The 50 greatest matches in Raw history re-ranked
Back in January 2013, we shouldered the thankless task of listing the 50 greatest matches in Raw history to celebrate the 1000th episode of the Monday night institution. Fast-forwarded 18 months — and 100 episodes — and we’ve been forced to reconsider our rankings.
With its expansion to three hours — along with the emergence of once-in-a-generation Superstars like Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and the artists formerly known as The Shield — Raw is showcasing sports-entertainment competition on a level it never has before. Click ahead to see which new bouts carved out their place in history. We guarantee you'll be chanting, "This is awesome!" by the time you get to No. 1.
John Cena, Hulk Hogan & Shawn Michaels vs. Christian, Tomko & Chris Jericho (June 27, 2005)
In a special Six-Man Tag Team Match on the June 27, 2005, episode of Monday Night Raw, three generations united as John Cena lived the dream of many WWE Superstars and fans by teaming up with Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels.
In a battle against Christian, Tomko and Chris Jericho, HBK surprised Cena with their partner, The Hulkster. The match stands out as a true milestone in Raw’s history as three of WWE’s biggest Superstars of all time successfully joined forces. Hulk Hogan even paid tribute to Cena after The Hulkster dropped Tomko with a clothesline and performed the Cenation leader’s trademark taunt, “You can’t see me!”
Hogan, Michaels and Cena were victorious and following the contest, Cena and HBK stood in the ring and posed with The Immortal One.
Jeff Hardy vs. Johnny Nitro: Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (Nov. 20, 2006)
Johnny Nitro’s emergence as a singles competitor began in 2006. After racking up several WWE Tag Team Title reigns, Nitro moved from SmackDown to Raw and immediately became a top contender to the Intercontinental Championship. He won the title in June of that year, then traded it back and forth with Jeff Hardy in the fall. Their rivalry culminated in a Ladder Match on the Nov. 20, 2006, edition of Raw.
Hardy had all the advantages going into the match. He was the champion with a wealth of experience with ladders, while Nitro was taking part in his very first Ladder Match. The veteran Hardy introduced Nitro to the ladders rather quickly, dropkicking one into his face in the early goings. The rookie put up a good fight, evading Hardy’s Swanton Bomb and countering with ladder shots of his own. However, Hardy’s experience proved the difference. A powerbomb and legdrop off the top of the ladder allowed the enigmatic Superstar to trap Nitro under the apparatus as he retrieved his title.
Booker T & Goldust vs. Christian & Chris Jericho: World Tag Team Championship Match (Dec. 23, 2002)
The electric Oklahoma City crowd added a big exclamation point to arguably one of the best tag team matches to ever take place on Raw. Full of exhilarating near pinfalls and hot tags, World Tag Team Champions Booker T & Goldust tangled with Chris Jericho & Christian for 17 minutes before the champs found a way to survive with their titles intact.
From the get-go, it was clear how motivated Goldust was for this bout. Jericho had tried to convince The Bizarre One that he was the weak link and damage his self-confidence. Instead, it fired him up. As the match reached its climax, the referee had trouble keeping track of who the legal men really were, as bodies went flying left and right. At one point, it seemed like Goldust was going to tap while he was trapped in the Walls of Jericho, but thanks to a nice save from his partner, he escaped and seized the chance to show Jericho up one-on-one by notching a surprise reversal for the victory.
Mr. Perfect vs. Doink the Clown: King of the Ring Qualifying Match (May 24, 1993)
Mr. Perfect, a supreme technician, and Doink, the master of hijinks, met in a King of the Ring Qualifying Match in the inaugural year of Monday Night Raw. But before the contest even began, Doink crawled under the ring, confusing the referee and the entire announce team in the process, and then mysteriously emerged from under the ring moments after being interviewed on the street by Lord Alfred Hayes.
Following the early commotion, Doink ambushed Mr. Perfect and choked him with his own towel, setting the tone for their heated see-saw battle. Both Superstars took turns executing impressive submission maneuvers, with The Perfect One targeting Doink's leg by slamming it around the steel ring post. The action spilled in and out of the ring multiple times before Mr. Perfect was caught off guard when a different Doink crawled under the ring and made a stealthy switcheroo. Despite the antics, Mr. Perfect nailed the substitute Doink with a Perfect Plex to win the aggressive match and advance in the tournament.
The Rock vs. Chris Jericho (Oct. 30, 2000)
Before he became WWE’s first–ever Undisputed Champion, Chris Jericho attempted to earn an opportunity to face Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship. Jericho’s chance came on the Oct. 30, 2000, edition of Monday Night Raw in a No. 1 Contender’s Match against The Rock. The former WCW star had been with WWE for a little more than a year and certainly gave The Great One a run for his money in this contest.
With the winner facing the WWE Champion on SmackDownlater in the week, the stakes were high and Jericho wasted no time going on the offensive. As they brawled in and out of the ring, neither Superstar had a clear advantage. At one point Jericho locked in the Walls of Jericho but The Brahma Bull reached the ropes, and then countered with a Sharpshooter. Ultimately, The People’s Champ caught Jericho with a Rock Bottom and earned the WWE Title opportunity.
Trish Stratus vs. Lita: Women's Championship Match (Dec. 6, 2004)
In one of the few instances where Divas were featured in the main event of Raw, Trish Stratus and Lita shined like true stars. Their rivalry couldn't have been any more personal, as Trish repeatedly tried to humiliate Lita by poking fun at her pregnancy and relationship with Kane. One month after getting disqualified for breaking Trish's nose with a steel chair at Survivor Series, Lita got another opportunity to capture the Women's Championship and teach Trish a lesson.
Aside from the red-hot rivalry, what made this clash so outstanding were the daring maneuvers that shattered the mold of Divas matches. From a high-risk dive through the ropes to a back-breaking superplex, Lita electrified the crowd by venturing outside of the norm throughout the match. In a thrilling finish, Lita countered a Stratusfaction attempt and hit a reverse Twist of Fate, followed by a mighty moonsault off the top rope to end Trish's 176-day title reign.
The Miz vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler: WWE Championship TLC Match (Nov. 29, 2010)
During his 40-plus years in the ring, Jerry “The King” Lawler has accomplished many milestones, but the one crown jewel missing has always been the WWE Championship. The King finally received a WWE Title opportunity against The Miz, not only on Monday Night Raw, but also on his birthday! And to add more spice to the mix, it was a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match.
At 61 years of age, Lawler battered both The Awesome One and his lackey, Alex Riley. The WWE Hall of Famer came within inches of achieving the impossible when he was suddenly stopped by his own broadcasting partner, the underhanded Michael Cole. The cowardly act allowed The Miz to steal the win, but the WWE Universe knew who the better man was that night.
Sycho Sid vs. Bret Hart: WWE Championship Steel Cage Match (March 17, 1997)
You could cut the tension with a knife as Bret Hart challenged WWE Champion Sycho Sid in a Steel Cage Match just days before WrestleMania 13. With "Stone Cold" Steve Austin watching from the back, Hart tried to wear down his much larger opponent with punches, kicks and even an eye rake, but Sid caught the "Hit Man" every time he scaled the cage.
Pandemonium broke loose once Sid dropped Hart with a mighty powerbomb, as Austin, now at ringside, refused to let the WWE Champion climb over the top of the cage. Hart soon recovered and joined the fray, opting to help "Stone Cold" – his WrestleMania opponent – double team Sid while all three Superstars teetered atop the cage. Matters got even more outrageous when The Undertaker ran out and climbed to the top to help Sid fend off the attack. After Bret delivered a massive superplex to Sid, it looked like it could be anyone's match with both competitors exhausted, but The Phenom slammed the cage door on Hart as he tried to escape, clearing the way for an unbelievable victory for the WWE Champion.
The Rock vs. The Hurricane (March 10, 2003)
When you’re as unfathomably successful as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the rare failures in your life tend to stand out. That would explain the endless stream of “Tooth Fairy” jokes John Cena launched in The Great One’s direction during the buildup to their WrestleMania showdown. It’s also why The Rock’s 2003 bout against the emerald headed Hurricane keeps coming up in conversation.
A spastic comic book nerd decked out in cape and cowl, WWE’s resident superhero was dismissed by The Brahma Bull as a Hamburglar wannabe. So The Brahma Bull was more than a little shocked when Hurricane drove him into the canvas with a chokeslam during their 2003 bout. The Rock took control from there, but when he went for The People’s Elbow, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s music hit and The Texas Rattlesnake came marching defiantly down the entrance ramp. Distracted by the man he would soon face at WrestleMania 19, The Great One turned his attention away from his fallen opponent, which allowed The Hurricane to roll him up for one of the biggest upsets in WWE history.
The Steiners vs. The Quebecers: Province of Quebec Rules Match (Sept. 13, 1993)
Johnny Polo and his Quebecers had the perfect plan for capturing the World Tag Team Titles — confuse the hell out of the champions. Jacques and Pierre challenged The Steiner Brothers to put their titles on the line under perhaps the most convoluted set of rules in WWE history: Province of Quebec Rules.
The rules allowed for the titles to change hands on both count-outs and disqualifications. Also, piledrivers, moves from the top rope and throwing your opponent over the top rope were illegal. Initially, Rick and Scott adjusted to the perplexing rules very well, outclassing the Quebecers inside the squared circle. However, the champions’ fiery attitude backfired on them in the end. Polo’s hockey stick ended up in the ring. Scott grabbed it from Jacques’ hands and clocked the Quebecer with it in front of the official, costing him and his brother the titles.
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler (Nov. 21, 2011)
On the Nov. 21, 2011, WWE Champion CM Punk battled United States Champion Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match, but judging by the competitiveness of the contest, you wouldn’t even know the titles weren’t on the line.
Convinced that he was, in fact, the new face of WWE, Ziggler looked to knock Punk off as WWE’s top dog, but The Straight Edge Superstar wasn’t going down that easy. The fast-paced contest shifted momentum back and forth between the two Superstars, leaving the WWE Universe gasping for air with every near fall. As Ziggler appeared to have a clear edge over the WWE Champion, Punk caught the bleached blond off guard, and scored with a devastating Go To Sleep to secure a thrilling victory.
Mick Foley vs. Terry Funk: No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere Match (May 4, 1998)
The story of Mick Foley and Terry Funk’s demented camaraderie could be told in scars and skin grafts. Beginning in the bizarre world of Japanese “Death Matches” in the early ’90s, The Hardcore Legend and the “middle-aged and crazy” WWE Hall of Famer developed a mutual admiration while abusing one another with barbwire, beds of nails and, on one particularly twisted evening, C-4 explosives.
In WWE, the longtime rivals formed a championship team, but the friends were forced to battle once again in a No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere Match by Mr. McMahon. With stoolie Pat Patterson overseeing the action, Foley and his 53-year-old opponent tested one another’s pain threshold on the steel entrance ramp and throughout the concrete tunnels of the arena. Ultimately, after slamming his idol through a table, Foley beat Funk by piledriving him onto a steel chair, proving just how far The Hardcore Legend was sometimes willing to go to see his hand raised.
Christian vs. Rob Van Dam: Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (Sept. 29, 2003)
Two of WWE’s most seasoned Ladder Match competitors collided in the high-risk environment in September 2003, when Rob Van Dam and Christian battled over Captain Charisma’s Intercontinental Title.
From the beginning, it was RVD’s athleticism against Christian’s cunning as Van Dam launched his educated feet the way most competitors throw punches, while the champion targeted his opponent’s lower back to keep him grounded. Captain Charisma’s game plan was wise and very well may have worked on any ordinary Superstar. Of course, Rob Van Dam isn’t an ordinary Superstar. In the end, RVD executed his trademark Five-Star Frog Splash onto Christian from the very top of a ladder positioned in the corner of the ring. Most competitors would have reported to the nearest chiropractor to have their spines realigned after a maneuver like that. Van Dam simply rose to his feet, climbed the ladder and unhooked the Intercontinental Title to become the new champion.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Undertaker & Dude Love vs. The Hart Foundation: Flag Match (July 21, 1997)
They say politics make strange bedfellows. Same goes for patriotism. How else would “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Dude Love end up united if not for the rampant anti-American rhetoric of Bret “Hit Man” Hart and his Hart Foundation cronies? Confident in front of their hometown crowd, the "Hit Man," his brother Owen and their brother-in-law The British Bulldog challenged the trio to a Flag Match, which could only be won by grabbing your nation’s flag from atop a pole in the corner of the ring.
Putting aside their differences to defend the red, white and blue, The Deadman, Austin and Dude Love fought hard to grab Old Glory in front of an increasingly rowdy crowd. They nearly did it, too. In the final seconds of the match, The Undertaker climbed toward the American flag in one corner while the "Hit Man" neared the Canadian one across the ring. Just then, the unpredictable Brian Pillman leapt forth from the crowd and shoved The Deadman from the turnbuckle. By the time The Undertaker hit the canvas, the Canadians had won.
Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton: Street Fight (June 24, 2013)
Given recent events, it seems like a lifetime ago that Daniel Bryan battled a self-imposed perception of being a “weak link,” but there Bryan was in the summer of 2013, picking a fight with anyone who looked at him the wrong way, especially — in an eerie bit of foreshadowing — Randy Orton. With his first two tilts with The Apex Predator having ended either controversially or indecisively, Bryan and The Viper collided in a Street Fight rubber match with bragging rights on the line, and the “Yes!” man rose rather magnificently to his latest and greatest challenge.
Orton has long been touted as the more vicious of these two competitors, yet Bryan certainly didn’t shy from embracing the gritty stipulation. The introduction of a steel chair proved costly for both men in more ways than one, yet for every attack Orton unleashed, the former WWE Tag Team Champion responded immediately in kind. In the end, Bryan won the way he always promised he would, locking The Viper in a Kendo stick-assisted “Yes!” Lock to force Orton into a rare submission victory. The effort was enough to earn Bryan a handshake from The Apex Predator that showed respect for the beard, respect the fight, and — as is only appropriate after a match like this — respect for the victor.
Triple H vs. Shelton Benjamin (March 29, 2004)
The upset of 2004 took place just three months into the year. One week after WrestleMania XX, the WWE Draft Lottery shook up the Raw and SmackDown rosters, giving Superstars a chance at a fresh start. No one took better advantage of that opportunity than Shelton Benjamin. The Draft split him up from his partner in The World’s Greatest Tag Team, Charlie Haas, forcing the young Superstar to go it on his own for the first time. After being pushed around by Triple H and Evolution earlier in the night, Benjamin was granted a match against The Game in the main event.
In his first match on Raw, Benjamin used his mat wrestling skills to get an early advantage against The Cerebral Assassin. Ric Flair soon came out to stop Benjamin’s offense. That proved to be Triple H’s downfall, as a distraction from Flair allowed Benjamin to deliver a big splash in the corner and roll The Game up for the surprise pin. Shelton’s shocking victory sent the WWE Universe into a frenzy, signaling the arrival of a new Superstar.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin & The Rock vs. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & Hulk Hogan (March 11, 2002)
In WCW in summer 1996, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall formed The New World Order, a group that changed the landscape of sports-entertainment. At the same time in WWE, two Superstars, The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, began to captivate audiences, eventually drawing viewers away from WCW Nitro to watch Raw. No one could have ever imagined that the five aforementioned competitors would one day set foot inside the same ring.
On March 11, 2002, the WWE Universe witnessed history as five of the most influential ring warriors of the 1990s squared off in what can only be described as the ultimate WWE vs. WCW contest. Austin and The Rock battled the black-and-white-clad faction, ultimately losing to the trio. However, there was no denying the history witnessed that evening, including the first and only time Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” traded blows.
Al Snow vs. Road Dogg: Hardcore Title Match (Jan. 4, 1999)
Of all the wild, freewheeling Hardcore Matches that littered the sports-entertainment scene during the peak of the genre’s popularity in the late ’90s, few reached the giddy heights of pandemonium that this 1999 brawl between Road Dogg and Al Snow did. Taking place on the same historic night that Mick Foley won the WWE Title, the battle for WWE’s Hardcore Championship saw the two rivals brawling in the capacity crowd in the Worcester Centrum Centre, through the cement labyrinth of the backstage area and out into the snowy Worchester, Mass., streets.
Struggling to keep their footing on the icy blacktop while trading fists, Snow and Road Dogg fought into an alley as a swarm of rowdy New England fans began to gather around them. Finally, after surviving an onslaught of beer kegs, fire extinguishers and metal folding chairs, The New Age Outlaw spiked his unpredictable opponent headfirst through a pile of wooden pallets to win the bout and the Hardcore Title.
Edge vs. Randy Orton: Intercontinental Championship Match (July 19, 2004)
The Intercontinental Title is held in high esteem in WWE, often seen as the last step a Superstar takes on his path to becoming a World Champion. That idea was stuck in the heads of Edge and Randy Orton as the battled over the prestigious championship.
The competitors who would become Rated-RKO several years down the line were neck and neck with each other in this bout, unable to gain a solid advantage. Edge, the champion, inadvertently took out the referee when The Viper ducked to evade his crossbody block. Orton tried to capitalize, grabbing a steel chair to clobber Edge, but The Rated-R Superstar avoided the attack. In the end, Edge gave Orton a taste of his own medicine, rolling him up with his feet on the ropes for leverage to retain his title.
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan: Champion vs. Champion Match (Feb. 27, 2012)
Every rivalry has a meaning and a beginning. For CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, it was all about proving their mettle as World Champions, just months into their respective reigns, and what better way to do that than in a Champion vs. Champion Match. Days after their first stellar battle ended in controversial fashion on SmackDown, Punk and Bryan kicked off Raw SuperShow with another competitive back-and-forth affair.
As Raw GM John Laurinaitis and SmackDown GM Teddy Long traded verbal barbs at the announce table, Punk and Bryan exchanged much fiercer blows in and out of the ring. After Bryan delivered a series of vicious kicks to Punk's back and midsection, The Straight Edge Superstar punished Bryan with a spinning heel kick, running high knee and a top-rope elbow drop, but none of it was enough. A mid-air collision took out both Superstars before David Otunga's interference led to chaos, with Laurinaitis stopping the referee's count when Punk hit the Go to Sleep. The bout ended in a No Contest and left Punk and Bryan with a lingering score to settle.
Razor Ramon vs. The Kid (May 17, 1993)
Through its initial four months on the USA Network, Monday Night Raw quickly established the fact that the word “unpredictable” was an integral part of its vocabulary. And that was never truer than on the night where Razor Ramon locked up with a hungry upstart named The Kid. Call it David versus Goliath or the veteran versus the rookie, but this match will always be remembered for one thing — the upset.
It was all Razor, all the time for virtually the entire match, until one sequence of events shocked the WWE Universe. Razor threw Kid into the corner and charged after him, but the agile competitor moved. With nobody home, the big man's momentum left him flying straight into the steel ring post. Kid sensed the opportunity, scaled the turnbuckles, and caught the dazed Ramon with a moonsault, rolling him up for a quick 1-2-3. It was a stunning upset, and that victory alone was instrumental in The Kid being rechristened "The 1-2-3 Kid."
The Miz vs. John Morrison: WWE Championship Falls Count Anywhere Match (Jan. 4, 2011)
There was no love lost between WWE Champion The Miz and his ex-tag partner John Morrison as they clashed in a spectacular Falls Count Anywhere Match to kick off the first Raw of 2011. The former "Dirt Sheet" duo started the match fittingly by brawling on the stage, with Miz flunky Alex Riley doing his best to try to tilt the odds in The Awesome One's favor. Morrison, however, fought off the early double-team onslaught and executed a breathtaking crossbody on both Superstars off the stage's WWE logo.
Back at the ring, Miz and Morrison exchanged exciting near-falls before Riley meddled again – and paid dearly for it. "The Prince of Parkour" dazzled the crowd by sitting A-Ry on the barrier, then leaping onto it and smashing him with a knee to the face. Morrison had evened the odds, but The Miz's attacked relentlessly as the grueling bout progressed. Ultimately, a Skull-Crushing Finale on the arena floor was the final vicious blow that left Morrison down for good.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock (March 23, 1998)
The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin have one of the most storied rivalries in WWE history. They battled over both the Intercontinental and WWE Championships and are two of the most popular Superstars of all time. In 1998, Austin won the Royal Rumble Match and punched his ticket to a WWE Title Match against then-champion Shawn Michaels. The week before The Show of Shows, to keep his match with HBK a title match, Austin had to face Intercontinental Champion The Rock.
Foreshadowing their legendary encounters at future WrestleManias, The Rattlesnake and The Great One battled in and out of the ring as Austin had to also fend off The Nation at ringside. The Rock maintained a great deal of momentum, but “Stone Cold” managed to take him down with a Stunner and secure the victory, sending a clear message to HBK for WrestleMania.
The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (March 3, 2014)
What’s more epic than Armageddon? How about Armageddon: Round Two? In a rematch of the Elimination Chamber contest Triple H compared to the End of Days itself, The Shield and The Wyatt Family put on a hellacious fight for a ravenous Chicago crowd that would have been satisfied with nothing less.
Though the bout lived up to its billing, the struggling Hounds of Justice’s raise-hell mindset was outdone by The Wyatts’ match-specific game plan: Keep Roman Reigns out of the contest. The backwoods brutes managed to do so, though they owed an assist to Seth Rollins, who left his teammates high and dry in a fit of frustration ( should’ve seen it coming, in hindsight). Minutes later, the undermanned Hounds of Justice were summarily reduced to dog chow by The Eater of Worlds and his brethren, with Bray himself scoring the decisive Sister Abigail on Dean Ambrose.
The WWE Universe inside the Allstate Arena was chanting “This is awesome” before the match even started. It still hasn’t stopped.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Ken Shamrock: WWE Championship Match (Sept. 14, 1998)
With Raw’s fulfillment of commercial breaks complete for the evening on Sept. 14, 1998, the WWE Universe was treated to an uninterrupted battle between WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and MMA legend Ken Shamrock. After Shamrock made his entrance, the unmistakable sound of glass breaking rang through the arena and The Texas Rattlesnake arrived to raise hell.
Austin did not wait for the opening bell and attacked The World’s Most Dangerous Man as soon as he stepped through the ropes. It wasn’t long until Shamrock rebounded and the two warriors traded momentum for the duration of the contest. As they brawled back and forth, The Undertaker and Kane made their way to the ring to attack both competitors. Chaos ensued as Mankind and The Rock countered The Brothers of Destruction before Austin chased after Mr. McMahon. The match ended without a conclusion, but it certainly was a brawl to remember.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam: Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (May 27, 2002)
Fans were expecting an unbelievable bout when Latino Heat and RVD faced off for the Intercontinental Title in May 2002. They would not be disappointed, as the two masters of the Frog Splash waged war in a Ladder Match, with the title hanging high above the ring. The match didn’t stay in the ring for long, as the two combatants tumbled to the outside, brawling on the arena floor. Guerrero was sent head-first into the steel ring post before forcing RVD to take a faceful of ladder.
The high-flyers then took to the skies, crashing down on each other before scaling up the ladder, attempting to grab the title. Then, as Van Dam looked to be going for his trademark Five-Star Frog Splash from atop the ladder, the steel apparatus gave out from under him, sending RVD crashing to the canvas. He was able to recover, incapacitating Latino Heat long enough to climb the ladder and reclaim the Intercontinental Title.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog: World Tag Team Championship Match (May 26, 1997)
On May 26, 1997, fellow Texans “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels joined forces against the arrogant Hart Foundation, challenging Owen Hart and The British Bulldog for the World Tag Team Championships. Less than a year before Michaels and Austin would eventually collide at WrestleMania XIV, the duo worked in-sync as they battled their respective rivals.
The match is not only one of Raw’s greatest, but certainly one of the best tag team contests of all time. All four participants were highly skilled former champions with scores to settle. There was certainly no love lost between them as the teams each exchanged brutal blows. But no matter how hard brother-in-laws Owen Hart and The British Bulldog tried, the resilient Texans kept on coming. Finally, HBK took out The Bulldog with Sweet Chin Music, allowing Austin to secure the World Tag Team Titles.
Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty: Intercontinental Championship Match (May 17, 1993)
Shawn Michaels was sitting on top of the world with his Intercontinental Championship firmly around his waist in May 1993. Little did the cocky competitor know that he would soon be knocked off his perch by an individual who came to New York City’s Manhattan Center in disguise.
That night, Michaels boasted that he would defend the Intercontinental Title against anybody. A mystery man then came into the ring dressed in a hooded shirt and sunglasses and revealed himself to be HBK’s former friend and tag partner, Marty Jannetty. Michaels had to put his money where his mouth was and give the former Rocker the title opportunity. Their match was arguably the most competitive contest held thus far in the four months that Raw was on the air. It was getting hot under the collar for HBK, who grabbed his championship and attempted to leave the arena, but was prevented from doing so by Mr. Perfect. That allowed Jannetty to take advantage of things, and in the process, roll up HBK to win his first and only singles championship in WWE.
Rob Van Dam vs. Edge vs. John Cena: WWE Championship Triple Threat Match (July 3, 2006)
With no disqualifications and no count-outs, the action was bound to be frenzied as Rob Van Dam defended his WWE Title against Edge and John Cena in a Triple Threat Match. Surprisingly, the champion wasn't the biggest target as the match began, with Van Dam and Cena fighting over who got to dish out more punishment to Edge. The collusion didn't last long and all three competitors hammered away at each other, thrilling the sold-out Philadelphia crowd with near-pinfall after near-pinfall.
After Cena dodged RVD's Five-Star Frog Splash, it appeared the Cenation leader was moments away from victory when he connected with an Attitude Adjustment. The Ultimate Opportunist, however, was already plotting his next move while he lurked on the arena floor. Before Cena could cover "Mr. Monday Night," Edge snuck back into the ring and clobbered Cena with the WWE Title, then pinned Van Dam. In the blink of an eye, The Rated-R Superstar had shocked the WWE Universe and captured his second WWE Title.
Triple H vs. Kane: Mask vs. Title Match (June 23, 2003)
In 2002, the bitterest rivalry in WWE was between Kane and Triple H. At No Mercy 2002, World Heavyweight Champion Triple H defeated Intercontinental Champion Kane in a bout that unified the two titles, but the rivalry truly culminated on June 23, 2005. Raw co-General Manager “Stone Cold” Steve Austin offered Kane a World Title opportunity if the Big Red Monster rejected an offer from Triple H to join Evolution, co-General Manager Eric Bischoff added the stipulation that if Kane lost, he would be forced to unmask.
Kane dominated The Game for much of the contest, channeling his rage into a powerful offense that left The Cerebral Assassin reeling. But when the referee was knocked down, interference by Ric Flair was enough to allow Randy Orton to take Kane down with an RKO. Triple H picked up the victory and moments later, Raw history was made when Kane took off his mask for the first time. The match highlighted Kane’s monstrous strength and the aftermath revealed his monstrous visage.
John Cena vs. Cesaro (Feb. 17, 2014)
The best John Cena bouts are those in which WWE’s “Man of Steel” seems uncharacteristically outmatched. That rare vulnerability was on display when the 14-time World Champion tested his strength against a burgeoning Cesaro — not yet the winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal or an anointed Paul Heyman Guy — and, for a time, seemed to be the lesser man.
Already revered by a small cross-section of indie wrestling devotees but not yet a topflight WWE Superstar, Cesaro finally lived up to the hype by flinging Cena through the air as if he were a cruiserweight and then greeting him with smash mouth European uppercuts after gravity had done its thing. The Cenation leader did eventually come out on top — even after Cesaro reversed the AA in spectacular fashion by landing on his feet — but the night still belonged to The Swiss Superman. We have to believe that somewhere Paul Heyman was watching.
The Rock, Cactus Jack, Too Cool & Rikishi vs. DX & The Radicalz (Feb. 7, 2000)
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including Raw main events. After The Radicalz brutally assaulted Cactus Jack in Dallas to earn WWE contracts from Triple H & Stephanie McMahon, The Game put The Hardcore Legend in a tough spot. Mick Foley was forced to find four partners to face DX and the new Superstars in a 10-Man Tag Team Match.
The Rock volunteered his services for the evening, but that still left Cactus short three partners. The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection didn’t seem to care that they were at a distinct disadvantage, rushing to the ring to take on all five of their opponents by themselves. They weren’t alone for long, as Grand Master Sexay, Scotty 2 Hotty and the massive Rikishi joined the fray.
The ensuing fracas had the WWE Universe literally on its feet for the entire bout, exploding in cheers with every blow. The official lost control toward the end, as all 10 Superstars brawled throughout the arena, leaving Grand Master Sexay alone in the ring, allowing The Radicalz to capitalize and pick up the win.
Edge vs. Ric Flair: WWE Championship TLC Match (Jan. 16, 2006)
As far as Raw's milestone matches go, you'd be hard-pressed to find many that were more spectacular — and emotional — than Ric Flair vs. Edge.
The first TLC Match for the WWE Title began routinely enough as the 16-time World Champion belted Edge with a flurry of stinging chops, but The Rated-R Superstar wasted no time using the ladder as a weapon. A veteran of 10 different kinds of Ladder Matches, Edge knew exactly what he was doing as he sandwiched Flair in the ladder and unloaded with a steel chair. Flair suffered number of brutal shots in the nearly 15-minute bout, including a flying crossbody from Edge off the ladder that drove him through a table. The agony was palpable as the bludgeoned "Nature Boy" shouted out in pain as his daughter pleaded, "Dad, please get up!" from the front row. Incredibly, Slick Ric rallied back and looked like he would've won the match if not for Lita's persistent meddling, which bought Edge enough time to knock Flair off the top of the ladder and retain his WWE Championship.
Team Hell No & Kofi Kingston vs. The Shield (May 20, 2013)
With their Tag Team and U.S. Championships lost to The Shield at Extreme Rules the night before and nothing left but their pride on the line, the trio of fan favorites took it to the “Hounds of Justice” with everything they had. The effort brought The Shield as close as they’d ever come at that point to a clean defeat and left the WWE Universe on the edge of their seats. Refusing to give ground to the men in black’s infamous “numbers game,” Kingston, Bryan & Kane worked as seamlessly as their rough-and-tumble opponents, combining styles and movesets and never letting The Shield build so much momentum they couldn’t get it back.
The strategy ultimately failed when, after dispatching Kofi and Bryan on the outside, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose sacrificed themselves to a surging Kane so Roman Reigns could finish the job, but the result hardly even mattered: The match was a master class in tag-team and individual wrestling, with six performers of various tenure all competing at the peak of their powers and truly leaving it all on the mat. “This is awesome” is the typical reaction for a match like this, but in the brief history of three-hour Raws, that’s certainly in the running for biggest understatement.
Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin (May 2, 2005)
For the first time in his career, Shelton Benjamin went toe-to-toe with future WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels in what turned out to be a sensational, physically exhausting battle. HBK quickly tried to use his technical skill to gain an edge, but it was clear that Shelton would not be outwrestled, as he used his awesome athleticism to frustrate Michaels. Even when HBK did his signature kip-up during the match, "The Gold Standard" responded with one of his own, which led right into a great set of reversals and near-pinfalls.
Shortly after Shelton thwarted Michaels' first attempt at Sweet Chin Music, he unleashed a dazzling springboard crossbody that caught HBK by surprise, but it wasn't enough to notch a victory. As Shelton leapt off the ropes for a second dynamic springboard maneuver, no one in the WWE Universe could fathom what happened next. In a jaw-dropping finish, Benjamin catapulted himself across the ring, but The Showstopper drilled him in mid-air with Sweet Chin Music, knocking him out cold with the tremendous blow.
TLC IV (Oct. 7, 2002)
By autumn 2002, one match had earned such an aura amongst WWE fans that three letters were enough to drive them into a frenzy of anticipation — TLC. Made legend by the teams of Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in two highlight reels that stand as a testament to the ability and tenacity of WWE’s best Superstars, the Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match made its Raw debut on Oct. 7, 2002, with World Tag Team Champion Kane (without his partner, The Hurricane) defending against Bubba Ray & Spike Dudley, Christian & Chris Jericho, and Jeff Hardy & Rob Van Dam.
Named the best match of the first 10 years of Raw in 2003, the fourth TLC Match in WWE history saw Spike launched out of the ring and through a table by Christian, Jericho flung from the top rung all the way to the arena floor, and Christian unceremoniously dumped tailbone first onto the stiff edge of the steel ladder. Amid the wreckage of human bodies, The Devil’s Favorite Demon singlehandedly won the bout after chokeslamming Jericho off the ladder before grabbing both titles.
Rey Mysterio vs. John Cena: WWE Championship Match (July 25, 2011)
When CM Punk absconded with the WWE Title following his victory over John Cena at Money in the Bank, Mr. McMahon announced a tournament to crown a new champion. Rey Mysterio defeated three Superstars en route to winning his first WWE Title, but Cena, who did not receive entry into the tournament, was given an immediate chance to regain the title from Mysterio.
Wrestling his second WWE Championship Match in one night, Mysterio took on Cena in a competitive back-and-forth affair. Both Superstars looked to have the match won on several occasions, but each finishing combination was reversed to provide a dazzling level of unpredictability. In the bout’s thrilling conclusion, the champion looked to have Cena in position for the 619, but Cena’s “never give up” mantra shone through. He snatched his opponent, threw him onto his shoulders, and executed a picture-perfect Attitude Adjustment to become WWE Champion for the ninth time.
Kurt Angle vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: WWE Championship Match (Jan. 8, 2001)
Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle put his WWE Championship on the line against The Texas Rattlesnake "Stone Cold" Steve Austin the squared circle. The competitive styles of the two Superstars could not have been more different and they used their respective skill sets in a battle that could have lasted all night. Austin went after Angle, trying to simply brawl with the Olympic hero, but Angle’s amateur prowess was enough to counter Austin’s aggressive offense.
They battled in and out of the ring with The Rattlesnake taking out WWE Commissioner William Regal at ringside. The battle raged and the WWE Universe in San Jose, Calif., watched in anticipation of a winner being declared, anxiously anticipating the final three-count after Austin hit Angle with a Stunner. But a new champion would not be crowned as Triple H pulled the referee from the ring, ending the bout in a no contest. Although no clear winner was determined, there is no doubt that Austin and Angle competed in one of the finest matches ever broadcast on Raw.
Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro (July 22, 2013)
It seems unfathomable at this point that Daniel Bryan's abilities were ever in question from anyone. Yet for some reason, everyone in WWE and their mother decided to put him through the ringer to see if he was really worthy of the WWE Title Match John Cena had decided to give him at SummerSlam. Of all those opponents in that run up to the summer classic, nobody — nooobody — gave Bryan more hell than Cesaro.
As the second opponent in a three-pronged challenge Bryan faced one July night (the first was Jack Swagger and the third ended up being Ryback), Cesaro used the already-tenderized Bryan as his bearded punching bag, deploying the full scope of his heavy-artillery offense in a contest that veered quickly into a brawl. Make no mistake: Despite the victory for “Mr. Small Package,” the match was a win for everyone involved. Not only did Bryan show he was ready to fight for the ultimate prize; Cesaro made a strong case for himself as well, and it’s only a matter of time before we see this unfold again on a much grander stage
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart: Street Fight (April 21, 1997)
The incendiary rivalry between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret “Hit Man” Hart will be long defined by their legendary Submission Match at WrestleMania 13, but an often overlooked classic between the WWE Hall of Famers occurred on Raw on April 21, 1997. That night, The Texas Rattlesnake and The Excellence of Execution eschewed the tights and boots of a normal WWE match and hit the ring in jeans and shirts for a Street Fight.
Unruly before the bell even rang, the brawl saw Austin attacked by The British Bulldog and Owen Hart only to be unexpectedly saved by a chair swinging Shawn Michaels. From there, it was a dirty fight with Hart piledriving Austin onto a steel chair before “Stone Cold” used that same chair to obliterate the "Hit Man’s" left knee. Austin’s assault was so brutal that Hart had to be rushed to the hospital, but not before the redneck attacked his rival in the back of the ambulance.
Triple H vs. Chris Jericho: WWE Championship Match (April 17, 2000)
Less than a year into his WWE tenure, Chris Jericho sent WWE fans in State College, Penn., into a frenzy when he pinned Triple H to win the WWE Championship on April 17, 2000. Or did he?
When referee Mike Chioda was knocked out at the turnbuckle, there was no official to count Jericho’s pinfall on The Game. Earl Hebner, who had previous issues with Triple H, slid onto the canvas as a replacement, but the power-mad champion shoved down Hebner in a fit of rage. Jericho nailed a springboard Lionsault and Hebner counted to three — a complete shock to the WWE Universe. Triple H was furious, but The APA held him back as Hebner scurried backstage.
But The Game wasn't satisfied. He forced his zebra-clad foe to return to the ring, and admit it was a fast count. After The Game promised to never put his hands on a referee again, Hebner reversed his decision, and awarded the championship back to its former owner. Accounting for Triple H's demands, the title change was stricken from the record books and is not officially recognized by WWE.
Owen Hart vs. The British Bulldog: European Title tournament finals (March 3, 1997)
Already brothers-in-law and WWE Tag Team Champion partners in early 1997, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart added another commonality on the March 3 edition of Raw: finalists in WWE’s European Championship tournament. Fought in Berlin, Germany, Bulldog versus Owen was an athletic contest with palpable drama.
A showcase of scientific holds and counters, the bout occasionally degenerated into fisticuffs whenever Hart dished out a cheap shot or eye-rake (much to the disapproval of the Berliners). The prevailing question then became not which Superstar would walk away a dual champion, but whether the title-holding tandem would even make it out of Germany intact. With the animosity never rising above a gentle boil, however, Smith and Hart kept the majority of the action clean, even though the pace was unrelenting. Nearly 20 minutes in, Bulldog reversed Hart’s roll-up attempt into a pinfall of his own, capturing the first new championship in WWE in almost two decades. Afterward, a frustrated Hart congratulated Bulldog and raised his hand, proving for all to see that the WWE Tag Team Champions would be just fine.
Cactus Jack vs. Triple H: Falls Count Anywhere Match (Sept. 22, 1997)
When Dude Love was scheduled to battle Triple H in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, the tie-dyed hippie appeared on the TitanTron, and informed his opponent that type of match "isn't exactly a love thing," and introduced the deranged Mankind instead. But Mankind also insisted there was an even more qualified competitor, and announced, "Cactus Jack ... is back!" The Game was furious, as he was not prepared to deal with the brutal style of the former King of the Death Matches, who had never before appeared in a WWE ring.
The New York City crowd became unglued as Jim Ross exclaimed, "Drastic times call for drastic measures! And for a man that has wrestled on nails and barbed wire and set himself on fire, this will be a day in Central Park!" And indeed it was, but not for Triple H, who lost the contest after Cactus drove him through a table while smiling from ear to missing ear. Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy was home, but this rivalry was just getting started.
John Cena vs. CM Punk: No. 1 Contender's Match (Feb. 25, 2013)
On the Feb. 25 edition of Raw, John Cena and CM Punk squared off for the opportunity to challenge then-WWE Champion The Rock at The Show of Shows. With the match of a lifetime on the line, Cena shocked Punk by reversing the Anaconda Vise into a pinfall that almost ended the match. The Straight Edge Superstar did everything he could to wear down the 11-time WWE Champion.
The two Superstars threw everything but the kitchen sink at each other. Punk kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment and Cena, the GTS. Just as Cena escaped the Vise, Punk survived Cena’s STF. Out of pure desperation, Punk spiked Cena with a piledriver that brought a hush over the arena, the announcers and the WWE Universe.
But destiny was on Cena’s side. The Champ evaded Punk’s top-rope elbow, unleashed a surprising hurricanrana and followed up with an Attitude Adjustment to win. It was, perhaps, the greatest example of the lengths Superstars are willing to go to in order to have their name etched in history at WrestleMania.
The Rock vs. Mankind: WWE Championship Match (Jan. 4, 1999)
Jan. 4, 1999, is one of the most vital days in sports-entertainment history. That night on WCW Monday Nitro, Hulk Hogan defeated Kevin Nash for the WCW Title following an infamously harmless finger poke that set up the reuniting of the two splintered New World Order factions. In a sorry attempt to keep fans tuned to the developing story, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone revealed that Mick Foley won the WWE Title on the evening’s pre-taped Raw broadcast before flippantly adding, “That’s going to put some butts in the seats.”
The underhanded tactic backfired as more than 600,000 viewers changed the channel to witness the chaos on Raw as DX fended off The Rock’s Corporation cohorts from helping The Great One retain the title. As Mankind and The Rock battled inside the ring, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin made his way to the squared circle, took down The Great One and helped Mankind secure his first WWE Championship victory. The memorable contest and evening as a whole changed the landscape of the Monday Night War forever.
The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy: Undisputed Championship Ladder Match (June 1, 2002)
Jeff Hardy long thrilled the WWE Universe as one-half of the daredevil Hardy Boyz, but the idea that the risk taker could defeat a Superstar as revered as The Undertaker for the Undisputed Title seemed almost unfathomable in 2002. Still, with every rung the young competitor scaled in this Ladder Match, the more WWE fans got behind his impossible effort.
Fully embodying his “live for the moment” ethos, Hardy put aside concern for his own well-being as he flung himself like a shuriken at The Deadman. The high-flyer was black and blue from the heavy fists of the best pure striker in the game, but something inside the young competitor would not allow him to quit. In the end, Hardy was defeated after Undertaker recklessly chokeslammed him from the top of the ladder, but The Charismatic Engima’s effort had been enough to inspire admiration in the stoic Undertaker. Helping his fallen opponent to his feet, The Demon from Death Valley raised the future WWE Champion’s hand in a show of respect that meant more than any victory could.
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels: World Heavyweight Championship Match (Dec. 29, 2003)
Shawn Michaels is absent from a long stretch of Raw history, which is unfortunate, because who knows what the most talented Superstar in WWE history could have accomplished had he remained healthy throughout his career. Still, HBK’s impossible resurgence in 2002 is made all the more unbelievable by the fact that he should have never wrestled again.
One year into his WWE return, Michaels received a World Heavyweight Title opportunity in his boyhood home of San Antonio, but longtime friend and rival Triple H was standing in his way. Determined to play spoiler, The Game and his ringside associate, Ric Flair, attempted to cut HBK off at every turn, but Michaels was performing with the spirit of a man who had miraculously recovered his gift. Keeping his focus through 30 grueling minutes of action, HBK appeared to have won the title after connecting with Sweet Chin Music, but eely executive Eric Bischoff awarded the bout to The Game after declaring that both Superstars shoulders were on the mat during the cover. The wonky outcome sullied an otherwise classic, but the emotion of the bout is impossible to deny.
Bret Hart vs. The 1-2-3 Kid: WWE Championship Match (July 11, 1994)
Established as WWE’s resident underdog long before Rey Mysterio first jumped in a Raw ring, The 1-2-3 Kid had earned a strong fan following through his determined performances against mightier foes like Razor Ramon and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. But the future DX member established himself as a serious contender when he pushed WWE Champion Bret Hart to the brink in summer 1994.
Coming within seconds of capturing the coveted title repeatedly during this 18-minute stalemate, the cagey Kid matched “The Excellence of Execution” hold for hold until the youngster attempted a high-risk missile dropkick and ended up trapped in the dangerous Sharpshooter. The 1-2-3 Kid had no choice but to submit, but there was no shame in his defeat. His guts and tenacity earned the respect of Hart, the WWE fans, and commentator Jim Ross who proclaimed it “one of the greatest matches I have ever seen.”
Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect: Loser Leaves WWE (Jan. 25, 1993)
Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect seemed inseparable since The Nature Boy arrived in WWE in 1991. Perfect was in Flair’s corner as he won the 1992 Royal Rumble Match and captured the WWE Championship. Everything was kosher between the two until Mr. Perfect got the itch to return to the ring, much to the dismay of Flair and Bobby Heenan.
Things came to a head in January 1993, when Flair decided that WWE wasn’t big enough for both of them. The former friends agreed to put their careers on the line during Raw’s third episode. Flair and Perfect set the standard for what Raw main events could be, putting on a technical wrestling exhibition with their livelihoods hanging in the balance. Both men escaped each other’s sleeper holds, while Perfect wriggled free from the Figure-Four Leglock. The match could have gone either way until Flair made a huge mistake. After whipping Mr. Perfect into the ropes, he ducked his head. Perfect came to a halt and hooked Flair into his trademark Perfect-Plex and sent him packing from WWE.
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (April 23, 2007)
When WWE Champion John Cena and Shawn Michaels stepped in the ring for a WrestleMania 23 rematch, the WWE Universe knew they were in for a great contest. What they ended up witnessing was something the likes of which had never been seen on Monday nights.
These two warriors put on a mat classic, battling for the entire second hour of Monday Night Raw. The Cenation leader did his best to repeat his WrestleMania success against HBK, but Michaels simply had no quit in him this night. The WWE Hall of Famer weathered Cena’s offensive assault all around ringside, frustrating the champion. When Cena finally looked to have HBK on the ropes, Michaels proved once again why they call him The Showstopper. He flipped out of the Attitude Adjustment and decked The Champ with Sweet Chin Music for the win, putting a thrilling cap on a classic match.