There was never a better time to be a pro wrestling fan than during the period from 1996-2002, when WWF was in the midst of its legendary Attitude Era. This era of wrestling made it in number 4 of the best things of the 1990s and still to this day I can go back and watch any episode, segment, or match from the Attitude Era and remind myself why I am a wrestling fan. Though I do have a very soft spot for the New Generation Era, it was important for the company to change from the family-friendly image to keep up with the times. TV ratings were at an all-time high, it was cool to be a fan and you could find a good wrestling product on TV just about any time you wanted to. Sit through one three-hour episode of Monday Night Raw, and you’ll be longing for the old days, even if you weren’t a wrestling fan in the old days. This era captures everything that I truly miss about wrestling; proper storytelling, amazing in-ring work, varied match stipulations, and outrageous character that definitely felt bigger than life. Outlandish things were happening, but there was always a reason behind them, and the stories were most often very interesting. These are not just story lines, these were epic sagas that was happening in wrestling and never again did we ever felt the same with the media again. If that’s not enough, the matches in this era took risks. In the Attitude Era, WWE climbed back to the top of the wrestling world by taking chances. People got hit with chairs, set on fire, thrown off the top of gigantic structures and run over by cars on a weekly basis. All of these things kept my interest and mixed that up with a good story, you’re presented with the most awesome moments in life! Sure, The Attitude Era ripped off Extreme Championship Wrestling’s hardcore wrestling phenomenon, but for the fact that this single era brought the highest ratings that the WWE has ever had should tell you about the success and reception it deserved. And who do we have to thank for all that was given to us in the Attitude Era? None other than Vince McMahon. Sure, the man has done some of the most questionable decisions in the business, but starting this trend in wrestling was the best thing he’s ever done for the company and wrestling itself. This was an era of wrestling that was so innovative, captivating, and so entertaining, that it’s always worth coming back to. Wrestling fans to this day are still waiting for another era like this but unfortunately since WWE went back to the times of PG, not giving two shits about telling good stories, and over enthuses on pointless in-ring work more-so than anything else. As a result of seeing wrestling getting worse and worse, it makes going back to the Attitude Era a lot better than we remembered. And these are the ten wrestlers that are responsible for making the Attitude Era so great!
Wrestlemania 13 was the first Wrestlemania during the attitude era, however there were a lot of things missing in that card where there were a lot of unmemorable matches (except for Bret vs. Austin) and a lot of people lost interest with the WWF tuning into WCW instead. There hasn’t been a Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 1 where Vince McMahon took the biggest risk for the WWF. Since WM 13, there has been a lot of negative responses for WWF where the company screwed Bret Hart in the Montreal Screwjob, lack of quality matches, and many top stars that used to be in the WWF are now in WCW, beating WWF in the ratings. 1997, despite how more qualitative the matches has became, was hurting the WWF financially and they needed to get back on their feet in order to survive. Coming into Wrestlemania 14 was a big risk to make to gather a bigger audience because of all the advertisements trying to get people into buy this show and also featuring “Iron” Mike Tyson of all people to be the special guest referee in the main event. The hype surrounding this event was going mad crazy having Stone Cold Steve Austin and Tyson starting a fight on an episode of Monday Night Raw that got a ton of people’s attention. The WWF has started the Attitude Era, but they needed a big bang to put this new era into full force. The WWF finally got caught up in the times again and went where Ted Turner and WCW could never go – like hardcore wrestling, profanity, violent matches, and explicit sexuality. There is a good reason why the Attitude Era is so loved by many and this was the show that not only popularized Wrestling once again, but also got the WWF to begin creating the times with this new movement. Wrestlemania 14 was a huge game changer and is the second most important Wrestlemania of all time, so let’s take a look at this card to see why!
15-Team Battle Royal – This was a Wrestlemania 2 style Battle Royal where 14 tag teams were determined, so bringing out the 15th team was the biggest surprise of all. Sunny (making her last Wrestlemania appearance) began introducing and managing the Legion of Doom making their return to the WWF. Their match here compared to their match in last year’s Wrestlemania was gold where they took on a lot of tag teams that are forgotten over the years. Though I’m against the rule of one of the teammate eliminated the partner in the ring has to leave. Considering that there were a lot of forgettable tag teams in late-1997/early 1998, it was confusing to know who side is on who’s. Though Bradshaw had to leave because his partner got eliminated, there were plenty of wrestlers that had their partners eliminated that still remained in the ring. It was definitely flawed considering that there are 30 men in the ring and there was so much going on at once that the Jim Ross and Jerry Lawer were confused on what’s going on. However I have to appreciate the final 2 teams where The Road Warrior survived this long to take on the Midnight Express. It was the right decision to have Hawk and Animal to win the match, making it a fantastic opening match already making this Wrestlemania to have a great start!
Match Score: 4/5
Taka Michinoku (c) vs. Aguila – Light Heavywieght Championship – It’s ashame that the Light Heavyweight division in the WWF is very obscured and forgotten because it lost credibility because the parody Gilberg won it for over a year (not having any booking for that long) and there weren’t that many matches including the Light Heavyweight matches. It’s a shamed really because WCW did their Cruizerweight and international style wrestling incredibly well back in the day and WWF tried to do their take on this style of mid-card wrestling to include Aguila and Michinoku. This match was all in-ring work and highflying moves that perfectly works well. I wonder why nobody remembers this match because it was an incredibly well performed match. It’s a real surprise to find a match like this in a Wrestlemania card because you expect to see something like this in a WCW Starcade instead. I think that the Attitude Era would have welcomed this style of wrestling if only the bookers of the WWF could make great stories for this division and unfortunately, later in that year that had to give it to “Gilberg” and had to hold it over a year and have VERY little television appearances. Anyway, Taka Michinoku won the match and that’s left without anything to remember, unfortunately.
Match Score: 5/5
Triple H (c) (with Chyna) vs Owen Hart – European Championship – This was when Triple H started having an identity when he formed D-Generation-X with Shawn Michaels and it was a big improvement compared to all of his moments when he was simply Hunter Hearst Helmsley. As a result this match was so much better than his last year’s Wrestlemania match with Goldust, and it’s thanks to having Owen Hart as Hunter’s dance partner. The stipulation here is since Chyna has interfered with nearly all of Triple H’s matches, she’s now handcuffed to Sgt. Slaughter. The wrestling between Owen and Hunter was a nice and basic wrestling match, but I remember this match mostly for Owen Hart breaking his nose in the match, it was not a pretty sight. I did indeed enjoy the finish where Chyna grabbed power and tossed into Slaughter’s eyes and help interfere this match for Triple H’s win with a low blow to Owen. But I will say one thing about Owen here in this match, I was certainly surprised to see hims remain loyal to the WWF even though everyone in the Hart family despised what Vince McMahon did to Bret Hart in the Montreal Screwjob.
Match Score: 4/5
Marc Mero and Sable vs The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust and Luna – This was where the Goldust character was really loosing it’s consistency where now he’s called “The Artist Formerly Known” which is just not very good in my book. However, what was very good was how well Sable and her jealous husband Marc Mero carried out this match. Sable used to be the most popular woman in the WWF because not only was she incredibly attractive, but she had the attitude to perform great matches and the aggressiveness that no other woman had in the business at the time. This was the first time since Chyna’s debut where the women wrestlers did a much better job than the men she’s booked up with. Sable was so empowering that she simply got the crowd roaring in her control and that’s someone like a Hulk Hogan can do. Admittedly, it’s not much to say because Goldust and Luna were more or less a joke in this match, but it was all Sable showing that she’s not just a pretty face and because of it she won this match. It’s a shamed that her WWF career was so short-lived because she had sexual harassment problems with the WWF, but if she advanced her career, who knows more memorable she would have been today. This match really showed her potential and it’s impressive to watch a pretty face like her to be taken seriously.
Match Score: 4/5
The Rock (c) vs. Ken Shamrock – Intercontinental Championship – I love this match. I consider this one of the defining moments of both The Rock’s and Shamrock’s wrestling careers. It was a wise booking decision to make The Rock one of the biggest heels in the WWF and evolve him from the generic Rocky Marvia that wasn’t going anywhere. This was a very chaotic match between two competitors where Shamrock earned the name “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” to have a great rivalry with the Nation of Domination’s leader. Ken Shamrock really showed his power in this match because he was able to cream The Rock and still took on Kama Mustafa, Mark Henry & D’Lo Brown who were there on ringside. Even though the Rock fought back with all he had, it was not enough to keep Shamrock down. It was pleasurable to see The Rock getting what he deserved considering how hated he was in the WWF and even had ex-leader of the Nation of Domination to betray The Rock before he tapped out to Shamrock’s ankle lock. But it was not enough for Ken Shamrock because he was going batshit crazy not only still beating up the Rock and what’s left in the Nation, but also the referees and the bodyguards as well that lead him to suddenly get stripped out of the Intercontinental Championship and still remained to the Rock just to get more heat as a heel. This was a very well done match that just made both of these men bigger stars, but in the end it was the Rock became the bigger star out of the two.
Match Score: 5/5
Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie vs. The New Age Outlaws (c) – Dumpster Match for the Tag Team Championship – Foley and Funk are the most iconic hardcore legends in the wrestling world and they both had great chemistry together, both rivals and tag teams. This was a fantastic hardcore match where the object of the game was to put both members in the dumpster and close the lids to win the match. It was a crazy match that was totally fun. Both teams tried everything to put both opponents in the dumpster that they’ve included all sorts of non-wrestling objects as weapons and also included a ladder where Mick Foley and Billy Gunn both fell from the ladder to the dumpster. The brawl went so insane that they brought the fight backstage just to find another dumpster just to not only put New Age Outlaws in there, but seal the lids with a crater to win the Tag Team Championships, and deservedly so. The attitude era needed these two ECW stars to show what hardcore wrestling’s about and since then the attitude era continued this tradition that started in ECW.
Match Score: 5/5
Undertaker vs. Kane (with Paul Bearer) – The Undertaker was having a very easy Wrestlemania streak in his earlier years in his WWF career, until he finally faced guys like Diesel that was his size. Then he faced Sid for the WWF Championship in last year’s Wrestlemania, but the toughest opponent of all had to be his brother Kane. The on-and-off rivalry between these two brothers was incredibly dark and more well written. This was around the time where the WWF wanted the Attitude era to give the Undertaker to a much darker direction and what better way than to have his brother Kane to comeback for revenge for burning his parents alive as a child only having Kane as the only survivor. Kane was a hell of a scary wrestler, and back there was a mystic with both Taker and Kane, it was epic. Kane made an amazing debut by interfering Undertaker in the very first Hell in a Cell match, Taker tried to make peace with his brother, then got breathed again when he was put in the casket in the Casket Match in Royal Rumble 1998 to have the casket on fire. This was a very personal match between the two, so we were all looking forward to seeing this match. But right before the match, the infamous Pete Rose came in just to bash Boston. Then suddenly, Kane interrupted Rose’s cut and Tombstoned him on the live crowd. It was simply epic to witness a celebrity getting squashed like that on television and the Wreslemania tradition of having Pete Rose getting Tombstoned by Kane in the next Wrestlemania was gold, but they should have had more of it. But the match between Kane and Undertaker (though they both had better matches later in the 1998) it was outstanding. I never had seen the Undertaker this vulnerable which uprises Kane’s intimidation, his character, and mystic. For the first time ever, I thought that Kane was going to break Undertaker’s streak because at this time he was the closest to defeat Undertaker at Wrestlemania. There was a series of Tombstones, chokeslams, brawls, nearfalls, and hard hits that really look like it would hurt. I still will never forget that Undertaker took a suicide dive over the top rope and landed on the Spanish announcer’s table. Even though Undertaker defeated Kane in three tombstones, it was interesting to see Taker still getting hurt in the aftermath of the match showing that even though he won the battle the war is not over. The build up for this match went on since Bad Blood 1997, and after Wrestlemania 14, these two still kept fighting each other in the Inferno Match at Unforgiven, a Hell in a Cell matches in Monday Night Raw, and even getting involved with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWF Championship. No doubt was this the second best rivalry of the WWF in 1998 (behind Austin vs. McMahon) and it continued to evolve both of those characters, even though it became inconsistent as they continue this trend over the years. Despite how inconstant Kane and Undertaker has became in the later years, this very match has got to be one of their best when they desperately hated each other like Cane and Able.
Match Score: 6/5
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (c) – WWF Championship – This was the match that set the standard of what the Attitude was all about. Shawn Michaels was infamous for being responsible for the Montreal Screwjob and he had no sympathy for what he has done to Bret Hart. The only man left that was worthy of facing The Heartbreak Kid at a Wrestlemania main event was the man who did not tap out when he face Bret Hart in last year’s wrestlemania; Stone Cold Steve Austin. Because Austin showed how much of a badass he was passing out in the sharpshooter and started to piss Vince McMahon in the later years, got his popularity rising up and this was the match that he needed to forever establish himself as the all time great! Austin set himself for trouble when he got the whole D-Generation-X, Vince McMahon, and even Mike Tyson to go against him, how’s able to win this match? The answer, do what Stone Cold does best. Shawn Michaels was also in some serious shit when he injured himself in that Casket Match against the Undertaker at Royal Rumble 1998 and it didn’t look like he was going to last very long in this match. Surprisingly enough, he managed to keep up with the match and did his best to keep Austin down. For a man with an injured back, Shawn was able to move just like he normally did. Austin was really rough on Michaels where he was brawling him away and the crowd was cheering with all their might for Austin to win. It was insane that Triple H and Chyna interfered in the match to save Shawn but was sent out of the ringside area to continue their one on one fight. Then there was that one instance where Austin Irish whipped Shawn to the corner but Shawn failed to to the backflip that he normally did just to hurt his back even more. At first it didn’t look like it was going to continue the match, similar to Stone Cold’s broken neck incident, but amazing Shawn got back up on his feet trying to get ready for his Sweat Chin Music. Just when he was about to apply that kick, Austin reversed it to go for a stunner, then Shawn reversed it to do that kick again, but Austin grabbed hold of his leg, taunted him, and did the Stunner. Then suddenly, Mike Tyson came in the ring and fast counted for Austin’s victory. Instantly, as that three count has hit, Jim Ross shouted “Austin! Austin! Austin! The Austin Era has begun!” and right he was. Shawn represent the New Generation Era and all of his prick-ish times that he has done to the wrestlers backstage was forever over because he had to retire for that broken back (which he did deserve for that Montreal Screwjob) and the times had to continue with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the face of the company. 1998 was the year of Austin and McMahon as their rivalry really brought back the audience to tune back into the WWF’s product. The best part of the whole match was the aftermath when Shawn got back to call betrayal to Mike Tyson only to get punched square in the face and lie flat on the floor. This was the right booking for the right winner and it was certainly one hell of a memorable Wrestlemania moment!
Match Score: 6/5
This has to go down as some of the best Wrestlemania of all time. There was not a single bad match in this card, but instead each of these matches represented aspects of the Attitude Era and what is to come for the WWF after this show. There are so many things that made the Attitude Era the most beloved time of Wrestling and it’s all thanks to this very Wrestling show. There was so much hype and build up leading to this show that blew everyone away, only to have the WWF to deliver even more stuff like this in their later years. New stars were being made, more memorable moments were created, and even more surprises that forever leaves us with an undying impression. In my humble opinion, this has got to be the best Wrestlemania during the Attitude Era because of the quality we were getting from this very show. Because of the main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin is some of the biggest names of the wrestling world and still to this day he continues make everyone excited which is what wrestling is seriously lacking today. There was not a single bad match on this show – it was really consistent with starting out with three 4 out of 5 matches, three 5 out of 5 matches, and two 6 out of 5 matches towards the end. This, and Wrestlemania X, are the only Wrestlemanias that has two 6 out of 5 matches in their card! That should tell you why this show is a must see for everyone, not just wrestling fans! The only negative about this show is that the main band singing this show, Chris Warren (the guy who made the theme song for D-Generation-X) and his band played horribly when they played “America” and everyone in the stadium booed them. If that’s the only thing that’s flawed that has nothing to do with any the matches should tell you how good this show really is! Nobody can ever take away the historical significance, the meaning of this show, and what it represents. It really represents that the WWF was trying to find a direction and finally nailed it and went full force for many years to come. Like Wrestlemania 3 that took wrestling to an entirely different stratosphere, Wrestlemania 14 was that moment in time that did it once again and helped the company to be later to be once again the king of professional wrestling again.