Review by Howard Crossland
The Attitude Era is considered by many to be the halcyon days of WWE. Some who describe themselves as casual fans may not know who the current champion is, but they’ll wax lyrical about when Mankind fell from the cell or The Rock threw Austin off a bridge; often followed by a derisory comparison to today’s product. WWE has produced a 208-page glossy hardback to indulge those that hark back to these days of yore, although the free Stone Cold Skull bottle opener did sway my purchase somewhat (I’ll forgive the gaping hole it leaves behind in the cover). Steveweisers aside, official books such as this could suck more than Rocky Maivia. Thankfully this one doesn’t, but for an informed reader it both excites and frustrates.
The book reads like a nostalgic documentary, with the slick presentation and in-depth storytelling hooking your attention. You will often find yourself taking to WWE Network or YouTube to see those moments you realise weren’t too familiar with. It’s very much a coffee table book that you can dip in and out of, ranging from the main men to the unsung heroes, with road tales and classic matches in between. There are also some rarely seen photos that nicely illustrate the text, such as Ringmaster Austin (with hair!), Cactus Jack about to take a face full of thumb tacks from a Pedigree and a Walls of Jericho atop a ladder (on Chris Benoit, of all people).
In-house publications rarely reveal too much inside information and this book is no different. Although there are plenty of interviews explaining what really happened, you can’t help but feel either their wings are clipped or you need your pinch of salt to hand. However, they are some interesting tales – including how Vince lowered his head too far for his first Stunner, and who’d have thought that Stone Cold himself actually hates Texas rattlesnakes?! The Rock and Mick Foley also describe how their ‘This Is Your Life’ segment surged in ratings simply from people calling their friends and telling them to switch over – a fascinating far cry from today’s cringeworthy suggested hashtags and Universe monikers.
On the other hand, Kevin Nash still thinks the Montreal Screwjob was a work (probably a work itself) and Trish Stratus refused to crawl on and kiss Torrie Wilson because her character “wasn’t built around being sexy”. Furthermore, when you thought Shawn Michaels was knocking back JD’s, it was really just tea. And speaking of HBK, I highly doubt any other book has described his back injury as “an unfortunate early exit from the sausage fest he helped create”. Moving swiftly on, the book makes you wonder how things could have easily been so different. Were it not for the Curtain Call (referred to but not explained), Triple H would have won King Of The Ring 1996 and DX/Austin 3:16 would never have been born. Curiosity is piqued by learning that DX got hold of Eric Bischoff’s itinerary and wanted to follow him everywhere after invading Nitro, but got hit by a cease and desist order just in time. We’ll save further conjecture for another day.
Surprisingly the book doesn’t take a wide berth from the smorgasbord of Wrestlecrap that manifested during the period. For every trivial snippet that makes you smile (the Godfather now actually runs a Vegas strip club), there’s a genius booking plan you are so glad didn’t happen (Edge debuting as a deaf mute). The most surprising appearance of all goes to Katie Vick – “it just wasn’t good” says Kane. It also wasn’t good that the 2002 incident is even mentioned, let alone in a book about an era that it claims ended a year earlier.
So is it worth it just for the bottle opener? Hell yeah. Is it worth it otherwise? Yes, it’s an enjoyable read that will bring back some great memories and get you watching some timeless moments. But predictably there is nothing groundbreaking here. It seems that those scoundrels who raised the briefcase at KOTR 1999 and were behind GTV will forever remain within life’s mysteries.
The WWE Attitude Era, by Jon Robinson, published by WWE Books/DK in May 2015