[[quoteright:253:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/e127f33894a52c7ec127b74e02a7b3a2.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:253:[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIfIJkD4Wjc Wholesome family entertainment.]]]]
-> ''"Surely, the era of "The superhero who urged you to say your prayers and take your vitamins" is definitely passé. Therefore, we've embarked on a far more innovative and contemporary creative campaign, that is far more invigorating and extemporaneous than ever before."''
-->-- '''Wrestling/VinceMcMahon'''.

In the mid-[[TheNineties '90s]], [[Wrestling/{{WWE}} the World Wrestling Federation]] faced tough times. Its "New Generation" Era (19931997) product couldn't compete with the products turned out by rival wrestling promotion [[Wrestling/{{WCW}} World Championship Wrestling]] and upstart independent promotion [[{{Wrestling/ECW}} Extreme Championship Wrestling]]. WCW's ultra-hot Wrestling/NewWorldOrder angle took the wrestling industry by storm and ECW's focus on brutal violence and edgy storylines captured an adult audience turned away by the WWF's product.

What did the WWF do to save itself from the verge of destruction? Why, it did what all great companies do: [[FollowTheLeader it copied everyone else's ideas]] -- and did them better.

The WWF took a few pages out of the ECW playbook and injected [[DarkerAndEdgier extreme violence, overt sexuality, and general vulgarity]] into its programming. The move offended and shocked the [[MoralGuardians parents' groups]] who had grown used to the company's family-friendly programming during the days of Wrestling/HulkHogan and Wrestling/AndreTheGiant -- but the edgier content also drew in viewers in numbers the WWF had never seen before (and hasn't equalled since). Pay-per-view buyrates shot through the roof and TV ratings rose well above the ratings for WCW; the WWF had reclaimed its throne.

The WWF also licensed a video game by Creator/{{Acclaim}} called ''WWF Attitude'', released in 1999 to much fanfare after the popular ''WWF War Zone''. Rather than sprites, the visuals were photo-realistic (for the time), there was tons of speech and voice samples, many wrestlers and outfits to unlock, and a great, in-depth "create-a-wrestler" mode. When it was released, it was considered the best wrestling game on the market, with Creator/{{THQ}} being the only ones close enough to touch it with their WCW entry. ''WWF Attitude'' managed to capture much of the spirit of a ''[[Wrestling/WWERaw Raw]]'' episode or [=PPV=] broadcast during the Attitude Era, hence the name, and at the time it was praised by many. However, the gameplay was considered stiff in its time, as well as the date of release. Though it included many of the {{face}} and {{heel}} wrestlers accurately, there was no Wrestling/TheBigShow and not many match types (for one, there was no "Hell in a Cell"). Arena customization was exclusively locked from the years 1997 to 1998. When Acclaim's license ran out, THQ picked it up and made the popular ''Wrestlemania 2000'' and ''No Mercy'' games, also based on the Attitude Era, to which the latter was considered one of the greatest wrestling games in the medium. They would also produce ''[[Wrestling/WWESmackdown SmackDown!]]'', which would later become ''Smackdown VS Raw''. ''WWE '13'' features the Attitude Era heavily as the main focus, with ''2K16'' also having a decent focus.

The official start of the Attitude Era, as marked by WWE's official timeline, is the 29th of March 1998, the date of ''Wrestling/{{WrestleMania}} 14'', where Wrestling/StoneColdSteveAustin defeated Wrestling/ShawnMichaels for the WWF Championship (in what would be Shawn's last match for four years, due to an injured back). Austin and Michaels actually kicked off the Era before ''[=WrestleMania=]'': Austin's famous "[[EstablishingCharacterMoment Austin 3:16]]" speech at ''[[Wrestling/KingOfTheRing King of the Ring 1996]]'' (as well as his submission match with Wrestling/BretHart at ''[=WrestleMania=] 13'') shot Austin into superstardom, whereas Michaels' involvement in the "Wrestling/MontrealScrewjob" at ''[[Wrestling/SurvivorSeries Survivor Series 1997]]'' and his role in the formation of Wrestling/DGenerationX helped build the atmosphere that fostered the Attitude Era (a notable assist also goes to [[Wrestling/MickFoley Mankind]], whose feud with Wrestling/TheUndertaker brought more extreme matches into the WWF).

However, without a certain event, the Attitude Era may not have occurred. There was the The Clique. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall signed with WCW. A legendary event, known as the "MSG Incident" or "The Curtain Call" happened at their last scheduled WWF appearance. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall embraced in a group hug before Nash and Hall went to WCW. This was a MAJOR break in Kayfabe since the people involved were enemies at the time. Hall and Nash could not be punished since they were leaving the company. Michaels could not be punished since he was WWF Champion at the time. This left Triple H who was the only one who could be punished. Triple H was supposed to win the King of the Ring in 1996 but was punished for his involvement in the incident. Therefore, Stone Cold Steve Austin was made the winner at the event where he gave the infamous "Austin 3:16" speech.

Famous events/matches associated with the Attitude Era include:
[[hardline]]
* The aforementioned ''[=WrestleMania=] 13'' match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin, which managed to perfectly execute a rare "[[FaceHeelDoubleTurn double turn]]" -- Austin (the heel) and Hart (the face) both turned after the match was over, with Austin becoming a badass face and Bret becoming an [[ForeignWrestlingHeel America-hating Canadian heel]] (he remained a face in Canada and other foreign territories, though).
* Summerslam 1997- Wrestling/OwenHart botches a piledriver on Stone Cold Steve Austin, which causes Austin to suffer a broken neck. As a result, Austin goes from a well-rounded wrestler (on par with Bret Hart) to a brawling wrestler, forcing a shift of his wrestling style. This would create the "main event" style of wrestling that would dominate the WWF for years to come.
* Badd Blood 1997- The first "[[GimmickMatches Hell in a Cell]]" match, which featured Shawn Michaels going up against The Undertaker (as well as the debut of Wrestling/{{Kane}}).
* The Wrestling/MontrealScrewJob
* Royal Rumble 1998- During a Casket Match with The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels severely injures his back while falling on the casket. This would end Michaels in-ring career during the Attitude Era. The injury also cemented the inevitable loss to Austin amongst smarks who knew Michaels would lose because he was too crippled to go on.
* The aformentioned ''[=WrestleMania=] 14'' WWF Championship match between Austin and Michaels.
* The entirety of the Austin[=/=]{{Wrestling/Vince McMahon}} feud, widely regarded as one of the best feuds of all time in professional wrestling.
* {{Wrestling/Sable}} taking her top off to reveal hand-shaped pasties. (And Lawler's subsequent reaction.)
* D-Generation X invades a WCW live event ''with a tank''. They also managed to raise WCW's ire by showing up to their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
* April 13, 1998- On a live RAW, {{Vince McMahon}} snaps and challenges Wrestling/StoneColdSteveAustin to a main event match that night. The match never happens as it is interrupted by [[Wrestling/MickFoley Dude Love]]. However, the idea of a Wrestling/StoneColdSteveAustin versus {{Vince McMahon}} main event causes RAW to finally beat Nitro in the ratings after '''82 weeks'''. RAW with a 4.6 rating versus Nitro with a 4.2 rating.
* The second "Hell in a Cell" match, where The Undertaker tossed Mankind off the top of the sixteen-foot-high cell onto the SpanishAnnouncersTable (and produced one of the most-used video clips in the company's history). The sight of Foley crashing through the table became this era's equivalent of Hulk Hogan slamming Andre The Giant to the mat, although Foley's later fall through the roof of the cage into the ring below was far more damaging (and far less rehearsed).
* The ''Survivor Series 1998'' main event: rising face The Rock aligned with Vince [=McMahon=] to screw Mankind out of becoming the WWF Champion (the first of WWE's many allusions to the Montreal Screwjob in the years that followed it), which gave rise to Wrestling/TheCorporation storyline.
* Mankind's first WWF Championship victory: this event, which coincided with the infamous FingerpokeOfDoom segment from WCW, turned the tide of the "Wrestling/MondayNightWars" in the WWF's favor.
* The debut of Paul Wight, formerly "The Giant" in WCW, who broke through the ring during an Austin/[=McMahon=] cage match at the February 1999 pay-per-view ''St. Valentine's Day Massacre'', and threw Austin through the cage (costing Vince the match in the process). He later became "[[FunWithAcronyms The Big Show]]".
* The formation of the Wrestling/MinistryOfDarkness, led by The Undertaker.
* The death of Wrestling/OwenHart, the first major death of a wrestler while employed to the WWF; it led to his widow filing a lawsuit over the company.
* The debut of Wrestling/ChrisJericho on ''[[Wrestling/{{WWE Raw}} Raw Is War]]'' in mid-1999, making him one of the first major defections from WCW to the WWF.
* The debut of ''[[Wrestling/{{WWE Smackdown}} SmackDown!]]'' on the {{UPN}} network.
* The ''Raw Is War'' segment known as "The Rock: This Is Your Life!", where Mankind paid tribute to The Rock, his then-tag team partner. This segment remains the highest-rated professional wrestling segment in television history (with an 8.4 rating).
* ''[[Wrestling/NoMercy No Mercy 1999]]'', which included the first tag-team "[[GimmickMatches Ladder Match]]" between "New Brood" members "The Hardy Boyz" (Wrestling/MattHardy and Wrestling/JeffHardy) and Wrestling/{{Edge}} & Wrestling/{{Christian}} and Wrestling/{{Chyna}} winning the Intercontinental Championship from Wrestling/JeffJarrett in his last WWF match (making her the first woman to ever hold the championship).
* The debut of Wrestling/KurtAngle, a RealLife [[UsefulNotes/OlympicGames gold medal Olympian from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games]].
* Steve Austin being run down in a parking lot by an unknown assailant (later revealed to be [[spoiler:Wrestling/{{Rikishi}}, working on orders from Wrestling/TripleH]]) and is out of action for ten months at ''Survivor Series 1999'' (the vehicular assault was the {{Kayfabe}} explanation for Austin taking time off for neck surgery).
* The Kayfabe marriage between Triple H and Vince's RealLife daughter Wrestling/StephanieMcMahon, which resulted in the "[=McMahon=]-Helmsley Faction/Regime" and Triple H becoming one of the WWF's biggest heels ([[TruthInTelevision the couple would later marry in]] RealLife).
* [[Wrestling/StacyCarter Stacy "The Kat" Carter]] briefly flashed the crowd at ''[[Wrestling/ArmageddonWrestling Armageddon 1999]]'' following an "[[GimmickMatches Evening Gown in a Pool]]" match, marking the first instance of intentional nudity on WWF programming[[note]]Although according to Stacy, it ''wasn't'' intentional; what was intended was a ToplessnessFromTheBack shot where only the live crowd would see anything. A goof in the production room led to the wrong camera going out live.[[/note]]
* "The Radicalz" -- Wrestling/ChrisBenoit, Wrestling/DeanMalenko, Perry Saturn, and Wrestling/EddieGuerrero -- all appear on ''Raw Is War'' just a few weeks after being released from their WCW contracts in early 2000.
* The retirement of Mick Foley at the hands of Triple H at ''[[Wrestling/NoWayOutWrestling No Way Out 2000]]'' (and their instant-classic "[[GimmickMatches Street Fight]]" at ''[[Wrestling/RoyalRumble Royal Rumble 2000]]'' a month prior to Foley's retirement match).
* The Rock ending Triple H's reign as WWF Champion at ''[[Wrestling/{{Backlash}} Backlash 2000]]'', marking the first time The Rock becomes WWF Champion as a face.
* Steven Richards forms the PowerStable the 'Right To Censor' - consisting of Bull Buchanan, Val Venis, The Godfather (renamed 'The Goodfather') and Ivory. The group was a TakeThat to the Parents Television Council protesting the smuttiness and edgy content of the Attitude Era, and ironically helped phase out many of the things MoralGuardians were complaining about.
* The Undertaker returns in his new "[[BadassBiker American Badass]]" persona, after having been away from WWF programming for several months.
* The Hardy Boyz, [[Wrestling/TheDudleyBoys The Dudley Boyz]], and Edge & Christian compete in the first "[[GimmickMatches Tables, Ladders & Chairs]]" match at ''[[Wrestling/{{Summerslam}} SummerSlam 2000]]''. Notably, the genesis of this match evolved from the earlier "[[GimmickMatches Triangle Ladder]]" match at ''[=WrestleMania=] 2000''.
* Steve Austin wins his third ''Royal Rumble'' in 2001, setting up...

...the end of the Attitude Era, which took place on April 1, 2001, the date of ''[=WrestleMania=] X-Seven'' (''[=WrestleMania=] 17''). The WWF had purchased WCW and many of its wrestlers' contracts, weeks prior to the event, and it had also hired on former ECW mastermind Wrestling/PaulHeyman as a color commentator (following the departure of [[Wrestling/JerryLawler Jerry "The King" Lawler]]) following ECW's bankruptcy. The Monday Night Wars had ended, as had the need for an Attitude Era. At ''[=WrestleMania=] X-Seven'', Steve Austin defeated The Rock in the main event to win his fifth WWF Championship... [[FaceHeelTurn with the help of]] [[TheBadGuyWins his long-time arch-nemesis Mr. McMahon]], [[DownerEnding a move that ended their feud and the Attitude Era in one swift blow]].

Mileage varies on the quality of the WWF[=/=]WWE product after the end of the Attitude Era (since the company has lacked the competition that created the necessity for the Attitude Era), and when (or even if) it began to go downhill, but few can deny that the wrestling world hasn't been the same since.