History of WWE - World Wrestling Federation - 1997-2002 - Attitude Era: Ratings Redemption

Attitude Era: Ratings Redemption

Main article: The Attitude Era See also: Montreal Screwjob

The WWF continued to lose much of its leading talent to WCW, including Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig), Alundra Blayze (Debra Miceli), and Rick Rude (Richard Rood). In 1997 a real life controversy had occurred when Vince McMahon forced the referee Earl Hebner to call for the bell to ring and end the match as Shawn Michaels held Bret Hart in the Sharpshooter submission hold (which was Hart's signature finishing move), even though Hart had not submitted. Michaels was declared the winner of the match and the new WWF Champion. This said, Hunter Hearst Helmsley encouraged Michaels to hurry out of the building on-camera, fearing a potential riot. This event was later known as the Montreal Screwjob. After that event, Vince McMahon created the "Mr. McMahon" character, a dictatorial and fierce ruler who favored heels who were "good for business" used to improvise on the heat McMahon received from costing Hart the match, although some exceptions were made in the case of the deaths of superstars such as Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit. This proved to be a founding factor in what was to officially kick start The Attitude Era.

WWF continued to lose other talent and continued to experience financial burdens. Therefore, to regain popularity, they replaced former WWF talent with former WCW talent such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vader (Leon White), Brian Pillman, Mankind (Mick Foley), and Farooq (Ron Simmons). In January 1998, WWF had invited boxer Mike Tyson to their shows and even placed Tyson in a storyline feud involving him and D-Generation X (at that time consisting of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna) against Austin, though Tyson would eventually turn on DX at WrestleMania XIV and help begin Austin's very first reign as WWF Champion. Later in the year, new talent began to emerge for the WWF: The Rock, Triple H, and Kane strengthened the WWF's singles division while stables such as D-Generation X and Nation of Domination helped strengthen its tag team division. WWF was able to target a more adult-aged audience and featured heavy violence, sexual themes, strong language, blood, gore, and adult-oriented entertainment that helped it get the edge on the more mild and discrete WCW content. During this time, Stone Cold Steve Austin became the face of the WWF and his character began to represent the Attitude Era, most principly from his infamous rivalry with Mr. McMahon, highlighted by Austin engulfing McMahon's newly owned Chevrolet Corvette with cement and pulling a toy gun on McMahon and pressing the trigger, but instead of firing actual bullets at McMahon, it revealed a flag reading 'BANG 3:16', the namesake of the segment. Austin and his success within wrestling and his storyline with McMahon was comparable to that of Hogan in the 80's. This helped the WWF regain high ratings and popularity, as of the in-ring debut of McMahon against Austin caused the WWF to finally beat the WCW's ratings for the first time in 84 weeks. The creation of several types of matches, such as the Hell in a Cell Match and the Inferno Match, also helped the WWF to have better ratings. Eventually, the WWF broadcasted their highest-ever rated segment, named 'Rock: This Is Your Life', which involved the teaming of Mankind and The Rock and The Rock verbally berating people such as his 6th-grade economics teacher and his high-school girlfriend.

The Attitude Era product, with its heavy violence and more storyline oriented entertainment, started to see a decline in ratings for the WCW in the opening year of the new millennium. While new talent such as Edge, Matt and Jeff Hardy, and Kurt Angle, but also former WCW wrestlers such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Big Show (which some of them were unhappy with the storylines and backstage chaos at WCW) helped an already strong singles roster, while tag teams The Dudley Boyz, the Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian helped prop up the tag team division. Wrestlers that were already present in the WWF, like The Rock (renamed from Rocky Maivia) and Mick Foley (as Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love), were promoted to the main-event level and won the WWF Championship. These new talents where able to see great pushes from WWF as it was missing bigger stars such as The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin to injuries. Moreover, when Eric Bischoff told the WCW announcer Tony Schiavone to give away the result of Monday Night Raw minutes before both main events started, millions of viewers changed their program from Monday Nitro to Monday Night Raw to see Mick Foley winning his first WWF Championship Title. After that, the WCW was once again unable to beat the WWF's plentiful ratings.

On April 29, 1999, the WWF launched a special program known as SmackDown! on the UPN network. This show was the beginning of a ratings battle against WCW Thunder. In 2000, the WWF, in collaboration with television network NBC, created the XFL, a new professional football league, but it was a failure, having only lasted a single year before becoming defunct.

A new head writer, Chris Kreski, replaced WCW defect Vince Russo. Kreskis work was admired for well planned and detailed storylines, and the transitional period saw feuds and storylines such as the Triple H/Cactus Jack feud, the Triple H/Kurt Angle/Stephanie McMahon love triangle, and a TLC feud between the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian and the Dudley Boyz. The remainder of the year saw matches and angles such as The Hardy Boyz defeating Edge & Christian in a ladder match at No Mercy 1999 to earn $15,000 and Terri Runnels' managing services and Stone Cold Steve Austin being run over by Rikishi with a limousine at Survivor Series 1999.

Prior to WrestleMania 2000, the McMahon family had gone into an on-screen rivalry with each other and this rivalry set up the 'McMahon In Every Corner' Fatal 4 Way elimination main event between The Big Show (managed by Shane McMahon), The Rock (managed by Vince McMahon), Triple H (managed by his wife Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley), and future WWF Commissioner Mick Foley (managed by Linda McMahon). Triple H won after Vince McMahon turned on The Rock and thus retained his WWF Championship. In the weeks leading up to No Mercy 2000, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his return to WWF to gain revenge on Rikishi. At No Mercy, the no holds barred match between Austin and Rikishi ended in a no contest when Austin attempted to run Rikishi over with his Chevrolet Silverado, but was denied by a police car and was (kayfabe) arrested. Austin would go on to win the next year's Royal Rumble match and come out victorious against The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven with help from his former rival, Vince McMahon, who had been involved in an angle with his son, Shane over who actually owned WCW, and won the WWF Title. Shane McMahon (in storyline) revealed he was the owner of WCW. This is widely considered by many to be the end of the Attitude Era.

Read more about this topic:  History Of WWE, World Wrestling Federation, 1997-2002

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