Hello everyone and thanks for joining me here for Planet Kayfabe where I share my thoughts on the 25th anniversary episode of Raw. The good, the bad. What it accomplished or didn't accomplish. I'll say right off the top, if you want my thoughts on the Enzo Amore situation as it stands right now, the day of his release, go to my Twitter for that.
The 25th Anniversary of Raw took place at both the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center. If you were a fan who heard this and thought "uh oh... Wrestlemania 2" then congratulations. You have some common sense. If you thought "why can't you f***ing smarks just wait and see first before you shit on it" then shame on you. The fans knew what they were talking about and had every reason to be concerned. Usually I divide these "The Good/The Bad" columns with a list of good things and a list of bad things but this is going to be a bit different since there was one really good thing and some of the nostalgia was fun. I got more to say about 'the bad' though... I know, shocked.
The best thing on this show was the first segment. The show started with Shane and Stephanie McMahon pretty much as themselves talking about the history of Raw and a sentimental video package played that was pretty nice. Vince McMahon himself was then brought out to a massive ovation to be presented with a commemorative plaque. Aghast by such an offering, Vince turned full heel on his offspring and mostly the crowd. He ran down the Brooklyn fans. They played their part and booed the shit out of him. They started chanting "asshole" at him, which was a chant we heard every week during the Attitude Era, but not so much since. So, that was a nice touch by the fans at Barclays.
Vince continued being heel Mr. McMahon until... The glass broke. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin makes his entrance and the roof (LITERALLY!) blew off the place. Steve and Vince still had their old memorable chemistry. It's always been a trademark that Vince always acted like he had the biggest balls in the world until Austin's music hit and suddenly changed his tune. Again, it felt like the old magic was there. Vince's facial expressions were great, as always. In particular when he offered to toast beer with Steve and when Steve toasted him a little splash of beer went on Vince's suit and Vince paused and made a face as if to say "it's taking every fiber of my being to keep my mouth shut right now" knowing that a Stunner is always one second away... while Steve grins with confidence.
Shane deserves some credit too. This felt like straight out of 1998/99. Shane felt like his old self, too. Ya know not the Shane who is portrayed today as a daredevil who will risk anything to fight for what he believes in. Nope, he reverted right back into the stand-off-ish Shane that got him "Shane's a pussy!" chants back in the day all because it is ingrained in the McMahon's blood to fear Austin. Vince threw his own son the wolves and ate a Stunner and just when the fans thought that Vince wasn't going to take one, he did, and beer bash to close.
This segment was perfect. It really felt straight out of 1998. From Vince, to Shane to Austin, to the fans chanting 'asshole', to that one kid in the front row giving the middle finger. This segment was about as close to the Attitude Era coming back as you're going to get. A lot of fun for the fans and probably especially fun for the older fans who were watching in 1998.
Unfortunately that's pretty much where the fun ended. This show is actually the go-home Raw for the Royal Rumble and with a lot of eyes back on the product for this one show you'd think they'd do more to promote this event but no... Not really. I mean, they had Asuka throw a few girls out of the ring and they had the last segment to promote the title match and that's about it. They did a good job giving fans their nostalgia fix but not a lot was done to promote the current stars. Keep in mind I said "not much" not "nothing". AJ Styles looked fine coming from Smackdown with his belt to cut a promo with "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Braun got to stand tall at the end which who knows how many of those casual fans were even still watching by then, so it probably doesn't even matter.
"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt had their match. After about a month or so of build they had a quick TV match to which Bray won clean just like that. The heel with the stale character beat the guy who was just repackaged. Look, for all you WWE booking apologists out there who want to say bullshit like "this doesn't mean Matt is buried" and "as long as fans still chant 'DELETE' it doesn't matter that he lost" and "give it time" and "he doesn't need to win every match", save it for your WWE job interview. This was garbage. They give away this match and Matt losing soundly in short order shows exactly how WWE feels about the Broken character. So, for anyone who read my last column about how WWE has dropped the ball with Matt Hardy and said "it's only been a month" all I have to say is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah, I won't be losing any sleep waiting for you to tweet me admitting you were wrong and I was right. This isn't my first time watching this show, people. Their patterns are pretty easy to pick up on after a while and Matt losing to Bray here is not good no matter which way you try to spin it.
Before an antsy Manhattan Center crowd, the Undertaker came out while the voice of Howard Finkel introduced him. To me it sounded like an old voice over. Either that or he did the announcement from backstage. Some said they didn't see Howard there so, yeah whatever. The Undertaker came out and was of course greeted with "holy shit" chants because of course these fans have to get their spots in. Unlike the old "asshole" chant which seemed fitting and natural for the moment, "holy shit" is one of those old, rehearsed chants that I could do without. Every high spot gets a "holy shit" chant and the Deadman himself is greeted with it. Can't just let a moment breathe a bit can you? The Undertaker cut a promo... What this promo was intended to promote, I don't know. He just kinda said words, hit his catchphrase and left. No match for Wrestlemania was announced. He didn't confirm his retirement even though that's where it seemed like he was going with it for a second. When it was over, it was done and he left. So basically the fans there got to see The Undertaker which is cool for them but for the TV audience it really didn't have much value beyond a cameo of a guy we expect to see this time of year anyway. I love Undertaker, but what was this? Almost like they were just throwing the Manhattan Center fans a bone.
They promoted DX for the show complete with the New Age Outlaws and X-Pac... and Scott Hall because he's friends with them, too. Like many portions of the show this segment was no different in terms of the age of some of these guys really showing. Shawn Michaels looks to be in great shape but he's no young guy and is very much self-aware of this fact and is willing poke fun at himself for it. I thought Shawn was good here. He came off as a charming and light hearted guy commenting on how he used to run D-X and now Hunter Hearst Helmsley is running everything. The Road Dogg looked especially old dancing around with those ridiculous jeans on and doing his old shtick to a crowd of hardcore fans who all probably bury him on Twitter. X-Pac, who is 45 looks like he's had a rough 45 years. It's crazy. Chris Jericho is 47 and he looks 15 years younger than Waltman, but of course it's no secret why. If it comes off like I'm just poking fun at their appearance I'm not. I know Waltman has had a f***ing rough life and I'm not trying to be a dick (no, really), but this is the television business and some of these guys looked especially old in HD and it is almost sad as a viewer because it makes you feel old watching it. You remember when these guys were young and rebellious, now they're balding and middle aged.
Billy Gunn looked great, though. So, good for him.
Scott Hall (as Razor Ramon here) also looked great all things considered since we've seen him at his worse. As a matter of fact it looked like he was wearing the same outfit that he wore at that show in Fall River, Massachusetts seven years ago where he couldn't even stand on his own two feet. So, it's nice to see him looking good and sounding clear.
For you Revival fans, I hate to break it to you but call this a burial. You can try to justify it, but they got the Ascension treatment here. I've seen some people say "this show doesn't count" and "it's just one segment" -- look, the dye has been cast. The fans can't un-see what happened. It's done and you should have known this when they cut that promo last week. While on the indies being the guy who denounces sports-entertainment and claims to be a 100% pure pro-wrestler may get you a good pop, in WWE they stick the "I'm a pro-wrestler" gimmick on guys that they want to portray as being boring and have no personality. So, don't tweet me with you "it was just one segment, can you relax?!" bullshit. This is who WWE wants to portray them as.
If you wonder why things that worked on NXT don't work on the main roster, this is why. It's not because NXT is mainly hardcore fans, it's because they like to change guys on the main roster. Here's your latest example that you can chalk up with all the other NXT grave stones in Vince's office. Next time you pop for the guy and sing his song, remember this is the same guy who publicly buried NXT and now guys who were stars there always have to have a bag of bricks thrown on their back and they're told to run uphill. It's not because NXT can't translate to Raw success, it's because they are changed when they are called up and never for the better. The guys who aren't changed like Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe oddly have the most success at getting over on main roster programs. Gee, funny how that works, huh?
Like I said at the start, with all the new casual eyes on this show, the WWE didn't do much to make them want to watch next week or even watch the Royal Rumble. They know next week that Steve Austin and all the legends are going to be gone. So, what do they have to tune in for? There was no real cliffhanger. They didn't really showcase a current popular guy like Braun Strowman. A lot of fans probably think Roman Reigns is the top heel in the company. What exactly is there to look forward to next week? Much like all these 90's shows the last few years that have made a full on rebooted comeback instead of just one off reunions (like this is) once the old fans get their nostalgia kick they're gone -- GONE! They've seen it and they're good. They see Vince looking every bit the 72 years old that he is. They see their old favorites who were once chiseled gods now look fat and bald. They're good. They got to see them once more time. The nostalgia was the star of the show, as expected and maybe as it should have been but you have to promote the current talent. You have to introduce them to all the new fans watching. Without something new, they aren't going to get hooked. New and different will hook them. Nostalgia hooks them for one show and one show only especially when they know a lot of these guys may be making their last appearance ever.
The 25th Anniversary of Raw could have been a good opportunity to show people the future of Raw and instead we were all left reminded of the glory years of when the show and product as a whole was at its peak and it's no coincidence that the show kept going downhill after that great Austin/McMahon segment to open the program. We may never see another feud quite like that one in WWE.
There's my thoughts on the 25th Anniversary of Raw. It was a fun show, but take away the nostalgia and it was a nothing show, which as I said, is a problem. There were no steps taken to make all those new viewers interested in the current product, or the Royal Rumble this Sunday or anything. The segments were fine. As a weekly listener of Something to Wrestle w/ Bruce Prichard it was nice to see Brother Love get a big pop. It was nice to see Christian... but that's about it, he didn't do much.
When they honored some of the General Managers and ladies of Raw's past that was cool. The fans loved Bischoff. When they showed the women I was amazing how Torrie Wilson looks almost exactly the same. I mean, she's a 42 year old woman now and still pretty much looks like how she did at 28. That was a breath of fresh air because as I mentioned a few times it was almost depressing seeing how old and out of shape some of these guys are now. At least Vince is still in good physical shape because seeing him hunched over with bags under his eyes is not how I want to remember Mr. McMahon on TV. His hair looked that darkest it's been in probably 15 years though, so there's that.
I feel for the fans who paid good money for those Manhattan Center seats, too. Damn did they get worked. Thanks for coming, guys. No wonder Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler passed the f*** out.
Thanks for reading Planet Kayfabe, everyone. I'll be back with my Royal Rumble preview. Until then I'm Paul Matthews for NoDQ. Take care, everyone.