Twenty years ago WWE was in the middle of arguably the biggest transition in its history. The start of 1997 was possibly the most tumultuous period in company history. With WCW ahead in the Monday Night rating wars, revenues down and the company under pressure. WCW was at its peak both in terms of profit and popularity having used Ted Turner’s fortune to lure big stars to cross the divide, and having booked the NWO invasion angle which is among the hottest storylines in wrestling history. WWE still had a more cartoon-like vibe while WCW was being portrayed in a more realistic fashion. As such, WWE had to change its presentation, and 1997 was the year they did so by changing up pretty much everything, adopting a more adult, risqué style of programming, more believable storylines and characters with more real-world focus than the much-maligned “New Generation” era. The Attitude Era is generally agreed to have officially begun in earnest in 1998 at Wrestlemania 14, but 1997 very much laid the building blocks for the proceeding period of unparalleled success. I'm glad WWE have acknowledged this, because while the network does have classic content available 1997 is arguably one of the best years for well written television and interesting stories.
The main feature of the Dawn of Attitude release is a legends roundtable with some of the big players from 1997. Shawn Michaels, Ron Simmons, Mick Foley, Kane, and The Godfather (one of these is not like the others) spend around an hour discussing the big angles and matches over the course of 1997, their involvement, as well as stories from around the company involving the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and many more. I'm hesitant to reveal too much, simply because this is a fantastic hour of programming. If this were a podcast it would raved about, but as it's a home video release I do fear it might not get the love it deserves in the network era. There are a few inconsistencies with dates and a lack of references to ECW and WCW who were very much a part of the reason why 1997 turned out the way it did, is strange but it doesn’t really have too major an effect on proceedings. If you enjoys the old Legends of Wrestling roundtables WWE used to put out before the Network existed, you will certainly love this.
The match selection outside of the roundtable on this release is excellent. There are so many highlights from 1997 and really there is something for everyone. Owen hart vs The British Bulldog from Raw in Germany is one of the best heel vs heel television matches in Raw history and it plays a really important role in the formation of The Hart Foundation in early 1997; Austin vs Hart from Wrestlemania 13 still holds up as an excellent bout as does their street fight from Raw, Austin and Dude Love vs Bulldog and Owen is really fun, while Shawn Michaels vs Bulldog from One Night Only, and vs Bret hart from Survivor Series are of course pivotal moments in the building of the attitude era. Kane vs Mankind from Survivor Series is also a nice addition as it's the sort of match that was very common in the following years, even though it was still very novel at this stage, something which also applies to the chaotic brawl and vehicular weaponry of The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin at In Your House: D-Generation X. However, for me what is more interesting that the admittedly fantastic match selection is the iconic promos and interview segments thrown in here. Austin stunning Vince McMahon, Bret Hart turning against his American fans, and even the Mick Foley interview with Jim Ross that introduced Dude Love, these are all landmarks in the build to the start of The Attitude era and help fashion and form the DNA of the product over the following years.
1997 was undoubtedly a huge year for WWE, and between the roundtable, the matches and the promos included Dawn of Attitude certainly gives the viewer a real sense of the landscape of the company at that time. It's really fun, has some great stories from the people who were there at the time, and some of the best moments form TV and PPV during the year. Dawn of Attitude is well worth a look or fans old and new, and while much of the content is available on the WWE Network it is nice to have it all collected in one place.
EXTRAS: The extras are interesting if not especially original. There are five matches in total, with Goldust vs The Sultan from Shotgun Saturday Night being the most intriguing bout, given the unique setting. “Sycho” Sid vs The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 13 is not very good as a match, but it is historically significant, Mankind vs Triple H from Summerslam, as well as Cactus Jack vs Triple H from Raw (the debut of the Jack character) are fun affairs but nothing that doesn’t appear on almost every other release the WWE have put out on either man. Not a terrible selection by any stretch, but nothing that would make me more inclined to buy the Blu-ray over the standard DVD release