As we approach Raw’s 1,000th episode we’ve got to ask — who came up with the name “Raw”?
I did. The name “Raw” came out of my head. I was trying to come up with a word that would embody everything we wanted the program to be. It had to be gritty. It had to be cutting edge. It had to be confrontational. Raw fit perfectly.
What were some of the names that didn’t make the cut?
I’m sure there were other names, but I can’t really recall any of them. I just remember that, when “Raw” came into my head, there wasn’t a doubt that it was the one.
Don’t suppose you happened to consider “Nitro” in the process?
Speaking of Nitro, what was the best part of having prime time competition?
Generally speaking, good competition is great for aproduct. It keeps you on your toes, and forces you to adapt.
And Raw actually ran the competition out of business. Is that the show’s biggest accomplishment?
I don’t think we drove WCW out of business. That was certainly never our intent. That was the mindset of Ted Turner and WCW, but not WWE. See, if you spend all of your energy trying to kill the other guy, yourproduct suffers. If you don’t kill the other guy, then he’s going to come back at you, and when he comes back, you won’t have done anything to make your house better. It’s no different than being in a fight and knowing that, if the other guy keeps on hitting you, that son of a bitch is going to wear himself out pretty fast.
So, rather than worry about WCW, you focused on how to make Monday Night Raw the best it could be?
Absolutely. I didn’t watch their stuff. Of course, I heard about it from other people, but I didn’t have time to pay much attention. I didn’t want to know what WCW was doing. I wanted to know what WWE was doing. They did everything they could to hurt us. They had the resources to attack us. We didn’t have the means to do the same thing, so we had to make ours the better product. After they had run out of ways to hurt us, they realized that they didn’t have much of a product. They blew out everything as quickly as possible, and only concerned themselves with the short-term. That worked out fine for WWE.
What’s the most vivid memory you have of January 11, 1993, and the very first Raw?
I wanted to go back to our roots. I wanted the first broadcast to have a small, intimate, raucous crowd, and I was certainly not disappointed in the feel of the Manhattan Center. As soon as we went on the air, even before we went on the air, we knew we were on to something special.
When was the moment you knew Raw was going to be a legit, long-term success?
From the very beginning. We were flying without a net on live TV. There was, and still is, an energy with Raw unlike anything else on the air. Everything we do, and everything we say, will be felt immediately. There’s no chance for retakes.
But, with the excitement of live television also comes the chance for mishaps, right?
It brings out the absolute best in people, which is good. But it also brings out the absolute worst in people, which is good too. People don’t mind seeing train wrecks.
Any recent train wrecks come to mind?
To be honest, I’ve never been completely satisfied with a show. And I don’t think I ever will be. I’m always of the mindset that “well, maybe I could’ve done this differently,” or, “maybe we could have added more of this, and taken away more of this.” And that’s purely based on the reaction of the live audience. But, the success of a show is an overall thing. It’s not just based on ratings. There are so many different ways tojudge whether or not a series of shows is successful.
Any thoughts about once again bringing Raw to the Manhattan Center? For old time’s sake?
Actually, we’ve thought about it. But, the thing about nostalgia is that people, and WWE fans, tend to be more nostalgic about Superstars, rather than places. The audience is interested in the personalities, rather than how the business has evolved.
Who was the most important Superstar in the evolution of Raw?
There’s no question that guys like Triple H, The Rock, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker have all made enormous contributions to this company, but if there was one single personality that exemplified Raw in the truest sense of what I wanted it to be, it would be “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin the greatest contributor to WWE’s Attitude Era?
Make no mistake, the Attitude Era started long before “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Bret Hart was the first one to push Mr. McMahon on his ass. When the audience responded to that incident so positively, I knew we had something. The great thing about what we do is that we have a focus group every night – our fans. You think you’re giving them what they want, but then they shift on you. Raw has changed. Raw has continued to be flexible in order to keep true to what WWE fans want to see. That’s why Raw has produced more hours than any other television show in history.
How do you toe the line between appeasing fans that grew up watching the “Attitude Era” WWE, and trying to wrangle in new ones?
It’s a delicate balance. Prior to Raw, back in the territorial system, my father was on to something. He believed the future of the business was in “entertainment” more than the rest of the promoters. Raw stays true to that concept, because Raw is a variety show. You name it, and Raw has it. Action, drama, athleticism…Raw really does have it all.
Has the goal of Raw maintained the same since its inception – that being to entertain the fans?
Absolutely. Sometimes it gets overstated, but the one thing we do is put smiles on people’s faces. And we do it on a global basis, despite the color of skin, or the different cultures, or whatever. That’s a cool thing to be able to do. For example, I remember the 2007 Tribute to the Troops in Iraq. We were told to be very careful because some of the locals weren’t too thrilled with Americans. So, when we landed, a lot of people were looking at us very disdainfully. But then, when they did a double take, they realized that they were looking at WWE Superstars and they went bonkers.
So, 1,000 episodes down. What’s the goal looking toward episode 2,000 of WWE Monday Night Raw?
The goal will be to remain flexible, and to adapt, so that WWE can give the audience what they want. Twenty years from now, who knows what that will end up being?
After all the years, and all the episodes, Raw is still the official dominating force on Monday nights. Go ahead, Vince, pat yourself on the back.
The 1,000th episode of Raw is an extraordinary milestone. Our company should be proud. Our Superstars should be proud. And, most importantly, our fans should be proud. And it’s Mr. McMahon.