COMMENTARY – It appears WWE superstar Sheamus took a bad bump and spit out blasphemy this past week when he told The Sun the current brand of wrestling is better than the Attitude Era.
“The level of athleticism has evolved so much since we watched as kids. The athletes that WWE has now are far superior to anything that we had the 1980s or the 1990s. You look back at the Attitude Era and the level of entertainment we put in the ring now. The Attitude Era doesn’t even come close. I’m not afraid to say that either. You watch some of the stuff Cesaro does in the ring; with his size, the way he moves around the ring, the moves he hits, the way he picks up guys twice his size. It’s just a different level.”
I hope he didn’t say that around Steve Austin or made the mistake of tell Shawn Michaels the same thing.
Yes, WWE has superstars on the current roster who may be more gifted physically, but in terms of wrestling genres and the changing times of the business, the Attitude Era is one of the most important, if not the most important to the success of Vince McMahon’s traveling circus.
According to lore and differing accounts, The Attitude Era is a period in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, known now as WWE) and professional wrestling history that arose in the latter half of the 1990s. The era was marked by a shift to more adult-oriented programming content, which was accomplished in a number of different ways; including an increase in the level of depicted violence and the incorporation of horrific, or otherwise politically incorrect characters and storylines created for shock value.
Similar to the 1980s professional wrestling boom, the Attitude Era was a surge in the popularity of professional wrestling in the United States as television ratings and pay-per-view buy-rates saw record highs.
It also gave fans the chance to see Austin, Michaels, The Rock, Triple H and The Hardy Boys soar in popularity as wrestling sensibilities changed, basically ending the idea of kayfabe in the business. The era also completed the transition from “sport” to “sports entertainment” – the brand McMahon had preached since the dawn of Hulkamania.
Today’s wrestling is a far cry from the days of Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers putting on a clinic. It is more theatric with a company that moved away from storytelling and building backstories of characters and programming. Sheamus and Cesaro are two popular performers of this new era, which a new generation of fans like because of short matches, short booking and the “less is more” culture of the business. The fact is many WWE superstars today would not be a fixture in decades of the past. Wrestling titles meant something. Characters became cult heroes and regional stars had their place in building territories.
The Attitude Era blew the doors off the business, creating more reality television, adding McMahon as a central character on television and defined the business as a mainstream money-making venture.
But to say today’s brand, which has flaws with unbalanced rosters, a need to use veteran talent over up and coming stars and mediocre feud, is better than the past is way off base.