When writing any form of episodic television, it’s important to lure viewers back for another week of entertainment. For the WWE, this idea can get complicated as Pay Per Views come up, extra programming airs on the Network, and a new episode airs every week of the year on network television. Through the twenty-plus years of airing WWE Monday Night Raw, fans have got to witness a lot of ups, downs, and memorable moments that included a bit of both.
Along with all of the great matches, retirement ceremonies, and Stone Cold Steve Austin moments (truly a category of its own), the show has provided fans with a lot of epic cliffhangers. These are the moments that ended shows with some type of shocking twist or storyline that wasn’t all wrapped up. For many fans, it was torture waiting a whole week for the next episode to premiere. The following fifteen cliffhangers brought just the right amount of drama, intrigue, and mystery that kept fans wanting more. They involve the early WWE Raw days, the Attitude Era, and plenty of moments featuring current Superstars like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Daniel Bryan.
14 Stone Cold is Sacrificed
Stone Cold is rarely one to get pushed around. There are dozens of episodes of Monday Night Raw that ended with him holding up a beer and saluting to fans. In December of 1998, that was not the case. After brutally attacking Austin, The Undertaker and his ministry dragged him out to the arena. Stone Cold was strapped to The Undertaker’s cross and raised above the arena. The Undertaker had the upper hand as Austin remained on the cross while WWE Raw went off the air.
The next time Austin would be seen was at the PPV Rock Bottom: In Your House. The main event of the night featured The Undertaker and Austin in a buried alive match. The winner of the match would earn the right to compete at the WWE Royal Rumble. When the glass shattered, Austin came down to the ring perfectly normal, showing no indication of damage from the sacrifice. He ended up winning the match and going on to the Royal Rumble.
13 CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb
CM Punk got a chance to end WWE Raw by delivering one of the greatest promos of all-time. With his contract almost up, Punk got a chance to air his grievances and talk about how he was always held back in the WWE. His infamous “pipe-bomb” promo was the official start to the WWE “Reality Era” and had fans talking about it for weeks. Not only was the speech great, but the way Raw ended was just as spectacular.
As Punk went on and on about the WWE, his microphone was suddenly cut off and Raw abruptly went off air without any explanation. Fans wanted to hear more and would have to tune in next week to see the fallout of the event that transpired. Following the cliffhanger, fans got to enjoy Punk’s true rise to stardom. He won the WWE Championship, walked out on the WWE, and then returned for a memorable feud with John Cena.
12 Kane… is a Murderer!
Kane has done some dastardly things while in the WWE. Setting Jim Ross on fire, attacking opponents, and burying The Undertaker alive on multiple occasions. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Triple H came out on Raw with one of the worst accusations he could make. As Kane stood in the ring, Triple H proclaimed that The Big Red Machine...WAS A MURDERER! After the dramatic line, Raw went off the air, leaving dozens of questions for the following week.
Fans finally got answers the next week, but they probably wished that they tuned out instead. Triple H explained that Kane had murdered a girl when he was just a teenager. He even took things one step further by claiming Kane had intercourse with the corpse. Yikes!
11 The WWE Walkout
Triple H has been in command of the WWE for some time through his leadership as The Authority. During a period in 2011, things were getting dangerous for performers, announcers, and even referees. As the anarchy continued, a legion of WWE Superstars could only do one thing – walk out.
During the final moments of WWE Raw, the entire locker room of stars walked out in protest of Triple H and his unsafe working conditions. It wasn’t just the Superstars that left. The ring crew, announcers like Jim Ross and even camera men left Triple H stranded in the ring. Luckily for the WWE, the walkout ended the next week and things slowly started to get back to normal. Some Superstars held out, creating some unique storylines never seen before.
10 Eddie Guerrero vs. Triple H
Draft night on WWE Raw can create lots of crazy moments and scenarios. In 2004, Triple H was shockingly drafted to the WWE SmackDown roster. This created high tensions as Triple H was scheduled to face Eddie Guerrero in the main event of the show. As the two wrestled in the ring, members of the Raw and SmackDown roster slowly trickled out. What ensued was a huge brawl between the entire WWE locker room. Raw went off the air as a chaotic scene of Superstars battled both in and out of the ring.
The next week, Triple H returned to Raw after a massive trade and it only ignited the SmackDown and Raw feud even further. With the draft back in play, WWE fans can look forward to moments like this more often.
9 Shawn Michaels Passes Out
The early days of WWE Raw often played out like a "B-Show" we see today with Main Event or Superstars. It was mostly just basic matches with no crazy or extended storylines. This all changed during a Raw main event where Shawn Michaels took on Owen Hart. After a kick to the head, Michaels suddenly passed out in the ring. The show actually cut to black for several seconds before returning and showcasing The Heartbreak Kid getting some medical treatment.
The whole cliffhanger and shocking ending was actually a storyline so that Michaels could take some time off. It was a great way to confuse fans and keep them tuning in the following week. He would return a few months later and enter himself in the 1996 Royal Rumble.
8 The Nexus Arrives
After the first season of NXT ended, it was hard to predict where they would all end up in the WWE. Nobody could have seen them forming a faction known as The Nexus and completely changing the landscape of WWE Raw. With John Cena left alone in the ring, The Nexus surrounded him and pounced. Stars like Daniel Bryan, Ryback, and Wade Barrett began a brutal assault that also included ring announcer Justin Roberts as a victim. By the time Raw went off the air, the whole ring was torn to pieces as The Nexus stood tall. It was the perfect way to end the show and introduce the powerful new stable.
In the weeks that would follow, the group would continue to terrorize WWE stars like Randy Orton and John Cena, though they'd end up becoming victims to terrible booking.
7 The SmackDown and Raw GMS
The announcement of the new WWE Draft and Brand Split in 2016 was a great way to shake up the rosters and present a new era for the WWE. As anticipation built for the draft, Vince McMahon held a special announcement to end Raw just a week before the draft. After announcing that Stephanie McMahon would be Commissioner of Raw and Shane McMahon would run SmackDown Live, he left fans guessing as to who the new General Managers would be.
The cliffhanger was a great way to build suspense. We all know by now that it was Mick Foley selected for Raw and Daniel Bryan for SmackDown. The choices really lived up to the hype and created a great moment to help build excitement for the draft.
6 Is He Alive or Dead?!
It seems like every year, WWE fans can come to expect some type of new mystery involving Kane. In 2008, Kane’s newest mystery provided another great WWE Raw cliffhanger. In the closing moments of the show, Kane angrily went up to the WWE announcers screaming out “Is he alive or dead?!” over and over again. Fans could only speculate – The Undertaker? Paul Bearer? The Demon Masked Kane?!
It would take several weeks before the cliffhanger came to a conclusion. Kane carried a small burlap bag out to the ring. He pulled out Rey Mysyerio’s mask and revealed that he was the person he was asking about the entire time. Mysterio would then end up returning to Raw to have a decent feud with The Big Red Machine.
5 John Cena Appreciation Night
John Cena had helped oust The Authority by winning a Survivor Series match-up back in 2014. A few months later, he unwittingly forced them back into power. To help celebrate, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H hosted a John Cena "Appreciation Night" that mocked the star. In an effort to get revenge for Survivor Series, Triple H closed off the episode of Raw by firing Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, and Ryback.
The shocking loss to the roster upset Cena, but he was given multiple chances to win their jobs back. It would take a few weeks, but Cena won a three on one handicap match to get them back on the roster. Everyone knew that the three would eventually come back, but it was a great way to showcase the power of The Authority and provide some compelling drama.
5. Seth Rollins Vs. Dean Ambrose
A WWE Championship match on Raw is always a draw providing entertainment and being filled with shocking moments. As the WWE roster split up, tensions were high on which brand would receive the WWE Championship. It all came to fruition when Seth Rollins took on Dean Ambrose for the title in a Raw main event. Both men pinned each other to the mat at the same time, creating a double-pinfall.
As Raw went off the air, Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose were all arguing about who the real winner was. Thankfully, fans only had to wait mere seconds before the action continued live on the WWE Network. The situation was sorted out and a rematch was set between the two on SmackDown creating another must-see moment for the company.
4 Shane McMahon Buys WCW
It was shocking enough to learn that WWE bought out WCW and the two shows would be simulcast back in 2001. It was even more shocking when Vince McMahon went out to make his announcement and Shane McMahon appeared live on the WCW stage. Shane announced that he was actually the one who bought WCW, building up not only a WCW vs WWE feud, but a McMahon vs McMahon feud that would last for several months.
The moment led to weeks of drama as WCW stars slowly started invading Raw, creating the hit or miss Invasion angle that went on for the rest of the year. This shocking cliffhanger was topped just months later when Eric Bischoff appeared on WWE Raw for the first time ever and introduced as the new GM.
3 Stephanie McMahon Gets Kidnapped
Before she was a part of The Authority and truly began running the show, Stephanie McMahon was an innocent girl just looking for love. Her long relationship with Test got her into a lot of trouble, especially with members of D-Generation X. During a main event battle on WWE Raw, Test took on Triple H for the title.
Midway into the match, the rest of DX appeared on the Titantron. They revealed that Stephanie was actually tied up backstage. An irate Vince McMahon and Test rushed to the back as Triple H retained his title and Raw went off the air. Just a few days later on SmackDown, the members of DX were bragging about the situation and showcasing the dress that Stephanie was wearing, while making jokes about having relations with her.
2 Shawn Michaels Turns on Hulk Hogan
WWE loves to put All-Star tag teams together and it doesn’t get any better than the duo of Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan. Each star led a separate generation in the WWE and seeing them perform together was an awesome treat. After disposing of Kurt Angle and Carlito, the duo had a lengthy celebration in the ring. Then out of nowhere, Michaels dropped Hogan with Sweet Chin Music.
Raw went off the air, leaving fans with more questions than answers as Hogan laid flat on the mat. We would get answers in the following weeks as Michaels challenged Hogan to a match at the 2005 SummerSlam event. The moment was one of the most shocking ways to end Raw and featured two of the all-time greats.
1 Vince’s Limo Explodes
This cliffhanger never got the resolution that it deserved. After acting loopy for multiple weeks, Vince McMahon slowly marched through the backstage area at the end of Raw. He walked by every person on the roster until he made his way to a limo waiting in the parking lot. Once the limo door shut – BOOM! – the whole thing exploded. The on-screen death of Mr. McMahon occurred and created a monstrous new storyline.
Less than a week later, the whole storyline had to be scrapped as WWE officials learned of the real life murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. Vince McMahon appeared on Raw, explained that it was all a storyline and we never heard anything about the limo explosion again. It could have been another great McMahon mystery, but now goes down as one of many unanswered cliffhangers.