The 2000s were a decade of massive transformation for WWE (heck, the company even changed its name in 2002). The Monday Night Wars concluded in early 2001, leaving Vince McMahon the clear winner, but also challenged like never before.
While WWE was without legitimate competition for the first time in many years, McMahon was tasked with building up a new generation of stars to replace Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and the nWo -- all of which were still around at points during the 2000s but clearly their biggest days were behind them.
In selecting the Top 50 WWF Stars Of The 2000s, Canadian Bulldog's World looked at the following criteria:
How prominent was the star in the WWF between the years 2000 and 2009?
Were they involved in memorable matches and angles?
Did they win any WWF championships during this time (not crucial, given announcers and managers on this list, too)?
Are they often associated with the 2000s wrestling scene?
Ready? Here we go!
Much like his partner Scott Hall, WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Nash returned to WWE in 2002 as part of the nWo invasion. However, Nash stayed around much longer than Hall, feuding with World Champion Triple H in 2003 over several PPVs and having a rivalry with Chris Jericho that saw Nash cut his long hair.
Carlito debuted in WWE in 2004 as Carlito Caribbean Cool on SmackDown and, in his first night on the show, defeated John Cena to win the United States Championship. The next year he was drafted to Raw and, in his first night on the show, defeated Shelton Benjamin for the Intercontinental Title. Now dass cool.
Too Cool (Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay) begin in the WWF in 1998, but really came into their own a few years later. Often teaming up with Rikishi, Too Cool captured the Tag Team Championship in May 2000. About three years later, a new version of Too Cool (Scotty and Rikishi) saw success on SmackDown.
NXT General Manager William Regal returned to the WWF in 2000 (after a brief stint two years earlier). In addition to being one of the company's top heels, winning the Hardcore European, Intercontinental and Tag Team Titles, Regal was also a King of the Ring and served as both WWF and WCW Commissioner.
While Michael Cole joined the WWF in 1997, he was mostly known as a backstage interviewer and backup commentator until becoming the lead announcer on SmackDown. This led to Cole becoming the lead announcer on Raw beginning in 2008, a role "The Voice Of WWE" still maintains to this day.
Montel Vontavious Porter (or, if you prefer, MVP) debuted on WWE's main roster in 2006, where he was portrayed as the hottest free agent in wrestling. Beginning with the SmackDown brand, MVP soon won the United States Title and held the WWE Tag Team Championship simultaneously with Matt Hardy.
Shelton Benjamin began competing on WWE's main roster in 2002 as part of Team Angle with Charlie Haas. In 2004, he was drafted to Raw as a singles wrestler and defeated Triple H in his first major match on the brand. Benjamin excelled at Money In The Bank matches and held several championship belts.
The Big Show
While WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall gained his most fame as Razor Ramon and with the nWo during the 1990s, The Bad Guy had a brief run after returning to WWE in 2002. Working with nWo co-founders Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, Hall battled Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XVIII before leaving again.
Christian began the 2000s as a partner with Edge, capturing his first of nine WWE tag team championships at WrestleMania 2000. After turning on Edge in 2001, at last, he was on his own... which led him to alliances with Trish Stratus, Tyson Tomko and Chris Jericho. Christian also captured the ECW Title in 2009.
While The Big Show debuted in the WWF in 1999, he began the 2000s as WWF Champion. The World's Largest Athlete would hold several championships over the next decade, including the World, United States, Hardcore and Tag Team Championship. He'd also headline WrestleMania 2000 and WrestleMania XXIV.
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross continued his successful run of being one of the company's top announcers for much of the 2000s. From 2002 to 2008, he was the exclusive lead commentator on Monday Night Raw. JR also participated in in-ring angles with Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin and the McMahon family.
Tazz debuted at the first WWE PPV of the decade, the 2000 Royal Rumble, winning over the previously-undefeated Kurt Angle. The Human Suplex Machine feuded with Jerry The King Lawler and others before retiring from the ring in 2001 and becoming the color commentator on SmackDown and on ECW.
Rob Van Dam
Matt Hardy began the 2000s as a tag team with his brother Jeff Hardy, contending for the WWF Tag Team Championship at the 2000 Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 2000. They'd eventually capture the gold several times, with Matt breaking out on his own as Matt Hardy V1 and even becoming ECW Champion.
WWE Hall of Famer Lita debuted in the WWF in 2000 as the manager of Essa Rios. Soon, she began an alliance with Matt and Jeff Hardy that would become a huge part of that era, and she also captured the Women's Championship. Later on, she switched allegiances to a partnership with Edge before retiring in 2006.
While Shane McMahon had been part of the WWF since The Attitude Era, he came into his own in the 2000s. In 2001, Shane O'Mac "bought" WCW during a rivalry with his father Vince McMahon. Before leaving the company in 2009, McMahon feuded with Kurt Angle, Eric Bischoff, Kane and D-Generation X.
Rey Mysterio debuted in WWE in 2002 and quickly became on the company's most popular stars. Over the next decade, he captured the Cruiserweight and Tag Team Championship numerous times on both Raw and SmackDown. Mysterio famously captured the World Championship at WrestleMania XXII.
WWE Hall of Fame inductee Bill Goldberg was in WWE for less than one year between 2003 and 2004, and yet he had a tremendous impact on the company. Shortly after debuting, Goldberg feuded with The Rock and eventually held the World Championship before leaving the company following WrestleMania XX.
While WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan is better known for his work in the 1980s and 1990s, the power of Hulkamania continued on into the 2000s. The Hulkster returned to the company in 2002 as part of the nWo and headlined WrestleMania X8 against The Rock before regaining the WWF World Championship that year.
Kane debuted in the WWF in 1997 but continued to gain momentum in the 2000s. The Big Red Machine formed an alliance (and feuded with) his brother The Undertaker, he battled the likes of Shane McMahon, Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, Matt Hardy and Snitsky, as well as becoming ECW Champion in 2008.
The Dudley Boyz
Two-time WWE Hall of Famer returned to the WWF in late 2001, revealing himself to be a co-owner with Vince McMahon. Flair soon returned to the ring but also became the manager of Evolution's Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista and had his retirement match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Former WCW head Eric Bischoff shocked the world in 2002 when he showed up on WWE programming as the Raw General Manager. Over the next three years, Bischoff would become a tremendous on-screen villain, making lives miserable for the likes of Stephanie McMahon, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena.
John Bradshaw Layfield
WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus began with the company in 2000 and became one of the most accomplished women in WWE history. She captured the WWE Women's Championship a record seven times, was named "Diva of the Decade" and broke new ground for womens wrestling before retiring in 2006.
WWE Hall of Fame inductees The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) began the decade by winning their first of eight WWE Tag Team Championships. They feuded extensively with Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, Spike Dudley, The Undertaker, Billy & Chuck before leaving in 2005.
Although it's controversial to declare in hindsight, Chris Benoit was WWE's most prominent stars in the early to mid 2000s. After jumping ship from WCW, Benoit captured almost all of the promotion's major championship belts, including the World Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XX.
While WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels excelled during the 1990s, his comeback in 2002 was one of the biggest stories of the entire decade. Beyond winning championships and reuniting D-Generation X, Michaels had Matches Of The Year with The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair, John Cena and others.
While The Undertaker was arguably more prominent in the 1990s, he was still a top star in the decade following. Returning to the WWF in 2000 as The American Bad Ass, Undertaker regained the WWE Championship in 2002 and went on to cement his record-breaking streak of major wins over many WrestleManias.
Along with his brother Matt (see # 24), Jeff Hardy began the decade as a prominent tag team. However, Jeff became the more successful singles wrestler among The Hardy Boyz (until recently), becoming WWE Champion in 2008 and having memorable rivalries with The Undertaker, Triple H and CM Punk.
WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle joined the WWF in 1999 but didn't capture his first (non-Olympic) gold until February 2000. He would go on to capture six World Championships as well as King of the Ring and headlining WrestleMania XIX before leaving the company for more than a decade in 2006.
WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin was named the Top WWF Star of the 1990s, although he still some gas in the tank during the following decade. Austin won his final WWF Championship in 2001 during a heel run and, after retiring from the ring in 2003, became an authority figure and guest referee.
The Rock began the 2000s by winning that year's Royal Rumble and going on to headline the next four WrestleManias against the likes of Triple H, The Big Show, Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. And while The Rock was en route to becoming a Hollywood star, he frequently returned back to WWE.
Brock Lesnar joined WWE in March 2002 and by August, he was King of the Ring and WWE Champion. Lesnar headlined WrestleMania XIX against Kurt Angle and became one of the industry's biggest overnight success stories, leaving the promotion at WrestleMania XX after losing to Bill Goldberg.
Although Triple H joined the WWF in 1995, he captured the company's World Championship only three days into the 2000s by defeating The Big Show. Throughout the decade, The Game would feud with The Undertaker, Mick Foley, The Rock, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Randy Orton and many others.
John Cena is the biggest WWE success story in the 2000s, bar none. Joining the promotion in 2002, Cena soon adopted a hip hop gimmick that would lead him to his first World Championship (of a record-tying sixteen) at WrestleMania XXI. In addition to headlining a half-dozen WrestleManias in the 2000s, Cena feuded extensively with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Batista, Randy Orton and virtually all of the decade's top stars.