The Attitude Era is considered by many as the most successful time in the history of the WWE. The ratings were off the charts, with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock as faces of the company. WWE finally got the advantage over WCW and eventually bought them off.
It was a very good time for the WWE, and almost all deserving superstars were able to hold the WWE Championship. Some of those superstars that won their first WWE Championships during the Attitude Era include Austin, The Rock, Kane, Mankind, Triple H, Big Show, Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle. Even Mr. McMahon became WWE champion during his feud with Stone Cold.
But just like any other era in the WWE, there are quite a number of superstars who should have been WWE Champions. Here are five Attitude Era superstars who should have won the WWE Championship at least once.
A perfect fit in the Attitude Era, Goldust was a controversial character because of his sexually suggestive taunts. He was mysterious and he even dubbed himself as the “Bizarre One” during his second run in the WWE from 1995 to 1999. The problem with Goldust was he debuted during the New Generation Era, and the WWE had not embraced the controversial stuff.
During the Attitude Era, Goldust was just a midcarder and there was never really a push for him to be WWE Champion. However, if only the WWE introduced him in 1997, he would have won the WWE Championship without a doubt.
A surefire Hall of Famer, Goldust is still going strong up to this day. He’s been with the WWE for over 20 years and he has held the Hardcore title nine times, the Intercontinental title three times, and the Tag Team titles on three different occasions.
4. Brian Pillman
Many might not remember this, but Brian Pillman was part of a tag team with Steve Austin in WCW as the Hollywood Blondes. There was even a time that some people thought that Pillman had more potential than the future Stone Cold.
Pillman joined Austin in the WWE in 1996 but an accident derailed his career. His ankle was shattered, and he had to tone down his high-flying style of wrestling. He took part in one of the most infamous angles in WWE history: the “Pillman’s Got A Gun” segment during his feud with Austin.
“The Loose Canon” never reached his potential as he failed to cope with his new grounded style of wrestling. He also battled demons, just like most wrestlers during the 1990s. As the Attitude Era was just beginning, Pillman died from a heart attack on October 5, 1997 at just the age of 35 years old.
3. Ken Shamrock
Before Ronda Rousey and Matt Riddle traded mixed martial arts for wrestling, Ken Shamrock was the original. Already a champion in Pancrase and the UFC during the first half of the 1990s, Shamrock joined the WWE in 1997, and there was a lot of hype surrounding him. He was the first real MMA fighter to venture into the world of wrestling.
Shamrock was an imposing wrestler because of the legitimacy he brought to the table. He could literally destroy anyone he wanted to, and he had a lot of momentum during his first year in the WWE. He was the 1998 King of the Ring and won the Intercontinental Championship, but he never became WWE Champion.
The lack of charisma might have been the reason for it, since he was not good at promos but good at raising his arms while shouting. Shamrock was too early for the Attitude Era but he would have been perfect in today’s Reality Era.
2. Ron Simmons
Most Attitude Era fans would remember Ron Simmons as Farooq, one of half of the Acolytes Protection Agency, along with Bradshaw. Simmons made his debut as the cartoonish Farooq Assad, a gladiator, during the tail end of the New Generation Era.
After removing his last name, Farooq established the Nation of Domination, one of the most iconic stables during the early stages of the Attitude Era. He was joined by The Rock, D-Lo Brown, Mark Henry, and Savio Vega among others. He was the leader of the group and he would have been perfect as WWE Champion.
However, it was clear that The Rock was the star during his days with the Nation of Domination. He kicked Farooq out of the stable and became a megastar. Nevertheless, Simmons is a WWE Hall of Famer, a three-time Tag Team champion with Bradshaw, and the first ever black world champion in wrestling history.
1. Owen Hart
One of the greatest in-ring performers in WWE history, Owen Hart should have been WWE Champion, either during the New Generation Era or the Attitude Era. Owen had a lot of momentum after his feud with his brother Bret in the early 1990s, and the WWE should have capitalized on it, but they did not.
Winning the Intercontinental championship in 1997 seemed like a good step towards a WWE title reign but it never materialized for Owen. He joined the Nation of Domination as The Black Hart before teaming up with Jeff Jarrett. Owen would quit WWE storyline-wise to play the Blue Blazer character.
The Blue Blazer gimmick eventually led to the accidental death of Owen on May 23, 1999 when he fell from 78 feet onto the top rope near the turnbuckle after releasing his harness early. It was one of the darkest and saddest times in WWE history.