So, it has been 20 years as of the 14th of January since Monday Night Raw went on the air waves. 1993 was a watershed year in my own personal fandom as now every week we'd be getting WWE (though it was known as WWF back then) programming on TV. The characters, some amazing and some downright atrocious, the spectacle and by God has it delivered over the years.
This was the followup to a, let's be honest, pretty strong showing for the first RAW of the year on the 7th. You've got the Rock giving one of his always entertaining Rock Concerts, a match between Cena and Ziggler in a steel cage (!) and much more! So, let's go to the tape and see what we got..
This was SUCH a strong opening for the show and I couldn't have been happier with the emphasis placed on just how important the World Heavyweight Championship is. You've got the big pop for Mr. McMahon followed by Big Show interrupting the Boss. Great little back and forth between the two before Alberto del Rio, fresh off his recent face turn, enters. His reaction was monster considering this is such a recent turn of events and it definitely helped that we were in Houston. We get a recap of things happening on Smackdown (WHAT?) and further importance placed on the title by Show refusing to fight for it on a paltry taping of RAW. Good. This was such a good opening segment and all parties involved were solid on the mic and in their presentation.
So, this being the 20th Anniversary and all, it was obvious we were going to get a LOT of clip reels throughout the night. There are three hours to fill after all! You had various character reels, even one showcasing all the various vehicular incidents involving Superstars. The one that stands out in my mind is definitely the one with Goldust. But we also got a worst gimmicks segment. Oh jesus.. this was bad. If ever there were a reason to remind someone of just how ridiculous and sometimes TERRIBLE wrestling can be it was this segment. Please don't ever dust that thing off again. Ever.
First Match of the Night
Our first real match of the night comes in Orton v. Barrett. A pretty solid match with Wade Barrett coming out on top. Yet again this is an example of a title holder (The Intercontinental title no less) being put up in the spotlight again on a show that, for the most part, could care less about anything other than the WWE title. Barrett was blistering and physical and Orton, well, I'm a bit over the whole Viper scthick but hey.. the fans sure loved him. The announce team also did a GREAT job of reiterating just how important this one belt has been throughout the history of the company and I, for one, am SO glad to see it having relevance again.
Speaking of announce teams. I'm all for having more JBL at the table. His work on Smackdown is tremendous and I love hearing him on RAW too but it REALLY feels like they dropped the ball in not having JR out for the whole thing. 20 years of RAW and you don't have the one guy who is synonymous with the sound of it out there the whole time? Sure they trotted him out for the Cena v. Ziggler match late in the broadcast but it really felt like a missed opportunity to make it that much more special. Cole and Lawler are, frankly, just okay most of the time whereas Jim Ross is the gold standard for commentary. USE HIM if he's there for fuck's sake.
Finally.. Mick Foley in the Hall of Fame
Oh! The announcement of the first inductee into this year's Hall of Fame class was also announced. For those without access to the Internet before hand it was Mick Foley!
Foley is a prime example of what made the Attitude Era such a big frickin' deal. Yes.. Stone Cold and The Great One and DX and other such names made it big deal but Foley was something special. He put himself on the line every night and gave himself over wholly to his craft. The characters were magnificent, if at times a little strange, but my GOD if anyone deserves to be in its Foley. JUSTICE IS SERVED. Now if we can only get Mankind getting inducted by Cactus Jack or something of that nature then it will be PERFECT.
The shining moment for Foley, one which should have been a real defining moment in his career, was interrupted by the Shield. I did NOT get this at all. WHAT the heck was the point of them coming out? They want to root out injustice? Just what was their purpose for interrupting such a great moment for Foley other than "We're heels guys. Remember that?" I have been really high on the Shield for the most part but ..this seemed REALLY unnecessary. I wanted to take a rolled up newspaper and just smack WWE Creative on the nose for this. Let Foley have a god damn moment please. He deserves it.
This all leads to a dust-up in the ring between Shield and Ryback, Orton and Sheamus. We are then "treated" to a brief interview with Ryback by Josh Matthews. I have to admit that I wasn't really digging Ryback when he first appeared. Another attempt at crafting a Goldberg and, well, he still is that but he's grown on me a bit. The "Feed Me Shield" chant was actually a nice touch I thought. STILL the fact that all this had to be more important than giving Foley that one moment in the ring was just dumb.
DOWNER of the night
So we get a Miz TV segment. Nice. I'm actually a big fan of the Miz and, frankly, his talk show segments can be pretty good if the right people are involved. He hints at his guest by doing the patented Flair strut and letting of a few "Woo!" chants. FANTASTIC. Flair is back on camera. I like it!
What we got instead was Antonio Cesaro invading the segment and starting to verbally rundown Flair. Now this would be fine and well if it wasn't for the fact that with each subsequent jab and poke you could actually see The Nature Boy just lose steam. It went from what should have been a pretty good verbal sparring between Cesaro (Seriously great on the mic) and Flair (It's the Nature Boy. He's ALWAYS golden on the mic.) to just a sad affair all together. Miz injects himself into it and it helped to diminish the rather depressing tone the segment was taking on but DAMN I mostly just felt sad. It is tough to see just how far one of the most amazing men to ever grace professional wrestling has fallen. Now instead of a triumphant return on camera we're greeted to what appears to be a quick cash-in segment for Flair. Ugh. This segment was just a nightmare.
Obligatory Divas match
So, we had a segment backstage between Eve Torres (current Divas champ), Booker T and Teddy Long. Unnecessary but whatever. This leads to another match between Eve and Kaitlyn. It was a so-so affair but the outcome was good! Kaitlyn is now the new Divas champ but it lead to Eve furiously "quitting" backstage on a web-only segment. Okay? Anyway. Well that was a good ten minutes burned of the three hours. That's something I guess.
There were other matches in this edition of RAW that ranged from pointless to just okay. The backstage segment featuring Dr. Shelby and the Hell No Team was alright, I guess. I think the gimmick is running long for me, I suppose. So we got not only a Kane v. Sandow match but later on a Daniel Bryan v. Rhodes match. Both were rather one-note time wasters that just, well, weren't very good.
Brodus Clay v. Punk COULD have had some potential to actually be a decent match. But then again we are talking about a 400-lb monster who comes out to dance in the middle of the ring and make the kiddies get out of their seats. Punk hits him with the Anaconda Vice and Clay is dispatched. There were a few moments that I felt myself getting sort of excited for this but then it just, well, ended. So yeah. We got a brief promo from Punk after so that was something I guess.
If you haven't been watching lately then one thing RAW has been getting right every time are matches between John Cena and Dolph Ziggler. They've been so great because Cena can be the son of Jor-El and and Ziggler can be the phenomenal heel he was born to be. Both can be those roles and still get over so big with the crowd. It ALSO helps that their in-ring chemistry is dynamite and, much like with Punk, they manage to drag the best out of each other. So the stipulation for this match was a Steel Cage. I was pretty hyped about this match from the beginning and it only got better as good ol' JR came out for commentary. THANK GOD.
Quick note to WWE. FIND a way to hire JR back full-time. PLEASE. This was just another example of just how fantastic JR has always been on the mic. His work at the announce table was leagues above anything else we got that night and it really helped to make this Main Event match feel that much bigger. The crowd was so behind everything that happened and the energy was magnificent. THIS is what a Monday Night Raw main event match is supposed to be. Near-falls, chants for both wrestlers and JR on commentary. That's why I watch. That's why for 20 years I've been a fan. Moments like this.
The Great One, after a brief glimpse back stage earlier in the show talking with Mick Foley, makes his way out for one of his concert promo segments. Just an eyebrow, a guitar and zingers a plenty. It was what we're used to with The Rock and, well, he delivered as promised. The PROBLEM with it was it felt very much like what we got with his last in-ring "concert" before the Cena match at Wrestlemania. Parts of it just seemed played out and tired and, well, he can do better than this. The in-ring altercation between Punk and Rock at the end helped to smooth out what was a sort of rocky segment at times but it wasn't the best we can get out of TheGreat One. Don't be the same Rock that we got in the Attitude Era. What made last week's promo he gave so strong was despite the catchphrases and all that he was deadly serious. He got in Punk's face and he made it CLEAR he meant business. "Time's up, Punk." We got more of the same humor he dished out to Cena just to a different guy. C'mon. You're WAY better than that, Rock. Maybe next week will prove to be a much better go of it on the mic. I hope so!
There were some definite moments that made this 3 hour show worth watching. The Main Event was stellar and having JR back on the mic did wonders for it. Some of the clip segments were genuinely good though a few were just downright stinkers. A lot of throwaway matches, though and that kinda diminished the feeling of significance the show had for me. It felt, at times, just like another RAW and I don't think that's what they were going for.
Overall I'd say last week's show was stronger but maybe next Monday night will truly measure up to the somewhat high bar set by the year's first show.
But what did we learn from all of this? The World Heavyweight Title is actually important, the IC title means something but as far as actually giving the 20th anniversary of RAW it's due? Well, I guess some video packages will have to work.