Short answer: yes and no. Now before you jump down my throat, you should read on and think about all the points I’m going to make.
Ahh the Attitude Era, I was just an itty-bitty Freakshow back then, but I remember it well. You had larger than life characters such as Stone Cold, The Rock, Mankind, Kane and The Undertaker just to name a few. For the sake of this article I’m going to take off my rose tinted glasses (Editor’s note: he really, really enjoys wearing those). Let’s jump into it.
Part One: Comparing the Promos
Most agree that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin kicked off the Attitude Era off on June 23, 1996 at that year’s King of the Ring by cutting an unscripted promo on Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Not only did this show the WWE, then known as WWF, had a more edgy side, but it basically strapped a rocket to Austin’s back that carried him to stardom. Fast forward to June 27, 2011 when CM Punk comes out and cuts his now infamous “pipebomb” promo. This promo turned CM Punk from a main event guy to The Guy. Punk delivers this promo in a way that makes you feel like everything he says is real. After that promo the “Summer of Punk” was on, and nothing could stop him.
Alas most promos from the modern era of wrestling don’t sound anywhere near as good as Punk’s. Now everyone reads from a script, and it all sounds the same. Back during the 90’s no one had a script, and it sounded real. For the best examples of this I urge you to look up anything from Cactus Jack of the ECW and any Road Dogg promo from the WWE. Then go watch anyone from today not named CM Punk just to show how The Attitude Era takes it in terms of promos.
Part Two: The Matches
A lot of matches from the 90’s were, uhm, let’s just say hit or miss. A lot of them ended in some wonky way. The matches that were good were some of the best I’ve ever seen, however. You had Bret Hart vs Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13, Undertaker vs Mankind in a Hell in the Cell at King of the Ring 1998, and the match that many claim as the end of the Attitude Era: Edge and Christian vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Hardy Boyz in a TLC match at WrestleMania X-Seven.
The modern era has its own issues in the fact the until recently female wrestlers were still viewed as eye candy, and only given short matches. While some matches still ended in wonky ways it was fewer and farther between. Overall the modern era delivers more consistently good matches. You have CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, More recently you have AJ Styles who delivers gold with every match his has. I would have to give it to the Modern Era in terms of overall good wrestling.
Part Three: The Storylines
The Attitude Era was balls deep in stories that felt real: Steve Austin vs the tyrannical boss Mr. McMahon; the satanic cult that was The Ministry of Darkness vs Steve Austin. Who didn’t feud with Steve Austin in hindsight? You also had Degeneration-X being immature every chance they could get. In the Modern Era you have CM Punk vs John Cena, AJ Styles and John Cena, Kevin Owen, and Chris Jericho just had some of the best storytelling ever.
Part Four: Conclusion
Honestly it’s hard to say what Era had it better. If you like more realistic stories, it’s definitely the Attitude Era. If you like more wrestling driven story, it’s definitely the Modern Era. Comparing wrestling from then to wrestling from now is like comparing Vanilla Destiny to Destiny now: it’s the same thing everyone loves, it’s just changed with the times. In conclusion there is no real way to determine which is better, it all boils down to personal preference. You’re going to enjoy what you enjoy, but what we all enjoy is good old pro wrestling.