The Raw after WrestleMania is a special night for WWE.
But while most people equate the Raw after WrestleMania with raucous crowds and beach balls, it’s so much more than that. When it’s done right, at least.
If WrestleMania is the last page of the book, the following Raw is the epilogue and the beginning of a new book. All rolled into one.
In the mist of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s post-Mania Raw will be a little different. No spontaneity, no last-minute surprises, and probably no new chapters. At this point, the wrestling off-season that wrestlers have championed for so many years may be forced upon the business.
But luckily there were cameras at past post-Mania Raw shows.
Let’s relive the best Raw after WrestleMania moments of all time.
When Goldberg Was Still Golden – Raw, March 31, 2003
Believe it or not, there was a time when there was still a mythic aura around Goldberg.
In 2003, we were only two years removed from WWE’s acquisition of WCW. In the ensuing couple of years, WWE managed to lure a lot of WCW’s big names to come up north. Hulk Hogan and the rest of the nWo, Diamond Dallas Page, Ric Flair.
But two names had eluded WWE. Sting and Goldberg. It would be more than a decade before Sting would arrive in WWE. On the Raw after WrestleMania XIX, Goldberg made his WWE debut.
The Rock was gloating about his victory over ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin the previous night, the last in their WrestleMania trilogy. And the Great One (in his best heel persona ever, Hollywood Rock) lamented that he had beaten everybody.
Seattle’s crowd was smart to something big on the horizon, and they started the classic “Gold-berg, Gold-berg” chants. The Rock, always sharp and on his game, retorted, “You people think you impress the Rock because you know the name of his accountant, Ira Goldberg?”
Then the music hit, and Goldberg emerged on the Raw after WrestleMania, delivering a spear to the Brahma Bull, and providing a moment fans thought they might never see.
WWE eventually ruined Goldberg over the course of the next year. But the sheer excitement at the man at the top of WCW during the peak of its popularity going one-on-one with the Great One was a true moment in time.
And one of the best Raw after WrestleMania moments ever.
The Beast Is Back – Raw Supershow, April 2, 2012
2012 was not the best year for John Cena.
WrestleMania XXVIII saw Cena defeated at the hands of the Rock in their (Possibly More Than) Once In A Lifetime match. But he was back on the Raw after WrestleMania the next night, looking for a fresh start.
And he got one.
To close the show, Brock Lesnar made his return to WWE for the first time since leaving the company eight years earlier. The crowd was pumped for the Beast, and Cena didn’t quite know what to make of the situation.
Lesnar made his way to the ring and offered a handshake to Cena. John Cena, being our generation’s greatest idiot babyface, accepted and ate an F-5 for his troubles. It was a shot in the arm for WWE, who had spent the previous year dragging out the Rock vs. Cena affair, all while ignoring the vast potential of CM Punk’s rise to superstardom.
WWE eventually dropped the ball with Lesnar’s return (I’m sensing a pattern here). Cena beat the beast in their match at the next pay-per-view, Extreme Rules, and Lesnar transitioned into a long feud with Triple H. Where, at first anyway, WWE allowed him to be his own mouthpiece.
Folks, if you’ve never seen Brock Lesnar cut his own promo, then you are fortunate. Don’t go down that rabbit hole.
Cena and Lesnar would cross paths again when the Beast destroyed Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect at SummerSlam 2014. But for one shining moment, on the Raw after WrestleMania in 2012, fans were actually happy to see Lesnar return after a long absence.
My, how things change.
The Immortal One’s Still Got It – Raw, March 18, 2002
Montreal is a storied city in WWE history, for reasons good and bad.
The bad has been talked about to death. Here’s one of the good ones, and it occurred on the Raw after WrestleMania X8.
Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the rest of the nWo returned to WWE in February 2002, where they took out both the Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. In the ensuing feud, the Rock was signed to face Hogan at WrestleMania X8 in the legendary Icon Vs. Icon match.
The match itself showed that Hogan still had a home in WWE. On the Raw after WrestleMania X8, the Montreal crowd proved that he’d always have one.
Hogan made his way out to thunderous cheers from the crowd, microphone in hand. But then the cheers kept going. And they kept going. And then they still kept going.
Montreal gave Hogan a 10-minute standing ovation, the longest sustained pop for a wrestler in the history of the company. And when I say “10-minute,” pull up the Network, grab a stopwatch, and clock it. The Montreal faithful roared for the Hulkster for 10 minutes.
And for a guy known for devious plots behind the scenes, this Raw after WrestleMania moment laid an emotional, shaken Hulkster to bare for the whole world to see. The tears for the crowd’s love flowed from Hogan’s eyes.
Almost 10 years after leaving the company for WCW, the Raw after WrestleMania X8 proved that Hulkamania, for better or worse, may well run wild forever.
A Tip Of The Hat – Raw, March 29, 2010
At WrestleMania 25, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker had the greatest WrestleMania match of all time.
The match was so great, in fact, that through the next year, Michaels couldn’t move past his defeat at the hands of the Deadman. He spent months begging Taker for a rematch. And every time the answer was no.
Finally, the Undertaker relented and agreed to face HBK at WrestleMania XXVI. But Michaels would have to put his career on the line.
The two had a great match at that year’s Mania, and it came close (but not quite) to touching the greatness of the previous year’s edition. In the end, though, Undertaker came away the winner. And Shawn Michaels was forced to retire. The two of them hugged in the ring, and HBK’s career came to a close.
But the real emotion of the situation came to life the following night, on the Raw after WrestleMania XXVI. Michaels cut a heartfelt “goodbye” promo, thanked the fans for their support, and prepared to leave the ring for good.
Then the gong hit, and out came the Undertaker. This was weird, because we didn’t know quite what to expect. Did Taker change his mind and want HBK to hang around for one more shot? Was he going to cut his own heartfelt promo? That didn’t seem right for the Deadman.
Instead, with the lights in the arena flickering and surrounded by his entrance smoke on the stage, Undertaker glanced upward toward Michaels. He gave a tip of the hat. And he left.
It was simple, it was tasteful, and it told a beautiful story without a single word uttered. Wrestling writers and bookers of today would do well to learn from this iconic Raw after WrestleMania moment.
Doing Things The Hard Way – Raw Is War, March 30, 1998
The Attitude Era is defined by one, singular rivalry: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Mr. McMahon.
Austin and McMahon had traded a few barbs here and there in the months leading up to WrestleMania XIV, where Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to win his first WWE Championship.
But on the Raw after WrestleMania in 1998, those few barbs became an all-out war. The Attitude Era may have begun months earlier, but the opening segment of the post-Mania Raw in 1998 made it clear that things would never be the same again.
The show began with McMahon in the ring, holding the new WWE Championship belt (the Big Eagle) over his shoulder, introducing the new champ, Steve Austin.
Vinnie tried to reason with Austin, suggesting they let bygones be bygones. McMahon promised to make Austin “the greatest WWE Champion of all time.” As long as Austin agreed to do things his way. The easy way.
When Austin asked McMahon what’s the difference between the easy way and the hard way, McMahon replied that the easy way was to be flexible and to bend to the boss’s vision. To his will. As for the hard way, well, Vince didn’t really want to get into it.
Austin pondered the quandary, and gave his answer: a kick to McMahon’s gut and a Stone Cold Stunner. Followed by the line that signified WWE’s inevitable victory in the Monday Night War and set the tone for the next two years of storytelling.
“If you want Stone Cold to continue to do things the hard way, gimmie a ‘Hell Yeah!'”
There have been beachball parties, Beasts, retirements, and returns on the Raw after WrestleMania. But the Raw after WrestleMania XIV truly changed pro wrestling forever.
All images courtesy of WWE.