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The epic history of WWE

The greatest story ever told? We think the chronicle of WWE’s evolution ranks way up there.

It begins with Mr. McMahon’s purchase of his father’s business in 1982, and ends ... well, there’s really no telling. This timeline is divided into six action-packed sections, with each one detailing the events of a particular era in the company’s history: The ’80s Boom (’82-’85); The Dawn of WrestleMania (’85-’90); The New Generation (’90-’96); The Attitude Era (’96-’01); The Postwar Era (’01-’05) and The Modern Era (’05-Present).

Check out 100 historical photos from WWE history

Whether you’re a new fan or a long-time viewer, this is the definitive account of the most meaningful moments in WWE’s lore. Don’t let this history pass you by.

The greatest story ever told? We think the chronicle of WWE’s evolution ranks way up there.

It begins with Mr. McMahon’s purchase of his father’s business in 1982, and ends ... well, there’s really no telling. This timeline is divided into six action-packed sections, with each one detailing the events of a particular era in the company’s history: The ’80s Boom (’82-’85); The Dawn of WrestleMania (’85-’90); The New Generation (’90-’96); The Attitude Era (’96-’01); The Postwar Era (’01-’05) and The Modern Era (’05-Present).

Check out 100 historical photos from WWE history

Whether you’re a new fan or a long-time viewer, this is the definitive account of the most meaningful moments in WWE’s lore. Don’t let this history pass you by.

1982 — 1984

June 6, 1982
Mr. McMahon Buys Capitol Wrestling
If Mr. McMahon hadn’t taken over the family business from his father, Vincent J. McMahon, this timeline would not exist. His purchase of Capitol Wrestling marks the beginning of a revolution. Mr. McMahon builds on the regional success of his father’s company, with soon-to-be household names such as Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, turning WWE into a national powerhouse.

Jan. 23, 1984
Hulkamania Runs Wild
Hulk Hogan becomes the first person to escape the Camel Clutch before blasting The Iron Sheik with his signature legdrop to win the WWE Championship. (WATCH) From the moment the official counts three, The Hulkster emerges as the standard bearer of WWE.

June 26, 1984
Roddy Gets Rowdy
The incendiary Roddy Piper invites Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka onto his “Piper’s Pit” and mocks his Fijian heritage, slugs him with a coconut (sending Snuka through the stage backdrop), shoves a banana in his face and lashes him with his belt. (WATCH) This not only leads to a heated rivalry between the two, but sets The Rowdy One and Snuka’s friend, Hulk Hogan, on course for their inevitable collision.

July 23, 1984
Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection!
As WWE’s popularity continues to surge, Mr. McMahon forges a relationship with a fellow upstart media conglomerate on the rise — MTV.  The union — dubbed The Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection — produces “The Brawl to End It All,” a WWE special which airs on the music channel and features pop star Cyndi Lauper in the corner of Wendi Richter as she defeats The Fabulous Moolah for the Women’s Championship. The bout pulls record ratings for the fledgling network.

1985

Mar. 30, 1985
Live from New York!
The Hulkster becomes the first WWE Superstar to host “Saturday Night Live”. The show is more than an opportunity for Hogan to work on his comedic chops, though — it’s the last stop for all of the WrestleMania main event participants on the way to the next day’s show.

Mar. 31, 1985
The Show of Shows
This is how The Grandest Stage of Them All is first set. Establishing the fundamentals every future WrestleMania will follow, the inaugural event features major celebrities like Cyndi Lauper and Muhammad Ali and a star-studded main event of Hulk Hogan & Mr. T colliding with Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. (WATCH) Mr. McMahon risks it all with this one. The risk pays off.  (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA)

May 11, 1985
Saturday Night’s All Right for a Fight
“Saturday Night’s Main Event” debuts on NBC. Before monthly pay-per-views become the norm, this is where fans get a chance to see their favorite Superstars battle it out between early supercards. The first show features a clash between WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Wendi Richter defending her Women’s Title against the legendary Fabulous Moolah.

Sept. 14, 1985
Hulking Up
In a testament to The Hulkster’s skyrocketing fame, The Immortal One celebrates the debut of his own Saturday morning cartoon, “Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling,” and the release of his entrance theme, “Real American,” on the first WWE record, “The Wrestling Album.” Other tracks on the hit release include “Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy” by Hillbilly Jim and “Mean” Gene Okerlund’s rousing rendition of “Tutti Frutti.”

1986 — 1987

April 7, 1986
WrestleMania 2 x 3
This WrestleMania is so big it takes place at three arenas on the same day. In Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum, Mr. T beats Roddy Piper in a Boxing Match, then Andre the Giant wins a Battle Royal featuring stars from WWE and the NFL at Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon and finally Hulk Hogan outlasts King Kong Bundy in a Steel Cage Match in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Plus, fans are treated to celebrity appearances by Ray Charles, Ozzy Osbourne and Elvira! (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 2)

Sept. 6, 1986
“WWE Superstars” Launches
The premiere of WWE’s flagship show of the late ’80s and early ’90s, “WWE Superstars” sees the debut of WWE Hall of Famer and bird enthusiast Koko B. Ware as well as Jesse Ventura’s return to commentary.

Mar. 29, 1987
WrestleMania III is Here!
The biggest WrestleMania in history draws an announced 93,173 to the Pontiac Silverdome, setting a new indoor attendance record. The epic main event between WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant features the iconic bodyslam and Andre’s first pinfall loss in WWE. Also on this night, Ricky Steamboat defeats Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship in a technical masterpiece. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA III)

Nov. 26, 1987
Who Will Survive?
WWE’s second pay-per-view, Survivor Series presents multiple elimination tag team matches. Andre the Giant captains his team to victory over Hulk Hogan’s squad and earns a rematch against The Hulkster for the WWE Championship. Meanwhile, The Honky Tonk Man overcomes three opponents...by running away from them. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '87)

1988

Jan. 24, 1988
Get Ready to Rumble
Airing on the USA Network, the inaugural Royal Rumble Match features only 20 Superstars and is won by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan after he dumps One Man Gang over the top rope. (WATCH) Other competitors in the soon-to-be-annual brawl include future WWE Hall of Famers Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Harley Race and Tito Santana. (MORE ABOUT ROYAL RUMBLE '88)

Feb. 5, 1988
Double Crossed
Andre the Giant and a crooked official end The Hulkster’s four-year reign as WWE Champion. A victorious Andre hands the title to The Million Dollar Man, who has paid The Giant handsomely for the title. Commissioner Jack Tunney shows up to declare the WWE Championship vacant, setting the stage for WrestleMania IV’s title tournament.  At that event, Randy Savage defeats The Million Dollar Man in the tourney finals to emerge as the new WWE Champion. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA IV)

Aug. 29, 1988
SummerSlam Arrives
The Biggest Event of the Summer kicks off in Madison Square Garden with a heated main event featuring The Mega Powers of Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage conquering The Million Dollar Man & Andre the Giant. (WATCH) Also on this night, The Ultimate Warrior finally ends Honky Tonk Man’s record 15-month Intercontinental Title reign. (MORE ABOUT SUMMERSLAM '88)

1989 — 1990

April 2, 1989
Mega Powers Explode!
At WrestleMania V, Hulk Hogan overcomes his former friend Randy Savage to win the WWE Championship. (WATCH) Elsewhere on the card, Rick Rude upsets The Ultimate Warrior to score the Intercontinental Championship. Plus, Shawn Michaels and Mr. Perfect make their WrestleMania debuts, while Roddy Piper returns for his first appearance in WWE in two years. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA V)

June 2, 1989
Hogan Goes Hollywood
“No Holds Barred,” starring Hulk Hogan, is released in theaters. The first film produced by Mr. McMahon, it becomes a part of WWE action when actor Tommy Lister, who plays Zeus in the film, shows up in WWE to avenge his onscreen loss to The Hulkster.

April 1, 1990
Way of the Warrior
This is the first WrestleMania headlined by two (count ’em!) fan favorites. The event sees Hulk Hogan’s first pinfall loss to The Ultimate Warrior, and the only WrestleMania match ever contested between the Intercontinental and WWE Champions. (WATCH) Another first? The event is hosted in a foreign country, at the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada, with a young Edge and Christian in attendance. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA VI)

Nov. 22, 1990
Dawn of the Deadman
Mystery and speculation surround the identity of The Million Dollar Man’s fourth Survivor Series team member, who’s revealed to be The Undertaker! The terrifying rookie impresses, eliminating Dusty Rhodes and Koko B. Ware. (WATCH) The Deadman, with his larger-than-life (and death) personality, becomes the embodiment of this era, in which colorful characters are the norm. Oddly enough, The Phenom shares his debut date with The Gobbledy Gooker! (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '90)

1991 — 1992

Aug. 26, 1991
Perfect Execution
Leaving his tag team days behind, Bret “Hit Man” Hart wins the first of his many singles title when he defeats Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam in Madison Square Garden. (WATCH) The bout will go down as one of the finest in the August event’s storied history. (MORE ABOUT SUMMERSLAM '91)

Jan. 12 1992
The Rockers Split
After bickering for months, Shawn Michaels lands Sweet Chin Music on Marty Jannetty, and sends his partner through the window of Brutus Beefcake’s “The Barber Shop” talk show. HBK would move up in the business. Jannetty would simply move on. (WATCH)

Jan. 19, 1992
To Be The Man
Three months after arriving in WWE, Ric Flair shocks the WWE Universe when he enters the Royal Rumble Match at No. 3 and hangs on to win the over-the-top brawl — and the vacant WWE Championship. (WATCH) It’s the first of The Nature Boy’s two runs with the coveted title. (MORE ABOUT ROYAL RUMBLE '92)

1993

Jan. 11, 1993
Welcome to Monday Night Raw
Raw debuts! Broadcast from the Manhattan Center, the show airs live in front of fans who witness “uncut, uncooked, and uncensored” action. In their respective matches, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker are victorious against Max Moon and Damien Demento.

April 4, 1993
An Event of Epic Proportions
The WWE Title is defended twice in one night at WrestleMania IX, as Bret Hart loses the championship to Yokozuna in the main event, and minutes later, the massive sumo wrestler drops the title to Hulk Hogan. (WATCH) Also, Jim Ross makes his WWE debut, but he’s wearing a toga instead of a cowboy hat. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA IX)

June 13, 1993
Hail to the King
The first new pay-per-view event outside the “big four” airs live, with an eight-man tournament to crown the King of the Ring. In an inspiring effort, Bret Hart overcomes Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and Bam Bam Bigelow to become royalty. (WATCH) Also, Hulk Hogan makes his last WWE appearance until 2002.

Dec. 13, 1993
Ladies First
After a three-year absence, the Women’s Title returns to WWE. Emerging victorious after a lengthy tournament, Alundra Blayze wins the championship by defeating Heidi Lee Morgan and ushers in a new wave of competitive Divas, including Bull Nakano and Bertha Faye. (WOMEN'S TITLE HISTORY)

1994 — 1995

Mar. 20, 1994
New Heights
In a bout that sets the standard for all Ladder Matches to come, Razor Ramon defeats Shawn Michaels to become the undisputed Intercontinental Champion at WrestleMania X. (WATCH) This is one of the first Ladder Matches in WWE history, but far from the last. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA X)

Nov. 26, 1994
Diesel Power
At a live event in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the mighty Diesel rolls over Bob Backlund in an unbelievable eight seconds to win the WWE Championship. (WATCH) With that victory, the big man earns the coveted Triple Crown, having already held the Intercontinental and World Tag Team Titles.

Jan. 22, 1995
He’s No. 1!
“Tonight is going to be such an easy night,” Shawn Michaels sarcastically said after drawing the No. 1 spot in the Royal Rumble Match. He’d become the first man to win the bout from that position. Also on this night, Bam Bam Bigelow shoves celebrity guest Lawrence Taylor, setting the stage for a WrestleMania showdown. (MORE ABOUT ROYAL RUMBLE '95)

April 2, 1995
Battle of the Giants
WWE attracts major mainstream media attention when NFL football great Lawrence Taylor battles, and defeats, Bam Bam Bigelow in the WrestleMania XI main event. (WATCH) In other action, The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Streak moves to 4-0 with a win over King Kong Bundy. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XI)

1996

Mar. 31, 1996
Iron Men
The boyhood dream comes true for Shawn Michaels as HBK defeats Bret Hart in an Iron Man Match to win his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania XII. (WATCH) The grueling, 61-minute classic will long be revered as one of the must-see bouts on The Grandest Stage of Them All. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XII)

June 23, 1996
Austin 3:16
“Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” “Stone Cold” Steve Austin‘s pointed words at 1996’s King of the Ring unofficially kick off The Attitude Era. (WATCH) The barbs are targeted at Jake Roberts, who receives a beating of biblical proportions from The Bionic Redneck. Mr. McMahon never saw The Rattlesnake coming — and neither did the rest of WWE.

Nov. 17, 1996
Get Ready to Rock
Clad in frilled teal with an ear-to-ear smile plastered on his face, Rocky Maivia makes his WWE debut at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden. (WATCH) Although it takes him some time to become The Great One, The Rock scores two eliminations in this bout, proving he’s ready for the ring. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '96)

1997

Feb. 24, 1997
Raw Goes Extreme
Although it emanates from a bingo hall, Philadelphia’s Extreme Championship Wrestling is now a serious player in the grappling world. (MORE ABOUT ECW) And on this night, WWE fans receive a taste of the mayhem, as ECW competitors run rampant in WWE, with Sabu diving off the massive Raw letters onto the floor of the Manhattan Center.

Mar. 23, 1997
Blood from a Stone
Bret Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin meet in a Submission Match at WrestleMania 13. The grueling bout ends dramatically as The “Hit Man” locks a gushing Rattlesnake in The Sharpshooter, but Austin refuses to tap and instead passes out. The inspiring moment transforms the Texan from hated outlaw to revered rule-breaker in the eyes of fans. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 13)

June 1, 1997
Sharpshooting in Cyberspace
WWE officially launches its website, WWE.com, bringing the world of sports-entertainment into the realm of cyberspace — slowly, thanks to dialup connections.

Sept. 22, 1997
The Stunner Heard ’Round the World
The battle between Mr. McMahon, the corporate titan, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the finger-flipping redneck, is the signature ’90s rivalry. And it all begins at Raw’s first-ever show from Madison Square Garden. After briefly considering The Chairman’s proposal to “play by the rules,” Austin nails him with a Stunner, and the crowd devours the rebellious act like a steak dinner. (WATCH)

Oct. 5, 1997
Hell Comes to WWE
Leave it to Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker to give Hell in a Cell its inaugural test drive at WWE Badd Blood. A thrilling contest, the bout ends with both competitors in tatters as Kane makes his WWE debut by tearing the door off the cell and Tombstoning his brother. (WATCH)

Oct. 13, 1997
Are You Ready?
The rowdy stable of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Rick Rude and Chyna is officially dubbed “D-Generation X” on Raw. Crass, sophomoric and unapologetically anti-establishment, the group brings Raw’s viewership to new heights by taking common decency to new lows.

Nov. 9, 1997
The Montreal Screwjob
In Montreal, Canada, during 1997’s Survivor Series WWE Championship Match between Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Mr. McMahon orders the official to call for the bell while Bret is trapped in his own finishing maneuver, The Sharpshooter. (WATCH) Still a topic of debate today, the contentious moment would forever change the careers of the three men involved. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '97)

1998

Jan. 19, 1998
The Baddest Men on the Planet
Boxing legend Mike Tyson appears on Raw and locks horns with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after The Texas Rattlesnake refuses to shake Iron Mike’s hand and instead gives him a double middle-finger salute. Enraged, Tyson shoves Austin and a scuffle ensues, as Mr. McMahon laments a botched marketing opportunity, wailing, “You ruined it!” (WATCH)

Mar. 29, 1998
Oh Hell Yeah!
During his match against Austin at WrestleMania XIV, HBK has an ace up his sleeve in the form of ring enforcer Mike Tyson. Or does he? Following a Stunner, Tyson leaps into the ring to make the three-count and declares The Texas Rattlesnake the new WWE Champion. (WATCH) The Austin Era begins. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XIV)

June 28, 1998
The Match from Hell
At 1998’s King of the Ring, WWE fans watch in horror as Undertaker viciously hurls Mankind from atop the Hell in a Cell through the announce table below! Later in the brutal bout, the demented Superstar is knocked senseless after plummeting through the roof of the structure. The incident prompts Jim Ross’ famous call, “Will somebody stop the damn match?”

Nov. 15, 1998
The People’s Champion
At Survivor Series, The Rock defeats Mankind in a tournament final to claim the vacant WWE Championship. (WATCH) Although the bout ends in controversial fashion thanks to Mr. McMahon’s involvement, the victory still propels The Great One to the top as he becomes the youngest Superstar to hold the venerable title at that point. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '98)

Dec. 7, 1998
Dark Night
Just days before their Buried Alive Match at Rock Bottom, The Undertaker and “Stone Cold” meet in the ring on Raw. At the end of the bout, The Deadman knocks out The Rattlesnake and hoists his prone body onto a giant steel symbol. WWE’s phone system buckles under the mass of complaint calls.

1999

Jan. 4, 1999
One Giant Leap for Mankind
Silencing all of his critics, Mankind wins the WWE Championship from The Rock on Raw. On WCW, announcer Tony Schiavone gives the result away, dismissively adding: “That’ll put a lot of butts in seats.” The ploy backfires, as fans switch their televisions en masse to see The Hardcore Legend’s triumph.

Mar. 22, 1999
Beer Bath
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin drives a beer truck down the aisle on Raw and uses a fire hose to unleash an outpouring of ale on The Rock, Mr. McMahon and Shane. One of the defining moments of The Rattlesnake’s run, the incident is made all the better by the sight of The Chairman doing the breaststroke in a puddle of suds.

June 7, 1999
Power Play
On Raw, Mr. McMahon reveals himself to be the malevolent power behind his own daughter’s kidnapping, as well as the driving force behind all of Undertaker’s evil deeds. As payback, Linda McMahon turns the tables on The Chairman, making “Stone Cold” Steve Austin WWE’s new CEO.

Aug. 9, 1999
Millennium Man
For weeks, WWE fans watch as a cryptic clock ticks away on Raw. The countdown’s purpose remains a mystery until it hits zero and Chris Jericho debuts. Boldly interrupting The Rock, Y2J introduces himself as a cocky, fearless figure who isn’t afraid to make a statement. (WATCH)

Aug. 26, 1999
Laying the SmackDown
SmackDown airs its first official episode with WWE Champion Triple H successfully defending his title against The Rock in the main event. The show goes on to become the second-longest running weekly episodic television show ever. Take that, “Gunsmoke.”

Sept. 27, 1999
This is Your Life, Rock
Mankind hosts a retrospective of the life and times of The Great One on Raw. The Rock is visited by his high school home-economics teacher, former coach, ex-girlfriend and a clown named Yurple. (WATCH) Fans across the country tune in to witness the hilarity, making this the most-watched segment in the history of Raw.

Nov. 29, 1999
Wedding Crasher
Triple H breaks up Stephanie McMahon’s nuptials to Test by showing a video of himself pulling up to a drive-thru wedding chapel in Vegas and tying the knot with an unconscious Stephanie. Enraged at The Game, Mr. McMahon demands satisfaction at Armageddon, with the provision that, should Triple H lose, the marriage be annulled. The Game wins the bout — and Stephanie adds insult to injury by hugging her father’s rival! (MORE ABOUT ARMAGEDDON '99)

2000 — 2001

April 2, 2000
A Human Demolition Derby
At WrestleMania 2000, Arrowhead Pond shakes with the sounds of crunched steel and splintered wood as Edge & Christian battle The Hardys and The Dudleys in a Triangle Ladder Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship. At the bell, Edge & Christian are left standing. Barely. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 2000)

Mar. 26, 2001
War is Over
It’s fitting that “The Monday Night War” concludes on a Monday. Broadcasting from Cleveland, OH, Mr. McMahon announces that he has purchased WCW. The Chairman gloats about his victory until Shane McMahon cuts into the live simulcast from Panama City, Fla., announcing that he has signed the contract and assumed ownership of WCW. Treachery!

June 21, 2001
Tough Enough?
WWE renews its Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection with MTV to develop a new reality program, “Tough Enough,” in which contestants compete for a coveted WWE contract. First-season winners Maven and Nidia make it into the ranks of WWE, as do fellow contestants Christopher Nowinski and Josh Mathews. Season two victors Jackie Gayda and Linda Miles also share a moment in the sun. But it’s the season three winner, John Morrison, and the season four loser, The Miz, who enjoy the most success in WWE.

July 9, 2001
ECW Allies with WCW
Looking to overthrow their father, the McMahon siblings pull a vintage double-cross on The Chairman and form The Alliance, uniting both WCW and ECW rosters against WWE. At the Invasion pay-per-view, ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin (who’d been playing songs like "Kumbaya" on his guitar for Mr. McMahon just weeks prior) turns on WWE and sides with The Alliance. (WATCH) His reasoning? He feels unappreciated. Awww.

Sept. 13, 2001
 The Show Must Go On
“We will not live our lives in fear,” Mr. McMahon emphatically declares to the SmackDown audience just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (WATCH) In an effort to heal the nation’s psychic wounds, The Chairman ensures SmackDown airs as normal, with a special tribute show.

Nov. 18, 2001
Winner Takes All
The Chairman and his wife, Linda, challenge their progeny, Shane and Stephanie, to a “Winner Takes All” Match that pits WWE against The Alliance. At Survivor Series, Team WWE (The Rock, Chris Jericho, Kane, Undertaker & Big Show) defeats Team Alliance (Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam & Shane McMahon) when Angle reveals his true allegiance to WWE and annihilates Austin with a steel chair. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '01)

Nov. 19, 2001
Nature Calls
On this episode of Raw, Paul Heyman is fired, Jerry “The King” Lawler returns to commentary, and Mr. McMahon inducts William Regal as the inaugural member of the “Kiss My Ass” Club. But wait, there’s more! Ric Flair returns, too, climbing into a WWE ring for the first time since 1993. Why now? The “Nature Boy” has bought all of Shane and Stephanie’s shares of the company, meaning he now owns 50 percent of WWE. Woooo!

Dec. 9, 2001
Undisputed
At Vengeance, Chris Jericho defeats The Rock for the WCW Championship, and then defeats “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWE Championship to emerge as the first Undisputed WWE Champion in history! (WATCH) Thereafter, he’d never let WWE fans forget that fact.

2002

Jan. 7, 2002
Game On
Two-hundred and thirty one days after being sidelined with a serious quad injury, Triple H returns to Raw in bombastic fashion at Madison Square Garden. (WATCH) Rested and ready, The King of Kings quickly reclaims his place atop the WWE food chain.

Feb. 16, 2002
nWo's Time is Now
In a desperate attempt to wrest away Ric Flair’s ownership of WWE, Mr. McMahon does the unthinkable and unleashes The New World Order (Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) on WWE at No Way Out. The trio’s first order of business is interfering in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s match and spraying the letters “nWo” on The Rattlesnake’s back. (MORE ABOUT NO WAY OUT '02)

Mar. 17, 2002
Icon vs. Icon
At WrestleMania X8, “Stone Cold” disposes of nWo’s Scott Hall with two of the most devastating Stunners ever witnessed. Triple H defeats Jericho to become the Undisputed WWE Champion and The Rock beats Hollywood Hogan.  (WATCH) Despite his loss, The Hulkster receives such an epic ovation that Hulkamania soon begins to run wild again. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA X8)

Mar. 25, 2002
Brand Extension
The WWE Board of Directors decides that the only way to resolve the ownership dilemma between The Chairman and Ric Flair is to institute a “Brand Extension,” which results in the first-ever WWE Draft. In total, 60 Superstars find new homes on both brands with The Rock moving to SmackDown and The Deadman heading to Raw. With the exception of 2003, The Draft becomes an annual WWE event. 

June 27, 2002
His Time is Now
Answering an open challenge thrown down by an unstoppable Kurt Angle, John Cena makes his SmackDown debut in an inspiring performance against the Olympic gold medalist. The Cenation leader does not win, but he earns the respect — and attention — of many in the locker room. (WATCH)

July 25, 2002
Who Was That Masked Man?
Popping out of the 619, Rey Mysterio lands on SmackDown with a thrilling victory over Chavo Guerrero. Later that night, the masked luchador lives up to his high flying reputation by diving off the top of a steel cage onto a nasty trio known as The Un-Americans.

Aug. 25, 2002
HBK is Back
More than four years after he was sidelined with a serious back injury, Shawn Michaels defies the odds by returning to the ring for his first bout since WrestleMania XIV. Although the match is technically an unsanctioned Street Fight, HBK still perseveres over longtime friend and rival, Triple H. (MORE ABOUT SUMMERSLAM '02)

Sept. 2, 2002
Title Wave
Responding to Brock Lesnar’s announcement that he’s taking the Undisputed WWE Championship to SmackDown, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff creates a brand-new World Heavyweight Championship, which he awards to Triple H. (WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE HISTORY)

Nov. 17, 2002
Chamber Made
In need of a shake-up, Mr. McMahon introduces Raw to its new GM, former WCW President Eric Bischoff! The controversial executive’s lasting contribution to WWE is the 16-ton Elimination Chamber, which debuts at Survivor Series. The first six competitors — Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and Booker T — vie for the World Heavyweight Championship inside the dangerous structure, with HBK notching the win. (MORE ABOUT SURVIVOR SERIES '02)

2003

Feb. 3, 2003
Evolution Evolves
At 2002’s Unforgiven, Ric Flair begins managing Triple H and later Batista. But on this episode of Raw, the addition of Randy Orton officially kicks off the stable known as Evolution. The first-class faction runs roughshod over WWE in the same way Flair’s Four Horsemen dominated NWA in the late ’80s.

Mar. 31, 2003
Who’s Next?
Goldberg, the most destructive competitor in WCW history, stomps into Raw and spears The People’s Champion out of his boots on “Rock Appreciation Night.” The two powerhouses meet at Backlash in April with Goldberg scoring the victory. (WATCH)

June 12, 2003
All Falls Down
During one of the many bouts in their physical rivalry, Brock Lesnar superplexes Big Show from the top rope. The impact of the two behemoths hitting the SmackDown canvas is so major it causes the ring to collapse faster than a soufflé in a muffler factory. 

Dec. 25, 2003
Tribute to the Troops
WWE performs its first annual Tribute to the Troops, broadcast on a Christmas Day edition of SmackDown. Soldiers based in Baghdad, Iraq, are treated to several outdoor matches, including a main event that sees John Cena defeat Big Show, and both men stunned by “Stone Cold” (disguised as Santa Claus).

2004

Feb. 15, 2004
¡Viva La Raza!
Weighing 80 pounds less than rival Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero is the obvious underdog during their match for the WWE Championship at No Way Out. But Latino Heat pulls off the improbable win, with help from a vengeful Goldberg who spears Lesnar. Following a Frog Splash, Guerrero pins the big man to become the first Mexican-American to win the WWE Championship. (WATCH)

Mar. 14, 2004
Back Where It Began
WrestleMania XX celebrates 20 golden years at the site of the inaugural event — Madison Square Garden. In the night's opening contest, John Cena wins his first major title, defeating Big Show for the United States Championship. Also, The Deadman rises to crush Kane, and NYC fans boo Brock Lesnar and Goldberg during the pair’s final WWE match. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XX)

Aug. 15, 2004
The Age of Orton
Randy Orton makes history by becoming the youngest World Champion ever at SummerSlam, breaking Brock Lesnar's record. Although this would be a short title reign, lasting only 28 days, it would cement the 24-year-old Legend Killer as a legend in his own right. (MORE ABOUT SUMMERSLAM '04)

Oct. 19, 2004
WWE Fans Take Control
The inaugural Taboo Tuesday allows WWE fans to control the conditions of this event’s matches through the power of the internet. Stipulations chosen by the WWE Universe include a Lingerie Pillow Fight and a Steel Cage Match between Ric Flair and Randy Orton.

2005

April 3, 2005
The Champs are Here
At WrestleMania 21, WWE kicks off a new era in L.A. — a town big enough for two main events. John Cena and Batista win their first World Titles, ending the reigns of JBL and Triple H, respectively. In addition, Edge clutches the Money in the Bank briefcase to emerge as the first-ever winner of the much-beloved high-risk bout. Stars truly are born in Los Angeles! (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 21)

June 2005
The Big Draft
Unlike others before it, the 2005 WWE Draft spans the entire month of June, with each brand’s GM securing five picks. Of all the seismic shifts, the biggest are John Cena moving to Raw with his WWE Championship, and Batista shipping out for SmackDown, bringing with him the World Heavyweight Title.

June 15, 2005
An Extreme Comeback
After weeks of building anticipation among hardcore fans, The Land of Extreme returns for ECW One Night Stand at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The pay-per-view features ECW Originals Tommy Dreamer, Sabu and Sandman and is such a success that The Chairman resuscitates the entire brand in 2006. Now that’s hardcore!

Aug. 21, 2005
Dream Match
At 2005’s SummerSlam, leather chaps face off against feathered boas as Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels contest an Icon vs. Icon Match. The bout stems from HBK’s treachery, specifically hitting Hogan with Sweet Chin Music on the July 4 edition of Raw. After fighting through HBK’s best, Hogan hulks up to great applause and delivers a legdrop for the win. (WATCH)

2006

Jan. 8, 2006
Ultimate Opportunist
Edge holds the Money in the Bank briefcase for nine months and five days before cashing in his opportunity on this night at New Year’s Revolution. He wins his first WWE Championship in less than two minutes from John Cena, who had just retained the title in an exhausting Elimination Chamber Match.

April 2, 2006
Rey Wins the Big One!
Proving that the World Heavyweight Champion doesn’t need to be a “heavyweight,” Rey Mysterio defies the odds and defeats Randy Orton and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat Match to win the coveted Championship at WrestleMania 22. (WATCH) Also on this night, Mickie James defeats Trish Stratus for her first Women’s Championship, and Rob Van Dam clutches the briefcase in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 22)

May 19, 2006
See No Evil
After being whispered about for weeks on end, May 19th finally arrives, and Kane’s “See No Evil,” WWE Studios’ first production, is released. John Cena’s “The Marine” and “The Condemned” starring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin soon follow.

June 12, 2006
HBK to the Rescue
On Raw, the highly annoying Spirit Squad attacks Triple H and delivers a five-on-one beatdown. Luckily, longtime friend Shawn Michaels is in the house and runs in to help take the pep out of the preps’ step, and in the process, sparks the reformation of D-Generation X. Yes, we are ready!

June 13, 2006
He’s Hardcore
ECW debuts on Syfy. RVD is awarded the newly created ECW Championship, and becomes the only Superstar to hold both the ECW and WWE Titles simultaneously. Not bad for a promotion that started in a bingo hall. (MORE ABOUT ECW)

2007

April 1, 2007
Billionaire Throwdown
At WrestleMania 23, “Stone Cold” returns to raise hell as the guest official during the “Battle of the Billionaires.” With Donald Trump in Bobby Lashley’s corner, and Mr. McMahon in Umaga’s, the stage is set for a titanic showdown. Lashley emerges victorious and a fuming Mr. McMahon has his head shaved in front of 80,000 fans. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA 23)

June 11, 2007
Fiery Finish
As the 2007 WWE Draft winds down, Mr. McMahon heads to his limo following “Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night.” Immediately after The Chairman steps into the car, it explodes in a monstrous fireball. To this day, the perpetrator of the intended crime remains a mystery.

Nov. 19, 2007
Jericho Returns
When we last saw Chris Jericho on Raw, he was a whining groveler begging Eric Bischoff for his job. That was in 2005. After weeks of mysterious codes and hints running on Raw, Jericho triumphantly returns to WWE, promising to be the company’s savior. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before he becomes a suit-wearing scowler who’s about as much fun to hang with as your scary uncle.

Dec. 10, 2007
Raw Turns 15
It’s a celebration when Raw has its crystal anniversary. Mr. McMahon kicks off the show by addressing the crowd, only to be humiliated by his family and a host of Superstars past, including Bastion Booger and Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz. The night also features flashbacks from some of Raw’s classic moments of Hulk Hogan.

2008

Mar. 30, 2008
“I’m sorry. I love you.”
Those are the words Shawn Michales says to Ric Flair, before delivering career-ending Sweet Chin Music to The Nature Boy at WrestleMania XXIV. (WATCH) Flair’s loss in this Career Threatening Match will remain one of the most heartbreakingly memorable moments in WWE for years to come. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)

June 2, 2008
Million Dollar Mania!
In a rare display of largesse, Mr. McMahon loosens his purse-strings and gives away some of his hard-earned greenbacks on Raw. Dubbing the contest “Million Dollar Mania,” The Chairman promises to disburse one million bucks a week to fans. In the end, the McMahon vaults would be cleared of three million dollars, as WWE fans all over the U.S.A. pocket the cash. And probably spend it at wweshop.com.

July 20, 2008
Netting the Butterfly
SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero introduces the Divas Title as an answer to Raw’s Women’s Championship. At The Great American Bash, Michelle McCool makes Natalya tap out to become the first woman to hold the butterfly-emblazoned title. (DIVAS TITLE HISTORY)

2009

Mar. 9, 2009
In Your House
Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase nab a win over Triple H when The Game fails to show up to face them on Raw. Instead, The Cerebral Assassin scores a personal victory when he breaks into Randy Orton’s home and tosses his rival through the front window! 

Mar. 20, 2009
500 Days of SmackDown
SmackDown becomes the fastest weekly episodic program to reach 500 episodes with this special broadcast. Superstars from all three brands turn out for the big night, which is highlighted by Shawn Michaels overcoming Kane and The Undertaker punishing JBL.

April 5, 2009
A Quarter Century of WrestleMania
For The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, WWE pulls out all the stops. The crowd, packed to the rafters, rocks Reliant Stadium as WWE greats past and present collide. Ricky Steamboat wrestles in a WWE ring for the first time in almost 18 years while The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels tear down the house in a bout that sees The Deadman’s undefeated Streak continue. (WATCH) And finally, Randy Orton gets his comeuppance at the hands of Triple H. If this is any indication, WrestleMania 50 is going to be insane! (MORE ABOUT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF WRESTLEMANIA)

June 29, 2009
Brawling with the Stars
Batista becomes the first of many special guest stars to take over Raw. A long line of Hollywood actors, major celebrities and legendary Superstars, including Bob Barker, Ozzy Osbourne, and Pee-wee Herman, follow in The Animal’s footsteps. Hilarity ensues. (COMPLETE LIST OF GUEST STARS)

2010

Jan. 4, 2010
The “Hit Man” Comes Home
Proving that you should never say never when it comes to WWE, Bret “Hit Man” Hart returns to the ring and buries the hatchet with Shawn Michaels by embracing HBK on Raw. (WATCH) The WWE Hall of Famer then settles his score with Mr. McMahon by making him submit to The Sharpshooter at WrestleMania XXVI. (MORE ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA XXVI)

Feb. 23, 2010
Superstar Search
With the demise of ECW on Feb. 16, an innovative new brand known as WWE NXT takes its place. Part sports-entertainment, part reality TV, WWE NXT aims to find the next breakout WWE Superstar through a series of challenges, competitions and straight up matches. Entertaining and unpredictable, the series launches the careers of Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, and Brodus Clay, just to name a few.

Mar. 28, 2010
Heartbreak and Triumph
In a rematch from The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels falls to The Undertaker’s Tombstone in a thrilling Streak vs. Career Match. (WATCH) HBK is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the following year by his longtime friend, Triple H, and his talents and accomplishments become the measuring stick for all future competitors.

2011

Feb. 24, 2011
Finally! The Rock Has Come Back!
The most charismatic Superstar in WWE history is revealed to be the special host for WrestleMania XXVII. The Great One plays a pivotal role in the show’s main event, hitting John Cena with the Rock Bottom, which allows WWE Champion The Miz to score the victory. The brazen act heightens anticipation for the showdown between John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII — the first main event on The Grandest Stage of Them All to be announced a whole year in advance.

April 4, 2011
Hangin’ Tough
Absent from the airwaves for nearly seven years, WWE’s innovative reality show “Tough Enough” breaks out on the USA Network with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin overseeing the action. Joined by trainers Trish Stratus, Bill DeMott and Booker T, The Texas Rattlesnake makes the series appointment television thanks to his brutal critiques of the failing contestants.

April 11, 2011
Rated-R Retirement
One week after successfully defending his World Heavyweight Championship against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXVII, Edge makes a shocking appearance on Raw to announce his retirement due to a spinal injury. (WATCH | PHOTOS) The emotional competitor receives an outpouring of thanks and respect from his fellow Superstars and later joins the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2012.

June 27, 2011
The Pipe Bomb
Frustrated with the direction of WWE, CM Punk grabs a live microphone on Raw and delivers a blistering tirade that captures the attention of both current and lapsed sports-entertainment fans. With reckless abandon, The Straight Edge Superstar verbally attacks John Cena, Mr. McMahon and countless others in his six-minute diatribe before his “pipe bomb” mic is suddenly cut and the show goes dark. With that, Punk becomes the Superstar everyone’s talking about.

July 18, 2011
Hostile Takeover
The night after CM Punk escaped WWE Money in the Bank with the WWE Title in his hands, Triple H appears on Raw to inform Mr. McMahon that he has been relieved of his duties as WWE COO by WWE’s Board of Directors. His replacement? None other than The Game himself. Although he’s up for the challenge, The King of Kings quickly realizes that negotiating is a lot more difficult when sledgehammers aren’t involved.

Nov. 27, 2011
Never Before. Never Again.
The Rock returns to the ring at Survivor Series, teaming with John Cena to defeat the pairing of The Miz & R-Truth. At the same event, CM Punk beats Alberto Del Rio to win the WWE Title, kicking off an epic 434-day run that would earn distinction as the longest reign of the modern era.

2012 — present

April 1, 2012
One-on-One with The Great One
In what is touted as the biggest main event in WrestleMania history, The Rock overcomes John Cena in front of more than 78,000 WWE fans in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. The fallout of the match sends Cena on a downward spiral, while it earns The Great One a future WWE Title opportunity.

April 2, 2012
The Beast is Back
The night after falling to The Rock at WrestleMania, John Cena is besieged upon by the most destructive force in WWE history — Brock Lesnar. Absent from WWE rings for the better part of a decade, The Beast Incarnate had become the top MMA heavyweight in the world before returning to destroy Cena. Soon after, Lesnar is joined by his close friend and confidant, Paul Heyman.

July 23, 2012
Raw Turns 1000
In what will be remembered as one of the great episodes of all time, Raw celebrates 1000 episodes with a DX invasion, the disastrous wedding of AJ and Daniel Bryan, a barnburner main event between CM Punk and John Cena, appearances by classic Superstars like Rikishi, Vader and Sid and a surprise reunion of The Brothers of Destruction. Here’s to 1000 more!

April 7, 2013
Twice in a Lifetime
One year after their epic WrestleMania 28 clash, John Cena and The Rock meet once again on The Grandest Stage of Them All — only this time The Great One’s WWE Title is on the line. Cena learns from his prior mistakes and beats The Rock to win the championship and silence those critics who said he could not hang with The People’s Champ.

Dec. 15, 2013
The Champion of Champions
An epic Tables, Ladders and Chairs showdown between WWE Champion Randy Orton and World Heavyweight Champion John Cena ends in the crowning of the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion when The Viper sends Cena off a ladder and into the edge of a table. Orton's victory marks the first time WWE has promoted one official world champion in more than a decade.

Jan. 8, 2014
WWE Goes Way Over the Top
In a groundbreaking announcement, WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon heralds the launch of WWE Network, the first-ever 24/7 streaming over-the-top network, which features all 12 live pay-per-view events, original programming and hours upon hours of classic events from WWE, WCW, ECW and more. The future of sports-entertainment begins now.

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