WWE’s influential Angle Period is taken into account top-of-the-line and most well-known eras in professional wrestling historical past. From 1997 to 2002, WWE (then often called the WWF) entered a weekly scores battle with their chief rivals, WCW, which grew to become often called the Monday Evening Wars.
To overcome their rivals, the WWE altered its programming course, gearing its present extra in the direction of older viewers and inserting a heavier emphasis on violence, language, and subversive grownup themes unseen in WWE till that time.
Greater than 20 years later, the Angle Period remains to be acknowledged as one of the exceptional instances to be a wrestling fan, with the WWE delivering entertaining matches that includes the likes of famed rivals like The Rock, Stone Chilly Steve Austin, and the Undertaker frequently.
It was a time that required distinctive expertise to rise to the highest of WWE’s ranks — each to hold the WWE’s Angle Period on their shoulders and to compete in opposition to WCW’s legendary wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Ric Aptitude, and Randy Savage.
Happily, these WWE wrestlers have been greater than able to rise to the event, delivering implausible matches and promos that stay a few of the finest on the planet of professional wrestling.
From Angle Period forerunners like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart to later arrivals like Kurt Angle, RVD, and Booker T, listed here are 15 of the most effective wrestlers of WWE’s Angle Period.
15. Booker T
One of many late arrivals to the Angle Period, Booker T transitioned to the WWE through the 2001 Invasion storyline.
A notable expertise from WCW, it appeared Booker was a perfect alternative to suit into the environment of WWF through the time — clashing in opposition to the likes of the Rock, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle, amongst others.
Whereas his feud in opposition to Stone Chilly was underrated, Booker was rapidly relegated to the higher midcard from 2002 onwards. If he had arrived to the WWF earlier, he may’ve made a extra vital impression — nevertheless, Booker nonetheless managed to shine shiny in no matter function he was anticipated to carry within the firm.
14. Rob Van Dam
Like fellow Alliance member, Booker T, Rob Van Dam was one of many many new faces to reach as a part of the Invasion storyline. In contrast to Booker and the opposite members of the Alliance, nevertheless, RVD virtually immediately received over audiences together with his high-octane performances, benefiting drastically from his ECW background and hardcore status.
By way of his excessive matches with Jeff Hardy, RVD grew to become one of many Alliance’s key gamers and one of the cheered-for wrestlers within the predominantly villainous faction.
Nonetheless, as with Booker T, RVD by no means appeared to rise to the nice heights of different WWF expertise earlier than him, failing to win the World Championship he so clearly deserved till 2006. If he’d signed earlier to WWE, maybe his profession may’ve been completely different — in spite of everything, think about the matches he may have had in opposition to ‘99 Undertaker, Mankind, or pre-injury Shawn Michaels.
13. The Large Present
Upon getting into the WWF in early 1999, The Large Present was instantly established as one of many dominant forces to be reckoned with within the firm.
Positioned in an analogous super-heavyweight function beforehand held by André the Large, The Large Present was billed as a pressure of nature — somebody who may rapidly destroy his opponents with minimal effort, preventing off total teams with ease.
Between his work as a comedic face or a cruel heel, The Large Present was a persistently entertaining performer throughout his peak years (most particularly ‘99). Some may contemplate him an underwhelming World Champion or a mediocre performer who relied too extensively on his measurement, however let’s face it: his feuds in opposition to the Rock, Mankind, or the Undertaker have been persistently enjoyable to look at.
12. Jeff Hardy
Among the finest points of the Angle Period was the variety of implausible tag groups that took place on the time. From ECW veterans just like the Dudley Boyz to the brash and conceited crew of Edge & Christian, there was no scarcity of memorable duos to see wrestle — none extra notable than the final word risk-takers, the Hardy Boyz.
One of many first “fashionable” high-flying groups in professional wrestling, Matt and Jeff Hardy offered a brand new definition to the phrase hardcore. Not content material to bash their opponents with chairs or trashcans, the brothers took larger, bolder, and drastically extra harmful bumps, hovering off the tops of ladders and crashing into desk after desk with regularity.
From a tag crew perspective, Jeff was all the time nice when paired together with his brother, Matt, however you possibly can’t overlook his spectacular singles profession starting in 2001. Whereas every of WWF’s tag crew wrestlers is worthy of reward, few are extra deserving than the youthful Hardy brother.
It took a while for Glenn Jacobs to seek out the appropriate character throughout his early days in WWE. Initially portrayed as a sadistic dentist and, later, a Diesel impersonator, Jacobs finally got here into his personal as Kane, the demonic long-lost brother of the Undertaker.
With a backstory straight of a Stephen King novel that claimed he was severely burned from a childhood accident brought on by the Undertaker, Kane appeared extra like a slasher villain than he did your common wrestler.
Strolling to the ring with the identical intimidating stride as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, he appeared to embody all of the traits that made the Undertaker such an indelible character within the early ‘90s. If he’d acquired a serious push, he may even have had the identical impression his onscreen brother had — however sadly, he was by no means absolutely utilized as a world champion contender after his single day because the title holder in 1998.
10. Chris Jericho
In distinction to RVD and Booker T, Chris Jericho was a longtime WCW wrestler who got here to WWF on the proper time. Positive, it took him a bit of bit to seek out his footing within the firm, however Jericho’s plain expertise within the ring and on the mic led to his first main WWF push within the 2000s.
Even right this moment, Jericho appears one of many few wrestlers able to working with anybody, elevating any opponent he appeared reverse of in a feud. His implausible rivalries in opposition to Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and The Rock are pure proof of this truth, exhibiting simply how great an acquisition he was for the WWF.
Whereas a preferred face, it’s Jericho’s extraordinary heel work that continues to set him aside as one of the underrated performers in WWF tv on the time. It didn’t matter if he held a championship round his waist or not — like his profitable musical profession, Jericho was a rockstar on WWF programming it doesn’t matter what.
9. Triple H
Triple H catches a ton of flack for marrying Vince McMahon’s daughter, guaranteeing his employer’s favor and his eventual rise to the highest of WWE. However those self same critics simply overlook simply how proficient Triple H was from a personality, promo, and in-ring perspective.
After abandoning his gimmick because the pretentious, tailcoat-wearing Connecticut blue blood, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Triple H got here into his personal after his tag accomplice Shawn Michaels’ debilitating again harm in 1998.
From that time on, Triple H grew to become one of many principal villains of the Angle Period, particularly when partnered with Vince and Stephanie McMahon. In some ways, he’s chargeable for serving to set up rising abilities like The Rock, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle, and continued to solidify the status of long-standing wrestlers like Stone Chilly, the Undertaker, and even Shawn Michaels upon his return to the ring in 2002.
8. Mick Foley
The Angle Period is virtually synonymous with wrestlers recognized for taking bodily dangers of their careers, comparable to RVD, the Hardys, or Shane McMahon. However nobody — and I imply, nobody — comes near the ridiculously harmful bumps Mick Foley took all through his time in WWF.
Foley’s lasting legacy will eternally be the quite a few death-defying stunts he pulled in his career — like taking quite a few unprotected chair photographs to his head at Royal Rumble 1999, or diving off the highest of the Hell in a Cell in one of many WWE’s most well-known matches.
However except for his penchant for actually placing his life on the road repeatedly, Foley nonetheless did nice character work when it got here to his personas — just like the juking and jiving Dude Love, the boiler room-dwelling Mankind, or the pain-loving road brawler, Cactus Jack.
7. Bret Hart
Earlier than the Angle Period, Bret Hart was the principle star of the WWF after Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and so many different faces of the corporate left for the apparently greener pastures of WCW. Carrying the corporate on his again, the Hit Man was a world-class athlete who repeatedly competed for — and received — the WWF Championship on and off all through the mid-’90s.
Arguably the smoothest technical wrestler the corporate’s ever seen, Hart was a precursor to later submission- and suplex-based performers like Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Bryan Danielson.
Sadly, attributable to Hart leaving the WWF in 1997, the Hit Man was solely round for the very early levels of the WWF, leaving by the point issues actually began to take swing in 1998. Consequently, we have been eternally robbed of the chance to see Hart compete in opposition to The Rock, Chris Jericho, or his American counterpart, Kurt Angle.
6. Kurt Angle
WWE misplaced an outstanding expertise when Bret Hart determined to depart the corporate and signal with WCW after the controversial Montreal Screwjob incident in 1997. With Hart not within the image, WWE struggled to seek out somebody to fill the Hit Man’s place as the highest technical wrestler on the roster.
That’s, till Kurt Angle got here alongside on the finish of 1999. A former Olympic gold medalist, Angle was promptly booked as a smug, self-satisfied heel within the WWF who condescended to the followers at ringside.
It was an ingenious gimmick alternative — particularly when you think about that, had Angle made his debut within the early ‘90s, he would’ve been Vince McMahon’s star hero after Hulk Hogan’s departure to WCW. A gifted technician within the ring, he not solely met the bar set by Bret Hart, he might have even narrowly surpassed it.
5. Shawn Michaels
Like his in-ring and real-life rival, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels was solely capable of get pleasure from a small sliver of the Angle Period earlier than leaving the corporate owing to a near-catastrophic again harm. Nonetheless, Michaels’ influence on the Angle Period was plain, with few wrestlers so effortlessly mapping the period’s path in addition to Michaels.
Within the mid-’90s, Michaels was one of many premiere athletes within the WWE, getting huge warmth from audiences as a heel and drawing stadium-wide cheers as a face. By the start of the Angle Period, although, Michaels had tweaked his character to higher go well with the instances, aligning with Rick Impolite, Chyna, and finest buddy Triple H to kind the famed D-Technology X secure.
As the primary official chief of the group, Michaels popularized so many points of the faction that might grow to be synonymous with the Angle Period — the suggestive puns, the risque jokes, the brash, in-your-face promo types. He was the proper heel in 1997 and early ‘98, on the very high of his recreation. Fittingly, too, he would miraculously return to the WWE on the very finish of its Angle Period, feuding together with his former DX accomplice, Triple H.
4. The Undertaker
There aren’t many wrestlers who’ve been as universally tied to the WWE because the Undertaker. Making his debut in 1990, the Phenom grew to become one of many few wrestlers to stay 100% loyal to Vince McMahon, standing by his boss’s aspect all through the turbulence of the Monday Evening Scores Warfare.
For over 30 years, the Undertaker wrestled for McMahon’s firm as one of many jewels of the WWE, utilizing his inventive gimmick and unparalleled athletic prowess as the premise for all of his success (severely, the agility this man demonstrated despite his measurement is unreal). Transferring with the grace and pace of a cruiserweight and possessing the energy to carry behemoths like Yokozuna, Vader, and The Large Exhibit their ft, few wrestlers may do what the Undertaker did within the ring.
With the a number of iterations of his character over time, Taker managed to persistently keep related with the extra brash tide of the WWE’s Angle Period. It didn’t matter whether or not he was the Lord of Darkness, the chief of the Ministry, or the American Badass, the Phenom was all the time on the forefront of the WWE, and with good cause — he merely was that good.
3. Vince McMahon
Sure, technically Vince McMahon wasn’t a full-time wrestler — and even when he did wrestle, he was mediocre at finest. However nonetheless, we’re keen to excuse his subpar in-ring efficiency and look as an alternative extra absolutely on his contributions to the corporate outdoors of the ring.
As his Mr. McMahon character, McMahon was the corrupt onscreen authority determine of the WWF, utilizing his place as the corporate’s proprietor to repeatedly intervene with matches and crown champions he felt finest represented the corporate. Most of the time, this put him in direct confrontation in opposition to the likes of The Rock, the Undertaker, and naturally, Stone Chilly, who (largely) resisted McMahon’s pull within the late ‘90s — though every of them finally aligned with McMahon sooner or later or one other.
By way of his feuds together with his nemesis, Stone Chilly, McMahon grew to become the stereotypical onscreen boss everybody cherished to hate. Like Nero leering over his personal twisted model of Rome, McMahon appeared like a dictator pushed mad with energy, utilizing it to his personal sadistic benefit. True, he wasn’t a lot of a wrestler, however no listing detailing Angle Period personalities is full with out the satan incarnate himself, Mr. McMahon.
2. The Rock
The Rock has had one of the fascinating and eventful careers of any wrestler each inside and outside of the WWE. Except for his extremely successful career in Hollywood after he left his full-time place as a wrestler in 2003, The Rock was one of many principal gamers in WWE’s Angle Period.
A gifted in-ring performer, it was The Rock’s charismatic mic work that lifted him to stardom in WWE. Discovering his voice throughout his 1997 stint within the Nation of Domination (which he finally grew to become the chief of), the Brahma Bull quickly grew to become an surprising draw amongst WWE’s audiences, his reputation evident even when he was portrayed as a villain.
Along with his quite a few catchphrases — one in every of which grew to become the premise for WWE’s sister program, SmackDown — The Rock was one of many defining wrestlers of the WWE from 1998 to 2002. He completely occupied the function as WWE’s mouthpiece — a daring and ahead trash-talker who dressed his opponents down earlier than they even had the possibility to step foot within the ring collectively.
1. Stone Chilly Steve Austin
No wrestler higher match the local weather of the Angle Period than Stone Chilly Steve Austin. Arriving to the WWF in 1995, Austin had a rocky begin beneath his “Ringmaster” gimmick, though he rapidly discovered success because the rough-talking, unpredictable Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Chilly.
A far cry from the family-friendly personalities of Hulk Hogan, Austin was the whole antithesis of every thing followers had come to affiliate with a world-class skilled wrestler. Chugging beer, cursing profusely, and beating everybody up only for the enjoyable of it, he actually put the perspective within the Angle Period.
His feuds with each wrestler on this listing have grow to be virtually legendary — particularly his era-defining rivalry with Vince McMahon. His in-ring work was distinctive, nevertheless it was his promos and pure charisma that led to him being one of many breakout stars of the ‘90s. With out him, it’s uncertain the WWF would’ve emerged victorious from the Monday Evening Wars, giving the corporate sufficient of a much-needed edge to reign supreme over WCW.
This text was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Richard Chachowski is a contract author based mostly in New Jersey. He loves studying, his canine Tootsie, and just about each film to ever exist (particularly Star Wars).