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Sunday, June 14, 2015

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Life In The Attitude Era Vol. 3: DX, NWO, Austin, Rock and HHH

By @GTAPeel

When we left off last time, we'd just spoken about how Vince McMahon had the balls to "screw" Bret Hart and how that decision paid off in the long-run.

This time around, let's focus on the two biggest factions of the Attitude Era - WCW's nWo and the WWF's D-Generation-X.

I'd never really thought about it until today, but basically the Kliq ran both shows.

Hall and Nash had gone over to WCW in 1996 after the now-infamous "Curtain Call" incident at MSG, where Hall, Nash, HBK and HHH broke kayfabe and hugged it out in the ring after their last match.

HBK and HHH stayed with WWF, but because HBK was the WWF Champ, they couldn't punish him, so HHH ended up in the doghouse. Times have changed huh?

The nWo had an immense impact on pro-wrestling. The gritty promos, the blurred lines between fiction and reality, and the fact they managed to do what no one else had until that time - turn Hulk Hogan heel brrrotherrr.

It was a stunning moment. One of the most memorable in the history of the business.

Since becoming WWF's biggest star, Hogan was all about eating your vitamins and saying your prayers. He'd never turned heel or been a bad guy since becoming a star.

That's why his turn at 1996's Bash at the Beach was so shocking. Nobody saw it coming. Hogan, the uber-babyface, sided with the Outsiders and ended up virtually ruling WCW.

The nWo took over and changed the face of wrestling as we knew it. Even though wrestling is a work, you didn't know what was real and what wasn't.

The nWo were essentially their own brand and marketed separately to the rest of WCW. A guerrilla-style group that took no prisoners and asked questions later. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, however they wanted to do it and it made for GREAT TV.

The ratings went through the roof and WCW firmly established itself as the number 1 wrestling company on TV.

However, don't be fooled into thinking that the nWo was the be-all, end-all.

In it's original form, it was. Three members - Hall, Nash and Hogan - made for a strong unit and that's when it was at its most effective. As time went on, more and more people joined to the point where fucking Virgil(yes, Virgil....) was a member of the nWo. That's when you knew it was time for the nWo to just give up.

Instead, there was the red and black nWo, the original nWo and everything in between. It ended up being a total and utter clusterfuck, to the point where it almost could have affected the group's legacy.

Their original run with Hall, Nash and Hogan was nWo at its best, and for those couple of years, they were untouchable. Arguably the best run a faction had had since the Four Horsemen.

Then you flip it over to WWF and D-Generation-X. Don't quote me on this, but it was around summer 1997 when DX came to be.

If you believe what they tell you, Shawn and Hunter went to Vince and told him that things needed to change if the WWF was to survive.

Thanks to the nWo and the emergence of Goldberg, WCW was killing the WWF in the ratings and in virtually every other aspect of the business. WWF was struggling. Badly. Yes, Stone Cold had emerged as the great hope of the company, but otherwise, the WWF was in bad shape.

Enter D-Generation-X. Think nWo, but with a heavy reliance on dick and fart jokes.

HBK and HHH, along with Chyna, ran roughshod over the WWF. They stuck 2 fingers up to the man at every opportunity. Michaels was the WWF Champion and HHH was (I think) European Champion at the time. They had stroke and much like the nWo, they did whatever the hell they wanted.

The original DX had a much shorter shelf-life than the nWo. About 6-8 months as far as I remember. It came to an end when Michaels suffered a back injury and ended up virtually retiring between 1998 and 2002.

We were then treated to DX 2.0. They'd had some success and were gaining traction, so with Michaels gone, clearly the WWF wanted to keep DX going. That's when a returning 1-2-3 Kid (X-Pac) came back and was added to the group, swiftly followed by Road Dogg and Billy Gunn (the New Age Outlaws).

You could argue that DX 2.0 had an even better run than the original DX. With them on the rise, ruling the upper midcard and Austin ruling the main-event scene, WWF finally overcame WCW for the first time in over 80 weeks and stayed on top for the majority of the rest of the Attitude Era.

When you look at it objectively, both factions had a huge impact on their respective companies and their runs lasted for almost the same amount of time, but which has the longer lasting legacy?

It's really up to you to decide that, but for me, there wouldn't have been a DX without the nWo, so I'd have to say nWo's legacy means more.

It wasn't just factions that made the Attitude Era though. Young stars broke through to become icons.

I'm specifically talking about Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and HHH here.

Rock and Austin's stars rose at the same time and they battled their way through the midcard to the main event, headling countless PPV's against each other for the Intercontinental and WWF Championships, as well as headlining three WrestleMania's together.

Austin was the man of the people and initially, Rock was the company's choice.

Austin wasn't fancy. There were no airs and graces. Just a fuckload of intensity, four-letter words, bad language, flipping the bird and drinking a LOT of beer.

Rock was more subdued, corporate. No beer drinking. Just a condescending, disingenuous, smarmy, cocky son-of-a-bitch who knew how good he was, and he wasn't afraid to tell you about it either!

There have been very few rivalries which have had as much intensity, passion and chemistry as Rock and Austin had. This hype video was when it was at its peak - the WM17 pre-match video.

You can't call yourself a wrestling fan if you don't get goosebumps watching that video. I get the same feeling from it as I did when I first saw it over 14 years ago.

It's a simple equation really: Rock + Austin = Magic + $$$.

Two extremely talented guys who were in the right place, at the right time, and without whom the WWE might not exist today. They could do anything and WWF were lucky that they could count on two guys like that. It's not often you get one of those guys in a generation, never mind two. It may be the greatest rivalry of all-time. Not many rivalries come close to it.

Then we come to HHH. A man who we talked about earlier. A man who was in the doghouse in 1996 cos basically, he was the only one Vince could punish for the Curtain Call incident.

He was supposed to win the 1996 King of the Ring, but he got buried instead, and Austin won it in his place. In the long run though, it didn't do HHH any harm.

He still ended up kicking around with Michaels until he had to leave for a few years, and then he was given his own faction - DX 2.0.

HHH's DX came up against Rock's Nation of Domination in 1998-99 and those guys also had some great matches together. Their chemistry was good, but not as great as Rock had with Austin, and certainly not good enough to warrant another installment (mixed-tag or otherwise at WrestleMania 32).

The thing that gets me about HHH is would he have gotten to where he is without shacking up with the boss's daughter?

Sure, he'd have had a few WWF title reigns, but 13? I doubt it. Or have the backstage power to virtually bury everyone except Cena, Orton and Batista in the last 15 years? Probably not. But it is what it is. Nepotism sickens me.

There's probably a little bit of HHH that's bitter about the fact that he's not held in as high regard by wrestling fans as Rock and Austin are. It comes across like he's pissed that those guys have had successful careers since leaving the company, whereas he's still in the "wrasslin" business.

Try as he might, he's just never been as big a star as Rock and/or Austin and that must KILL him. But...it shouldn't. He's primed to take over the company when Vinnie Mac can't do it anymore, and he's got his own version of the WWE down in Florida, NXT, which fans LOVE.

Some people are cut out to become mainstream stars, and some aren't. HHH falls into the latter category, but that's OK. Judging by how successful NXT has become, it looks as though he's the best man to take control of the company in a few years time.

Despite your opinions and whether you like it or not, Rock, Austin and HHH were three young stars who came up at (roughly) the same time and all became icons in one way or another.

They will be remembered among the greatest of all-time. We were just lucky that they're all from our generation.

Attitude Era fans were fortunate that we got treated to great TV, like the stuff both nWo and DX produced, as well as to see stars like Rock, Austin and HHH rise to the top.

They didn't get there on their own though and without some fairly significant players, they may not have stayed there either.

That's where we'll pick things up next time. Keep supporting the team and keep your eyes on the ring.



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