On Monday Night, July 23, 2012, the WWE’s flagship program, Monday Night Raw will be celebrating its 1,000th episode. The first broadcast aired on January 11th, 1993, and the show’s popularity just skyrocketed. Raw has featured many memorable moments over the past the past two decades, and I would like to share a few of my favorite moments in the show’s history.

In one of the early episodes, Razor Ramon battled an unknown wrestler – The Kid. I am sure spectators expected the young wrestler to be dominated by his more experienced opponent. It started out that way, but The Kid slowly got in a little bit of offense, and fans started cheering and supporting the youngster. When Razor missed a move, The Kid scaled to the top rope and performed a back flip to cover his rival. What a sight it was! To the shock of everyone – fans, announcers and the television audience, The Kid emerged victorious. I am sure he surprised himself as well. That moment, in my mind, gave the feeling that anything can happen on Raw.

The “Monday Night Wars” was a television ratings battle between Raw and WCW Monday Nitro. On January 4, 1999, Nitro was live and Raw was pre-taped. During the show, WCW play-by-play announcer, Tony Schiavone announced that “Mick Foley will win their (the WWE) World Title.” Then, he sarcastically added “That’ll put butts in the seats.” I am sure WCW management thought that this brilliant move would keep fans in United States from turning over to the competition. But, they were wrong.

Almost immediately after that comment, hundreds of thousands of wrestling fans turned the channel over to Raw to see Mick Foley (as his Mankind persona) defeat the Rock for the WWE title. Foley was strong and talented. He put his body through tremendous pain to accomplish this feat. After the match, wrestlers like Steve Austin, Triple H and Shawn Michaels entered the ring to celebrate this monumental achievement with the new champion. Mick Foley won his first World title, proving that dreams do come true. His perseverance, dedication and focus, brought him success and recognition. It was also the night that the WWE regained control of the “ratings war” until WCW closed its doors in March, 2001. This brings me now, to Monday Nitro’s final broadcast.

The final segment of both shows on March 26, 2001 was filled with drama. Vince McMahon entered the ring, in Cleveland, Ohio, to announce he had purchased WCW. As he was talking, fans see a split screen of the final Nitro broadcast in Panama City, Florida, where Vince’s son, Shane, walked to the ring on Nitro, to declare that he had bought WCW (that “announcement” by Shane was part of the storyline to build towards the father vs. son match at Wrestlemania 17. In reality, Vince purchased his rival promotion.)

Another memorable moment had to do with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. They had a controversial finish at the 1997 Survivor Series, in Montreal. It was instantly dubbed “the Montreal Screwjob.” For years after the match, Bret kept repeating that he would never talk to Shawn, or even step foot in a WWE ring. However, thirteen years later, things changed, and wrestling fans were in for a treat.

It all came to light on January 4, 2010 at Raw, Bret Hart was the “guest host.”  It was the first time he stepped into a WWE ring in over a decade, and one of the first things he did was invite Shawn to the ring. There was a tense moment, and a hush came over the fans who waited anxiously to hear something or see some action. But, a discussion occurred. After talking about their dislike, but mutual respect, for each other, Bret asked Shawn to “bury the hatchet”. Shawn agreed, and in one of the more surreal moments in Raw’s history, the two former rivals shook hands and embraced in the center of the ring. Everyone in attendance applauded this sign of public respect from two men who nobody thought would ever be on good terms. It just goes to show that even though there were grave differences between those two, they chose to forgive and move ahead.

A few weeks before last year’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view event, Raw emanated from Las Vegas. It was a thrilling night of action capped off by one of, if not the most scintillating, and realistic promos I have heard in a very, very long time.

After C.M. Punk assisted R-Truth in earning a victory over John Cena in a “Tables Match,” Punk walked up the ramp, and sat down on the stage with a microphone in hand.  He talked about what he perceived was wrong with the company – if someone was on Vince McMahon’s “good side” that individual was pushed. They received main event spots at Wrestlemania. They were given movie deals. Yet wrestlers like him (C.M. Punk) were overlooked – not fair for wrestlers whose goal was to be successful.

Ironically, I believe Punk’s push really kicked into “high gear” after that “pipe bomb” promo, as he held the WWE Championship twice, his popularity with fans soared, and they looked forward to moments when he appeared with a microphone, because nobody knew what he would say next. He was unpredictable, and fans loved the apparent spontaneous statements.

With the 1,000th episode around the corner, it was time for me to sit back and reflect on the achievements of some of the wrestlers, and the WWE as a whole. It was difficult to choose just five – as there were many others. While many may feel that other situations stood out, these five that I reminisced about, were the ones that I believed helped the WWE somewhat evolve. Please, if you have any other memories of Raw, feel free to share them.

Congratulations to the WWE for reaching this milestone for Monday Night Raw. I guarantee that the company will provide more memories from Raw in the years to come, and I hope Vince and his bookers continue to devise ways to add suspense to matches, and thrill fans in the years ahead. It requires great creativity to execute what they do on a weekly basis, and their dedication to the sport provides the fans with a great deal to look forward to. May they continue to entertain us all.

Azeem Kayum

Be Sociable, Share!