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While I invite everyone to post their own answers to the title's question, I actually have my own theory. Here's a hint: It's NOT because it was edgier or because it had boobies.

Sure, wrestling was edgier during the Attitude Era. But so was 99% of pop culture at the time! Pop culture in general, at the time, was undergoing a "shock value for its own sake" and "anti-authority for its own sake" movement. Shows like Fear Factor, Jerry Springer, MTV's "Jackass." The list goes on and on. Even shows that had relatively wholesome content would still often have anti-social main stars, like Inquisition or The Weakest Link.

There were commercials for things like "Bubble Tape" (bubble gum in a tape-measure style container) or "squand" where the whole selling point of those commercials was that the grown-ups DON'T like it!

In the movie "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," the villain Ivan Ooze tried to enslave the parents by giving his magic ooze to the kids. His selling point was "Take it home in boxes; take it home in cases! If you're parents try to stop ya, just throw it in their faces!" Hell, one of the kids even asked Ivan what they were supposed to do with the ooze, and Ivan didn't have an answer for that! But your parents wouldn't approve of you having it! What more do you need?!

So yes, wrestling was edgier during the time period that happens to be labeled "the Attitude Era." But that doesn't explain why it was at the top of the ratings charts every week. They had to do something different than everything else on TV at the time ... and everything else on TV was just as edgy as WWF was.

But you know what isn't a product of its time, but is in fact timeless? People love good stories. People look well-developed characters. People like those characters to have complex and relateable conflicts and to undergo character development.

And that's something the Attitude Era did in spades that everyone seems to gloss over. The Attitude Era was a time period where storytelling in wrestling was at the height of its quality. This is also the time period when wrestling itself was at the height of its popularity.

Think I'm looking too deep into this? Well, to prove that the storytelling was so good, I'm going to list some wrestlers from that time period. However, I'm not going to tell you their names or any of the moves they did in their matches. Instead, I'm going to focus exclusively on their personalities and backstories. Let's see how many of these Attitude Era wrestlers you instantly recognize.

- The leader of a satanic cult who would often hand other wrestlers to his crucifix and therefore brainwash them into joining his cult.

- A masked man who believed he suffered severe burns as a child, and wore a mask to hide those burns. He entered the WWF in the hopes of avenging his older brother, who he blamed for starting said fire.

- A part-time porn star who would often flirt with the women in the audience before his matches. He would enter the ring appearing to wear nothing but a towel, but much to the censors' gratitude, he would disrobe to reveal his wrestling trunks underneath.

- A pimp who wold offer the services of his prostitutes to his opponents in exchange for forfeiting their matches against him.

- A pair of reformed satan-worshippers who would offer to protect anyone on the roster who paid their fee.

- A pair of Japanese wrestlers who were a parody of poorly-dubbed Japanese monster movies. Their promos would consist of them moving their lips around randomly while a pre-recorded promo would play over the sound system.

- A guy who always spoke in third person who, at one point, complained to Vince McMahon that the $100,000 bonus he was supposed to receive amounted to a mere five new shirts for him.

So as you can see from these examples, the Attitude Era was chalk full of colorful characters with fully fleshed-out, instantly recognizable personalities, despite all of them having to be "edgey" in one capacity or another due to the pop culture demands of the time.

Now compare that to a guy who never really got himself over during the Attitude Era: Dan "the Beast" Severn. Listen to this blog about why that guy never really got over with the fans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRCvHpFNshI

Compare that to the wrestlers of today. If I told you I was thinking of a moder-day wrestler, and I said his personality was "a triumphant babyface who doesn't understand the meaning of the word 'quit' and will fight on despite impossible odds," then who am I talking about? John Cena, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, or AJ Styles?

So my personal theory about why the Attitude Era is so fondly remembered by fans isn't the edginess ... it was the attitude itself! Aka the personality that was injected into the wrestlers!

Your thoughts?
 

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Lets go to the old mill anyway, get some cider!
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Very simple: Entertaining characters in an environment that supported creativity and freedom.

Competition between 2 major companies that forced them both to raise the bar and change the rules about what pro wrestling could be.

Edgy content and stories that were grounded more than ever in reality and culture.
 

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It is because it was edgier, wrestlers had a chance to improve their gimmick and they were much, much more charismatic than the once we have now. Creative freedom.
 

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Quite frankly because it was the first experience that most of the IWC had with professional wrestling as adults. It literally represented professional wrestling coming of age, just as they themselves were doing the same. The vast majority of wrestling fans whether they be the older smarks or younger fans that have come along in the last decade are for the most part too young to have experienced the golden era as adults so therefore their first sophisticated experience with professional wrestling was watching the Attitude Era. There is an old saying regarding "first times" or "first experiences" and that is applicable here as well. The Attitude Era is held in high reverence large in part due to the fact that a great number of fans associate it with them embracing professional wrestling as a legitimate passion rather than some childhood fad you got into because all of your mates were tuning in.
 

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Nostalgia, simple as that. Plus many of us were kids so we were able to suspend our disbelief. 20 years later, I tried to watch 1998-99 and couldn't binge watch shows like I can with other series. One episode of Monday night raw would exhaust me unless I fast forwarded through the unimportant stuff.

Year 2000 was great though. I watched every raw,sd and ppv
 

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From someone who remembers it quite well, it was simply WWE firing on all cylinders...finally. I started watching in 1986 as a child and grew up during the Golden Era. And I remember when almost the entire roster left, and a lack of steroid physiques was countered with ridiculous, one-dimensional gimmicks aimed at young children. I first got the PW Torch in 1994, and it was then that I realized how down the business was versus three years earlier. Meanwhile WCW gradually became representative of the worst in pro wrestling, and with seeming unlimited funding was on the path to overtaking the WWF and perhaps driving it out of business altogether. At the same time I discovered ECW, and realized it to be the logical progression of WWF's Golden Era - a product tailored to 20ish crowd who had grown up and had outgrown WWF.

ECW if properly adopted was the future of the WWF, and during 1996 and 1997 they made that transition. If you compare Feb 1996 RAWs to Feb 1997 RAWs the difference in promotion and presentation was startling. It was cool to see WWF take back the initiative from WCW and regain its position as the number one company. Eventually the company dipped too far into shock entertainment, and it became unsustainable (Beaver Cleavage, Mark Henry angle). But it was fun to watch, and the quick turnaround was as jarring as if today's WWE were to suddenly in one year become as nuanced and must see television as Game of Thrones or The 100, with rich characters and creative freedom.
 

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So yes, wrestling was edgier during the time period that happens to be labeled "the Attitude Era." But that doesn't explain why it was at the top of the ratings charts every week. They had to do something different than everything else on TV at the time ... and everything else on TV was just as edgy as WWF was.
But that is still true today, with regard to other things on TV. Other shows are just as edgy now, as they were back in the Attitude Era.

It's the WWE that changed since then. TV certainly hasn't. TV is just as trashy if not more trashy now, than it was even in the 90s.

Obviously there were great individual talents like Rock, Austin, Mick Foley, Edge and Christian, cutting amazing promos and having hardcore spot fest matches. etc. But if you muzzled their mics, and put them into the current PG or G environment, they wouldn't have gotten over nearly as much and the Attitude Era would not have been anything special. It was a combination of talented performers given the leeway to perform, and to target adults. Even in the ruthless agression era, ratings stagnated but were still strong for Cable. They've only fallen off a cliff in the last 3 years.

Wrestling could be hot if they target adults. It'll never be hot as a kid's show. Surely after 40 years of TV ratings, Vince understands this.
 

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But that is still true today, with regard to other things on TV. Other shows are just as edgy now, as they were back in the Attitude Era.

It's the WWE that changed since then. TV certainly hasn't. TV is just as trashy if not more trashy now, than it was even in the 90s.

Obviously there were great individual talents like Rock, Austin, Mick Foley, Edge and Christian, cutting amazing promos and having hardcore spot fest matches. etc. But if you muzzled their mics, and put them into the current PG or G environment, they wouldn't have gotten over nearly as much and the Attitude Era would not have been anything special. It was a combination of talented performers given the leeway to perform, and to target adults. Even in the ruthless agression era, ratings stagnated but were still strong for Cable. They've only fallen off a cliff in the last 3 years.

Wrestling could be hot if they target adults. It'll never be hot as a kid's show. Surely after 40 years of TV ratings, Vince understands this.
There's a tradeoff at work -

1) Go adult - You will potentially see a strong growth in ratings as you recapture the children of 2006 - 2012 who had outgrown the product. But the storytelling needs to be compelling enough to sustain their interest long term. Every adult show has its shelf life, and eventually WWE runs the risk of running out of adult-oriented ideas while at the same time having precluded a young audience

2) Stay kid-friendly - You won't grow, but it is easier to tell stories as they are simplistic and geared towards children. They are constantly refreshing their audience, and as a result feel minimal need to account for continuity
 

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Because it was the greatest era in pro wrestling history periord. Yeah nostalgia tends to color your views. 2000 was the best year in pro wrestling history imo. Besides if it wasen't for the AE. Chicks you seeing running around in WWE today like Reigns, Rollins. Balor e.t.c. Woulden't exist. To be honest without the AE. WWE woulden't even exist today.
 

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It gave kids growing up at that time something awesome to latch onto. It gave someone like me who was late teens when it happened a chance to once again see my friends that had long since walked away and even older people I worked with everyday enjoying something I've always enjoyed once again. There was almost an odd sense of validation I felt for sticking with it. I'm sure that sounds odd but that's the best I can describe it. The late 90's were a time of pushing boundaries in entertainment further than they will likely ever be pushed again. Which is what wrestling needs to truly thrive in the mainstream. It was the perfect storm. I've always wondered what it's like to be one that grew up after it was over and going back and watching it.
 

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Why? Wrestling was everywhere I went when I was that age, during the Attitude Era. Whether it was someone who had a DX shirt saying Suck it in 1998, Austin shirts were everywhere and people were quoting the Rock on the daily at school. It wasn’t limited to WWF, people loved WCW, I can still see the people people had nWo shirts walking around Walmarts in 1998.

I remember going to the mall and my dad buying me WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 and St Valentines Day Massacre 1999. For some reason I thought this was special and my friends were super jealous, lol. I think I really liked the Attitude Era at the time because I knew it was something I shouldn’t have been watching at that age.

I was invested too, I remember feeling sick to my stomach when Scott Steiner turned on his bro Rick to join the nWo. I felt “sad” to see him go evil attack Luger with blonde hair on Nitro the night after SuperBrawl in 1998.

I guess I just like it because I miss being a kid, pushing my mom’s buttons who didn’t like cursing or vulgar language. Everyone in my class watched, every boy that was. I had a friend who I remember invited me to his house for WM 14, 15 parties and I remember being mad when I asked him if he was doing it for 2000 and he’s just like “nahhh”

I can’t remember the last time I saw WWE make it to the public, whether its someone wearing a shirt, yelling suck it or having a party for a PPV. Those days are just gone.

Edit: Well, I guess that YES movement thing was pretty big huh? lol
 

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I've always wondered what it's like to be one that grew up after it was over and going back and watching it.
Well, I am currently in the middle of a rewatch of 1999. Just watching the Raws and PPVs. Firstly, I don't understand how some people can casually disregard the Attitude Era and chalk it up to nostalgia. That's everyone's go-to explanation for literally anything older than five years. "Oh, it's just nostalgia. It's not really that good." That's not to say that nostalgia doesn't play a part, because it definitely does, but it's not the prime factor for anything.

I was 8 years old in 1999, and I have obviously forgotten A LOT of that time period in wrestling. Some things that were awesome that I completely forgot about, but then little things I happen to remember. Your brain works in funny ways sometimes.

A good ~30% of the show I can't believe what I'm watching. Pushing the envelope for shock value. The whole storyline with D-Lo pushing Terri Runnels down, causing a miscarriage. PMS, Sexual Chocolate getting a blowjob from Chyna's trans friend. That stuff is nonsense. But... pretty much everyone had a storyline. Everything felt like it had a purpose in the show. All the branching storylines wove together, some feuds got involved in other feuds. It felt chaotic. It was more well-written in that regard.

There's so much good stuff from where I'm at. The Ministry storyline, The Union is actually fun, the Rock/Foley feud was phenomenal. Hell, the first episode of 1999 features the greatest Raw moment in history when Foley won the championship. Val Venis (though his stories were ridiculous in a fun way, of course) actually feels important. He has credibility. He's in the midcard and is booked accordingly. So he shines in his role.

Matches rarely end in a clean finish, which I can understand why some may find it annoying, but it's leagues better than 50/50 booking. And sometimes, the match doesn't happen at all. To put it simply... the show feels alive. It feels like these characters are alive.

That's why it is remembered fondly.
 

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I'm the world's greatest superhero. I can do whate
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Because the shows were great. If those same shows ran today, I would still love it. It's gonna be sad if people look back in 20 years on these current shows and actually think it was really good. But to each his own.
 
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