10 shocking moments from WWE 2004
The Attitude Era may have been well and truly over by the time 2004 came around, but the WWE still had several big-time names to depend on and a cohort of new stars ready to lead the company into the second half of the 00's.
That being said, it is difficult to argue that the company finished the year in a better position than where it started. Wrestlers like The Rock, Austin and Hogan were no longer able to provide consistent support, and with the departure of the company's so-called 'next big thing,' it was time to officially break from the past whether the fans wanted it or not.
It would be another 12 months or so before the new main event scene was permanently set, but fans could already see where things were going. As ever, the year was not without its shocking moments. Here are 10 of the best:
#1 Austin and The Rock no longer under contract
Despite the Attitude Era officially being over for a good two years by the time 2004 came around, this was the year that truly marked a more permanent break from the past. By the close of year, both Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, two of the company's biggest stars of the previous period, were no longer official employees of the WWE.
Both had taken diminished roles after their Wrestlemania 19 meeting, but with The Rock set on pursuing a career in Hollywood and Austin's growing list of injuries becoming harder to ignore, the company found themselves in a difficult position. On the one hand, it was imperative that new talent was allowed to take centre stage, but on the other hand, Vince McMahon and co. knew that the pair were still big draws that they could make him money without evening wrestling a match.
Stone Cold stepped into more of a GM type role when he was made the 'Sheriff' of RAW alongside Eric Bishoff, as well as performing special guest referee duties from time to time. Austin and McMahon's relationship still seemed pretty strong for most of 2004, even to the point where the two were working on designing a Stone Cold themed brand of beer.
However, due to Austin becoming increasingly frustrated at Vince's involvement in his outside projects, their working partnership could no longer be sustained. The WWE put out a press release in April to state that Austin had parted ways with his former employers, taking time away from TV for almost a year.
The Rock had loftier ambitions than his Attitude Era sparring buddy, securing roles in movies such as The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King. Details are a little sketchy, but it is widely assumed that Vince was not entirely happy with the fact that Rock was essentially leaving the company in a difficult transition phase.
Shortly after his Wrestlemania 20 match against Evolution, it was also announced that "The People's Champ" was no longer under contract with WWE.
It was a difficult time for fans, seeing their beloved WWE struggle to usher in a new era without the help of two of the greatest performers we've ever seen. The two did continue to make sporadic appearances after this, but 2004 marked a real turning point in how much the pair needed the WWE and how much the WWE needed them.