Why Pro Wrestling Today is Better Than it was During the Attitude Era and the 90s

We’re, quite frankly, living in the real golden age of wrestling.

It’s an unarguable fact that the peak of wrestling’s popularity came in the 80s, and even more so in the 90s. Wrestling, in its so-called heyday, was a mainstream form of entertainment that just about every other person knew about. Just ask someone who isn’t at all a wrestling fan about wrestling, and they’ll tell you that they’ve heard of names like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. So, there’s absolutely no denying that wrestling was way more popular in the 90s. But what if I were to tell you that wrestling is better today than it was in the 90s? Sounds crazy right.

Nostalgia is a weird thing. It clouds judgment and overrates certain memories. The truth is, there was a lot of wrestling content in the 90s that was supremely overrated and just straight up dodgy, yet are fondly remembered because of nostalgia. Now, don’t get me wrong, wrestling is far from the perfect animal today. There’s still room for improvement in certain areas, however, it is still in many ways better than it was in the 90s, and I’ll gladly explain why. Slight disclaimer, when I say wrestling, I’m not strictly referring to the WWE. I’m referring to wrestling as a whole, which includes other promotions and companies. So, let’s get into it.

5. There were way more erratic segments in the 90s

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Ahh, what would wrestling be without its fair share of dodgy, straight up hot garbage segments? Wrestling in the 90s is fondly remembered for it’s groundbreaking, cutting edge segments, like when Stone Cold Steve Austin cut his famous 3:16 promo. Or when The Undertaker tossed Mankind of the demonic Hell In A Cell structure. There was also the infamous Montreal Screwjob. And who could forget THE MOMENT when wrestling’s most popular squeaky clean good guy broke bad in WCW? Wrestling in the 90s sure was stacked with some absolutely classic moments.

However, for every 5-star segment, came a segment that would absolutely stink the joint. One segment that is etched in my memory is the segment of Mae Young giving birth to a hand. Yes, you read that right. The late, great Mae Young entered a relationship with “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry. Young eventually announced she was pregnant, giving way to one of the weirdest, most uncomfortable angles in wrestling history. Watch at your own peril.

There was also that one time Triple H committed necrophilia on live TV. The less said about that, the better. Speaking of tasteless segments, one should not forget how The Big Boss Man basically crashed The Big Show’s father’s funeral, only to steal the coffin and drive away with it. I could go on and on really. Now, as I said earlier, wrestling today isn’t perfect. But you don’t get necrophilic segments or anything like that today.


4. Women’s wrestling isn’t a joke today

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Remember the good ol’ days when women were nothing but props and eye candy. Remember the good ol’ days when all they’d do was accentuate their sex appeal for the male dominant audience’s pleasure.

Back in the 90s, women’s wrestling was treated as an absolute joke. Well, in America at least. In Japan, women’s wrestling was the centrepiece on many occasions and it was taken seriously. However, Japanese wrestling wasn’t as mainstream back then, and all the focus was on American wrestling. So, to the casual eye, women were treated as nothing more than human decoration, aimed to please the average hormone filled male viewer. In fact, from 1995 until 1998, the WWE didn’t have a single women’s title and barely had a women’s division. When women did wrestle, they’d be reduced to short, passable segments. They also weren’t encouraged to showcase their skills, but rather their sexual appeal.

Bra and panties matches were a standard in those days. For those unfamiliar, a bra and panties match is a match where in order to win, you strip your opponent down to their undergarments. It was almost semi-porno. There were also overtly rape-driven scenarios for female characters. Let’s not forget the existence of multiple segments that promoted domestic violence.

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Fortunately, that’s not the case today. In an age where female empowerment is at its peak, so is women’s wrestling. Impact Wrestling is well known for prioritising their women’s division, also known as the Knockouts Division. There’s a flurry of supremely talented wrestlers with captivating characters. Names like Tessa Blanchard and Rosemary. There’s also this all-women’s promotion in Japan called Stardom. Names like Io Shirai and Kairi Sane, who are now in WWE, originated from Stardom. In WWE itself, massive strides have been made in recent years, to the point where women have main evented shows. There are women’s wrestling tournaments like the Mae Young Classic. There’s also an upcoming all-women’s show called Evolution, held by the WWE, their first ever all-women’s show.

Just compare the video below to the video above.


3. Wrestling is much more inclusive today

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Stereotypes are the view of the small-minded, a good old friend of mine once told me. Wrestling in the 90s was a haven for racial and homophobic stereotypes. If there was a non-white wrestler, you can bet your house that that character would be handed a stereotypical gimmick.

The most famous victim of these negative racial stereotypes was Eddie Guerrero. Eddie is legitimately one of the greatest wrestlers to have ever lived, and even he was given a ‘lying, cheating, and stealing’ gimmick. The ‘cholo’ stereotype was heavily invoked, with Eddie emerging ringside in a low-rider, whilst taking every shortcut possible to gain an advantage. Despite his sensational talent, Eddie Guerrero felt he had no choice but to comply with the exploitative character in order to get ahead. It’s telling that even a man with his supreme ability was ultimately reduced to his race.

Foreign wrestlers are also typically given anti-American gimmicks and are portrayed as villains to the typical American hero. Wrestlers like Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheikh are prime examples of these. Their characters were defined by their race, rather than their actual talent and charisma.

Don’t even get me started on homophobia in wrestling in the 90s. There was this highly homophobic promo by Jerry Lawler, amongst other segments. Some wrestlers played up the audience’s homophobia. Characters like Goldust who would come to the ring in full drag, made a name for himself as a deplorable villain, while the audience cheered for his destruction. During this phase, homophobic slurs exchanged between superstars were fairly commonplace.

“Audiences would call me chick with a dick.”

Even gender non-conforming heterosexuals suffered. In her autobiography, the late wrestler Chyna detailed the ways that her perceived masculinity made her a victim of transphobic attacks. Audiences would call her a “chick with a dick” while throwing batteries at her head during shows.

That’s a massive far cry from today’s landscape. Racial stereotypes, for the most part no longer exists. Foreign wrestlers are no longer defined by their race. You have Asian wrestlers in America who are given actual characters. Names like Shinsuke Nakamura, Hideo Itami, Kairi Sane and Asuka. These characters are defined by their over the top flamboyance, as well as their in-ring talent. Mexican wrestlers like Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Pentagon Jr are no longer reduced to offensive gimmicks.

Gay wrestlers are also given an equal opportunity. New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)’s main champion, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kenny Omega falls in this category, as well as his partner, Kota Ibushi. NJPW ran a long-term story arc detailing their relationship, separation, and eventual reunion. It was one of the most beautiful storylines I’ve ever seen in wrestling. Here’s a summary of it. Apart from that, there are wrestlers like Sonya Deville and Darren Young who are also gay and have found themselves some degree of success.

2. Backstage politics are no longer a factor

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Politics. You can run from it, but you can’t hide from it. Politics exist in almost every walk of life, and in almost every workplace environment. It’s no different in wrestling. There was no one more synonymous with backstage politicking than the group known as The Kliq. The Kliq consisted of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman (X-Pac). These five men controlled the wrestling industry with backstabbing and politicking like no others have ever witnessed.

The Kliq manipulated their way into the top positions of the biggest wrestling companies of the 90’s, WCW and WWE. Backstage lobbying was a skill every member used to their advantage. When together these men ruled by power in numbers, and when separated they protected themselves by staying in top positions in their companies.

In the WWE, Triple H and Shawn Michaels were either the champions or contending to become champions. Furthermore, over in the WCW Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would be protected by negotiating their way into fully guaranteed contracts, with Nash also receiving creative control. In addition, The Kliq was also the wave makers for two of the most controversial stables in wrestling history, The New World Order and D-Generation X. Forming these stables in their respective companies added supremacy over other talents in the industry. These two stables dominated the industry during a prosperous era in wrestling.

Many talented wrestlers were pushed aside and denied a fair opportunity because of this notorious group. With the rest of the locker-room feeling alienated because of The Kliq, many wrestlers have stated it was the darkest time in wrestling. Backstage, The Kliq abused their power and toyed with people’s emotions and livelihood. With The Kliq at Vince McMahon’s side, it was easy for them to manipulate the boss in doing what they wanted, from either burying a superstar or getting a talent fired.

Former WWE wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow gave insight to how corrupt wrestling was while The Kliq were in power. Bigelow said:

“To them, it became a joke because they had control, so it was like, ‘Okay, let’s f*** with this guy now…okay, well we got him out, now let’s go to this guy and let’s ruin his life and get him fired. Okay – now let’s go to this guy”.

Bigelow continued by saying his time in the WWE was a terrible place to work and several superstars were hurt because of the influence of The Kliq.

One major incident occurred during a live event. Carl Ouellet was booked to beat then WWE Champion Diesel (Kevin Nash), in a house show in Montreal, his hometown. However, shortly before the match, the ending was changed by Michaels to have Ouellet lose to Nash. An argument broke out between Ouellet and Michaels backstage which led to the two having to be separated by other wrestlers. The match didn’t go as planned and ended in a double disqualification because Ouellet refused to be pinned by Nash. Ouellet was fired shortly after the incident. In his book, Michaels states, “We buried him because he did not want to put Nash over”. This is a key example of the power The Kliq had in the WWE at that time. If any wrestlers rubbed the group the wrong way they would find a way to bury them in the company.

Thankfully, in today’s wrestling, such backstage power no longer exists. The wrestling industry is no longer an industry where you’d have to constantly look over your shoulder. It’s no longer an industry where you’ll only have a handful of real friends. Wrestlers now are more united than ever.

One evidence of this is the upcoming All In event. This event is billed as the biggest independent show in history. Many big names are colliding together to produce what promises to be a historic event. There isn’t a shade of politics behind any of this, and wrestlers are showcased based on how popular and talented they are, rather than what connections they have.

1. The quality of wrestling today is much, much better

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Wrestling in 2018 has been described by many as the golden age. There’s an overabundance of quality wrestling content available in today’s day and age. Now, as I mentioned earlier, wrestling in the 90s was loaded with cutting-edge content and some absolutely classic matches. However, whatever 90s wrestling did well, contemporary wrestling does much, much better. In the 90s, matches were more drama and entertainment centred, and as a result, fans developed a tendency of having short attention spans and were not used to longer, more heavily detailed matches.

In today’s wrestling, skill, athleticism, technical ability and storytelling are more important than ever, and as a result, the match quality is of a higher standard. Stories are told in the ring, and there have been some absolute masterpieces in this decade. Watch any Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi match from NJPW. Or any Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada match. No match in the 90s can match the intensity and world-class storytelling in these matches.

Esteemed wrestling journalist, Dave Meltzer regularly ranks matches on a 5-star scale. In the 90s, there were 26 matches that received a rating of 5-star and above, including 1 match that broke the scale and received a 6-star rating. In this current decade, there are already 35 matches with a 5-star and above rating, including the first ever 7-star match. And we still have more than a year left in this decade. However, those star ratings are just the opinion of one man and forming your opinion based on one man’s rating system is akin to deciding which is your favourite movie based on the Rotten Tomatoes scale.


Wrestling is subjective, and one man’s opinion doesn’t represent the general consensus. However, there’s this site, cagematch.net, that allows users to rate wrestling matches on the scale of 10. This metric is more representative of the general consensus. Out of the top 100 matches of all-time in this database, only 19 matches came from the 90s, whereas a whopping 49 matches came from this decade. You can view the list here.

One criticism contemporary wrestling gets, is that it isn’t as hardcore or brutal. If that’s your opinion, then I implore you to watch this 15-minute hardcore masterpiece between Pentagon Jr and Vampiro. Or basically any Pentagon Jr match.

The best part about all this is that despite the increasing quality in matches, wrestlers are safer in the ring these days and less prone to injury. There aren’t nearly as many career-ending injuries these days. Personally, my 5 all-time favourite wrestling matches have come from the past 3 years. But that’s for another article on another day.

Hey you! Yes you, hot stuff. Like my article? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Also, don’t forget to share it with your buds. And if you’d like to talk wrestling with me, you can hit me up here: @jasonholic95