OK - I don't want to rant for the next few minutes about gear and how easy things are in WoW today vs. Vanilla, but I do want to focus on some of the changes - and why I get so upset at a lack of effort by raiders today.
Gear was tough to come by in Vanilla. Our Dungeon sets were eight pieces, and scattered across the whole of Azeroth. Rivendare had a habit of refusing to drop whatever leg pieces you needed, and of course you had to contend with feral druids rolling on your rogue gear.
Your only available upgrade was to travel to Molten Core, until the upgrade quest line came out for the Dungeon .5 sets which involved a ton of grinding, harder to come by money, and the 45 minute Baron run. If the RNG didn't love you though, you'd never be able to even get this far, as you'd be missing a piece of your eight from one of the final bosses in Scholo/Strat.
Molten Core was worse, with 40 raiders to compete with, and tier pieces being tied to individual classes. This was really awesome when they added Shaman/Paladin loot to the opposing factions loot tables. Nothing like killing Ragnaros as Alliance and getting Shaman T2 legs.
BWL was just as bad, with filler gear from ZG and AQ20 potentially filling the slots. Rep grinds were long and arduous (there were no tabards or daily quests), and involved months of raiding or token collecting (Bijous anyone?) to reach your rep goals. I still remember wondering why some mage in my raid (that I'd never heard of) was wearing BRD shoulders...
Faction rewards, Badges of Honor, and tier tokens helped alleviate some of the strain on acquiring gear. Rep grinds were still required, and resulted in running heroic and lvl 80 dungeons until your eyes bled - but at least you had options for gear.
When the Sunwell was released, there was even more end game level gear available, helping to close the gap between raiders and non-raiders. Coupled with PvP and Arena gear, you were able to build a decent set of gear without ever setting foot in a raid beyond Karazhan.
Wrath and 3.2
Badges, tier tokens, and free loot - OH MY! Faction tabards that allow you to grind rep regardless of the dungeon. Tier 8.5 being available (in 3.2) for badges farmed from heroics. Purchasable rep for your shoulder enchants. So much gear is available now that the difference (in gear levels) between the casual/socail palyer and the raiders will be almost indistinguishable.
Now, this isn't a problem - in fact it's a good thing. It's certainly easier to fill the ranks with geared players when they aren't two and three levels behind in gear. There is one thing that makes it difficult however.
They don't have the skills to pay the bills.
Raiders from Vanilla WoW aren't tougher - we're just more experienced. Content is easier for us because we've been conquering it for years. If anything the bosses are tougher in strategy, if easier overall, compared to what we used to have. How much decursing was reqired on Lucifron? Resistance fights for Ragnaros and Hydross? All of these things combine to make us smarter raiders.
This issue shines from things as simple as a request for a WWS/Screenshot (instructions provided in the application process), to the inability to avoid Flash Freezes. We have a DK that does AMAZING damage - but he can't avoid a Freeze to save his life. His net value to me is near zero in this instance.
I love raiding, and I love the feeling of downing new content - and the achievements help keep it fresh - but for the love of Pete please learn to not stand in fire and follow directions.