WWE Raw is a television show produced by World Wrestling Entertainment. It is considered WWE's flagship show, and currently airs on Monday nights on the USA Network. The show began on January 11, 1993.
The Monday Night Wars
When Raw premiered in 1993, it retained the family-friendly image that WWE was known for at the time. However, in September 1995, WCW launched Nitro, which would compete with Raw for ratings supremacy. As WCW's product changed with the introduction of the nWo, and Hulk Hogan subsequently turning heel, Nitro would go on an 84-week winning streak against Raw. In response, WWE would begin to change their product from being family-friendly, to being more adult-oriented, similar to the Jerry Springer show, which had become very popular at the time. A controversial segment aired on the November 4, 1996 edition of Raw would be a foreshadowing of sorts of things to come. In the segment, Stone Cold Steve Austin broke into Brian Pillman's house, and threatened him with a gun. Pillman was also heard using the f-word during the segment. In response, the USA Network forced WWE and Pillman to apologize for the incident.
The rebranding of WWE would become more apparent during 1997. During which time ECW invaded Raw. On February 3, 1997, Raw switched to a two-hour format. On March 10, 1997, Raw was renamed Raw is War, and used Marilyn Manson's The Beautiful People for it's theme song. A week later, Bret Hart went on a profanity-laden tirade when Vince McMahon attempted to interview him. Much of the segment went uncensored.
On March 29, 1998, the Attitude Era officially began at WrestleMania XIV when Stone Cold Steve Austin won the WWE Championship from Shawn Michaels. More segments pushing the envelope aired on Raw is War. On April 13, 1998, Raw finally beat Nitro in the ratings for the first time in 84 weeks. For the remainder of 1998, the ratings would go back and forth, with Nitro winning their last night on December 28, 1998. From that point on, Raw would go on to dominate for the remainder of the Monday Night Wars.
January 4, 1999 would be a pivotal night in the Wars. On Nitro, the main event was set to be Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg for the WCW Championship. At some point in the broadcast, Eric Bischoff had announcer Tony Schiavone make the following announcement:
Fans, if you're even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here at one time as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their World title. Ha! That's gonna put some butts in the seats, heh.
The episode of Raw had been taped a week prior, and WWE had even acknowledged the title change on their website. However, immediately after the comment was made, 600,000 viewers switched from Nitro to Raw. On the same Nitro, Goldberg had been arrested for stalking Miss Elizabeth, and a returning Hulk Hogan challenged Nash, which he accepted. As the match began, Hogan looked as if he was getting ready to hit Nash, only to just touch him with his finger. Hogan got the pinfall, and won the match. This eventually became known as the Fingerpoke of Doom, and in the eyes of many, was the beginning of the downfall of WCW.
On the March 26, 2001 edition of Raw is War, it was announced that WWE had purchased WCW. After the last episode of Nitro aired, a simulcast began on USA and TNT. In storyline, Vince McMahon came out to gloat about his purchase of WCW, when Shane McMahon came out on Nitro to announce that he had purchased WCW from under his father's nose. This was done to further a storyline between Vince and Shane McMahon, as the two were to have a match at WrestleMania X-Seven, the largest show of the year, which was just six days away. Although the purchase was made, and WCW was now off the air, the Invasion did not begin immediately following WrestleMania X-Seven. On the May 21, 2001 edition of Raw is War, WCW wrestler Lance Storm came out through the crowd, and interfered in a match. Over the next few weeks, various WCW wrestlers would come out, and interfere in matches. Eventually, Diamond Dallas Page, one of WCW's most well-known names, would debut on Raw to start building up a match with the Undertaker at King of the Ring. At the event, Booker T would come out and interfere in the title match. After King of the Ring, the Invasion storyline began to kickoff.
On the July 2, 2001 edition of Raw is War, the last 20 minutes were given to WCW. A WCW Championship match between Booker T and Buff Bagwell took place. However, the match received poor reviews, and it is said that Vince McMahon hated the segment. This caused the storyline to go in a different direction that originally planned. The initial plan was for WCW to be branched into it's own entity, with it's own touring schedule, house shows, and pay-per-views. Raw would be given to WCW, and SmackDown! to WWE. On the July 9, 2001 edition of Raw is War, the WCW contingent turned heel when they joined forces with ECW, which had been purchased in storyline by Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. This would lead to the pay-per-view, InVasion. At the pay-per-view, Stone Cold Steve Austin would join WCW and ECW, which later became known as The Coalition, and later, The Alliance. In response, Vince McMahon, would reinstate The Rock, who had not appeared on WWE programming since the night after WrestleMania X-Seven, who had actually been filming The Scorpion King. The Rock would go on to face Booker T at ''SummerSlam'' for the WCW Championship, which he won.
As the storyline continued, WWE changed the name of Raw is War, to Raw. The reason being that the Monday Night Wars were over, and due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Invasion storyline ended at Survivor Series with Team WWE defeating Team Alliance in a Winner Take All match. The next night on Raw, Ric Flair made his first appearance in eight years, and announced that he and Vince McMahon were partners, as Shane and Stephanie had sold their stocks to him in order to buy WCW and ECW, respectively. Steve Austin also turned babyface for the first time since before WrestleMania X-Seven.
Over the next few years, many WCW main eventers would appear on WWE programming. The nWo, consisting of Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash would appear in February 2002, Scott Steiner would appear in November 2002, and Goldberg would appear in March 2003. Sting was the only WCW main eventer to not go to WWE until 2014, when he appeared at that year's Survivor Series.