From the moment it ended (if anyone can pinpoint that, exactly), WWE has been obsessed with its own “Attitude Era.” In layman’s terms, that’s how the then-WWF portrayed itself in the late 90s, when Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Monday Night Wars pushed wrestling popularity into the stratosphere. It was “crash TV” … short matches, violence, cursing, nudity, anything you could throw at the screen to keep teenagers (and, by proxy, everyone else) watching. No one dared speak ill of it. Companies built video games around it. “You can play as a few guys who wrestle now I guess BUT LOOK, ATTITUDE ERA MODE!!”
Last month, Dean Ambrose became the first WWE Superstar of note (that we can remember, at least) to say that the Attitude Era wasn’t the peak of wrestling possibility. In an interview with Trib Live Sports, he said the following:
“I don’t like my wrestling or entertainment in general to be too clean or predictable for me as a fan. When I say clean, I’m not talking about dirty jokes, middle fingers and stuff like that. I’m actually not even a big fan of that. A lot of people talk about the attitude era being so great but a lot of it was terrible crap, sex jokes and over-the-top terrible bad comedy. It was Jerry Springer-like. They made a joke about a woman’s breasts. Hilarious, but where’s the wrestling? I look back on a lot of stuff now, and I’m like where’s the wrestling? It’s just a lot of crappy jokes.”
Suddenly a chunk of the Internet was allowed to find flaws in one of WWE’s golden eras. The Rock and Stone Cold were great, sure, but — for lack of better phrasing — where’s the beef?
In an interview today with Alternative Nation, Attitude Era star and 11-time world champion Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland expressed a similar sentiment.
I do think what’s been good, people are always talking about the Attitude Era, and all of this and all of that, but if you watch back, sometimes the matches weren’t that great because we had 2 minutes. It’s not possible to have a good wrestling match in 2 minutes, you can’t tell a story, you can tell a haiku. Since the PG era, I know when I was in matches, I had half an hour sometimes, 20 minutes, there I can tell a story. To me that’s the meat and potatoes of the whole thing, it all boils down to the wrestling at the end of the day. The Attitude Era was a lot about the hijinks backstage, and the matches kind of got forgotten about. It’s looked at with rose colored glasses because the ratings were good, and it was working for obvious reasons, but to me those obvious reasons were characters like Stone Cold, who would then get in and have a long match at a PPV. Characters like The Rock who would be entertaining, but still at the end of the day, they could go. I think now, you need a little bit of both.
In a wrestling match, you can do that, because you’re putting it together, you’re flying by the seat of your pants out there, and you’re listening to what the audience is doing, if you’re good. But when it comes to promos and things like that, I think sometimes the aspects of humor and entertainment in that have been lost. With that being said, I still think it’s more important to have great wrestling matches. So I don’t know, when it’s all said and done, it goes in cycles, no matter what product is being placed out there. I think if you tried to do the Attitude Era thing now, it wouldn’t necessarily fly, because people have seen MMA, and that’s become popular. I think that’s what the college guy, or the guy wearing his medium Affliction shirt is watching now as opposed to WWE. In 1999, those guys would be watching WWE, now they want to see a dude get knocked out in the UFC.
For clarification purposes, here’s two minutes of Edge wrestling.
What do you think? Are we looking back at the Attitude Era with rose-colored glasses? Did it do more harm than good, and could it ever happen again?