Originally Posted by The Gorgeous One
The Attitude Era was just another natural progression in pro-wrestling, it started with ECW in 95 when Heyman took over, then WCW made it huge with nWo in 96 and then the WWF took the ideas from ECW and WCW and repackaged them with better production and results. The Attitude Era did have a big impact, good or bad is another question.
Obviously it gave wrestling mainstream attention and the product was incredible every week. But the lasting impact of the attitude era did have some negative effects. WWF became a publicly traded comppany, so Vince didn't have that control over everything like he did before. This was mainly done so he could get in more money quickly, to try and match Turner. They gave away gimmick matches or title matches on tv for free, this was a desperate attempt to try and increase ratings at the time. But I think the most important reason that The Attitude Era had really bad consequences was that it put both ECW and WCW out of business. WWF had no other real competitors now, which meant they could slack, it also meant that wrestlers could only work at one place to truly hone their skills. It also meant less variety as a whole in wrestling. In the 80's if you didn't like WWF you could watch WCW, WCCW, Mid South etc. And you had the same variety up until WCW and ECW went out of business. Wrestling as a whole has been a lot worse since there was only one major promotion.
Good observations, and I agree the AE really started in 95. While ECW obviously had some influence on pushing the WWE into the AE, I think it was more a reflection on society itself. The late 90's was an era of "attitude", it was a trickle down from the changing limits on television, to the upheaval in the music industry. That era just felt a little more edgy on every level. Attitude went from a counter culture to mainstream and therefore wrestling took up attitide as well.
dddsssccc also made a good point, the large numbers of children who grew up on the "Rock and Wrestling" era were college kids when AE came around, so it was also a little perfect timing.
I think another thing that is lost on fans is maybe the fact that the AE was not just an era that changed the face of the sport, it was the stars and the booking as well. The main focus of the attitude era was on the the WWE title. That focus combined with the WWE'S deep roster at the time was the perfect match for vaulting the AE. To me at least the AE without the title chase booking and numerous stars in the main events was just another era. The ECW which itself was influenced by the madhouse territories Heyman was raised in, taught the WWE how to get the attitude thing done. However the WWE had the roster to really make it explode. The Rock, D-X, Stone Cold, Taker, etc...they were all there to pack the houses. Sure without the "attitude" the talent may have not exploded as well, so it was really a matter of all these things coming together.
For example, lets say the WWE went back to attitude today. Do they have the roster to help make it special? Would they be willing to put five to ten guys rotating in the main events? I would say based on what I see, no to both questions.
To me the era itself is given too much credit and the personalities and booking are not given enough. As for impact on today, other posters have made good points, but I would say it is directly responsible for the product we have today. Every aspect or movement in soiciety is a direct result from the last movement.
When they took away the AE they neutered the product to make it more pallatable for younger viewers. This maybe a stretch but could it be because their huge 80's fanbase, who were college students during the AE, had moved on to different stage of life, sharing the sport with their children? Their reaction, was to make it PG. Just a theory.