Ever since its premiere on January 11, 1993, on the USA Network, Monday Night Raw has been the flagship program of World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE, breaking new ground in the professional wrestling industry.
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|WWE Universal Championship||Brock Lesnar|
|WWE Raw Women's Championship||Alexa Bliss|
|WWE Intercontinental Championship||The Miz|
|WWE Cruiserweight Championship||Vacant|
|WWE Raw Tag Team Championship||Cesaro and Sheamus|
It was initially quite different from Superstars of Wrestling and the Wrestling Challenge, WWE's two other television shows, as it was filmed in front of a live audience with story-lines playing out as they happened.
WWE Raw originally aired live every week from the Manhattan Center in New York City, but the financial drain of the live schedule proved to be too much for WWE, which was struggling to recapture the heights of the Hulk Hogan era.
The first episode of the show to be produced outside New York City was filmed in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, in November of 1993. Eventually, WWE Raw left the Manhattan Centre and was taped in arenas throughout the United States of America.
In September of 1995, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) — the company that emerged as WWE's greatest competition — premiered its new show, Monday Nitro, that aired live every week on TNT. This move marked the beginning of the Monday Night Wars, which ushered in the biggest professional wrestling boom in North America.
WWE Raw and WCW Nitro went head to head for the first time on September 11, 1995, with the shows trading closely-traded victories until the mid-1996, when Nitro pulled away due to the success of the NWO angle. In fact, WCW enjoyed an 84-week winning streak which only came to an end on April 13, 1998.
To combat its burgeoning rival, WWE Raw switched to a 2-hour format in 1997 and rebranded itself "Raw is War". After WrestleMania 14, WWE Raw, which started to feature more risque content, started to regain the lead in the Monday Night Wars.
The April 13, 1998, episode of WWE Raw that was centred around a match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon ended WCW's streak of 84 ratings victories in a row.
On January 04, 1999, Mankind, the alter-ego of Mick Foley, who had performed for WCW as Cactus Jack from 1991-1994, defeated The Rock — Vince McMahon's top project for several years — on a taped episode of WWE Raw to win his first WWE Championship.
Eric Bischoff, WCW's Executive Producer at the time, who liked to give away WWE results on his show, ordered play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone to reveal the outcome of this match — a decision which resulted in over half a million people changing channels to watch the beloved underdog win WWE's top prize.
On the same night, a heavily promoted WCW World Heavyweight Championship match ended with Kevin Nash laying down for "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan after a finger poke in a farcical manner. This incident would go down in infamy and be seen as a "jumped the shark" moment for WCW.
The Atlanta-based promotion went on to experience a sharp decline in revenue and ratings, subsequently resulting in parent company Time Warner selling the WCW name, tape library and selected contracts to Vince McMahon's promotion for a reported $3 million in March of 2001. This was easily the biggest WWE news story, or any wrestling news story, in almost 20 years.
The death of WCW and a lucrative television contract that WWE signed with Viacom, which resulted in Monday Night Raw moving from the USA Network to Spike TV, resulted in several changes to WWE's programming. However, this time, it wasn't necessarily for the better with TV ratings experiencing a gradual decline, one which continues to persist in 2018.
In March of 2002, after the acquisition of WCW Superstars had resulted in an overabundance of talent on the WWE roster, the world's largest wrestling promotion initiated a brand extension which meant that both WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown would have their own exclusive Superstars, championships and storylines.
On April 04, 2005, WWE signed a three-year contract with NBC Universal which saw WWE Raw return to the USA Network and also gain a Spanish broadcast on Telemundo.
In 2011, the brand split was brought to an end, and all the Superstars were no longer exclusive to any one brand. Even though it allowed WWE to eventually make WWE Raw a 3-hour show in 2012, the brand split returned in 2016.
On January 22, 2018, WWE celebrated the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw with a simulcast show at the Barclays Centre and the Manhattan Centre. The show kicked off with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, the most lucrative character in the promotion's history, returning to stun Vince McMahon, his nemesis-in-chief. A number of legends also returned throughout the night.
While WWE Raw is unlikely to switch channels because of its importance to the USA Network, the latest WWE news and WWE rumours suggest that Fox could make an aggressive bid to secure WWE's tv rights once they come due in 2019.
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