By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Randy Orton and Bob Orton Interrupted Roddy Piper and Mick Foley on 'Piper's Pit'
This is a random side note, but was Piper ever an integral part of Raw? He was already on his way out of the company by the time Raw was instituted in 1993. Even still, it was a solid hook for him to kick off the show with Foley as his guest for the first time ever. He asked Foley when fans could expect to see him back in the ring and Foley didn't give an answer before the Ortons interrupted. That was a nice touch considering Foley's last WWE match up to that point was against Orton at Backlash 2004 in a losing effort. As Foley mentioned, Orton was days away from facing The Undertaker at the No Mercy pay-per-view, so this was a little extra hype for the match on Raw and he generated good heat by laying out the legends.
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle in a 30-Minute Iron Man Match Ended in a 1-1 Draw
Michaels and Angle contested one of my favorite WrestleMania matches of all-time at WrestleMania 21 and had a hell of a rematch at Vengeance a few months later. I'm not sure why the rubber match wasn't held sooner (I guess WWE had other plans for Michaels with Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam), but it was an excellent addition to this stacked show and a fitting way of kicking off the in-ring portion of the night. They made the half hour fly by with their amazing chemistry and the crowd was engaged in the action the entire time. I was disappointed they didn't go into overtime, but they made sense of not adding more time by having Angle walk out. They might have resolved their rivalry in early 2006, but I don't think they went back to this match too often after this.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Attacked the Entire McMahon Family
What would a Raw Homecoming be without Stone Cold stunning Mr. McMahon? But this was even better. Vince wasn't the only recipient of a Stunner, however, as the returning Shane, Stephanie and even Linda were laid out as well. It was a a ridiculously over-the-top segment, but that's why it worked. Yes, Vince, Shane and Stephanie selling the Stunner for over ten minutes was silly and the segment lasted a little longer than I would have liked, but the crowd ate it up and they never seemed to be bored by it. Unsurprisingly, this did the highest rating of the night. Stone Cold = ratings, after all.
Edge def. Matt Hardy in a Loser Leaves Raw Ladder Match For Edge's Money in the Bank Briefcase
I saw this match for the first time a few years ago as it was included on Edge's latest WWE DVD release. I loved it then and enjoyed it even more the second time around. I love the year of 2005 in WWE for its amazing rivalries, and this was undoubtedly one of them. Edge looked significantly stronger than Hardy throughout, and that obviously boded well for him as he successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase a few months later, but Hardy should have been a much bigger star coming out of this. As Ladder match specialists, Edge and Hardy were right in their comfort zone with this match and it was superb as a result. Lita hanging Hardy up in the ropes as Edge ascended the ladder to secure the victory was a clever finish that sent Hardy packing to the SmackDown brand (where he'd sadly go on to do next to nothing).
Triple H and Intercontinental Champion Ric Flair def. Carlito and Chris Masters
While the match wasn't anything special, it was cool to see Flair team up with the returning Triple H, who hadn't been seen since losing to Batista inside Hell in a Cell at Vengeance months earlier. I don't know whether it was predictable or not that HHH was going to turn on Flair, but I thought it was brilliant booking. After being gone for so long, you know to know Triple H was going to get cheered upon his return, and he was, only for him to brutally attack Flair afterward which came off great. Carlito and Masters were never seen as a threat to these two and never amounted to anything as a tandem over the subsequent six months.
Rob Conway Interrupted the WWE Legends
This was your obligatory "get all the legends on the show" segment (basically an episode of Old School Raw crammed into two minutes), and while it was ultimately worthless, it was short and sweet and didn't overstay its welcome. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this segment for me was Conway's involvement. I had completely forgotten he was still with the company at this point and I believe he was gone shortly thereafter.
Women's Champion Trish Stratus and Ashley Massaro def. Candice Michelle, Victoria and Torrie Wilson in a 3-on-2 Bras and Panties Handicap Match
Dear lord. The dreaded Bras and Panties matches. Were they a sight for sore eyes for the male viewers? Sure, but the matches themselves were absolutely awful and only further devalued women's wrestling. The Divas division was virtually nonexistent at this point because Stratus rarely defended her title. On the bright side, if you blinked, you likely missed this match because it was over relatively quickly.
World Heavyweight Champion Batista, United States Champion Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, Christian and JBL Went to a No Contest
It was noted by the commentators that this marked Rey Mysterio's first ever appearance on Raw. I don't know how true that was, but it's probably accurate because he had been on SmackDown for the preceding three years. That was a pretty significant moment. The match never got underway because Eric Bischoff was in charge once Vince left the arena and called the contest off, setting the stage for what would happen after the main event. If nothing else, this match that wasn't to be advertised the matches taking place at that Sunday's No Mercy pay-per-view.
"Mean" Gene Okerlund Interviewed Hulk Hogan
WWE billed this as Hogan's first appearance since SummerSlam, so it should have felt more monumental than it was. Mean Gene interviewing Hogan was a cool blast from the past, but the whole purpose was to give viewers an idea what was next for Hogan. He teased wanting a match with Stone Cold, but that never happened, so this was pointless. I'm not sure if that was ever in the cards or if it was scrapped, and it's a shame because that could have been a big money match had it happened.
WWE Champion John Cena def. Eric Bischoff in a No Disqualification Match
There was plenty of build to this match throughout the night and was advertised one week out, but why? Did viewers honestly think there was a chance Bischoff could win the title, even with the No Disqualification stipulation? Cena and Kurt Angle furthered their feud, but that was about it because it was complete throwaway otherwise. Bischoff was fired as Raw's General Manager a month or so later, so maybe this was intended to plant the seeds. The SmackDown invasion of sorts that occurred afterward was a major deal since nothing like that had happened before, so it ended the evening on an intriguing note. That was back when the Brand Split meant something. That would led to the two brands squaring off in a Survivor Series elimination tag team match the following month.
If this truly was WWE's first ever three hour show, it was definitely a worthy occasion with this marking WWE's return to the USA Network where they have remained ever since. I've waited years to watch this show in full, so I was ecstatic when I found out it had been uploaded to the WWE Network just recently. It wasn't as epic of an episode as I expected, but it was still a newsworthy night for the return of Triple H, a WWE Championship main event, a SmackDown invasion, and much more. Similar to Raw 1000, it's worth watching in its entirety for everything it has to offer, even if there were a few matches and segments that were slightly underwhelming.