HistoryMonday Night Raw -- Beginning as WWF Monday Night Raw, the program first aired on January 11, 1993. It aired on the USA Network for one hour. The original Raw broke new ground in televised professional wrestling. Traditionally, wrestling shows were taped on sound stages with small audiences or at large arena shows. The Raw formula was considerably different from the taped weekend shows that aired at the time such as WWF Superstars and WWF Wrestling Challenge. Instead of taped matches weeks in advanced with studio voice overs and taped discussion, Raw was a show shot and aired to a live audience, with angles playing out as they happened.
Raw originated from the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios, a small New York City theater, and aired live each week. The combination of an intimate venue and live action proved to be a successful improvement. However, the weekly live schedule proved to be a financial drain on the WWF. From Spring 1993 up until Spring 1997, Raw would tape several week's worth of episodes after a live episode had aired.The WWF taped several weeks worth of Raw from the Mid Hudson Civic Centre in April 1993, and again in June and October. The first episode to air outside of New York was taped in Bushkill, Pennsylvania in November 1993, and Raw left the Manhattan Center permanently as the show would be taken on the road throughout the United States and had in smaller venues.
Raw, uniquely in its day, featured some competitive matches between upper level talent such as Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Doink the Clown and the 1-2-3 Kid in its early years. Huge storyline developing matches such as Ric Flair Vs Mr Perfect in January 1993 would be Flair's last appearance in the company for almost 9 years. The Kid's upset victory of Razor Ramon in May 1993 would result in The Kid becoming an upper roster mainstay for years to come.
Vince McMahon, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Rob Bartlett were the original hosts of the show, Bartlett being a comedian who previously had nothing to do with the wrestling industry. He would be replaced by Bobby Heenan in April 1993, though he left the company in December and would leave McMahon and Savage to host the show alone. Savage would leave in October 1994, leaving McMahon with several different co hosts each week including Shawn Michaels and Jim Cornette. Jerry Lawler would become McMahon's permanent co host in April 1995 in a role he still keeps today.
Raw Is War and The Monday Night Wars -- In 1995, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) began airing its new wrestling show, WCW Monday Nitro, live each week on TNT. Raw and Nitro went head-to-head for the first time on September 11, 1995. Due to Raw's taping schedule on several occasions, WCW Vice President Eric Bischoff, who also worked as an on-air authority figure, would frequently give away the results of WWF's taped Raw shows on the live WCW show. Some fans also looked at Raw taping results on the steadily growing Internet; this caused the ratings of the taped Raw episodes to decrease.
At the start of the ratings war in 1995 through to mid-1996, Raw and Nitro exchanged victories over each other in a closely contested rivalry. Beginning in mid-1996, however, thanks primarily to the nWo angle, Nitro started a ratings win-streak that lasted for 84 consecutive weeks, ending on April 13, 1998.
Controversy erupted on the November 4, 1996 episode when Brian Pillman, engaged in a feud with Steve Austin, pulled a gun on Austin during a home-invasion segment. Pillman was also heard using the word "fuck" during the segment, which, due to the live nature of Raw, went uncensored. Executives at USA Network were not pleased with the episode and forced the WWF and Pillman to apologize for the incident.
On February 3, 1997, Monday Night Raw went to a two-hour format, as an edgier, more hostile attitude was starting to come in full stream in the WWF. In an attempt to break the momentum of what had turned into ratings domination by Nitro, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was brought in as Jerry Lawler challenged ECW on February 17, 1997. In an episode where Raw returned to the Manhattan Center, the challenge was answered with Taz, Mikey Whipwreck, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, D-Von Dudley, and The Sandman and "ECW Representative" Paul Heyman appearing and performing ECW-style matches for the WWF audience.
On March 3, 1997, a house show from Berlin, Germany; which was filmed with few cameras and poor lighting and featured an array of cold matches with no storyline builds to them, aired as that week's episode of Raw. The show was very poorly received by fans (earning only a 1.9 rating, one of the lowest the show has ever recorded) and WWF executives, alike. The following week, Raw was completely revamped with a new set, new theme music (originally The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson, later a WWF-created song), and was renamed Raw is War. The March 17, 1997 episode featured a heated Bret Hart/Vince McMahon altercation where Hart shoved McMahon to the mat and engaged in a profanity-laden tirade, much of which went uncensored.
Throughout 1997, further controversial elements emerged with Raw and WWF programming. Notable angles included Bret Hart and his Hart Foundation declaring war on the United States life-style, Paul Bearer delivering an intense promo on June 30 claiming that The Undertaker's brother Kane was still alive after surviving a house fire twenty years prior and claiming that the Undertaker had started it, gang warfare between the Nation of Domination, the Disciples of Apocalypse and Los Boricuas erupting in the summer, Steve Austin's building feud with WWF executives, and primarily Vince McMahon (who was being known as the legit owner of the World Wrestling Federation), and the emergence of D-Generation X as an anti-establishment group.
After WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, which featured Mike Tyson as a ring enforcer, and Shawn Michaels final match up until 2002, the WWF regained the lead in the Monday Night Wars with its new "WWF Attitude" brand, led in particular by rising stars Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and Mankind. The classic feud between the WWF Chairman Vince McMahon and fan favorite Steve Austin caught the interest of fans. The April 13, 1998 episode of Raw, headlined by a match between Austin and McMahon, marked the first time that WCW had lost the head-to-head Monday night ratings battle in the 84 weeks since 1996.
On Raw, fans were immersed in the feud between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin, while superstars like Triple H, Mankind and The Rock were gradually elevated to main event status in the WWF. Other superstars such as Kane, Val Venis, the New Age Outlaws, and Edge among others were coming through the ranks and exposing the WWF as territory where new talent could ascend, as opposed to WCW. Matters were so heated between the two programs that, when both shows were in the Hampton Roads area on the same night (Raw in Hampton, Virginia, Nitro in Norfolk, Virginia), DX was sent to film a "war" segment at the Norfolk Scope where they berated WCW and interviewed fans on camera who stated that they received their Nitro tickets for free (presumably in an attempt by WCW to pack the arena to capacity due to low ticket sales).
On January 4, 1999, Mick Foley, who had wrestled for WCW during the early 1990s as Cactus Jack, won the WWF Title as Mankind on Raw. On orders from Bischoff, Nitro announcer Tony Schiavone gave away this previously taped result on a live Nitro, and then sarcastically added "that's gonna put some butts in the seats" consequently resulting in over 600,000 viewers switching channels to watch Raw. This was also the night that Nitro aired a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match in which Kevin Nash blatantly laid down for Hulk Hogan after Hogan poked him in the chest.
Tragedy befell the World Wrestling Federation at the Over the Edge pay-per-view on May 23, 1999 when Owen Hart tragically perished in an in-ring stunt gone wrong. The following night on Raw, the entire episode was dedicated to the memory of Hart with various WWF personalities delivering out-of-character comments on the accident. While the episode was the second highest rated edition of Raw up to that point, it was regarded by several critics (including Hart's brother, Bret) as being in bad taste.
On September 27, 1999, Mick Foley helped Raw achieve some of its highest ratings ever with a segment featuring himself (as Mankind) and The Rock. In a send-up of the old This Is Your Life series, Mankind presented people from The Rock's past, such as a home economics teacher, gym teacher and old high school girlfriend, all of whom were hilariously rejected by The Rock. The This is Your Life segment remains one of the highest rated segments in Raw viewership history, with an 8.4 rating.
A new television contract with Viacom led to changes in WWF broadcasting. On September 25, 2000, Raw moved from the USA Network to TNN (which later became Spike TV).
WCW's sharp decline in revenue and ratings led to Time Warner's sale of selected assets such as the WCW name, tapes, and contracts to the WWF in March 2001. The final edition of Nitro aired on March 26, 2001. The show began with Vince McMahon making a short statement about his recent purchase of WCW and ended with a simulcast with Raw on TNN and Nitro on TNT with an appearance by Vince's son Shane. The younger McMahon interrupted his father's gloating over the WCW purchase to explain that Shane was the one who actually owned WCW, setting up what became the WWF's "Invasion" storyline.
WWE Raw and brand extension -- Following the sale of WCW and the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Raw is War title was quietly retired and the program was renamed simply as WWF Raw on October 1, 2001.
In early-to-mid-2002, the WWF underwent a process they called the "Brand Extension". The WWF divided itself into two de facto wrestling promotions with separate rosters, storylines and authority figures. Raw and SmackDown! would host each division, give its name to the division and essentially compete against each other. The split came about as a result of the WWF purchasing their two biggest competitors, WCW and ECW. The brand extension was publicly announced by Linda McMahon during a telecast of Raw on March 25, 2002, and became official the next day. Shortly thereafter, the WWF was legally required to change the name of the company to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Wrestlers became show-exclusive, wrestling for their specific show only. At the time this excluded the WWE Undisputed Championship and WWE Women's Championship, as those WWE titles would be defended on both shows. In August 2002, WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar refused to defend the title on Raw, in effect causing his title to become exclusive to SmackDown! The following week on Raw, General Manager Eric Bischoff awarded a newly instated World Heavyweight Championship to Raw's designated number one contender, Triple H. Because the WWE Undisputed Championship was now SmackDown! exclusive, it was no longer seen as "undisputed". Following this, the WWE Women's Championship soon became Raw-exclusive as well. As a result of the Brand Extension, an annual "draft lottery" was instituted to exchange members of each roster and generally refresh the lineups. Return to USA Network
On March 10, 2005, Viacom and WWE decided not to go on with the agreement with Spike TV, effectively ending Raw and other WWE programs's tenure on the network when their deal expired in September 2005. On April 4, 2005, WWE announced a three-year deal with NBCUniversal to bring Raw back to its former home, the USA Network, with two yearly specials on NBC and a Spanish Raw on Telemundo. On the same week as Raw's return to the USA Network, Spike TV scheduled Ultimate Fighting Championship's live Ultimate Fight Night in Raw's old timeslot in an attempt to go head-to-head with Raw.
The show's first night back on October 3, 2005 on the USA Network was billed as the "WWE Homecoming", a three-hour special, and featured the return of former WWE Champions such as Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Triple H and Vince McMahon, along with cameos from legends such as Roddy Piper, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Snuka, Harley Race and Ted DiBiase. Also, it featured a 30 minute Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle. USA also showed Raw Exposed, an hour of the best moments of Raw during its previous run on USA. WWE announced that Raw received its highest ratings in three years, gaining close to six million viewers. On-camera, the show began to be referred to as Monday Night Raw again.
During the September 25, 2006 episode of Raw in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the opening of Raw suffered a blackout. Spotlights were the only lights running in the house, thus the opening match (between Lita and Candice Michelle) was contested in the dark. Power in the presentation was later restored. Another similar moment happened back on May 26, 1996 in Florence, South Carolina for WWF In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, when a major thunderstorm hit the Florence Civic Center causing major chaos for the PPV. That Tuesday, Beware of Dog, returned to North Charleston, South Carolina to finish out three matches that were not shown because of the lost power feed. That October, Raw held a three-hour season premiere called the "Raw Family Reunion", where the Raw brand debuted a new logo and theme song, Papa Roach's "...To Be Loved". The episode also featured talent from the SmackDown! and ECW brands. Later that month, on October 23, Raw aired its 700th episode, according to the WWE making it the longest running weekly entertainment show, without a hiatus, in television history,
Production -- During the 1,000th episode of Raw, "The Night" by Kromestatik debuted as the theme for Raw. "Energy" by Shinedown serves as the secondary theme-song. From November 16, 2009 to July 23, 2012, the theme song for the Raw brand was "Burn It to the Ground" by Nickelback. Prior to this, the theme song for Raw was "...To Be Loved" by Papa Roach, which had been used since October 9, 2006 and "Across The Nation" by The Union Underground which was used from April 1, 2002 to October 2, 2006. The rap outro of "Thorn In Your Eye" featuring Scott Ian of Anthrax was the theme song from 1998 to March 25, 2002.
Since March 10, 1997, broadcasts of Raw were split into two hours and given hourly names for television ratings purposes, with the first hour being referred to as Raw is War and the second as War Zone by the show's on-screen graphics. Beginning October 1, 2001, the first hour was referred to as Raw and the second as Raw Zone by the show's on-screen graphics; however, announcers would generally refer to the entire two-hour block as Raw on-air. On May 17, 2012, WWE and USA Network announced that Raw would switch to a permanent three-hour format beginning with the 1,000th episode on July 23, 2012. Since then, all three hours of the broadcast have been known solely as Raw, though they are still considered three separate programs for Nielsen ratings purposes (as indicated by the on-screen copyright notice shown near the end of each hour).
Raw's original set featured red, white and blue ring-ropes, a blue ring-apron, blue steps and a simple staging area. In 1997, WWE changed to red ring- ropes for Raw as well as Raw Is War being written along the ring due to their rivalry with WCW. They also updated the stage to feature RAW in giant letters and a large screen known as the TitanTron. Raw updated to a new TitanTron in 2002, and when the War ended began advertising their website on the ring aprons instead. They occasionally used black ropes. In 2008, Raw went HD debuting a new stage. In 2010, WWE retired the red ropes for Raw after thirteen years for an all white scheme, and in 2012 became standard for all WWE programming. In 2012, Raw updated their HD set. From late September through the end of October 2012, the middle rope at all WWE programming was changed to pink due to WWE's alliance with the Susan G. Komen organization for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This was repeated in 2013, from late September to early November.