Behind the Barricade #1
Top Five Monday Night RAW Events I’ve Attended
January 22, 2018
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
For quite a while, I’ve been kind of kicking around the idea of returning to do a featured article on Wrestleview. I used to do the standalone RAW reviews, but trying to muster the will to write a long review week in and week out was mentally taxing.
That’s not a knock on the show being bad. It simply comes down to it being a long show and to try to think back and remember how I felt about some segment with Hornswoggle and El Torito was draining. Also, as you can probably tell from my RAW recaps, I’m a pretty thorough guy and don’t like to haphazardly throw stuff out there with little to no thought.
I’m a subscriber to the ideal being that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I couldn’t not put my all into it, but doing that prevented me from being consistent with it. You’d be surprised at the number of nearly finished reviews on my hard drive that never quite made it to publication.
Well, I’ve learned from my mistakes and understand my limitations. I’m married and I’m in a career that I love, but I also love wrestling and cherish the platform that has been graced to me for the past ten years (what?!) by my dear friends Adam Martin and Paul Nemer of this website. Writing about wrestling is something I have to do, but I’ll do it smartly.
Starting today, I’m going to be writing a biweekly featured article on some topic going connected to the world of professional wrestling. I find that I have tons of opinions on topics in the wrestling world, but recapping RAW doesn’t allow me to express them. I hope you’ll enjoy these articles and they’ll challenge you to think and want to debate, which I am more than happy to do (as long as you’re respectful) through e-mail or, even better, the comments section below. Your readership is very important to me.
I’ll also be doing a separate monthly feature reviewing the best and worst of RAW of that calendar month. I’m not going to thoroughly review any one show. I’ll be giving you my opinion on what was the best match of the month, best angle, best promo, etc. I’m looking for the help of the readership to help me mold that column into what you’d be interested in reading. Are there any categories of things you’d like me to give a best and worst of? Please let me know.
Anyway, I think I’ve taken enough time talking about what I’m going to do. Now it’s time to actually do it. Here we go.
Being that it’s the 25th anniversary of RAW tonight and I’m the RAW recapper, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a special piece on the best of RAW throughout those years. Now there have been a ton of these “Best of” lists produced by WWE and various other outlets, so I’ll just give you the top five RAW moments I’ve seen live in the crowd.
I’m from New Jersey (and 20 miles from New York City), so these will basically all be the best moments of the RAWs I’ve attended in this area, but my area tends to get a lot of great shows. I’ve been quite blessed to have the means to have attended over 50 WWE events through the years, including five WrestleMania’s, four SummerSlam’s, two Royal Rumble’s and various other PPV events.
I’ve seen a lot of great moments through the years I’ve been going.
Here are the top five RAW shows I’ve been to.
#5: July 15, 2013 (Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY)
My memories of this show are all great. I was in my mid-20s and was just at a point in my life where I was just doing things with complete spontaneity (that hasn’t changed much). On Friday night of this week, I randomly bought tickets to Money in the Bank, which took place in Philadelphia, and took my then girlfriend with me. That night, Paul Heyman turned on CM Punk. Philly is about two hours from us, so when we saw that RAW was at the Barclays Center, maybe a half hour from us with no traffic (never happens), it was just one of those type of deals where it was 5 PM on Monday and we simply decided to get some cheap tickets on Stubhub and head to RAW to see the continuation of that angle. I’m glad we did.
This show was pretty action packed. We walked in and the Brooklyn Brawler was making his entrance to face Ryback on Superstars. It was all uphill from there. No matches really stick out for me in my mind except for a long 20-minute match with the returning Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho. It’s the angles I remember much better. The promo with CM Punk talking about Paul Heyman turning on him was great business, as was the arrival of Brock Lesnar to set up what was a great SummerSlam match between the two of them. The SummerSlam main event was also set when Daniel Bryan was chosen to face John Cena for the WWE Championship. That got a huge reaction from the crowd. It’s one of the few times I’ve been leaving a WWE event with everyone universally talking about what a great move WWE made on the show. On a funny side note, also walking out with the crowd was Alex Riley, then still employed by WWE. I talked with him briefly and still don’t get why he was walking out of the Barclays Center with his bag and all along with the crowd rather than with the other wrestlers. If you ask him, he’ll probably blame John Cena.
#4: April 8, 2013 (IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ)
The RAW the night after WrestleMania 29 will live in infamy I believe. This kind of set the standard for the wild crowds for the RAW’s after WrestleMania that I don’t believe have ever been matched (though that 10-minute-long hate-fest on Roman Reigns from RAW 2017 certainly is in the running). For better or for worse, this is the expectation for every RAW after WrestleMania.
There were some really great moments on this show. John Cena’s promo to open up the show and turning his heel while saying “heel turn” was truly great. There was also an awesome appearance by The Undertaker that was interrupted by The Shield. Team Hell No then made the save, which was really great. This was also the show where the crowd murdered the Randy Orton vs. Big Show match and the start of “Fandango-ing.” The best though was the Money in the Bank cash in by Dolph Ziggler. Did that title run turn out well for him? Not really, but that moment will be burned into my memory forever. That pop was so loud. I don’t believe I’ve ever been involved in a pop like that at any show other than a WrestleMania. I still have the recording on my computer, but it doesn’t do justice how deafening that was. Great moment.
On a side note, April 8 is my wife’s birthday. She’s a huge fan of The Miz. Miz had just won the Intercontinental Championship from Wade Barrett the night before, so she was psyched. Unfortunately for her, Miz lost the title the next night at this RAW on her birthday. Poor her.
#3: August 24, 2015 (Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY)
I’m not sure my voice ever recovered from this show because I was cheering (more like screaming) for a good portion of this show. This was the night after SummerSlam 2015 when Undertaker beat Brock Lesnar in a controversial finish. Brock Lesnar kicked off the show and absolutely laid waste to Bo Dallas, feeding off the crowd and really seeming to enjoy himself. That was a lot of fun to watch. Then in the very next segment, The Dudley Boyz randomly returned to beat up The New Day and put Xavier Woods through a table with the 3D. That was such an unreal surprise. I was screaming my head off for that one. I’m not even sure why. I wasn’t a huge Dudley Boyz fan. I think I just like truly being surprised at a wrestling show. I love that there was nothing out there about a Dudley Boyz return. Great surprise. We also saw Jon Stewart, who randomly turned heel and ruined what was a truly great match with John Cena and Seth Rollins the night before with a run-in, getting an Attitude Adjustment while Ric Flair watched on and shook his head.
The main angle was the most memorable portion of the show. Many people were wondering what was going to be Sting’s next step after losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 31 and there was a lot of buzz that he might get involved in the Undertaker match the night before at SummerSlam. Well, that didn’t happen, but he did make an appearance on this RAW. Sting ruined some ceremony with The Authority giving Seth Rollins a statue of himself. Sting was revealed to be under the tarp. That was such a loud pop and where I officially blew my voice out. Sting didn’t make too many WWE appearances. I had never seen Sting live before, so this was really special. This segment started with Stephanie McMahon having the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to Vince, so this definitely took some interesting turns.
Probably the most important thing to happen on this show was the debut of Braun Strowman. Strowman is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and fun wrestlers to watch on WWE television today. Glad I got to see his debut.
#2: June 23, 2003 (Madison Square Garden in NYC)
This is one of those episodes of RAW that you would generally see on a Top 25 list or so. This one is famous for being the night Kane unmasked for the first time. I think it’s kind of forgotten what a big deal this was because Kane has gone back and forth with the mask so many times, but this was literally huge in the wrestling world. It was the worst kept secret of all time that Kane was played by the guy who was the former Isaac Yankem, DDS, a nemesis of Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler’s dentist, so people had seen him unmasked in the past, but this was still a big deal. It’s kind of weird – no, really weird – that this kind of angle took place on a RAW rather than a big PPV event. Triple H, who at the time was running wild with Evolution, took on Kane in the main event with the Mask vs. World Title stipulation. I honestly don’t remember much about the match. I remember a lot of brawling and some interference, but it’s the post-match that I’ll never forget. Kane unmasking and having his face shown on the titantron was crazy. The crowd was amazed. Then he gave his ally Rob Van Dam a Chokeslam and set off pyro that must have been double what they normally do because it was ear shattering and bone jarring. It was so loud and really made me jump. That was such a great angle.
Other things happening on this show was the truly awesome Mick Foley appreciation ceremony. At the time, Mick Foley was still my all-time favorite wrestler, so this was really neat to see. They did a really spectacular job with this and probably the only time “Frosty the Snowman” was quoted on WWE television. Later in the night, they set up an angle for WrestleMania XX with Foley and Randy Orton. Goldberg made his MSG debut (not a place with many happy memories for him) and ended Rodney Mack’s “White Boy Challenge.” Also got to see Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash in action as well. Totally loaded show and worth a watch on the WWE Network for sure.
#1: July 15, 2002 (Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ)
I remember this RAW like it was yesterday, as it was first time ever attending a RAW. I can remember being 15 years old and going to the event with my dad, my brother, and my cousin, who was a huge WCW fan and still not 100% recovered from their demise. I was wearing my nWo shirt and was psyched to be going to this event. I can remember the seats, the sights, the smell of the pyrotechnics… everything. It’s amazing how much I can remember by just looking at this date and closing my eyes. This was a time when I was recording every show WWE had to offer and watching them multiple times throughout the week. At the time, I thought I was going to be a professional wrestler and believed in studying tape. I still believe in that and think most wrestlers should.
There was a lot going on in wrestling in the lead-up to this RAW. The WWE was still in the process of trying to get people to buy in to the first-ever brand split, Stone Cold Steve Austin had just up and left in June, and RAW was a mess with bad storylines and culminating with Kevin Nash tearing his quad in Philadelphia the week before. There were a lot of question marks heading into this show as to what Vince McMahon was going to do. Also a few weeks prior, McMahon had tried to legitimately rile up his roster with his “ruthless aggression” speech on live television. This was to continue on this episode.
Well all those questions were mostly answered this night on RAW. This RAW basically set the direction for the rest of the summer essentially. It kicked off with Vince McMahon coming out to the music of the nWo and announcing that that would be the last time anyone ever hears that music because he was disbanding them. McMahon then announced he would be choosing two general managers (one for RAW, one for Smackdown), with the first general manager being introduced later in the night. It was a quick and shocking change of pace.
That RAW general manager wound up being Eric Bischoff, formerly the leader of WCW that was trying to put WWF out of business not that long ago. I’ll never forget seeing Bischoff walk out onto the stage to the tune of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and the absolutely gasp of the crowd, including from my cousin. It was such a special moment. Other than being in the crowd for WrestleMania XXX when The Undertaker’s streak was ended by Brock Lesnar, this was easily the most stunned I’ve ever been at a wrestling event. Bischoff then cut a great promo about his time in WCW before talking about how he was going to put the “E” back in “WWE.” Such an awesome moment.
Speaking of Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, they were partners in a tag team main event against Rob Van Dam and Ric Flair. At the end of the match, Lesnar gave Undertaker the F5. That was an awesome moment. The other matches on the show were great as well. I remember Booker T and Big Show having a great match, an intense 6-man tag with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit being involved, and a really awesome hardcore match between Stevie Richards and Tommy Dreamer. I remember Dreamer coming off the second rope with a kendo stick shot to Richards that destroyed the stick and sent fragments into the crowd. It was a great RAW and a great time to be alive for me. They always say you never forget your first time. It’s true in many instances, but especially in this case. That’s another reason why this is the top RAW I’ve ever gone to.
Looking at this article, it’s a little long. I’m pretty sure they won’t all be this long. I was just really passionate about this topic and reminiscing.
Well, that’s my Top 5 list of the best RAW shows I’ve ever attended. Have you ever been to an episode of Monday Night RAW? What was your experience? Was it your favorite event? Let me know in the comments or e-mail me.
Check out my live recap of the 25th anniversary of WWE Monday Night RAW on tonight (January 22) starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern (7:00 CT).
Thanks for reading!