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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Living in the Attitude Era: Intro

The WWE landscape has changed a lot since its heyday. If you're of a certain age, you'll remember a time when watching WWF/E was can't miss and must-see, instead of might watch. Of course, we're talking about the Attitude Era.

Fans like me get a lot of shit because we keep talking about the Attitude Era like it was the greatest thing ever. Here's the thing though - it wasn't...but it felt like it was.

We're talking about a time from the mid-to-late 1990's where two big wrestling companies went toe-to-toe in a ratings battle the like of which we'll never see again. WWF and WCW went at it every Monday with both companies trying to outdo the other. Both companies needed to be at the top of their game and were driven to shake things up because of one thing - competition.

In the 1990s, there wasn't TIVO or DVR's. If you wanted to watch a show, you either had to tune in to the broadcast, or tape it on VHS to watch it later. Yup. VHS. THAT'S how long ago we're talking!
It was also a time when the internet was in its infancy, and there wasn't anywhere near the coverage that wrestling has today. Fans today are spoiled with the number of websites who report on the sport that we love, or loved in my case.

I've been around a bit and written for a lot of sites, but you won't have read a lot from me lately. It's because of one thing - the current WWE (RAW/SmackDown) product.

I can't stand to watch something that's presented as caviar, when the reality is that most of it is horseshit. Of course, there's nuggets of brilliance in there - Daniel Bryan, Paul Heyman, Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar etc, but there's only so many times we can watch HHH being a prick heel or Kane and Big Show turning heel/face every five weeks before it gets stale and repetitive.

That's why the Attitude Era was brilliant. It was unpredictable. You never knew what could happen. Both companies took ACTUAL risks by blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

True's asked me to turn this into a series of articles because he knows it's the only way to get anything positive out of me!

Before we get into the series, which will start properly next week, I just wanted to talk about the things that are sorely missing from Raw and SmackDown these days.

The biggest difference between today's WWE and the Attitude Era for me comes down to one thing, and one thing alone - the lack of depth across the card.

These days, you'd struggle to name 10 top-class acts on WWE TV. But back in the Attitude Era (at one time or another) all of these men - Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, HHH, Kane, Undertaker, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley - could easily have main-evented a PPV.

You could also include Angle and Jericho in the mid-upper card too, along with others like Guerrero, Venis, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, Rikishi, X-Pac.
The tag-team division was the best it's ever been too - Edge & Christian, The Hardys, The Dudleys, APA, The New Age Outlaws, Too Cool were all teams who could interchange and either work the title match, or duke it out to see who got a title shot. There are probably others that I've missed, but you get the point.

Vince McMahon had an embarrassment of riches in his hands back then, whereas now...
All of those guys I've just mentioned were also over. Like crazy. People weren't indifferent to them, like they are with some guys now. Wins and losses meant something and their characters were well defined. Being the champion meant you were the best performer, not just the flavour of the month like it is now. These days you'll get a month, maybe two tops before Vince gets distracted by his new shiny toy - see Fandango, Ryback, Cesaro, Los Matadores, Big E etc.

It's frustrating as hell right now because no matter who you get behind - Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk are just three examples off the top of my head - if WWE don't want you to get there, you won't.

Back in the Attitude Era, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock got over with the fans and Vince went with them because he knew he could make money with them. We WANTED those guys to be champion, or at the top of the card at least. 

Others got there over the years too, like Jericho, Angle, Lesnar, Jeff Hardy and Guerrero. But it didn't really feel like Vince wanted them to be the guy. He never really got behind them the way he did with Austin, Rock and obviously, with his daughter's main squeeze, The Game-Ah.

In today's world, Vince McMahon has become lazy and even more stubborn than he's been in the past. He doesn't have anything to push him - like he did in the Attitude Era.

Vince can kid himself by thinking that WWE can compete with "entertainment" brands. WWE isn't an entertainment brand. It's a wrestling brand. His company is called World WRESTLING Entertainment. It should be a wrestling show that's on TV, not a TV show about wrestling.

At times, it seems like the wrestling actually gets in the way of whatever ridiculous guest host or "musician" (and I use that term VERY loosely) is on shilling their latest project. And because the wrestling is almost presented as an afterthought, that's why people don't really care what happens one way or the other. When they do, WWE decides to fuck us off and patronise us by punishing the guys we like just because they get over without the machine. It's a fucking farce and it's no surprise interest in the product has waned ever since WCW went out of business.

And why did WCW go out of business? Because Vince McMahon took risks. He took chances. Now, he just plays it safe. Those grapefruits he went on about oh-so-much in the Attitude Era have properly shrivelled up haven't they? They're more like orange pips now.

Back to the task at hand then. The Attitude Era will be fondly remembered by wrestling fans of a certain age because it reminds us of a time when we LOVED watching Raw. At that time, WWE only really had 2 hours of network TV to fill and it had to be good because WCW were around, and could take advantage at any given moment (except towards the end). It forced WWE to be good and make sure they did EVERYTHING to force fans to watch their show.
I'm not ashamed to say that I loved the Attitude Era, but I'm not fucking delusional either. 

Some of it was awful. Just awful. I mean Mae Young giving birth to a hand? Seriously. Who in their right fucking mind thought that was funny/entertaining. Oh...

Next time, we'll discuss the events that really kicked off the Attitude Era, including DX, Stone Cold and the creation of the Mr McMahon character, borne out of circumstance but who can arguably be considered amongst the greatest pro-wrestling antagonists of all-time.

Keep your eyes here and support True and the team.

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