Next week World Wrestling Entertainment celebrates the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw. That is a quarter-century’s worth of bodyslams, beer baths, and beatdowns. The festivities will be broadcast live simultaneously from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and The Manhattan Center, the birthplace of WWE’s groundbreaking flagship show. Superstars from both Raw and SmackDown will be on hand as well as special appearances from legends such as The Undertaker, D-Generation X, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. It promises to be a night full of surprises, unforgettable moments, and probably a Roman Reigns main event (some things never change).
In honor of the big occasion, I’m counting down the Top 25 Raw Moments of All-time. Now keep in mind, there are over 1000 episodes of Raw, with hundreds of incredible moments (and some we’d rather forget), so it’s impossible to please everyone with this list. If your favorite moment isn’t on the countdown, please don’t throw a Vicki Guerrero style temper tantrum. I’ve tried to compile a list that covers a varied selection of eras and superstars. Also, I specifically focused on moments rather than matches (with two obvious exceptions). There are also no retirement segments (Ric Flair/Shawn Michaels/Edge/Daniel Bryan) or tribute specials (Owen Hart/Eddie Guerrero) because despite the emotional impact of those events, to include one and not the others would be unfair. Everything else is on the table! Let’s get to it.
First, here are some honorable mentions that I ummed and ahhed over for several hours and could just have easily placed in the Top 25:
“This Is Your Life, Rock” (September 27, 1999)
Dolph Ziggler cashes in Money In The Bank (April 8, 2013)
#OccupyRaw (March 10, 2014)
Batista turns on Evolution (February 21, 2005)
Chris Jericho momentarily wins the WWE Championship (April 17, 2000)
The Rock and Hulk Hogan meet face-to-face for the first time (February 18, 2002)
The Top 25
25. The 1-2-3 Kid pins Razor Ramon
In May 1993, fans got their first taste of WWE’s “anything can happen on Monday Night RAW” ethos when a no-name upstart beat one of the company’s most established stars. Before he was a crotch-chopping degenerate and a disparaging industry term for “please get off my TV screen,” X-Pac was a scrawny, mullet-sporting jobber simply known as The Kid. Across the ring from him was Razor Ramon, a tooth-pick chewing, Tony Montana-inspired badass and one of the coolest mofos in wrestling. The Kid’s huge upset victory over Ramon shocked the crowd and cemented Raw as unpredictable must-see television.
24. Mark Henry’s Fake Retirement
There have been plenty of emotional goodbyes on Raw over the years, as wrestlers have had to retire due to age or injury. Mark Henry looked to be joining the wrestling retirement community on the night of June 17, 2013, when he donned a fresh-looking salmon suit and delivered a heartfelt farewell in the middle of the ring. In the tearful speech, Henry touched upon his career highs (winning the World Heavyweight Championship) and lows (fathering a rubber hand with a septuagenarian). The only thing missing from his 17-year career was the WWE Championship itself. The man holding the title at the time was John Cena, who watched as Henry soaked in the adulation of the live crowd. But when Cena went in to hug the former Olympian, Henry lifted the champ into the air and dropped him with the World’s Strongest Slam. “You think it’s that EASY? There’s a lot more left in the tank!” Henry yelled. The World’s Strongest Man had just pulled off the World’s Biggest Sham.
23. Bubba Ray Dudley powerbombs Mae Young off the stage
The Attitude Era may have been WWE’s hottest period ever, but it was also really, really strange. Kaientai castrated Val Venis with a samurai sword. Al Snow and the Big Bossman wrestled in a cage surrounded by peeing dogs. And legendary tag team The Dudley Boys had a perversion for putting women through tables. That obsession eventually led to Bubba Ray Dudley kidnapping a 77-year-old, wheelchair-bound Mae Young (of aforementioned rubber hand incident) and powerbombing her off the entrance ramp through two tables below. Even with the cleverly disguised crash mat underneath, that was an insane bump to take by a nearly 80-year-old woman and further proof that Mae Young was the toughest person in wrestling. Now, I don’t condone slamming geriatrics through wooden furniture (or any furniture for that matter), but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most unforgettable images in Raw history.
22. The Undertaker crucifies Stone Cold
Speaking of unforgettable images… There has never been a scarier incarnation of The Undertaker than when he was the leader of the Ministry of Darkness. Well, maybe when he started driving to the ring on a Harley Davidson to the music of Limp Bizkit, but that was scary in a “Is he having a midlife crisis? Should we call his loved-ones?” kind of way. No, the Deadman in the late 90s was genuinely menacing; Jim Ross referred to him as the “personification of evil” and he was right. A moment of such malevolence came on December 7, 1998, when Ministry druids carried Stone Cold Steve Austin from the ring and strapped him to The Undertaker’s symbol. It was an act meant to resemble the crucifixion of Christ — if Christ had been a beer-drinking redneck from Texas. The shot of Stone Cold being hoisted into the air while the Phenom’s ominous music echoed throughout the arena is one of the most controversial and iconic scenes of all-time.
21. Shawn Michaels vs. Montreal
“Who’s your daddy, Montreal?” might be the greatest opening line to a wrestling promo ever. The infamous Montreal Screw-Job remains one of the most contentious events in WWE history, and the mere mention of it is enough to send a Canadian fan spiraling into a deep-seated depression. In 2005, Shawn Michaels returned to the scene of the crime to remind Montreal of his part in the humiliation of their fellow countryman and hero Bret “The Hitman” Hart. For over ten minutes the Heartbreak Kid riled and antagonized the crowd until they were ready to jump the barricade and strangle him with their Maple Leaf flags. He teased them with a mocking rendition of “O’ Canada” and cruelly tricked them into thinking Bret was in the building by cueing The Hitman’s music. The persistent boos and chants were deafening as Michaels delivered an absolute masterclass in how to generate heel heat.
20. John Cena is drafted to Raw
It’s hard to imagine now in the era of split audience reactions and dueling chants, but there was a time when the majority of fans cheered for John Cena. The response was never louder than when The Champ was drafted to Raw in 2005. The Doctor of Thuganomics (not-certified) had gone from a freestyle-rapping heel to one of Smackdown‘s most popular superstars. This meteoric rise had taken him to his first WWE Championship win at Wrestlemania 21, and it was now time for Cena to move to the flagship show. When his music blasted throughout the arena, the St. Louis crowd instantly jumped to their feet. It was shocking not just because Cena was the first draft pick, but because for a brief moment it meant both World Champions were on the same show. Not to mention all of this happened during Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel which saw Christian versus Cena in a rap battle. It was a memorable Raw moment that you can probably pinpoint as the last time Cena was a universally adored babyface before he became the most divisive wrestler of all-time.
19. Chyna wins the Corporate Rumble
In the lead up to the 1999 Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon was hellbent on stopping his arch nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin from winning, even forcing the Texas Rattlesnake to enter the Rumble match at #1. In an attempt to even the odds, Commissioner Shawn Michaels pitted members of Vince’s Corporation against the rebellious D-Generation X in a special “Corporate Rumble” to determine the #30 entrant. It seemed Vinny Mac himself had won the bout until the buzzer sounded and out came the imposing Chyna. The crowd popped as the Ninth Wonder of the World laid out Vince’s stooges Patterson and Briscoe and stared down the boss. Things only got crazier as Austin rushed down to ringside, providing enough of a distraction for Chyna to eliminate Vince, damn near breaking his neck on the bottom rope in the process. Chyna became the first woman in history to cement her spot in the Royal Rumble match. Yes, the Attitude Era wasn’t a great time for women, who were used primarily as shameless titillation, but on this night Chyna transcended the division and became one of the breakout stars of the period. (Just try and tune out Jerry Lawler screeching “Vince was eliminated by a WOMAN!” when you watch the clip).
18. Eric Bischoff is named Raw General Manager
“Anything can happen on Monday Night Raw” might have been a cute catchphrase for commentators to blurt out when the likes of The Kid beat Razor Ramon, but on July 15, 2002, that tagline became an undeniable fact. The Monday Night Wars is the most well-known period in the history of pro-wrestling. Every Monday night from 1995 to 2001, WWE and WCW (World Championship Wrestling) went head-to-head in a battle for TV ratings. Eric Bischoff was the President of WCW, the man who used every underhanded tactic in the book to one-up WWE, including the poaching of talent, spoiling Raw results live on air, and throwing the WWE Women’s Title in the trash. Bischoff aimed to kill the competition and put Vince McMahon out of business. While WCW had a significant run at the top, the company eventually folded in 2001 and was bought by Vinny Mac for a bargain price. Bischoff had been defeated and sent to the unemployment line never to be heard of again. Until a year later when in a true “hell has frozen over” moment, Vince McMahon unveiled Bischoff as the new General Manager of Monday Night Raw. It’s hard to put into words just how unbelievable it was to see Bischoff on WWE programming, let alone hugging the man whose livelihood he’d previously tried to destroy!
17. The Nexus destroys Raw
As far as wrestling factions go, The Nexus is never going to be held in as high regard as the Four Horsemen or NWO or D-Generation X or Bullet Club. Or even the Mean Street Posse for that matter. That’s not a fault of the group itself but more the terrible booking decisions which marred their all too brief run. But on June 7, 2010, for one night only, the eight rookies from NXT made a monumental impact that will live on in notoriety. Led by mean-talking Englishman Wade Barrett, the young upstarts made a surprise appearance at the end of Raw, jumping the barricade and attacking CM Punk and his Straightedge Society members. The gang then turned their attention to John Cena, pummeling the multiple time World Champion within an inch of his life. They then proceeded to destroy the ring, ripping up the canvas, smashing up the ringside area, even attacking the cameramen and crew — poor ring announcer Justin Roberts got choked with his own necktie. While the Nexus lost all momentum in the proceeding weeks, for a short time, they made Raw exciting again.
16. Pillman’s got a gun
Brian Pillman was one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in pro-wrestling during the mid-90s. A talented in-ring performer whose “loose cannon” persona convinced fans and friends alike that he was genuinely unhinged. One of his wackiest stunts came amidst his bitter feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in November 1996. Austin had busted up Pillman’s ankle, leaving him housebound for the foreseeable future. WWE cameras arrived at Pillman’s home to conduct a live interview, but when Austin broke into the house, things got out of control. Pillman pulled out a 9mm handgun and threatened to “blast [Austin’s] sorry ass straight to hell!” It was one of the first examples of WWE’s move from goofy family-friendly entertainment to provocative adult-orientated violence. Although, having a wrestler brandishing a weapon and threatening to murder someone was a little too much for the USA Network, who almost kicked Raw off the air until WWE apologized. Pillman passed away in 1997 at just 35-years-old after a heart attack, but this moment will live on forever.
15. The Shield implodes
It was the chair shot(s) heard around the world. For over a year and a half, The Shield had run roughshod over WWE. When Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns donned their black turtlenecks (later wisely changed to tactical vests) and made their debut at Survivor Series 2012, it kickstarted a path of unstoppable destruction. Unlike the aforementioned Nexus — who were made to look like inept goons — The Shield were shrewd and powerful, beating all-comers and even taking out legends such as The Undertaker and The Rock. The group’s popularity grew and grew, inspiring everything from Shield cosplay to homoerotic Tumblr fanart. By the time Wrestlemania 30 rolled around, the Hounds of Justice were one of the most beloved acts on the roster. Then, on June 2, 2014, it all changed. In the ultimate act of betrayal, “The Architect” Seth Rollins took a steel chair to the backs of Ambrose and Reigns, his brothers in arms. If you listen closely to the crowd just as Rollins starts to swing the chair, you can hear a grown-man yelling “NOOOOO!” as if he’d just witnessed a puppy being shot. That is how devastating this moment was to WWE fans.
14. The Festival of Friendship
If “Whose your daddy, Montreal?” is the best opening to a promo ever, then “How come my name’s on this?” might be the best closing line. To provide some context, in 2016, Chris Jericho was having one of the best runs of his career as a deluded scarf-enthusiast who walked around putting anyone who wronged him on his List of Jericho. He only had time for one person, the Universal Champion Kevin Owens, his best friend in the whole world. The chemistry between Jericho and Owens was so electric that together the pair became the must-see attraction on Monday nights. But all good things must come to an end, and the break-up of Jeri-KO had been simmering for weeks as Owens grew tired of Jericho’s antics.
It all culminated on February 13, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, when Jericho presented the Festival of Friendship — a gaudy mix of cabaret and comedy in which he showered Owens with praise and presents. Then, after all the fun and frolics, Jericho spoke from the heart, telling Owens he loved him and that their year teaming together had been one of the highlights of his career. Owens, who had been barely putting up with all the foolishness, suddenly lightened up and handed Jericho a gift of his own. “It’s perfect,” Jericho said, as he looked down at a brand new list. But as he took a closer inspection, the viewer noticed the big reveal on the back of the clipboard: “The List of KO.” Jericho was still confused. “How come my name’s on this?” he asked before Owens dropped the mic and delivered a vicious beatdown to his former best friend. It was an incredible combination of comedy and tragedy brilliantly performed by two stars on the top of their game.
13. Daniel Bryan breaks free from the Wyatt Family
Many people would point to the #OccupyRaw moment as the highlight of Daniel Bryan’s extraordinary run in 2014. I can understand that, what with it having the bigger story implications heading into Wrestlemania 30. But I’d argue that Bryan’s greatest moment — and one of the best in Raw‘s history — came a couple of months before on January 14 in Providence, Rhode Island. At this point, Daniel Bryan was the most over person on the roster. Fans loved him. But management didn’t quite get it and tried to curtail Bryan’s popularity by putting him in a boiler suit and having him join The Wyatt Family. It wasn’t the direction viewers wanted his character to take, and everyone was begging for the leader of the Yes Movement to snap out of his Wyatt phase. That time came inside a steel cage with the Family’s patriarch Bray Wyatt. When Bryan shed the Wyatt skin (removed the boiler suit), the crowd blew the roof off the place. A reaction for a single superstar hadn’t been that loud since the days of Stone Cold and The Rock. Bryan had every person in that arena in the palm of his hand and the way he controlled those Yes chants was like watching a conductor direct a grand symphony.
12. DX invades WCW
It was the height of the Monday Night Wars, tensions were boiling over, and WWE had been knocked on the backfoot by an aggressive WCW. But on April 27, 1998, in Norfolk Virginia, WWE took the fight directly to the competition’s doorstep. The group of delinquents known as D-Generation X, led by Triple H, took their positions on the front line as they attempted a full out invasion of WCW Nitro. Dressed in camouflage and armed with what I hope were prop assault rifles, DX drove a jeep into enemy territory and challenged WCW to let them in the building. This was another one of those “Is this really happening?” moments. While WCW made a habit of breaking the fourth wall and calling out WWE on Nitro, nobody expected contracted wrestlers from either promotion to turn up on the other’s broadcast. Were DX about to face off with the NWO? Would Bischoff actually let his adversaries on his TV show? It was completely insane. Even though in the end DX were denied access to the building (probably for legal reasons), it was still a landmark moment in the wrestling business and a bold move from WWE.
11. The Rock Concert
Before The Miz called himself the A-Lister and before Elias was serenading audiences with insulting ditties, The Rock was doing both back in 2003 during his spectacular Hollywood phase. Having left WWE in 2002 to film The Scorpion King, fans began to resent the former People’s Champion for turning his back on wrestling in pursuit of a movie career. When he returned the following year, The Rock played into this negative perception by going all-in with the cocky movie mega-star persona. The highlight of his Hollywood heel antics were his famous “Rock Concerts,” the first of which took place in Sacramento the week before Wrestlemania 19, where he was scheduled to take on long-time rival Stone Cold Steve Austin. Strumming his signed Willie Nelson guitar, the Brahma Bull insulted the live crowd and his opponent Stone Cold with renditions of classics such as “You Ain’t Nothing But A Redneck” and “I just can’t wait to whip Austin’s ass again.” All the while Stone Cold, who had been barred from the arena, was forced to listen to the concert on giant speakers out in the parking lot. “What, are you out there selling bootleg t-shirts of The Rock?” the Great One quipped. It was hard to hate The Rock when he was clearly having so much fun — that’s why you would often hear fits of laughter in between the thunderous boos.
10. Trish and Lita main event
It’s only in the past couple of years that WWE changed tack in regards to their women’s division, what with the Women’s Revolution, Mae Young Classic and the upcoming first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. The Attitude Era, in particular, was a bleak time for women’s wrestling, especially in the “Puppies!” period of the late 90s. But in the early 00s, a group of talented female wrestlers did their damnedest to put on a show despite the obvious restrictions of the era. Women like Victoria, Ivory, Molly Holly, Jazz, and, of course, Trish Stratus and Lita, arguably the two most popular women in the history of pro-wrestling.
No two superstars define women’s wrestling quite like Trish and Lita, whose heated rivalry in 2004 catapulted them right to the top. Lita was the “alternative” rock-chick with the high-flying assault. Trish the blonde bombshell former fitness model who had quickly developed into a lethal in-ring performer and superb trash talker. Perhaps the pinnacle of their careers came on December 6, 2004, when Lita challenged Trish for the Women’s Championship in the main event of Monday Night Raw— the first time ever that two women had headlined the flagship show. Having been mocked for weeks and labeled the “Kiss of Death” by Trish, Lita was determined to get her revenge in front of a packed house in her hometown of North Carolina. The crowd was raucous for what was a smashmouth, back-and-forth battle between two performers willing to put it all on the line — Lita almost snapped her spine in half in a cringe-inducing suicide dive to the outside. At the end of the show-stealing encounter, Lita finally defeated Trish to capture her second Women’s Championship. A match and a moment which became one of the most influential in the history of the sport.
9. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels bury the hatchet
Bret Hart’s return to Monday Night Raw on January 4, 2010, after a 12-year absence, was a moment fans never thought they would see. The wounds inflicted by the infamous Montreal Screwjob — where Vince McMahon went off-script to cost Hart the WWE Championship against Shawn Micheals — seemed too deep ever to heal. But here the Hitman was, back in the WWE, sharing the ring with none other than the Heartbreak Kid himself. It was surreal to witness. The beef between Hart and Micheals in the 90s was so real that it transcended their TV personas. These two men hated each other’s guts and came to blows off-screen just as often as they did on it. And don’t forget, only five years earlier, HBK had returned to Montreal to rub salt in those old wounds. Now the two former enemies stood across from each other once again. In a surprising move, Hart was the one to offer the olive branch, calling for a truce. It was a shock given that in previous interviews Hart had said he’d probably punch Michaels in the face if he ever saw him again. Instead, it was Michaels who showed reluctance, telling Hart he deserved what happened to him in Montreal and admitting once and for all that he had a part in what McMahon did that night. But eventually, the pair agreed to put the past behind them and shook hands — not just that, they hugged! For any long-time fan of pro-wrestling, the emotional weight of this moment will never be forgotten.
8. Triple H marries Stephanie McMahon
WWE is basically soap-opera interspersed with incredible feats of athleticism, and no good soap is complete without wedding day drama. Who can forget The Undertaker trying to marry Stephanie McMahon in an “Unholy Cemerony” or AJ Lee leaving Daniel Bryan at the altar in exchange for the Raw General Manager position? Not to mention a demonic Kane emerging from under the ring to interrupt the nuptials between Edge and Lita. But no wedding has had more of an impact on the wrestling business than the one between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
It was November 29, 1999, and Stephanie was about to marry Test in an elegant ceremony organized by her father, Vince McMahon. As a cautionary measure, Vince banned Triple H and DX from the event. Things got off to a good start until the crowd was asked if anyone objected and Triple H swaggered onto the stage armed with a compromising video. The footage showed an incapacitated Stephanie (drugged at her Bachelorette party) slumped in the passenger seat of Triple H’s car. The Cerebral Assassin then pulled into a drive-thru wedding chapel and married the blushing bride (blushing due to alcohol flush reaction). It was the ultimate sleazy soap-opera villain move and cemented Triple H as the new top bad guy of WWE. The next month Stephanie turned her back on her family and joined her new husband in creating the McMahon-Helmsley era which ruled over Raw throughout 2000. The pair’s on-screen romance would later become an off-screen romance, and in October 2003 they got married for real. It’s just wild how this one wonderfully soap-y segment led to the formation of wrestling’s most prominent power couple who are now essentially heirs to the WWE empire.
7. Brock Lesnar returns
“The American Airlines Arena has come unglued!” is a line which will forever be synonymous with Brock Lesnar’s emphatic return to Raw on April 2, 2012. Michael Cole gets a lot of stick for his commentary, but that line, on that night, at that moment, couldn’t have been more on point. The crowd in Miami lost their collective s**t when that iconic mechanical screech of Lesnar’s music hit and the former WWE and UFC Champion strode onto the stage. I know because I was there live, sitting in the fifth row, and I think I had an out of body experience at that moment. You could feel the pulsation of energy around the arena as Lesnar marched to the ring to confront John Cena. The landscape of WWE had indeed changed.
While not quite as surreal as Bret Hart’s return, Lesnar had been gone from WWE for eight years and had his fair share of bad blood with the company. In his time away he’d gone on to test his mettle in the UFC, becoming one of their most dominant fighters and a certified box office draw. But complications with diverticulitis brought a premature end to his fighting career and so a return to wrestling was back on the table. Rumors were circulating all Wrestlemania weekend that The Beast Incarnate had re-signed with WWE and chants of “We Want Lesnar” drowned out Cena’s promo at the end of a boisterous post-Mania edition of Raw. But even with all the speculation, I don’t think anyone honestly expected Lesnar to turn up that night. But turn up he did, not saying a word, simply doing what he does best, kicking ass. He F5’d Cena out of his baseball cap and left him laid out in the middle of the ring. This surprise return set the benchmark for astonishing post-Mania Raw moments.
6. Austin vs. Tyson
Celebrities have been involved with wrestling since time began (I consider the beginning of time to be Wrestlemania I). Stars from Liberace to Snoop Dogg to Snooki have graced the squared circle at one time or another. Even the current President of the United States has taken a Stone Cold Stunner in the middle of a WWE ring. In the midst of the Monday Night Wars, WWE was in the process of reinventing itself as a company with attitude. They took pleasure in courting controversy, and that’s precisely what they got when they partnered with “Iron” Mike Tyson in 1998. The former boxing heavyweight champion was a man draped in controversy — what with his prison sentence for a rape conviction and human ear snacking — therefore made the perfect celebrity to ring in this new brash era of WWE.
Tyson had appeared at the 1998 Royal Rumble as a special guest, and Vince McMahon invited him back the next night on Raw to reveal a major announcement. But before Vince could get his words out, the glass shattered and Stone Cold came stomping to the ring to raise a little hell. Security and backstage officials soon rushed down to make sure Austin didn’t do anything crazy to their celebrity guest. But the Texas Rattlesnake has never been one for rules. “You’re out here calling yourself the Baddest Man on the Planet,” Austin said to Tyson. “But right now you’ve got your beady little eyes locked on the eyes of the world’s Toughest Son of a Bitch!” It soon descended into a shoving match, with security tearing the two apart while the crowd went absolutely nuts. A moment of perfectly executed chaos made even better by Jim Ross’ excellent commentary.
5. Chris Jericho debuts
Chris Jericho’s remarkable ability to reinvent himself has meant that he’s been a staple of Raw for almost two decades. Honestly, you could make a Top 25 Raw Moments comprised entirely of Jericho entries — call it the List of Jericho. But it’s his arrival in WWE that will forever stand the test of time. In the years prior, he’d developed a cult following in WCW by getting his own gimmicks and storylines over in spite of the top brass underutilizing his talents. Then in 1999, Jericho escaped WCW’s undercard for the greener pastures of WWE. In the weeks leading up to his debut, a Millennium Countdown Clock appeared on Monday Night Raw, causing much talk and speculation about what it all meant.
On August 9, 1999, as The Rock was entertaining the Chicago crowd, the clock started ticking down, and when it reached zero, the arena went dark before an explosion of fireworks lit up the stage. Remember, Jericho had never been a main event star in WCW, but when his name appeared in large metallic letters on the Titan-Tron, the fans in the Allstate Arena erupted. It was a dream debut. The now iconic “Break The Walls Down” entrance theme. The Vitruvian man pose. The ridiculous blonde top-knot. The sparkly silver jacket and leather pants combo. The “Y2J” nickname. The memorable catchphrases. Not to mention that interrupting and trading insults with The Rock instantly established Jericho as a top-level superstar. Jericho arrived in style and made “Jericholics” of us all. On that night he declared to the world that “RAW IS JERICHO!” and it has been ever since.
4. Beer Bath/Milk Truck
Maybe I’m cheating by combining these entries, but hey, it’s my countdown, and I can do what I want. Honestly, it makes sense given that these two moments are basically the same event just with different beverages. The first incident happened on March 22, 1999, the Raw before Wrestlemania 15, when Stone Cold Steve Austin spoiled The Corporation’s party by crashing his way into the arena in a Coors Light beer truck. People always remember the beer bath, but I think many forget that Austin also delivered one hell of a promo beforehand on top of the truck. “Stone Cold is gonna take his ass to Philadelphia, check right into the Smackdown Hotel, roll right into room 316 and burn that son of a bitch to the ground!” he growled at The Rock, the then Corporate Champion. The Rattlesnake then proceeded to start celebrations early by grabbing a hose and giving The Great One and the McMahons a good old beer shower. When it comes to memorable Raw moments, this is the one that comes to mind for most wrestling fans, and the one which WWE listed as No. 1 on their Top 100 Moments in Raw History DVD in 2012.
Two years later, Austin was on the receiving end of a similar stunt at the hands of the Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. Austin was now the WWE Champion and enjoying a heel run as the leader of the WCW/ECW alliance. Angle rolled into Stone Cold Appreciation Night in a milk truck and gave Austin and the Alliance one hell of a dairy dousing. It was a brilliant play on Austin’s previous beer bath antics and appropriately fitting for the clean-cut American Hero to replace the alcohol with some healthy Vitamin D. “Now he’s pulling out the heavy stuff, it’s homogenized!” remains one of my favorite calls from Jim Ross on commentary. It’s probably Angle’s greatest moment as a babyface, and one of the few highlights of the otherwise flawed Invasion angle.
3. Shane reveals he bought WCW
In the early 00s, pro-wrestling still had major mainstream buzz, and I remember going to school on Monday, March 26, 2001, and the rumors circulating about WWE purchasing WCW. The news was actually broken to me by my woodwork teacher, who knew I was a WWE fanatic. But could it really be true? It sounded so preposterous. Well, that night on Raw, in an unprecedented simulcast with the final WCW Nitro, Vince McMahon started both shows by gleefully confirming the monumental news. The Monday Night Wars were officially over. Vince had not just killed off his competition; he’d bought it. Now the fate of WCW was in his hands, and by the end of the night, he planned to reveal the future of his once biggest rival. In one of his first orders of business, Vince legitimately fired former WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett live on air.
But the biggest surprise didn’t get unveiled until the end of the night. Vince made his way to the ring to address both the Raw crowd in Cleveland, Ohio and the fans in Panama City Beach, Florida, where WCW were putting on one final show. He bragged about burying his competition and how after he finalized the deal at Wrestlemania, he planned to keep WCW on the shelf permanently. Then Shane McMahon turned up, but not in Cleveland — in Panama City Beach, on Nitro. In a split-screen satellite call, the warring father and son exchanged words before Shane dropped the bombshell. “The deal with WCW has been finalized, and the name on the contract does say McMahon…” Shane began. “However, the name reads SHANE MCMAHON!” Shane had bought WCW right under Vince’s nose and declared war on WWE. While the Invasion angle itself would fail to live up to its potential, this moment on March 26, 2001, changed the wrestling industry forever.
2. CM Punk’s pipebomb
Some of the best moments in WWE are when the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. CM Punk’s “pipebomb” promo on June 27, 2011, didn’t so much blur the lines but completely eradicate them. Punk was frustrated with WWE and his position within the company and intended to leave when his contract expired in July. But before he walked away, he was given a microphone and the opportunity to air his grievances live on Raw. In what became one of the all-time great promos, Punk sat cross-legged at the top of the stage in a Stone Cold t-shirt and delivered an emotional and scathing rundown of WWE. He blasted management for overlooking talent and rewarding part-timers like The Rock. He broke the fourth wall by waving into the camera and referencing his recently released friend Colt Cabana. He mentioned rival promotions such as Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Not even the McMahons were off limits. “I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon is dead. But the fact is, it’s going to be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family,” Punk yelled before his mic was eventually cut off.
It was shocking to watch and had that exhilarating feeling you get when something appears to go wrong on live television (like last year’s Oscar mishap). It felt so real… so raw! Of course, it would turn out to be a “worked-shoot” (a wrestling term for something scripted but given the guise of being real). While Punk’s contract disputes and dissatisfaction with the company were legitimate, the things he said that night had been pre-approved. But it didn’t matter, the buzz the promo created shot Punk into the stratosphere, and for the first time in years, WWE felt relevant again. Punk went on to win the WWE Championship in a classic match with John Cena and renewed his contract with the company — he eventually quit in 2014 after similar frustrations. But regardless of how Punk’s journey ended, in 2011, in this moment, he had everybody’s attention.
1. Mick Foley wins his first WWE Championship
The night Mick Foley first won WWE Championship gold encapsulates everything that makes a top Raw moment. High drama and unpredictability. Legendary characters at the height of their popularity. A loud and energetic crowd. A compelling story with a feel-good ending. And a turning point in history. The importance of this occasion cannot be overstated. As a 10-year-old kid growing up in the dreary North of England, I was entranced by the bright colors and larger than life characters popping off the TV screen. This was a moment that completely sucked me into the crazy world of pro-wrestling, and I haven’t been able to take my eyes off it since (even when Mae Young was giving birth to a rubber hand).
Towards the end of 1998, Raw had finally surpassed Nitro in the ratings after years of being pummeled. But the competition was still fierce, and with Raw being pre-taped and Nitro being live, WCW used the familiar tactic of revealing Raw spoilers live on air. That night WCW announcer Tony Schiavone told the Nitro audience: “If you’re even thinking of changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here at one time as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their world title. Ugh. That’ll put butts in seats.” Those words now live on in infamy, because at that moment an estimated 600,000 people switched from Nitro to Raw to witness Mrs. Foley’s baby boy capture his first world title. Those viewers never came back to Nitro, and two years later the WCW was dead.
The match itself was an epic No Disqualification brawl. The gutsy Hardcore Legend Mick Foley (wrestling as Mankind) went toe-to-toe with the WWE Champion The Rock. In true Attitude Era fashion, chaos quickly ensued, as members of The Corporation and DX made their way to ringside. The Corporation tried to cost Foley the match, but DX jumped in with the save, and the two factions came to blows on the outside of the ring. Then in the midst of the melee, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his triumphant return, he cracked The Rock in the skull with a steel chair and dragged Foley’s limp body atop the Corporate Champ for the victory. The noise of the crowd was thunderous. It was the perfect fairytale ending for the ultimate underdog who was told he would never make it in the WWE. There have been tons of great Raw moments, many of which appear on this list, but this moment more than any other sums up why us wrestling fans LOVE wrestling and why Monday Night Raw is still going strong after 25 years on the air.
WWE Raw’s 25th Anniversary Special airs Monday January 22 at 8 p.m. on USA.
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