WWE Attitude Era has been the most discussed age in the history of WWE, it also was the most famous WWE era. WWE.com listed the top superstars of the Attitude Era;
#10 Chris Jericho
With his flashy attire, irreverent demeanor and a complete lack of verbal restraint, WCW expat Chris Jericho fit right in when he debuted on Raw during the height of The Attitude Era on Aug. 9, 1999. Boldly interrupting The Rock (more on him later), The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla introduced himself as a “new hero” and the “party host” of the WWE Universe, even having the brass to call The Great One an “idiot.” Needless to say Y2J incurred the wrath of The Brahma Bull that night.
But Jericho’s ability to get under just about anyone’s skin made him stand out in an era defined by microphone masters, with Jericho laying waste to his opponents with acidic insults more than a decade before CM Punk dropped his first “pipe bomb.” Some of the worst recipients of Jericho’s rapier wit were Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon, who received a particularly unflattering and long-winded nickname from Y2J that we can’t publish here.
In the ring, Y2J was equally impressive, making WWE history by becoming the first-ever Undisputed Champion at Vengeance 2001 when he defeated both “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock in a single night.
Through hellfire and brimstone, Kane made his explosive WWE debut at Badd Blood: In Your House in 1997, attacking his brother The Undertaker during the first-ever Hell in a Cell Match pitting The Phenom against Shawn Michaels. With that bold statement — which included tearing the door off the Cell itself — The Big Red Monster set the tone for his destructive WWE career.
Seeking retribution against Undertaker, who allegedly started a funeral home fire that left him physically and psychologically scarred, Kane would go on to lash out against the entire WWE roster. The unhinged psyche of The Devil’s Favorite Demon made him an immediate challenger for WWE’s most elite titles. In a memorable First Blood Match with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at King of the Ring 1998, Kane captured his first-ever WWE Title.
The WWE Universe would soon learn Kane was far more than a demented monster, however, as Kane found allies in D-Generation X. The Big Red Monster struck up a bizarre kinship with the degenerate X-Pac, and the duo went on to win the World Tag Team Titles twice. Kane’s other bizarre and humorous Attitude Era team-ups included an alliance with the massive Rikishi, the super heroic Hurricane, the high-flying Rob Van Dam and even his estranged brother.
#8 The New Age Outlaws
“Oh, you didn’t know?!” Thanks to the weekly in-ring proclamations by “Road Dogg” Jesse James and Billy Gunn, the WWE Universe was always well-informed during The Attitude Era. A former “roadie” and a “Smoking Gunn,” respectively, Road Dogg and Gunn reinvented themselves as the rough-and-tumble New Age Outlaws after joining forces on Shotgun Saturday Night in 1997.
The pair would gain notoriety after defeating Legion of Doom for the World Tag Team Titles on the Nov. 24, 1997, clinging to their titles by bending the rules in a manner befitting their “outlaws” moniker. It was this gleeful disregard for the rules that cemented The New Age Outlaws as the most influential tag team of The Attitude Era.
Not long after controversially and memorably locking Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in a dumpster and tossing it off the entrance ramp, The New Age Outlaws were welcomed into a new iteration of DX on March 30, 1998. This all-new DX roster — consisting of Gunn, Road Dogg, X-Pac and Triple H — brought a true sense of fun to Monday nights, hilariously lampooning rival factions such as The Nation of Domination and The Corporation. Perhaps The New Age Outlaws’ most memorable DX moment, though, was when the rebellious faction — equipped with an army tank — invaded WCW’s live Monday Nitro television broadcast and brought a new, literal meaning to “The Monday Night War.”
#7 The Undertaker
The Undertaker was already a two-time WWE Champion and undefeated at WrestleMania by the time The Attitude Era truly began picking up steam, but The Phenom would nevertheless continue breaking new ground throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Undertaker’s harrowing, wince-inducing Hell in a Cell Match with Mankind at King of the Ring 1998 quickly became the stuff of legend, and his sibling rivalry with Kane captivated the WWE Universe as the brothers battled in hellacious grudge matches, including the first-ever Inferno Match at WWE Unforgiven in 1998.
Not content with championship gold or other in-ring conquests, The Undertaker would make the ultimate power grab in 1999, when he formed The Ministry of Darkness and held Mr. McMahon’s daughter for ransom. The Phenom’s demand? Complete and total control of WWE. Although “Stone Cold” Steve Austin played countless mind games with The Chairman throughout The Attitude Era, The Undertaker truly hit Mr. McMahon where it hurt.
Speaking of hitting people where it hurt, The Undertaker would continue to dominate in the ring throughout The Attitude Era, with and without his Ministry. The Deadman would forge successful tandems with Big Show and even his brother, and would play an instrumental role in defending WWE from the WCW/ECW Alliance in 2001.
#6 Shawn Michaels
From forming the rebellious D-Generation X alongside Triple H to playing an (unwitting) role in the shocking incident at Survivor Series 1997 to his alignment with “Iron” Mike Tyson at WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels’ proximity to controversy throughout the 1990s makes The Showstopper one of the founding fathers of The Attitude Era. And if you’re not down with that, we’ve got two words for ya …
Well actually, we’ve got a few more words than that. Although Michaels was absent during a sizable portion of the Attitude Era due to a debilitating back injury, the 2011 WWE Hall of Famer’s impact was felt throughout the years “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock were raising hell and eyebrows, respectively.
HBK’s over-the-top and brash persona paved the way for so many other Superstars prone to bucking the establishment, while his earlier high-flying collisions with the likes of Bret Hart and Razor Ramon set the bar high for an entirely new generation of risk-takers.
#5 Mr. McMahon
Not so fast, D-Generation X. WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon enthralled the WWE Universe during The Attitude Era with two words of his own:
“YOU’RE … FIRRRRRRED!”
Our fans were more than familiar with seeing and hearing Vince McMahon on WWE broadcasts — including Raw — but it was The Chairman’s storied rivalry with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that made Mr. McMahon an unforgettable part of Monday nights. A devious authority figure that opposed the rebellious Texas Rattlesnake at every turn, Mr. McMahon was arguably just as crucial to Austin’s meteoric rise during The Attitude Era as the finger-gesturing, beer–guzzling, “Stone Cold” Stunning Superstar himself.
When he wasn’t lamenting the loss of his prized Corvette, wringing the beer out of his custom-made suits or putting ice on the bedpan welts on his head — all of which could be attributed to The Texas Rattlesnake — Mr. McMahon was focused on overseeing the ascent of his “Corporate Champion” The Rock (you might have heard of him), training for the 1999 Royal Rumble (which he won) and even winning the WWE Championship from his future son-in-law, Triple H.
Oh and remember how WCW’s Monday Nitro was trouncing Monday Night Raw in the 1990s? Mr. McMahon would celebrate a definitive victory over Ted Turner’s rival organization in March 2001, when WWE purchased WCW.
#4 Mick Foley
During The Attitude Era, you might have known him as the unhinged Mankind, the barbaric Cactus Jack or the tie-dyed lothario Dude Love. Today, however, we salute Mick Foley for his myriad contributions to sports-entertainment during the 1990s … and that doesn’t just include being able to withstand a 20-foot drop off Hell in a Cell at King of the Ring 1998.
Competing in legendary clashes with The Undertaker, Triple H and The Rock, “Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy” utterly captivated the WWE Universe, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and putting his body on the line in an effort to fulfill his lifelong dream: to become WWE Champion. Foley would accomplish that lofty goal on the Jan. 4, 1999, edition of Raw.
On that night, Foley defeated The Rock to earn his first WWE Title — a victory he would later dedicate to his children. The occasion not only represented a personal triumph for The Hardcore Legend, but also a victory for WWE itself. On that night, WWE turned the tide in its longstanding battle with WCW’s Monday Nitro, doling out a debilitating ratings blow from which the Atlanta-based organization would never recover.
Outside the ring, Foley became a New York Times best-selling author with the 1999 release of his first autobiography, “Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks,” and was solely responsible for a surge in sock puppet popularity with the debut of his questionably odored ally, Mr. Socko.
#3 Triple H
Refined, ceremonial and just a tad bit obnoxious, “The Connecticut Blueblood” Hunter Hearst-Helmsley was utterly despised by the WWE Universe when he debuted in 1995, promoting the proper “etiquette” he honed growing up in posh Greenwich, Conn. Witnessing Helmsley parade himself down the entrance ramp to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in luxurious robes before arrogantly bowing in the ring, the WWE Universe could hardly imagine this pompous competitor would one day become synonymous with “Attitude.”
Embracing his inner rebel, Helmsley, now known simply as Triple H, joined up with his “Kliq” cohort Shawn Michaels to form D-Generation X — perhaps the most controversial faction in sports-entertainment history. After HBK left WWE due to injury in 1998, Triple H became DX’s leader, bringing X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws into the degenerate fold as the group caused chaos in WWE, raising the ire of Mr. McMahon and anyone else unfortunate enough to assume authority during WWE’s most rebellious era. Triple H even led a DX invasion against Monday Nitro, literally bringing “The Monday Night War” to the rival organization’s doorstep.
Triple H’s own aspirations would supplant his desire to rebel, however, as he would ultimately assume authority in WWE when he married Mr. McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie. With the formation of The McMahon-Helmsley Regime, The Game took ownership of the illustrious WWE Title throughout much of The Attitude Era, battling fellow icons like The Rock, Mankind, Chris Jericho and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In fact, it was Triple H who masterminded an automobile attack on The Texas Rattlesnake that took Austin out of action for a year. Cerebral Assassin, indeed.
#2 The Rock
Everyone smelled what The Rock was cooking during The Attitude Era. The grandson of “High Chief” Peter Maivia and the son of Rocky Johnson, The Rock was seemingly destined for in-ring greatness from birth … but few could have anticipated the heights “The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment” would someday reach.
The smiling, tassel-wearing Rocky Maivia attracted a great deal of attention at Survivor Series 1996, where he was the sole survivor of his squad, and was applauded for his Intercontinental Championship victory over Triple H the following year. Despite his clean-cut appearance and positive outlook, it wasn’t until The Rock lashed out at the WWE Universe in frustration that crowds truly began to gravitate toward him.
It was that signature gift of gab that would not only cement The Rock as one of the most captivating in-ring performers in any era — Attitude or otherwise — but also a fixture in popular culture. The Brahma Bull’s clashes and begrudging partnership with Mankind as The Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection were endlessly entertaining, as was his persistent berating of Michael Cole, his affinity for fine lodging (the SmackDown Hotel, at the corner of Know Your Role Blvd. and Jabroni Drive) and his well-documented love of pie.
Pastries aside, The Rock wasn’t just a force on the mic, bringing to the ring unmatched intensity in classic bouts with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Triple H and even Hulk Hogan.
#1 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
“Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your a**!”
With that proclamation at King of the Ring 1996, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin set into motion a veritable revolution that would forever change the face of sports-entertainment. At the center of that revolution over the next several years was The Texas Rattlesnake himself, whose clashes with authority and take-no-prisoners approach to, well, everything inspired an entire generation of Superstars to speak their minds and take charge — the very essence of The Attitude Era.
There was nothing complicated about Austin, whose true passions never seemed to extend beyond raising hell and a few celebratory cold ones to his lips. But what Austin lacked in flashy ring gear and theatrics he more than made up for in personality, which oozed from The Texas Rattlesnake like venom whenever he entered an arena. When the sound of breaking glass heralded the arrival of “Stone Cold,” the WWE Universe knew that, as Jim Ross would say, “business was about to pick up.”
When thinking back on The Attitude Era, “Stone Cold’s” frequent battles with Mr. McMahon immediately spring to mind, and for good reason. The Bionic Redneck’s ability to get under The Chairman’s skin kept WWE Universe members glued to their TV sets each and every week as we all waited to see what Austin would do or say next.
Whether he was driving down the entrance ramp in a Zamboni, dousing The Corporation with beer or battling the likes of Shawn Michaels, The Rock and Triple H for the WWE Title, “Stone Cold” personified what it meant to be a WWE Superstar during The Attitude Era … and that’s the bottom line.
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