In honor of the upcoming 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw, I thought I'd take a look back at the 19 years the show has been on television, discussing the events.. the moments.. that are my favorites, as well as the things I would deem my least favorite. Again, these are my own personal choices for my favorite and least favorite moments in Raw history, not necessarily my choices for the best and worst moments. I only used those words in the title of the column because it made things snazzy, and it made me come across as being more cultured than I really am. This could be a pretty long column, so let's not waste any more time. I'm going to list these things in no particular order, because even though I said these are my personal favorites, people are still going to argue about the placement of certain things, so I'll just leave it like this. Shall I proceed? (Yes, indeed.) Less dew eet!!
"It was the best of Raw.."
Austin 3:16 Meets Pillman 9mm Glock - November 4th, 1996
I can still remember watching this live like it was yesterday. The 14-year-old me was absolutely blown away by this segment. Even then, I would often wonder about the lines of kayfabe, thinking that it would make sense for a wrestler to bring a gun to the ring for a Street Fight or something along those lines, because if he really hated his opponent, using a steel chair just wouldn't be enough. I just didn't think I'd really see a gun come into play during a pro wrestling storyline, that's all.
For those that missed it, Brian Pillman was out with an injury after being taken out by his former best friend, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. On that fateful episode of Raw, Kevin Kelly was sent to Pillman's house to interview him, with the story being that Austin was on his way to the house for what would presumably be an attack on a prone Pillman. As Vince McMahon was asking Pillman questions about whether or not he was afraid and felt like a hostage in his own home, Pillman said that Austin was a "dead man walking", and proceeded to pull out a pistol. Later in the show, Austin showed up at Pillman's house, and after fighting off a couple of Pillman's friends in the front yard, he broke in, only to run into Pillman, who had the gun pointed directly at him with a wild-eyed look on his face. Throw in Pillman's wife screaming in the background, with Kelly yelling on top of that, and you had one truly hectic segment. Even though Pillman never did pull the trigger, and the "feed went out" before we got to see anything, it was still an incredibly memorable thing to watch on television. Even today, nearly 16 years later, I still look at the entire thing as one of the edgiest things the pro wrestling world has ever given us.
You're Either Nexus Or You're Against Us - June 7th, 2010
Yes, other than Bryan "Daniel Bryan" Danielson, the Nexus was a group of "nobodies" at the time. Yes, multiple members of the group went on to do next to nothing in the wrestling business. Even with that said, the formation of the Nexus is easily.. easily.. one of my all-time favorite moments in wrestling, period, not just in the history of Raw.
When the first season of NXT was announced, there was plenty of potential there, but most of that went out the window right away with the jousting matches and obstacle courses that had absolutely nothing to do with wrestling and what makes a successful pro wrestler. The week before the Nexus debut, season one of NXT came to an end with Wade Bar-ruh winning. Nobody thought anything of it. They just assumed Bar-ruh would eventually "debut" on either Raw or Smackdown, and maybe one or two of the other NXT competitors would "debut" down the line, as well. What we got was something special. What we got was something unique. All eight NXT competitors showed up on Raw during the John Cena VS CM Punk main event, and they started off by attacking Punk and his Straight Edge Society brother, Luke Gallows. At first, it came across as almost the start of a heel turn for Cena, because the group seemed to conveniently ignore him and leave him in the ring by himself as Punk and Gallows were destroyed at ringside. Then, of course, the group turned their sights on Cena, and viciously attacked him in the ring. However, it was the post-Cena events that really took the segment over the top. A faction attacking a few wrestlers is fine and all, but it's something we've seen time and time again in the wrestling world. However, the Nexus then began to attack Matt Striker and Jerry Lawler on commentary, then went after timekeepers, ring announcers and anyone that was unlucky enough to be at ringside. They even began to dismantle the ring before going back to attack Cena all over again.
It was so different and so out of left field that even some hardcore members of the IWC had to question the legitimacy of the entire thing. They wondered how much of what they saw was scripted, and just how much of it wasn't. The attacks were especially brutal. They weren't just kayfabe beatings. The Nexus guys were out there beating the hell out of anyone in their way. Everyone was buzzing about the attack. It was all over social media. Columnists everywhere were writing about it. Message boards were blowing up with page after page after posts. It was just the jolt that WWE needed to get people excited in their product again, and it's the reason the company wants to pull of a "major summer storyline" every year now. For now, let's choose to ignore the fact that the entire Nexus storyline fizzled out harder than anything in recent wrestling memory, and let's just focus on how white-hot things started off after that debut.
You Ruined It! You Ruined It! - January 19th, 1998
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The Toughest Son Of A Bitch In The WWF.
"Iron" Mike Tyson. The Baddest Man On The Planet.
It was only right that their paths would cross, and on that January night in 1998, they did. Tyson arrived as a special guest of none other than Vince McMahon, but of course, during 1998, whenever you saw Vince McMahon, you were going to see Steve Austin making his life a living hell. Sure enough, right in the middle of a praise-a-thon for Tyson, the glass shattered, and Austin was on his way. Within minutes, Austin had pissed Tyson off, Tyson responded with a shove, and all hell broke loose, with both men having to be restrained by numerous men, both in Tyson's "posse" and with Vince's "cronies".
While Tyson wasn't quite the unstoppable force he was in previous years (he was coming off of back-to-back career-altering losses to Evander Holyfield), it was still an electric moment that helped to give pro wrestling the mainstream coverage that Vince McMahon craves so much. ESPN was discussing Tyson's appearance on Raw non-stop. It was on CNN. It was on Headline News. It was on your local news coverage from Honolulu to Miami, and everywhere in between. It got everyone talking. Could the man who made himself famous all over the globe by knocking people unconscious overcome "The Rattlesnake"? Could the man who made himself famous (again) by stomping mudholes in people and walking them dry overcome "Kid Dynamite"? It didn't matter if we were discussing a "real" sport and a "fake" sport. People were torn over the prospect of these two badasses fighting it out. The entire thing, as well as the Special Enforcer role for Tyson at WrestleMania 14 WWF Title match between Austin and Shawn Michaels, helped propel the WWF to new levels, and was a key piece to the company winning the Monday Night War.
Special kudos to Vince McMahon for his usual comedic overacting, starting from his bug-eyed look as Austin flipped the bird to Tyson, and ending with him absolutely losing his mind, trying to kick Austin as he yelled at him about "ruining" his moment. Fantastic job by Mr McMahon, in my opinion.
Brock, Not Rock - April 2nd, 2012
Damn near all of you should remember the episode of Raw that aired the night after WrestleMania 28. It was only three-and-a-half months ago, after all. On top of that, it was perhaps the best crowd, from beginning to end, that we've ever seen for an episode of Raw. The Miami fans were jacked that night, making everything seem like a huge deal. Hell, the pop they gave to Brodus Clay for coming out to save Santino from a two-on-one attack at the hands of Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger made people think Brodus was an insta-star and a main event talent right then and there.
As electrified as that crowd was all night long, they didn't truly become unglued until the final segment of the show. Coming off of a loss to The Rock at WrestleMania, John Cena was in the ring, asking to speak to Rock man-to-man. As he called for The Rock to come to the ring, a familiar song played, but it wasn't the entrance music of The Rock. Instead, the crowd went absolutely apeshit as Brock Lesnar's music hit, and out came the former WWE Champion to a thunderous ovation. It prompted a very loud "holy shit" chant from the fans in attendance.
Think about that.
It wasn't a huge spot that brought the chant on. It wasn't even an amazing match. All it took was an appearance from Lesnar. He hadn't even gotten into the ring yet when the chant broke out. Just the fact that he returned to the world of pro wrestling was enough to get the chant started. It was truly a surreal moment to see him appear on the stage and walk to the ring. He didn't even have to say a word during the entire segment (most would say that's a good thing), but he made a memorable return that will be talked about for years.
Leave The Memories Alone - March 31st, 2008
If you ask me, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair is the single greatest pro wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots and step into a ring. You're not going to change my mind about that, no matter how well you articulate and put an argument together for someone else. It just isn't going to happen. As I've mentioned in previous columns, Flair was the very first pro wrestler I ever saw, and he hooked me immediately, meaning that I might not be writing this column today if it weren't for him. So, when he was retiring from wrestling (I know, I know..) after WrestleMania 24, it was an emotional time for me.
I figured he'd get some sort of a special "farewell" on Raw the night after WrestleMania, but what we got was some of the most emotional minutes in the history of the business (short of tribute shows to deceased wrestlers, of course), as name after name came out to pay tribute to Flair, from Triple H to Batista to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine to Harley Race to Chris Jericho to the Four Horsemen themselves. Flair couldn't stop crying. The fans in attendance in Orlando that night couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop crying, sitting in an Orlando hotel room, watching the show on television with a bunch of LoP'ers. The extra special stuff came after Raw went off the air, and had to be seen once the WrestleMania DVD set came out, with The Undertaker making a super-rare appearance to break kayfabe and hug Flair, as well as Vince McMahon coming out to enthusiastically rip Flair's arm right out of its socket four times as he raised Flair's arm to each side of the arena.
It was a fitting tribute to the man that had done so much for the business, and it remains something that I enjoy watching from time-to-time.
Ten Men, One Match - February 7th, 2000
Prior to the Miami crowd after WrestleMania this year, I probably would have went with the crowd in Dallas on this particular night in 2000 as the hottest Raw crowd from beginning to end that we've ever seen. They were rabid all night long, but it was the main event that really made them go crazy.
The night started with The Radicalz (Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit) turning heel on Cactus Jack to align themselves with Triple H, and Trips set the main event up as a five-on-one handicap match, with The Radicalz teaming with Triple H and X-Pac to take on Cactus Jack, with nobody expected to help Cactus since Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were in the middle of the McMahon-Helmsley Era in running the show. Well, before things got underway, none other than The Rock named himself as Jack's tag team partner. The odds were still long for the faces, though, right up until the match was about to begin, when Rikishi, Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmasta Sexay came out to even things up, and the fight was on.
With people like Rikishi, Cactus Jack, Triple H and Perry Saturn in the match, you probably wouldn't expect the match to be damn near non-stop action (which is, of course, different from total non-stop action), but that's exactly what we got. It's as if the wrestlers were feeding off of the crowd reaction, and vice versa. The match was fun, the crowd was fun.. everything just clicked that night.
If I'm going to mention all of this, I might as well throw in some bonus points for KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE's surprise return after the match, when The Radicals and Degeneration X had beaten the faces down and were dominating. KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE hit the scene and was a one-man wrecking crew, destroying everyone, which only made the crowd go even crazier. It was a random match, for the most part, with random bits and pieces thrown in, but it just worked. I mean, it really worked. It also showed how much the WWF missed the boat with making Rikishi a major main event star, because crowds all over the globe went nuts for him, but that's a different story altogether.
Babe Ruth VS Barry Bonds - February 18th, 2002
Ten whole years before we got to see John Cena VS The Rock in an "Era VS Era" dream match at WrestleMania 28, we got to see The Rock VS "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan in a match of the same vibe. The legendary Chicago wrestling crowd was treated to an epic moment in 2002, as Hogan was in the middle of cutting a promo about his legacy in the wrestling business. How big a star he is. How many arenas he has sold out through the years. How nobody would ever be bigger than Hulk Hogan, past or present..
..which brought The Rock out, to a thunderous ovation.
In a style that only The Rock could do, he praised Hogan, while still trashing him, mentioning how the fans have been taking a big "Hulk of crap" whenever Hogan has opened his mouth for the last few years. Rock proceeded to challenge Hogan to a main event match at WrestleMania 18 the following month, and you could almost feel the electricity in the arena through the television. Hogan accepted the challenge, and the segment ended with Rock taking him down with a Rock Bottom.
In sports, people always hypothesize about athletes of different eras battling it out, and how things would go. For example, if Nolan Ryan, in his prime, pitched to Albert Pujols, in his prime, what would the outcome be? What about if Wilt Chamberlain, in his prime, went one-on-one with Shaquille O'Neal, in his prime? Who would win? It's no different in wrestling, for the most part. We, as wrestling fans, look at names from different eras and wonder how the matches would go if they got to face each other. From 1984 to 1996, there was no bigger name in wrestling than Hulk Hogan. From 1997 and on, it could be argued that there was no bigger name in wrestling than The Rock. It just made sense to have a match between the two, before Hogan finally retired (I know, I know..). In the span of five short minutes, history was made, and all of those years of "fantasy warfare" matchups that we'd see in old issues of the WWF magazine came to life.
The Invasion Gets Extreme - July 9th, 2001
Before I continue with this section, let me preface it by saying two things..
- When ECW was around originally, I was young and impressionable enough to find their product amazing
- As the years went on, I became less and less impressionable, and ECW just didn't stand the test of time
In the summer of 2001, wrestling fans were in the middle of the Invasion storyline, with Shane McMahon's version of WCW trying to destroy the WWF. It was fun to watch. I can't deny that at all. It actually goes back to the Rock VS Hogan thing. We were getting to see a lot of WCW VS WWF matches that we didn't think we would get a chance to see, and it was a blast. Most people didn't notice it at the time, but something was missing. Something big.
During a tag match featuring the WWF's KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE and Chris Jericho taking on WCW's Lance Storm and Mike Awesome, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer ran in through the crowd and began attacking the WWF team. Had WCW added the two former ECW names to their roster? Suddenly, the WWF troops hit the ring to back RVD and Dreamer down, but there was something.. different.. about this group of names. Justin Credible. Rhyno. Raven. Tazz. The Dudleyz. They were.. all former ECW names. Just when it started to sink in, the group all turned their sights on KAAAAANNNNNEEEEE and Jericho, beating them down. On commentary, Paul Heyman stood up, walked into the ring and cut a promo about how the wrestling world had forgotten about ECW in all of the hype over WWF VS WCW, but that ECW was going to take things to the extreme. Awesome television.
Later that night, after Shane McMahon met up with Vince McMahon to set up a plan to eliminate ECW once and for all. It set up a 20-man brawl, with five members of the WWF teaming up with five members of WCW to go against the ten ECW workers. In the end, it was all a plot, as WCW and ECW joined forces as The Alliance, Stephanie McMahon was brought in as the new "owner" of ECW, and the storyline became about Shane and Stephanie's bid to take the WWF from their father.
We saw how the entire Invasion ended up, but that one night made things extra fun, as we got to see the top three wrestling promotions of that era working together and providing us with something different and something special every week.
The Beer Truck - March 22nd, 1999
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin riding a beer truck to the ring and absolutely dousing The Rock, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and hundreds of fans live in attendance with gallons of beer. It's one of the most memorable moments in Raw history, and is something that will be in WWE highlight packages for the rest of time. It's something that I can just about guarantee that everyone would mention if they were making a list of this nature, so there's really not much of a need to get into detail here. You've all seen it. You all know the deal.
I will say this, though.. watching Vince McMahon hit the canvas and "swim" in a puddle of beer as Austin continues to soak the ring never gets old. To this day, if I see the clip, I start laughing when I see Vince's dramatic breaststroke in the center of the ring. Great stuff.
I Also Appreciate The Fact That.. Hell.. You Can Kiss My Ass - September 22nd, 1997
If we're going to discuss Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, we might as well discuss what started their legendary feud.
During the very first episode of Raw to come from the famed Madison Square Garden, Austin delivered the "Stone Cold Stunner Heard 'Round The World" to Vince McMahon after Vince tried to convince Stone Cold, who was on the shelf after injuring his neck at SummerSlam the previous month, that he had to "play within the system" and not continue to come out and attack people every week. At first, it seemed like Austin was going to do as Vince was requesting, which would have shocked the world, but then..
We had seen Vince McMahon be a heel on television. We wanted to see him get his ass kicked by someone. Anyone. We just never expected that it would actually happen. When it did, though.. well.. when it happened, I thought Vince broke his neck, to be honest with you. Let's just say it wasn't the smoothest looking Stone Cold Stunner of all-time, and Vince dropped like a sack of potatoes before going into typical "Vince McMahon over-the-top mode" and convulsing on the mat like he had just been literally stunned.
As I said, it was the moment that kick started their legendary feud. The feud that many people feel is the greatest that wrestling has ever seen. The feud that has been imitated numerous times in the last 15 years, with heel authority figures and face wrestlers feuding, but it always.. always.. gets compared to Austin VS McMahon, and it never reaches the insanely high bar that Austin VS McMahon set. Even though nobody could have predicted how magical that moment was, finally seeing Vince McMahon get his comeuppance was just fantastic.
Alright, it's time for a change of plans. I didn't think I'd write as much as I did for this part of the column, so you know what? I'm going to turn this into a two-part series, with my least favorite moments in Raw history to come soon. Expect to see a lot of me posting things this week. That's all I'm going to say. For now, though, I turn it over to you, the fine folks in ReaderLand. What are your ten favorite moments in Raw history? It could be things I've listed, or it could be things I didn't list. There are no right or wrong answers, since we're dealing with your own personal favorites. I just want to know what my readers have been digging over the last 19 years. Holla at ya boy and let me know what's on your mind.