WWE: The Attitude Era 3-Disc Set DVD Review
Released: November 20, 2012
This is another tag-team DVD review from me and my buddy Slack. He does the documentary and special features, I do the matches. You’re going to love it.
The Birth of Attitude: A brief introduction to the history of WWE. Thriving in the 1980s, business slowed in the 1990s, Vince’s steroid trial, then WCW created the Monday Night Wars, and WWE fell behind. Things begin for us on RAW December 15th 1997 with a Vince segment on ”Attitude”.
Entrance Music: In March 1997, a new look Monday Night War debuted with an entrance ramp, big screen TitanTron that produced MTV-style wrestler music videos, and revamped entrance music. Theme songs with catchphrases like “If Ya Smell What The Rock Is Cookin”, “Are You Ready?”, & “Oh, You Didn’t Know?” received big pops, as well as sound effects such as Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glass breaking and the Undertaker’s gong.
D-Generation X: The leaders of the Attitude Era? Of course DX. The clique defied the odds and used backstage antics and real life personas on the TV screen. At first, DX was led by HBK and included HHH, Chyna & Rick Rude before Rude left for WCW. HHH took over after Shawn’s retirement and recruited X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws. Clips are shown of the new DX forming but Road Dogg said he and Billy Gunn played hard-to-get, but were thrilled deep down to be a part of DX when they were asked. DX went from obnoxious heels to obnoxious babyfaces doing things like invading WCW which Eric Bischoff said in archived footage he was ticked they did it, yet came across so well. Foley claimed he thought DX went too far sexually. Road Dogg claimed they didn’t, but would have little kids come up to him doing crotch chops and said that was on the parents and not him. Ron Simmons claimed that some thought they went too far but if you didn’t like it, you could change the channel (just not to TNT).
Austin vs. McMahon: Of course this was the feud that defines the Attitude Era and put WWE ahead in the Monday Night Wars. It was blue collar vs. corporate. Every week it seemed Austin got the best of McMahon’s devious plans. Vince Russo said everyone watching on TV in their recliners were wishing they were Stone Cold. Memorable moments came out of the rivalry such as the infamous beer bath, BANG 3:16, attacking Vince in the hospital etc.
Long-Arching Stories: While Austin vs. McMahon was the main attraction, characters and angles were more drawn out. The Undertaker vs. Kane feud is a perfect example as it was a long drawn out story. Other highlights of angles & storylines are shown such as Vince being the Greater Power, the McMahon-Helmsley era, and even the bad storyline/angle involving the Big Show and the Big Bossman.
Innovations: Many exciting match concepts came out of the Attitude Era. Starting with the Hell In A Cell classic from In Your House between HBK and the Undertaker. In the second ever Hell In A Cell match, Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the cell in one of the most memorable moments ever. Foley said after it happened, WCW booker Kevin Sullivan called and told him, ”It’s over brutha”, regarding the Monday Night Wars. Big Show said the best ladder matches ever were the TLC matches between the Hardys, the Dudleyz, and Edge & Christian with their insane spots that made it look like car wrecks. Not all match concepts were a success. JBL pitched the idea of a hardcore division to Russo and Pritchard. Instead, they went with the Brawl For All. Legit boxing matches with takedowns. It was intended to push Dr. Death but he was upset by Bart Gunn, who in turn was destroyed by heavyweight boxer Butterbean at WrestleMania XV. JBL said it looked good on paper, but was awful. JR summed it up best by calling it a failure as it didn’t make anyone a star. They did end up going with the Hardcore division in the fall of 1998 and gave it a twist in 2000 with the 24/7 rule with the title being on the line.
New Demographic: WWE wasn’t a family show anymore, it had a college age demographic. Wrestling was the cool thing to watch now. Millions of fans tuned in to watch every week. The Big Show mentions how many fans would skip a rent payment just to purchase a PPV.
Critics: The Attitude Era did have its critics. USA Network was asking WWE to tone things down, and the PTC even got involved with a lawsuit. There were many advertisers at stake, but WWE ended up winning the lawsuit. Mick Foley said he thought it was unfair, but felt two angles really pushed the envelope too far, like the Mark Henry/tranny segment and Kaientai ”Choppy Choppy” the manhood of Val Venis.
Expansion: With the mega success RAW was having, WWE introduced Sunday Night Heat in the summer of ’98. The plan was for midcard talent to be showcased and once a month to have a special HEAT before a PPV. In August of 1999, Smackdown was launched on UPN putting wrestling back on broadcast TV on a weekly basis for the first time in nearly fifty years.
Comedy: With expansion came comedy. Big Show had fun impersonating wrestlers and celebs. Mark Henry compares Mae Young to Betty White. Edge & Christian had a heel turn, but was able to use comedy to get over. Kurt Angle became a superstar not only for his athleticism, but also for his funny skits. Even midcard acts did comedy like Al Snow and Steve Blackman as ”Head Cheese”.
Wealth of Talent: Many stars jumped ship from WCW such as the Big Show, Chris Jericho, and the Radicalz. Divas like Trish Stratus and Lita, who were not only sexy but also tough. Big Show said Lita was so over, she’d get among the biggest crowd reactions of the night during her peak. Talent got over that were looking for a career break like Rikishi and Al Snow. The strongest example of a new star being created would be Kurt Angle.
The World Was Watching: Record ratings caused various athletes and celebs to show up on WWF TV. WWE became broadcast all over the world with continued success. The highest-rated match of the Attitude Era was Pat Patterson and Jerry Brisco against the Mean Street Posse in May of 1999. The highest-rated segment ever was the Rock and Mankind’s “This Is Your Life” segment in September of 1999, which ran long and upset Vince. Come to find out though, this ended up being the highest rated segment ever on RAW.
Watershed Period: Road Dogg called the Attitude Era from 1997 into 2001 as wrestling’s hottest period. I tend to agree. Everyone thinks that when WCW and ECW went under, this was the end of the Attitude Era. While WWE emerged victorious, the drive and desire was missing. Everyone reflects back on how great the Attitude Era was as we close out the program.
Jim Ross interviews Goldust & Marlena (WWF Raw – November 3, 1997): Goldust and Marlena are reunited after Marlena storyline-wise was with Pillman for 30 days (but not mentioned as he passed away) & Marlena talked about things are going to be great and all but Goldust snaps and told her he’s going to be himself and has found someone else which lead to Marlena being in tears. This was the start of the Artist Formerly Known As Goldust & the ”someone else” was Luna.
Steve Austin Throws the Intercontinental Championship Off A Bridge (WWF Raw – December 15, 1997): A memorable moment in the Attitude Era. Vince had stripped Austin from the I-C Title and awarded it to The Rock, who had stolen the belt and unsuccessfully challenged Austin for the title at In Your House: Degeneration X. Austin had stolen it back the week prior. Rock was starting to shine as a future star even acting like the ‘leader” of The Nation and demanded if Austin didn’t return it within the hour that he would get attacked by The Nation. When the hour was up, Rock demanded the title back but via video Stone Cold tossed it over the bridge. An interesting footnote is the belt would be retrieved but shortly thereafter a new version of the IC title was created that was used up till Cody Rhodes reign in 2011.
Soldier of Love (WWF Raw – May 4, 1998): Val Venis vignette with Jenna Jameson.
Mr. McMahon Presents Mankind with the WWF Hardcore Championship (WWF Raw – November 2, 1998): Mankind was calling Vince ”dad” so Vince awards him as the first ”Hardcore Champion” It looked like Mankind was Vince’s choice to win the vacant WWE title but in a swerve it was The Rock as the ”corporate champion” The Hardcore Division was the idea of JBL in the Summer of 98 but didn’t happen till a few months later as Bruce Pritchard had the idea of Brawl For All.
Jim Ross Interviews Triple H (WWF Sunday Night Heat – July 25, 1999): Interview where HHH morphs into his ”Game” persona saying he’s going to go to the top and doesn’t need any cliques or DX to help him anymore.
An Evening At The Friendly Tap (WWF SmackDown! – Jan 20, 2000): The New Age Outlaws went to the Friendly Tap bar to drink & play pool. The APA watched them from the back and went to the bar to confront them. The NAO fled and the APA whipped some guys at the bar. As they were leaving Bradshaw broke a Boston Red Sox sign and said ”Curse Of The Bambino”
EASTER EGG ALERT. JBL talks about how The Friendly Tap is former WWE ref Tim White’s bar and he specifically told him not to break the sign and he still did, which lead to White getting a lot of heat from his fellow Bostonians.
Mae Young and the Acolyte Protection Agency (WWF SmackDown! – January 27, 2000): Mark Henry paid the APA to protect Mae while he faced the Hollys. Mae smoked cigars & drank all of the APAs beer and even won all the money in cards! Mae in return gave them back their money to help out Mark Henry in his handicap match against the Hollys which they did.
“The Jug Band” (WWF Judgment Day 2000): Prematch in ring segment of Edge, Christian, & Kurt Angle where they make fun of the state of Kentucky and do a song together.
Triple H Trains Trish Stratus (WWF SmackDown! – July 27, 2000): Famous segment where HHH & Trish are teaming in a match and Trish who hasn’t wrestled asks Triple H to show her some moves. While HHH was showing Trish a reversal in a compromising position Steph walked in on them and went on a rampage. This was during the HHH/Steph problems which included a long drawn out storyline of Steph/Kurt Angle flirtation.
Edge’s Totally Awesome Birthday (WWF Raw – Oct 30, 2000): Edge, Christian, Kurt Angle & Steph celebrate Edges birthday. Steph was feeling under the weather. Edge & Christian hilariously imitate theme songs, including chanting ANGLE at Kurt’s theme (which he would famously turn to You Suck in their 2002 feud) Kurt gave Edge a framed signed portrait of himself which Edge thanked but asked where his gift was which Kurt said was the portrait.
GTV: A compilation of GTV highlights throughout its run. It was never revealed who was behind GTV though many believed it was Goldust hence the G. Zack Ryder on RAW 1000 accused it of being Mean Gene Okerlund. Hopefully WWE doesn’t reveal it as Hornswoggle one day.
Final Thoughts: The documentary could have been a lot better if given the 90 minutes to two hours most WWE-produced documentaries get. While there was new or fairly new interviews by nearly all the key players, it was just too short to discuss or go in depth into the era. As much as I like the Road Dogg, it seemed he got most of the airtime to discuss what all went on. However, there were positives such as removing the blurring of the WWF logo and references to the WWF, which is really a breath of fresh air and a step in the right direction. The moments and stars, while not all perfect, top a lot of the things today. Take a pass at this if you wanted to see the documentary, but a considerable purchase for the moments and matches. I’ll go thumbs in the middle on the Attitude Era, but that’s a disappointment for a DVD set that should have been an easy thumbs up.