Originally Posted by Low_Hanging_Fruit
I don't really think there is a definitive beginning or end, it sort of faded in and later faded out. There's moments going back to 1996 that signaled change...stuff like Diesel flipping off Bret at Royal Rumble, Sunny, Goldust, etc. And RAW was filled with edgy TV for a long time after 2001, stuff like Edge & Lita's sex celebration, a lot of the stuff Diva's were doing on TV, ECW returning, etc.
The Attitude era started at the 1996 King Of The Ring PPV. After Austin won the tournament he gave a promo after where he said the iconic line "Austin 3:16 says, I just whooped your ass" to Jake The Snake Roberts who he beat in the finals. The era was off and running after that and Austin became an ovenight phenomenon the likes of which the wrestling world had never seen before.
When it ended is up for debate though. It could've happened during the WCW/ECW Invasion angle but there was still a lot of Attitude in that. That's why I say that Wrestlemania 18 was the ending of it. The next night on RAW the brand extension was announced and that started a new program format and company wide change. The final nail in the coffin was when they changed their name to WWE. The marketing campain for that was "Get the F out" and that was the last time their was ever any attitude in the WWE.
Edge and Lita's live sex celebration was no doubt a nod to the Attitude era but the era had been dead for three of four years before that happened.