WWE's Attitude Era was the uninhibited cousin of the long-faded Rock 'n Wrestling Era, though there are some striking similarities between the movements. Both were headed up by a charismatic bald-headed brawler (Hogan, Austin), both found a media foothold in MTV (the Cyndi Lauper connection for Hogan, Celebrity Deathmatch for Austin), and both had a lead villain that was prone to controversy (Piper, Michaels). Most importantly, each era found use for an iconic roughneck. In the eighties, Hogan buddied up to television tough guy Mr. T. Austin's equivalent, however, would not be cast as his bench-pressing ally.
On the night of January 19, 1998, Monday Night Raw came within a few thousand households of finally ending their ratings war drought with WCW's Monday Nitro. Facilitating the near-victory was the presence of Mike Tyson, who engaged in a frenzied, anarchic pull-apart scuffle with Austin in the program's final minutes. The exiled heavyweight boxer was a media lightning rod, and his notoriety was just the voltage that Vince McMahon was looking for.
There is no official date that denotes the start of the Attitude Era, but one could surmise that WrestleMania 14 was Attitude's Woodstock, a defining event that symbolized an era better than any other.
For further reading on WrestleMania 14 and the era, check out Titan Screwed, written by James Dixon and myself, available at WhatCulture Shop