’m pregnant, not really) Runnels, Jacqueline (whoops my boobs are out again) Moore, and Ryan (lets make porn with Val Venis) Shamrock.
I’m sure he enjoyed it at the time, but was it really the best way to utilize a second generation talent?
Stasiak would return to WWE during the invasion angle and had a modest run on the lower card.
Bluedust was ECW star Blue Meanie’s shot at the big time when he was called up in 1998.
After being part of Al Snow’s aptly named Job Squad group, he began imitating the old Goldust gimmick, but in blue. This led to a feud between the pair, but ultimately Bluedust became Goldust’s sidekick. The original Goldust was creepy, but things reached another level when Bluedust started calling him mommy!
It wasn’t so much the Tiger Ali Singh character that was particularly bad, it’s not like the promotion didn’t have a long track record of using racial stereotypes, but his pairing with D’Lo Brown and Chaz (Mosh of the Headbangers) in 2000 was a massive head scratcher.
Brown had an incredible in-ring style and was the second most charismatic member of the Nation, behind the Rock. D’Lo also had one of the most memorable European title runs in WWE history. He went from being an almost break out star to wearing Aladdin attire and being barred from the arena in storyline, because nobody knew who he was.
Some say it was punishment for a botch that paralysed Droz, but Droz never blamed D’Lo, so why would the company?
Speaking of Mosh of the Headbangers, remember when he became Beaver Cleavage – a naughty schoolboy character that seemed to enjoy the cleavage of his mom, or teacher or whoever the hell she was?
The storyline was dropped in a matter of weeks and then he became a girlfriend beater.
Not only was the Beaver Cleavage completely absurd, but when he began beating Marianna, it was acknowledged on air that his previous gimmick was just a character, breaking kayfabe.
What’s better than a former Godwin pig farmer who was brainwashed by the Undertaker? A Naked version!
In 2000 Naked Mideon would run out during matches wearing just a Fanny Pack and thong, but other than a match with William Regal the gimmick went nowhere.
His contribution will never be forgotten, as he trail-blazed the way for such greats as Big Dick Johnson.
The Truth Commission were an early part of the Attitude Era in 1997 when the company began to develop more adult characters such as Goldust, Mankind and Steve Austin. The militant cult was eventually lead by The Jackyl, who the announcers would compare to David Koresh of the Branch Davidian religious sect. That was the group whose Waco, Texas ranch was controversially burned to the ground by the ATF and FBI in 1993.
Though the faction had potential, its lumbering members Kurrgan and Recon (Bull Buchanan) made for pretty boring matches. Tank left almost immediately, and Sniper left with Buchanan only a few months in.
The star of the group was its leader The Jackyl, who was allegedly being primed to be the “Higher Power”, but when Vince took the role and decided to create the Corporate Ministry, The Jackyl (Cyrus) would be relegated to ECW and Kurrgan became a member of the Oddities.
Remember John Tenta under a mask carrying a Cartman doll dancing to the Insane Clown Posse?
If you are accustomed to the snotty English William Regal Commissioner Character, seeing him come to the ring in a workman’s hard hat is completely bizarre. But for a brief time in 1998 Regal was known as “The Real Man’s Man” and would be seen in vignettes chopping wood and doing … well … manly things.
Due to drug issues he was released and quickly jumped back to WCW for a year, before returning as the character we all know and love.
Do you remember any other weird and wacky gimmicks from the Attitude Era that often get overlooked? Let me know below!