By Keith Elliot Greenberg
It’s difficult to reduce an entire generation of WWE altercations to ten exciting moments. With three hours of showdowns every week starting at 8/7c, Monday Night Raw features its own roster of top WWE Superstars (which is a completely separate stable of gladiators from those on Tuesday’s SmackDown Live), along with dozens of confrontations per episode. Still, with the 25th anniversary of Raw hitting USA Network tonight, this is as good a time as any to recount some of the most iconic moments:
March 22, 1999: Austin's Beer Blast
One of the most incredible events on Raw occurred at the peak of the “Attitude” era when Stone Cold Steve Austin lived the fantasies of working folk everywhere by regularly battering his boss, WWE leader Vince McMahon. By elevating future Hollywood legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to “Corporate Champion,” McMahon hoped to neutralize Austin’s influence. But while The Rock, McMahon, and his son Shane congregated in the ring, Austin intruded by driving a beer truck into the arena. After fans gave him a “Hell, yeah!” Austin unspooled a hose of suds and saturated his adversaries, forcing them to slip all over the canvas. Two years later, Kurt Angle would match Austin’s achievement by replicating the stunt -- albeit, with a gust of milk!
March 26, 2001: Shane's Surprise
Officially, the “Monday Night Wars” ended in 2001 with the announcement that WWE was absorbing its prime competitor, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). But the news was more complicated than it appeared. While Raw was being broadcast from Cleveland, the final Nitro was simultaneously telecast from Panama City, FL. But unlike in times past, several of the segments were seen on both programs. Throughout the night, WWE honcho Vince McMahon gloated on Raw about his acquisition. Suddenly, fans at home saw a split screen, as Vince’s son, Shane entered the Nitro ring to deliver a stunning message. “The deal is finalized with WCW,” he said. “And the name on the contract does say, ‘McMahon.’ However, the contract reads ‘Shane McMahon.’” For the next several months, Shane would emerge as the face of opposition against his father.
March 31, 2008: Flair's Retirement
The night after losing his WWE retirement match to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was honored by the entire WWE roster. It was an emotional tribute to the man considered one of the greatest Superstars ever, based both on longevity and the consistently high quality of his matches. As Flair stood crying in the center of the ring, he was feted by celebrated rivals -- including Harley Race, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat -- and tag team partners Triple H, Batista, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Barry Windham. With tears streaming down the fans’ faces, Flair was also embraced by his family, including his daughter, Charlotte, who’d become the inaugural WWE Women’s Champion eight years later.
April 3, 2017: “This is my yard now"
Through a career spanning some three decades, The Undertaker always boasted about being “the biggest dog in the yard.” This appeared to change at WrestleMania 33 when Roman Reigns defeated the Phenom, seemingly sending him into retirement. Always a controversial figure, Reigns faced down an arena full of Undertaker loyalists at the beginning of the next night’s Raw. As the audience -- many of whom had traveled to Orlando, FL from Europe and Asia -- chanted The Undertaker’s name, Reigns was cascaded with boos. Several times, he raised the microphone to his lips, only to be met with even louder jeers. Rather than lose his temper, Reigns smirked, then finally stated the obvious: “This is my yard now,” before dropping the mic and returning backstage.
April 27, 1998: DX Invades WCW
At the height of the “Monday Night Wars” between WWE and chief rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the members of DX -- Triple H, X-Pac, Chyna, and the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) -- decided to literally take the fight to its adversary. Driving from Raw in Hampton, VA, in a Jeep outfitted with a rocket launcher, DX descended on The Scope in nearby Norfolk, where WCW was planning to air its main show, Nitro. WCW head Eric Bischoff had been taunting WWE for months, but when DX arrived, the Atlanta-based company retreated, keeping its doors locked and its talent inside. Still, hundreds of fans defected, surrounding the military vehicle and chanting for both DX and WWE.
November 29, 1999: Stephanie & Triple H's Shocking Nuptials
Stephanie McMahon was pledged to marry someone else when Triple H revealed a video, showing he and the “Billion Dollar Princess” going through a drive-through wedding chapel in Las Vegas. On the surface, it appeared that Stephanie was participating in the ceremony against her will. When her father, Vince McMahon, attempted to mete out revenge against Triple H at the Armageddon pay-per-view, he was stunned to discover that his daughter and “The Cerebral Assassin” had planned the entire scenario. The marriage had as great an impact as anything in the history of Raw, with Stephanie and Triple H working together to transform the industry in ways that even her father never could have fathomed.
January 15, 2018: Strowman Turns the Show Upside Down
With each passing week, Braun Strowman reinforces his reputation as the “New Face of Destruction.” Over the course of the last year, he has survived a brawl that ended in an ambulance crash and an encounter inside a trash compactor. After taking down the Raw set with a grappling hook the week before -- deliberately crushing Brock Lesnar and Kane -- Strowman was furious to learn that the show's General Manager, Kurt Angle, was planning to bar him from the upcoming Royal Rumble. In a startling exhibition of defiance, the “Monster Among Men” first raided the Raw production truck, then turned the gargantuan vehicle on its side. By the end of the night, Angle had reversed his decision.
August 9, 1999: Y2J Resets the Clock
As the world prepared for a new millennium, rumors circulated that a deadly computer bug known as Y2K would throw online systems into chaos the moment that the year 2000 commenced. Simultaneously, Chris Jericho was preparing for a different type of mayhem, bragging about unleashing his own “Y2J” bug with his impending WWE debut. On the August 9, 1999 Raw, The Rock was in the ring, forecasting his own great fortunes when Jericho’s millennium clock suddenly appeared on the big screen, counting down and stopping at zero. After an explosive charge, Jericho -- then sporting long, blond locks held up in the middle with a type of scrunchie -- proclaimed, “Welcome to Raw is Jericho.” Jericho largely lived up to expectations, becoming the first competitor to unify the WWE and WCW titles.
June 27, 2011: CM Punk Levels a Pipe Bomb
After helping R-Truth defeat John Cena in a tables match, CM Punk delivered a speech that he -- and the WWE Universe -- would come to equate with a “pipe bomb.” Seated on the entrance ramp with legs crossed, as Raw’s final minutes ticked away, Punk began to gripe about real-life political machinations in WWE, describing himself not as a McMahon family loyalist but a counterculture “Paul Heyman guy”: “I’ve grabbed so many of Vincent K. McMahon’s brass rings that it’s finally dawned on me that they’re just that,” he said. “They’re completely imaginary.” Panicked officials eventually cut off Punk’s microphone. But rather than burying himself with his invective, Punk was able to parlay his frustration into a WWE Championship victory three weeks later at Money in the Bank -- in front a wildly partisan crowd in his hometown of Chicago.
May 17, 1993: 1-2-3 Kid (X-PAC) Upsets Razor Ramon
Raw was in its infancy when the 21-year-old speedster entered the ring at New York’s Manhattan Center against the smug, swaggering Cubano. The young man was still finding his identity, and was referred to simply as “The Kid.” Dwarfing his rival, Ramon smirked while hurling the Kid to the canvas with a number of power moves. But the slim newcomer managed to slip out of the way of his charging opponent, mount the ropes, and pin Razor after a moonsault. As the Kid celebrated with the rapturous crowd, a frustrated Ramon held up two fingers in protest -- prompting the announce team to dub the victor the “1-2-3 Kid.” A star was born. After earning Razor’s respect, the Kid -- later dubbed X-Pac -- became his running buddy, and an integral part of WWE factions the Kliq and DX.
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment, as well as the autobiographies of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Superstar Billy Graham and “Classy” Freddie Blassie.