The two programs would trade wins in the ensuing ratings competition until mid-1996, when WCW began a nearly 2-year domination that was largely fueled by the introduction of the New World Order, a stable led by former WWF superstars Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash.
The feuds and match types developed by the end of the mid 1990’s began a new era in wrestling. The fans of the WWF seemed to favor what was posed to them as the bad guy instead of the good guy. The creative changes made by the WWF creative board saw wrestling take on a “street fighting,” “bad attitude” approach, however despite the revolutionary changes in sports-entertainment that the WWF founded, 1997 remains the lowest of the WWF’s financial income and a heavy loss in fandom to rival WCW. Through to present day many wrestlers acknowledge that at the time, they were not aware of how close the company came to liquidation. Throughout 1996 and 1997, the WWF lost much of its leading talent to WCW, including Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), Diesel (Kevin Nash), Psycho Sid (Sid Eudy), Alundra Blayze (Debra Miceli), and the late Rick Rude (Richard Rood). The WWF replaced them with former WCW talent such as Vader (Leon White), Stone Cold Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, Mankind (Mick Foley), and Farooq (Ron Simmons). Eric Bischoff’s public humiliation of the WWF, criticising them for signing WCW’s sacked wrestlers and bragging that WWF wrestlers were signing for WCW due to higher pay, intensified the Monday Night Wars only for Nitro as the WWF struggled to regain its popularity.
McMahon managed to keep Bret Hart from reverting to WCW, and began a feud with Hart and Steve Austin. In Hart’s absence after WrestleMania XII, Steve Austin became the new face of the company, starting with his Austin 3:16 speech, shortly after defeating Jake Roberts in the tournament finals at the 1996 King of the Ring pay-per-view. WrestleMania 13 saw Hart beat Austin in a critically acclaimed submission match, and shortly after saw Hart reform The Hart Foundation. McMahon revolved the company around Hart, Austin and Shawn Michaels, feuding with each other for the majority of the year, leaving many to admire their impact carrying the business through a difficult time. Despite his strong long running image as a face, the Canadian Hart was turned heel in an anti-USA gimmick, whilst Steve Austin became cheered by fans despite efforts to design him as the ultimate heel (see tweener). Rocky Maivia joined the Nation of Domination stable after fans rejected his good guy image, and Shawn Michaels formed the street gang faction D-Generation X with Triple H and Chyna; similar to the Stone Cold Steve Austin character, DX was designed not to care for what the fans or other wrestlers thought of them. Michaels later stated that the concept of DX was brought about after he persuaded McMahon to take a cruder approach to the companies marketing approach following him fining Michael’s $10,000 for putting large ornaments in his shorts and exploiting his crotch around the ring during an on-air interview. The Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker produced a fresh strong foundation for the WWF’s creative board. 1997 ended with McMahon becoming widely despised by fans following Bret Hart’s controversial departure from the WWF, proving to be a founding factor in what was to kick start The Attitude Era.