WWE: Raw

Monday Night Raw, known by various names over the years, is the flagship show for WWE and is the longest running wrestling TV show in the history of the business. As of mid 2020 the show has transmitted more than 1,400 episodes.

Formation and early years
Monday Night Raw first aired on the USA Network in the United States on January 11, 1993. It was never intended to be the flagship of the company as it was merely replacing Prime Time Wrestling. The flagship shows at the time were Superstars of Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge. But the format of live to air instead of pre taping and the atmosphere provided at the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Centre completely eclipsed that of the other shows. Ratings soon followed and Monday Night Raw quickly became the flagship show almost by default.

However the expense of the weekly presentation was proving prohibitive and Raw started switching to arena shows although the match format didn’t change that much in order to maintain it’s differences with the other shows. The odd edition was still presented live to air but most were taped at the venue afterwards. This practice continued throughout the mid 1990’s.

The Monday Night Wars
In September 1995, WCW started presenting Nitro in direct competition with Raw. The two shows exchanged ratings victories until mid 1996 when WCW introduced the New World Order. Around the same time Nitro went from an hour to two hours, and Raw beaten in the ratings for 84 straight weeks. To try and compete, Raw followed Nitro into the two hour format in February 1997, and then called the first hour Raw is War with the second hour the War Zone. But it was barely making a dent in the issue, even after the Montreal Screwjob in November that year – given that the main in ring party, Bret Hart, was going to WCW anyway. The change in direction – now known as the Attitude Era – didn’t take hold until after Wrestlemania 14, when on a show headlined by Steve Austin versus Vince McMahon, Raw won the Monday night slot for the first time since mid 1996.

The war heated up with big ratings for both sides throughout the rest of 1998. The highlight during this period on Raw was DeGeneration X invading WCW territory in a tank outside the building that was presenting Nitro. But neither side could land the killer blow.

The end though came on January 4, 1999. The edition of Raw on this night was pre taped while Nitro was live. And Nitro shot itself and ultimately WCW as a whole in the foot for two reasons. The first was Tony Schiavone’s announcement of the match result of the main event on Raw, The Rock defending the WWF World Title against Mankind. Noting that Mankind was going to win the title, Schiavone added “That’s gonna put some butts in the seats”. Previously, such a tactic caused much mirth among WCW fans – but this time they switched channels in monster numbers. 600,000 people made the switch giving Raw that night’s win and not only that, Kevin Nash lost the WCW World Title to Hulk Hogan in the infamous Fingerpoke of Doom incident. Whilst the war continued until WCW’s demise in 2001, Nitro never won the ratings again.

More recently
Raw dropped the Raw is War and the War Zone monikers straight after the September 11 terrorist attack while the influx of WCW talent led ultimately to a brand split between Raw and Smackdown in 2002. As the roster slowly dropped in total numbers the split was ended in 2011. Meanwhile for a short while in early 2010, TNA tried to compete with Impact being placed on a Monday night against Raw. However they did it during the build to that year’s Wrestlemania and the attempt fell flat. In July 2012 a third hour was introduced on a permanent basis after the odd extended episode previously – upon Raw’s 1,000th episode. Consequently in 2013 Raw celebrated it’s 20th anniversary in January.

In May 2016 with an influx of new talent the brand split was brought back beginning in July and August of that year. In January 2018 the show celebrated it’s 25th anniversary. Finally in March 2020 upon the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Raw moved to a permanent arrangement in the WWE Performance Centre to a closed set – firstly with no spectators and then later NXT trainees. This later moved to the WWE Thunderdome in various locations with a virtual audience.

Episode 1,500 is due in early 2022 with the 30th anniversary due in 2023.

Australian history
It is unclear when Raw was first transmitted in Australia. But by the end of the Monday Night Wars, it was being shown on Fox Sports on Tuesday evenings at 8:30pm only hours after it’s US transmission. However at the beginning of October 2003 the switch was made to Fox8, shifting to Friday nights at 9:30pm. Complaints made by fans in Australia forced a change to be made to Wednesday nights at 8:30pm at the beginning of September 2004. It was then moved to Wednesday afternoons at 3:30pm in mid February 2005, where it stayed until February 2014 when Raw started being transmitted live from the US. During the Southern summer this is at midday on Tuesdays, 10:00am during the southern Winter and 11:00am in March and October when both Australia and the United States are on daylight savings.

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