From Wrestlemania to Raw: The 25th Anniversary of the WWE
"Monday Night Raw" is the longest running weekly episodic show in television history.
“It’s all about relatable stories of good versus evil, with iconic memorable heroes who audiences cheer for and villains they love to hate.”
This statement could describe many, many shows currently on television.
In this context, the man giving this description is talking about a series that’s been on the air for a quarter of a century.
This is Chris McCumber and he’s talking about….. WWE Monday Night Raw. Yes, the wrestling series has been entertaining audiences for over two decades.
McCumber, who is President of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, speaking at a recent press event said, “Icons like The Rock, John Cena, “Triple H,” “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Stephanie McMahon have captured the hearts of millions of men, women, and families of all ages, backgrounds, and from every corner of the country and around the world.”
25 years ago, this month, USA Network and WWE’s partnership had a landmark moment when Monday Night Raw premiered live for the very first time on USA. It’s the longest running weekly episodic show in television history, consistently ranking as one of the top shows in cable week in and week out.
On January 22nd, USA and WWE will celebrate Monday Night Raw’s 25th Anniversary with a live broadcast from New York City, the location of the very first Raw. WWE superstars and legends alike will be there to mark this milestone occasion.
Celebrating this series longevity, Paul “Triple H” Levesque says that he’s just actually surprised that the whole endeavor worked. “We’re on 52 weeks a year, no breaks, and all live,” the 14 time WWE champion, and now Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative, reminded the audience.
Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s Chief Brand Officer and a WWE Hall of Famer, jumped in to add, “And it’s three hours of live action every [week]. In essence, it’s a mini-movie every single Monday night. And when you think about, WWE is really no different than any television show — It’s protagonist versus antagonist, with conflict resolution. The only difference is that our conflicts are settled inside a 20 by 20 foot-square ring with some of the greatest live action that you can see on television.”
McMahon says that while Raw has evolved over the years, at its core remains one significant thing. “Our fans are secret our sauce. It’s an arena full of people cheering, booing, and chanting. They’re throwing their hands to their face in shock and awe if we’re doing our jobs right.”
WWE superstar and seven-time intercontinental Champion “The Miz,” one of the sport’s resident bad guys, says about his interaction with the fans, “Every time I step out into that arena and I hear 20,000 people booing me, chanting that I suck, there is nothing better than that.”
Interacting with fans is crucial, says McMahon, and not just in the live arena. She explained, “we’re constantly listening on social media where we have over 825 million social media followers. We trend on Twitter every single week, on Facebook. We are actually more engaging social than even Game of Thrones.”
Over the course of the series, several celebrities have appeared in the ring, including Former President Obama and current President Trump. McMahon says that the organization has a clear stance on how they present politics within the arena. “We made a very strategic decision to not put forth any type of partisan politics at all. That was a very specific decision that we made in our programming in general. We are all about representing everybody. We are the greatest combination of every different culture, every different ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic background, political affiliation, you name it. We represent everybody.”
Continuing on this topic, Mark Henry, a current WWE superstar former Olympian, WWE and the world’s strongest man, said that he really wants the general public to know that, “This is not just big guys in tight clothes jumping around, even though there a lot of big guys in tight clothes jumping around,” he says with a slight laugh, but then continues with, “We also are a very educated, very smart and intellectual group of people. We don’t preach it a lot because we have bigger fish to fry. But that is definitely something that you should know.”
And, lest viewers think that wrestling is all about the guys, McMahon says, “There’s been a women’s evolution that’s happened in WWE where, even as late as 2015, our women were seen as secondary, tertiary-type characters. They were seen as important but not as important to the main event. There was a match that lasted all of 30 seconds, and our fans had had enough. They started a trend on Twitter that trended worldwide for three days called “Give Divas a Chance.” They were calling for longer storylines, better matches, more athleticism, better character development, and their voices were so loud and strong that [we] responded, “We hear you. Keep watching. Give divas a chance.”
It was at WrestleMania, where McMahon says, “in front of over 101,000 people live in attendance and millions watching view around the world, we announced the rebranding of the Divas Division to the Women’s Division. We unveiled a new championship belt and said that our women were now going to be called “Superstars,” the same as the men.”
She recalls a women’s event in Abu Dhabi that stirred strong emotions for her. “A chant broke out in the arena that said, “This is hope. This is hope.” There were little girls with tears in their eyes in the front row. That’s the impact that we can have. It’s a movement and a moment that I am just so incredibly proud of.”
Levesque, reflecting on how the series has influenced modern society, says, “To me, Raw has changed the way that television is viewed. Go back before it, you didn’t see politicians walking down a hallway with entrance music playing as if they were about to step into the ring at Madison Square Garden. It has changed the way the NFL is shot, the NBA is shot, the way they do their talent packages, the rollout of their performers onto a stage. If you go to an NBA game and you see them come out with pyrotechnics and music and all of it, it all stems from Monday Night Raw. It has significantly changed the landscape of television.”
Monday Night Raw’s 25th Anniversary airs Monday, January 22nd at 8pm et on USA. The series airs regularly in that same time slot.