11. The Focus Changed From Gimmicks To Actual Wrestling
We start with a controversial and little considered point, part of the reason WWF stopped being cool is because they cut back on the gimmicks and tried to push wrestling matches more. While that seems odd, and us serious fans love in-ring matches, the majority of the casual audience far prefer gimmicks. For all the plaudits the Attitude Era gets, it was actually really heavy on gimmicks over in-ring quality. The little watched Smackdowns of the mid 2000's had way more in-ring wrestling than anything in the Attitude Era ever had. When wrestling started getting featured more prominently than McMahon family dramas, that's when many people just switched off. The popular audience simply preferred the soap opera element. The perfect example of how WWF changed their focus from gimmicks to wrestling is WrestleMania main events. Take a look at the main event of Mania 15 and Mania 2000. It was basically just a brawling cluster, mixed in with run ins from Mick Foley and the McMahons. Even Mania 17's classic match was all about Vinnie Mac at the end. Fast forward to WrestleMania X8 and whereas previous Mania shows pushed 'characters' like Austin and Rock, this show was headlined by more formal 'wrestlers' in the form of Chris Jericho and Triple H. The WWE's focus on wrestling over gimmicks went even further as the decade progressed, with the likes of Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit all being used as top guys. It is great for the purist wrestling fans to see matches, but for mainstream popularity, the WWE has always relied on gimmicks. The decision to move away from soap opera elements in favour of athleticism was sadly a costly one.