WWE The Attitude Era – DVD Review
by Julian Radbourne
There was a time, many years ago, when the WWF was getting a tad boring. The endless parade of plumbers, garbage men, ice hockey players and the like who also just happened to be wrestlers as well wasn’t doing anything for me, and I no longer made an effort to watch every show going.
Then, something happened. The wrestling product before my eyes started to change. The language that was normally the domain of the films I enjoyed was finding it’s way to Monday Night Raw as all of the cartoon characters were kicked out of the door to be replaced by beer swilling anti-heroes, by people who told me to know my role and suck it. For the first time in ages I finally felt like the WWF were aiming their product at people like me.
Now the powers that be at World Wrestling Entertainment have delved into the recent past to take a look at a period in time that revolutionised the wrestling business, and if you haven’t guessed it yet the DVD release in question is The Attitude Era.
This three disc set takes a look at some of the best moments in that era. It begins with the obligatory documentary about how the change in the WWF’s creative attitude came about and how it changed a product that for years had been aimed at a much younger audience.
If anything this part of the collection is probably the weakest. Don’t get me wrong, it was very enjoyable and fun to watch, but I can’t help but think that they could have done so much more to commemorate this period.
The disappointment with the documentary is more than made up for by the rest of the collection. It’s jam packed with some of the best skits they’ve ever produced. There’s a ton of stuff here for you to enjoy, from the debut of Y2J to Mae Young beating Bradshaw and Faarooq at poker to the Nation of Degeneration parody.
This collection isn’t just about the interviews and the skits though. There are quite a few matches here as well, so let’s slip into show review mode for the next few thousand words…..
Raw, 11th May 1998
The first match is an inter-gender affair as Sable faces Marc Mero.
I’m not sure if you can really call this a match. All of this came about because Mero thought that Sable was ruining his career. At first it looked like they were really going to go at it, especially when Mero lifted Sable into his shoulders in anticipation of the TKO.
The move never happened. Mero promised to let Sable go if she apologised for having such a disastrous effect on his career. Sable replied with a kick below the belt and a power bomb before she left Mero lying on the ring.
Raw, 27th July 1998
It’s Brawl for All action as Steve Williams goes up against Bart Gunn.
This tournament format was the nearest thing to MMA that WWE ever produced, and in a lot of ways it was quite similar to some of the early UFC fights in the sense that it was a very scrappy affair.
With five points awarded for a takedown and five points awarded for the most punches landed in a round Williams sought to gain the advantage using his wrestling skills, while Gunn looked to connect with the big left hand.
Unofficial scorecards had Dr. Death leading by the time the third round started, but when Gunn scored with a takedown Williams suffered an injury to his left leg. Now clearly hampered it wasn’t long before Gunn connected with the big left that sent Williams crashing. The referee stopped the fight immediately to give Gunn the knockout win.
Raw, 10th August 1998
It’s four corner tag action as the Nation’s Owen Hart and Intercontinental Champion the Rock, Bully Gunn and Road Dogg of the New Age Outlaws, and Paul Bearer’s Kane and Mankind challenged the Undertaker and WWF Champion Steve Austin for the Tag Team titles.
Well, that was the plan to begin with. Before the final two teams made their entrance Ken Shamrock appeared and attacked Hart while Triple X and X-Pac attacked the Rock. Normal service had resumed during the break, although it was announced that European Champion D’Lo Brown had replaced Hart as the Rock’s partner.
Add to that the apparent dissention between Mankind and Kane because of the Big Red Machine’s rumoured alliance with the Undertaker, and the fact that the Dead Man was challenging Austin for the title three weeks later at Summerslam and you’ve got a ton of back story here.
Now can you imagine having this many champions in a match like this on Raw today? I doubt that it would ever happen again. With all the back story this proved to be a great encounter for all concerned. There was no real standout performance here, everything just seemed to flow so smoothly as the rabid crowd lapped up everything they were given.
Road Dogg took the punching bag treatment here before the all hell breaking loose moment which saw the Undertaker trying to put Mankind away. But when Mrs. Foley’s baby boy made to the tag to his partner Kane came into the match for what was only his second appearance as he took his brother down with a choke slam for the winning pin, leaving some to wonder if the Undertaker had screwed Austin out of the titles.
Summerslam, 30th August 1998
It’s the first ever Lion’s den match as Owen Hart, with Dan Severn in his corner, taking on Ken Shamrock.
This is probably the nearest thing you’ll get to a professional wrestling match in an Octagon, and having watched MMA for over a decade now I can certainly appreciate how good this was.
These two were at the top of their game as they tore strips off each other. They used the fence and it’s supports to good effect on numerous occasions, mixing in this particular tactic with some sound wrestling action.
At one point it looked like Hart was going to get the win with the Sharpshooter until Shamrock literally climbed to fence to escape, and it wasn’t long before he came back into the match and applied the ankle lock. Severn looked like ht was going to throw in the towel until he walked away, leaving Hart alone to tap out as Shamrock took the submission win.
Survivor Series, 15th November 1998
It’s the finals of the WWF title tournament, with Mankind facing the Rock for the gold.
It would take too long for me to explain everything that had happened before this match, so let’s just say that Mankind had been touted as Mr. McMahon’s chosen one, while the Rock had been drawing the ire of the chairman in recent weeks.
This was the start of their feud, and with Vince and his boy Shane watching on from ringside these two beat the proverbial out of each other, mainly because referee Earl Hebner had been instructed not to disqualify or count anybody out.
It really was a compelling piece of drama. With Vince’s nemesis knocked out of the tournament it looked like the deck had been stacked in favour of Mankind. But the Rock didn’t see it that way as these two battled in the ring, around ringside and through the crowd as they hit each other with anything that wasn’t nailed down.
But after Mankind kicked out of pins following the People’s Elbow and the Rock Bottom the Rock went for the Sharpshooter. Vince immediately called for the bell as the Rock was declared the new champion.
It was then that the McMahons revealed their evil plan as the Rock was crowned the new Corporate Champion. A rather confused Mankind tried to find out what had happened, only to find himself on the receiving end of another Rock Bottom.
The McMahons and their new champion stood triumphantly in the ring until Austin appeared in the aisle. As the McMahons headed for the hills Austin and the Rock began brawling until Austin connected with the Stunner. He then took Mankind out with another Stunner just for good measure.
Raw, 7th December 1998
WWF Champion the Rock teams with the Undertaker, accompanied by Paul Bearer, as they face Mankind and Steve Austin.
This was the setup for the upcoming Rock Bottom pay per view, with Austin facing the Dead Man in a Buried Alive match and Mankind challenging the Rock for the title.
It began with one big brawl as Rock and the Undertaker attacked Mankind before Austin made his entrance, and when Stone Cold arrived on the scene the brawl took in most of the ringside area as well as the stage. Things eventually settled down as the bad guys used Mankind as their punching bag, with Austin growing more and more frustrated by the minute.
The hot tag never came. After Rock took Mankind down with the Rock Bottom Austin broke up the pin, and when he began brawling with the Undertaker Rock’s Corporation buddies Ken Shamrock and the Big Boss Man appeared on the scene and handcuffed Mankind to the ropes.
The Undertaker eventually took the upper hand in the brawl, and a few moments later his Druid henchmen appeared and helped the Dead Man tie Austin to his giant symbol before it was raised high into the air.
Raw, 28th June 1999
With the Corporate Ministry in full flow WWF Champion the Undertaker, accompanied by Paul Bearer, defends his title against Steve Austin.
This one also had a stipulation that Austin put in during his brief time as the company’s CEO: if any member of the Ministry interfered then the Undertaker would forfeit his title.
This may not have been the best match I’ve seen these two in but it was still pretty good. It was, more or less, one big brawl from start to finish, and touted as Austin’s last shot at the title.
With occasional interference from Bearer at ringside the Dead Man did a good job of keeping Austin down. However, he was never out of it. With the knowledge that the Undertaker wouldn’t be getting any help from his friends Austin came back time after time on this even playing field.
Eventually Austin managed to take his man down with the Stunner, but as the referee made his count Bearer pulled him out of the ring. A right hand from the Rattlesnake soon dealt with him, and another Stunner moments later saw Austin the Undertaker for the title.
But just as Austin was celebrating his win the Undertaker clobbered him with the title belt, busting him open, and not even a cadre of referees could stop his assault.
Summerslam, 28th August 1999
It’s two titles for the price of one as Jeff Jarrett, accompanied by Debra, challenges D’Lo Brown for the Intercontinental and European titles.
It seems that old Double J was none too happy with the attention Debra was getting, and after they made their entrance Jarrett sent her backstage. Then, before he made his entrance, Brown cut a deal with her so she’d accompany him to the ring.
As for the match it was one of those short and sweet encounters with a well played out storyline. It began with Jarrett attacked before the bell until Brown managed to fight him off for a few moments.
Jarrett then worked over the champion’s arm, but after Brown missed a top rope senton during his comeback Debra jumped onto the ring apron. It was then that Jarrett threatened to hit her with his guitar, and as the referee tried to separate them Brown’s buddy Mark Henry appeared. He snatched the guitar from Jarrett’s grasp before clobbering Brown in the back. The referee then turned his attention back to the match, and the first thing he saw was Jarrett’s title winning pin.
Then it was revealed that the whole thing had be one giant ruse as Jarrett, Debra and Henry celebrate din the ring.
Smackdown, 9th September 1999
The championship action continues as the Big Show and the Undertaker challenge Mankind and the Rock for the Tag Team titles in a Buried Alive match.
Now this was an interesting one. It began with the challengers attacking Mankind before the Rock had made his entrance, but it wasn’t long before the Great One arrived on the scene to even the sides.
The big brawl eventually took them away from the ring as we soon got the holy you know what moment when Show threw Mankind from the stage into the grave, and with Rock and the Undertaker battling backstage Show and Mankind battled over the burial plot.
The backstage brawl soon saw WWF Champion Triple H attacked Rock from behind, and after the Dead Man left them to it Kane appeared to make the save, but as he attacked the Game Chyna clobbered him with a chair. This literally had no effect, and the masked man soon had the future porn star running for cover.
Back in the arena it wasn’t long before the challengers took the upper hand as they began to bury Mankind. The Undertaker then left Show to finish the job as he headed the Rock off at the pass, but as they brawled on the stage Triple H appeared again. HE clobbered Show in the back with his sledgehammer before shovelling more dirt onto the fallen Mankind. Moments later the referee ended the match as Show and the Undertaker were declared champions.
With the match over an ambulance backed into the arena, and as Triple H opened the doors Steve Austin appeared and attacked the champion, beating the hell out of him before throwing him in the back of the vehicle. Then, after driving out of the arena Austin stole a truck and rammed it into the ambulance twice before leaving the scene of the crime.
Raw, 11th October 1999
It’s tag team action as WWF Champion Triple H and Chyna take on Jim Ross and Steve Austin.
If you thought that this was going to be a normal tag match then think again. Mind you, I’m not even sure if this counts as a proper match.
The power couple attacked JR after he’d made his entrance, but after Austin appeared the action broke off into two as Austin and the Game brawled through the crowd and Chyna and JR “fought” in the ring.
Triple H and Austin basically beat the hell out of each other before they left the arena. Back in the ring Chyna dominated JR until Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett and Miss Kitty appeared. Jarrett clobbered his future title challenger in the head with a toaster before stuffing her in a laundry hamper and wheeling her backstage.
Austin and Triple H then returned to the arena to continued their brawl, which more or less ended when Trips was thrown into a beer concession stand. Meanwhile, backstage, Jarrett pushed the laundry hamper off a balcony.
Smackdown, 27th January 2000
Yet more tag team action as the Godfather and D’Lo Brown take on Too Cool, Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay.
Well this began as a normal enough match with some nice sequences, but it soon emerged that both teams were more in the mood for partying that fighting, and they were soon joined in the ring by the Godfather’s bevy of beauties.
Then came the party spoilers when Mark Henry and Mae Young appeared on the stage to announce that the old girl was pregnant. Give ‘em a hand!
Raw, 27th March 2000
It’s the battle of the Holly cousins as Hardcore challenges Crash for the Hardcore title.
Within seconds of this match starting Taz appeared in the ring with another referee in a bid to take advantage of the 24/7 rules. He was soon joined in his efforts by the Headbangers and Viscera, who also had referees in tow.
Moments later Crash left them brawling in the arena as he sought refuge in the corridors backstage. He failed to find any as the Mean Street Posse and Kai En Tai went for the gold. Eventually they were joined by other others as the trail led them outside. Crash quickly found a hiding place, and he soon left all of his challengers in the cold as he ran back into the building and locked the door.
Raw, 3rd April 2000
With Chyna in his corner Chris Jericho defends the European title against Eddie Guerrero.
This was the day after Jericho had won the title at Wrestlemania, and before the match began Guerrero, in full Latino Heat mode, made romantic overtures towards a seemingly uninterested Chyna.
The match itself featured plenty of fast paced action, but after the referee was accidentally clobbered Jericho took his challenger down with a double powerbomb and the Lionsault, and when he went for the cover Chyna got into the ring and counted the pin, which of course meant nothing.
She then showed that she had indeed fallen under the spell of Latino Heat when she took Jericho down with a DDT. She then dragged Guerrero onto Jericho before reviving the referee so he could make the count. A groggy Guerrero then realised what had happened when Chyna gave him the title belt.
Raw, 12th June 2000
The WWF Women’s title is on the line as Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley defends against Lita.
Before the match began the Billion Dollar Princess boasted about how she’d brought pride and prestige to the title, but when Lita appeared the challenger began to take her to the proverbial woodshed.
However, when Lita pushed her off the ring apron Stephanie began to complain about a knee injury, and while referee Teddy long was checking on her condition Kurt Angle raced down the aisle and took Lita out with the Olympic Slam.
Stephanie then made a miraculous recovery as she went back into the ring to cover Lita for the title retaining win.
Raw, 17th July 2000
It’s one of the many matches in the storied rivalry between the Dudleys and the Hardys.
Fast-paced action was the order of the day here as the brothers went through their sequences until the Dudleys tried to bring some tables into the match. However, the appearance of Right to Censor head honcho Steven Richards distracted the Dudleys as he ran off with one of the tables.
This gave the Hardys time to recover, as well s giving them time to grab a few toys of their own, and it wasn’t long before Jeff was taking everyone out with a dive from the top of a ladder.
Trish Stratus and her T&A team of Test and Albert then appeared on the scene, and a few moments later Trish pushed Lita off a ladder and through a table before they scurried away.
Fully Loaded, 23rd July 2000
In one of the most heated rivalries of that summer Rikishi challenges Val Venis, managed by Trish Stratus, for the Intercontinental title in a steel cage match.
This match came about because Venis had defeated Rikishi for the title a few weeks before with a little help from Taz, who’d clobbered the then-champion with a television camera. The match itself is probably one of the most underrated steel cage matches in WWE history. It’s a great example of what a heated rivalry should be all about.
Venis tried to escape from the cage as soon as the bell sounded, and it wasn’t long before they started tearing strips off each other as they threw each other into the cage. At one point Rikishi looked like he was going to escape through the door until Trish rammed it into his skull. This brought Lita onto the scene as she began whipping Trish with her belt in revenge for what Trish had done to her earlier in the show.
Moments later both men battled on the top rope, but when Rikishi threw Venis backwards he accidentally clobbered referee Teddy Long. The big man then climbed to the top of the cage. He the invoked the spirit of the Superfly by crashing down on the champion with a big splash.
But as he crawled towards the door Taz appeared on the scene and clobbered him with another television camera. A groggy Venis went for the cover, and the groggy referee made the title retaining three count.
Summerslam, 27th August 2000
It’s back to tag team action as Edge and Christian defend their Tag Team titles against the Dudleys and the Hardys in the first ever TLC match.
Now this match was a wreck, literally, but in a good way. These guys didn’t wait as far as bringing the toys into the equation was concerned, and the bodies were soon flying all over the place. There were so many holy you know what moments it was incredible.
First there was Jeff missing a senton and crashing through two tables when Bubba moved out of the way. Then Bubba crashed through a stack of four tables at ringside when Edge and Christian pushed the ladder over as he was about to grab the belts. Then Matt went crashing through a couple of tables when Devon sent him flying from the ladder.
And after all that Edge and Christian finally managed to climb the ladder to grab the belts and retain the titles. Afterwards, as most of the protagonists were being helped backstage the fans gave them a standing ovation, and rightfully so.
Armageddon, 10th December 2000
It’s Hell in a Cell time with WWF Champion Kurt Angle defending his title against five challengers: Triple H, Rikishi, the Undertaker, the Rock & Steve Austin.
This one had quite a history. The match had been booked by Commissioner Mick Foley, even though his boss Vince McMahon strongly objected. Nevertheless the match went ahead, although Foley said he’d resign if anybody was seriously hurt.
This is probably the finest example of what the Attitude era was about match-wise. You had the six top guys in the company in one of the most brutal and brilliantly played out matches ever, even though in essence it was nothing more than one big fight.
There was no fancy Dan stuff here. As soon as the match started they split off into pairs and started to beat the hell out of each other. Then, about fifteen minutes in, Vince and his stooges appeared on the back of a truck as it backed up towards the cage, intent on bring the structure down. They managed to pull the door off, but when they tried to inflict further damage Foley appeared, and after clobbering the stooges he had McMahon taken away by security.
But with the door no longer there the brawls began to spill out of the cell as the combatants soon began fighting up the aisle and among the wrecked cars that made up the entrance set. By this time most of them were bleeding, and the referee’s pleas for them to go back into the cell fell on deaf ears.
The brawl soon took some of them to the top of the cell for the big bump of the night as the Undertaker choke slammed Rikishi down to truck below. A few moments later those still standing were back in the cage as Austin took Rock out with a Stunner, only for his pin to be broken up by Triple H. But when he went to take Trips out Angle crawled over to the fallen Rock and raped his arm over him. A three count later and it was all over as Angle retained his title. But just as Angle was groggily celebrating his win Austin had the last say when he took him down with a Stunner.
In conclusion – I was in my mid-to-late 20’s when the Attitude Era began, right in the target audience range that the WWF was aiming for back then, and it was the last time when I made an effort to watch every single broadcast, no matter what.
Which is why I enjoyed this collection so much. Watching this was like visiting an old friend you hadn’t seen in a while. It was great to see all of these segments and matches again, and it was a reminder of how tame today’s WWE seems in comparison.
So if you’re like me, if you were more or less brought back to the WWF because of the Attitude Era then this is the DVD for you, and it’s for all of these reasons that I’m giving this set the big thumbs up.
With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. WWE The Attitude Era is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.