A brief history of the Raw after WrestleMania (Part 1)

The Monday night after the biggest event in the annual wrestling calendar has its own aura and mythology these days. Hot crowds, surprises, stories launched for the months ahead... it's almost as anticipated and just as fun as the Grandaddy Of Them All these days. Before the smarks fill the Barclays Center tonight, presenting a guide in two parts to what of note happened on every Raw (and SmackDown once we get to the brand split) after the night before...

April 5th 1993 (after WrestleMania IX)
Taped before "the world's biggest toga party", the biggest moment was the Raw debut of Jerry Lawler, who had been an announcer since December 1992 but returned to the ring mostly so he could start his long feud with the Hart family two months later. He walks out on the match twice because the fans won't stop chanting "Burger King" at him before beating Jim Powers and calling out Randy Savage.

March 21st 1994 (after WrestleMania X)
The first time Raw ever aired live after a PPV and little of note happens. Vince interviews new champion Bret Hart, Savage returns to commentary and closes the show by responding to Jeff Jarrett's challenge by throwing him out of the ring, and Chris Hamrick, in facing Tatanka, takes the Hamrick Bump.

April 3rd 1995 (after WrestleMania XI)
Still live in their home base of Poughkeepsie, this is regarded as the first post-Mania Raw to begin new angles. Diesel offers Shawn Michaels a world title rematch which Shawn accepts and says he doesn't need Sid as a bodyguard any more, which leads to a beatdown (which happens during a commercial break and leads to Michaels taking two months off) and Diesel making the save. There's a Alundra Blayze vs champion Bull Nakano match featuring jobber entrances as it's both women's first TV match of the year - Blayze wins but is attacked post-match by an unidentified woman in facepaint and leather, which writes her off TV for cosmetic surgery. This is Rhonda Singh AKA Monster Ripper and she was meant to feud with old foe Nakano, but this would be Bull's last match in WWF as she was fired for cocaine possession so she became Bertha Faye instead.

April 1st 1996 (after WrestleMania XII)
A big debut to start the show after weeks of vignettes - Mankind, who beats Bob Holly in less than four minutes to "he's hardcore" chants (the smarks showing up already?) by debuting the Mandible Claw. Foley later uses the same move to put Undertaker out, running out after Taker bested the previously unbeaten Justin Hawk Bradshaw in the main event and destroying him. Both Holly and Taker foam at the mouth for effect. There's also a lesser debutant in Marc Mero, beating Isaac Yankem with Sable in the front row for HHH to flirt with and earn a slap for his troubles.

March 24th 1997 (after WrestleMania 13)
Undertaker is champion, Bret and Austin double turned, and there's another big plot point in the opener as tag champions British Bulldog and Owen Hart finally come to blows after months of teases, leading to an Owen post-match challenge for Davey Boy's European Championship, leading to both making up to help form the Hart Foundation, leading to broken necks, Canadian Stampedes and screwjobs to come. More directly, later on Bret himself cuts a superb self-justifying promo that emphasizes his Canadian roots and so sets up the Harts against America and more specifically Austin and Shawn, the latter interrupting for some First Amendment quoting, worked shoot hints and an eventual ringpost figure-four. Then while Michaels is helped away Bret sticks around to attack Rocky Maivia, just because. Undertaker shows up at the end to have Paul Bearer and Mankind interrupt, both wanting Taker for differing reasons, and we're out of time.

March 30th 1998 (after WrestleMania XIV)
Night one of the Austin Era starts with Vince bringing out a new title belt for Austin to claim, retiring the Winged Eagle Belt, and trying to convince Stone Cold to work with him in representing the company. Vince eventually suggests Austin "do things the easy way" or "the hard way" with the inevitable result, Austin is led away by police, and the moneymaking feud of the Attitude Era is kicked into high gear. As for its other greatest component, having been left hanging at Mania by Farooq the Rock returns the favor and sees the Nation Of Domination leader get destroyed by Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman, leading to a post-match brawl where the whole Nation turn on Farooq and Rock declares himself the real leader. Meanwhile Triple H tells us that after seeing Shawn be humiliated by both Austin and Mike Tyson he's turned his back and himself now leads a new D-Generation X. To prove it he namedrops the Kliq in introducing Syxx, recently fired by WCW, to cut a promo on Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff claiming Hall and Nash were being held hostage, the kind of worked shoot that we hadn't had a lot of at the time so everyone reacts hugely to. Later on HHH and the now X-Pac interfere in the main event cage match to give the New Age Outlaws the tag titles over Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie via spike piledriver onto a chair and really form the all-new DX with Michaels going into injury retirement. And on top of all that monumental scene setting there's the first Val Venis promo, Marc Mero vs Taka Michinoku starts with Luna Vachon proposing Sable meet her in the first evening gown match and ends with Kaientai debuting with a Michinoku gang beatdown, Kane and Paul Bearer propose an inferno match to Undertaker, and Dan Severn debuts as Jim Cornette's NWA-affiliated bodyguard to throw the Headbangers around. Two weeks later WCW's 83 week ratings streak would be over. Not just the biggest post-Mania Raw ever but a very live candidate for the most important Raw ever.

March 29th 1999 (after WrestleMania XV)
Austin is champion again and immediately tells us he wants to relinquish the belt, which Vince takes but is then told he can have the belt but Austin is still champion and wants the Smoking Skull belt back from McMahon. Vince has enough problems with Undertaker, who takes Sable hostage and during the distraction Stephanie disappears. Ken Shamrock volunteers to find her and drags a confession out of Brood member Christian with the aid of an ankle lock even after a bloodbath, finding her in the basement with the Ministry mark on her forehead. Meanwhile Shane has located the Smoking Skull belt and Vince gives him the go-ahead to return it as he has other things to care about. Shane instead prioritizes helping HHH and Chyna beat down X-Pac - HHH turned on him the previous night to join the Corporation - until Kane intervenes, but eventually he faces off with Austin and reveals Rock has the belt, leading to a huge end of show brawl involving all three, HHH, Shamrock, Test and Big Show, the latter of who is also calling Vince out after the previous night and ends proceedings by chokeslamming HHH. Somewhere in between Goldust beats Road Dogg for the IC title with the aid of a Blue Meanie belt shot.

April 3rd 2000 (after WrestleMania 2000)
Vince turned on Rock to give HHH the title the previous night the McMahon In Every Corner main event, and a night later he resets everything as he takes up Shane's olive branch before reconciling with Stephanie as well as HHH while refusing to tell us why he turned. Trips says Rock giving Stephanie a People's Elbow to close the PPV makes it personal so he wants payback with a non-title match. Vince and Shane also want a match with Rock, leading to Shane thinking Stephanie is manipulating herself over him again, leading to drawn straws leaving Shane with the match that Vince and HHH suckered him into. This all leads to an interference heavy main event that ends with Rock getting the three count on... HHH, a move that would doubtless inspire the Jericho screwjob two weeks later. Jericho for his own part loses the European Championship to Eddie Guerrero after Chyna turns on him, a night after she pinned Eddie, and start her phase as Eddie's Mamacita. Crash Holly ends Hardcore Holly's day-long Hardcore Championship reign with the aid of the Acolytes to make up for the infamously botched Mania finish. Kurt Angle is so upset about losing both his titles without being pinned he puts Howard Finkel in a crossface, new tag champions Edge & Christian show an early sign of their heel turn, and Big Show separates from Shane, dances to launch a comedy turn that lasted about two months.

April 2nd 2001 (after WrestleMania X-Seven)
The first Raw for which there was only one major US wrestling company, and the first story beat is... Stephanie challenging Trish Stratus to a "whipping match". Luckily Vince follows her up right after, is superior about having fulfilled his promise to shock, mocks JR and then submits to a steel cage world title rematch after Rock has put him in the sharpshooter. The match went to a no-contest largely thanks to HHH, who was aligned with Vince but was caught out by his turn, joining forces with the pair and forming the Two Man Power Trip. This Raw is in Fort Worth, Texas, so the initial problem is they weren't going to boo Austin alone even if he told the fans they didn't deserve an explanation. Even so, Rock was now taking four months off to make The Mummy Returns so they were already failing to build another face challenger, the Power Trip lasted seven weeks before HHH's quad tear put him out for the rest of the year and then in late June the Invasion angle started with the mess that ended up as (Shane cut a promo from WWF New York but the WCW purchase wasn't otherwise mentioned) Oh, and the whipping match went to DQ after William Regal attacked Trish after Vince had had a word with him, until Chris Jericho ran him off, to which Regal booked Y2J in a handicap match against himself and Kurt Angle which they won before Benoit made the save if only to get at Angle.

March 18th 2002 (after WrestleMania X8)
Here's a main event - Hulk Hogan and the Rock vs Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, inspired by Hogan fighting off the Outsiders during their match the previous night. It ends in the Outsiders getting themselves counted out, but by then there's been two huge pieces of news to overshadow even that star power, and that's not even counting Austin no-showing due to arguments with Vince that also cost him a Mania match. Firstly Linda McMahon announces the brand extension, with co-owner Ric Flair getting Raw and Vince Smackdown, and the draft will take place the following week. Secondly Paul Heyman, fired after the Invasion ended at Survivor Series 2001, returns with a new friend, Brock Lesnar disrupting a hardcore match between Maven and Al Snow and beating down the interfering Spike Dudley while he was at it. Elsewhere new champion Triple H accepts a rematch with Jericho for the following week only if Stephanie is involved too and promises to leave the company if HHH pins her - he would, and accordingly she never appeared on WWF TV again. (She sat out three months and came back as Smackdown GM a month after the name change)

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