WWE Monday Night Raw: Ranking the 20 Best Promos Ever on the Show
Just as often as Monday Night Raw has put on great wrestling over the years, it's also been the home for enthralling mic work.
The pillars of the Attitude Era, Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind, all made their speeches and interviews must-see TV. Before that, Shawn Michaels lost his smile and more recently CM Punk has made his mark via the microphone.
Wrestling promos used to just be a guy looking straight into the camera, calling out his opponent.
WWE's Raw was a part of the promo's evolution. As wrestling grew and changed, so did the speaking part of it.
Promos have melded into other mediums, making it difficult to define.
The Rock and Mankind's "This is Your Life" segment is enough character building through the spoken word to be considered here. On the other hand, DX invading WCW and Edge and Lita's sex celebration are too far removed from the format to be included.
20. Edge in John Cena’s House
During a feud with John Cena, Edge made things extremely personal by trampling Cena's bed and rooting around his parents' house.
Edge always seemed to be pushing boundaries and trying new things.
The Edge vs. Cena feud brought out some of Cena's best wrestling and gave Edge a chance to demonstrate the R-ratedness of his character.
Edge made fun of Cena's room and jerseys, tossing in a biting line about Cena's wrestling boots. Following these funny moments, Edge shocked the Raw audience by slapping Cena's dad.
Mr. Cena sold the slap better than Dolph Ziggler would have.
The Goldust character was hard to swallow for some.
Dustin Rhodes' willingness to embrace the bizarre role was a wise decision. Though he's not completely one with the character in this promo yet, he's far more intriguing here than he ever was as "The Natural."
In vignettes like this one, Goldust introduced himself to fans, raising eyebrows and dropping jaws around the country. As he rubbed himself, he talked of lightsabers exploding and shining stars.
It set WWE audiences up for a character unlike any they'd ever seen.
Mick Foley's Mankind days were perfectly eerie and compelling.
While most wrestlers were shouting angry promos, Mankind delivered disturbing promos like this one. He told chilling stories in his piercing, fearful voice.
This rant against the Undertaker featured images of charred flesh and references to the Kennedy assassination. Is there any other wrestler that would have compared a wrestling match to a public hanging?
The sometimes-rhyming, emotional performance is one of Mankind's best.
17. Brock Lesnar
The momentum from Brock Lesnar's return has since been deflated, but when he was busting John Cena's mouth open, he was enthralling.
It wasn't just his star power or his UFC credentials that made this straight-forward promo such entertaining television, Lesnar teemed with a larger-than-life tough-guy aura here.
It features great lines such as "I'm not a superstar, I'm an ass-kicker" and "What's more important is what's running down his leg."
The very legit feeling interview makes WWE seem more like a sport and less like entertainment.
16. Ice Cream Bars
Like Steve Austin before him, CM Punk managed to tap into everyone's fantasy of telling off their boss when he publicly negotiated his contract with Vince McMahon on Raw in 2011.
Punk's snide humor and cool-guy demeanor makes him this generation's newest anti-hero.
The entire time, as he spouts off about not being respected and wanting his face on ice cream bars, Punk has us wondering what of this tirade is real and what is scripted. The buzz-creating promos of the Summer of Punk were all about walking that line.
Punk's humor and total emasculation of his boss manages to make the Mr. McMahon angle new again.
15. The Brahma Bull vs. Y2J
Two of the funniest wrestlers Raw has ever seen faced each other in a catchphrase duel.
The Rock and Chris Jericho's comic chemistry was almost as good as their in-ring chemistry. They played off each other smoothly, stealing and altering each other's lines.
Watching them trying to one-up each other is a treat for the fans even now.
Jericho throws in a Fig Newton reference. The Rock tops it with the creation of Uncle Joe Jericho with a glass eye.
Big props to Michael Cole for keeping a straight face through the whole interview.
14. Austin to Hart
Steve Austin had so much charisma and stage presence flowing through him that he could take a microphone not working and turn into a moment that deepened his character and drew the crowd in.
Raw in the late '90s was easy to book.
Stick a mic in Austin's hand. Stick a mic in the Rock's hand. Let the magic happen.
Here, Stone Cold has a beef with Bret Hart. He uses this promo to trash not only Bret, but Gorilla Monsoon, Psycho Sid and Stu Hart.
This was an exciting time to watch Raw, the world watching as Austin got more comfortable with his Stone Cold character and seeing him catch fire.
13. The Rock Prepares for Hell in a Cell
One of The Rock's funniest promos happened on Raw before the Six-Man Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon. Not one of Rocky's opponents (or Kevin Kelly, for that matter) was safe from his mocking ways.
His impersonations of Kurt Angle and Rikishi are not SNL-worthy perhaps, but hilarious nonetheless.
He thrusts himself into his promos with such abandon that even an average joke goes over well. His infectious energy is displayed in full in this interview.
The Rock's digs at Steve Austin helped further their feud and makes us laugh again and again.
12. DX Impersonates the McMahons
DX was fun to watch because they had so much fun.
They never failed to surprise. While Shawn Michaels and Triple H have done some great impressions before, this send-up of the McMahons is one of the most unforgettable moments on Raw.
Is Triple H a little heavy-handed with the male genitalia jokes? Sure, but it's still funny.
Michaels' spastic version of Shane McMahon is a giggle fest for anyone watching. As always, DX was over the top and the talk of the show the next day.
11. Y2J Debut
Judging by the signs in the crowd, some fans had clearly figured out who was behind the mysterious millennium countdown in 1999.
Chris Jericho's WWE debut had a great, suspenseful buildup, a big pop, bad hair and some excellent banter between him and The Rock.
The countdown concept was brilliant and Jericho executed it to perfection. WWE fans were immediately intrigued, and the next phase of his career was set to begin.
10. Joey Styles
Announcer-centered angles are rarely interesting, but ECW legend Joey Styles turned his WWE exit into jaw-dropping entertainment.
Mixing plenty of real-life fury into whatever he was expected to say, Styles called out Vince McMahon and the WWE, stunning fans on his way out.
For anyone who thought that Styles was just the guy who screamed, "Aw my gawd!" this promo showed off his depth and performance skills. Unfortunately, it was on his way out.
He was sent to the re-formed and watered-down version of ECW.
9. DX Press Conference
D-Generation X's irreverence exploded on the screen with this hilarious segment.
The USA Network had expressed concern over the raunchy antics that DX was putting out on the airwaves every Monday. Who could blame them? Penis jokes and bare butts were weekly occurrences.
This response was simple in concept and flawless in execution.
Keeping their uncouthness, DX graduated to satire and churned out a classic.
8. Mankind, Dude Love, Cactus Jack
Raw would have been great had Mick Foley just stuck with his Mankind character. Creating the Dude Love persona and bringing back Cactus Jack added a depth to him as a wrestler and to the show.
In this promo, he brings in all three at the same time.
Dude Love provides the goofy humor, Mankind gives the promo creepiness and Cactus Jack comes in just to add one more dash of wackiness.
The audience is too stunned to react until the end.
7. Rock Concert
The Rock stung Sacramento on this episode of Raw with a mocking song. He managed to throw in a good number of insults, taking on Sacramento women and the Kings in a very short song.
The fans half-cheered, half-booed.
As funny and charismatic as The Rock is, people like him even when he insults them. The innovative segment further cemented The Rock as a fun-loving insult machine with a Hollywood smile.
Raw hosted several similar Rock concerts after this one, but his first was his best.
6. Bret Screwed Bret
Vince McMahon stumbled onto one of the greatest wrestling villains of all-time (himself) after the incident in Montreal with Bret Hart in 1997.
He could have chosen to try and ignore the controversy, hoping people would eventually forget, but instead embraced it.
Sitting with Jim Ross, he callously spelled out his side of the story.
It's not the most entertaining interview on this list, but monumentally important. Without it, there'd be no Mr. McMahon character.
Many Bret Hart fans watching Raw that night began to hate McMahon, making every feud he'd have in the future far more meaningful.
On a 2003 episode of Raw, the Rock made a surprise appearance in Toronto.
In one of his most stellar comedic performances, he rips the crowd and they love every minute of it.
He's trying to turn heel and they love him regardless.
The highlights include the Rock turning his usual "The Rock has come back" routine into an insult, making fun of the crowd for cheering when he mentioned their city and a frantic rhyme leading to "because the Maple Leafs suck."
4. This Is Your Life
The highest-rated segment in Raw history featured Mankind's funnier side and The Rock's fake past life dragged out into the open.
Mankind and the Rock's strange and wonderful chemistry in and out of the ring was always a treat to watch. This was the pinnacle of their mic work together.
The original format allowed both The Rock and Mankind to add depth to their characters while entertaining. It was repeated but never duplicated and as Jim Ross said that night, "captivated Greensboro and the world."
3. Punk Shoot
CM Punk had been a talented wrestler with a penchant for great mic work for years before he became a sensation in the summer of 2011.
Treading the line between reality and kayfabe, storyline and heartfelt emotion, Punk spilled his guts on Raw and the reverberations went on for months.
His anti-Cena, anti-system tirade shook a sleeping audience.
Punk had people talking about wrestling again, Bill Simmons included.
Though WWE has been criticized for letting the momentum run out of the Summer of Punk, the promo that kickstarted it all will always be remembered as groundbreaking and as the catalyst for Punk's superstardom.
2. Austin and Tyson
A lot of the water-cooler talk after this confrontation on Raw was about Mike Tyson and Steve Austin's physical altercation, but the smack talk delivered by Stone Cold beforehand was top-notch.
Austin established himself here as more than a wrestler, a true star.
He stood in the ring with one of the most famous athletes in the world and more than looked like he belonged. His presence felt just as big and bad as Tyson's.
Austin doled out his usual unrelenting verbal assaults, but it felt energized and magnified by the size of the moment.
1. Bret Turns Heel
Building off the momentum of his classic WrestleMania match with Stone Cold, Bret Hart turned heel in one of the most visceral and real promos ever seen.
WWE audiences had gotten used to Bret as the unwavering hero, the righteous champion.
Then suddenly here he was, embracing a darker side, telling off American fans.
Bret has never been a great promo guy. He's a bit reserved and not the most dynamic speaker.
Having him shift his character was one thing, but becoming a good guy in Canada and a bad guy in the U.S. was unheard of.
But those who tuned into Raw that night saw something historic. Bret culled his bitterness and frustrations into a pointed, moving speech.