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This Monday, live on USA, WWE presents the 30th anniversary of Monday Night RAW — and if previous anniversary shows are any indication, fans around the world are in for quite a treat. Coined Raw XXX, the show promises to showcase huge matches while tipping its hat to the storied and illustrious history of RAW! While huge bouts like Becky Lynch vs. Bayley inside a steel cage have already been announced for the show, USA Insider feels that it’s the perfect time to take a look at the past 30 years of RAW.
For the past three decades, Monday Night RAW has featured some of the most heartstopping moments and unforgettable matches in WWE history. That fact shouldn’t be surprising — after all, RAW was created as a way to showcase WWE Superstars to a worldwide audience in a way that had never been done before. Until RAW came along, most fans consumed WWE action on Saturday mornings. But the show has always been more than just killer matches and classic in-ring promos — there've been a lot of instances when our heartstrings were pulled and we felt emotions that, quite frankly, we didn’t think we’d be feeling when watching a weekly pro wrestling show.
Here are our most emotional moments in RAW history. These are the moments that made us cry, made us think, and made us feel emotions that no other wrestling program has ever made us feel.
Edge Announces His Retirement – April 11, 2011
In 2011, the internet era of wrestling fandom was in a full swing. Surprises and shocking moments were few and far between, as the internet seemingly made it easy for fans to know breaking news before WWE television even aired.
But on April 11, Edge’s shocking retirement announcement took the WWE Universe by surprise. Seemingly out of nowhere, Edge revealed that after recent doctors’ visits, he had to retire — effective immediately.
“Trust me, it’s not my choice. The doctors have told me that I got no choice,” he told the world, fighting back tears the entire time.
Not only did Edge’s impromptu speech shock us, but it was also actually what we’ve been conditioned to expect that made it hurt that much more, as we kept waiting for the twist. We kept waiting for the “fooled you!” moment. We kept waiting for something to happen that would keep Edge’s WWE storylines going. No, no, we’ve seen this before. This is the start of a new storyline for Edge, somebody is going to attack him at any moment!
But that moment never came, and we were left with the sobering realization that Edge really was retired for real. One commercial break later, and RAW rolled on as usual, as if one of the biggest Superstars in modern history didn’t just break the hearts of anybody who’s ever cheered or booed him. His return from retirement — thanks to a clean bill of health — at the 2020 Royal Rumble was made all the sweeter due to the heartbreaking fashion in which he said his goodbyes nine years earlier.
The Owen Hart Tribute Show – May 24, 1999
For many fans who grew up during the Attitude Era, Owen Hart’s untimely death was the first time the curtain had truly been pulled back and the true reality of WWE was exposed. The Owen Hart tribute special was not only about the WWE Universe watching its favorite Superstars pay their respects to one of the most well-liked competitors in wrestling history, it was about the fans and the wrestlers themselves mourning the loss of a loved one together.
For the first time in WWE history, there was no figurative barrier between the Superstars and the WWE Universe. For one night, they were one and the same, all sharing the same heartbreak.
The result was a two-hour show filled with so much emotion, we’d be surprised if there were dry eyes in any living room in America that night. From the weighty testimonials from Superstars recounting their favorite Owen moments to the matches themselves and light-hearted affairs filled with plenty of Owen references and tributes, it was the first time in WWE history when the storylines and feuds took a backseat to something truly bigger than wrestling.
Owen Hart will never be forgotten, and on May 24, 1999, WWE showed exactly why.
Jerry Lawler’s Heart Attack – Sept. 10, 2012
On Sept. 10, 2012, Jerry “The King” Lawler suffered a heart attack in the middle of that night’s RAW broadcast — and honestly, the above video doesn’t do justice to the emotions that millions of people felt in that moment.
On live TV, WWE cameras did not focus on the announcement team as Lawler was having his heart attack. The fans in the arena put all of their attention — and support — toward Lawler. The reality is that if it weren’t for the medical professionals who tended to him, Jerry Lawler wouldn’t have survived that night.
What will always stick with us is Michael Cole’s somber announcement that Lawler had suffered a cardiac emergency, and his condition was — at that time — unknown. The fact that Cole was able to address the television audience at all at that moment made everything harrowingly real, uncomfortable, and devastating.
Whenever real life takes over Monday Night RAW, it’s a difficult pill to swallow — somebody as universally loved as Lawler served to compound everything. In fact, the entire wrestling industry was on edge for the next month until Lawler returned to his commentary position, fully recovered. In the end, it was a close call we’ll never forget.
The Eddie Guerrero Tribute Show – Nov. 14, 2005
After Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away, WWE once again presented a special edition of Monday Night RAW to pay respects. Modeled after the Owen Hart show in 1999, the Eddie Guerrero tribute show evoked the same gut-punch emotions and tearful breakdowns from fans and wrestlers alike.
Seeing Superstars such as Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Shane McMahon, and countless (and we do mean countless) others completely break down multiple times during the broadcast is a heartbreaking memory for many WWE fans. It was once again a reminder that nothing should be taken for granted in life, and the result was a show that once again brought together the fans and the wrestlers themselves to appreciate a life that tragically was taken from us too soon.
Fortunately, the memory of Eddie Guerrero lives on to this very day, most notably through his son, Dominic, and countless other Superstars who consistently pay homage to Guerrero through their in-ring performances.
Ric Flair’s Retirement Celebration – March 31, 2008
While Edge’s retirement came out of left field for many fans, Ric Flair’s retirement celebration was set in stone the moment Shawn Michaels defeated him in one of the most talked-about WrestleMania matches in history just a night earlier.
WWE pulled out all the stops for Flair’s retirement ceremony, taking up the coveted “main event” slot on RAW — and it was an emotional rollercoaster ride from start to finish. Watching one of the all-time wrestling greats give his thanks to the industry that made his dreams come true was one of the most emotional moments in RAW history. And if Flair’s tearful speech didn’t get your own tears flowing, maybe what happened next did it for you: Nearly every single prominent wrestler in Ric Flair’s career made an appearance to wish him happy trails.
It truly reads as a who’s-who list of Flair’s road to immortality: legends such as the Four Horsemen, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Dave Bautista, and others all appeared to give thanks to the Nature Boy.
When a Superstar like Ric Flair retires, you have to give the man the respect he deserves — and on that night in 2008, the WWE gave one of the absolute best one of the single greatest send-offs in wrestling history.
On Jan. 23, live from Philadelphia, RAW XXX will serve as a love letter to RAW's 30-year history as the iconic pro wrestling show, and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to get through it without crying.
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