A question I have been asked many times in my writing career is what was the best year in WWE history? Best is tough to answer because there are number of different things that people can point to in order to answer that question. You can argue that the best years were 1998 or 1999 due to the rise of Steve Austin and The Rock (as well as Mr. McMahon as the top heel) when WWE had about six million people watching Raw most weeks, which is about double what they get on USA Network these days. Somebody might even say 2018 is the best year because of how much WWE’s stock has jumped (from $20 to $80 range) and how they worth over $6 billion in today thanks to those massive TV deals they signed a few months ago. I’m not saying I think that, but if you are in the business to make money then 2018 has been hugely successful for WWE even though most of us would say the product can be frustrating to watch.
Rather than argue about what was best, I like to think about my favorite years. The first that jumps out at me is 1997 because that was really the start of the Attitude Era with Bret Hart’s swearing promo kicking it off, Steve Austin becoming a face even though he acted like a traditional heel and a young roster that got better together while WCW was beating them in the Monday Night Wars. The other year is 2000, which I would rank at the top of the list as my favorite…and I think it’s the best too.
To give you a little backstory on my life at the time, I was born in November 1980, so I was 19 going on 20 during 2000. It was when I was in university and while I was writing a decent amount on the internet, it was hardly a regular thing because I had to keep up with school. I remember a lot of the things that happened in WWE in 2000, but I haven’t done a proper review of the year aside from a few PPV reviews.
Before I begin, I know that the company was called WWF in 2000 and didn’t use the WWE name until 2002, but I like to keep it consistent by referring to the company as WWE. Let’s roll.
- The matches were better than the two years prior
When I think back to the Attitude Era period, yes there was a lot of excitement in 1998 and 1999, but in terms of outstanding matches they were sorely lacking. Part of it was due to Vince Russo as a main writer. He left in October 1999, so things changed soon after. When I think about 2000, there are so many outstanding matches that I want to see all over again. Most of them are PPV matches, but also some great ones on television too. In 2000, WWE became more a traditional wrestling show with better matches again.
- Trish Stratus and Lita making their debuts on their way to Hall of Fame careers
Trish Stratus debuted with the Test and Albert tag team with the *wink wink* name of T&A. By the summer of 2000, she got involved in storylines with Lita, who started with Essa Rios and then was later paired with the Hardy Boyz. The interesting thing about Trish and Lita’s careers is they paralleled so much because they started in 2000, they feuded several times with each woman working as the heel/face at different points in their careers and they were inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in back to back years with Trish in 2013 and Lita in 2014. It will be fun to watch their early days again. Plus, I had a huge crush on both women. I still do too.
- Tag Team division was the best it ever was
Tag team wrestling in WWE peaked in 2000. The division was led by the veteran Dudley Boyz that were in their first full year in WWE after going there in 1999 while Edge and Christian and The Hardy Boyz were elevated as the year went on. The best match in WWE in 1999 may have been The Hardys beating E&C in a Ladder Match, so they continued that moment. In addition to those teams, they also had the legendary New Age Outlaws, The APA (Acolytes Protection Agency), Right To Censor, Test & Albert, the very popular Too Cool group, variations of the Radicalz as a team and more. There was a lot to like in the tag team division in 2000, so it will be fun to go through it again.
The only other time where I think the tag team division in WWE may have been close was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but even then I think 2000 had a deeper division.
- Life without Stone Cold and his return from missing nearly one year of action
Steve Austin had major neck surgery to start 2000. He was out of action in the storylines in November 1999 in the dreaded “somebody ran over Austin” story. That left a huge void because Austin was the top guy for two years before that, so going into 2000 there were questions of whether the rest of the roster could carry the load until Austin came back. Not only did they do a great job, but I think the company grew a lot and by the time Austin returned in September 2000, his return helped big time.
Who can forget the way they revealed who hit Austin with the car when Rikishi said “I did for…da Rock.” It was so bad that it was good! That whole angle will be cool to dive into again.
- The Mick Foley retirement angle was brilliant while also elevating Triple H
The start of 2000 saw Mick Foley begin a quest to become WWE Champion one more time as he challenged Triple H for the WWE Title. Hunter was a rising star in the prime of his career while Foley was the former champion trying to get back to the top again, so it was an easy story to tell.
The best Triple H vs. Foley match was at Royal Rumble 2000 in a bloody, violent street fight that was one of the best WWE Title matches ever. I wrote a column about the match that you can check out here. Foley ended up retiring after No Way Out 2000, but then he had one more match at WrestleMania because it’s tough to turn down a good payday. Following the retirement angle, Foley returned to WWE again in the summer of 2000 when he did a great job as the Commissioner. There were some memorable skits from those days too.
- The Radicalz jumping ship from WCW at the end of January
This was one of the biggest stories of the year in 2000. In the 1990s, we saw a lot of big name wrestlers go from WCW to WWE, ECW to WWE or WCW and WWE to WCW. In late January, the foursome of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn all asked for and were granted their WCW release. They all jumped ship to WWE at the same time to become The Radicalz. Their debut was memorable because they were sitting in the front row leading to them getting involved in a match.
I know that watching Benoit matches today isn’t easy and it won’t have the emotional impact that it did in 2000 when he was one of my favorite wrestlers. I’m only talking about him because he was a part of this crew that led to a huge change in WWE because they instantly became four of the best in ring performers in the company. By adding these guys, we all knew the matches were going to get better because they were awesome.
- The first full year in WWE for Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho
Two of my favorite wrestlers ever were WWE “rookies” so to speak in 2000. Angle first appeared as a regular on television in November 1999 at Survivor Series that year. He was a cocky Olympic Gold Medalist that kept improving every time we saw him. Angle’s growth was so fast that he even won the WWE Championship at No Mercy 2000, which was less than a year after his debut. It’s going to be a lot of fun for me to laugh at some of Angle’s hijinks and appreciate how great he was so early in his career.
As for Chris Jericho, he was well known from his WCW run in the late 1990s and then debuted in WWE in August 1999. It took Jericho a few months to get adjusted to how things were in WWE, but then he really turned a corner in 2000. I remember they gave him a lot of promo time to show off his personality and he crushed it while also having great matches along the way. Seeing Jericho in that era again will be interesting considering he’s still wrestling nearly 20 years later.
It was also Big Show’s first full year in WWE, but I’m not as excited as re-watching his stuff. Sorry Big Show! Just being honest. He did have some interesting moments too.
- The Rock’s rise as the top face in the company
The Rock won his first WWE Title at Survivor Series 1998, he main evented his first WrestleMania in 1999 when he was only 26 years old and shortly after that loss to Steve Austin, he became the second biggest face in WWE. With Austin on the shelf in late 1999, The Rock ascended to the position as the most popular guy in the company. Thanks to his incredible promos in the ring, comedy backstage segments and improved matches, he really helped to carry the company in a lot of ways. I think it was his best full year in WWE along with 2001 because, by the time 2002 came around, it was as if he had one foot out the door ready for Hollywood.
The Rock headlined ten PPVs in 2000 counting his win in the Royal Rumble. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack got the main event nod at No Way Out 2000. Rock was in the main event of eight straight PPVs from WrestleMania to No Mercy, he didn’t headline Survivor Series (that was Austin vs. Hunter) and then he headlined the last one called Armageddon. I doubt there are many guys that have ever headlined ten PPVs out of twelve in a single year. That just showed how much faith WWE had in him.
- Triple H had the best year of his career as the top heel
The rivalry between The Rock and Triple H started in 1998, continued in 1999 and really went to another level in 2000 because by this point they were the top guys. Hunter was at the center of everything as the top heel that was married (in the storyline at the time) to Stephanie McMahon. They would later marry three years later. Triple H was in the best shape of his career, his promos were pretty good and the matches he had were as good as anybody in the company.
I think if you asked Triple H the best year of his legendary career, he would probably say it was 2000 just because of the number of things he did, the way he helped carry the company, the memorable matches with the big names like Austin, Rock, Foley, Angle, Jericho and so on. This was the year where he really proved himself as a top guy that would go on to dominate WWE in the 2000s.
- The best year of WWE PPVs ever
There were so many great PPVs in 2000 that I remember fondly, which is really the main reason why I want to go back to reviewing it in detail. I have reviewed some of them in the last few years like WrestleMania 16 (a disappointing show to be honest), SummerSlam, Survivor Series and Backlash. I remember so many of the others because I re-watched them a bunch of times after buying them on DVD (this was the year DVDs really started to grow in popularity).
When I remember events like Royal Rumble, Backlash, Judgment Day, No Mercy and maybe a few others these are all 8 out of 10 type of shows, which would be as good or better than every PPV in WWE this year. Trust me when I tell you that going to through those PPVs again will be one of the highlights of this experience for me.
There was a lot that I didn’t cover in here like the way the McMahon family was all over WWE programming and did a pretty good job. It will be cool to see the biker version of The Undertaker again. The commentary team of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler was at their best because Lawler was still in his funny heel role. There’s just a whole lot more that I can dive into and I’m excited about that.
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