With the amount of time pro wrestling fans spend talking about the Attitude Era, it might feel like that extremely popular time period happened far more recently than it actually did. Most insiders consider 1997-2002 as the Attitude Era’s peak, and even if a few buffer years are thrown in, this means it ended well over 15 years ago. Of course, this also means it started some two decades ago, and with that sort of time having past, its no surprise plenty of that period’s greatest performers have since left WWE or outright retired.
For as popular as the Attitude Era was, there are plenty of wrestling traditionalists who feel it was one of the weaker times to be a fan in terms of in-ring action. Because of this dichotomy, many Attitude Era performers have tenuous places in history, having been extremely popular in their day, yet less respected in hindsight.
As already established, the era was certainly long ago enough that plenty of wrestlers who reached their peak in that timeframe are now in the WWE Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. However, the specifics of which Attitude Era performers made the bill may surprise those who don’t understand the full story. Find out how much you know by answering our simple question—true or false? These Attitude Era wrestlers in the WWE Hall of Fame (as of 2017).
As the only Olympic Gold Medalist in WWE history, it seemed like Kurt Angle would be a lock for the Hall of Fame from his debut in late 1999. Arriving smack dab in the middle of the Attitude Era, though, Angle’s happy-go-lucky All-American charm wasn’t particularly endearing to the WWE Universe at large. Of course, it was his superstar reaction to getting booed that solidified Angle as something special, and time would go on to prove he was a consummate performer able to play both heel and face characters to perfection.
Big Boss Man
Starting in the WWE Universe way back in the mid 1980s, The Big Boss Man survived a number of major eras in wrestling history. Not only did he outlast Hulkamania, but Boss Man also experienced some nice success in the New Generation, and he kept the momentum going straight through to the Attitude Era. In fact, it could be argued the late ‘90s were Boss Man’s peak as a performer, evidenced by the number of titles he won, including one instance where he held the Hardcore and Tag Team Championships concurrently.
When Eric Bischoff entered the wrestling business, chances are he never saw himself as a person who would change the business. In the mid 1980s, Bischoff was a sales executive for Verne Gagne’s AWA when he was suddenly thrown on TV because he looked good in a suit. Not ten years later, Bischoff was changing the wrestling industry forever as the Executive Vice President of WCW during the Monday Night Wars. During this time, he brought Monday Nitro to incredible heights, his peak accomplishment being when WCW defeated WWE in the ratings for over 80 weeks in a row.
Detractors argued Mick Foley had a face that only a mother could love, and yet that hasn’t stopped dozens and dozens of fans from chanting his name. Of all Foley’s characters, Mankind was definitely the most successful of the Attitude Era, winning the WWE Championship on three occasions. Granted, neither Cactus Jack nor Dude Love were exactly slouches either, as both have Tag Team Championships reigns to their names, as well. Regardless of what they called him, Mick Foley innovated hardcore wrestling and delivered the best promos in the business with incredible consistency.
The Big Show
Entering wrestling just as the Attitude Era began, in some respects The Big Show serves as the missing link to the hulking giants of yesteryear. Were Paul Wight alive a few decades earlier, he easily could have been one of the giants attempting to destroy Hulkamania, and before that, Bruno Sammartino would have viewed him as quite the challenge. It was timing that made Big Show a regular rival of men like The Undertaker and Kane instead, and through his talent, he was able to keep old tropes alive for years to come.
Upon his debut, the professional wrestling industry had never seen a man anything like Goldust, and to this day, it could be argued it still hasn’t. More than earning his reputation as the Bizarre One, Goldust painted himself his namesake color and played strangely sexualized mind games on his opponents. These practices turned Goldust into a hated villain while also bringing him continued success in the ring, including three runs with the Intercontinental Championship. Impressively, Goldust has remained one of the most enduring characters of the Attitude Era, remaining in WWE to this day.
Quite frankly, a middle aged slightly portly man wearing glasses and a cowboy hat is probably the last thing that comes to mind when people hear the word “attitude.” Wrestling often defies expectations, though, and that’s how Good Old J.R.’s voice came to define the time period, regardless of how dichotomous his look was with the chaos surrounding him. Of course, the catch is that few people have ever been as knowledgeable about sports entertainment as Ross remains to this day, making him the best suited person for the job of WWE’s lead announcer.
While there are probably some younger WWE fans who only know Ron Simmons for one word, WCW diehards have a lot more to remember. In 1992, Simmons broke racial barriers as the first black WCW World Champion, defeating Big Van Vader and holding on to the belt for an impressive five months. For whatever reason, WWE decided to change Ron’s name to Faarooq and team him up with Bradshaw, leading to continued success in the tag division including a nice amount of gold. In hindsight, maybe Ron Simmons career can be summed up with one word, after all…DAMN!
Most definitely not a nugget in any regard, “The Rocket” Owen Hart may well have been the most talented member of the highly respected Hart dynasty. Though he never achieved quite the same heights as his older brother Bret, Owen was nonetheless a huge star in his own right, wrestling countless classics throughout his far too short career. Owen may never have been World Champion, but he was a multiple time Intercontinental, European, and Tag Team Champion, not to mention the winner of a couple prestigious Slammy’s.
From the mid 1970s onward, Ric Flair has claimed to be a limousine riding, Learjet flying, kiss stealing wheeling and dealing son of a gun who just so happened to be the greatest wrestler in the world. While this argument may have relaxed a bit now that the Nature Boy is retired, he was still going strong in the Attitude Era, adding a number of WCW World Championships to his already impressive collection. Adapting to the times, Flair threw in a crazy old man edge with his legendary persona, although whether or not this was intentional is up for debate.
Davey Boy Smith
Having traveled across the pond to reach WWE in the first place, Davey Boy Smith was more than prepared for the journeys he would take jumping back and forth from Vince McMahon’s empire and WCW throughout the Attitude Era. This practice had already began in the New Generation, when Smith spent all of a few months in WCW before returning to WWE, kick starting what would transition into his lengthier Attitude Era run. In a testament to his talent, this flip flopping never hurt Smith’s championship prospects, nor his status as a main event talent in both companies.
Ass men around the world unite behind the voice of your people, Mr. Ass himself, Billy Gunn. Prior to the Attitude Era, the future backside worshipper was more of a cowboy, teaming up with his brother Bart as The Smoking Gunns. Injected with Attitude and aided by a new partner in The Road Dogg, Gunn suddenly found a fondness for posteriors, and basically based his whole persona around that interest. Amazingly, it lead to some success, including a number of Tag Team titles and even a Intercontinental Championship reign.
When the fans of WCW dared show the audacity to boo Hulk Hogan, there was nothing left for him to do except destroy his very creation in Hulkamania. Built from the ashes of this stardom was a newer, meaner persona, evil and vindictive, both powerful and a coward, and most importantly, covered in black to make sure everyone understood where the battle lines were being drawn. Hollywood Hogan was nWo 4 life, brother, and it allowed an aging superstar brand new life in the Attitude Era, when he would once again flourish.
In a matter of five years, Trish Stratus went from a manager no fan expected to get in the ring, to an unlikely champion, to arguably the best female wrestler in WWE history. Anyone who said they saw this career trajectory coming is either a prophet or a liar, as Stratus barely knew how to wrestle until her second full year in the industry. Despite this slow start, a record-setting seven Women’s Championships would prove her status as one of the all time best in her field.
Once upon a time, it felt as though Chris Benoit were a lock for any wrestling Hall of Fame past or present. To this day, few could deny Benoit was technically gifted like few others, able to make even the most pedestrian competition look intense with his mastery of sports entertainment. Benoit used these skills to become a World, Intercontinental, United States, and Tag Team Champion, only to throw it all away through the tragic circumstances that ended his and his family’s lives.
With futures so hot they had to cover themselves in flames, Harlem Heat were one of the most successful tag teams in WCW throughout the Attitude Era. By the time that company closed it’s doors, Booker T and Stevie Ray won their Tag Team Championships a record ten times, and when the team was over Booker set his sights on solo gold. Soon, he was a five time, five time, five time, five time, five time WCW Champion, and plenty of titles followed in the WWE Universe from there.
The Attitude Era was hardly known for it’s subtlety, and thus it was barely even out of place when WWE and ECW both encouraged their fans to chant “We Want Head.” Of course, they were doing so in support of Al Snow and his beloved mannequin’s Head, which the deranged wrestler carried with him to his matches. Given the time period, it was just crazy enough to work, and Snow fast became one of the defining performers in the nascent hardcore division. Later on, he also briefly held the WWE Tag Team Championships with his real life friend Mick Foley.
Putting his brief days as a gangsta behind him, D’Lo Brown debuted in the WWE Universe as a silent partner in the Nation of Domination. As that group began to flourish, Brown too slowly came out of his shell on his own, and before long he was the first EuroContinental Champion in WWE history. Things kind of went downhill for D’Lo as the Attitude Era died down, though he never stopped giving it his all in the ring. Later on in his career, D’Lo gained acclaim as the lead agent for Total Nonstop Action.
Lying, cheating, and stealing his way straight to the top, Eddie Guerrero was one of the least likely heroes in pro wrestling history. Of course, that’s until one recognizes his incredible charisma, not to mention second-to-none technical skills that would have made him a major star in any time period. During the Attitude Era in particular, Eddie’s talents had yet to really be noticed proper, but this didn’t stop him from wrestling incredible matches in both WCW and WWE, winning plenty of midcard gold along the way.
Wearing a dead expression and standing in a crucifix pose, Raven was perfectly suited to become the voice of the generation for the disenfranchised wrestling fans of the 1990s. Despite getting introduced to the world as Scotty Flamingo and Johnny Polo, a reinvention as the dark and brooding Raven fast made Scott Levy a star in ECW, and he nearly transitioned that fame to a high ranking role in WCW. Politics got in the way, and the same thing happened in WWE, though the man from the Bowery’s fans never stopped asking: what about him? What about Raven?
Plunging into the WWE Universe from Pearl River, Mississippi (or so fans were told), Ahmed Johnson was far more popular than modern day WWE fans are likely to realize. In less than a year, Johnson went from a complete unknown to a superstar worthy of main eventing Pay-Per-Views, teaming with the likes of Shawn Michaels and Sid Vicious ( who for that matter was subbing for The Ultimate Warrior). Truly a historic performer, Johnson was the first black WWE Intercontinental Champion, although his prospects quickly plummeted after he lost the title.
With bright red hair and pants barely pulled above her hips, Lita was arguably the first female wrestler in WWE to adapt an alternative look from the usual supermodel divas Vince McMahon had been presenting. That she was able to fly around the ring like her male counterparts only sweetened the pot, making Lita an immensely popular superstar ready to win four Women’s Championships. Lita also achieved great success as a manager, standing behind the Hardy Boyz and then Edge as they all rose to the top together.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Oh, hell yeah! Anyone who isn’t familiar with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin obviously wasn’t a WWE fan during the Attitude Era, as the Texas Rattlesnake was without a doubt the face of the company at the time. Austin was almost definitely the most popular superstar ever to work for Vince McMahon, teaching the WWE Universe not to trust anyone and to open a can of whoop ass on whoever dared stand against them. The anti-hero persona made Austin a WWE Champion six times over, also providing him plenty of gold in addition to his prized Smoking Skull belt.
Initially meant to be no more than Marc Mero’s wife and therefore arm candy, Sable soon eclipsed her real life husband’s fame to such an extent fans almost forgot the Wildman even existed. By the time Sable ditched Mero onscreen, she was popular enough to win the WWE Women’s Championship despite having almost no training to actually wrestle, leading to some strange matches for that title. Strange or not, Sable’s popularity remained through the roof, with her boast that men wanted her and women wanted to be her ringing true for millions of WWE fans.
From hell fire and brimstone (and with a short stop at dental school along the way), Kane has been the most imposing demon in the WWE Universe for nearly two decades. Getting introduced as the relative of another wrestler doesn’t always work out well, but if that sibling happens to be a legend in his own right, they might still have a chance. The younger brother to The Undertaker, Kane was certainly in the right position for greatness himself, and he lived up to that potential many times over by winning countless championships throughout his career.
In retrospect, it’s almost silly how simple it was for a superstar to became a massive success during the Attitude Era. Take for example the story of former Tag Team Champion Headshrinker Fatu, who dyed his hair blonde, put on sunglasses, and suddenly turned into one of the most popular wrestlers of his day. Between the two gimmicks, Rikishi also spent time as The Sultan, which could have been a career killer had he not remembered the winning formula that is blondes have more fun.
Totally reeking of awesomeness from the very beginning, Edge went from a tag team comedy character to one of the most fully realized villains in recent company history. Of course, that comedy character was pretty hilarious, so it’s not like his turn as the Rated R Superstar came out of nowhere. Quite frankly, Edge excelled no matter what role WWE through at him, wrestling countless classic matches and participating in a number of legendary feuds. The only thing that could stop Edge’s momentum was a serious injury, which he unfortunately suffered while still World Champion.
Crazy like a fox, Sid Vicious might have been a Psycho, but this didn’t stop him from winning both the WWE and WCW Championships on multiple occasions. That these accomplishments occurred during the Attitude Era makes perfect sense, with the chaos surrounding him presenting the perfect formula for a madman on top. Always unstable and never reliable, Sid’s runs as champion never lasted long, and he was as ripe for embarrassing moments as memorable ones, although his strange charisma has on occasion blended the two ideas into one and the same.
From his early days teaming with brother Rick to going solo and slowly turning into a self-parody, Scott Steiner has always had a way of standing out in an ever changing environment. At first, it was Steiner’s innovative, flashy, hard-hitting move set that made him a star. Later on, his look alone was powerfully attention grabbing, and not necessarily in a good way. Whether he looked natural or not, Steiner used his enhanced look to win the WCW World Championship and then keep his momentum going with top roles in both WWE and Total Nonstop Action.
Possessing an unnatural charisma and with the ego to match it, Shawn Michaels was a Hall of Fame level talent in his own mind way before Vince McMahon did or didn’t recognize him as such with a proper induction. The Heart Break Kid wanted to be a star from day one, and he proved it night after night by having the best match on the card, stealing the show again and again. Rapidly ascending up the card through sheer force of will, Michaels went from an almost forgotten tag team performer to one of the greatest WWE Champions in history.
Dubious status as a “Vigilante” notwithstanding, back in the Attitude Era, Sting had a far more important nickname—the franchise player of WCW. In a time when everyone jumped to WWE for at least a short run, Sting always remained loyal to Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff, and he was rewarded with an incredible number of WCW Championships. Sting also wrestled some of the best matches in company history either to win or defend the gold, earning his reputation through skill in addition to longevity.
Spanning nearly one year and a half and (ahem) 173 consecutive matches, Goldberg’s undefeated streak in WCW remains perhaps the most impressive record in pro wrestling history. From top to bottom, Goldberg absolutely decimated the WCW roster, winning over tens of thousands of fans in record time and becoming the biggest homegrown sensation that company would ever see. After the Attitude Era, his success diminished greatly, though he would ultimately win fans back and prove his longevity with a run as WWE Universal Champion in 2017.
So big his initial Japanese bosses named him after a van, Vader was unlike any other athlete the wrestling world had ever seen. Weighing well over 400 pounds yet able to fly off the ropes with unmatched agility, the Mastodon was a force to be reckoned with during his early days in the Land of the Rising Sun, and the dominance only intensified when he jumped to WCW. Things weren’t quite as special after the next move to WWE during the Attitude Era, though a force of nature like Vader could never truly be stopped.
When told she fans to treat her for who and what she was didn’t do the trick, Chyna turned it into a demand by breaking gender barriers like no female wrestler has before or since. Chyna’s biggest accomplish was becoming the first and only woman to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship, and on top of that, she achieved plenty of other firsts for females, from entering the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring to being named number one contender to the WWE Championship.
Being a Bad Guy never looked quite as cool as when Razor Ramon took up the mantle in the WWE Universe. While Ramon somehow never became WWE Champion, he did compete in several of the company’s greatest matches, winning the Intercontinental Championship a number of times along the way. After oozing machismo all over the WWE Universe, Ramon jumped ship to WCW and introduced the New World Order to WCW Monday Nitro, becoming a legend in both promotions and changing the industry forever all at once.
Long before Brock Lesnar used his UFC legitimacy to inspire fear in the hearts of his fellow WWE superstars, Ken Shamrock took a very similar path. Heralded as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Shamrock had already been crowned the UFC Super Fight Championship before ever stepping foot into a wrestling ring, making him a force to be reckoned with upon arrival. Unstable and ready to snap at any moment, Shamrock occasionally seemed unable to control his own actions, yet he kept it together well enough to simultaneously hold the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships.
Jerry "The King" Lawler
During the 1970s all the way up to the New Generation, the self-proclaimed “King of Professional Wrestling” Jerry Lawler was also one of the most respected superstars around. Lawler won literally hundreds of World Championships, at least by his count, and including the USWA, a company he had control over. By the time the Attitude Era had began, The King had mostly retired to scream about puppies from the announce booth, though he would still occasionally step into the ring when a younger superstar challenged him to do so.
Be careful, fellas—Sunny knows you want her, and she’s going to use that to her advantage. Well, modern day WWE performers might not need to worry about that anymore, but back in the Attitude Era, Sunny was turning heads wherever she went. From WWE to ECW to WCW, every guy was after her, though it was usually Chris Candido she went home with at night. In addition to all the wrestlers pining after Sunny, as did the majority of male wrestling fans, and to this day many female wrestlers mimic her charm hoping to earn the same affection.
On paper, merely being one of the few men to join both D-Generation X and the New World Order might be all it takes to bring X-Pac to the WWE Hall of Fame. Before joining either group, he was already well on his way through his innovative work as The 1-2-3 Kid during the New Generation, and the added edge adopted when changing his name made him a natural fit for the Attitude Era, as well. X-Pac may have been a little too small to win the WWE Championship, yet he was definitely a key player in his day.
Hello, ladies! The Attitude Era was known for some particularly risqué and questionable gimmicks, and a blatantly sexual character like Val Venis probably wouldn’t work in any other time period. Entering the ring wearing a towel and making provocative comments before every match, WWE was open about the fact Venis apparently moonlit as an adult film star in his spare time. Prior occupation notwithstanding, Venis was a pretty great wrestler, managing to win the Intercontinental, European, and Tag Team Champions, along with plenty of women’s hearts.
When neither The Great and Powerful Oz nor Vinnie Vegas managed to set the world on fire, Kevin Nash ran to the greener pastures of the WWE Universe and was given a second chance as Diesel. In fact, second change fails to cover it, as Diesel was soon crowned the leader of the New Generation, reigning as WWE Champion for a full year. On the downside, this was one of the worst years in company history, both in terms of quality, ratings, and attendance rates, making the honor somewhat dubious. Luckily for Nash, he reinvented himself as an nWo leader.
Believe it or not, there was a point in time when Jeff Jarrett had held the WWE Intercontinental Championship more times than any other superstar. Though this time has since past, such an accomplishment was clearly significant, and Jarrett achieved the honor at the peak of the Attitude Era. It was how his seventh and final reign ended that starts to complicate things, however, as he returned to WCW Nitro the night after his lost to Chyna and had to get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to drop the belt in the first place.
"Diamond" Dallas Page
Calling himself the World’s Oldest Rookie, “Diamond” Dallas Page was already in his early 40’s as the Attitude Era began, and in a manner of speaking, his career as a wrestler had only just begun. Granted, DDP had already been in the wrestling business for a good ten years at that point, but he never stepped into the ring at this time, preferring to work as a manager. As it turned out, the late ‘90s were the perfect time for an everyman character like DDP to fight back against the evil nWo.
Never intending to become a WWE superstar, Ivory was introduced to the business when a misleading acting job turned out to be an audition for the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling. Appearing as Tina Ferrari, not only did Ivory excel in the sudden role she found herself in, but also she was so inspired by the business she decided to continue her career in WWE nearly a decade later. During the Attitude Era especially, Ivory thrived as one of the best female wrestlers amongst a sea of mere divas, winning the Women’s Championship three times.
The Game began for Triple H in 1995, when he escaped a terrible experience in WCW for the greener pastures of WWE. Given how bad things had gone down south, simply being in what he saw as the superior company was enough to make Triple H happy, and that was before he realized there was a good chance he’d be in charge one day. It was during the Attitude Era that Triple H began his real life romance with his boss’s daughter Stephanie McMahon, his onscreen dominance having begun only slighter prior to that.
Arguably the face of WWE throughout the New Generation, Bret Hart needed to adapt to changing times at the onset of the Attitude Era just like anyone else. Taking a page out of the book read by respected heroes like Hulk Hogan or Bob Backlund, Hart turned his back on an ungrateful audience, throwing in a bit of Canadian fury in with the usual feelings of betrayal. Though Bret wouldn’t find the same success in WCW that he did in WWE, he nonetheless remained on top of that company as well, extending his World Championship count to seven.
Tougher than half of the men in the WWE Universe at the time, it goes without saying Jacqueline was able to dominate her female competition. After earning some success in southern independent promotions and WCW, Jackie debuted in WWE as a foil for Sable, later going on to long outlast the blonde bombshell and win a good number of Women’s Championships while doing so. Jacqueline also broke gender barriers by winning the Cruiserweight Championship, making her worthy of the record books if not an outright Hall of Famer.
Filling each and every arena he enters with a cold chill, The Undertaker strikes fear into the hearts of all men who dare stand against him. That was true upon his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series and remains true to this day, with the Attitude Era arguably the period he was at his most evil. Leading a Ministry of Darkness against Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin brought Undertaker one of many WWE Championships, not to mention countless Creatures of the Night loudly chanting his name.
Promoting prostitution and drug using in each of his many catchphrases, The Godfather is obviously a wrestler who wouldn’t work in any era except the one jam-packed with Attitude. Back in the New Generation, the same wrestler tried his hand at success with Papa Shango, and that particular gimmick wasn’t quite ready for the Hall of Fame. His next persona was popular enough to win the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships for brief reigns during a time when all eyes were on the WWE Universe, though.
Instantly lauded as a third-generation superstar ready to take over the world, few WWE fans were ready to accept the smiling blue chipper introduced at Survivor Series 1996 named Rocky Maivia. Less than two years later, however, there were millions and millions of fans chanting The Rock’s name, and his popularity would only explode from there. By the time the Attitude Era was over, The Rock had completely transcended wrestling and starting taking over Hollywood, where he now resides as one of the most successful actors in the world.