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My favourite top 10 RAW moments

Monday Night RAW is about to celebrate it’s 25th anniversary and it’s still my favourite show on TV, it was when I first watched it as a 5 year old kid and it still is as a 28 year old dude. There’s nothing quite like it, it’s sports and entertainment all in one, soap opera, drama, fights and comedy skits all rolled into one amazing show. I’ve got to watch a lot the top RAW moments since it was on air and since we’re celebrating it’s 25th anniversary today, I thought I’d share my favourite moments of WWE’s flagship show.

 

#10 – Shawn Michaels vs John Cena

I’ll start with perhaps the greatest match on RAW. It was a 50+ minute match in London between one of my all time favourites, Shawn Michaels against John Cena, someone I’m not that fond of but these two made one hell of a show during their match. It shows how good Cena really is and how amazing HBK had always been in the ring.

 

#9 – D-X mocks The Nation

Well Degeneration-X sure made me laugh during their run in WWE and I didn’t know which one to pick. The original duo of Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Hemsley had a lot of funny moments (most of which involving Sgt Slaughter) and also the second version of the group invading WCW but them mocking the Nation of Domination has to be my favourite. It was just too damn funny.

 

#8 – Bret Hart vs Steve Austin in a Street Fight

I’m a huge Bret Hart fan and while he was awesome as the hero, I was also a huge fan of him during his heel run. He somehow managed to make the American crowd look like the bad guys and I kinda agreed with the things Bret was saying about America, most of which were true even in today’s time. It was pure gold. Steve Austin was the perfect anti-hero and he did grow on me because of his fueds with Hart and Michaels but this bit was brilliantly done.

 

#7 – The Rock meets The Hurricane

I can bet you this wouldn’t be in anyone’s top 10 but it sure is in my list. The 3 promos and the match these guys had were just too good, it made me a fan of the Rock who I wasn’t that fond of at first. And I always liked the Hurricane who could do the comedic bits but also put in some good matches. Their promos are easily one of my all time favourite things I’ve seen on RAW, one of the best comedic bits in my view.

 

#6 – The Festival of Friendship

I would love to put this entry on this list (no pun intended) as Chris Jericho’s entire run from middle of 2016 to April of 2017. For a while there was nothing good on RAW until Chris Jericho showed up again and he had possibly the best run of his career. Not only was he still good in the ring but he was easily the best guy on the microphone. Every night was a highlight from Jericho and everything he did was pure gold. “The Gift of JerichoDRINK IT IN MAAAANNNN“! “You’re gonna get….IT“. “Stupid idiots“. “The List of Jericho“. “You just made the List!”

 

Chris Jericho is easily one of my all time favourite wrestlers and the fact that he’s still going today makes me happy. He just keeps getting better and better. But this promo for the Festival of Friendship was pure gold too, the moment Jericho lifts up the new list just as he asked Kevin Owens, “why is my name on this?”, that is one of the best dramatic moments you’ll ever see in any TV show.

 

#5 – Undertaker vs Jeff Hardy in a Ladder Match for the WWE Championship

Although I did say Michaels vs Cena was the best match I’ve seen on RAW, this ladder match between the Undertaker and Jeff Hardy may be my favourite I’ve seen on RAW. It was the age old story of David vs Goliath, the biggest dog versus the ultimate underdog. The whole match was amazing, seeing Jeff trying to find a way to beat the evil Deadman Inc. who kept trying to shut him down. Also, this version of Biker Undertaker was my favourite.

 

#4 – CM Punk’s Pipebomb

So let me get this straight, I was already a CM Punk guy before this promo happened. I jumped on the bandwagon during his amazing yet underappreciated run with the Straightedge Society. Finally there was something who I could look up to because he believed in the same things I did, live our lives the right way with no alcohol, no drugs and no smoking. Since then I was a fan of his.

 

And then he did this. He spoke from the heart of about many things, from his run to being snubbed for part timers and guys who were not getting their dues. He was speaking out for us real fans about the things that were hurting WWE. It was one of those moments where I really did think….did he go off-script here? One of the best promos you’ll ever see in WWE.

 

#3 – Chris Jericho’s Debut

So during this time in 1999, I wasn’t that interested in WWF. Bret Hart was gone and Shawn Michaels had retired so I didn’t really have anyone to cheer on for. I did watch WCW too during that time, and I had become a fan of this Canadian fella called Chris Jericho. Suddenly he wasn’t on TV too. So imagine my surprise when he finally showed up on WWF. Finally I had someone to cheer on for in WWF again. One of the best debuts in all of WWE.

 

#2 – Bret Hart shoves Vince McMahon

People had always wondered when did the Attitude Era really start and for me it’s quite obvious, at this very moment. All of a sudden a good guy in Bret Hart starts swearing like crazy and pushing THE authority guy in Vince McMahon. I had never seen anything like that before and it shocked me. This was the start of Bret’s great heel run and he sure was speaking the truth of what was going on. This was brilliantly done.

 

#1 – Shawn Michaels owns Montreal

How can not put this as #1? I’m a Bret Hart guy and I was also a Shawn Michaels guy but this was just absolutely fantastic. The best promo work I’ve ever seen by anyone in any wrestling company. It does help that it was done by Shawn Michaels in a rare heel run and RAW being in Montreal, the place of the controversial Survivor Series match. But the way HBK played the crowd from singing their anthem, making fun of them, teasing a Bret Hart return, and then teasing a Hulk Hogan run-in and refuse to leave when the fans wanted him to go. You’ll never hear anyone get booed out of the building like this. Even the Bret Hart pop was one of the loudest I ever heard. The was easily the best thing I’ve seen on RAW. Well played Shawn Michaels. And that’s why they call him the Heartbreak Kid. The Showstopper. The Icon.

 

Here’s to RAW for 25 great years and more to come. I hope I’m still watching RAW when it comes to it’s 50th anniversary. There’s a good chance I will.

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Rest In Peace Justin Wilson (1978 – 2015)

When I was writing my little tribute to the late Jules Bianchi after he had passed away from his injuries sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix a little over six weeks ago, I told myself that I hope it’s the last time in a long while that I would have this sick feeling in my stomach of realizing that a great racing driver and a great person has left. Unfortunately, motorsports has and will always be a dangerous sport and another great driver and a great person has been taken away from us. And it’s another guy who I think very highly of and that of course is the late Justin Wilson. Just saying that feels weird for me.

I’m still in shock as to what’s happened. For those who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of IndyCar racing and have followed the series since 2005 very closely. I don’t think I’ve missed one race since that day, be it on the TV, a live stream on the internet or delayed on YouTube. I was watching the Pocono race on Monday morning because I couldn’t stay up enough late Sunday night for the race live. It was a pretty good race, one of the better oval races I’ve seen. 6 or 7 cars wide racing? It was brilliant. Then came 21 laps to go when race leader Sage Karam crashed. Parts of his car was flying and his nosecone hit Justin Wilson’s helmet and he went straight into the crash barriers. At this point, I had no idea that he was in a coma but I knew something wasn’t right as he wasn’t moving at all. And then the news came a day later that Justin Wilson had passed away. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. He was just a brilliant driver who finally had a drive with one of the top teams, albeit a part-time deal, in IndyCar and then this happens. I feel horrible for his family and friends, I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now, especially his two young daughters. I can only hope for the best for them at this difficult time.

I first heard of Justin when he won the F3000 championship that year (which is now GP2), beating the likes of Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais to the championship. Those two happen to be two of the very best around so it shows the quality JW had. It was always tough for him to fit in those cars being a very tall guy but he finally had his chance in Formula One with Minardi in 2003 and then moving to Jaguar for the second part of the year, scoring one point in Indianapolis. He never really had a proper shot to prove himself in Formula One.

He did do just that in ChampCars and more so in IndyCar. In the first year of the unification, he got a win at Detriot for Newman-Haas Racing. But the team ran into trouble financially so he joined the underdog minnows, Dale Coyne Racing. That’s when he proved how bloody good he was. He gave that little team their first ever win in 25 years at Watkins Glen. After a stint with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, he came back and got them another win in Texas. And on an oval too.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2012. Picture taken by me.

I was really pissed when I heard Justin didn’t have a full-time drive in IndyCar for this season. I remember asking, why isn’t someone as talented as him and Ryan Briscoe not have full-time drivers in a top motorsports series? Sadly it’s all about the money now and guys with the talent can’t just rely on that which is very very wrong. At least both of them got a part-time racing deal and have proven themselves once again why talent > money. And just before that Pocono race, Justin scored a 2nd place finish at the last race in Mid-Ohio! For a part-time driver, that is quite brilliant. He was even leading that Pocono race right off the start and for bits of it. Andretti had been doing better ever since he showed up with two wins for Ryan Hunter-Reay. I was really hoping this would give him a full-time ride with Andretti but sadly that won’t happen.

I’ve had the privilege to watch Justin race twice, both times at Sonoma in 2012 and 2014. And once again he was his impressive self, finishing inside the top 11 for the little team Dale Coyne Racing. In between those races in 2013, he actually finished on the podium in 2nd place in Sonoma. It was just exactly a year ago on this date (24 august US timing) that I last saw Justin Wilson in action at Sonoma. He stopped on track at the end of the race and gave me one of my best pictures I’ve taken of any racing car. He had also walked past me before the start of the race, which was the closest I’ve got to meeting an IndyCar driver at any point. But as he was in the zone, I did not want to disturb him. Even if I had done so, I knew he’d be ok with a quick picture, that’s the kind of guy he was. And to think that exactly one year later, he would succumb to his injuries from Pocono. Life is too short sometimes and very unfair. It always seems as if the best people are taken way too soon. I said that about Dan Wheldon and Jules Bianchi and the same can be said for Justin Wilson.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2014. Picture taken by me.

I will always have the biggest of respects for these racing drivers. They are true heroes, risking their lives to achieve success in motorsports be it to win a race or just to finish it. No-one can match these guys and gals in my view. These guys accept the danger and get on with their racing jobs, I will always have respect for every and any racing driver for that, be it someone who I’m a fan or even if it’s someone I don’t really like, I have nothing but respect for all of them. Especially the guys who drive in IndyCars, which some may say is the most dangerous of the lot because of the speeds they do especially on the ovals. These guys are true heroes to me. So to lose another one is quite hard to accept.

JW is easily one of the best drivers I’ve seen in an IndyCar. It’s a shame that he never got the opportunity in a full-time top team ride he fully deserved. If he had one, I am sure he would have been an IndyCar champion. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how he was a great person and having seen him in the flesh in Sonoma and how friendly he was to his crew and the people around him, I can attest to that. Justin, you were a great driver and an ever better person. Thanks for the memories, especially that win in Watkins Glen in 2009, Texas in 2012 and much more from your time in IndyCar and Formula One. Godspeed JW, you will be missed.

Rest in peace Justin Wilson.

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Rest In Peace Jules Bianchi (1989 – 2015)

Today (technically yesterday for me) was the day the racing family said it’s last goodbye to someone who should have been a bright star in not just motorsports but in Formula One altogether. We got the news we feared last Friday when Jules Bianchi passed away, nine months after his fatal accident in Suzuka during the 2014 F1 Japanese Grand Prix. A great F1 talent gone far too soon.

I had first heard of Jules in 2009 during his days in F3 Euro, winning that championship and competing against the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Christian Vietoris (now in DTM). I only got to see a few of his races during that year but I could tell he had the talent. It was also during that year he joined the Ferrari youth academy so you knew he really did have the talent if a team like Ferrari signs him up. He spent the next two years in GP2 and even though he didn’t win it, he came 3rd both times so clearly he was a star in the making. And the guys who beat him? Pastor Maldonaldo (F1 winner), Sergio Perez (4-time F1 podium finisher), Romain Grosjean (9-time F1 podium finisher) and Luca Filippi (IndyCar podium finisher). That’s an impressive list of drivers there.

I got to see him in action a bit more in 2012 with Formula Renault 3.5 (since GP2 wasn’t aired in Singapore at that point) and he also had a few test sessions with Force India F1 team. The first time I saw him was at a Force India roadshow on the Friday of the Singapore Grand Prix. I knew a Force India test driver was showing up but I didn’t know who. It was either Conor Daly or Jules Bianchi but both were great so I would have been happy to meet either one. Unfortunately, I showed up a bit late and just missed the line to get a picture with Jules. I do regret missing that chance very much now. And I was pretty damn sure I was one of the only few who actually knew who he was at that time while some just wanted to take a picture with an F1 driver.

He did well with his test deal for Force India and I was quite bummed when I heard Force India went with Adrian Sutil and not Bianchi for the 2013 season, I knew they were making a big mistake. At least Jules did get his chance but it was with the minnows Marussia. Even then, he was the star of the “back of the field” battle, more often than not he would beat his direct competition (his team-mate and the Caterham guys). If anyone could get a point for those back-maker teams, surely it had to be him.

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Jules Bianchi in Singapore 2013. Picture taken by me.

The next time I saw him was during the autograph session during the 2014 F1 Australian Grand Prix. Even though I didn’t get an autograph from him because I was standing at the other side, I could tell he was a good guy. At one point he saw a kid trying to get a picture with him, picked him up to the stage and got him that picture with him. What a nice lad! He was one of the few to stay on for a little while longer to sign more autographs for us fans waiting at the front of the stage, some of the drivers just head off after the actual thing and ignore those of us not in line but at the front of the stage hoping to get their autographs.

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Jules Bianchi in Melbourne 2014. Picture taken by me.

That 2014 year was a great one for him. He did end up scoring his and Marussia’s first ever points (and also the first of the new teams from 2010 to score a point) and of course it had to be in Monaco where just about anything can happen there. This underdog had his big day there and to think his hometown of Nice was close to Monaco, that was a brilliant home race for him. It was an impressive drive to get that Marussia into 9th, and that’s after a penalty was given too!

The next time I saw him was at the 2014 F1 Singapore Grand Prix and I saw him entering the circuit with Kimi Raikkonen and some of the Ferrari crew. With the word that Fernando Alonso was set to leave Ferrari, it got me thinking…is Jules Bianchi the new Ferrari driver for 2015? I sent a picture of it and thought I’d have some fun with it “Bianchi with Ferrari crew, let’s start the rumors”! Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him in the flash.

Of course I’d see him again but this time in his car driving the wheels out of the Marussia as he always did. On Saturday I went up the Singapore Flyer to get some picture from up there and one of the pictures I got was the one I shared at the start of this entry (the feature image) and I have to say it’s one of the best picture I’ve ever taken of an F1 car because it showed how close these guys were on the limit, Jules almost touched the wall at that point. Taking that bit more and then some of what he could, finding for the perfect line. That’s racing. A great driver can find a bit more by testing the limits given to him and Jules was clearly one of those guys. He would finish the race 16th, just behind Marcus Ericsson in the Caterham. That Singapore Grand Prix would be the last time he would finish an F1 race in his short life.

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Jules Bianchi in Singapore 2014. Picture taken by me.

You all know the story of Japan a few weeks after that race. A typhoon was coming and instead of starting the race a bit early to avoid the rain, the race went as scheduled and the rain hit and i caused chaos. Jules was involved in a huge accident, suffering serious brain injuries and remained in a coma for the next 9 months until a few days ago when his fight ended. It’s a real damn shame that his life ended way too early.

Life just isn’t fair sometimes. I always thought he would be, not just the next Ferrari driver, but the next Ferrari F1 world champion. It was clear he had what it took to be a race winner at the the highest level of motorsports. A big loss to the racing family, a future champion gone too soon. My condolences to his family and friends. I know what it’s like to see someone suffer for far too long. Just be happy for him that he is in a better place and he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.

Jules, you were a great guy and a brilliant racer. You will be missed by all in the racing family. Godspeed Jules. May you enjoy your final journey and continue to race on, this time with the greats of our sports. Thanks for the memories of Monaco 2014 and many more.

Rest in peace Jules Bianchi.

RIP Jules