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WWE.com recently released a list of 25 moments that defined the Attitude Era, that three or four or five or six or 10-year (depending on who you ask) period where the federation pushed the envelope on its content, storylines and characters on its programming and their events to grab an older audience.
It worked—by a lot.
It became the most profitable period in WWE’s history and created more new stars in that period than perhaps any time before it, or since. But I've got some issues with this countdown, and I’m going to go ahead and drag them out, beginning with 10 more defining moments that should have made the list.
Check it out after the jump.
- "It hurts me to do this, but I really don’t give a damn about you or the WWF, so I’ll see your little belt later!"- December 1997. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock have been joined at the hip for much of their careers. The two were battling for the Intercontinental Championship in late 1997. Right after forfeiting the title to The Rock, saying he’d already beaten him at the previous night’s show, Austin stole the belt and a week later, he turns up at a bridge near Durham, NH. Refusing The Rock’s demand to give the belt back, Austin chucks it over the Little Bay Bridge.
- "Austin, you want the piece of trash? You come get the piece of trash!" and "Dearly trailer park trash…"- April 1999. The latest chapter of the Austin-Rock rivalry dating back to 1997 took them to the Detroit River where The Rock was holding Austin’s Smoking Skull belt (see, the WWE Championship was tricked out long before John Cena did it…at least it didn’t spin around, I suppose) hostage and challenge the WWF Champion to get his property back. The rivals fought until Austin, clinging to life on a bridge overlooking the river, was sent off by a right hand from The Rock. Austin’s belt was chucked off the bridge too…or so we thought. The next week during Austin’s funeral, The Rock showed off the Smoking Skull Belt thought to be at the bottom of the DetroitRiver. As for Austin, he would make it to the funeral too, very much alive—in a monster truck, running over The Rock’s new Lincoln Continental. Austin would repossess his property after a brawl, but for only a moment, when Shane McMahon turned Austin’s lights out with a shovel. It wouldn’t be until the Backlash PPV when the Rattlesnake finally got his belt back for good.
- "Let’s give Mae a hand!"- February 2000. It was a May-December relationship of the weirdest kind: Mark Henry, 29-year old "Sexual Chocolate", and 77-year old horndog Mae Young. Eventually, all that screwing around got the septuagenarian pregnant (I still don’t know how it’s possible, but it’s the WWF and it’s the Attitude Era, so go with it). But on consecutive editions of RAW, Mae Young got powerbombed through a table at the hands of Bubba Ray Dudley. The baby wouldn’t make it (obviously), but Mae Young somehow did. Eventually, Mae did go into labor, and out came… a bloody hand covered in goo. Gerald Brisco had the most correct reaction to all this: he vomited.
- "Oh yeah! Austin’s got McMahon! AUSTIN GOT MCMAHON!" (Get him! Get him!)- September 1998. After being screwed out of the WWF Championship in a two-on-one handicap match (officially, it was a triple threat match, but Austin and fans knew better), Stone Cold came to the Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, driving a Zamboni, seeking Vince McMahon, the man who plotted Austin’s championship demise. After running over a few cables, Austin pulled up to the ring, climbed on the Zamboni, and leaped a line of police officers and nailed McMahon. Even handcuffed, he got a few shots. Austin was going to get his payback or die trying. As he is carried off, he warned McMahon that he wasn’t through with him yet by a long shot. Moments later, McMahon chastised Undertaker and Kane for allowing him to be assaulted for the third time in a little over a week. The Brothers of Destruction didn’t take too kindly to being called handicapped and assaulted the boss and breaking McMahon’s left ankle.
- "Say hello to Mr. Socko!" and "Oh, I’ll take it from here, nurse." -October 1998. Perhaps the most recognizable inanimate object and sound in wrestling history came from the same episode of RAW. First, Mankind, courting favor to Mr. McMahon, tried to make the boss feel better with clowns, balloons, and a sock puppet appropriately named "Mr. Socko." Vince was not impressed, mocking Mr. Socko. Unfortunately, that would be the highlight as only moments later, Stone Cold Steve Austin dressed in scrubs made good on his promise that he wasn’t through with Vince and the boss is not safe as long as he lives. Austin takes a few free shots at McMahon’s broken ankle, pops McMahon good with the bedpan, and zaps him with the defibrillator. Then the camera cuts to black just as Austin attempts to anally rape Vince with an IV.
- "Bret screwed Bret, I have no sympathy for him whatsoever."- November 1997. This was the interview that launched the Mr. McMahon character, one of the most iconic in WWF history and the standard for on-screen authority figures. It came, ironically, from a hard dose of reality. WWF wrestlers and officials were still raw over the events of the Montreal Screwjob, with some even threatening to quit or walk out. In a scathing interview with Jim Ross on the situation, McMahon put the blame squarely on Bret. He called out Hart for not willing to honor tradition of putting someone over (or losing) on the way out. By putting the fault squarely on Hart’s shoes (unfairly, might I add), he prevented a mass mutiny and accidentally on purpose created one of the most controversial characters in television history.
- "We here at the World Wrestling Federation think you’re tired of having your intelligence insulted."- December 1997. Here’s the boss again, but not as Mr. McMahon the character, but Vince McMahon the owner, formally introducing the Attitude Era. Vince was explaining the new creative direction, taking cues from other various forms of popular entertainment at the time such as MTV music videos, King of the Hill, Seinfeld, and Jerry Springer. The new creative direction was thanks in part not only to the changing society, but to WCW continually beating the WWF on Monday nights, and a little promotion in South Philadelphia called ECW. It produced the most profitable and popular era in wrestling history. The cure for the common show, indeed.
- "When Austin 3:16 meets Pillman 9mm gun, I’m gonna blow Austin’s ass straight to hell!"- November 1996. If one were to consider the start of the Attitude Era the night Austin 3:16 declared someone just got his ass whipped, this would be a defining moment as well; after all, it nearly got the WWF thrown off USA Network. Brian Pillman was recovering in his home in suburban Cincinnati—in Kentucky, just go with it—when Stone Cold Steve Austin, Pillman’s former BFF, came looking for the "Loose Cannon". Not even his neighbors could stop the "Texas Rattlesnake" from breaking down the door of the Pillman residence. Unfortunately for Austin, he had the barrel of a 9mm staring at him. Words were exchanged, many of the four-letter variety, including one that slipped, and shots, fortunately, weren’t fired. The situation eventually got under control, but the WWF had to apologize a week later. Apparently USA Network didn’t know about the gun, either.
- "Austin was armed…with a toy!"- October 1998. The previous month, Stone Cold Steve Austin was screwed out of the WWF Championship. The previous night, he was screwed out of his job after failing as referee to count for either Undertaker or Kane to win the WWF Championship. Austin was the ultimate disgruntled employee. Without a job or restrictions, the rattlesnake was coming for the boss. And he was armed and dangerous. He kidnapped a wheelchair-bound Vince and played mind games with him through the evening, eventually bringing the chairman to his knees, and what seemed to be his final moments, Vince was forced to watch his own demise on the titantron with millions watching. Austin pulled the trigger, and it wasn’t a bullet, but a flag bearing "Bang 3:16". It was a toy gun all along. Worse, Vince McMahon pissed his pants. And he got stunned.
- "The part of The Rock will now be played by Triple H."- July 1998. Really? This moment didn’t make the final 25? There have been many parodies done before and after this one, but Triple H as The (C)Rock (as leader of the Nation of Domination), Road Dogg Jesse James as B-Lo Brown, X-Pac as Mizark Henry, Billy the Gunnfather, Jason Sensation as Owen Hart, and Chyna as…Chyna, this is far and away the standard for wrestling parodies. And if you think otherwise, I have two words for you…
With that, we have 35 moments we can more or less agree were significant in the Attitude Era. In other words, a more complete list. I’m sure there’s at least fifteen more I’m missing. I mean, that small period produced many classic moments. So here’s my list, with a one sentence summary for each.
- "Austin 3:16 says I just whopped your ass!"- The greatest wrestling catchphrase of this generation.
- Undertaker tosses Mankind off the Hell in a Cell- The defining match and image of the Attitude Era.
- Tyson and Austin fight…or something- The most significant celebrity appearance in WWF history.
- Stone Cold beer bath- A hosedown any responsible adult would want to be a part of.
- Mr. Socko and Bedpan McMahon- The most recognizable inanimate object and sound in WWF history.
- The DX Nation parody- You know it’s a good parody when Jason Sensation does Owen Hart better than Owen Hart.
- The Montreal Screwjob- Still the most controversial and most talked about night in wrestling history.
- "Bret screwed Bret."- Vince McMahon kills a mutiny and creates a character all in one interview. The man really is a genius.
- DX "invades" WCW- When the bullies stood up to the big boys.
- Pillman’s got a gun!- One shot and it could have all come crashing down for the WWF.
- Austin gets in with a Zamboni- The best use of a vehicle in the Attitude Era.
- Shane McMahon buys WCW- A fitting end to wrestling’s greatest chapter.
- Big Bossman crashes a funeral- Not even death is sacred.
- Austin-McMahon: The saga begins with a Stunner in the Garden- And it begins.
- Mankind wins his first WWF title- The tipping point of the Monday Night Wars.
- RAW is Jericho- The greatest WWF debut of the 1990s.
- Mae Young gives birth…to a hand.- The height of absurdity and silliness in the Attitude Era.
- Vince’s car gets covered in cement- $60,000 well spent.
- Austin, Rock, and a bridge (Part II) and the Austin funeral- The two faces of the Attitude Era hit their stride.
- Crash Holly is hardcore 24/7- Little Elroy Jetson makes hardcore wrestling fun again.
- This is your life, Rock!- The most-watched half-hour in RAW history.
- Bang 3:16- McMahon 3:16 says I just pissed my pants.
- Formation of D-Generation X- The KLIQ faction comes to life on RAW.
- Bret Hart snaps- The Hitman realizes the times are passing him by.
- Austin tosses the Intercontinental title belt over a bridge- Austin sticks it to the office any way he can.
- Big Show debuts and chucks Austin around- Paul Wight’s strength proves to be a liability.
- Cactus Jack 2000!- Unmasked, unhinged, unleashed.
- The St. Louis Screwjob- The 1998 Survivor Series began the rise of The Rock to superstardom.
- Triple H & Stephanie get married- The most powerful couple in wrestling began with a storyline involving drugs and a Las Vegas wedding drive-thru.
- DX 2.0- The green and black attack is reborn, stronger than ever.
- Undertaker kidnaps and nearly marries Stephanie McMahon- Is Triple H nearly as popular or powerful if this wedding went through instead?
- McMahon introduces the Attitude Era- The cure for the common show, indeed.
- The Corporate Ministry is formed- United by common enemies, divided by greed.
- McMahon is the higher power!- Wait, Vince plotted his own daughter’s kidnapping?
- Kane debuts by ripping the door off the Hell in a Cell- Little brother doesn’t want to play nice anymore.
There are many more moments from wrestling’s last great era. Did I miss your favorite? What do you think of my list? Let’s discuss, people!