Today, January the 11th 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the first ever episode of WWE's flagship show, Monday Night Raw. The sports entertainment staple made its debut appearance in 1993 live from the Manhattan Centre in New York City.
WWE will celebrate it's milestone next Monday with a special 25th anniversary show which will take place simultaneously from NYC's Barclay's Centre and Raw's original home, the Manhattan Centre. The broadcast will see the return of some nostalgic favourites as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Brother Love, The Dudley Boyz, Shawn Michaels and will even feature Jim "JR" Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler on commentary.
Say what you want about professional wrestling but it's a testament to its popularity that a wrestling show has run continuously on primetime television in the United States for 25 years. So, in anticipation for Monday's big show and to celebrate today's milestone, here is my ten best Monday Night Raw moments from the past 25 years. (In no particular order)
1. Stone Cold's Beer Bath
It's hard to believe today given that over the past 15 years or so wrestling has resumed its probably rightful place in the "niche" category, but in 1998 there were very few hotter stars in the world than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It's easy to see why during this classic clip. The week before his legendary first Wrestlemania match with the Rock at Mania 15, this happened. Austin almost took the titantron down as he sped through the entrance way driving a beer truck. Special mention goes to Vince McMahon's who puts Mark Wahlberg's ham acting to shame by feigning swimming strokes through the beer but Austin is the star here showing why he's still so beloved to wrestling fans and non wrestling fans alike to this day. What a man:
Jesus Christ, son, you better get your ass serious because Stone Cold Steve Austin is gonna take his ass to Philadelphia..check right into the Smackdown Hotel..roll right into room 3:16 and burn that son of a bitch TO THE GROUND!!'
2. Shane McMahon Buys WCW
If you were lucky enough to grow up as a wrestling fan in the mid 90s - early 00s you were glued to "the Monday Night Wars". WCW Monday Nitro went head to head with WWF Monday Night Raw every week from 1995 to 2001 jousting for ratings. (Of course over this side of the world it was a Friday Night War with Raw on Sky Sports and Nitro on TNT) Half the fun of watching every week to see who had jumped ship or what cut throat tactic would be implemented next. It was a glorious time for sport entertainment that will never be replicated again. It all ended on March 26th 2001 when Vince McMahon went live on Raw to announce he had bought his competition. However, in a twist that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of, Vince's son Shane appeared live from Panama City on Nitro to announce he had gazumped his father and was the new owner of WCW. What followed next could have been the greatest storyline in history with WWF vs WCW, but they made a bollocks of it and it flopped completely. Ah well, we'll always have that night in Panama.
3. Eric Bischoff Debuts
What better moment to follow up WCW's demise with than this? Eric Bischoff was to WCW what Vince McMahon was to the WWF(E). Well, except Vince owned the company and Bischoff just ran WCW spending Ted Turner's billions and McMahon's money was all his own to risk, but still. Apparently Eric Bischoff didn't want to beat the WWF and Vince McMahon in the ratings war but he was quoted as saying he wanted to "put them out of business". That's why when Eric Bischoff was announced as the General Manager of Raw during the brand split in 2002 it was almost impossible to believe.
4. Pillman's Got A Gun
Brian Pillman and Steve Austin were a tag team in WCW known as "The Hollywood Blondes" but by the time Pillman arrived in the WWE, Austin was now the lone wolf "Stone Cold" version of himself and his old partner Pillman had sided with Austin's rival Bret Hart. This moment was more than just a meeting of ex tag team partners though, this was arguably the moment that launched the attitude era.
5. The Nexus Invades
Back in 2010 NXT wasn't at all what it is now. It was essentially a reality show, filmed in the live arena before Smackdown which saw pros team up with rookies to mentor them. It didn't exactly set the world alight. However, when the 8 "rookies" (which included seasoned veteran Daniel Bryan) appeared ringside on Raw during a CM Punk and John Cena match, all wearing matching armbands with an "N" on them and starting demolishing everything including Punk and Cena and ripping up the ring people couldn't believe what they were seeing.
6. CM Punk's Pipebomb
If ever there was a moment in the "modern era" that truly crossed over to mainstream like back in the Attitude Era, it was CM Punk's "pipe bomb" promo. Punk's contract with the company was expiring and he was publicly frustrated with the direction. So when he sat, cross legged at the entrance way wearing a Stone Cold t-shirt and spoke some - aheam - home truths about the company and it's direction people went wild. It made real news around the world and went viral online. Punk could have been their next breakout star but could never quite get past the backstage politics.
7. DX Impersonates The Nation
Revisionist WWE history will have you believe that when DX invaded Nitro it almost won the Monday Night War single handedly. The truth is, though it was entertaining at the time it wasn't even the best sketch DX even did. (In my humble opinion at least.) Exhibit A: When they dressed up as the Nation. Triple H as "The Crock", Road Dogg as "B-Lo", Billy Gunn as "The Godfather", X-Pac as "Miz-Ark" Henry and Canadian impressionist Jason Sensation the MVP as Owen Hart. ("I'm a black Hart dammit!") This still stands up today over ten years later.
8. Chris Jericho Debuts
A "countdown to the millenium" clock ticked down for weeks on WWE television, but when the final few seconds ticked down in August of 1999 people started to buzz. "JERICHO" flashed up on the scream after loud pyro went off and the Rock stood in the ring and just like that, before he even appeared on camera, Chris Jericho was a bigger star than WCW made him in 2 years. He is, of course, still a major star today having just headlined the Tokyo Dome last week against Kenny Omega for New Japan, but the moment of his debut, to his microphone duel with the Rock is a special moment in wrestling history and possibly the greatest debut for any wrestler ever.
9. Seth Rollins Turns On The Shield
The Shield are perhaps WWE developmental territory NXT's greatest success story. Three wrestlers all debuting at the same time in a stable and are now, arguably the three biggest top stars who wrestle full time with the company. The Shield were a huge deal and so different, entering and exiting through the crowd dressed like riot police, they were universally loved as a unit and although their recent reunion was very underwhelming their breakup was a perfect example of great storytelling in wrestling. No more proof of that fact is needed than the very audible "NO!!" from a grown man in the audience when Rollins pulls the steel chair back before he nails Roman Reigns with it. Class stuff.
10. Mick Foley Wins The WWE Title For The First Time
As much as WWE revisionist history would like you to believe that DX invading the outskirts of Nitro was the tide turning moment in the Monday Night War, this was. Eric Bischoff had a habit of making Nitro commentator Tony Schiavone give away the results for non-live Raw's so that people wouldn't change the channel. So when WWE had pre-taped RAW and on said RAW Mick Foley was to win his first WWE championship, Schiavone said the most famous words he will perhaps ever say:
We understand that Mick Foley, who used to wrestle here as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their World Title. Huh, that'll put some butts in the seats.
It did. The TV ratings indicated that more than 600,000 people changed the channel from WCW Monday Nitro to WWF Monday Night Raw to watch everyman Mick Foley win the title. The pop from the crowd when Stone Cold's music hits to run in and hit the Rock with a stunner is still one of, if not the loudest in the history of the show.