Wrestlemania is the highlight of the wrestling calendar, but unlike other huge sporting events, such as The Super Bowl, it is unique in that once it’s over, the action and excitement doesn’t stop. There is no off-season; in fact, we fans are treated to something almost as exciting the very next night.
The Raw after Wrestlemania has become famous for memorable debuts, returns, retirements, and shocking moments, and I’m going to rank my favourites. Here are my Top 10 Raw After Wrestlemania Moments.
10. Paige Wins the Divas Championship – 2014
What will soon be a part of a big Hollywood movie, produced by The Rock and written by Stephen Merchant, the Raw after Wrestlemania back in 2014 saw then longest reigning Divas Champion, AJ Lee, lose in shocking fashion against then NXT Women’s Champion, Paige, in her main roster debut. AJ was dominating this short match, until one Paige Turner later, the title swapped hands. Although I felt as though such a long, memorable reign shouldn’t have come to an end thanks to just one surprise move out of nowhere, the pure shock factor of this post-Mania moment earns it a place on my list.
9. AJ Becomes Number One Contender – 2016
After losing to Chris Jericho the previous night at the biggest Wrestlemania of all time, AJ Styles managed to win a fatal-four-way match to become the number one contender for the WWE Championship. The reason why I love this moment so much is that not only was it a bit of a genuine surprise to me, it was also the sign of change. Seeing a man known as Mr TNA for so many years get an opportunity for Vinny Mac’s biggest prize showed me that WWE seemed to be altering their ways for the better, and left me at the end of Raw with a feeling of hope in my heart. Whilst there are certainly some issues that still need addressing in the land of sports entertainment, there’s no denying that over the last year, many things have certainly changed for the better.
8. DX Recruits a New Army – 1998
At Wrestlemania 14, after a gruelling WWF Championship match, Shawn Michaels left the company to recover from excruciating back injuries. With the leader of DX gone, many wondered what would happen to Shawn’s sidekicks, Triple H and China. Well, we got our answer the next night. Hunter stepped up as the new sergeant, and formed the DX army by recruiting recently released WCW talent, and Kliq member, X-Pac. Later in the night, DX signed up two more members as they helped The New Age Outlaws defeat Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie. This iteration of DX was a big part of my early wrestling fandom, and seeing them form such a strong team from such an unfortunate situation within just one night will always be one of my favourite Raw after Wrestlemania moments.
7. Brock Returns – 2012
Fresh from his lost to The Rock, Cena stood in the ring, when suddenly, a very familiar guitar riff echoed through the arena for the first time in eight years. The crowd erupted as former WWE and UFC Champion, Brock Lesnar, walked to the arena. Without saying a word, The Beast turned the wrestling world on its head with just one F-5 to the industry’s biggest star. Brock was the most dominating force on Smackdown (I was blue brand through and through) back when I was a child, so to see him back and still in destructive form was a brilliant and exciting prospect.
6. Mankind Debuts – 1996
Mick Foley is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time, so obviously his debut is going to be quite special to me, but what really makes this gimmick’s first appearance truly memorable is the way in which it happened. Not only did he polish off Bob Holly in convincing fashion, he also emerged once again during the main event to attack my other favourite wrestler, The Undertaker. To assault and incapacitate WWE’s most protected star at the time on his first night in the company was quite a sight to behold, and marked the start of Taker’s best rivalry to date, that lasted for many years to come.
5. Austin Stuns McMahon – 1998
This moment is considered by many to be the start of The Attitude Era. With one extremely badly executed Stunner, the greatest storyline rivalry in wrestling history began.
4. Ric Flair Retirement – 2008
Behold, the grandest, most spectacular retirement segment in the history of wrestling. It really says something about how revered and legendary Ric Flair is that the entire roster, along with various foes and partners of the past, emptied out to pay their respects. This is over 20 minutes of speeches, uncharacteristic emotion, kayfabe breaking at its most heart-warming, and plenty of tears. Just try not to think about all of the TNA matches he had afterwards when you watch this.
3. Thank You Taker – 2017
The latest Raw after Mania opened with a booming crowd paying their respects to arguably the greatest character in wrestling history. “Thank you Taker” was chanted for minutes on end without interruption, and it was the perfect send off for The Deadman. However, the chorus of acclaim was suddenly interrupted by the harsh sounds of Roman Reign’s entrance music. The arena erupted in boos which ‘reigned’ down upon the man who retired their beloved Taker the night before. Every time he tried to speak, the hatred increased in noise. After minutes of silence, Roman emphatically stated, “This is my yard now!” before walking back up the ramp accompanied by a stream of detest. A perfect send-off followed by the perfect response – simply incredible.
2. Dolph Cashes In – 2013
No crowd in WWE history is more memorable than from the Raw after Wrestlemania 29. This collection of people made every subsequent post-Mania crowd step up their game. They were loud, they were ridiculous, they even made Fandangoing a thing for about a week, but they’re most remembered for one of the biggest pops of all time. This moment ranks so highly on my list purely for the sheer noise that crowd produced. No matter how many times I watch the moment Dolph cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase, I will always get goosebumps. Although I’m not a particularly huge fan of Dolph Ziggler, seeing someone as talented and deserving as him getting such an incredible, unforgettable moment really is something special.
Hardys Return to Raw – Although their big moment came at Wrestlemania, seeing these two legends come back to Monday Night Raw accompanied by a mass of “DELETE!” chants was a wonderful sight.
The Revival Debuts – The top guys debuted against the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history, and beat them on their first try. Now that is how you do it.
Goldberg Debuts – Seeing the most dominant man in WCW finally come to WWE was special for me back in the day
The Shield Stares Down Evolution – In 2014, The Shield stood across the ring at three former members of Evolution, and at that moment, we all knew we were in for something special.
Ultimate Warrior’s Speech – In hindsight, this has become one of the most chilling speeches in WWE history, with an unfortunate amount of foreshadowing that would hold true just the following day.
Brock Debuts – A completely unknown came out and destroyed everybody in the ring in amazing fashion, marking the start of something special.
Enzo and Cass Debut – The most charismatic team in NXT history finally arrived on the main roster last year to the delight of many, myself included.
- Daniel Bryan Deserves It – 2014
If you read my list of my favourite Wrestlemania moments, you’ll know how much I loved Daniel Bryan’s world title victory at Wrestlemania XXX, so it should be no surprise that this tops my list. Monday Night Raw the following night opened with the familiar sounds of Flight of the Valkyries, and the arena filled with YES! chants. The newly crowd champ tried to speak, but the deafening sound of the audience left him stunned in silence. Seeing the emotion on his bearded face as he is surrounded by the loudest “You Deserve It!” chants I have ever heard has a truly special place in my heart, and will probably remain as my favourite Raw after Wrestlemania moment for a long time to come.
What are your favourite Raw after Mania moments? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @HairyWrestling.