In January 1993 a new wrestling program debuted on the USA Network and it was called Monday Night Raw. Nearly 20 years later we are approaching 1000 episodes. In all the episodes of Monday Night Raw there have been some great matches that have taken place. I have somehow narrowed a list down to my top ten favorite matches that really stood out to me. I put this list together based uniqueness of the match, quality of the match and how it impacted Monday Night Raw or wrestling history. A lot of people are going to have different opinions of what their top 10 are going to be but these matches had a lot of significance to them and changed the landscape of sports entertainment. The five matches I considered for the top 10 that didn’t make it in were good but it was a hard decision. Here are those 5:
WWE Championship Match- Mankind vs. The Rock(c), January 1999
WWE Championship TLC Match- Ric Flair vs. Edge(c), January 2006
WWE Championship Match- Triple H vs. Mankind(c), August 1999
WWE Championship Match: Edge vs. John Cena vs. RVD(c), July 2006
WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Johnny Nitro vs. Jeff Hardy(c), November 2006
#10- Vince McMahon has and always will be at the center of some controversy. In the summer of 2009 it was no different. Raw was suppose to be in Denver but Nuggets owner Stan Kronke made the mistake of scheduling one of the playoff games on that night which deprived the fans of WWE in Colorado and left WWE without a building. Los Angeles stepped in and gave Monday Night Raw the Staples Center. It was on that night a unique tag match took place. It was the WWE’s version of the Lakers and Nuggets. This night would almost mark the last night of Mr. Kennedy in WWE as he was released a day later. This was one of those matches that unique and fun to watch because of the circumstances behind it.
#9- The week before Wrestlemania 18 we saw a once in a life time handicap match that I can guarantee you that we will never ever see again. It was the n.W.o (Hogan, Hall and Nash) taking on The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was a match of epic proportions and had huge star power in it. The n.W.o won the match and gained momentum towards Wrestlemania. This was Hogan’s first match in a WWE ring in 9 years. WWE struck gold on this night when 3 legends who reigned in WWE in the early and mid 90’s and the two that took it to higher levels in the late 90’s into the new decade.
#8- On a night where John Cena was looking for two tag team partners to take on Christian, Jericho and Tomko he didn’t have to look very far. Shawn Michaels stepped up earlier in the night and Hulk Hogan made a special appearance. It was the first and only time that these three would appear in the ring together. It was the past, present and future all in one match. It was a really good match that showcased all three superstars talents. The cool part about this is that Cena left the ring and gave the ring to Hogan and Michaels. This match to me will stand the test of time because it was a once in a lifetime match that had tremendous star power.
#7- In 1993 when Raw started Shawn Michaels was the reigning Intercontinental Champion. On this given night when Raw was barely a month old Marty Jannetty re-appeared on WWE programming to challenge his former tag team partner for a title match. Michaels accepted and the match was considered a classic and named match of the year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Jannetty won the Intercontinental title and proved he wasn’t a slouch like everyone thought he was. Jannetty did not hold on to the title very long but it was the first time a title changed hands on Monday Night Raw but it wouldn’t be the last. This match was a classic title match that set the standard for title matches on Monday Raw for years to come.
#6- On a night where the entire WWE locker room paid tribute to Eddie Guerrero there is one match that stood above the rest. Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio had never met in the ring until this night. On this night they honored Eddie Guerrero by having a 20 minute classic. Rey Mysterio won the match but the real winners real the fans in attendance and those watching at home. Eddie Guerrero would have been proud of this match. I know I was watching it on TV.
#5- In December 2003, the Triple H-Shawn Michaels feud broiled on a year and a half later after it started. This particular Monday Night Raw was held in Shawn’s home state of Texas and it did not disappoint. Shawn and Triple H had a classic and in the end Shawn looked like he won the title but it was ruled both men’s shoulder were down on the mat. It was ruled a draw and Triple H retained the World Heavyweight title. This match led to more classic matches between these in 2004. Anytime these two met in the ring it was a match to watch. They always had the best matches of the night and this one was no different.
#4- In 2002, Jeff Hardy was coming into his own as a singles competitor and on this night he truly got noticed. He took on The Undertaker in a ladder match for the WWE Championship. On this night a lot of people thought the upset of the century would happen because The Undertaker had never competed in a ladder match. Jeff and Taker had a great ladder match. Even though Jeff Hardy has had his up’s and down’s since then, I truly believe that this is the night Jeff got noticed as a singles competitor. Jeff has had many great moments and when Undertaker raised his hand at the end of this match that was one of those great moments.
#3- The duo of Triple H and Steve Austin shook things up in the WWE in the spring of 2001. At one point Austin was WWE Champion, Triple H was Intercontinental Champion and they held Tag Team Championships. In May of 2001, The Two Man Power Trip took on the duo of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. This match was a great match even though Triple H got injured. Jericho and Benoit won the titles but many remember it as the night Triple was sidelined for 9 months. The match was epic and so was Triple H’s effort after he got injured. Jericho and Benoit went on to a month long title reign that involved them being in some more epic matches along the way.
#2- A week before Backlash in 2007 Shawn Michaels had to prove he could beat John Cena. In a 45 minute classic in the UK Shawn Michaels defeated Cena with Sweet Chin Music. I am not a fan of Cena’s wrestling ability but this was probably his match in his tenure in WWE. Shawn Michaels has always made everyone in the ring better and on this night it was no different. This would not be the last time Cena and Michaels would meet but when they did it couldn’t match what they did in the UK.
#1- In the first month of Raw there were very few epic matches. This match took place on January 18th 1993. Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair had a successful partnership for over a year and it ended abruptly when Perfect realized he was being held back by Flair and Bobby Heenan. The reason this match is still number one in my opinion is because it set the standard for epic, drama filled matches on Monday Night Raw. There was no internet spoilers back then so nobody knew Flair was headed back to WCW which made it even more shocking when he lost. I honestly thought Perfect was going to lose and go back to announcing since he was having on and off again back issues. This match was so fun to watch and it’s even funner to remember.
It was hard to narrow the list down to 10 but these matches are what stands out to me in being significant and classic to the history of Monday Night Raw. The 1000th episode of Raw airs on July 23rd at 8pm on the USA Network. I have no doubt that it will create new memories and be a monumental night in the history of television, sports and entertainment and most importantly the WWE. The world will indeed be watching.