WWE – The Attitude Era (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray / 3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Freemantle Media) Running Time: 57 minutes approx.
Ah the Attitude Era. Arguably the WWE’s biggest boom period since Hulkamania over a decade earlier and one of the most fondly remembered times for the modern wrestling fan. It was the time when the WWE TV and PPV product was at its edgiest, at its most explicit, at its most controversial, breaking all the rules, redefining wrestling, redefining TV and winning over a new legion of fans to the whacky world of wrestling in the process.
But was it really that good or are some of us looking through rose coloured glasses at something which was huge fun at the time but hasn’t really stood the test of time? This latest release from WWE gives us the chance to decide for ourselves.
A little history first. In the mid to late 90’s WWE was in trouble. It’s chief rival WCW had not only come from behind to challenge WWE when they signed Hulk Hogan in 1994 but their live weekly TV show Monday Nitro had finally eclipsed WWE Monday Night RAW in the head to head TV ratings. WWE owner Vince McMahon was getting desperate and didn’t like losing. He knew it was time for a change in philosophy and after realising that the nWo angle in WCW, which rewrote the rule book for chaos and unpredictability, was successful due to the rebellious nature of this renegade group, Vince McMahon saw that the WWE product had to move with the times and adopt a similar “counter culture” attitude. So, the gloves came off, the rulebook went out the window and a warning was sent out to the world – the WWE was no longer going to play nice. Slowly but surely, the changes were implemented: the bleep of the censor for salty language would vanish; wristlocks and headlocks were replaced by tables and chairs; blood was spilt more frequently than before; the women exchanged evening gowns for bikini’s and tight shorts; friendly banter was replaced by sexual innuendo and rebellion towards authority was encouraged.
And that was just the beginning.
57 minutes may not seem long enough to reflect back on five of the WWE’s most productive, inventive, eventful and always controversial years, and indeed it isn’t, but thankfully the wealth of extras in this set more than make up for this, complimenting the verbal discourse from those who were there, either as an observer or in the thick of things via new or archived interviews. To that end, the philosophy seems to be “less talking about it, let’s just see it”, as viewers who may not have been around to experience the Attitude Era first hand may not get what the fuss was about from brief clips whereas seeing the angles and matches in full are a better way to understand the true effect of the product at this time.
The choice of material may seem lacking in certain areas for some fans but lest we forget the numerous individual releases on stars such as Stone cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Undertaker, HHH and DX etc would already have featured many of these moments while telling their stories. But this period was so much more than about these familiar faces and they all deserve a second chance in the spotlight so this release recognises the other key players of this era to provide a wider and more comprehensive overview of these chaotic years. It is also refreshing to get the perspective from other than Rock, Austin Mick Foley and HHH with people like Christian, Mark Henry, Ron Simmons and Road Dogg getting to proffer an opinion to, who often admit when their own personal lines of taste were crossed with some of the antics. However it is through hindsight that, especially for those of us how have aged since then, just how tacky and objectionable a lot of the material was back then, somewhat justifying the complaints levied against the WWE for being low brow entertainment.
One interesting point for the more learned fan to debate is the promo from Vince McMahon from December 1997 which aired on RAW in which he explained and defended the WWE’s new direction, saying it was contemporary and more reflective of modern attitudes. However he also said that fans are tired of “having their intelligence insulted” and no longer want “superheroes” – two common complaints with today’s WWE product thanks to ridiculously lame PG storylines and of course Super Cena rammed down our throats ad nauseum. Other fans who know their wrestling history will notice that ECW never gets a mention as one of the key influences in the “new direction” adopted by Vince in 1997 since it was pretty much what Paul Heyman and co had been doing down in the Bingo Hall in Philadelphia for years before. But this is a WWE production so we shouldn’t expect anything else other than McMahon approved partisan rhetoric over the facts.
The Attitude Era is another generously packed release from WWE that will bring back memories of both the joyous and the painful for those who were there while those who weren’t may just feel a little bemused. In essence this is a perfect companion piece to the recent Top 100 RAW Moments as it fills in a lot of the blanks from the list while elaborating on others. Again the current PG era WWE means some moments don’t make the cut but nothing is missing to disappoint those with fond memories of this unquestionably pivotal period of WWE history.
Jim Ross interviews Goldust & Marlena
Stone Cold Throws the IC belt off a Bridge
Soldier of Love
Mr.McMahon presents Mankind with the Hardcore Championship
Jim Ross interviews Triple H
An Evening at the Friendly Tap
Mae Young & the APA
The Jug Band
Triple H Trains Trish Stratus
Edge’s Totally Awesome Birthday
The Rock’s Message to his Hell In A Cell Opponents
Mike Tyson Joins DX
A New Beginning for DX
Sable vs Marc Mero
Nation of Degeneration
Brawl for All – Bart Gunn vs Dr. Death Steve Williams
Four Corners Match for the WWF Tag Titles – Steve Austin & Undertaker vs Kane & Mankind vs New Age Outlaws vs Rock & Owen Hart
Lion’s Den Match – Ken Shamrock vs Owen Hart
WWF Title Tournament Final – The Rock vs Mankind
The Rock & Undertaker vs Mankind & Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin gives the Corporation a Beer Bath
Undertaker vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Debut of Y2J
European & IC Title Match- D’Lo Brown vs Jeff Jarrett
WWF Tag Title Buried Alive Match – The Rock & Mankind vs Undertaker & Big Show
Stone Cold Steve Austin & Jim Ross vs Triple H & Chyna
Boss Man’s Sympathy for Big Show’s Dad
The Wedding of Stephanie McMahon & Test
Godfather & D’Lo Brown vs Too Cool
WWF Hardcore Title Match – Hardcore Holly vs Crash Holly
WWF European Title Match – Chris Jericho vs Eddie Guerrero
WWF IC Title Steel Cage match – Rikishi vs Val Venis
TLC Tag Title Match – Edge & Christian vs Hardy Boyz vs Dudley Boyz
WWF Title Hell In A Cell Match – Kurt Angle vs The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Triple H vs Undertaker vs Rikishi
Blu-Ray Only Extras:
King of Kings Match – Ken Shamrock vs Triple H vs Owen Hart
The Truth About Sammy
The Unholy Union of Stephanie McMahon & The Undertaker
No DQ Match – The Rock vs Val Venis
Elimination Match – Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane & Shane McMahon vs DX
WWF Hardcore Title Match – Al Snow vs Crash Holly
The Hardy Boyz & Lita vs The Radicalz
Chris Jericho & The Dudley Boyz vs Kurt Angle, Edge & Christian
Rating – ****
Man In Black