The WWE is celebrating 25 years of Monday Night RAW. As they should because being on the air is no small achievement. RAW changed the landscape of cable television and completely altered the wrestling business as a whole. Being on the air for a quarter century a lot fans may think it was always like this, but we have to take a look at the wrestling world prior to RAW to fully appreciate the impact of this monumental show.
Prior to 1993 wrestling was confined to Saturday mornings. There was also the 6:05pm show that WCW had every Saturday. The shows were all pre-taped and the matches usually consisted of a popular wrestler versus a jobber. The weekly show was pretty much a promotion tool to enhance the house shows and pay per views.
RAW was a game changer. The WWF and USA Network rolled the dice by putting wrestling on in Prime Time on a money night. Competing against Monday Night Football a few months out of the year the brand was a force in the male 18-35 demographic.
The program started out as a 1 hour show that then evolved to its most popular format the 2 hour shows and now stands at 3 hours. In between that time, we saw the program fend off WCW and became the last wrestling promotion standing. When Eric Bischoff need to compete with the WWF he told Ted Turner he needed primetime because that’s where the competition was winning at. WCW came to Monday’s and gave Vince and Company a run for the money but ultimately fell.
The power of RAW was so strong that Eric Bischoff became a part of the show for a few years after his competing brand did not make it. The show was so successful the company launched a secondary primetime brand in SmackDown and it has been hanging in there for the last 19 years. The show is the first big transition the company made in the post Hulk Hogan era. We have seen the New Generation, Attitude and PG Eras but what remains is that Monday night appointment. The show transformed the business as a whole from a Saturday morning cartoon alternative to a bankable primetime entity that will draw ratings at the time most Americans are watching their televisions.
Keith B. Holt
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