Hi folks! Today, we’ll be looking at WWE (F) wrestlers & tag teams of the Attitude Era who for the time, may be considered any of the following: unfulfilled, undervalued, unappreciated, underrated, overlooked, or unlucky due to circumstance. Had life played out differently, these superstars may have broken through and become main event stars; or at least not had their potential wasted.
I make this with the hope of highlighting the depth of talent in the late 90’s/early 2000’s in the World Wrestling Federation; while also showing how easy it can be for careers to go down the wrong path. I couldn’t include all the considered names though, so I’d like to read your thoughts on who else you would have included. Before we begin, I’ll say that Owen Hart and Brian Pillman are not here because it’s impossible to know what would have happened had their lives continued. Although, I do believe they were both destined for great things.
#1. Al Snow
After being picked up by the WWF for impressing in Smoky Mountain Wrestling as a tag team with Glenn Jacobs (aka Kane), Snow went on to endure many gimmicks in his early WWF days; including Shinobi, Avatar, and Leif Cassidy (Rocker). In interviews, he admitted to not having the experience to get them over, but luckily was allowed the freedom to work for ECW and find something to tip him over the edge. Taking inspiration from Mick Foley talking to a mannequin head, he introduced his own “Head” with a truly insane personality. After being recalled, he went on to claim six Hardcore titles, the European title, and the tag team titles with Mankind at the height of his popularity. This doesn’t sound like the resume of someone who was undervalued, but he certainly had more to offer besides comedy skits and random hardcore battles.
Management tried moving on from ‘Head’ by having him dress as different European stereotypes (while holding the European title), but it didn’t land at all. Despite having a good few years left in the tank, he was encouraged in to commentary and trainer roles. He’d occasionally reappear in the ring, but only as an enhancement talent. Despite being a solid worker in all areas, the WWE essentially gave up on trying to get him over after it was no longer suitable to be asking everyone if they “want head”. He was only used as a jobber after WWE revived ECW as a third brand. I think it’s safe to say his potential was squandered, but only because WWE had to shoehorn him into something gimmick-y, rather than seeing how he would fair as an actual, serious threat.
#2. Big Van Vader
Can you believe the only accolade Vader ever claimed in the WWF was a Slammy Award for assaulting Gorilla Monsoon? Believe it. And what about the three-time (more if you include Japanese titles) World Champion entering the Hall Of Fame? Still hasn’t happened. And by the time we got to the Attitude Era, Vader had been mistreated so badly he was a shell of his former WCW/Japan self. The thing about guys his size, is that he needs to be booked as an unstoppable monster. If he keeps losing at crucial moments then he won’t be taken seriously, even more so when you’re the size of a tank.
There’s a case to be had that he should have defeated Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 1996 and become the WWF Champion; and this would have solidified his place as a legitimate heel threat in the main event scene. He spent the rest of hs time either teaming with Mankind, The Undertaker, or losing out in every title opportunity. After realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere, he negotiated his release so he could return to Japan before going in to semi-retirement in 2001.
#3. The British Bulldog
This one hurts the most as a UK fan. At his peak, The British Bulldog was known as one of the biggest celebrities to hail from the United Kingdom. He was consistently performing at the highest level, putting on match of the night time and time again; usually with his good buddy Owen Hart. But this tragic story took a turn with the Montreal Screwjob. Without this happening, Davey Boy Smith likely wouldn’t have gone to WCW and picked up a serious back injury which almost paralyzed him. Perhaps he wouldn’t have got hooked on morphine and pain killers? Suffice it to say, upon returning to the WWF in late-99 he wasn’t the same.
Bulldog changed his image, his entrance, and tried fitting in to a new WWF that had changed a lot since 1997. His biggest program was with The Rock leading in to No Mercy 1999, but he lost in little over 7 minutes. Really, his career should’ve taken off after his match with Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1992 in Wembley Stadium. Being found guilty of using human growth hormone drugs ensured this wouldn’t happen. The pressure to look good and perform at the highest level encouraged him to do these things, much like other talents The Ultimate Warrior and Dynamite Kid. And it wasn’t exactly looked down upon, like it would be now. His popularity was undeniable, but the way he took care of himself was questionable.
He passed away in 2002 at the age of 39 after suffering heart failure. We can’t say he was undervalued or overlooked. The British Bulldog’s biggest enemy was his own desire to look and act the part. It took way too long for to be considered for the Hall of Fame. RIP Davey Boy.
#4. Christopher Daniels
Wait, what?! Christopher Daniels was in the Attitude Era? Yes, he was. From 1998-2001, Daniels was used primarily as a jobber on Sunday Night Heat and Shotgun Saturday Night. Did you know? He was also one-half of the Los Conquistadores introduced during the rivalry between Edge & Christian and The Hardy Boyz. He also had a brief stint in WCW, but was released not long after he hurt his neck botching a moonsault. One of the biggest revelations about his career is told by Bruce Prichard. Everyone remembers when Vince McMahon revealed himself as the ‘Higher Power’ of the Corporate Ministry (“It’s Me Austin! It was me… all along Austin!”).
One of the biggest moments of the Attitude Era could’ve been very different had Vince McMahon agreed with the original plan; which was to reveal the ‘Fallen Angel’ Christopher Daniels as the leader. Imagine that?! Becoming the leader of the Corporate Ministry. But according to Prichard, Vince took one look at Daniels and said… nope, too small. Had Daniels been 6’5″ or taller, he probably would’ve got the green light? He never did get that run with WWE, but he doesn’t regret it. Anyone who watched TNA or ROH knows he will go down as another legend on the list of those who never needed WWE to get over. He currently works for AEW as one-third of the stable SoCal Uncensored.