Happy Wednesday Everyone!
We did parts 10 to 6 last week, so we’ll finish it up with 5 to 1 this week!
Monday Night Raw has been on the air for over 30 years now, so I thought I’d take a trip back through the cavernous archives to pick out 10 of my personal favourite Monday Night Raw segments or moments from the show’s history.
I confess that I basically stopped watching the show on any sort of regular basis from about 2015 onwards, due to a combination of me falling out of love with the WWE product and the fact that three hours a week is just WAY too long for a wrestling show. So if you’ve been an avid watcher from that period onwards then I’m afraid your own personal favourite moment won’t appear here.
So yeah, sorry about that…
10th March 2014
WWE really didn’t want to listen to their fans when it came to the Main Event of WrestleMania XXX. The fans clearly wanted to see Daniel Bryan win the top belt in the promotion after he’d been cheated out of it multiple times up to that point. WWE however wanted to have Randy Orton defend the belt against Batista whilst Daniel Bryan wrestled Triple H lower down the card. Triple H had originally been scheduled to wrestle CM Punk on that show, but Punk had left after the Royal Rumble event and it ended up being Bryan in the slot instead.
The pesky fans still wanted to see Daniel Bryan going for the belt though, even to the point that they started booing supposed good guy Batista because he was the one getting the spot instead of the wrestler they actually wanted to see. Eventually WWE decided that they couldn’t risk the WrestleMania Main Event getting booed out of the building and graciously deigned to give the fan base what they actually wanted by adding Bryan to the bout. With the decision made, the way they got Bryan into the match ended up becoming a great Raw moment.
Aping the Occupy Wall Street movement, Bryan and numerous fans took to the ring and refused to move until their demands were answered. Those demands were quite simple; Bryan wanted a match with Triple H at WrestleMania and if he won, he would get added to the Main Event later on in the night. Triple H finally acquiesced and the match was made. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were the real stars of this segment, as both of them sold the whole thing perfectly, with Stephanie in particular going into a full-on screechy spoilt rich kid tirade that made Bryan’s eventual success all the more satisfying.
Occupy Raw is not a universally popular segment (Todd Martin, then of F4W Online, went on record as not enjoying it) but I personally thought it was great. Triple H and Stephanie nailed their end of it, whilst the live crowd really enjoyed the whole spectacle. It really suited the Daniel Bryan character as well, as his success in both real life and the kayfabe world was hugely down to the fans getting behind him when they weren’t supposed to, so the fans giving him the ultimate assist in getting his way into the Mania Main Event made perfect sense.
22nd September 1997
Cactus Jack…….is back!
Mick Foley had been embroiled in a long feud with Triple H during the summer months of 1997, with the rivalry first really kicking off at the King of the Ring pay per view in June when Triple H defeated Foley (as Mankind) for the crown and then laid a whupping on him for good measure. Since that night, Foley had battled Triple H not only as Mankind but also as his Dude Love persona, with mixed results. One “Face of Foley” had yet to appear under the WWF umbrella though, and that would change on the 22nd of September as Cactus Jack showed up in Madison Square Garden in order to finally put the feud with Triple H to bed.
The match itself is great fun, as Triple H and Foley had great chemistry as opponents and that is on full display here as they battle all over the arena. What makes it such a memorable moment though is the video that plays prior to Cactus making his appearance. Mankind and Dude Love are having a conversation about which of them will be facing Triple H tonight, which leads to the eventual reveal that it will be Cactus stepping into the battle instead, all capped off by Mankind yelling “Cactus Jack…is back!” in warped glee.
This skit is put together perfectly and the crowd pop when it’s revealed that Cactus will be wrestling is spine tingling. It was through travelling to Madison Square Garden for a Jimmy Snuka Vs Don Muraco match that Mick Foley was truly inspired to become a professional wrestler, with Cactus Jack being the first persona he ever adopted. Thus, seeing Cactus step out onto the MSG stage really felt like a full circle moment and it remains one of my favourite segments in Raw history. The fact the resulting match also delivers is just the icing on the cake.
17th March 1997
Bret Hart snaps
Bret Hart’s fall from grace as he went from Hero in the autumn of 1996 to villain in the spring of 1997 was very well told, as Bret became increasingly more paranoid and crotchety as the weeks wore on, selling the character of an old fashioned person angry at the world changing around him excellently. This chapter was a big part of the story, as Bret was cheated out of the WWF Title in a cage match by supposed friend and ally The Undertaker, leading to him then getting powerbombed by WWF Champ Sid and verbally berated by his nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The cage match suffered as a result of having Sid in it (because Sid blows) but having Austin and Taker at ringside added an extra level of intrigue to proceedings. Due to Austin Vs Bret and Sid Vs Undertaker already being booked for WrestleMania 13, the winner of the cage match between Sid and Bret would defend the belt at Mania, meaning you had the unique situation of Austin and Taker actively trying to help their respective enemies so that they could nab themselves a Title match at the biggest event of the year. Seeing Austin trying to help Bret in particular was wild stuff because their feud had been incredibly intense and spiteful up to that point.
Sid did eventually manage to retain, which led to Bret cutting an uncustomary vitriolic promo, where he targeted WWF owner Vince McMahon and even swore. Seeing Hart, for so long a family friendly babyface character, lower himself to such a level was a brutally clear example that this was no longer your daddy’s WWF, and it’s probably one of the most important moments in the early part of the Attitude Era. Bret absolutely nails the execution as well, coming across as an embittered whiner and setting up his full Heel turn at Mania 13 perfectly. This is a fabulous piece of business and I love it!
22nd September 1997
Vince McMahon takes his first Stunner
Stone Cold Steve Austin suffered a brutal neck injury at SummerSlam 1997, an injury that kept him out of the ring for months and meant that the entire wrestling style of the Main Event scene in the WWF had to be adjusted to take into account Austin’s newfound physical limitations. Before Austin could be allowed back into the ring however, the WWF were keen to keep him on television as much as possible due to how popular he was. There was a ratings war going on after all.
Being that he was unable to wrestle, the WWF came up with creative ways to keep Austin involved in the show without actually needing to wrestle a match, be it cutting promos, interfering in matches or laying out WWF officials with Stone Cold Stunners. The likes of Commissioner Slaughter and commentator Jim Ross all ate Stunners, leaving one person at the top who was yet to take one, that being WWF owner Vince McMahon.
At an historic Raw in Madison Square Garden, Vince (still trying to be a babyface) tried to talk Austin down from his tour of carnage by using the power of empathy, and it went about as well as you would expect it to, namely with Vince on the wrong end of a Stunner as the crowd lost their minds. Vince took a pretty rubbish bump for it all being told, but it was still a poignant and important moment in the Monday Night War™, as Austin instantly became the coolest most anti-authority character on either show and the WWF was able to ride the momentum all the way to an eventual victory.
Some of the wrestling on the 97 shows is pretty awful sometimes, but Raw from that timeframe has a really anarchic feeling to it and you can totally see why the WWF was eventually able to get back in the game. Nitro may have had the better wrestling and bigger star power, but the show was already starting to feel kind of stale by the second half of 97 due to how they very rarely mixed up the production or tried anything outside of the usual nWo formula. Austin marauding around Raw and dishing out Stunners to authority figures gave the company some instant cool points with the fans, and when Vince eventually turned Heel to feud with Austin they were off to the races.
4th January 1999
Mankind wins the WWF Title
When Mick Foley entered the WWF in the spring of 1996 the chances of him becoming a top babyface seemed slim and the chances of him becoming the WWF Champion seemed even slimmer. In the image obsessed WWF, Foley’s bulkier physique and non-traditional wrestling style seemed to place a clear ceiling on where he could reach on the WWF ladder. Sure, he could challenge for the belt once in a while if the angle was right, such as when he took on Champs like Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and Steve Austin whilst wrestling as a Heel, but the Title itself would always remain tantalisingly out of reach.
That all changed in the second half of 1998, as Foley started to gain real momentum as a sympathetic babyface amongst the WWF fan base. Foley’s mixture of wild bumps, comedy and fantastic promos made him into a genuine top babyface star, perhaps second only to Steve Austin at one stage. With WWF Champ The Rock needing a dance partner to keep him busy until he could take on Stone Cold at WrestleMania XV, Foley (as Mankind) got the gig and shockingly managed to actually go on to win the Title on an episode of Raw.
The match between Rock and Mankind was solid at best, but the atmosphere surrounding it was incredible, as the live crowd really wanted to see the belt change hands. The fact that Rock (The Corporation) and Mankind (DX) had allies at ringside only added to the growing tension, with things finally exploding when Ken Shamrock and Billy Gunn started to throw fists at one another, leading to both factions clobbering each other at ringside. In the confusion, Steve Austin’s glass shattered and the audience lost their collective minds, as Austin stomped down to ringside and brained Rock with a chair before draping Mankind on top for the cathartic three count.
Everything from the glass shattering onwards was executed perfectly, with Vince McMahon not even trying to disguise his disgust whilst Austin taunted him and Mankind celebrated in the ring with his newly won belt. The reaction for the three count remains one of my favourite wrestling moments ever, as the crowd utterly erupts at getting to see history made before them. Mankind’s heartfelt post-match victory speech gives the moment further gravitas, with levity added by Vince spitting out that he wants to puke.
I also have to give credit to Michael Cole as well. He rightly gets a lot of criticism for his commentary during this period, but he absolutely nails the call once Mankind picks up the win and really adds to making it a special moment. If he was going to have good night, then I’m glad it was for this bout.