In honor of the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw next week, we highlight one elite moment on a year-by-year basis. The countdown begins in 1993 when Raw first went on the air.
For the purpose of our countdown, we examine shocking and emotional moments, but they have to come with reasons behind them. Shock in professional wrestling is not easy to achieve, but where is it going? Our top moments examine moments that both entertained, and transformed Monday Night Raw.
1993 – The 1-2-3 Kid – Simply picking Monday Night Raw’s premiere is too easy. If you want to enjoy that, go listen to three hours of conversation on Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard. For the purpose of this “best moments” breakdown, we take a look at the emergence of Sean Waltman on the grand stage. Often imitated and never duplicated, this was the shock of shocks at the time to see Razor Ramon embarrassed by a scrawny 21-year old kid. That kid went on to steal $10,000 of Razor’s own money and have great runs with both WWF and WCW. We have seen dozens of similar upsets as Monday Night Raw, but there is only one, 1-2-3 Kid.
1994 – Bret Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid – Simply put, this WWF Championship match may be the best in the first five years of Raw. Kid remains a loveable underdog on a hot streak after the upset that earned him the 1-2-3- moniker. Hart was the dominant champion who carried the company during the birth of Monday Night Raw. Within 22 minutes, soon-to-be X Pac showed us movies the casual fan had not seen at the championship level. Hart takes a Flair bump off the turnbuckle but recovers in time to country Kid’s dive into a sharpshooter. What a match. Ross and Macho Man gave both a standing ovation while Bret showed his clear respect for the young underdog.
1995 – The Tuxedo Match – This was such a weird moment that any younger fan should go back and watch it. We love Monday Night Raw for the wrestling and the surprises, but we also love it for simple, stupid fun. Dr. Harvey Whippleman vs. Howard Finkel, which ended in Finkel stripping Whippleman. What? So weird. So fun.
1996 – He’s Got a Gun – One can argue 100 different segments started the attitude era, but this one was so controversial that the whole world wanted to discuss it. Any wrestling fan of the era can tell you where they were when Steve Austin broke into his former Hollywood Blonde teammate’s home only to learn that Brian Pillman had a gun. While this infamous angle probably took things too far for the casual viewer, the tense feeling as the screen faded to black made a significant impact. Pillman’s Loose Canon persona transcended any single wrestling brand in the mid-90s. Imagine where it could have gone if he did not tragically pass away a year later.
1997 – Jim Ross Interview Series – First thing’s first, JR is a national treasure. While this is technically a series of moments, no one set the stage for his interviews better than Ross in 1997. What began with the backstage series to unveil Mankind and ended with the famous “Bret screwed Bret” conversation, Ross was 1997 star of Monday Night Raw. These two backstage sit-downs (Mankind’s was in multiple parts, however) may be the two best of their kind in the history of Monday Night Raw … and they happened in the same year! McMahon’s interview after the “Montreal Screwjob” officially moved him from the fun play-by-play voice to the villainous Mr. McMahon. For Mankind, this interview series is what sold him as a top star to the decision makers. Mankind went from a hated psychopath to one of the most interesting characters of the late 90s. Long live the Three Faces of Foley.
1998 – DX Invasion – On what seemed like a normal Monday night in Norfolk, Va., the edgy group known as Degeneration-X turned a battle between two rival wrestling companies into a legitimate war. The New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, Chyna and leader Triple H brought the war to WCW. While friendly with men like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, there was nothing friendly about what D-X did on that night. “D-X fires the first shot,” as Triple H put it at the time. Triple H took every cheap shot possible at WCW and turned its own fans against the product. Did we mention that they arrived on a legitimate USMC tank? Nobody will forget that moment.
1999 – Countdown to the New Millennium – How could we choose this over “This is Your Life, Rock”? How could we choose Chris Jericho over the Steve Austin beer truck? How does it beat Mankind’s WWF Title victory over Triple H? It is a great question and one that led to sleepless nights on the FRS Slam news desk. The simple answer is, there can be only one, and the choice was a tough one. Simply put, Austin, Mankind and the Rock were already proven WWF superstars. This was Jericho’s breakout moment (and the first example of his masterful ability to surprise the fans). Jericho still reinvents himself to this day and his surprise countdown debut and argument with the Rock as the first of many. When it comes to “working” the fans, Jericho truly is the Alpha.
2000 – Mae Young eats a Powerbomb – The shock value of shock value. The day after Mae Young turned 77 years old, she took the most brutal bump in her career. Just watch and enjoy. And if you liked that, go watch Bully Ray do the same thing to Dixie Carter almost 15 years later.