In honor of Raw’s 25th anniversary, here are the greatest superstars in the history of WWE’s flagship show.
25. Daniel Bryan
WWE wasted too much of Daniel Bryan’s shelf life in the midcard and tag division. While he excelled in those roles, the leader of the Yes Movement was always meant for top of the card. Unfortunately, when he finally won the WWE Championship, his career was over.
24. Big Show
Signed to a jaw-dropping 10-year contract, Big Show should have been a bigger deal in WWE. One month after debuting, he was pinned by Austin on Raw. Arguably, Big Show wasn’t treated like a legit monster until he returned to WWE in 2008, fighting Floyd Mayweather at WrestleMania. Drafted to Raw in 2009, Jericho quickly revitalized the giant as part of their tag team, and in recent years, he’s become the gate keeper for young talent.
23. Mark Henry
Although his dominant Hall of Pain run was on Smackdown, the former Sexual Chocolate has been featured on Monday nights for nearly 20 years. From having whoopee with Mae Young to faking his retirement and attacking John Cena, the World’s Strongest Man has had his share of classic Raw moments.
22. Davey Boy Smith
Aside from being Rock Bottomed onto dog shit, Davey Boy had a stellar run on Raw as part of the Allied Powers, Camp Cornette and the Hart Foundation. He and Owen had amazing chemistry, carrying the tag team division while cracking audiences up. They also had the second greatest match in Raw history.
21. Edge & Christian
Although he was synonymous with Smackdown, Edge developed his Rated-R Superstar persona on Raw, the peak of which was his Live Sex Celebration with Lita. Before that, he and Christian ruled the tag team division for a couple years, stealing the show in the ring and in hilarious backstage segments. Captain Charisma also broke out onto his own on Raw, winning the Intercontinental Championship, winning the Tag Team Titles with Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, and most importantly, winning over Trish Stratus.
20. Razor Ramon
The Bad Guy really only spent about three years on Raw before jumping ship to WCW, but he was such an integral part of the early years. From his shocking loss to 123 Kid to carrying the midcard as Intercontinental Champion, Razor Ramon was a reliable, beloved figure of the New Generation.
19. Seth Rollins
Betraying The Shield set Rollins on a helluva single’s run, becoming The Authority’s chosen one and the WWE Champion. Unlike many others on this list, Rollins persevered in an era of action over storytelling, competing in lengthy matches week after week to fill a ridiculous three-hour window.
A feminist icon, Chyna transcended into mainstream pop culture, gracing the cover of Playboy and appearing in various television shows. Her time on Raw lasted from 1997 until 2001 – she evolved from silent bodyguard of D-X to barrier breaker, becoming the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble and the first (and only) female Intercontinental Champion. Plus, she was Latino Heat’s Mamacita!
The Bizarre One made his mark on Raw, becoming one of the first openly homosexual characters in primetime television. His erotic acts were ahead of their time, and he backed it up in the ring with Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships. In 2002, Goldust transformed into comedic foil, establishing a hilarious repartee with Booker T. Still a character on RAW today, his longevity is unbelievable.
16. Trish Stratus
Heralded as the greatest women’s wrestler in WWE history, the seven-time Women’s Champion ushered in a new era for the divas’ division, blending in legitimate athleticism with sex appeal. Whether as face or heel, Stratus remained the centerpiece of the division, also playing roles in major storylines like Vince McMahon’s war with his family and Jericho’s feud with Christian. Within a seven-year period, she evolved from blonde bombshell valet to certified main event attraction.
His career was launched on Raw after upsetting Razor Ramon as the 123 Kid. Then he was reinvented on the Raw after WrestleMania XIV as X-Pac, returning from WCW to join D-X. In each role, he was a major player who consistently delivered in the ring, especially in his classic bout with Bret Hart.
14. Owen Hart
The King of Harts was a mainstay on Raw from 1993 until his tragic end in 1999, feuding with his big brother Bret until they reunited for an awesome run in 1997. When Bret and the rest of the Harts jumped to WCW, Owen stayed in WWE to battle D-X and join the Nation of Domination. His versatility was amazing – he could shift from mid-card to main event, vicious villain to comic relief, always the highlight of the show.
13. Roman Reigns
After The Shield ran roughshod for two years, the Big Dog emerged as the top guy, constantly involved in the title scene. Despite a love-hate relationship with the fans, he has remained a main event act, battling The Authority, Kevin Owens and of course, BRAUN.
12. CM Punk
As the WWE Champion for 434 days, CM Punk spent many of them killing it on the mic and in the ring on Raw. Everyone remembers The Pipebomb, but the Straight Edge Superstar also won his first world title on a Monday night and turned on The Rock at Raw 1000.
11. Randy Orton
It feels like Randy Orton has been on TV as long as The Simpsons, and the early years were the best. Every week you’d cringe over who would be next on the Legend Killer’s hit list, as he matured from Intercontinental Champion and Evolution prospect to World Champion and dastardly Viper.
Somehow, someway, Kane is still in the Raw main event scene in 2018. It’s astonishing considering the Big Red Machine debuted 20 years prior, wreaking havoc and lighting folks on fire. In later years, Kane lost his luster as part of The Authority, but that merely tarnishes his legacy of incredible sports-entertainment moments.
9. Bret Hart
While The Hitman along with Michaels and Undertaker carried Raw in the early years, it was 1997 where he truly dominated the screen. His anti-America, pro-The World stance, preaching of family values and reuniting of the Hart Foundation captivated wrestling fans every Monday night, seasoning the prime rib known as the Attitude Era.
8. John Cena
Drafted to Raw in June of 2005, John Cena has become the focal point of Raw over the past 13 years. Even when CM Punk or Brock Lesnar had the gold, Cena still held the spotlight, feuding with The Rock or Nexus or Roman Reigns or even Big Johnny. While ratings decreased during his tenure, imagine how low they would have sunk had Fruity Pebbles not been peddling to children, Gina Angelo, Gupp and other like-minded sheep.
7. Triple H
The Game is so associated with Raw that Eric Bischoff traded three wrestlers just to keep HHH away from Smackdown. While his overbearing presence has been credited with the show’s downfall after the Attitude Era, the fact remains that Triple H has mastered his villainous role while delivering great matches for several years. In his case, the good (90s’ DX, McMahon-Helmsley Regime, Daniel Bryan feud) outweighs the bad (KATIE VICK, 2002-2005 championship stranglehold, 2000s DX, Authority angle post-Bryan).
6. Mick Foley
Debuting on Raw the night after WrestleMania XII, Mick Foley changed the landscape of Monday nights, adding elements of barbarity, comedy and even humanity. He put his life story out there for fans to connect with – while we enjoyed the Three Faces of Foley, it was the man portraying those over-the-top characters that we truly cared about. His first WWE Championship victory over The Rock remains the greatest moment in the 25-year history of the show.
The Deadman headlined the inaugural Raw, casting his shadow over the next quarter century. Along with Hart and Michaels, he was a fixture of Monday nights during the early years, and then reinvented himself in the Attitude Era as the Lord of Darkness, somehow expanding his already impressive legend. Although he was primarily a Smackdown star during the 2000s, and then showed up only during WrestleMania season afterward, the Undertaker’s appearances on Raw continue to draw buzz and eyeballs.
4. Chris Jericho
From the millennium countdown to the Festival of Friendship, Y2J has been the highlight of Raw for nearly 20 years. Consistently reinventing himself, Jericho has brought various elements to Monday nights, from edgy comedy in the Attitude Era to serious heat in the late 2000s to his latest hijinks with Kevin Owens. Even during the dreaded Guest Host Era, Jericho remained a beacon of light, directing traffic in a pit of clueless celebrity bumper cars.
3. The Rock
Smackdown may be The Rock’s show, but he electrified many a Monday night, especially during the 10 months that Stone Cold was sidelined. The Rock evolved on Raw from perpetually smiling blue chipper Rocky Maivia to leader of the Nation of Domination to crown jewel of The Corporation to People’s Champion to Hollywood megastar. He thrived in the live environment, delivering water cooler promos and quality matches, constantly bringing the fans to their feet.
2. Shawn Michaels
If he hadn’t largely missed the Attitude Era (an era that he pioneered), then the Heartbreak Kid would undoubtedly be the greatest character in Raw history. He was there at the beginning, successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship against Max Moon, and carried the show from New Generation to D-Generation X. Whether on the mic or in the ring, Michaels often stole the show. When he came back to the company in 2002, he arguably improved his game: countless wars with Triple H, a classic rivalry with Jericho, 5-star matches with everyone from Shelton Benjamin to John Cena. Plus, you can’t forget his hilarious feud with the Hulkster.
1. Stone Cold
His run on top was relatively brief, but it was damn sure spectacular. Stone Cold Steve Austin ruled Monday nights from half of 1996 to 1999, and then resumed his place atop the mountain from late 2000 until early 2002. Austin led WWE in the Monday Night War, as fans anxiously tuned in to see what the Texas Rattlesnake would do next, whether that be driving a Zamboni into the arena, hosing down The Corporation with Coors Light or invading Brian Pillman’s home. Entire episodes were built around the glass shattering and a Stone Cold stunner to evildoers or even innocent bystanders. Austin was the central character of Raw during its peak and he’ll be immortalized for inspiring countless generations.