10 Superstars who would have been perfect for The Attitude Era
December 18, 2014
Ahh, The Attitude Era. Sword-wielding Japanese stables, men in towels, Sexual Chocolate, exploding buses and Rock Bottoms into plates of dog poop. Those were the times. What made WWE’s most infamous era truly must-see television, however, wasn’t the wild, week-to-week stunts that pushed the limits of durability and decency alike, but the unmatched cadre of characters that perpetuated these preposterous acts.
The envelope-pushing has long since subsided to something more palatable (you won’t see anybody giving birth to a hand these days), but the wild personalities have never really gone away, have they? There are plenty of competitors in today’s WWE who are as colorful and provocative as the stars of The Attitude Era, and who would not only have succeeded in that boom period, but thrived alongside the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, D-Generation X and Ministry-era Undertaker. Who are these stars out of time? Well, how about these guys and gals …
While almost all of our current Divas would have held their own in The Attitude Era, Paige is the one who would have really stood out against the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, Ivory, Jacqueline, Molly Holly and all the women who were part of the greatest crop of women’s wrestlers ever.
Paige’s mother, father and both older brothers are all wrestlers in Norwich, England. As a matter of fact, Paige’s mother unknowingly competed while seven months pregnant with Paige! Perhaps that explains why the anti-Diva who started her career at 13 years old is so comfortable in the ring. All of this has made the former Divas Champion so incredibly adaptable that she could appear on “Total Divas” just as easily as she could have battled Lita in the main event of a Raw in 1999.
Not only would Paige have been champion during The Attitude Era, she would have been champion in the days of The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. WWE needs more Paiges. — @JOEYSTYLES
Apt or not, Ryback periodically draws comparisons to the man they call Goldberg.
The similarities are undeniable. Goldberg was an accomplished competitor whose no-nonsense approach led to an unprecedented 173-0 winning streak in WCW, whereas Ryback also prevented anyone from pinning him for months after his WWE debut. They both boast ground-based arsenals that deliver brute force, from Goldberg’s Jackhammer to The Big Guy’s Shell Shocked. Each grappler makes bald look brawny and bold.
Yet those similarities shortchange Ryback, an undisputed strongman whose unique charisma and unpredictability would have fared far better in The Attitude Era than the former WCW World Champion did on the other end of the Monday Night War. The Big Guy’s ability to muscle his way into the spotlight would certainly have made him a champion in The Corporation’s eyes. His unyielding desire to demolish opponents would also have made Ryback a prime candidate to withstand the Hardcore Championship’s infamous “24/7” rule.
And while Goldberg was asking who’s next, Attitude Era fans would have been far more interested in the feeding habits of the man they call Ryback. — MATTHEW ARTUS
The stars of The Attitude Era didn’t care for making friends. They wanted to be on top. Granted, every Superstar in the locker room today wants to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the end of WrestleMania. But in the late ’90s, Superstars and Divas like Triple H and Lita had a killer instinct. You had to bring your absolute best every Monday, or you wouldn’t be on the show the following week.
Seth Rollins knows that pressure well. He made an immediate name for himself as a main-event player with The Shield. He’s jumped from the TitanTron, crashed through tables and betrayed close friends to climb the WWE ladder.
He sees 15-time World Champion John Cena get recognized as the face of WWE and the last guy to grab the “brass ring” — aka becoming the top star in sports-entertainment — and he isn’t in awe. Chances are he’d have the same disdain for The Rock, Mankind or any other Superstar that stood in the way of him getting to the top. — JEFF LABOON
The WWE Universe got a taste of Goldust in The Attitude Era, and what we saw was … unsettling, even by the envelope-pushing standards of the ’90s. Imagine, then, if there hadn’t just been one gold-painted weirdo in Mr. McMahon’s menagerie, but two? Stardust is an impish alternative to The Bizarre One’s brooding stoicism in today’s WWE, but it’s easy to imagine a far more provocative version of the former WWE Tag Team Champion flitting about during The Attitude Era. Less “E.T.” and more “Gremlins,” this Stardust could have mixed it up with Val Venis and DX in equal measure (he already brought out the green face paint, after all), and delivered a deeply unsettling air of unpredictability to WWE’s most unpredictable era. Hey, he might have even been the guy who created “GTV.” — ANTHONY BENIGNO
The Godfather. Val Venis. D-Generation X. The Attitude Era was full of fun-loving personalities that never seemed to stop partying. It stands to reason, then, that Adam Rose would get along just fine in WWE’s most boundary-pushing, out-of-control point in history. If you think the Rosebuds had a bizarre fashion sense now, just imagine how they’d have looked in 1999!
WWE Network: The Godfather returns at Royal Rumble 2013
We could easily see Rose mingling with Divas like Terri Runnels, Lita and Trish Stratus or inviting The New Age Outlaws aboard The Exotic Express for raucous Raw celebrations that would make network executives lose sleep. Judging by JBL’s current aversion to The Bunny, we could even see The Acolyte Protection Agency getting into some wild backstage hijinks with the oversized hare. During The Attitude Era, it was already “party time, all the time,” making Rose a natural ringleader and an enemy of the period’s most sour “lemons.” — JAMES WORTMAN
Aside from the outlandish personas and crass humor, The Attitude Era was about risking it all to make a name for yourself. From the weapon-filled brawls of Mick Foley to the demolition derbies that broke out between The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz, Superstars put their bodies on the line every night in hopes of reaching new levels of infamy.
There’s no current competitor who fits that mentality better than Adrian Neville. The former NXT Champion routinely takes flight, launching into his breathtaking Red Arrow and leaving the WWE Universe in awe of his aerial acumen. Neville, no doubt, would relish the opportunity to do battle with the likes of Edge or Christian, though he probably wouldn’t need to climb a ladder to show his skills. After all, he is The Man That Gravity Forgot. — BOBBY MELOK
Rebellious, dangerous and utterly unpredictable, Dean Ambrose embodies all the qualities that mattered most in WWE’s Attitude Era. Though The Lunatic Fringe has established himself as a pillar of modern-day WWE, there’s no doubt the unstable Superstar would’ve looked right at home inside the War Zone on Monday nights.
Ambrose’s extreme leanings and proclivity for using weapons in the ring might have endeared him to competing for the era-specific Hardcore Championship. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine a chair-wielding Lunatic Fringe, with his head on a swivel and the scrapyard title around his waist, turning back challengers 24/7 in every conceivable combat zone. The graphic manner in which Ambrose likes to describe plans for decimating competition, meanwhile, would be all the more colorful if applied in the context of the uncensored Attitude Era.
Never mind that The Lunatic Fringe’s wild, outspoken nature would have been an appropriate counterbalance to some of The Attitude Era’s most celebrated personalities. Think Ambrose’s innate sense of independence would have played well with Mr. McMahon’s heavy-handed rule? Or would The Lunatic Fringe have run afoul of his renegade kindred spirit, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Either way, it’s clear Ambrose’s brand of anarchy would have thrived during WWE’s most infamous era. — JOHN CLAPP
The Attitude Era already had a Satanic cult and a coterie of ladies of questionable virtue. Who’s to say a slimy preacher man wouldn’t have been right at home? Truth be told, Bray Wyatt is a Superstar tailor-made for Attitude, what with his hellfire-and-brimstone speeches, outlandish illusions, and penchant for unmitigated brutality. He’s a big brawler with a captivating personality and the kind of fully-developed persona most Superstars go their entire lives without even sniffing. Forget turning up the volume, Bray is on a whole different soundscape than his contemporaries and predecessors alike. Plus, the fantasy matchmaking almost writes itself. Forget simply having Bray-Undertaker, how about this: The Shield vs. Wyatts was big in 2014. Now imagine The Ministry of Darkness versus a fully-formed, expanded Wyatt Family, with an Attitude Era crowd and Jim Ross on commentary. Gives you chills, man. — ANTHONY BENIGNO
The Bella Twins
The Attitude Era was all about reckless, unadulterated fun. And with The Bella Twins around, there would have been twice as much. That twirl they perform on the stage before their entrance is one thing, but what if they strutted their stuff during one of the era’s infamous swimsuit competitions, or squared off against Trish Stratus and Debra in an Evening Gown Match?
Of course, the sisters are about more than just their stunning looks. Nikki’s powerful Rack Attack might be the perfect maneuver to counter the impressive Sable Bomb. And Brie has the technical prowess to take an Attitude Era mainstay like Ivory to the mat. Together, the duo could have challenged Era tandems like Chyna & The Kat or Jacqueline & Terri of Pretty Mean Sisters in over-the-top matches. And we’d be shocked if both Nikki and Brie didn’t score Hardcore Championship reigns of their own, no matter how brief. — ZACH LINDER
As WWE’s New Generation Era faded and The Attitude Era began to take hold at the tail end of 1997, the longtime pillars of WWE — Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart — finally crumbled. By the start of ’98, the “Hit Man” was already trudging through a depressing run in WCW while HBK had left the ring for an extended hiatus. Other Superstars would step up, but no one truly stepped into the spots they left behind.
Dolph Ziggler — with his ability to shift between the arrogance of Michaels and the grit of Hart — would have been the man to fill both of these vacant roles. Part mat-wrestling badass, part hip-swiveling heartthrob, The Showoff could have joined DX or warred against them and been completely awesome either way. Besides, what Superstar outside of Ziggler shows so much attitude in everything they do? The answer is no one. Everyone else just wishes they could pull it off. — MIKE MURPHY