WWE Backstage looks back on a powerful part of WWE History!
The Attitude was gone, but the Aggression was still to come! Join the panel as they dive deeper into the Ruthless Aggression Era and what it meant for many wrestlers today.
Renee Young welcomes us Backstage!
After learning about the Ruthless Aggression Era, we of course have back Booker T and Mark Henry, who were big parts of that time in WWE History! And joining them and Renee is Ember Moon with her newly dyed hair! Booker and Henry remember hearing Vince make his Ruthless Aggression speech, and looking back, “it was like the Wild Wild West.” You fought to get your champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Booker was hungry because he hadn’t reached the top of his career, so he was kicking down doors to get there. Henry remembers hearing about the brass ring and “If you want it, go get it.” There were “main guys” that took up TV time, but it was great to be the young guy taking the ball and running with it. Backstage will talk all about this era later in the show, but even bigger is a dive into The Undertaker: The Last Ride. Plus, the Swiss Cyborg, the King of Swing, Cesaro will be Backstage! But before all that, and in case you missed it, here’s…
Just the Highlights!
On SmackDown: The Queen was challenged by the most dominant SmackDown Women’s Champion ever to throw down. Charlotte accepted that challenge, but also challenged Sasha Banks to think for herself: Is she happy just being a lackey? The WWE Intercontinental Championship Tournament began, and Daniel Bryan advanced with the hopes of finally taking that title back. The Monster Among Men and Mr. Money in the Bank put the hurt on Miz and Morrison, but Otis only teased cashing in on Braun. Will the Dozer decide he has what it takes to derail the Strowman Express?
On Raw: Edge accused Randy Orton of not loving pro-wrestling as much as him, and then accepted the challenge for a Backlash rematch. Austin Theory was kicked out of Zelina Vega’s stable, but was picked up by the Monday Night Messiah. The King of the Ring came to visit and he got a Claymore fit for a king! But Bobby Lashley is aiming for Drew McIntyre, will it take all of his might to dethrone him?
The panel discusses!
McIntyre still has a target on his back. But why did it take so long for Lashley to return to the world title scene? 13 years as MVP has been saying. Booker says when he left the WWE, he was in the prime of his career, but was hoping someone would take his place. He was hoping Bobby Lashley would be that someone, strap the rocket on and go to the moon. But then Lashley left the WWE, too, to try MMA. Lashley did very well with a 15-2 record, but then he went back to wrestling. Lashley is back in the WWE, he maybe dropped the ball because time away is the real worst enemy. Lashley thought he’d be back sooner and to the top level sooner, but he has MVP with him now. That’s a great combination and Booker is going to love seeing what we get out of them.
Ember thought that Lashley’s return was the perfect timing for him to be on top. As much as Ember hates MVP being on TV, she loves that MVP is speaking the truth! Lashley has been stuck with Lana in this weird marriage story, but Lashley is a big man. Lashley doesn’t need her, she needs him, and Lana realizes that. Lana knows Lashley is the meal ticket, but Lashley is finally detaching and going to MVP for support. This is essential for Lashley to become the next champion. As for Henry, a lot of this is Lashley not wanting to get on. In reality, Lashley is too nice a guy. Sometimes, you’ve got to be a grown man and stand up. You need to go to the ring and leave everyone else down to become champion. Lashley hasn’t really done that, so this is that opportunity. MVP has enough edge to sharpen Lashley, and Lashley has been lacking that aggression to just take over. You need ambition. You can’t just get by on looks and being liked. Lashley needs to go out there and take this.
Is ditching Lana necessary? YES! Booker, Henry and Ember all agree here. Booker brings up the old saying, “Women weaken the knees.” Or is it legs? Either way. Ember says that it depends. Booker and Sharmell were a power couple enhancing each other. Lana does nothing for Lashley as a character, so that is why there must be the detachment. Lashley is a former multi-time champion in the WWE, but we forget that because of Lana. Renee agrees, we’ve forgotten Lashley is the most badass man in the locker room. The match with Lashley obliterating R-Truth is showing us the old Lashley again. Booker says Lashley is in the perfect place to prove he’s at that right level. Lashley is in that spot to make us go, “Wow!” Renee agrees, and says this is about having a chip on your shoulder, as well as coming along at the right time. Henry says everyone wants to see Lashley unleash. No scripted Lashley, or even a smooth, confident Lashley. Henry wants to see Lashley with some desperation, some hunger and edge. Backstage is rooting for Lashley!
Renee transitions by saying maybe the TikTok kids can do something with the Double Caterpillar. Otis and Braun worked together to hit Morrison with the double elbows and got the win, but even Braun admits his caterpillar was ugly. But it was still better than Miz’s kip up! Braun also says he liked working with Otis, but Otis better not try him or he’ll just #GetTheseHands. Renee asks Henry about being a big man break dancer, and Henry says Strowman’s worm was the worst worm in the history of worms. Booker defends Strowman but Henry is holding his nose because it still stinks. Renee says Strowman can move better than that, and Henry wants to see that pop, lock ‘n’ drop it. Henry is sure he can do it better. Booker says Strowman was doing a wave. Booker’s one to talk, taking the back spin and calling it a Spinarooni. Booker invented the Spinarooni! Just like Michael Jackson invented the moonwalk! Henry says Jackson didn’t invent it, he just had the platform to use it. Henry has proof and will send it to Booker! Dance moves aside, a superstar with some of the best in-ring moves will be Backstage after the break!
Cesaro is Backstage!
“This is a man who takes his Uno very seriously.” The Swiss Cyborg and avid gamer joins Renee and Ember. What’s that background he has? Cesaro is home in Switzerland with this background, it’s Mount Pilatus just outside of Lucerne. How many times has he been up and down that mountain? A bunch of times. When he was a kid, they’d go up the mountain for soccer practice. Cesaro is pretty sure that with travel restricted, people are looking at images of places online to feed that need. People always try and tell him, “That’s not how it really looks!” but Cesaro can assure you, that is how it looks.
Renee says Cesaro is considered one of the best performers, but what does that reputation mean to him? A lot. It sounds better when Renee says it than him saying it, because then he isn’t conceited. But that is the biggest compliment you can get. He’s just trying to consistently have great matches and consistently the best he can be in the ring. Someone by the last name of Cena, first name “Big John,” once told him that you are only as good as your last match. Cesaro took that to heart and he treats ever match as that. Ember agrees, so many of Cesaro’s matches are contenders for Best of the Something. Whenever Ember hears the music or sees the titantron going green, she hurries over to watch him. She and Renee do the gun arms like Cesaro does. But what does Cesaro do to consistently bring out the best in his opponent and in himself? Because Ember just remembers him being amazing all the time.
Cesaro says that he always pictures each match as a blank canvas. He never wants to do exactly the same thing every time, he wants to surprise the fans. If you switch on to the WWE and Cesaro is on, he doesn’t want anyone to change the channel. He doesn’t want people to think he’s predictable with a “Five Moves of Doom” sequence. Cesaro wants and tries to do one new thing every time, like a feat of strength or something. So to quote The Miz, which is a sign the world is ending, Cesaro wants to truly be THE Most Must-See Superstar, because every time you see him, you can’t help but watch him. Renee says there’s always spontaneity. She would be on commentary, and there would always be a weird exchange. That’s the beauty of it! The more matches you have, such as at live events, the more you can try out. Cesaro loves house shows where he can do that. It’s fine if you don’t know everything you want to do, because spontaneity can create magical moments. The more chances for that in a match, the more fun the match will be.
Renee brings things to how Cesaro had a short time in NXT during the early days. Cesaro has even gone back, such as with NXT UK. How has Cesaro enjoyed seeing the brand grow? Well when it started, it was about giving people a chance to learn how it is on TV. And now it’s WWE’s third brand! Cesaro feels that last year’s Survivor Series was an amazing time. It was finally Raw VS SmackDown VS NXT, and you saw interactions you never imagined before. To Cesaro, that on any TV show or movie you watch, it’s about the interactions of the good guys, bad guys and characters in general. NXT has had so many great moments, and it is truly must-see for Cesaro because Cesaro just has to watch everything he can! Ember adds on that Cesaro going to NXT UK was awesome for TakeOver! Cesaro agrees, he was given that opportunity and jumped on it. Just like in prime NXT, doing five shows a week: three house shows, Raw, and SmackDown.
And so Cesaro was just sitting at home and thought, “I want to go to NXT.” He loves wrestling, and wrestling more is how you learn and improve. NXT is a proving ground, the fans latch on, and then you become great on- Well, is it even really the “main roster” anymore? NXT is on par with Raw and SmackDown now. But back then, fans could feel a sense of pride having watched someone on NXT first. It’s similar to when fans knew the “indie guys” before they went to WWE, but now it’s NXT. There is the emotional investment. NXT UK was the best kept secret, but it and 205 Live have so much going on now, the secret’s out. The camaraderie in the locker room, the pride in the performers, everyone is watching everyone else just like the fans. NXT UK’s pride and joy in their own production, Cesaro just loved being part of it. It is great that Europe has that now. When Cesaro started, that wasn’t there. And surely you’ve noticed by now, Cesaro has long-winded answers. That’s fine by Renee.
But going back to the gaming, Renee shares a punishment video clip. The Manly Man music video that Cesaro had to post on his Instagram. Renee feels like that wasn’t even a parody, that was all just him. Cesaro says it was more of an homage at the original Man’s Man video. The real punishment was singing the song, and he did not do it justice. But yes, that’s pretty much him. Then Renee wants Cesaro to give us some great dad jokes. Well, since she’s putting him on the spot. Cesaro says he was attacked by six dwarfs. Yes, just six. Not happy. Badum tsh. Ember says that’s awful! But those are just the kind of jokes he likes. Cesaro likes jokes about the eyes. The cornea the better. Badum tsh. What was that luggage one? Oh right! The thing is, we all travel in the WWE. Cesaro has a check bag, he had to have a heart to heart with it. He apologized for not being able to use it these days. He probably shouldn’t have, because now he has emotional baggage. Badum tsh! Great moves and goofy jokes, Cesaro really can do it all.
Backstage looks at The Undertaker: The Last Ride.
Taker himself watches the WrestleMania match with Roman Reigns. Taker feels that last look Roman gave the ring was disappointment, but Michelle McCool thinks that’s just his feelings about it. But Taker still wanted to redeem himself. “So here we are.”
The panel discusses.
Mark Henry faced Taker in a WrestleMania match of their own. Is Henry surprised Taker is allowing this look behind the scenes on who he is? Yes. One of the most private guys Henry ever met in any business or sport, and seeing this last line of defense go down, this is ushering in a new world. Renee agrees, the vulnerability is chilling but also very exciting to watch. Seeing Taker after that match with Roman, the regrets attached to it, does Booker ever have similar feelings? Is there a match Booker would redo if he could? Yes, of course. Booker says that everyone as professionals all feel this way. There are always moments you want to do over.
Booker’s would be Judgement Day against Kurt Angle, the payoff to the story of Angle stalking and obsessing over Sharmell. Booker and Angle wanted to have the Steamboat VS Savage moment with that. Kurt Angle is one of those wrestlers where you need to work up to his levels. Booker felt good but then Angle showed him this move called the spladle. Booker wasn’t sure what that was, but turns out it was a traditional wrestling move. They put it on in the match, and the referee counted three! But they still had about 15 minutes left in the match! Oh no! Angle looked at the ref, Booker looked at the ref, and they both wanted to kill the ref. But Booker had to celebrate but it was all awkward. That was their last match against each other, so that was that.
Did Henry have a match he’d want to do over? Nope, he’s good. Never had a bad match. Okay, in seriousness, Henry and Big Show, their first match together, they don’t know what happened. They knew what was supposed to happen, but it came off like two junior high kids trying to kiss for the first time. That’s quite the analogy. Henry remembers this match being a house show leading up to a show. They just stared at each other for minutes with silence. They talked about it and agreed, that could not happen ever again. Stern Show and stern Henry are scary men.
But what about Ember? She’s thinking back at her five year career, and could say she should’ve defeated Asuka’s streak, or at least hope she would’ve. Maybe she and Bayley could’ve done more. But the more and more she sits back and thinks, she just thinks on her injury. She realizes she might have a career ender, so she might not have a chance to redeem herself. She gets a bit emotional as she thinks about the things she might not get to do. It’s hard to think on both past and future. Ember knows Booker jokes, “They’re DONE!” Booker assures her, she’s not done. She’s got a lot left! Don’t quit! Don’t get emotional, suck it up! Ember’s too great to think about stopping. Henry’s been there, too. Ember says she keeps pushing forward because this is what she loves. This is what she has wanted for so long. So she can’t really look back, she has to look forward. Ember thanks the others for their support, because there’s so much more she wants to do. She will prove to everyone that she’s worth redeeming those regrets, it’ll just take time. Renee agrees, we’re all itching to see Ember back.
Backstage talks the WWE Intercontinental Championship Tournament!
Sami Zayn was stripped of the title, and both Daniel Bryan and Elias are already through to the next round. What does everyone think of the Intercontinental Championship’s standings with the WWE today? Should the new champion, Daniel Bryan or otherwise, return this title to its roots of being “The Wrestler’s Title”? Ember absolutely agrees with that. For the past few months, the belt was remodeled, Shinsuke Nakamura had it, but we never got to see how pretty that title looks. You went from Nakamura to Braun to Sami to nowhere. So this is the opportunity to elevate the title again. It needs to be held up, silver platter and brass ring, but also time to get back to our roots. Make wrestling important again! Who does Henry see bringing that prestige back? The cream of the crop is the one who said it all. Daniel Bryan should win because he deserves it. But again, AJ Styles is in this, and he’s just as seasoned and decorated. It would be magic to see those two wrestle for that title. Not fight, but wrestle. Think of the epic proportions Bryan and Styles could bring!
Renee agrees. She looks forward to how this tournament will unfold. She was there ringside to see it and then interview Bryan after. Even without fans being there, you can feel that something special was going on. That’s the side of Bryan we all love. Who does Booker think should be champion? There are a lot of guys who finally get a chance. Personally, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus aren’t Booker’s thing. But seeing precision tacticians like HBK, Bret Hart, that’s what made Booker want to wrestle. But Booker knows Styles can go out there, and his boy, #D-Bry, can go out there. This will open up the market for guys like Aleister Black, who have yet to really get that chance to perform on that level. The doors are wide open! Ember adds that Nakamura is still here. Booker is looking past the bracket! Whoever wins, they will defend the title, and that allows guys like Aleister to show how good they really are. Aleister hasn’t had the best match-ups to perform to the level he can perform.
Then what else must happen to make this title prestigious again? Ember says stories. Henry says boom, there it is. Booker doesn’t want to toot his own horn but he kinda does. When he was WCW TV Champion, he vowed to defend every week. Booker lived up to his word. When he won the World Heavyweight Championship, he vowed to defend that title on TV and at house shows, and that meant something to the fans. Stories aren’t even needed if you want wrestlers to “shine like new money.” Henry sees that, but says a person like Sheamus or Nakamura, they don’t get opportunities because all they do is fight. If all you can do is fight, punching, kicking, throwing, the people can’t identify with you. You might even get hurt and put on the shelf. So wrestle, learn some things, and then beat him. That is pro-wrestling.
Ember adds on, she wants a Best of 7 again! Someone needs to struggle to get to the champion and then it makes the fans feel something. The talents are putting their bodies on the line, even with no crowd, but it needs to mean something. It needs to be for that title. Give the broken bones and bruises and scratches purpose. Renee likes that. That is what will make this title important again. It’s what we need, it’s what we want. Henry wants to give Renee a shout out, too, for how she handled the interview. She did something that Henry doesn’t see often. An interviewer gave the ring and the mic to the person in the ring when he got emotional. Renee let Bryan get that moment, and so Henry applauds that. Renee says she’s been side-by-side with Bryan, she knows when those moments are happening. Speaking of moments, the Ruthless Aggression was full of them, and the panel will discuss their favorites after the break.
For the first time, the WWE split itself into brands! Paul Heyman knew Raw VS SmackDown removed the complacency backstage, because you had Raw stars wanting to do better than SmackDown stars, and SmackDown stars wanting to do better than Raw stars. There was hunger and competition!
Booker and Henry stick around with Renee to talk about those early days. Booker was there when the brands split, but were they really that hungry to outdo each other? What Booker remembers about the initial brand split was that it was real. When everyone is fighting for position on Raw, it gets real tight, it gets real frustrating. So when Booker went to SmackDown because of a trade, that made him a bit hot. But then The Rock came up with “Layeth The Smack Down!” and that turned into a show, Booker knew he had something there! He took it to the next level with nothing holding him back. Booker says that everyone on the roster had one common goal: Beat the hell out of Monday Night Raw! And that resulted in some of the best shows they ever had. But who were those other people? Booker was just talking about “the boys” pulling together. Booker teaches his students how the locker room rallied together and were like a crew on a ship all rowing together. It was beautiful, because not only was Booker excelling, everyone was coming up! That was the difference between the shows.
Does that mentality still exist now that it’s Raw, SmackDown and NXT? Henry says there is that rivalry. One of the things that helped start that, other than the original brand split, was Henry coming out of OVW. In OVW, there was John Cena, Randy Orton, Dave Batista, and even Mark Henry, Brock Lesnar, The Big Show, and CM Punk! That’s the franchise right there. That would give you an attitude, because you would show up for TV, and your name wouldn’t be on the sheet! It was Taker, HBK, Hart, et cetera! There was no room for them. It was the attitude of wanting a chance. And then things changed, and they got those shots that if they missed, they were done. People were fighting for their jobs. Renee understands that pressure situation.
The Man is now The Mom!
Becky Lynch gives up the Raw Women’s Championship to take on the challenge of motherhood. The panel knows Baby Becky Rollins is on the way, what an exciting time. But gender reveals are so polarizing. Here are some ideas from the panel of how to reveal the gender! Booker says Rollins needs to take a guitar SMASH from Elias. Powder comes out of the guitar! Henry says they need to call in Stone Cold, have some colored Steveweisers splash the answer. Ember says there needs to be a tank and DX uses the pyro to give the reveal! Renee says Asuka should use colored mist! But it’s still up to The Man and Her Man, so we hope to hear from them on this, and wish them all the blessings as they prepare for parenthood.
A really fun episode with just a bit of real talk on the Ruthless Aggression Era. I’m surprised they couldn’t arrange another special guest for that, but Henry and Booker were definitely big parts of that era. I did not realize until now that the spladle finish to Booker VS Angle back then was a referee botch. I’m surprised no one told the ref about the spladle spot just in case. Anyway, another real talk moment was Ember getting emotional about her own career. During those early days, Ember was definitely in a tough spot with Asuka being in NXT at the same time. Nothing against Ember, but Asuka wasn’t going to be beaten by anyone short of herself in NXT. And while there are those upset that Charlotte was given that honor, at least she ended Asuka’s streak at WrestleMania, the only place a streak like that should end. But I know Ember has a good chance of returning, and she will get a chance on any of the brands to finally get a title.
Cesaro was a great guest, and whether those are dad tier jokes or not, Cesaro’s pretty funny. If he was given half a chance as a Face, he could become champion in a snap. And with all the talk of getting the Intercontinental Championship back to its workhorse, best-wrestler status, Cesaro definitely has a chance of being one of the best choices. I still remember the great handicap match between Bryan, Cesaro and Jack Swagger/Jake Hager, with the interactions of Bryan and Cesaro being the stronger parts of that match. If Bryan and Cesaro were given a chance to put on a title match, I know they could recreate that magic, or even something greater. Giving Bryan a platform like that would be a way for WWE to keep him, and by extension a way to keep Nakamura and others. Too bad it took something like this pandemic to get World Wrestling Entertainment thinking about wrestling being important again.