By Mark Nagi
A few weeks ago, I was watching WrestleMania 38. I have a Peacock subscription, so it wasn’t like I was shelling out $50 for the pay-per-view.
Admittedly I’m not a big wrestling fan. I didn’t know much about the current stars, their rivalries, or the storylines. The show felt… sanitized.
The best part of WrestleMania 38 for me was the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the biggest names in the history of the sport. His appearances each night brought down the house and got the most buzz on social media.
Stone Cold was just one of a plethora of memorable stars in the WWE during what was called “The Attitude Era.”
Sports entertainment used to be good guys versus bad guys. That era gave us shades of gray, to the point when rooting for the bad guy was fashionable. Ted Turner’s WCW did it as well with Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the establishment of the New World Order.
All these years later and you still see Stone Cold, NWO, Degeneration X and gear of other “bad boys” from that era at today’s pro wrestling events.
By now you might be asking why you’ve been reading 200 words about pro wrestling, and I thank you for your time. Here’s why. I get the same vibe watching Tony Vitello’s baseball team perform on the diamond and talk trash off of it as I did with the Attitude Era standouts.
The Vols entered last weekend ranked number one in the country. They had a ridiculous 38-3 record with a 17-1 mark in conference play. That gave them a five-game lead over Arkansas, their next highest competitor in the SEC. In the Eastern Division that lead was up to six games over Georgia.
It isn’t just that they are winning. They ooze swagger.
The Ole Miss series turned into a Lane Kiffin spectacle in Oxford, with the former Tennessee football coach throwing out the first “golf ball,” which came from the near riot at the end of last Fall’s game at Neyland Stadium.
Ole Miss was ranked number one at that time, and Tennessee swept them.
A fur coat has become the go-to celebration clothing.
In the Vanderbilt series, they were basically accused of using illegal bats and proceeded to sweep their in-state rivals.
When Vitello was suspended four games for bumping an umpire, he teamed up with a campus fraternity and sold “chest bumps” with proceeds going to Wounded Warriors.
Remember when Alabama snapped their 12-0 start in SEC play? The Vols took umbrage with the Crimson Tide postgame celebrations.
“We’re going to come out tomorrow hot, and they’re not going to have a chance, in my opinion,” said junior relief pitcher Will Mabrey to reporters. “They were also partying like they thought they’d won the World Series. We’ll let know how it tastes tomorrow.”
Tennessee won the next two games… by a score of 24-6.
I’ve covered Tennessee athletics for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been winners… but they haven’t won with this kind of attitude.
Admit it… it’s fun, isn’t it?
I’m a traditionalist at heart, but sports are supposed to be fun and hopefully interesting, and this team has those qualities in spades.
Will this eventually come crashing down? Maybe. The nation would like nothing more than to watch Tennessee baseball team put in its place. If they don’t make a deep run in the postseason, there will be howls from collegiate fans saying the Vols got what they deserved.
But enjoy the ride while you can because the good times don’t go on forever.
Tennessee is in their Attitude Era.