The "Excellence in Column" writing has returned. NO, I haven't exited the LordsofPain.net Retirement Home for Internet Columnists. I keep getting visits here at the retirement home from my many loyal fans who keep asking me "are you going to review 1,000th RAW???" over and over and over again... I guess that goes to show you how well I wrote show reviews back in the day and questions the need why some wanted to put Grandpa Tito into the retirement home in the first place.
As for 1,000th RAW Review... Yikes... We'll see, as I might want to save my energy to fully review SummerSlam 2012 instead.
One of my favorite things about the old BLOG is TITO, which was highly successful in its run through 2011, was writing Top 10 lists. It was the easiest blog to write and I could compile the list during the week before ultimately writing the entire list. Given my vast memory banks of pro wrestling knowledge, these worked out quite well because many of my Top 10 lists could provide newer wrestling fans some insight on what happened during the past. That, and they made for great debate.
Thus, in honor of the 1,000th RAW coming up this Monday, I, your humble retired host, have put together my Top 10 Monday Night RAW Moments. These are MOMENTS and not specifically matches, although I have 2 matches that make my list. I'll let someone else with more time write the Matches Top 10 list, as picking 10 matches out of 999 shows is not easy (I could do a decent job with a week to think about it). But these are moments that, in my opinion, are segments on RAW that I'll never forget or felt like "game changers" (or could have been). Enjoy the list and Comments are welcome below.
MR. TITO's TOP 10 MONDAY NIGHT RAW MOMENTS
#10 - Steve Austin/Triple H vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho (May 21st, 2001) - Sure, during the period of 2000-2001, we had many great and exciting tag matches between Dudleys, Hardys, and Edge/Christian, probably the equivalent of 5-star matches. But rarely do you see a tag match containing Main Event level talent fighting over the World Tag Titles and with a major "sense of urgency". With Steve Austin turning heel at Wrestlemania 17 and then joining forces with Triple H, there was a major need to elevate new babyfaces with the Rock off to Hollywood to film a movie (Scorpion King, I think). Thus, during May 2001, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit were given their legitimate shots to be the next top babyfaces. They went right after Austin/Triple H during the weeks prior and this was the match to put Jericho/Benoit OVER as those faces. But then Triple H shredded his Quadriceps tendon (11:40 of the video as he tried to break the Walls of Jericho on Austin). Triple H, as a man, kept going with the match and that might be as impressive as the match itself.
We'll never know what was planned with Triple H after this tag match. HHH would have surgery to repair his quad after this match and not return to the WWE until January 2002. In my opinion, he was never the same wrestler as the injury slowed him down along with the added muscle mass upon his return. Oh, and he was becoming a member of the McMahon family and was no longer as hungry to become and hold the main event spot. Chris Benoit's push would come to an abrupt stop after 2 excellent RAW matches with Austin (both 5-star) the week after this match when his neck injury put him out until he returned for the first WWE Brand Extension draft in 2002. Jericho's continued push would probably be affected by the 2001 WCW/ECW Invasion which ruined almost everything that year, but he did end the year as the Undisputed WWE Champion. With Steve Austin, 2001 was his last great year... He began to meltdown personally and professionally during 2002, while his neck problems would return. Lots of "could have beens" in this RAW moment.
#9 - Triple H turns on Shawn Michaels, just moments after reuniting DX (July 22nd, 2002) - Shawn Michaels, during 2002, was ready for a WWE return. He had slayed his personal demons and was ready to participate with the WWE on a regular basis. Little did he know that it would tempt him to become a full-time wrestler through 2003. But in 2002, the plans were for a one-time match with Triple H and they began that road to the awesome SummerSlam 2002 match by advertising the REUNION OF DEGENERATION X on RAW during July 2002 with the original cast, Triple H and Shawn Michaels (funny - 1,000th RAW which is reunion of DX is just 1 day above the 10 year anniversary of this moment).
But just as the fans bought the DX reunion, Triple H turned on Shawn Michaels after HHH delivered his "let's get ready to suck it" speech. The disappointment of not having a reunited DX original cast was soon erased by awesome matches HHH and HBK were soon to have, along with Shawn Michaels returning as a full time wrestler. Probably from someone else's top RAW moments list, Triple H and Shawn Michaels would actually reunite as DX years later and remain for a while. The best part about Triple H and Shawn Michaels feuding is that Triple H's 2002-2004 match portfolio was quite weak against the likes of Kane, Chris Jericho, Bill Goldberg, Booker T, and others, but Shawn Michaels helped HHH look good when it was needed.
#8 - The Rock's WWE Return (February 14th, 2011) - Since 2004, the WWE and the Rock went their separate ways. Mostly for the Rock, he needed to erase the "wrestler" stigma in order to improve the roles he was offered in Hollywood. To his credit, the Rock has had a decent movie career in Hollywood to indicate the success of his move. During early 2011, the WWE was in a scramble. Wrestlemania 27 was NOT shaping up too well and was in major need of star power. Thus, the Rock and Steve Austin were both contracted to come back while Triple H vs. Undertaker was booked. The "Fab 4" of the Attitude Era, as I once called it in a previous column. During the time between 2004 and 2011, Triple H and Undertaker were regular wrestlers and Steve Austin made multiple appearances. But the Rock kept his distance.
Until February 2011 when the WWE hyped the naming of a Wrestlemania 27 host. Names were getting thrown around, such as Austin, but also TNA's Sting who has yet to make a WWE appearance. But it was the Great One who made his return and in 20 minute overrun that scored huge ratings, the Rock cut a promo as if he never left the WWE. Most of all, he took aim at John Cena and tension between those two not only helped to improve Wrestlemania 27 numbers, but it would begin a full year of hype towards a strong drawing Wrestlemania 28. This return also marks the Rock's acceptance of the WWE again and will provide more appearances. He'll be attending the 1,000th RAW, for example, and mentioned in the RAW after Wrestlemania 28 that he wants another WWE Title reign.
#7 - Mankind wins his first WWE Title despite WCW Nitro's spoilers (January 4th, 1999) - During 1998, the WWE overcame WCW in the ratings war. In fact, after the July 6th, 1998 Nitro where WCW put Hulk Hogan vs. Bill Goldberg in which Bill Goldberg won his first WCW Title on FREE television, RAW won the remainder of the Monday Night ratings battles. WCW's ratings were declining too, while WWE's ratings were expanding at a fast pace. WCW, as it head into a new year with 1999, thought it could "save" the promotion with 1 big show with the first WCW Nitro of 1999. Funny, doesn't a promotion we all know believe that they can "save" things with 1 big show now? 1,000th RAW anyone?
Even during WWE's rise during 1998, they were on a Monday/Tuesday taping schedule for RAW. They would have a LIVE RAW on Monday and actually tape the next week's RAW on Tuesday (Vince loves the power of editing taped shows, hence why Smackdown tapes Tuesdays). The January 4th, 1999 RAW was actually taped the week before and it was going up against a LIVE WCW Nitro. Nitro hyped Bill Goldberg vs. Hulk Hogan II with the real hook being the reunion of the New World Order. In order to compete with the WWE, WCW had announcer Tony Shiavone reveal the results of the taped RAW show by telling fans Mick Foley would win the WWE Title. Even ridiculued Foley...
The hilarious result is that many viewers watching WCW changed to RAW because they actually wanted to see Mankind win the WWE Title. There was a big ratings surge during the final segments and WCW's intentions of "saving" their show were doomed. The match, itself, was great and the ending has one of the most explosive pops that I've ever heard. The Corporation interfered with the match just as Mankind got the upperhand and then Steve Austin's music hit. Crowd went BONKERS! Foley won his first WWE Title and he would go on to not only put the Rock over strong as a main eventer, but he'd do the same thing with Triple H just a year later (which HHH resents to this day). Funny thing about WCW's announcement is that WWE.com actually revealed the Spoilers of Foley winning the title just after the RAW tapings happened.
#6 - Shawn Michaels superkicks Hulk Hogan to ignite SummerSlam feud (July 4th, 2005). It was supposed to be some July 4th fun... Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan took on Carlito and Kurt Angle in a tag match. After Hogan and Michaels won their match, they saluted the crowd with Real American in the background. Then, out of no where... BAM! Sweet Chin Music delivered on Hogan by Shawn Michaels. Michaels just stood over Hogan afterward and just stared at the damage done. Great stuff!
This was supposed to kick off a "dream match" for SummerSlam 2005 and then a rematch at a future event to split the losses, 50/50. However, Hulk Hogan, who was given creative power over his character by the WWE, refused the 2nd match and held the booking of the 1st match where Hulk Hogan would win. This caused legitimate heat backstage on Hogan and I believe that the WWE and Hogan haven't been the same since. It's why I believe Hogan has no problems going to TNA wrestling and trying his best to boost their product to rise up to the WWE.
#5 - NXT attacks John Cena/CM Punk, destroys RAW ring and surrounding area to debut as the Nexus (June 7th, 2010). Through June 2010, the WWE was stuck creatively with not much happening other than continuing to keep John Cena strong. Meanwhile, the WWE began a new show on the side called NXT which would showcase younger talent being mentored by WWE Superstars. When the first season ended, the NXT wrestlers were left without a cause... Until June 7th. Interrupting a Fan's Choice match between John Cena vs. CM Punk, funny how THAT was the match interrupted, the 1st Season NXT performers attacked... And not just attack the wrestlers, but destroy the ring and everything around it!
This was so intense and felt like one of those "game changer" storylines hitting you out of no where. It should have been but the WWE instantly screwed this one up. For one, they FIRED Daniel Bryan after this match for choking someone with a tie (3:30 on the video below). Reportedly, Bryan's actions were too violent for the PG rating and it was during the year when Linda McMahon was running for Senator. This KILLED the newly named "Nexus" from the start, as they needed Daniel Bryan not just for the in-ring talent but as a leader. Wade Barrett was on his own and it just didn't work. The rest of 2010 was spent with the Nexus trying to justify their existence and with various John Cena storylines, including Cena being forced to join the group. They would switch their leaders to CM Punk to keep the storyline alive but the group was already in trouble.
#4 - Sean Waltman/X-Pac Returns to WWE, reboots Degeneration X (March 30th, 1998) - On the very night where WWE RAW would defeat WCW Nitro for the first time since 1996... Sean Waltman, formerly Syxx of WCW and now named X-Pac in the WWE, made his WWE return as a new member of Degeneration X. But it wasn't his return that made a big impact with me, it was his words. Throughout 1997, Waltman has problems with WCW management. As WCW grew more powerful, a power struggle was brewing backstage between the old Clique members (Nash, Hall, Waltman) and the man with Creative Power over his character written in his contract, Hulk Hogan. Eric Bischoff, as you see to this day with his involvement with TNA alongside Hogan, sided with Hulk Hogan.
Something had to give... What gave was Sean Waltman's neck and Bischoff used it as an opportunity to "send a message" to the WCW locker room, namely those not loyal to Hulk Hogan. Waltman was released and the timing couldn't be better. WWE was growing thanks to Degeneration X and Steve Austin's rise. It was a great Free Agent acquisition and he fit in perfectly with the newly rebooted DX along side Triple H, Chyna, and then added members New Age Outlaws on the RAW after Wrestlemania 14. Waltman got on the mic and had words for Eric Bischoff and the remaining Clique members (Hall, Nash) who were still in WCW. Telling Bischoff to "put that in your pipe and smoke it" was classic. The NEW Degeneration X would become very popular throughout 1998 and was part of WWE's rebound.
#3 - DX/Radicals vs. Rock/Mankind/Rikishi/Too Cool 5 on 5 Match (February 7th, 2000) - Other lists will probably have the night the Radicalz debuted on RAW as their favorite moment. Not me, as that's just a bunch of guys in street clothes who were expected to be on RAW that night. My favorite moment was weeks later when an epic 5 on 5 match occurred involving the Radicalz (Perry Saturn, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero). They joined the WWE as babyfaces but were unable to get official WWE contracts in the early weeks despite Mick Foley pleading with WWE management. However, Triple H/Stephanie arranged for the Radicalz to get WWE contracts and of course, Saturn/Guerrero/Malenko/Benoit owed them. Thus, they attacked Mick Foley.
Foley was pissed and wanted revenge. He had his opportunity when a 5 on 5 match was presented to him... Problem was that it started as 5 on 1... He was able to coax the Rock into the match, but they were missing 3 more wrestlers to go up against Triple H, X-Pac, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit (Eddie Guerrero was out with an elbow injury). Unable to find 3 more partners, Rock and Foley went out to take on DX/Radicals as 5 on 2... But then the Too Cool music hit... Rikishi, Brian Christopher, and Scotty 2 Hotty came out and the crowd EXPLODED! If you watch the entire match, the crowd is fully into it for the babyfaces and you can just hear the appreciation for Rikishi/Christopher/Scotty growing. Those 3 would be over for the rest of 2000 and then some. THAT is how you make wrestlers with simple booking. This 5 on 5 match, to me, signaled how incredible the 2000 WWE could be with its absurd talent depth.
#2 - Steve Austin flips off Mike Tyson (January 19th, 1998). WWE was on the upswing and in typical fashion for Vince McMahon, he deemed Wrestlemania to be of high importance for the WWE's rebound. Thus, he rolled the dice and acquired the services of Mike Tyson to appear at Wrestlemania 14. Mike Tyson was out of boxing due to his biting of Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997. WWE paid him well, but as Mike Tyson said this year in his WWE Hall of Fame speech, this appearance paid for his mortgage.
Tyson attended Royal Rumble and was seen cheering throughout the night. So thus on the grand announcement on RAW of his involvement alongside Vince McMahon, Steve Austin interrupted. Austin simply flipped Tyson off to his face, which is considered very dangerous for must human beings, and chaos erupted. The men had to be separated and Vince McMahon lost his mind! This moment, in my opinion, made both Steve Austin and Vince McMahon into the incredible characters throughout the 1998-1999 years. It firmly established Steve Austin as a badass and firmly established Vince McMahon as the heel boss who had an axe to grind with Austin. Tyson would go on to join DX and create a "sense of urgency" for Wrestlemania 14 as the "ring enforcer" for Austin's match against DX's Shawn Michaels. But of course, Tyson switched sides at the show to make his Wrestlemania payoff well worth whatever Vince paid. Easily, the best celebrity contribution to the WWE.
#1 - Chris Jericho's WWE Debut (August 9th, 1999) - When Chris Jericho joined WCW during the 1996, he was quickly getting over on the midcard and was allowed to thanks to WCW Nitro running as a 3-hour show (WWE - take note). His stuff with Dean Malenko as the "man of 1,001 holds" was classic and his ability to get himself over on the mic was a huge asset to him. However, WCW was getting too top heavy at the top and the glass ceiling was getting too thick. He had reported problems with Bill Goldberg who took the mocking way too seriously. I believe that Jericho was recognized as being talented in WCW, but he just didn't fit the type of wrestler that WCW wanted to elevate. He was let for 1999...
WWE, however, was expanding and was actually in need of increasing the quality of its midcard/upper midcard, which for the most part was filled with gimmick wrestlers. Jericho was the right person signed at the right time, and if you'll read Chris Jericho's book on his debut (yes! I finally read the book!), there was a lot of careful and creative planning for his debut. Awesome music by Jim Johnston, calling Jericho "Y2J" before 2000's Y2K computer issue, the Countdown clock, and then the bold move of having Jericho's debut interrupt the Rock. 100% perfect. The crowd exploded, as most wrestling fans appreciated Jericho in WCW and thought he got the shaft by that organization. Jericho's promo is beautiful in that at first he gets cheers but soon quickly turns the crowd against him... And then, the Rock's response to Jericho is quite epic... IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!
I hope you enjoyed my column to reflect on some GREAT RAW moments. There were a few honorable mentions, such as Brock Lesnar's WWE return (resembled Bill Goldberg's 2003 debut too much, I thought), among others. I kept out the memorial moments, such as Owen Hart's tribute show.