When did the Attitude Era start? We look back at all the details to determine the true beginning of the WWE’s most popular era in wrestling.
WWE’s Attitude Era is considered the peak of all professional wrestling by some – both in creativity, and popularity.
It encompassed the WWE in the 1990s and into the early 200s, building on the more adult style of wrestling that made ECW a household name, under Paul Heyman’s guidance.
The style at the time was car-crash TV, similar to shows like The Jerry Springer Show. Lead by Vince McMahon and head writer Vince Russo, Monday Night Raw (and later Smackdown) featured short wrestling matches, with a focus on outrageous and outlandish angles to keep the fans tuning in.
The Attitude Era saw the creation of a number of big stars in the WWE. After the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Bret Hart moved over the WCW, WWE were forced to create new main eventers for their show.
This led to the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and Mick Foley, as well as a host of other talents who would help define pop culture in the 1990s.
But when did the Attitude Era begin? There are a number of dates that could be considered the beginning of the Attitude Era.
In this article, we’ll detail them all, starting with the one that the WWE considers the official start date of the Attitude Era.
When Did The Attitude Era Begin?
According to the WWE, the start of the Attitude Era was on the December 15, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw.
At the start of the show, a lone Vince McMahon appeared on-screen. He introduced a new era in the WWE, straying away from their usual PG-style of programming, expanding their horizons with more adult-oriented content.
“We, in the WWF, think that you, the audience, are quite frankly, tired of having your ‘intelligence insulted’. We also think that you’re tired of the same old simplistic theory of ‘Good Guys VS Bad Guys’. Surely the era of ‘The super-hero urge you to say your prayers and take your vitamins’ is definitely, passe. Therefore, we’ve embarked on a far more innovative and contemporary creative campaign, that is far more invigorating and extemporaneous than ever before.”Vince McMahon’s speech introducing the Attitude Era in the WWE
It was clear that McMahon was going all in with this new style of programming, putting all his eggs in the baskets of stars like DX and Steve Austin.
They brought a new anti-establishment attitude that had not seen before in wrestling, and fit more in the zeitgeist of the 1990s.
In the weeks following, the programming began to get more and more adult on nature, involving more cursing, sexual themes and more humor. In a world full of shows like Jackass and Jerry Springer, the WWE fit right in.
However, this is not the date many consider the Attitude Era to truly start.
Some think that it began on November 4, 1996, with the “Pillman has a gun” angle with Steve Austin.
During the “Hollywood Blondes” feud in the WWE in 1996, Austin invaded an injured Pillman‘s (who had nearly died in a car crash) home, intent on maiming him further.
As the show went off the air, Brian Pillman pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot Austin. The screen faded to black, and fans were on tenterhooks about what was going to happen to Austin.
Others consider the Mankind interviews with Jim Ross to be the start of the Attitude Era. It showed a new side of the WWF, giving a new insight into a previously one-dimensional character.
It also gave the performers their own chance to shine, with the ability to figure out their own characters and have more creative control over the direction.
Meanwhile, the birth of DX could also be considered when the WWE first stepped into the world of Attitude.
Triple H and Shawn Michaels joined forces on August 11, 1997, ushering in the birth of a stable that would help define wrestling in the 1990s.
Their juvenile, crass and overtly sexual humor was incredibly low brow, but immensely popular with the fans at the time. They were the WWE’s answer to the NWO, and are among the greatest stables of all time.
The Montreal Screwjob is another moment that could be considered the beginning of the Attitude Era. It was the moment wrestling became real again, when Mr McMahon’s evil character was born by screwing Bret Hart out of the WWE Championship.
However, the moment that I would say began the era of Attitude in the WWE was with one of the most famous promos of all time.
Austin 3:16 is the unofficial start of the Attitude Era, and the moment when the star who would define the day was born.
After beating Jake “The Snake” Roberts to win the 1996 King of the Ring, “Stone Cold” took to the microphone to cut the now-legendary promo, which has gone down as the beginning of the most popular time in WWE history.
You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16…
Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
This is where we, and many others, consider the Attitude Era to start. WWE and others think differently, so let us know you thoughts on the matter down in the comments section!
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.