WWE: How Bret vs. Owen Hart Ushered In A New Era Spotlighting Athletic Competition

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Credit: WWE.com

As the WWE emerged from its steroid scandal in the early 90s, a new direction was needed. Two brothers would rise to the occasion and lead the way forward.

The 1980’s Babyfaces

WWE’s era of “Hulkamania” was ushered in during the mid-1980s, and it was named for the company’s headliner, champion, and most visible talent, Hulk Hogan who night after night captivated audiences clad in his trademark red and yellow attire.

The Hulkster was the top performer of the wrestling company owned by Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who himself was the visionary that bought the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) from his father, Vincent James McMahon, rebranded it, and immediately turned it into the vast national spectacle of sports entertainment that enthralled fans from all walks of life.

In addition to Hogan, the company had a large roster of several colorful, large-bodied and muscular characters for their fans to cheer/jeer such as The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat.

Muscular-yet-smaller talent like Savage and Steamboat stood out on the roster and did well for themselves with great microphone work and by putting on fast-paced and dynamic matches, but the guys who were bigger and well-defined, such as Ultimate Warrior or Hogan, always remained at the forefront of the WWE.

That is, until a federal trial forced a new approach.

Credit: WWE.com

1994 Steroid Trial and a New Way Forward:

Because of the litany of muscle-bound talent employed for years by McMahon, the WWE’s owner soon found himself at ground zero of a growing anabolic steroid firestorm that involved his company.

A 1994 federal trial against McMahon alleged that he was the ringleader and principal distributor of illegal steroids to his personnel. Ironically, it was the testimony of Vince’s now former superstar Hulk Hogan that proved instrumental in helping the CEO beat the charges that had been brought against him, and McMahon was subsequently acquitted of all charges.

In order to further distance himself and his company from the steroid scandal that he had been engulfed in, Vince looked over his roster and made a concerted effort towards delivering a new product to wrestling fans.

Even though physically powerful men are synonymous with professional wrestling, instead of relying so heavily on programs that centered on the men sculpted like Greek gods, more emphasis was placed on the smaller statured, but more fluid and athletic technical wrestlers.