I remember being a huge fan of the WWE and back when I started watching, it was known as the WWF. Crazy times. My whole family used to order pizzas and gather around the TV for Monday Night Raw on a weekly basis it seemed. It attracted literally every kind of audience. It was edgy. It constantly pushed the envelope. Quite frankly, it was the best weekly televised show during the time. The Attitude Era.
1999 was the year I remember watching wrestling on a regular basis. I was about 5 or 6 years old during this time. I grew up basically right in the middle of the Attitude Era and throughout the Ruthless Aggression Era. To me in retrospect, there was not a better time to be wrestling fan than during that time. The impact that this particular era had on what entertainment in general is now is unapparelled. This era produced what many call one of the greatest entertainers out right now, The Rock. There wasn’t just one particular “face” of the WWE. You had a locker room full of guys, who could sell out a show in the main event slot no problem. Many of the wrestlers from this time, were global household names and still are to this day. Every character had a element or personality trait, that the audience could relate to on a weekly basis.
Everyone, I don’t care who you are, has had a boss or even a teacher that they couldn’t stand. Everyone has dealt with some kind of person who abused their authority, had their favorites and did anything and everything to hold everyone else down. Vince McMahon was that guy that everyone hated. It all started in 1997, right after the Montreal Screw job where Vince sabotaged superstar Bret Hart at survivor series in a match against Shawn Michaels for the WWE championship. Not only was that the birth of Vince McMahon, but it was the birth of an era that literally set the bar for entertainment television.
With every villain, you need a hero. At the time, Stone Cold Steve Austin was the man. He was the brash, hardheaded, rebellious and no craps given guy, who’d constantly challenge the authority of Vince McMahon. Rebellion was the motto weekly. It wasn’t just Stone Cold. You had the birth of D-Generation X with Shawn Michaels and Triple H stirring up chaos with all the factions throughout the WWE. Chyna, one of the first ever female wrestlers that the audience felt could probably go toe to toe with just about anyone on the roster. You had the Mentally deranged man in Mankind who took on multiple personalities and had some of the craziest matches we’ve ever witnessed. The debut of Kurt Angles illustrious career followed by crazy feuds with Stone Cold and The Rock. You also had the debut of the indestructible Big Red Machine Kane who later teamed up with the Undertaker to form the The Brothers of Destruction.
The Monday night wars with WCW were simply the best times. I’d say that this was the time where WWE really thrived. This was the time where they pulled every card the hand had to offer to draw headlines and create as much controversy as they could. Controversy meant ratings. They made a lot of headlines too. Eventually, this led to WWE buying out the WCW leading to the beginning of the Ruthless Aggression Era.
The WWE was must-see television back in the day. Mainly because of the creative freedom that was given to talent back then. Every athlete had a little say in how their character would be portrayed and what angles would work and not work. With WCW being right down the road it pushed the WWE to be better. It was okay to be edgy and over the top. Athletes didn’t fear of losing their job if they “offended” someone, or if an angle simply didn’t work. Characters came off as authentic and true. They were believable. Stone Cold, The Rock and the rest of the roster grew organically. I didn’t feel that there was too much of a “corporate push” of any particular characters.
Who else that may be reading this, got into trouble by their parents for attempting wrestling moves on their siblings on the trampoline or sofa tops? Anyone else host their own Royal Rumble in their backyard with a large group of friends for a birthday party? Anyone else have a group of friends throw money into a pot so that you could watch Wrestlemania or SummerSlam? How about spending countless hours playing WWF No Mercy on N64 while eating WWF ice-cream bars? I cannot be the only one who has done this. To all the people who grew up poor, how many of you had to make countless adjustments to the TV antenna just to get decent picture and audio when Thursday Night Smackdown came on, on UPN? Again, no way I’m the only one.
The WWE/WWF was one of the things I grew up with that I felt bonded my family and friends when things weren’t always very easy. It was great entertainment that brought us together in the living room or outside. Whether it be Monday Night Raw, Thursday Night/Friday Night SmackDown, Sunday night HEAT or watching Velocity for a SmackDown recap, I will always cherish those memories. Thank you WWE, for possibly the greatest stretch of entertainment television in history along with full access to those amazing episodes through the WWE Network.
Photo Credit: WWE/WWF
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