Power Ranking WWE Raw's Top 25 Most Monumental Moments in the Last Year

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2013

Power Ranking WWE Raw's Top 25 Most Monumental Moments in the Last Year

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    This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the day WWE Raw officially became a three-hour program on a regular basis. On July 23, 2012, Raw celebrated its historic 1,000th episode and hasn't looked back since.

    Although some fans believe Raw permanently transitioning to three hours was a major mistake, it has had a number of benefits over the last year. Interestingly enough, the quality of the flagship show has significantly improved as of late, and one can only assume that the duration of the program played a factor in that.

    Here, I will rank the top 25 most monumental moments to occur on Raw since Raw 1,000 a year ago. Remember, the following the list is purely based off my opinion, so be sure to keep an open mind while reading.

25. Wade Barrett Wins His Third Intercontinental Championship: April 8, 2013

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    Upon winning his second Intercontinental Championship from Kofi Kingston on the New Year's Eve edition of Raw, Wade Barrett embarked on one of the worst title reigns in recent memory. He lost almost every non-title match he was involved in and hardly defended the prestigious prize.

    On the road to WrestleMania 29, Barrett engaged in a feud with The Miz over the strap. The two met on the event's pre-show, where Miz soundly defeated the evil Englishman to win his second Intercontinental title.

    However, Barrett was quick to invoke his rematch clause, as the two met yet again in a match with the gold up for grabs the next night on Raw. In front of a rabid New Jersey crowd, Barrett cleanly defeated The Awesome One to capture the Intercontinental title for the third time in his career.

    Sure, his third run with the strap was no different than his second (or his first for that matter), but there's no denying the loud reaction he received from that unforgettable audience when he won that night.

24. Christian Returns: June 17, 2013

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    In August 2012, Christian was sidelined from action indefinitely after sustaining a shoulder injury. Dirt sheets indicated he would be ready to return by November at the earliest, which ultimately wasn't the case at all.

    Once that didn't come to fruition, rumors ran rampant as to when he would be coming back in 2013. When it wasn't at Royal Rumble, it was at Elimination Chamber. When it wasn't at Elimination Chamber, it was at WrestleMania 29.

    To make a long story short, Christian apparently wasn't medically cleared to compete until early May. Even still, it wasn't until the June 17 edition of Raw that Christian finally returned to Raw as Wade Barrett's surprise opponent.

    Christian has been flourishing in singles competition over the last month, with various victories over the likes of Fandango, Damien Sandow, Dean Ambrose and others. Welcome back, Captain Charisma.

23. Kaitlyn Wins the Divas Championship in Her Hometown: January 14, 2013

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    After surprisingly winning a No. 1 contender's battle royal in August 2012, Kaitlyn had her sights set on the Divas Championship. She was scheduled to face Layla for the title at Night of Champions, but due to being attacked backstage before the bout, Eve took her place and won the strap instead.

    From that point forward, Kaitlyn and Eve engaged in a raging rivalry over the Divas title. They met on several occasions in the final few months of the year with the gold up for grabs, but Kaitlyn came up short each time.

    On Raw's 20th Anniversary show earlier this year, Kaitlyn was granted one last shot at the prestigious prize against the former Diva Search winner. In what was the blonde bombshell's best match up to that point, Kaitlyn captured her first Divas Championship that night in front of her hometown of Houston.

    It was certainly a special moment for the NXT Season 3 winner to say the least. It also marked Eve's final WWE match, as she "quit" the company later that night.

22. Paul Heyman Introduces Curtis Axel to the WWE Universe: May 20, 2013

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    For three straight years, the son of one of the WWE's greatest Legends was known as Michael McGillicutty. Although he was a part of The New Nexus and reigned as a WWE Tag Team Champion for a short period of time, McGillicutty achieved very little success under that mediocre moniker.

    That all changed for the multi-generation star this past spring.

    On the May 20 edition of Raw, Paul Heyman announced that he would be introducing his newest client to the world that night. Much to the WWE Universe's surprise, Heyman's latest protege was not Rob Van Dam, but rather Michael McGillicutty.

    Now known as Curtis Axel, the former NXT Rookie claimed that he was ready to make an impact on the flagship show. He did just that later in the show, scoring an upset victory over Triple H via forfeit in the main event.

    A month later, Axel captured his first Intercontinental Championship at WWE Payback and is still the reigning champion to this day.

21. Ryback Comes to the Aid of Jim Ross: October 1, 2012

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    At the conclusion of the September 24 edition of Raw, Ryback engaged in a stare-down with CM Punk after the then-WWE Champion cowardly attacked Mick Foley. The next week, Punk attempted to humiliate Jim Ross in his home state of Oklahoma by bullying him into leaving the ring on his own appreciation night.

    As Ross made his way up the ramp, Ryback's music hit the arena, and The Human Wrecking Ball received one of his biggest reactions to date. Punk and Ryback came face-to-face in the middle of the ring, only for The Voice of The Voiceless to retreat to the back.

    Ryback stood tall with Ross to end the segment and solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with. Punk and Ryback would go on to feud over the WWE Championship for the next three months.

20. Antonio Cesaro Neutralizes Brodus Clay: October 1, 2012

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    Upon his arrival on the SmackDown brand in April 2012, Antonio Cesaro immediately made an impact by defeating almost everyone he stepped in the ring with. He quickly captured the United States Championship from Santino Marella at SummerSlam and embarked on one of the longest U.S. title reigns in the last five years.

    In the midst of his reign, however, Cesaro was met with an enormous obstacle in the form of Brodus Clay. Many people expected Clay, being the monster he was, to dispose of Cesaro like common trash, but that didn't end up being the case.

    In a shocking turn of events, Cesaro lifted the 375-pound Funkasaurus up in the air and executed a picture-perfect Neutralizer on him. Cesaro's unadulterated strength never went unnoticed again from that point forward.

19. Brock Lesnar Viciously Attacks Shawn Michaels: August 13, 2012

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    After Brock Lesnar broke his arm one night removed from 2012's Extreme Rules pay-per-view, Triple H vowed to put an end to Lesnar's reign of terror. He challenged The Next Big Thing to a match at SummerSlam, which Paul Heyman later accepted on Lesnar's behalf.

    Six days prior to the biggest blockbuster of the summer, Shawn Michaels made a special appearance on Raw after Lesnar threatened him the previous week. Lesnar made good on his promise, as he brutalized HBK in the parking lot before giving him a fatal F-5 in the middle of the ring.

    That wasn't all, though, as Lesnar proceeded to secure the Kimura submission hold on Michaels, breaking his right arm in the process. The former UFC Champion went on to defeat The Game that Sunday at SummerSlam.

18. John Cena Chooses His SummerSlam Opponent: July 15, 2013

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    One night removed from his valiant victory over Mark Henry at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Raw General Manager Brad Maddox allowed WWE Champion John Cena to choose his opponent for SummerSlam.

    At the conclusion of the show, all of the Superstars from Raw and SmackDown lined up at the top of the stage, hoping they would be picked to face Cena at the event. The Champ went through each individual, all the while the Brooklyn crowd loudly chanted for Daniel Bryan.

    Sure enough, Cena ultimately named Bryan the No. 1 contender to his WWE Championship at SummerSlam. The Barclays Center came unglued for Bryan, who made his way to the ring to one of the loudest reactions he had ever received in his career.

17. Big E Langston Makes His Debut: December 17, 2012

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    At WWE TLC, AJ Lee shockingly turned on John Cena, allowing Dolph Ziggler to pick up the victory in their Ladder match. The next night at the Slammy Awards, a match was set up that saw Cena align with Vickie Guerrero to battle Ziggler and AJ in mixed tag team action.

    In the final few moments of the match, the debuting Big E Langston emerged from the back and laid out Cena. AJ skipped over the motionless body of Cena to close the show, later aligning with Langston and Ziggler to form a super stable.

    To say it was one of the most chaotic conclusions to Raw of the year would be an understatement.

16. CM Punk Aligns with Paul Heyman: September 3, 2012

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    In the opening segment of last year's Labor Day edition of Raw, a blockbuster match was made between then-WWE Champion CM Punk vs. then-World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus for later in the night. This was a bout of epic proportions, as they had never faced off in singles competition prior to this point.

    However, the Champion vs. Champion match never came to be, as Punk claimed he was "taking the night off." Despite being in his hometown of Chicago, Punk was booed heavily as he exited the arena.

    Later in the show, John Cena battled Alberto Del Rio in a Falls Count Anywhere match. They brought it to the backstage area, where Cena was surprisingly attacked by Punk, allowing Del Rio to score the victory.

    As Cena was left lying by Punk, The Voice of the Voiceless was picked up in a car that was being driven by none other than Paul Heyman. This solidified their on-air partnership that would last nearly 10 months.

15. Daniel Bryan and Kane Hug It Out: September 3, 2012

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    Although neither man was successful in winning the WWE Championship from CM Punk last summer, Kane and Daniel Bryan continued to feud with one another in subsequent months, regardless. They faced off in a singles match at SummerSlam, which was won by Bryan.

    Kane's loss sent him over the edge, which earned him a spot in Dr. Shelby's anger management course alongside Bryan. On the September 3 edition of Raw, the WWE Universe voted to see the two hug it out, something that no one thought they would actually go through with.

    Sure enough, Bryan and Kane embraced one another in a hug, solidifying a friendship that still exists to this day. It was the epitome of the PG Era, but it was easily one of the funniest moments in recent Raw history.

    The foes-turned-friends went on to capture the WWE Tag Team Championships from Kofi Kingston and R-Truth at Night of Champions a few weeks later.

14. Brock Lesnar Returns and Targets Mr. McMahon: January 28, 2013

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    After soundly defeating Triple H at last year's SummerSlam event, Brock Lesnar "quit" WWE the next night on Raw. He was kept off television for the remainder of the year while his manager Paul Heyman became a mainstay on the flagship show.

    One night removed from the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Mr. McMahon was in the midst of giving Heyman a job evaluation when Lesnar's entrance music hit the arena. He made his way down to the ring and stood face-to-face with the WWE Chairman before executing an emphatic F-5 onto him.

    McMahon underwent surgery shortly thereafter while Lesnar rekindled his rivalry with HHH going into WrestleMania 29.

13. Undertaker Returns to Raw: March 4, 2013

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    In recent years, Undertaker has taken time off to rest nagging injuries only to return during the road to WrestleMania. Unlike in past years, however, Undertaker's return was later than usual, and fans started to lose hope in seeing The Deadman compete at WrestleMania 29.

    After wrestling at a house show in late February, it became pretty apparent that 'Taker would be returning to television sooner rather than later. Interestingly enough, he made his first televised appearance in nearly eight months on the Old School edition of Raw, a show dedicated to the Legends of the past.

    He made another appearance later in the night, coming out after the main event to lock eyes with his WrestleMania opponent, CM Punk. The Phenom's returns are always special, and this one in particular was no exception.

12. Brothers of Destruction Reunite: July 23, 2012

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    As expected, Undertaker disappeared from WWE television following his epic Hell in a Cell match with Triple H at WrestleMania 28. However, it was only fitting that he make a one-off appearance at on Raw's 1,000th episode.

    At the event, Kane was set to do battle with Jinder Mahal in singles action but was instead outnumbered by a number of WWE's most underutilized talents. Before Mahal and his cronies jumped The Big Red Monster, a familiar gong went off that signaled the return of The Undertaker.

    For the first time in nearly two years, Kane and 'Taker stood side-by-side to fend off Mahal and company. The only thing missing from this unforgettable Brothers of Destruction reunion was Paul Bearer, but it was later reported that he unfortunately couldn't make the show due to scheduling and travel conflicts.

11. Ryback Turns Heel: April 8, 2013

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    In the final few months of 2012, Ryback seemed to destined for super stardom during his feud with CM Punk over the WWE Championship. However, after coming up short of capturing the gold time and time again, all hope seemed to be lost for The Human Wrecking Ball.

    At WrestleMania 29, Ryback was unsuccessful in defeating Mark Henry. He sought vengeance over Henry the next night on Raw but immediately set his sights on WWE Championship.

    Although he initially extended a hand to his former friend, Ryback quickly turned on Cena by hitting him with a Shell Shocked. Sure, the aftermath of his shocking heel turn was poor, but there's no doubt that it was excellently executed that night in New Jersey.

10. D-Generation X Reunites on Raw 1000: July 23, 2012

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    Every D-Generation X reunion over the last decade has featured only two people: Triple H and Shawn Michaels. I feared that their reuniting on Raw's 1,000th episode would be much of the same, but I, as well as the entire WWE Universe, was in for a pleasant surprise.

    Although HHH and HBK kicked off the show, one line from The Game sent chills down my spine. "Didn't there used to be...more of us?"

    Moments later, Road Dogg, Billy Gun and X-Pac emerged from the back in a vintage army truck. The five friends went on to have an enjoyable exchange in the middle of the ring before being interrupted by Damien Sandow.

    Prior to this night, Sandow had never before appeared on an episode of Raw, so the fact he was debuting in such a segment put him over big time. Sure, he ate a Sweet Chin Music from HBK and a Pedigree from HHH, but it was surely a huge highlight in the career of the future Mr. Money in the Bank.

9. Triple H Returns to Brawl with Brock Lesnar: February 25, 2013

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    Following his shocking loss to Brock Lesnar at last year's SummerSlam event, Triple H announced his apparent in-ring retirement eight days later on Raw. Aside from a one-off appearance at the Slammy Awards, Triple H was kept off television in the months that followed.

    The February 25th edition of Raw kicked off with a street fight between Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman. As McMahon got the upper hand on the former SmackDown General Manager, Lesnar made a beeline towards the ring and came close to putting the WWE Chairman out of commission for a second time.

    That was, however, until Triple H returned to save the day.

    As the live crowd went ballistic for The Game, HHH immediately set his sights on Lesnar and engaged in one of the bloodiest and most brutal brawls in recent Raw history. While HHH won the battle, the war was far from over.

8. The Rock Interrupts CM Punk's "Pipe Bomb": January 7, 2013

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    On June 27, 2011, CM Punk cut a promo that sent shock waves throughout the entire WWE, shock waves that are still being felt to this very day. It was known as the night Punk dropped his initial "pipe bomb."

    Fans begged and pleaded for another Punk pipe bomb in subsequent months, and although his promos were controversial, nothing ever managed to match the magic of that one worked shoot from June 2011.

    On the premiere episode of Raw in 2013, Punk was successful in defeating Ryback in a TLC match to successfully retain his WWE Championship. He wasn't done there, though, as he promised the world another pipe bomb later in the show.

    The Voice of the Voiceless, a man of his word, proceeded to make disparaging remarks towards the likes of John Cena, Daniel Bryan and others while also endorsing the likes of Tyson Kidd and Brodus Clay. Punk's unforgettable promo was cut short, however, by a returning Rock.

    The Royal Rumble opponents laid into one another for a solid half hour in what was a raging war of the words. The epic encounter ended with The Rock nailing the Rock Bottom on Punk, thus setting the bar for the remainder of the year.

7. The Wyatt Family Arrives on Raw: July 8, 2013

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    In late May, vignettes began to air hyping the pending debut of The Wyatt Family. As standouts down in WWE's developmental system NXT, The Wyatt Family was highly regarded by fans, and the anticipation couldn't have been higher for their eventual debut.

    After six weeks of vindictive video packages passed, The Wyatt Family finally introduced themselves to the WWE Universe on the July 9 edition of Raw. Mere moments after Kane soundly defeated Christian, the treacherous trio made their way down the ring to complete darkness with a single lamp and rocking chair.

    Once the lights turned back on, Luke Harper and Erik Rowan were seen standing in the middle of the ring, ready to ambush Kane. They gave The Big Red Monster a beating of a lifetime, immediately making an impression on the flagship show.

6. Brock Lesnar Attacks CM Punk: June 17, 2013

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    On what was one of the greatest episodes of Raw so far this year, several monumental moments took place. In the night's main event, CM Punk battled World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match.

    Earlier in the evening, Punk broke the news to Paul Heyman that his presence at ringside was no longer necessary but claimed that he and Heyman could still be "best friends." Despite Heyman not being in his corner for his match, Punk still managed to defeat Del Rio by count-out.

    Mere moments after Punk's hand was raised by the referee, Brock Lesnar's entrance music shockingly hit the arena. He circled the ring like a shark before entering the ring and picking up a microphone.

    Before he could say anything, Lesnar dropped the mic and delivered an earth-shattering F-5 to CM Punk. This marked the first-ever clash between the two "Paul Heyman guys," and it certainly wouldn't be their last.

5. Mark Henry Turns on John Cena: June 17, 2013

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    Brock Lesnar's attack on CM Punk wasn't the only memorable moment from the June 17 edition of Raw. It also featured Mark Henry's shocking retirement speech, or so we thought.

    Following his loss to Sheamus at May's Extreme Rules event, Henry was advertised to make his first televised appearance one night removed from the WWE Payback pay-per-view. Rumors ran rampant that he would be announcing his in-ring retirement that night on Raw, but many people initially thought it was all part of the storyline.

    However, once Henry started shedding tears, everyone began to believe that he actually was hanging his boots up for good. He referenced his friends and family and thanked the WWE Universe for all their support over the years.

    As John Cena went in for the hug, Henry executed a picture perfect World's Strongest Slam on the WWE Champion. This was arguably one of the greatest segments in Henry's illustrious career, and the live crowd's reaction as he turned on Cena is pure proof of that.

4. Ric Flair Returns and Confronts CM Punk: December 17, 2012

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    Since its return in 2008, The Slammy Awards have always been a night filled with fun, surprises and unforgettable returns. Last year's installment was no different, as it marked the night Ric Flair finally returned to WWE after three long years.

    Flair was announced as the presenter of the Superstar of the Year Slammy Award, which was won by John Cena. Cena claimed he didn't deserve it, so he forfeited the honor back to Flair instead.

    CM Punk, whom everyone believed was a shoe-in to win the award, came out and dropped a pipe bomb on Flair. The Nature Boy challenged the then-WWE Champion to a brawl in the ring, and although Punk got the upper hand for a brief moment, Flair was able to secure the Figure Four leg lock onto Paul Heyman instead.

    The segment didn't end there, though, as The Shield made their presence known by attempting to interrupt Flair's celebration. Randy Orton, Ryback and Sheamus made the save by fending of the rouge trio and had their hands raised by the two-time WWE Hall of Famer to conclude of the most jam-packed segments in WWE history.

3. The Rock Unveils a New WWE Championship Belt: February 18, 2013

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    In April 2005, John Cena debuted an all-new design for the WWE Championship. Many people thought it was only for when Cena reigned as champion, but as time progressed, that proved not to be the case.

    CM Punk stated several times over the course of his reign as WWE Champion that a new belt was in the works. It wasn't until the February 18, 2013 edition of Raw that dream finally became a reality.

    After successfully defending his title against Punk at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Rock ushered in the new electrifying era by debuting an all-new WWE Championship belt. Personally, I found it to be a massive upgrade from the spinner belt, and a new design was long overdue.

    Unlike past championship titles, this one doesn't have a name plate. Instead, it features the logo of the Superstar who is holding it on its sides.

    The fact that Punk laid out Cena with his own championship belt (the old design) was poetic justice.

2. CM Punk Turns His Back on the WWE Universe: July 23, 2012

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    Following his controversial actions in the summer of 2011, WWE had no choice but to turn CM Punk babyface. He captured his second WWE Championship at 2011's Survivor Series event and embarked on one of the longest title reigns in the last 25 years.

    However, over the course of his reign as champion, Punk was seldom featured in the main event of pay-per-views. By July 2012, many Superstars suggested to The Voice of the Voiceless that he was being overlooked by the likes of John Cena, AJ Lee, The Rock and others.

    On Raw's 1,000th episode, Punk was set to defend his title against then-Mr. Money in the Bank John Cena. Due to Big Show's interference, Cena won the match via disqualification, which meant Punk maintained possession of the strap.

    The World's Largest Athlete continued to brutalize Cena before The Rock made the save. As The Great One performed his signature maneuvers on Show, Punk snuck back into the ring and laid Rock out with a jumping clothesline.

    As Jerry Lawler noted on commentary, Punk had officially turned his back on the WWE Universe. This marked the beginning of Punk's slow burning heel turn, which would be completed by the end of August.

    Raw 1000 was in need of a shocking conclusion that fans will forever remember, and Punk's monumental heel turn was just what the doctor ordered.

1. Dolph Ziggler Cashes in His Money in the Bank Briefcase: April 8, 2013

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    In July 2012, Dolph Ziggler won the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder match, which meant he had the opportunity to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at any time and place of his choosing. He teased cashing the blue briefcase in on multiple occasions but always backed out at the last possible second.

    No more than 24 hours after losing to Team Hell No at WrestleMania 29, Ziggler finally picked his spot on Raw. Jack Swagger came up short of defeating Alberto Del Rio in two-on-one action, but he still took the liberty in injuring the leg of the Mexican aristocrat for his troubles.

    As officials tended to Del Rio, "Here to Show the World" began to play and the Izod Center came to glue. The bell was rung, and by this point, there was no turning back for Ziggler.

    Although he came close to tapping out at two different points in the bout, the bleached blond Superstar ultimately connected with the Zig-Zag to capture his second World Heavyweight Championship. Ziggler, Big E Langton and AJ Lee all embraced in a hug as the New Jersey crowd gave him one of the biggest reactions in modern memory.

    Money in the Bank cash-ins are always special, but after waiting nine long months (and basically his entire career), Ziggler's is definitely amongst the best of all time and earned the right to be called the most monumental Raw moment in the last year.


    Visit my website at Next Era Wrestling and listen to my wrestling radio talk show SAVE US GSM every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET.