Ask any wrestling fans over the age of 30 for their favorite time period in WWE history, and most will not hesitate to yell out the Attitude Era. The late 90s era was marked by a shift to more adult-oriented programming content; including an increase in the level of violence and the incorporation of horrific, or otherwise politically incorrect characters and storylines created for shock value. There were no safe spaces.
The last two weeks on RAW, Enzo Amore's feud with Rusev has brought back several Attitude Era memories. Last week, Enzo was locked out of his dressing room, which forced him to walk the backstage area nude while working plenty of phallic innuendo into his usual "How You Doin" schtick. Those of us old enough to have experienced the WWE's end of century boom were reminded of DX strutting around in thongs while making sex jokes that would make a 15 year old blush.
This week, Enzo (the good guy), challenged Rusev's manhood, and ranted about how much Rusev's wife, Lana, would like to be with a real man like Enzo (again, the good guy in this situation). Enzo finished his promo by saying that Lana couldn't stop thinking about Enzo "stuffing her turkey."
Before the WWE became a publicly traded company, these types of exchanges were fairly standard. But, since the dawn of the PG Era (aptly named for the WWE switching to a PG rating), Vince and the creative team have really toned it down.
While Enzo's actions may point back to the WWE's raunchy golden age, here are 5 things from the Attitude Era we'll likely never see again.
5. Racially Charged Gang Warz
I would like to have simply said overt racism, but just last week Davari cut an "angry Middle Easterner" promo that would have made the Iron Shiek proud. During 1997-98, the WWE had 4 racially distinct factions with 4 members each who would routinely engage in Warz (everything in the 90s ended in Z) inside and out of the wrestling ring. The Gang Warz was literally a race war between factions portraying militant African-Americans, Cuban street gangs, South African white supremacists, and redneck biker gangs (guess which one of these groups were the good guys, smh).
Today, the WWE is much more sensitive about how it portrays racial factions. Rumors have it that The New Day were originally supposed to be a Nation of Domination reboot. Thankfully, those plans were scrapped and replaced with unicorn riding, booty grinding, owl hooting magic.prevnext
4. Male on Female Violence
If you were a regular Monday Night WWE viewer in the Attitude Era, you would not be at all shocked to see a 260lb man powerbomb a defenseless woman through a table. Sometimes that woman was another superstar's valet, sometimes it was an 80 year old grandmother. While it's true The Dudley Boys were responsible for most of these acts, women in the Attitude Era were largely used only as eye candy (we'll get to that later) or props for sentimental shock value.
These days, when a woman goes through a table, it's because she's in a wrestling contest with another woman. The way God intended it.prevnext
3 Intentional Bleeding
This one actually makes me a bit sad. Ever since the WWE cut out blading (the act of a wrestler cutting his own forehead with a blade to induce blood) every hardcore/cage/tables/chairs match has been left without a visual trace of carnage. In the Attitude Era, the sight of blood was the sign of a feud being in its final stages. Blood added depth to every cage match and made the victor look even more courageous for having endured while looking through a crimson mask. Other times blood just meant that Ric Flair's head had grazed against literally any object.
I know it's archaic, but I was legitimately excited when Brock Lesnar split open Randy Orton's head with an elbow at this year's Summerslam. Unfortunately, Orton's bleeding was unintentional and not a return to glory days of bloody yore.prevnext
2. Blatant Homophobia
I think its fair to say that until very recently, every single "gay" character in the history of wrestling has been potrayed as the bad guy. The Attitude Era was no exception. While the Goldust you see today is just a weird guy in facepaint who likes the way R Truth raps, the original character was a flamboyant pansexual who would draw huge heat from the crowd by making passes at the straight wrestlers he would do battle with. Sadly, the crowd ate this up. It wasn't just Goldust (or Billy and Chuck) that were responsible for the homophobia. The common dig in any wrestling promo was to insinuate that your opponent was not heterosexual. Even when The Rock returned to face John Cena at Wrestlemania 28, he was still using the tire schtick, accusing Cena had lady parts and looked like the gay teletubby.
When Darren Young came out in 2013 (real life, not just storyline gay), it was refreshing to not see his sexuality turned into a storyline.prevnext
1. Bra and Panties Matches
When the PG era was ushered in, the bra and panties era was ushered out. In the Attitude Era, women's storylines were often all headed to a match where the opponents would wrestle in their underwear and try to pull off the other opponent's underwear. Most of these matches featured the women finding themselves in sexually suggestive positions masked as wrestling moves. While bra and panties don't look that much different from regular wrestling attire, the overt pillowfight nature of the matches painted the Attitude Era women as nothing more than sex objects.
Thankfully, equality has made it's way into the modern era. Now, women like Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Charlotte are treated as legitimate competitors who get to wrestle in tiny spandex, just like the men do.prev