A brief history of the Raw (and brand split SmackDown) after WrestleMania (part 2)

Following part one covering 1994 to 2002, here is a guide to what happened on the fallout WWE TV episodes from the annual big day starting at the official end of the Steve Austin era (and first year after the two shows were split) and tracing debuts, major plot points and the rise of Smarkamania, with all the fan input that brought about and how those most targeted on those Mondays dealt with it...

March 31st & April 3rd 2003 (after WrestleMania XIX)
The night after finally losing to the Rock Raw GM Eric Bischoff fired Austin as he wasn't medically cleared to wrestle and on the retaliation of a threat to defy any doctor's orders reading out a set of medical issues as proof - many at the time thought was kayfabe possibly to move him to Smackdown but Stone Cold later confirmed the list of ailments were genuine and would return as GM himself a month later to torment Bischoff all year. For his opponent's part Rock Appreciation Night was set up entirely to have the smug Hollywood star booed to little success... until Goldberg appears for his WWE debut and inaugural spear, foreshadowed on the night by Bischoff promising a surprise and vignettes promising he would appear at Backlash, so much so the crowd were chanting for him through most of Rock's promo. HHH beat the Hurricane in four minutes after Rock had spent some time giving him the rub before he and Ric Flair helped Booker T in 3 on 1 beatdowns on Jericho and Michaels. Bischoff attempted to screw Kane and Rob Van Dam further by putting them in an elimination tag title match where if they lost they would have to join Eric's authority group against the Dudleys, who the GM told to lie down once they'd got rid of that team, and champions Lance Storm and Chief Morley. Instead the pair eliminated both opponents and took the title.

The first Smackdown of the brand extension era starts with Stephanie announcing that both Lesnar (SSP-related concussion, with his injuries fully explained later on) and Angle (out for two months with neck problems) were injured and the next title contender would be decided in an eight-man tournament - Undertaker, Chris Benoit, Rhyno and John Cena progress from the first round, Cena eventually won the tournament. Having lost to Hulk Hogan Vince fires him, leading to the Mr America gimmick, which ironically led to him leaving in real life. Also Sable returns after nearly four years away and kisses Torrie Wilson.

March 15th & 18th 2004 (after WrestleMania XX)
The aftermath of Benoit's title win sets up him and Shawn Michaels against Evolution for the main event, where Batista taps out to the champion. Before that Vince has a major announcement (interrupting a Miss Jackie vs Stacy Keibler match to do so), the first draft lottery. That basically means everything is in stasis this week, unless you count Christian explaining Trish Stratus had turned on Chris Jericho because she wanted "something a little more rough". Austin was 'Sheriff of Raw' at this point, but only for another month and with his activity here being stunning Rene Dupree for no good reason you can see why.

Brock Lesnar was gone but Paul Heyman was still around and upset that the Smackdown roster turned on him and let Austin invade the previous week. This he does by slapping Cena (leading to a US title match against Rhyno which he wins), having the APA fired for losing to Rikishi & Scotty Too Hotty and then reverting to only Farooq being handed his cards after being challenged by Bradshaw - a cover for Ron Simmons leaving the company - and setting up a gauntlet match for the chance to face Eddie Guerrero in a WWE title match, which Rey Mysterio wins and then only loses to Eddie after a great long match. To cap Heyman's day he gets tombstoned by the Undertaker.

April 4th & 7th 2005 (after WrestleMania 21)
Coming off Batista's world title win this Raw was underwhelming, the champion beating Randy Orton in a non-title match as HHH's rematch had been inked first. Muhammad Hassan beat down Michaels, Benoit beat Money In The Bank holder Edge in a good TV match and there's yet more wasting of Austin, this time on Simon Dean and Maven.
Smackdown started with a train of promos, from JBL to Eddie to Booker to Big Show to Rey to Kurt Angle and then Teddy Long to announce a #1 Contender tournament. The new holder of the WWE title was John Cena, who promised to unveil a new design the following week (spinner belt time!) The main event extends the issues between Eddie and Rey when Guerrero costs Mysterio a guaranteed tournament win over JBL by beating Bradshaw up himself.

April 3rd & 6th 2006 (after WrestleMania 22)
Chicago gave their customary "welcome" to Cena but HHH took the lead on the show, maneuvering Edge into agreeing to a handicap match against the new champion and staring him down after the win. The Spirit Squad, two and a half months into their run, took the tag titles, Kenny and Mikey representing the team and defeating Big Show and Kane with plenty of outside help and a Kenny guillotine leg drop; one of the teams that unsuccessfully challenged for that title at Mania, Carlito and Chris Masters, split up as Carlito attacked his partner. A debuting Armando Alejandro Estrada came to the ring to tear into Ric Flair and then let his new charge Umaga do the deed physically. As a reminder that Eddiesploitation didn't end when Chavo Guerrero's feud with Orton ended, Chavo claimed he was quitting having dedicated a match against IC champion Shelton Benjamin to Eddie's memory and lost, and that wasn't even the only Wrestlecrap entry of the night as Vince announced he and Shane would be facing Michaels and God at Backlash. (God lost by countout)

Over on SmackDown the Boogeyman's distraction enabled Gunner Scott to beat Booker T on his TV debut - he was off TV for good by July - Mysterio retained his world title over Orton, Paul London & Brian Kendrick beat champions MNM in a non-title match, Theodore Long announces the impending return of King Of The Ring and the Miz gets an introductory promo, even though he doesn't actually arrive until June. The Undertaker vs Mark Henry main event goes to no contest after a giant mystery man attacks Taker - this is our first look at the Great Khali. Those in the crowd got to see a second future World Heavyweight Champion for the first time as CM Punk worked the dark match teaming with the future Corey Graves - they lost to the Gymini.

April 2nd & 6th 2007 (after WrestleMania 23)
Another Raw starting with Cena holding his title to boos. Challenged to a title rematch by Michaels the pair were instead put in a 20-man battle royal for their tag titles, which they still won. Then they were put in a second 20-man battle royal, which was somehow the last straw for Shawn as he eliminated Cena himself halfway through announcing he was only interested in the world title. The Hardys came away with the belts. And that was about it for movement - Vince indulged in newly shaved head covering comedy when Bobby Lashley, who later retained the ECW title in a handicap match against Umaga and Estrada in the main event, appeared in a skit which ended with Lilian Garcia having her skirt ripped off, because 2007 WWE.

Over on Smackdown it was a bad night for Booker T, being slapped by Sharmell after he failed to beat Matt Hardy who had tried to Twist Of Fate her during Money In The Bank, then jumping new champion the Undertaker from behind only to receive a tombstone on the announce table which wrote him off TV for two months.

March 31st & April 4th 2008 (after WrestleMania XXIV)
This was all about Ric Flair's emotional retirement ceremony involving the majority of the current roster and his family plus Tully Blanchard, JJ Dillon, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine. Most of the notable stories were seeding for later, as new champion Orton was run down by JBL and then speared by Matt Hardy, the two facing off later with Orton winning, plus tension between Michaels and Batista and a Khali/Big Show stare-off. A rumored big return turned out to be Cryme Time, who only left six months earlier. Maria vs Santino Marella happened, lasting fifteen seconds as the entire Divas division attacked him first.

Shawn gave his emotionally conflicted side on Smackdown until Batista appeared to spit fire about him feeling he had to retire Flair, to no crowd reaction. Vickie Guerrero pitted Undertaker against Kane until Edge, Chavo Guerrero and the Edgeheads ran in, only to receive their own beatdown and Edge and Chavo take stereo tombstones. Elsewhere Vladimir Kozlov makes a quick squash debut, Matt Hardy beats US champion MVP in a non-title match, the Great Khali destroys Miz, John Morrison, Jimmy Wang Yang and Shannon Moore before Big Show forces him to beat a retreat, and Victoria's attack on Michelle McCool and Cherry is aided by a debuting Natalya.

April 6th & 10th 2009 (after WrestleMania XXV)
Randy Orton, "fresh" from losing to HHH, talked his way into both a Legacy vs McMahon family six-man at Backlash and a match against Vince in the main event, getting tripped up by Shane as he lined up a punt to draw the DQ leading to a Legacy beatdown on he and HHH before Batista, who had been out injured for four months, returned and cleared house, Vince replacing himself with Dave in the PPV match as a result. Vickie Guerrero became permanent Raw GM on a show mostly comprising crossover matches - Cena, Punk, Jeff Hardy, Mysterio and Steamboat vs Kane, Big Show, Edge, Matt Hardy and Jericho for one, another reminder after his work with Jericho the previous night that Ricky Steamboat could still go.

Teddy Long was back in charge of Smackdown, stepping in on a Hardy vs Hardy showdown to book a stretcher match, which Matt won when a Jeff swanton bomb onto a prone Matt missed.

March 29th & April 2nd 2010 (after WrestleMania XXVI)
The man who retired Ric Flair two years earlier now gave his own retirement speech, Shawn Michaels pledging not to go back on his word - hey, he wasn't to know about future Saudi investment - and only interacting with Undertaker and HHH throughout. Guest hosted by Rob Corddry and Clark Duke from Hot Tub Time Machine, which meant a Legends Lumberjack Match even though that's not how time travel works, Orton completes his face turn by teaming with Cena and getting the pinfall against Batista and Swagger, Bret Hart attempted to say goodbye (including revealing a T-shirt of him and Owen) but was interrupted by unified tag champions the Miz and Big Show who took a count-out defeat in the resultant match after David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd intervened, and a ten Diva tag match lasted for one move.

Jericho retained his World Heavyweight title and despite Edge spearing him through the timekeepers' wall showed up on Smackdown to gloat, which led to Edge hitting an impaler DDT and spear, which left the way open for Swagger to nail Edge with the briefcase, cash it in, hit Jericho with a powerbomb and win the world title. Straight Edge Society CM Punk announced he was putting his hair on the line against Rey Mysterio as a sacrifice to save Rey from himself, the NXT rookies enacted an eight on one beatdown of Kane (who had in fairness asked for the handicap match) and Dolph Ziggler put the Great Khali into a three month break.

April 4th & 8th 2011 (after WrestleMania XXVII)
Mania 27's fallout show set up the main event of Mania 28, the Rock vs John Cena. They argue, shake on it, beat up the Corre, Rock hits a Rock Bottom on Cena and then they celebrate the moment regardless. Sheamus beats Daniel Bryan in the match that should have happened on the Mania pre-show and a post-match beatdown is interrupted by the TV debut of Sin Cara, who botches his entrance and listen to how little reaction this crowd gives to someone already promoted as a huge signing compared to what NXT arrivals get in just a few years' time. Good news, everybody - Cole vs Lawler is still going! Michael Cole puts Lawler against Swagger, which he loses but the decision is reversed as Swagger refuses to let go of the ankle lock. Steve Austin shows up to promote Tough Enough which is interrupted by Miz and Alex Riley but only the latter takes the Stunner.

The last post-Mania Smackdown of the first brand extension era starts with Alberto Del Rio bemoaning Edge and Christian destroying his Rolls Royce at Mania only for them to drive out to the arena with the car on a tow truck and add some spray paint to it. Teddy Long announces Del Rio will face Christian in the main event with the winner meeting Edge at Extreme Rules, which Alberto wins after Brodus Clay distracts Christian. In fac the PPV match doesn't happen - he didn't know it yet but this would be Edge's last TV appearance as an active wrestler. Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Santino Marella take on the Corre in a two out of three falls match which ends when the group attack Kane en masse for a third fall DQ, Sin Cara beats down Swagger and Laycool's tensions surface when Michelle McCool refuses a tag claiming an injury and Layla gets rolled up by Kelly Kelly.

April 2nd 2012 (after WrestleMania XXVIII)
There's an argument that this show is the true beginning of the Smarkamania era and its insanely hot crowds. The chief instigator is Daniel Bryan, who doesn't even appear in front of them but after the 18 second match with Sheamus his chants reverberate around the arena in Miami while all the faces and cult favorites get notably huge reactions. When Sheamus' victory promo is interrupted by Alberto Del Rio, returning after a four month layoff, he gets a huge pop which dies when he tries to put over the efficiency of the victory. John Cena takes the main event segment to address his loss to the Rock and when not YES-ing over it the crowd chant for Brock Lesnar, who sure enough turns up after eight years away and F-5's him.

The Rock has the opening in-ring promo and promises to win the world title back one day, John Laurinaitis spends his first day as GM of both Raw and Smackdown launching the "people power" era, CM Punk retains his title by countout over Mark Henry (the two would face off for the next two weeks) before Jericho pours whiskey over his prone face and mouth before slipping over in it, Lord Tensai debuts by demolishing Alex Riley with Michael Cole acknowledging that he was a former WWE star who went to Japan (though Cole doesn't name Albert), and Brodus Clay starts a feud with Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger after Santino Marella kept the US title over both.

April 8th 2013 (after WrestleMania 29)
Another of the great moments that always comes up when post-Mania Raws are discussed, Dolph Ziggler cashing in his Money In The Bank contract on Alberto Del Rio to a monumental pop after Del Rio hurt his ankle against Swagger. Cena finally went over Rock at Mania and inevitably this crowd does not like him one bit, which he joyously embraces and plays up to - this is where his "heel turn" move comes from. With the Rock having gone home early due to injury Booker T puts Cena up against Mark Henry, which he wins by countout before Ryback hits the ring and saves him from Henry's post-match assault before attacking him anyway and turning heel for the first time under that name, not that the crowd reacted that way. Having debuted the chants for announcers the fans later break into "thank you Big Show" when he wrecks a Sheamus vs Orton match. Bryan loses to Big E Langston, as he still was, partly thanks to Ziggler interference, but later joins Kane in backing up the Undertaker when The Shield advance on him.

April 7th 2014 (after WrestleMania XXX)
A heavily newsworthy Raw but one tainted by tragedy in retrospect as Ultimate Warrior suffered a fatal heart attack hours after his final appearance, including the words "every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath" and finishing "the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever". Bryan finally won the big one the previous night and the crowd is all too willing to celebrate, chanting for minutes before he can get a word out. Triple H comes out to tell him he was only better for a moment - a promo he'd given in the opening segment of a post-Mania Raw twice before - and challenges Bryan to a rematch that night, where despite Orton, Batista and Kane all attacking him before the bell Bryan still escapes after the Shield complete their face turn and send the heels packing.

Heyman cuts a promo with relish where he debuts "eat, sleep, break the streak" and later brings Cesaro under his wing, for all the good that did him. Rusev and Lana make their Raw bows while Rob Van Dam returns from a six month sabbatical (he left four months later) and Adam Rose and Bo Dallas get video packages but the biggest debut belongs to Paige, who interrupts AJ Lee's self-congratulatory promo and wins the Divas title in a match that by necessity doesn't resemble the one in Fighting With My Family at all.

March 30th 2015 (after WrestleMania 31)
Lesnar had lost his world title to Seth Rollins' cash-in and he was far from happy about it, especially after Rollins told him to wait for his rematch, destroying tables and officials before F5'ing Michael Cole and a cameraman, getting a handy suspension for his troubles. Byron Saxton took over on solo commentary and was heavily struggling, which didn't give the newly single named Neville a great debut (Kalisto also made his first appearance on Raw) Bryan retained his new IC title over Ziggler in a great match before Bad News Barrett beats down both and then Sheamus, back from a four and a half month layoff with a mohawk and braided beard which gets "you look stupid" chants, joins in. AJ Lee worked what we didn't know then would be her final match wearing a Bayley shirt and Cena began the United States Championship Open Challenge by beating Dean Ambrose. Orton, Ryback and Roman Reigns vs Rollins, Kane and Big Show was the main event and went down as well to this crowd as you'd think.

April 4th 2016 (after WrestleMania 32)
Having lost to Undertaker Shane McMahon bid farewell having failed to wrest control from his father... who then put him in charge anyway. Reigns, getting the expected heavy reaction, told us "I'm not a bad guy, I'm not a good guy... I'm THE guy" and then issued an open challenge but instead got Jericho, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn feuding between themselves to set up a #1 contender Fatal 4-Way, but after Owens put Zayn through a backstage table a returning Cesaro replaced him to see Styles take the honors with a Styles Clash on Jericho, the payoff for Y2J going over the previous night (well, that's how Chris has framed it since) Reigns aside Charlotte's women's title presentation is the segment that gets taken over the most by the crowd as they incessantly chant for Bayley and then Natalya is the only person to challenge her. Baron Corbin, Enzo & Cass and Apollo Crews debuted, Maryse returned to distract Zack Ryder so the Miz could take his IC title off him after one day, and Barrett was written off and out of the company after his League of Nations colleagues reacted to his taking the pin in an unsuccessful shot at New Day's tag title by beating him down.

April 3rd & 4th 2017 (after WrestleMania 33)
"This is my yard now". Two years in a row, two exertions of the monumental backlash against Reigns, two instant classic short heel-for-a-night promos, this one bolstered by eight minutes of silence listening to the fans in advance. Vince announces a roster Superstar Shake-Up for the following week and then that with Stephanie out of commission due to the Reigns match's table spot Kurt Angle is the new Raw GM. The Revival debut and break Kofi Kingston's ankle. Jericho takes this year's Owens powerbomb through a table, which puts him out of a main event tag match with Rollins against KO and Samoa Joe, Angle finding as a replacement Finn Balor, making his first TV appearance since Rollins injured him at Summerslam, and he gets the pin.

Smackdown's first post-Mania show of the second brand extension starts with Bray Wyatt challenging Orton to a House Of Horrors rematch for the world title and nobody wanted that even before they'd seen it. The Miz and Maryse continue their Cena and Nikki Bella cosplay only to be waylaid by the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, who doesn't even need a match to make an impression but does get a live violin intro. Tye Dillinger debuts and AJ Styles reconciles with commissioner Shane McMahon to turn face.

April 9th & 10th 2018 (after WrestleMania 34)
Apart from Joe verbally doing Reigns right down there isn't much story progression here with another Shake-Up the following week. Plenty of debuts and returns, though - Ember Moon hits an Eclipse on Alexa Bliss for the pin in her first Raw match, Authors Of Pain beat Heath Slater and Rhyno and then abandon Paul Ellering, No Way Jose debuts, Elias' song is interrupted by Bobby Lashley returning after ten years away, and Jeff Hardy is back after being out since September. On the other hand Paige announces her retirement due to a neck injury just over four years to the day since and in the same arena as her title winning debut. After their fallout with Shane on Smackdown Owens and Zayn turn up hoping for a slot and are told by Angle "TNA are hiring" but they'll have to wrestle for one position - the match goes to a double count-out.

Luckily Paige wasn't on the shelf for too long as with Daniel Bryan resuming his in-ring career she became his replacement as Smackdown GM, her first big announcement being to book Bryan vs Styles, which was wrecked by Nakamura cementing his Mania heel turn. The Iiconics were the only debutants but they made a huge impression as they beat down Charlotte, after which Carmella cashed in her Money In The Bank case successfully.

What's this year going to bring? We'll know soon enough...

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