The Reality of Wrestling: RAW 15th Anniversary Show

The Reality of Wrestling: RAW 15th Anniversary Show
By Phil Clark

Enough nostalgia for all

Monday night marked a momentous day in pro wrestling history. Monday was the 15th anniversary showing of Monday Night Raw for The E; the fact that the actual 15th anniversary isn’t until January 11 is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a regularly broadcasted wrestling show (even if it’s on cable) has lasted 15 years, something that ANY T.V. show has little to no chance of doing in this day and age. Yes, it is a wrestling show and thus isn’t mandated by the same things that a sitcom or any other type of T.V. series is, but think about this: Saturday Night’s Main Event, Monday Nitro, iMPACT!, and Prime Time Wrestling all fizzled out and were cancelled in shorter time than RAW, and Nitro was canceled before the demise of WCW was official. What this was was one more night where Vince ingeniously got to thumb his nose at the rest of the wrestling world—in the U.S. at least—and say one more time, “I AM #1.”

P.C. Says: RAW did a good job with their 15th Anniversary Show

What can I say, the show was good. I tuned into RAW this past Monday for the express reason of it being the 15th anniversary show and I did feel a bit of loyalty to the show, if not to the company that puts the show on. Remember, RAW used to be the only game in town for wrestling on Monday nights and has been since the end of The War. And while the show itself hasn’t seen its best days this year, they have had a good amount of good-great shows and were able to make it worth my while this past week.

The McMahon family reunion piece was sports entertainment the way The E likes it with midgets, old people, ho’s, surprise appearances, and HHH at the helm. Sunny was a surprise considering she didn’t trainwreck the way she has in past appearances (ECW and other reunion shows). The comedy was there and purists like myself will dismiss it as another bit of over-the-top sports entertainment. For what it was, and for some weird and increasingly dirty reason, it did seem to be the way to open the show.

The matches themselves weren’t that bad when you look at why they were on the card in the first place. First off, it’s a three-hour show and even Vince knows that it can’t be the regular show plus one-hour; it has to have something else or people won’t even bother with the first hour. The two title matches were on there so people would have a reason to care about the in-ring happenings on a night where they specifically weren’t the main course. The tag title match did show that the tag division is in deed dead right now in the Big Two, but the ladder match was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, with Hardy having a big match coming up on Sunday, it seemed (at least to me) to be a bit of a gamble to put him in a match where he could injure himself; I’m aware that Hardy has been doing these matches for ten years if not more, but that fact is exactly why I considered it a risk. The other reason was that Carlito was involved two weeks after being all but gone from The E and less than a week after it was reported that Vince had convinced him to stay. A shot at the #2 belt in the only high-profile match of the night may be the start to an actual push for Caribbean Cool in ’08. I’m hoping so, because if not, he should’ve headed back to safer pastures in Puerto Rico.

RVD’s return did shock me and seemed to have a nice effect on the crowd. It shocked me because there was no Internet buzz about it the same way Flair and Jericho’s returns were spoiled because of it. For that reason, the crowd ate it up with a spoon and deservedly so. Whether or not he’s staying is up for question. I personally have been of the opinion that if Van Dam still wants to wrestle, TNA is the place for him, or All Japan. Either promotion has a reduced schedule (TNA’s more so) than The E’s and either place would love to see a motivated RVD than be content with a lazy one the way The E has been.

The nostalgia was what the show was about and in that way The E did succeed. During the course of the night there were several clip shows of different moments throughout the history of RAW. I must admit that there were plenty of moments I either forgot about and don’t remember. Edge mocking Flair’s traffic problems last year was a funnier than it should have been clip as was all the vehicular destruction over the years; does Vince have a tab with a dealership or something? Anyway, the clips showed the same thing that the RAW X show years back did: the Attitude Era is worth remembering, the present has to be remembered, and we’ll give our die-hards a few shreds of the old days and they’ll be happy. Waltman’s first big win in The E was actually a great moment for the show (I compare it to Shelton Benjamin’s clean pinfall win over HHH in ’04), but I was saddened that other older moments from RAW weren’t on the show: Michaels’ “collapse” after the ENZIGURI OF DOOM, Jannetty and Michaels fighting outside the Manhattan Center, Shatner punking out Lawler, Heenan’s WWF exit in late-1993 are all great moments that deserved at least a ten second clip to remember them. But I digress. I’m not going to be someone that carries a torch for the old days of RAW because the show really didn’t hit its stride until around 1997, but its worth noting that you HAD a show before then. At least they did that much this time around.

The Reality is…it was just another show. Granted, it was a good one and you can quote me that I will be watching E programming again in 2008 (you can thank the DVR anytime). It was a good show in that they kept regular storylines going instead of stopping everything for one week and were able to keep the celebratory feel of the evening from getting overdone or stale by the end of the show itself. Steve Austin’s climatic stunner of Vince was a smile and wink to Attitude Era fans who are still with The E and must’ve made at least one USA network executive cry openly. Anyway, the one intriguing part of the night is that Van Dam’s return was met with a great pop while Jericho and Flair are apparently gathering heat for their returns because they haven’t set the wrestling world on fire. In the case of Flair’s comeback, this is more than likely his final comeback and knowing that, wait until it gets near the end to make judgments about fan support because I assure you that there is a possibility that I will shed tears when Flair wrestles his final match. In the case of Jericho, wrestling fans’ limit on returns is usually one year before they give up massive interest and that’s if the return is from an injury. In Jericho’s case, everyone knew he would come back at some point and since the Internet and The E leaked the comeback before it happened, how else was it going to be met?

This week’s “FUCK YOU!” goes to:

TOKYO SPORTS WRESTLING AWARDS VOTERS
The Tokyo wrestling awards came out and quite frankly, I’m outraged. I’ve never seen Tokyo’s awards as being too representative of Puroresu as they’ve been done the same way PWI does their awards most of the time: popularity over quality or excellence. This year saw a ton of that as New Japan was shut out of the major awards despite having the most talked about matches (the Nagata/Tanahashi series or Nakamura/Nagata at the G-1 finals or even Tanahashi/Goto from last month) and Tanahashi or Nagata seemed a lock for wrestler of the year, but instead Mitsuharu Misawa gets it in almost honorary fashion. I say that because Misawa never won the MVP award during his best years always coming in the way of another wrestler having a career year. Also, Kobashi’s return tag getting match of the year was strictly a P.R. move because New Japan clearly had a number of matches that were seen as Matches of the Year over this one. Kobashi got the Comeback Award and for one match, that’s good enough. Trust me, I do see his match and his performance for what it is. My main beef also is with the MVP voting itself that saw Akebono actually get votes and Kobashi beat out Sasaki, but there was no Nagata. Other than that, they did get things mostly right with Tanahashi getting the performance award, Sekimoto getting the technique award, Morishima winning the fighting spirit award, and the late Karl Gotch getting a commemorative award. Still, Makabe & Yano as team of the year seemed weird considering there were more talented tag-team’s in Japan this year, and if its about belts and popularity the way it is a lot of times with American awards, why didn’t Tomko & Bernard take home that award? It’s all craziness sometimes.

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