WWE Raw: Longest Running TV Show In U.S History

Monday Night Raw, the flagship show of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) recently celebrated it’s 800 episode, a remarkable achievement that  made it the the longest running entertainment show, without a hiatus, in U.S television history. The show premiered in January of 1993 as a one hour live show and in the past 15 years has evolved constantly in production, format and creative direction, and some would say not always for the better.

Prelude

in 1980’s , cable television was starting to become popular with TV audience and one of the genre that was contributing to this was Professional Wrestling. The production cost was low and the ratings were high for professional wrestling programs.  Shows were taped in front of small but lively TV studio audience and consisted a mixture of matches, dramatic confrontation between characters and storyline. The announcers would introduce the pre taped matches or segments and then analyze them afterward. Most famously, the announcing duo of Gorilla Moonsoon and Bobby Heenan proved to be a rating puller with their chemistry and conflicting views of one supporting the good guys (face) while the other justify the action of the baddies (heel).

This would led to a duplicate of this announcing formula in all televised professional wrestling programs afterward.

The Begining

Airing from the Grand Ballroom (A Small Theater) In Manhattan New York, the WWE Raw in 1993 was a revolution in televised professional wrestling. The setting of the intimate venue provided a unique crowd experience and the live TV format gave the show a “Anything Could Happen Live” twist to the programming. This was not previously seen as traditionally shows were taped and voice over in studios.

These moves became a evolution of the genre. The advertising tagline for Raw during this period was “Uncut, Uncensored, Uncooked.” a reflection of the philosophy of the show’s direction.

Storyline and characters during this period were also geared to be surprising, over the top and exciting. One of the most memorable moment was a underdog rookie called  “1-2-3 Kid” beating Razor Ramon, a slick baddie known for his arrogrance and showboating in what was a major upset victory.

Taped Delay And Getting On The Road

After one year, the WWE had to make changes to the format of Raw.

Firstly, the WWE become aware of the fact that they could further build up their fan base by  venturing outside of Manhattan New York and bringing Raw across the country.

Also the WWE realized the financial costs of airing live shows every week was catching up on them and they adapted by making the live show a bi-weekly event. This meant that on Monday Night WWE would air a live episode. followed by a taped episode on Tuesday that was used for airing on the next Monday Night. Occasionally the WWE would taped two episodes on the same day to cut costs even further.

This unique format of delayed Raw production would last from early 1994 to September1999. And it would turn out to be the catalyst for a major conflict that changed the business of televised professional wrestling programs.

Monday Night War Prelude

In 1988, billionaire Ted Turner (founder of CNN) brought up Jim Cornette’s Promotion and renamed it World Championship Wrestling. Turner had proposed  to WWE’s owner VincE McMahon to buyover his company but. McMahon rejected his offer. Ted Turner decided that if he could not own WWE, he would create a competition to it. This offially set up a rivalry between McMahon and Turner that would both personal and professional that would last into the new century.

A event that trigger more awkwardness between the two rivals was when a star performer of WCW, Ric Flair was fired from WCW and shown up on WWE TV with the World Title of WCW with him. Flair was calling himself “The Real World Heavyweight Champion.”

Internally WCW were furious at WWE for allowing Flair to parade the belt on WWE TV and also realise the possibility that Flair had been encouraged to bring the belt with him onto WWE TV by management of WWE.

For the next 7 years, WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and WWE (World Wresling Entertainment) were became the only major players of the business with the demise of the two other major companies, the AWA (American Wrestling Association) and the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance). No other wrestling company had national television deals and the race to become the no 1 wrestling company between the WWE and WCW was slowly building and the stage was prime time television.

In 1993, WCW began taping espiodes of “WCW Worldwide” months in advance from Disney Studios. The delay between the shows airing on television and the taping caused a problem of exposing storyline and kayfabe.

Vice President of WCW, Eric Bishcoff began planning the seeds for a rivaling show to WWE RAW that would also be live. With Ted Turner finacial backup, he began aggressively recuriting WWE high profile performers such as Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage to jump ship to WCW. Bishcoff believe the proven track record of the established stars would led to the WWE’s audience to switch to supporting WCW. However Bischoff made the mistake of giving “Guaranteed Contracts” and “Creative Control” regularly in his recruitment of performers.

Guaranteed Contracts- Allowed the performer a guaranteed salary even without work

Creative Control – Allowed the performer to not do things that are damaging or weakening to the character.

Monday Night War Erupts

in 1995, competitor WCW (World Championship Wrestling)  premiumed “Nitro” with a one hour show format on Turner’s owned television network.  When Eric Bischoff causually suggested that “Nitro” could compete with Raw by being on a primetime slot on weeknight, Ted Turner agreed.

The rest as they say was history.

 WWE Raw: Longest Running TV Show In U.S History
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