Last week, we took a look at some of the greatest matches of the Attitude Era, and although that was a lot of fun, this week, we turn to the more arduous task of choosing a mere ten out of the longer and richer period in wrestling that is often overlooked.
The Attitude Era provided wrestling fans with countless hours of memories, but the Ruthless Aggression Era was chock full of individuals, many that brought their A-Game to what was then, the grandest stage of them all.
Yes, the roster was chock full and the memories those wrestlers left behind…so many retired, some passed but all never forgotten…and it is because of these matches here that we will never forget any one of them.
So without wasting any more of our precious time (there’s too much wrestling to watch, and for me too many articles to write), let’s get to the epic memories from an era full of aggression, yes, but with memories both bitter and sweet, like a lost love, or a trip we can never take again; perhaps even that double bacon cheeseburger we can’t ever taste again.
The aforementioned eras are most definitely gone, but who’s to say we can’t look back fondly—as we are doing today, tonight, whenever you should be happening to read this—any time we want?
No one, that’s who.
So without further ado… “What is the one quality that you possess that makes you think that you can walk out here and come into the ring, and face the very best in the business?”
John Cena vs. Kurt Angle (SmackDown, June 27, 2002)
Vince McMahon was searching for that next star to tie the whole company onto. With Austin on his way out and Dwayne doing well in Hollywood, he needed some fresh meat, so to speak, and announcing an overall new direction for the company seemed the best way to go about doing that.
John Cena seemed to answer that call. It would take him a few years to convince the McMahons that he would be that face, but he certainly started things off on the right foot, facing the greatest technical wrestler in the company at that point in Kurt Angle.
He even did pretty well, almost coming close to pinning the former Olympic Gold Medalist.
Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 19)
The Next Big Thing, Brock Lesnar, was on a rocket ship headed for the stratosphere for sure. Nobody in WWE knew that just a year after this performance, that rocket would come plummeting down to earth in a lackluster puff of smoke, as Brock exited the company; he was unable to handle the hectic schedule thrust upon him by WWE.
He was impressive in the ring, no doubt about that, and his most recent run is one for the history books, no doubt, but at the time he was the man McMahon was putting all his bets on. Brock wanted to deliver at WrestleMania 19, putting his body and his life on the line.
Kurt Angle had his own issues, as he was headed to have neck surgery and would follow that with an uncertain future in the business and some much-needed time off.
The match itself was paced perfectly, from frame to frame of it, the two collegiate wrestlers putting on a clinic as to what a wrestling match could be. And the climactic finish, with Lesnar’s Shooting Star Press off the top rope that led to him almost breaking his own neck in the process, has had people talking all these long years, and that’s why it merits a spot on this list.
John Cena vs. Edge (TLC Match) Unforgiven 2006
John Cena has never been known for being hardcore, but he came very close in this match here. He and Edge had been involved in a feud for the ages. In fact one of Cena’s greatest rivalries in my book, the two having epic chemistry. After months of feuding, the two finally came face to face yet again in Edge’s hometown of Toronto, Canada.
They put each other through a lot, even Lita who always had Edge’s back.
Well, his back ended up going through a stack of tables (not just one) by the end of this match when John Cena gave him a little of the old Attitude Adjustment off of a ladder.
“Tables, ladders and chairs… Oh My!”
Trish Stratus vs. Lita (Unforgiven 2006)
That very same night, Trish Stratus, who with the help of the emerging Beth Phoenix, Molly Holly, Gail Kim and Mickie James, had started to lead women’s wrestling out of the dark ages of lingerie matches and mud fights and into a time when women’s wrestling would be showcased as an athletic endeavor.
Unfortunately women’s wrestling took a nosedive with the likes of Kelly Kelly and the Bella Twins at the forefront once again, but it’s been right on track over the last four or five years and we have the likes of Bayley, Beth Phoenix, Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch to definitely thank for that…among others of course.
Today’s roster is full of epic female talents that are changing the business, one DDT at a time.
But this match marks a historical moment in history, as Trish Stratus was allowed to retire the Diva’s Championship, as it was her retirement match.
She’d be back to face Charlotte Flair and make other appearances, but at the time, it was something quite special indeed.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004
If you followed Eddie Guerrero’s career in WCW, you know that he got the short end of the stick over there. But when he came to WWE, he was able to step out of the shell that WCW management stuck him in. He had some personal problems that resurfaced unfortunately in WWE, but after kicking them, he set to proving that he deserved the company’s top honor.
It was at this event that Guerrero not only faced the next big thing himself, but he beat him and for the WWE title to boot.
Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania 19
These two men are synonymous with the Attitude Era. In fact Austin was almost entirely responsible for it. But this match specifically, as I mentioned in the previous piece, was a culmination of moments, matches and feuds throughout the years…years building the tension and the rivalry between them. And like Austin’s career, the end of the feud would likewise be the end of their long winding road together.