See who stands atop three of WWF’s greatest eras?
The classic WWF era spanning from 1995 to 2005 saw some of the biggest milestones in the history of the present day WWE Inc and heavily influenced the current structure and face of the wrestling industry. The period can be divided into three eras – The New Generation Era (1995-97), The Attitude Era (1997-2002) and the rebranding followed by the Ruthless Aggression Era (2002-05).
The company had reached new lows at the beginning of this ‘classic’ era, as legendary stars and household names such as Hulk Hogan, Razor Ramon and Diesel left the company following the steroid scandal, involving McMahon and several WWF stars including Hogan himself. McMahon in a bid to revive the company started to push young wrestling talents into the spotlight, and also bringing out new events like WWE RAW, WrestleMania and WWE Smackdown to name a few. However, despite this attempt, WWF’s viewers decreased even more, mostly because of the huge success of the nWo (New World Order) which allowed WWF’s rivals WCW to dominate the wrestling scene for more than two years. With the rise of superstars like Steve Austin and The Rock, WWF regained their dominance over WCW and eventually acquired the company in 2001. With the integration of the WCW Championship with the WWF Championship at Vengeance 2001, by Chris Jericho after he defeated both the superstar wrestlers, mentioned previously in a single night, the WWE established itself as the major company in the wrestling industry.
Some of the greatest wrestling names were lost with the advent of the ‘classic’ WWF era. However, some of the greatest names were also created and are still making an impact in the WWE news, as we take a look at five of the biggest names in the WWF/WWE between 1995-2005.
5. Triple H
Both Triple H and Chris Jericho were in their early days during this period with both having their major successes post-2005, the current Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE, Paul Michael Levesque edges over Chris Jericho despite the latter’s role in the integration of the WCW and the WWF.
Triple H is credited with the foundation of the D-Generation X, along with best friend Shawn Michaels which was created to challenge The Hart Foundation, found itself dominating the scene in The Attitude Era following the departure of Bret Hart in the aftermath of the Montreal Screwjob. Triple H established himself as one of the biggest names of the Attitude Era as he feuded with the likes of Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker alongside Vince McMahon. He dubbed himself “The Game” (a nickname that was intended for Owen Hart and was adopted by Triple H, in his honor), implying that he was on top of the wrestling world.
He went on to win the 2002 Royal Rumble and the Undisputed WWF Championship at WrestleMania X8 and can be truly be regarded as one of the foremost wrestlers of the ‘classic’ era.
4. The Undertaker
Another legendary in the making, the Undertaker comparatively achieved the lesser of his successes during this period and only became much much more outstanding following the ‘classic’ era. However, he commanded a presence big enough to pip superstars like Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle etc.
Known for his supernatural and horror gimmick, he won the WWF Championship title thrice between 1991 to 1999. He also won the WWF Tag Team Championship multiple times during that period with several partners such as Steve Austin, Big Show, The Rock and Kane. He won the WWF Undisputed title after defeating Hulk Hogan at Judgement Day 2002.
3. Shawn Michaels
Arguably one of the greatest in-ring performers of all-time, Shawn Michaels is an iconic WWE superstar. The charismatic Heartbreak Kid was dedicated wrestler who performed in classic matches day in and day out exemplifying passion, pain and anguish like no other wrestler. A four time WWE world champion he suffered a huge setback when he was injured in the 1998 Royal Rumble which forced him to take a four year professional wrestling hiatus.
However, he came back even stronger in 2002, becoming a more technical wrestler and even more flexible performer. He was a crucial part of Triple H’s stable D-Generation X which was in its prime during the Attitude Era. During his illustrious career, Michaels won a total of 11 Match of the Year honors reinforcing his status as one of the best-performers in the ring.
2. The Rock
“The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” saw his prime years during this period. The first third-generation wrestler, he was initially a collegiate football player and a talented one at that, winning a scholarship at the University of Miami. His interest in wrestling bloomed pretty latte and as a result he received a very short duration of professional wrestling. This resulted in Johnson lacking in certain technical qualities despite being trained by his own father, however that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest wrestlers to ever feature in the WWE.
Armed with his sharp and inquisitive words, no wrestler was ever this hilarious and incisive on the mic. Paired with his heel mannerisms, he won over the crowds and his feud with Stone Cold was one of the reasons why the WWF won back dominance from WCW in the Monday Night Wars
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Probably the most impactful wrestler in the history of WWE, he ran the show during the Attitude Era to put it mildly. Kicked from the WCW for disappointing results and differences with the-then VP Eric Bischoff, Austin completely reinvented himself in the WWF. His no-nonsense, beer-chugging, anti-authoritarian personality who feuded with his own boss Vince McMahon, was immensely loved by the crowds and viewers alike. The man who was tagged as “unmarketable” at the WCW became the face of WWF during the period which saw the WWF take over the former. He was lauded by Vince McMahon as the greatest WWE wrestler of all time.
An extremely versatile and talented wrestler inside the ring, he never ever disappointed the WWF fans with his match against Bret Hart being one of the most memorable matches. His perfect technique and anti-hero/anti-establishment gimmick made him the most profitable wrestler and probably the most successful wrestler in the history of WWE, inspiring innumerable wrestlers.