This was one of the releases which had me most intrigued when it was first included on the schedule back in 2012, and what had my interest spiked were the words; “Box Set” – I hoped that this indicated it was going to be more than the standard 3 DVD set. Fast forward a few months and we finally had our confirmation, Raw 20th Anniversary was indeed set to be more than a standard release, much more, as we learned that it was going to be a 12 disc DVD and 10 disc Blu-ray featuring complete episodes of Monday Night Raw, 20 of them! Regretfully the Blu-ray release didn’t quite make it, however the DVD certainly did – and what a DVD it is!
The episodes are spread across the 12 discs normally 2 per disc, with the 3 hour shows getting their own disc. In addition to the episode we are given a 20+ minute mini-feature: Raw Facts & Figures.
Facts & Figures
The mini-feature runs for a little more than 25 minutes and is hosted by Michel Cole and The Bella Twins who are inside an empty arena. Cole and the Bella’s aren’t on screen together, but do interact in what feels like slightly over-scripted, verging on awkward segments. The choice of hosts apparently wasn’t a popular one amongst you folks; however Cole and the Bella’s aren’t actually on screen very long, so don’t let this put you off – they simply introduce the different “facts and figures” packages.
The facts and figures video packages are done in somewhat of a countdown style, each shows the numbers for different features of Monday Night Raw complimented with countless old clips. Examples of the topics examined include: Raw’s host cities and countries, the various match types which have taken place, superstars, commentators, celebrities and much more.
Check out this preview clip from the feature, which we featured on the site recently:
Before we get to the episodes, I will address “Uncut and Uncensored” as I’m aware many have questions about this. Despite the use of the term Uncut and Uncensored in the title, the episodes are “cut and censored”. Some of the changes include the alternation of selected entrance themes, namely: The Godwinns, Cactus Jack, the bWo and Shane McMahon. Also the advertisers have been covered up or cut out; but did you really need to see that Twix sponsored the ECW invasion show double features, Royal Rumble 1999 was presented by 10-10-2-20 or that La Femme Nikita was going to be up next on USA? WWF.com looks to have also been removed from a few on screen graphics, however it is left intact on the Titan Tron etc. in later episodes.
An instance of choking with cables is also removed from the Mankind vs. Rock match from January 1999, but interestingly Hawk choking a Headbanger with his T-Shirt in the February 1997 episode is intact.
However, the edits which appear to have some people most annoyed are the Benoit edits, but in reality given the episodes selected the only things edited are a confrontation between him and Angle, a handful of commentary lines and two entrances (from the March 2001 and Homecoming episodes) – which in reality accounts for a very small percentage of the 31 hours included on the set.
All WWF references, audibly and visually, are 100% intact which is still really awesome to see.
On to the episodes…
Now with more than 30 hours of footage to go through, I’m not going to be looking at the episodes segment by segment. I will however be looking at a little history behind each episode and the major goings on and memorable moments.
|#17 – May 17, 1993|
Our first episode emanates from the Manhattan Center in the heart of New York City; this venue played host to a great number of the early Raw’s and is fitting that at least one episode made the list.
Despite only being an hour long the May 17, 1993 episode is one of the most famous in terms of angles which take place – this was a real rarity in 1993. The first highlight of this show comes from the fantastic Intercontinental Championship Match between Shawn Michaels and a returning Marty Jannetty, which is built up during a promo segment earlier in the show. The other highlight would be the beginning to the Razor Ramon and 1-2-3 Kid programme, when the Kid (an enhancement talent who had appeared on WWE programming for a few weeks) pinned Razor Ramon in a massive upset, as enhancement talent would never defeat “superstars” on WWE programming during this era.
The early episodes do have a very different pace to the later episodes and the inclusion of a very early show allows you to see the development of Monday Night Raw over the past near 21 years.
|#174 – September 6, 1996|
The next episode comes from September 1996, and in all honesty was an unexpected inclusion. “Raw Championship Friday” was a special Friday night edition (Raw was pre-empted from its regular Monday night timeslot due to the US open, tennis). This isn’t really a memorable episode as we have no major angles which occur. However we are given a solid Shawn Michaels vs. Goldust match and some Intercontinental Championship Tournament matches (made necessary following the “injury” of Ahmed Johnson by Farooq).
Two of the more interesting happenings take place on commentary when Jim Ross (who was just beginning his short lived heel run) revealed that not only had Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle just visited WWE headquarters, but that “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel and “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon would be returning to the World Wrestling Federation!
As I stated earlier this was a surprising inclusion, as from the history of Monday Night Raw I personally wouldn’t consider it to be a “great” episode. However it does bridge a gap between the early episodes and development of “Raw is War”.
|#198 – February 24, 1997|
Next up is our first of FOUR episodes from 1997 (more than any other year on the set, which illustrates that while WWE were technically “losing” the Monday Night War, they did deliver some fantastic episodes during 1997.
For this episode, Raw returns to the Manhattan Center and is joined by some extreme guests as ECW invades Raw. The invasion storyline (no not that one) had been going on since September 1996 when Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman appeared at the Mind Games PPV, stars of ECW would pop up in the next few months until Jerry Lawler challenged them to appear on Raw. The storyline between Jerry Lawler, ECW and more specifically Tommy Dreamer would not only cross WWE, but also ECW and even the USWA in Memphis. It would culminate in a match between the two at ECW’s second PPV – Hardcore Heaven, but we’ll keep that discussion for the ECW PPV Anthology).
In reality the ECW stars actually helped make up the numbers on this show as a great number of the WWE stars were actually in the middle of a European tour (one which we will actually join in the next episode).
The show featured three ECW matches: Tommy Dreamer vs. D-Von Dudley, Taz vs. Mikey Whipweck and Stevie Richards (with the bWo) vs. Little Guido. Throughout the show other ECW stars would appear to help hype the upcoming Barley Legal PPV, other stars which appeared include: Raven, The Eliminators (Saturn & Kronus), Bubba Ray Dudley, The Sandman, Beulah, Sabu, Paul Heyman. Plus ECW also brought along a few extreme faces in the crowd – which you may recognise.
The show wasn’t just about ECW, we had the return of The Road Warriors and the WWE debut of Ken Shamrock, who appeared in the crowd with his wife and father.
This was a very fun episode and comes during the transition period from Monday Night Raw to Raw is War, and we were just a couple of weeks from a full blown transition to the Raw is War format with the debut of the Titan Tron etc.
|#199 – March 3, 1997|
As I mentioned in the previous episode, the March 3, 1997 edition of Raw (taped February 26, 1997) comes from Berlin, Germany and features the finals of the European Championship Tournament.
The episode helps build up some tension for the upcoming WrestleMania with a very entertaining interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin from the WWE production studio and matches between Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and Bret Hart and Mankind battling Sid. However the true highlight of the show came from its main event, a fantastic match between Owen Hart and The British Bulldog – a match which is widely regarded as one of the very best matches in the history of Monday Night Raw.
|#219 – July 21, 1997|
On July 21, 1997 we head north of the border as this episode came from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, at the height of the USA vs. Canada feud – the top storyline in the WWE at the time. The show comes off the heels of the Canadian Stampede PPV and features a number of classic WWE moments. Some of those moments included the announcement of Shawn Michaels being the guest referee for the SummerSlam main event and the subsequent confrontation between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart, also featured is the famous USA/Toilet promo from Bret Hart, enhancement to the Undertaker/Paul Bearer/Kane story with “proof” that Kane was alive and The Dude Love Story.
In regard to matches, the show features a number of matches including: a unique (for the period) triple threat tag team match, a light heavyweight match (with a chewing gum incident) and of course the famous main event Flag Match pitting Bret Hart, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog taking on Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dude Love and their surprise partner – The Undertaker. The show, from start to finish was a really fun roller-coaster ride as each segments is packed and the pacing of the show doesn’t let up, and for this reason coupled with the fact that it featured so many great moments, it was absolutely worthy of inclusion as a “greatest episode”.
|#226 – September 22, 1997|
The next episode is very historic, this show featured the debut of Monday Night Raw inside the World’s most famous arena – Madison Square Garden. The episode opens with a video package looking at the history of WWE at MSG, however the original video (which featured Jim Ross on voice over) has been replaced with a new audio track and Jerry Lawler providing the voice over (most likely due to music rights rather than the current issues between JR and WWE).
This show is famous for a number of different reasons including: Bret Hart’s final televised Madison Square Garden match, Brian Pillman’s final Raw match (he would regretfully pass away a few days later) and the WWE debut of Cactus Jack in the infamous “Three Faces of Foley video”. However, I’m sure you will be aware this episode is most famous as the night that Stone Cold Steve Austin delivered the first stunner to Vince McMahon. An interesting side note to this is that over on “the competition” on this same night Goldberg began his winning streak by defeating Bill DeMott.
Other cool moments from this episode included promos from both The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels regarding their upcoming Hell in a Cell encounter, a fun match between Goldust and Bret Hart and of course the famous Falls Count Anywhere match between Cactus Jack and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley.
Again this was a very fun trip down memory lane for me and if you are re-watching, or even seeing it for the first time, I’m sure you will enjoy it from start to finish.
|#255 – April 13, 1998|
The April 13, 1998 episode of Monday Night Raw imitated from the “City of Brotherly Love” as Raw invaded Philly. This episode will be remembered as the one which ended WCW Monday Nitro’s 80+ week ratings winning streak. The reason fans flocked to the USA network on this night was simple, the promise of the first in ring meeting between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon.
The entire focus of the show is this in ring confrontation between Austin and McMahon, from the opening promo where the challenge is issued to McMahon from Austin, to McMahon accepting the match, and a number of backstage segments with Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Shane McMahon and Jim Ross; who leaves the announce booth to offer his advice to the Chairman on the contest. Finally in the closing segment of the show Mr. McMahon and Steve Austin are just about to square off, when Dude Love interrupts the bout and attacks Austin. Which of course lead to the Unforgiven match and rematch at Over The Edge between the two.
The Austin/McMahon segments are the real high points of the show, however there are other happenings, including the build to the Inferno Match with Undertaker and Kane, the ongoing conflict between Owen Hart and DX and between DX and The DOA (after DX urinated on their motorcycles the week prior). However given the historical significance of this show to The Monday Night War and the history of WWE Raw, it sure deserved a place on this set.
|#293 – January 4, 1999|
The final episode which I am going to look at here is famous for putting a few butts in seats as it features long-time favourite of many fans: Mick Foley (as Mankind) defeating The Rock to capture the WWE Championship, in one of the most memorable Raw matches of all time.
While the WWE Championship victory of Mankind is what the show is remembered for, there are some other cool and memorable moments sprinkled throughout the show. The show begins with a video package for Shawn Michaels, who was fired as Commissioner the week prior by Mr McMahon and the Corporation. However, as the package plays it is abruptly interrupted by Mr McMahon in the arena who denounced to “get that sentimental crap” off. As the promo continues DX along with original member Shawn Michaels come out and reveal that Shawn has an iron clad contract and cannot be fired. This leads later to the Corporation attacking Michaels in the parking lot and putting him through a car windshield (off camera).
Other highlights of this show include the great Hardcore Championship Match between Road Dogg and Al Snow, a match which of course involved brawling backstage area and even out into the snow! Additionally by having the full episode here, we are given the entire build to the Rock vs. Mankind match, which involved an earlier Royal Rumble qualifying match between Mick Foley and Triple H.
Look out during the course of the show for a few other memorable angles and storylines including Terri Runnels falling from the ring apron causing a “miscarriage” and even an appearance by Sammi!
I really hope you have enjoyed my look at the first eight of Raw’s “20 Greatest Episodes”. Next time I will cover the shows from March 1999 through to the 15th Anniversary special (PART 2).
If you have picked up the box set already, what did you think of these shows and which moments stood out to you? As always we love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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