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The 10 most important moments in Raw history
Trying to narrow down the hundreds of thousands of impactful moments on Monday Night Raw to just 10 is quite the challenge. For more than two decades and counting, Raw has continually kept viewers on the edge of their seats and constantly evolved with the times. It's been a program that has not only featured many jaw-dropping incidents, but set the benchmark for how to keep long-running weekly episodic television fresh, innovative and ultimately, more interactive.
With Raw turning 21 this weekend, WWE.com takes a look back at 10 major Raw milestones that altered our perceptions and sparked significant changes for the show (and WWE as a whole).
Monday Night Raw debuts - Jan. 11, 1993
Raw's rise to prominence began in where else but New York City, home to many of WWE's most historic events dating back to the early 1960s. The premiere edition, which took place at the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center, lasted one hour and broke new ground as it was the first WWE TV show to be broadcast live, unlike previous shows that were taped with voiced over commentary.
The live crowd and viewers on USA Network enjoyed a star-studded show that included appearances by WWE Legends Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who co-hosted the show with Mr. McMahon. But it was the atmosphere that really set the first episode apart as the start of something truly one of a kind. On this Monday night, WWE fans delivered a rowdy, electric energy that would become the lifeblood of many Raws to come.
D-Generation X begins to form - Aug. 11, 1997
By the time summer 1997 rolled around, the New World Order had already become a phenomenon both in WCW and mainstream media. And on the heels of the nWo's surge in popularity, WCW had consistently beaten WWE in the ratings during the Monday Night Wars. WWE needed an answer to the nWo to take back control of the Monday night live television head-to-head battle and found it during the “Attitude Era.”
When Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude interfered in Shawn Michaels' match against Mankind on Raw, little did the WWE Universe know the wheels began turning for something much bigger and wilder than ever imagined. That simple act of collusion set in motion a series of incidents in the weeks to come that laid the foundation for the incendiary faction known as D-Generation X – a gang of trash-talking rebels who pushed the envelope and terrorized their enemies with outrageous antics. DX was also responsible for some of the most notorious events in Raw's history, including a surreal invasion of WCW Monday Nitro aboard an army tank on April 27, 1998.
“Stone Cold” stuns Mr. McMahon for the first time - Sept. 22, 1997
You'd be hard-pressed to pick a single Superstar who more epitomized the word "raw" than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The Texas Rattlesnake's reckless, in-your-face escapades flew in the face of multiple authority figures on Raw, but it was his ongoing conflict with WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon that became must-see television week after week.
It all started in front of a fervent crowd at Madison Square Garden when Austin's frustration with WWE officials boiled over. After Mr. McMahon insisted that "Stone Cold" couldn't compete due to his neck injury, Austin responded the only way the toughest S.O.B. knows how: by giving the Chairman a "Stone Cold" Stunner for the ages, leading to The Texas Rattlesnake's arrest and triggering an unforgettable rivalry. Without that first unbelievable Stunner, viewers wouldn't have witnessed other indelible Raw moments such as Mr. McMahon getting smacked with a bedpan in the hospital or taking a beer bath with the rest of The Corporation.
Mr. McMahon proclaims “Bret screwed Bret” - Nov. 17, 1997
Mr. McMahon has never been afraid to fire back at his critics, and his controversial response following the infamous "Montreal Screwjob" was no exception. It was at Survivor Series 1997 that the Chairman executed a secret plan without Bret "Hit Man" Hart's knowledge to unceremoniously strip him of the WWE Championship by calling for the bell to ring while Shawn Michaels locked Hart in the Sharpshooter. Even though Hart had not submitted, The Heartbreak Kid was declared the winner, infuriating the departing "Hit Man" and leaving the WWE Universe clamoring for an explanation.
A week after that shocking conclusion, the Chairman stood by his questionable decision on Raw, stating that Hart didn't follow the "time-honored tradition" of showing the proper respect to the organization that helped him reach stardom prior to leaving WWE. But the line that reverberated and cemented Mr. McMahon's status as the most villainous boss in Raw's history was "Bret screwed Bret."
Mike Tyson and “Stone Cold" Steve Austin brawl - Jan. 19, 1998
Fresh off a monumental victory at Royal Rumble, Austin engaged in a fiery face to face encounter with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Mr. McMahon introduced Tyson by his moniker, "The Baddest Man on the Planet," which ticked off the man known as the toughest S.O.B. in WWE. After insulting Tyson with a two-finger salute and challenging him to a fight, "Iron" Mike initiated a shoving match with "Stone Cold" and soon, all hell broke loose between the two hotheaded competitors.
The melee attracted extensive mainstream attention, furthering Raw's reputation as a must-watch show, even for casual spectators who never regularly tuned in to WWE programming. Two months later at WrestleMania XIV, Tyson's buzz-worthy presence in WWE culminated in a stunning appearance as special guest referee in Austin's match against Shawn Michaels, in which "Iron" Mike turned on The Showstopper and helped "Stone Cold" win his first WWE Title.
Mankind and The Rock shatter ratings records - Sept. 27, 1999
Sept. 27, 1999, was the night WWE fans tuned into Raw in a way they never had before when a staggering 8.2 million viewers tuned in to watch Mankind present his on-again-off-again pal The Rock with a very special edition of “This is Your Life.”
Seems strange that the most-watched segment in the history of sports-entertainment show — one defined by daredevils diving off ladders and giants shattering each other’s bones — involved a maniac in a leather mask talking to an old gym teacher and a clown named Yurple, but such is in the unpredictability of Raw.
Nitro ends as Shane McMahon buys WCW - March 26, 2001
Viewers tuning in to the final episode of WCW Monday Nitro were greeted by a surprising face: Shane McMahon. Even more surprising was Shane's announcement that his was the name listed on the contract to purchase WCW, effectively bypassing his father to buy out WWE's biggest competitor. Regardless of which McMahon scored the coup, the night was a huge milestone for WWE as the Monday Night Wars had finally ended after years of strife that almost forced WWE out of business.
In the aftermath of Shane's purchase, a slew of WCW performers invaded WWE and tried to take it over, prompting a fierce battle that spanned more than half of 2001. The bitter skirmish ultimately came to a close with WWE standing tall following a victory in a "Winner Take All" Match at Survivor Series.
First Brand Extension Draft takes place - March 25, 2002
Up until this point, Raw and SmackDown existed only as staples in WWE programming, not as distinct brands. But the landscape totally changed with the first-ever WWE Draft, where Superstars were selected to represent either Raw or SmackDown by then-WWE co-owners Ric Flair and Mr. McMahon. The Chairman dropped a bombshell when he drafted The Rock to SmackDown, and "The Nature Boy" countered with a heavy-hitter of his own, drafting The Undertaker to Raw.
The first half of the WWE Draft was televised live on Raw and the second half was conducted on WWE.com, combining for a unique presentation as 60 Superstars were divvied up overall.
John Cena is drafted to Raw - June 6, 2005
There arguably wasn't a bigger No. 1 pick in the history of the WWE Draft than John Cena. When Chris Jericho introduced the WWE Champion on his "Highlight Reel" talk show, the Cenation leader was greeted with a thunderous ovation from the crowd, officially ushering him in as the new face of WWE's flagship program.
In the years since being drafted to the Raw brand, Cena has distinguished himself as WWE's driving force while he continues to inject the show with a relentless competitive spirit that Superstars are rarely able to match.
First-ever Raw SuperShow - Aug. 29, 2011
For the better part of nine years, interaction between the Superstars of Raw and SmackDown was mostly reserved for rare inter-promotional matches at the now-defunct Bragging Rights pay-per-view, or bouts that had ramifications for the once-annual WWE draft. With this edition of Raw, however, came a new blurring of the lines between the red and blue brands.
No longer could the WWE Universe only see the Superstars of SmackDown on Friday nights. Finally, after years of pent-up demand, the two deep rosters were effectively combined once a week for the benefit of WWE’s flagship program.
The brainchild of WWE COO Triple H, who declared it his responsibility to make Raw as exciting as possible, Raw SuperShow wove in SmackDown Superstars such as Sheamus, Randy Orton and Mark Henry. The impact of The Game’s mandate was apparent the very first night, when the potent pairing of John Cena and Sheamus teamed up to turn back the formidable team of Christian and Henry.