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Re: Best year for the Attitude Era?
I went with 97 only because of what Vince Mcmahon pulled off that year. He made one of the sneakiest moves I had ever seen him make from a business standpoint. This was the year that showed the transition from New Generation to Attitude.
In a weird way, it was also the WWE's late arrival into the 1990s. If you look at the WWE from 1985 and forward, you would realize that the vibe and format of the 1980s is still there in the mid 90s. Sure, the launch of Monday Night Raw in 1993 did show a little change and it was a revolutionary concept but it wasn't really much compared to WCW.
When WCW started to change in 1995-1996 the WWE's style was still stuck in that 80's mode and Monday Night Raw still looked like 1993 despite all the new stars. This is one of the main reasons why WCW got ahead in late 96. Eric Bischoff and Co. got up with the times with the creation of the NWO. These guys were a gang during a time when gang warfare was at an all time high (especially if you were a fan of hip hop). On Raw you had a pretty boy cruiserweight as World Champion and the other top guy was out and about on a sabbatical and was starting to get stale anyway. Plus, the gimmicks you saw on Raw were the same gimmicks you probably would have seen back in the days of Hulkamania, and this was still being done in 1996 when pop culture was changing at a rapid rate.
Vince knew he was behind the times and he responded greatly in 1997. You saw a man whose comfort zone was marketing to families, primarily kids. He made one of the gutsiest moves in 1997 when he left his comfort zone and decided to market to a teen/young adult audience. To me it was one hell of a bait and switch and it was historic from a business standpoint. It would have been similar to Walt Disney trying to market to an MTV like audience, it would be business suicide if you do not plan carefully.
I know this may sound crazy, but I believe Vince was cautiously planting the seeds back in late 95 with the debut of the Golddust character. This man was a far cry from what you were seeing on WWE television at the time. 1996 saw the rise of other stars like Vader, Austin, and Mankind. You could see how Raw was still kind of campy that year but slowly getting darker as well. We saw the prototypical female valet go from the innocent Miss Elizabeth to sex Goddesses like Sunny and Sabel. After about two years of testing the waters Vince went all the way in 1997. Someone, I forgot who, made the perfect statement in one of the Attitude threads that if you stop watching WWE in the beginning of 1997 and started watching again at the end of 97, you saw a completely different show. WCW had gang warfare? Vince responded with Nation of Domination, Los Boriquas, Hart Foundation, Disciples of Apocalypse, Degeneration X, etc.. WCW had a great undercard, but Vince made up for that with great gimmicks and angles for every title in the company. Sure WCW had the better wrestling on the undercard but WWE had the better stories. And WWE's main event scene was hot in general due to the fact that everyone in the main event scene was feuding against each other AT THE SAME TIME. It was shades of gray in a company that rarely used shades of gray up to that point and that is what made it stand out. Vince pulled off the magic that year.
Another thing about 1997 was the fact that none of the characters were too over the top except for Austin. That is why everything worked so well, it helped Austin stand out from the rest. Going into 1998 it still worked but by mid 99 everyting became lame to me because Austin did not stand out anymore. EVERYONE on the roster became Stone Cold Steve Austin. They made everyone push the envelope to the point that it could not be pushed anymore and we are still seeing the effects today. For example, most of you here were so amazed with that CM Punk promo last year on 6/27. It was one those promos most do not here often and shouldn't. Now imagine if everyone else on the roster start cutting promos the same exact way every week. Not only does it make those moments less special, it would make CM Punk less special as well, an he is not that special to begin with. You would not want to expose him by letting everyone else have that freedom as well.