On Sunday, WWE releases 'Ruthless Aggression' - a Network documentary that will chronicle WWE's post-Attitude Era period that spanned, roughly, from start to fruition to conclusion, 2002 to 2007 or so.
That story began on the June 24, 2002 edition of Monday Night RAW. Austin had no-showed on June 10, the Rock wasn't long for his full-time in-ring role, and the nostalgic euphoria of Hulk Hogan's return had waned. All business metrics were fading badly from the 1998-2001 peak. In a bid to fake it, Vince McMahon summoned various midcard acts to surround him in the ring. With jackhammer repetition, McMahon illustrated his career accomplishments, of monopolising the industry, and revealed how he seized the throne: with "ruthless aggression".
"Which one of you has that quality?" McMahon asked the various members of the roster. "My ring," he called it, in character for the megalomaniac, perhaps, but it still depicted them as worker bees. McMahon asked the question again. The fans, in full voice, gave their response: "RVD!"
Rob Van Dam was soundly by Triple H in just eight minutes three months later at Unforgiven, marking the swift end of his main event run. This segment was a strange hybrid of desperate plea and tacit b*llocking - Why aren't you stars? the wrestling promoter seemed to ask of his talent.
The call was answered on the next edition of SmackDown.
Kurt Angle called out anybody he'd never wrestled before, summoning a debuting John Cena clad in red trunks and boots. "Who the hell are you?" Angle asked. Cena announced himself and, quite hammily, his "ruthless aggression" to the world with a cracking slap to Angle's face. The resulting match was an expert patrol-job on Angle's part, who kicked out of every breathless near-fall at 2.99 to get the upstart over. The storytelling was excellent here - after Angle went over, he was slower to rise to his feet - and this began a new "era" of WWE programming.
But isn't it suspicious that, after years upon years of corpse-shagging Attitude Era retrospectives, it took WWE this long - six years - to celebrate this period on the WWE Network?