Welcome back to the Phat Daily Column. Today, we're going to change it up a bit, as I'll discuss Monday Night RAW in general, not just hyping tonight's event, but everything! I'll give my reflections on the show that once started out on USA as "WWF Prime Time", and its journey to what we see today. Should be fun.
I just want to let everyone know that the FINAL Phat Daily Column will be on August 30th, which will be a Friday and it will probably be my last Smackdown review ever. If you didn't hear about it 3 months ago, I'm "retiring" from doing Daily Columns to focus more on graduate school in September. I will have a weekly column posted on Tuesday, though, as my RAW reviews live on! I'll have more on that in the upcoming weeks.
I see that several WWE events are showing success, attendance wise. The 2-day Seattle television tour was a big success, several events have jumped off to a good start on ticket sales, and tonight's RAW is sold out in Norfolk, Virginia, although half of the building might be blocked off like many other so-called sellouts the WWE has claimed over the past few months. To the WWE: keep it up what you are doing. Keep creating new stars on Smackdown. Keep Eric Bischoff going as a slimey heel General Manager. Keep hyping up better Pay Per Views weeks in advance, not days. With Monday Night Football on the horizon, it's vital that the WWE gets some things going, heading into September.
One of these days, I will get that column out about the possibility of wrestling having labor unions, especially in the light of the labor strike in baseball. Hey, my final PDC and the baseball strike date are on the same day!
On to the PDC.
Why? You could say that RAW is the only bright spot of what can be a hellish Monday, to start the week off. Whether its work or school, Monday sucks because it's the start of what can be a long week. After a long day, you can possibly look foward to wrestling later that evening. Hence, the routine argument. From the ratings, more viewers do in fact watch RAW than they do Smackdown. Now, you could argue that TNN is more available than UPN.
I can remember from high school or sometimes in college, everyone would be bullshitting about RAW on Tuesday. Things were really fun when Nitro was around too, as you had 2 big shows to talk about. Those were the days...
For RAW, the show started off as "Prime Time", which had better matches not shown on Superstars or Challenge, and even included some rare WWF matches. The show also had some great comedy, as it had Bobby Heenan and a heel (sometimes Mr. Perfect) ripping on the likes of Hillbilly Jim or Jim Duggan, and even Slick sometimes. Very entertaining show. It was the only WWF show, aside from Friday or Saturday night "Main Event" shows, in prime time. So when times became low, Vince McMahon realized that he had a prime time cable slot to feature a new show with matches.
Hence, Monday Night RAW was created. RAW started off booking very small venues, as I believe the Manhattan Center was one of them. It was good, though, as it gave that closeness feel that ECW had in their heyday. The fans were very rowdy, too, and it made for an entertaining show. Then, the WWE moved to larger venues and would tape 4-5 shows at a time as a cost cutting measure. Add that to a dying wrestling industry in America, the show began to tank.
Thank you Monday Nitro, and of course, Eric Bischoff for pushing hard to have a show opposite of RAW on TNT. It was genius. Bischoff ran live shows, pushed big name main events, and was ruthless against its competition. Eric Bischoff would even go on live television and say that RAW was taped, giving away event results. Soon, fans began to notice, especially with the crowd looking the same for 4 consecutive events. Slowly but surely (don't call me Shirley), RAW's stale ways began to hurt them, and once the New World Order arrived, it was over. While WCW was doing the greatest angle in the history of wrestling on a 2 hour and live show, RAW was pumping out one hour shows that were taped.
RAW didn't give up on their format until it appeared too late. The show pushed Shawn Michaels, Sid, and the Undertaker, while WCW had the Cruiserweight division, many big name WWF stars, and a great live format. The "shit hit the fan" on March 3rd, 1997 when RAW scored a 1.9 rating. Rumors began to swirl about USA possibly cancelling RAW once September rolled around. The WWF, with their backs to the wall, tried anything and everything. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) actually came in and invaded during one show, which in my opinion, was one of the best RAWs ever, although I was a huge ECW mark back then. They tried crazy angles, such as the late Brian Pillman pulling a gun on Steve Austin.
Ah yes, Steve Austin. The star the WWF never knew they could ever have. His star power completely grew in 1997, and the fan reaction actually turned him face against a now heel Bret Hart. Bret's heel turn would help turn things around with the Team Canada feud, which brought some fans back and surged interest in Canada. Then, you place a good heel stable against the growing Steve Austin?
I give a lot of credit to USA Networks for the continued faith in the WWF. Instead of cancelling them, they gave RAW an extra hour to work with as a last ditch effort. If USA cancelled RAW, the WWF was finished, that simple. RAW would also start the format of taping one show live and one show taped. One taped show out of 2 didn't really hurt the WWE. All the show, after the good Canada vs. USA feud, needed was an extra spark.
Degeneration X was a good step. It helped to allow certain language barriers that USA Networks would start to ignore. DX and Steve Austin could run their mouths, and 1997 was the year that television blew the lid off of what words were bad and what words weren't. Sexual content was pushed heavily on wrestling like never before. The shows slowly picked up steam. But one incident shot RAW towards becoming the show to watch in 1998.
Of course it was the Survivor Series 1997 screwjob. WCW received a Bret Hart with a lot of controversy surrounding him, but yet they never took advantage of that. The WWF did. Slowly but surely (don't call me Shirley!!!), Vince McMahon became a very hated personality, even when he didn't expect to be. Vince experimented with some confrontations with Steve Austin, and the crowds went crazy for the segments. With HBK going on the shelf soon, the next feud was to be Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon.
And the rest was history. RAW was HUGE for the rest of 1998 and very dominant in 1999. All mostly on the Vince feud against good ol' Steve Austin. But in the fall of 1999, things went from great to the eventual downturn of RAW that we've seen lately. The advent of WWF Smackdown on Thursday Nights hurt the WWF. The WWF had to now pump out 2 two hour shows a week instead of just one. Overexposure of the WWF, plain and simple. The feuds against Vince McMahon were getting old. Vince Russo just walked out of the company in favor of WCW, and Stephanie McMahon would rise to power...
2000 was probably the best year for RAW, wrestling wise. Some really good main events, which featured such players as the Rock, a primed Triple H, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and eventually, Kurt Angle. Hell, 2000 was the best year for WRESTLING in the WWF's big boom era that started in 1998. Storyline wise, though, they were getting a tad bit dry with the Stephanie-Triple H dynasty and would slowly lose rating momentum until Wrestlemania 17 gave RAW a shot in the arm. Oh yeah, moving over to TNN hurt them too.
USA Networks became a second home to the WWF. NOBODY ever stuck up for the WWF like USA Networks did. In 1997, they could have cancelled RAW. Instead, they gave RAW an extra hour and backed the WWF up all the way. After the success, USA gave the WWF a new television show, Sunday Night Heat. Very, very nice of them. The only mean thing USA Networks ever did was to pre-empt RAW for the US Tennis Open and the dog shows, which actually made more advertising revenue than the highly rated RAWs did.
I thought the real killer for the WWE and RAW was after Wrestlemania 17 when they failed to carry momentum. While Smackdown kept stable ratings, RAW's began to drop with the Steve Austin/Triple H vs. Kane/Undertaker feud. Just a really boring main event feud, if you ask me, as Austin's heel turn was a failure and Kane/Undertaker were hardly faces at the time for fans to want to watch. The Invasion saved the day for RAW, which was poorly handled in my opinion, and Rock's return also helped. But the damage of the pathetic storylines surrounding the Invasion quickly lost the momentum for improved ratings. RAW has been dwindling ever since, and the WWF or now WWE is also declining as a whole, economically.
RAW has a lot of history to it and has been a part of our pop culture or has been a really good hobby to many. Expectations are high for every show because of past history and for the near 500 shows that have been aired on Monday Nights. With that being said, RAW is easily the biggest topic discussed on message boards and it makes for famous, regular columns to read on Tuesdays. Including this one.
Triple H vs. the Rock tonight on RAW! Have some high expectations for that?
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@RAW review tomorrow!!! Whoooooooooo!
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