A frequent debate held within circles of fans concerns which era of the wrestling industry is superior. When it comes to WWE, the promotion's history can basically be separated into six major stages: 1) The early kayfabe period most notable for Bruno Sammartino's dominance as champion; 2) The explosion into popular culture known as "Rock 'n' Wrestling" spearheaded by Hulkamania; 3) The Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels-led "New Generation" that followed the infamous steroid trials; 4) The raunch-driven, mature content of "The Attitude Era" 5) The mid 2000s "Ruthless Aggression" and 6) The current - and probably permanent - "PG Era".
Everyone has their favorite, mostly for nostalgic reasons, as we tend to prefer that which first drew us in, but the merits of which can actually be considered "the best" require deliberation without emotion, an exercise our particular corner of the pop culture congregation finds nigh-on impossible.
Raw competitor Sheamus is one man who has no qualms making the bold claim as to which era he finds to be WWE's greatest. As half of one of the company's top tag teams alongside the perennially underutilized Cesaro (a man who has perhaps unwittingly become the Bobby Eaton of this generation), 'The Celtic Warrior' is someone once viewed as a potential centerpiece for the company's future, since settling into a role more suitable for his respectable talents. When speaking with The Sun, he had this to say regarding comparisons between modern WWE and the cherished days of The Attitude Era:
"The level of athleticism has evolved so much since we watched as kids. The athletes that WWE has now are far superior to anything that we had the 1980s or the 1990s. You look back at the Attitude Era and the level of entertainment we put in the ring now. The Attitude Era doesn't even come close. I'm not afraid to say that either. You watch some of the stuff Cesaro does in the ring; with his size, the way he moves around the ring, the moves he hits, the way he picks up guys twice his size. It's just a different level."
While the Irish star's assertions aren't technically false (and probably little more than media bluster), they fail to address another fundamental difference between the two periods. While the actual in-ring wrestling may be more solid than it's ever been and the roster from top-to-bottom are unquestionably more athletically gifted, there's a significant chasm between the level of star power provided by the likes of Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, and Triple H - all in the prime of their careers - compared to those on the current roster, including the aforementioned Cesaro, as gifted a technical wrestler as he may be.
No one can logically argue that Crash Holly was capable of putting on a more impressive wrestling match than Apollo Crews, but compare their reactions and it's laughably one-sided in favor of "the super heavyweight". Virtually every single performer from the Attitude Era, from the top to the bottom of the card, was monstrously over, while this generation has less than two handfuls of performers that could contend with that level of notoriety.
It all boils down to the question of preference. Do you appreciate wrestling strictly for the work that takes place between the ropes, or are you along for the ride due to the characters and drama of the storylines? There's no right or wrong answer; it's all about perspective. Much in the sense that Sheamus is correct in his claims that today's stars are better technical wrestlers while neglecting to address the lack of star power when stacked up against the iconic names of The Attitude Era.
It's certainly fodder for a healthy debate among wrestling fans - always a plus. In fact, let's have one now, shall we?
Let us know in the comments where you stand on Sheamus' comments and the comparison between eras.