WWE Raw is a professional wrestling television program for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that currently airs on the USA Network in the United States. The show's name, which is trademarked by WWE as Raw, is also used to refer to the Raw brand, in which WWE employees are assigned to work and perform on that program; the other programs and brands are SmackDown and ECW. It is the only television broadcast for the Raw brand. The show originally debuted in the United States on the USA Network on January 11, 1993. It remained there until 2000, when Raw was moved to TNN, later known as Spike TV. In 2005, the show was moved back to the USA Network. Since its launch in 1993, Raw continues to air on Monday nights. Raw is generally seen as the company's flagship program due to its longer history, higher ratings, and emphasis on pay-per-views.
Beginning as WWF Monday Night Raw, the program first aired on January 11, 1993 on the USA Network for one hour. Out of all of the wrestlers that were featured, only two are still wrestling: Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. 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 very different than that of its predecessor, Prime Time Wrestling. Instead of taped matches, with studio voice overs and taped chat, Raw was a show shot to a live audience, with angles as they happened. The first episode featured Yokozuna defeating Koko B. Ware, The Steiner Brothers defeating The Executioners, WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels defeating Max Moon and The Undertaker defeating Damien Demento. The show also featured an interview with Razor Ramon.
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 highly successful. However, the weekly live schedule proved to be a financial drain on the WWF, and taped shows began airing every other week. From early 1994 to September 1999, Raw was shown live on one Monday and then the next day (Tuesday) next Monday's Raw was taped. This meant that Raw was live one week and taped the next.
The storylines and characters during the early years of Raw still had a healthy dose of the old Federation "gimmick-heavy" style. For instance, there were moments such as Irwin R. Schyster tearing up Tatanka's headdress, the various "Undertaker sightings" (during the Undertaker vs. Undertaker storyline, leading up to SummerSlam 1994); and characters like Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, Doink the Clown, or Thurman "Sparky" Plugg.
Raw was also one of a kind, in which they covered the unexpected, exciting moments, a prelude to "the Attitude Era", in which it coined Raw as "Uncut, Uncensored, Uncooked." Some of those moments include Razor Ramon losing a match unexpectedly to Sean "The 1-2-3 Kid" Waltman, who was later known as X-Pac; Marty Jannetty beating Shawn Michaels to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship; and Raw was the first WWF television program of any kind to show footage of Lex Luger bodyslamming Yokozuna at the USS Intrepid.
The original hosts of Raw were Vince McMahon, Rob Bartlett and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Sean Mooney conducted the interviews and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan also helped contribute. On April 19, 1993, Rob Bartlett made his final appearance on the program. He was dropped from the broadcasting team and was replaced by Bobby Heenan the following week. Then on December 6, 1993, Gorilla Monsoon kicked Bobby Heenan out of the WWF forever. In reality, this was a storyline between Monsoon and his close friend Heenan, who decided to leave the World Wrestling Federation in order to lighten his travel schedule and because he didn't want to take a 50% paycut. After about a year, Raw moved out of the Manhattan Center and traveled to various regular Federation venues in the United States.
The Monday Night Wars
In 1995, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) began airing its new wrestling show, 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 was also an on-air personality, 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; as a result, this caused the ratings of the taped Raw episodes to be lower.
WWF Raw had a live broadcast every other week to save costs, until September 1999, when ratings and pay-per-view buy rate increased, allowing them to justify doing a weekly live show.
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, Monday Nitro started a ratings win-streak that lasted for eighty-four continuous weeks, ending on April 13, 1998.
Raw is War
On February 3, 1997, Monday Night Raw went to a two hour format, as the Attitude Era 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 WCW's competing Monday 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" answered on the following week's show with Taz, Mikey Whipwreck, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, D-Von Dudley, and The Sandman. ECW owner Paul Heyman did a call-in interview on Raw the week after that.
Throughout 1997, further controversial elements emerged with Raw and WWF programming. Memorable moments included Bret Hart cursing profanely at the crowd after reaping loss in a Steel Cage match, with commentators apologizing for his foul behavior, before he proceeds in major brawls with Sid, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, and briefly Shawn Michaels. Some of the most notable moments cites the profusely intense feud with The Hart Foundation against Michaels and Austin, which saw Raw develop a memorable episode in which Michaels and Austin beat The British Bulldog and Owen Hart for the WWF Tag Team Championship, and during their post-match attack on Michaels, Austin physically charged a disabled Bret Hart to ward them off. Other events saw the new black street gang Nation of Domination formed, and Michaels D-Generation X "racial graffiti" storyline designed to "implicate Bret Hart's 'The Hart Foundation'", and the "XXX Files" series.
On March 10, 1997, Monday Night Raw officially became Raw is War. The March 17, 1997 episode featured a heated Bret Hart/Vince McMahon ringside altercation (that unknowingly foreshadowed events in November) with profanity normally unheard on TV. Brian Pillman did a series of "XXX Files" segments with Terri Runnels, which further "pushed the envelope". These segments ended prematurely with the September 29, 1997 episode of Raw, after the death of Brian Pillman on October 5, 1997 due to hereditary heart problems.
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 villainous WWF Chairman Vince McMahon (who was re-imagined and re-branded from the color commentator into the evil corporal chairman character Mr. McMahon after the real-life Montreal Screwjob incident) and fan favorite Steve Austin (who had been released by Bischoff in the summer of 1995 for not being marketable) caught the imaginations 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.
While Raw was taking a new approach to programming, Nitro began producing lackluster programming with repetitive storylines. Older stars such as Hogan and Nash frequently occupied the main events, while younger talent such as Rey Mysterio, Jr., Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero were not given opportunities to advance, and the only newcomers elevated to main-event status at this time were Bill Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page.
Meanwhile, on Raw, fans were immersed in the feud between WWF owner Vince McMahon and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. New talent such as Triple H being the new leader D-Generation X (DX) faction, Mankind and The Rock were elevated to main event status on the WWF's program. Superstars such as Kane,Kurt Angle, Val Venis, Goldust and the like were coming through the ranks and exposing the WWF as territory where new talent can ascend unlike the WCW counterpart. Matters were so heated between the two programs that, when both shows were in the same area on the same night (Raw in Hampton, Virginia, Nitro in Norfolk), 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'll sure 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. The next week, and for months after, many fans in the Raw audience brought signs which read, "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat!"
The end of the Wars
A new television contract with Viacom led to a WWF change in the broadcast. 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 the company to the WWF in 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 on Raw and on TNN with an appearance by Vince's son Shane McMahon on Nitro. Shane 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.
The Raw is War logo and name were retired in September 2001, following the September 11 attacks and sensitivity over the word war, and because the Monday Night Wars were "over".
In early to mid-2002, WWE underwent a process they called the "Brand Extension". WWE 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 was a result of WWF purchasing their two biggest competitors, WCW and ECW. The brand extension was publicly announced during a telecast of WWF Raw on March 25, 2002, and became official the next day.
Wrestlers now would become 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. Due to the fact that since 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.
WWE Raw claimed to have earned the distinction of having the most original episodes of any fictional weekly program on August 2, 2005 when it broadcasted the 636th episode. It was said to have taken the place of Gunsmoke, which held that distinction. However, under the criteria WWE used to make this claim, the actual record would be held by the show Georgia Championship Wrestling, which ran continuously on Saturday evenings on TBS between 1972 and 1984. That said, Raw went on to surpass the Georgia Championship Wrestling record as they now have produced over 800 episodes.
Return to USA Network
On March 10, 2005, Viacom and WWE decided not to go on with the agreement with Spike TV, making it so Raw and other WWE programs on the network would cease when their deal expired in September 2005. On April 4, 2005, WWE announced a 3-year deal with NBC Universal to bring Raw back to its former home, the USA Network, with 2 yearly specials on NBC and a Spanish Raw on Telemundo. On the same week as Raw's re-debut on USA, 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 USA was billed as the "WWE Homecoming" 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 and Harley Race. WWE Homecoming was three hours long — the second longest an episode of Raw has ever run in its 12-year history. 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.
The following week, Vince McMahon fired Jim Ross for not helping after Steve Austin gave him and his entire family the Stone Cold Stunner. Jonathan Coachman, the second analyst at the table, took over Ross's duties as play-by-play for two weeks until former ECW announcer Joey Styles was hired.
On the May 1, 2006 edition of Raw, Joey Styles announced he was quitting (kayfabe). His vacating of the announcer position set the stage for Jim Ross to return to Raw's commentary booth, thus ending the storyline where Ross got fired by Linda McMahon. This freed Styles to become a commentator for the ECW brand when it launched in June.
In Canada, after an 11 year run on TSN, Raw moved to rival sports broadcaster The Score after it was announced that TSN would be carrying Monday Night Football for the 2006 season. This also meant that Canadian viewers would be watching via a one hour tape-delay, as The Score does not broadcast Raw live, but in 2007, started airing the show with only a 15 minute tape delay. The first 15 minutes of the hour contains a countdown pre-show recapping the previous week's events.
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. 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.
On October 9, 2006, 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, making it the longest running weekly entertainment show, without a hiatus, in television history.
On June 25, 2007, Raw was scheduled in Corpus Christi, Texas to be a three-hour special memorial show for the storyline death of the Mr. McMahon character. Two weeks earlier, the show had broadcast an angle in which Mr. McMahon was murdered by a bomb planted within his limousine. The 'Mr. McMahon' tribute was cancelled on the day it was due to air after the real life death of current superstar Chris Benoit and his family. The show then became a three-hour tribute to Benoit. What made this tribute different from others (e.g. Eddie Guerrero and Owen Hart) was that the show had no original matches and no live audience. Instead, the three-hour show aired highlights from the WWE DVD 'Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story', and a selection of Benoit's most famous matches. Several wrestlers paid tribute in the form of real interviews about him, and Vince McMahon broke character to address the viewers about what had happened. However, when the facts of Benoit's death came to light, WWE pulled this episode from international markets which aired Raw on a tape delay basis. Several channels announced the episode was being withheld for legal reasons. A substitute Raw, hosted by Todd Grisham from WWE Studios, was created featuring recaps of John Cena's WWE Championship victories, mainly the ones that had occurred over the past year. The episode started with a message from Vince McMahon which originally aired on the June 26 edition of ECW. Some countries that received WWE programing up to three weeks late had all Chris Benoit matches edited out. The WWE even removed all Chris Benoit matches and interviews from the 'WWE 24/7' service.
On December 10, 2007 Raw celebrated its 15th anniversary in a three-hour spectacular on the USA Network with the returns of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, The Godfather, Steve Blackman, Howard Finkel, Ted DiBiase, Eric Bischoff, Marty Jannetty, Gangrel, Trish Stratus, Lita, Sunny, Hulk Hogan and Mick Foley (as Mankind) among others. Along with several reunions of former tag teams and also included a 15-man "15 Years of Raw" battle royal. The Raw 15th Anniversary DVD was also released which featured some of the most memorable moments in Raw history.
WWE began their 2008 year with a new HD set, which consisted of more than 1,000,000 LEDs. The introduction of this new set retired the old set, which was used from April 2002 to January 2008. Raw's first show in HD was held in the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. On June 30, 2008 the World Heavyweight Championship returned to Raw after CM Punk cashed in money in the bank and defeated Edge. On the September 8, 2008 edition of Raw it was announced that a "talent exchange" was started between ECW and Raw, allowing their respective talent to appear and compete on either brand. This is similar to an earlier "talent exchange" between SmackDown and ECW.
On November 3, 2008, Raw celebrated its 800th episode with a three hour episode. The actual 800th episode aired on September 22, 2008.
On June 15, 2009, McMahon announced on a special three-hour edition of Raw that he had sold the show to Donald Trump, who appeared on-screen to confirm it and declared he would be at the following commercial-free episode in person. WWE treated the sale as real, even issuing a press release on their corporate site announcing it, but USA Network confirmed the next day that it was kayfabe and part of a storyline. The "sale" was picked up as a real event by many industry sources. The day following the announcement, WWE's stock on the New York Stock Exchange fell. On June 22, 2009, Vince McMahon bought back Raw from Donald Trump for double of what he paid for Raw. Despite USA Network's acknowledgment that the sale was fictional, Randy Katz, a securities lawyer with Baker & Hostetler, told Fox Business Network that a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission against WWE and USA Network owner General Electric "certainly is a possibility.
The theme song for the Raw brand is "...To Be Loved" by Papa Roach, which has been used for the Raw brand since October 9, 2006. Previous to this, Raw's theme song was "Across the Nation", by The Union Underground.
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. However, as of October 1, 2001, the first hour has been referred to as Raw and the second as Raw Zone by the show's on-screen graphics. However, both hours are known as just "Raw" on-air.
On January 7, 2008, WWE announced that all 3 brands (Raw, SmackDown, and ECW) would be broadcast in HD, codenamed "WWE HD" starting with Raw on January 21. WWE invested an estimated $20 million dollars on new recording and broadcasting equipment to prepare for the move, as well as new pyrotechnics and lighting. The move replaced the Raw, SmackDown!, and ECW sets with a new state of the art set shared by all brands.
The show currently airs live on the USA Network (and on tape delay Wednesdays on mun2, and Sundays on Telemundo in Spanish) in the United States. In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, Raw airs live on Sky Sports 3. It also currently broadcasts on tape delay in Canada on The Score and Global Quebec, in Australia on FOX8, in Portugal on Sport TV, in Germany on Premiere (pay television network), in Italy on SKY Italia, in Belgium on AB3, in Finland on MTV3 MAX, in Malaysia on Astro Super Sport, in New Zealand on The Box, in Greece on Nova Sports 3, in India and Pakistan on TEN Sports, in the Philippines on Jack TV and RPN (through its alliance with C/S), in Chile on Chilevisión, in Mexico on Canal 5, 52MX and TVC Deportes, in Bulgaria on GTV, in Panama on RPC Canal 4, in Peru on ATV, in Saudi Arabia and Middle East on ART SPORT, in Poland on Extreme Sports Channel, in Romania on Sport.ro, in Serbia on Fox televizija, in Spain on Cuatro, in France on NT1 and RTL9, in Argentina on Canal 9 (Argentina) and on AFN Xtra. Raw is also currently being aired on E.tv in South Africa, in Suriname on Rasonic television, on Canal VTV in El Salvador and in Honduras on Canal 5. Occasionally, Raw is aired on same-day tape delay when WWE is on an overseas tour.
WWE A.M. Raw, a Saturday night (Sunday morning) show, airs on the USA Network at 2 a.m. ET. It features segments from the latest episode of Raw with a ticker along the bottom section of the screen that provides information about WWE, including trivia and live event news, the ticker has since be discontinued.