Some Find it Hard To Say Goodbye
Saying goodbye is never easy. It does not matter if it is a significant other, a family member, or someone who shaped your childhood. Three significant goodbyes stand out from the Raw after Mania.
The first one was the goodbye to Ric Flair. I challenge you to find anyone who took in the Raw on March 31, 2008 and did not shed a tear. The night before, Flair and Shawn Michaels had a classic match that left everyone finding it tough to swallow. Shawn retired the 16-Time World Champion. On Raw, Flair gave a heartfelt and tear-filled farewell to the fans and to the locker room. The embraces of Shawn Michaels and Triple H were especially touching as all of us said goodbye to one of the best Professional Wrestlers of All-Time.
One year and 363 days later, we could be saying goodbye once again to an all-time amazing wrestler. The man that retired Flair, Shawn Michaels would leave us. Never again would we see The Heartbreak Kid in a wrestling ring. While Shawn didn’t have the accolades that Flair had, he might have been more influential. I, for one, was a huge HBK fan and seeing him walk up the ramp for the final time as a wrestler felt like the end of an era.
Perhaps one of the saddest stories from the Night After, started on the April 7th, 2014 edition of Raw. This was the night we saw the Ultimate Warrior for the last time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame that weekend. It ended a long-standing feud between Warrior and Vince McMahon. The Hall of Fame was not legit until it had the likes of Warrior among its ranks. Warrior gave an impassioned speech to the fans. Sadly, the mortal realm would lose the Ultimate Warrior a few days later. A special award now lives in his honor, marking the perseverance and determination to overcome obstacles.
You Say Bye, I Say Hi
Not every Raw is about a sendoff. At times, we welcome back superstars to the main roster, or new ones to the big stage. On April Fool’s Day of 1996, three Hall of Fame caliber talents made their debuts. Sable made her debut on Raw, she was seen the night before as HHH’s escort, Mankind busted out the Mandible Claw for the first time, and Isaac Yankem DDS appeared. If you are not familiar with that name, maybe you know him as the Devil’s Favorite Demon, the Big Red Machine, Glenn Jacobs, ½ of the Brothers of Destruction, or simply as Kane.$
About debuts, big men often make themselves known on these nights. In consecutive years, The Next Big Thing, Brock Lesnar, and the only homegrown talent that WCW ever produced, Bill Goldberg made their grand entrances into the Main Roster (Lesnar on 3/18/02, Goldberg on 3/31/03). Other notable big men to make their way to the big time were the Funkasaurus, Brodus Clay (4/2/12), Rusev (4/7/14) and even Apollo Crews (4/4/16). The same night Crews showed up from NXT, so did two of the most over tag team competitors going today. Enzo Amore and Big Cass arrived on the scene last year, and have taken the WWE Universe by storm. They have also rewritten a way to spell a word, but I digress.
One last major debut to be mentioned here as a featured match this Sunday at WrestleMania. Before he was the King of the Cruiserweights, Neville was known as the Man Gravity Forgot. His brand of high flying moves, mixed with an Adonis-like body, made him a fan favorite from his start on Raw on March 30, 2015.
Wrestle Mania Is The Best
The best thing about the night after are the storylines. Some of them are easily forgotten, like when Sid Vicious turned on Shawn Michaels back in April of 1995. Some of them are galvanized in video packages at the introduction of every show, like Bubba Ray Dudley power bombing Stacy Keibler through a table (it was in the SmackDown video package for years). Others may set up a story down the line, like when Eric Bischoff fired Stone Cold Steve Austin for “medical reasons” on the last day of March in 2003.
Then there comes the Raw on March 30, 1998. Mike Tyson was the special guest ring enforcer for a WWF Title match between the founder of D-Generation X, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. For weeks, it looked like Tyson had aligned himself with HHH, Chyna, and HBK. However, during the match, Tyson counted the pin of Michaels and awarded the belt to Stone Cold.
Fast-forward to the next night. HHH is in the ring and uses the famous line “you dropped the ball" on Shawn Michaels. He brought forth the Genesis of D-Generation X. Making a return to the WWF, and debuting a new character, Sean Waltman (formerly the 1-2-3 Kid) would join DX as X-Pac. Later in the show, The Road Dogg Jesse James and the Badass Billy Gunn, The, New, Age, Outlaws! Would join up, and DX would run roughshod over the WWF for almost 2 years.
Announcements can be made on the night after Raw that have lasting effects on the company as a whole. After the Invasion angle ended, there were several superstars who were struggling to find time to be on tv. The WWE’s answer, the brand split. Linda McMahon announced that Ric Flair would oversee Raw and Vince would take over SmackDown. The brand split has morphed and changed throughout the years, and it essentially disappeared for a period, but it still exists today.
One thing that did not last, and was a direct byproduct of the Brand Split, was John Laurinitis as a General Manager. He would win control of Raw at WrestleMania 28, and introduce People Power to the WWE Universe. Almost all General Managers in wrestling are hated, except for Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, and Teddy Long, but Johnny Ace took it to the next level. People Power flopped as did Laurinitis.
Basically, the whole point of this is that anything can happen on Raw. Hell, it’s live for a reason. But on the most important Raw of the year, the WWE shakes everything up and the possibilities are endless. April 3rd promises to be something special. You won't wanna miss this.