Six hundred and thirty five episodes is a phenomenal number for a television show. That was the number of original episodes of “Gunsmoke,” which starred actor James Arness (Hondo) as Marshall Matt Dillon who was in charge of keeping the peace in Dodge City. It aired on CBS between the years 1955 through 1975 and is the show with the second most original episodes. It was, and still is, a big number indeed, but how about one thousand (1,000)? That is the number of original episodes that WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has aired of its flagship show, “Monday Night Raw.”
Then…Now…Forever…Those were the words that flashed across the screen at the start of the January 23, 2012 airing of “Raw” which took place Live in front of 18,318 passionate fans at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and millions more watching around the world. Michael Cole and WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler were, per their usual, at ringside providing commentary that evening; after welcoming everyone to the special episode, the song “No Chance in Hell” began, which could mean only one thing, the arrival of the WWE’s chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon.
After Mr. McMahon took in the adulation showered upon him by the audience, he walked to the ring and got on the mic, “Wow… Wow… 1000 episodes! I would just like to say thank you.” The crowd didn’t hesitate for a second before breaking into several choruses of “Thank you Vince!” McMahon, the creator of Raw listened before proceeding with: “I would also like to say, welcome to Monday Night Raw and please welcome D-Generation X.” The DX anthem “Break it Down” by the Chris Warren band blared over the loud speakers eliciting a huge pop from the crowd. At first just Triple H and Shawn Michaels, known also to the fans of the WWE universe as “The Game” and “The Heartbreak Kid,” appeared. After some playful back and forth Triple H posed the following question: “Didn’t there used to be more of us?” Allowing the audience to answer, The Game repeated his question – this time with more emphasis in the tone of his voice. “I can’t hear you. Didn’t there used to be more of us?” The DX music hits once again and three members of DX from the attitude era, Billy Gunn, The Road Dogg (that’s how he spells dog) Jessie James, and X-Pac enter the building.
Jessie James wasted no time in giving the fans what they wanted, the throwback introduction to when he and Gunn where the tag-team champions many years prior. “St. Louis we’re about to take you on a Missouri boat ride straight down memory lane. Now then, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, tonight, D-Generation X proudly brings to you its five time WWE Tag Team Champions of the World, The Road Dogg Jessie James, the Bad Ass Billy Gunn — The New Age Outlaws.” After more playfulness by a group that was always high on antics, wrestler Damian Sandow, who reminds me of Lanny Poffo’s character of “The Genius,” came out. He began spouting off his rhetoric about how he is the intellectual savior of the unwashed masses. BORING! He was quickly greeted to sweet chin music, Shawn Michael’s signature move and then promptly picked up by Triple H who delivered the pedigree.
Jim Ross, the voice of Monday Night Raw for fifteen years, came out to provide guest commentary for the next match: a six man tag with high flying luchadores Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara teaming with the World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, versus two former world champions in Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler teaming with former WWE champion and the 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio. I was sorry that Ross left after that match. I would have preferred if he had stayed on the mic for the main event. Afterwards, Charlie Sheen joined in with commentary via Skype from Los Angeles, California. He provided some humor in which he poked fun at himself for some of his recent behavior. He would check back in several times during the course of the evening to provide his thoughts, and based on some of the things he said, he might be participating in this year’s Summerslam.
Next came the results of a question that was posed to the fans of the WWE universe on Twitter: should AJ say “I do” or “I don’t?” The vote had lopsided results with 26% percent voting ‘I do’ and 74% voting ‘I don’t.’ Jerry the King Lawler stood in the ring and announced the reverend for the wedding ceremony, who turned out to be none other than The Doctor of Style, Slick. The first African American manager in WWE history was a welcome addition to the program and he even used his entrance theme “Jive Soul Bro,” from back in the day. Slick took to the mic as if he had never left: “Well, well, well, and you know the Slickster’s been promised a whole lot of yard bird in exchange for my services tonight, so lets get this show on the road.” This blogger is not sure what Slick meant by “yard bird,”but it was fun to listen to him nonetheless.
Bryan came out in a white tuxedo doing his yes, yes, yes chant followed by the bride, who took her time as traditional wedding music played. Slick began presiding over the wedding ceremony with his trademark flare. When he got to the part, ‘should these two not be married’ the crowd started a chant of No! No! No! Bryan heard the chants and once again publicly professed his love for AJ. “Do you Daniel take AJ to be your lawfully wedded wife?” Bryan responded with one calm yes. Slick began to ask AJ the same question, but she stopped him and started doing Bryan’s yes, yes, yes chant; the crowd in response began again to chant No! No! No! “Well, I guess that says it all. By the power invested in me by the state of…,” before Slick could continue, he was interrupted by AJ. “Wait! I wasn’t saying yes to Daniel. I was saying yes to someone else.” Bryan did a good job of selling his hurt and confusion at AJ’s statement. She continued, “another man, another man, who made a proposal to me earlier tonight;” Mr. McMahon’s theme music comes on and a collective response of shock filled the Scottrade Center. Vince quickly assures Daniel that it’s not a marriage proposal, it’s a business proposal. Allow me to introduce you to the new general manager of “Monday Night Raw.” McMahon turns around and stretches his hand out toward the back as if he is welcoming someone to come on stage, but he instead turned around and named AJ the new general manager. AJ’s theme music Let’s Light it Up plays and before she steps out of the ring, she blows Bryan a kiss and skips her way up the ramp. When she reaches the top of the ramp she starts chanting Bryan’s yes chant while Bryan mirrors her chanting with chants of no. He goes crazy and destroys the makeshift props that were being used for the wedding.
After the commercial break Bryan is still in the ring. The song “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour blasts signaling the arrival of WWE Champion CM Punk; he lets Bryan know what just happened to him couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. A back and forth verbal exchange takes place and eventually Punk proclaims that he is going to continue being the WWE Champion and the best in the world. An irate Daniel Bryan fires back with, “you’re not even the best in this ring. I am the greatest of all time.” Anyone who follows WWE wrestling could’ve taken a guess as to what was going to happen. Of course, The Rock, the people’s champion came out. The crowd became electric with excitement. The Rock wasted no time letting Bryan know that, “You don’t get to say who the greatest of all time is. They get to say who the greatest of all time is.” The Rock then unleashed his own brand of humor, but he also let it be known that whoever the WWE Champion is at the Royal Rumble will go one on one with The Rock at the January 27th 2013 event which will be held at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Bryan, unlike Punk, decided to push the matter by stating “Not only will I be the champion, but I will be the face of the WWE.” The Rock of course took umbrage with the boastful claim and treated Bryan to the “rock bottom.”
Bret “The Hitman” Hart came out to introduce the next match for the Intercontinental title between Christian and The Miz. Before introducing the participants, he acknowledged the late great wrestler Mr. Perfect, Curt Henning, who sadly died at the age of forty-four in February of 2003. Hart had defeated Henning to win his first Intercontinental title at the 1991 Summerslam on August 26 which was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden. Hart didn’t sell The Miz at all – it seemed, in this blogger’s opinion, that he didn’t even want to introduce him. The Miz defeated Christian with his finishing move the “Skull Crashing Finale” in a quality match that was followed by a taped tribute from Regis Philbin, who extolled his love for the WWE and “Monday Night Raw.”
Will he or won’t he? That was the question on everyone’s mind as Triple H returned to the ring for the second time that evening to find out if Brock Lesnar was going to accept his challenge for Summerslam. Instead of Lesnar coming to the ring, it was again his hired mouthpiece, Paul Heyman, who appeared. Heyman informed Triple H that Lesnar was not going to fight him at Summerslam. Back and forth verbal exchanges continued until Heyman crossed the line by talking about Triple H’s children, which prompted the arrival of another McMahon, Vince’s daughter, Stephanie, who is married to Triple H. She managed to get Heyman so fired up with talk about how much of a failure he has been that Heyman blew his cool and agreed on behalf of Lesnar to have the match. Heyman shot more insults Stephanie’s way causing her to lose her own cool and attack the former head of ECW. Lesnar’s music came on and the former UFC champion came out and stood on top of the ramp before storming the ring and going on the offensive against “The Game,” who fired right back. A brief fight took place before Lesnar and Heyman left. The two will face one another on August 19th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
It was nice to see WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel in the ring announcing the next match. Heath Slater hopefully is finished with his “One Man Band” nonsense, a character, in this blogger’s opinion, that seems like a woefully watered down version of the Honky Tonk Man. He once again found himself about to be matched up against a superstar from the past. This week, however, he issued a challenge to any Raw legend for a no disqualification, no count out match. Lita, the greatest high flying diva of all time, and a four time WWE Women’s Champion, accepted the challenge. Slater foolishly thought nothing of it and agreed, but she had arranged for some protection for the evening, none other than the APA (Acolytes Protection Agency) comprised of former World Tag Team Champions JBL and Faarooq, who came out to a thunderous ovation. Slater, knowing he was in trouble high-tailed it out of the ring only to be greeted by Road Warrior Animal and the rest of the WWE Legend’s that had defeated him in the previous weeks. Slater returned to the ring where Lita delivered a twist of fate to him, which was followed by APA member JBL giving Slater a vicious clothesline from hell, followed by Lita hitting Slater with a moonsault off the top rope and easily covering him for the three count.
John Cena cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase in hopes of beating CM Punk and becoming the WWE Champion. It was a stalemate in the early goings of the main event match with a lot of hold moves used; both competitors delivered big shots, but no clear advantage was given to either man. Back and forth it went until after Punk played possum; he caught Cena with a kick to the back of the head. He motioned for his finishing move the go to sleep, but Cena fought his way out of it only to inadvertently and unknowingly knock the ref out of the ring and onto the floor. Cena delivered his move the attitude adjustment and would have scored the win, but of course there was no ref. The Big Show came down to the ring and knocked Cena out. CM Punk sells his confliction. Does he revive the ref and take the victory? Does he wait for Cena to regain consciousness? Punk opts for the former and covers Cena, but his waiting allowed Cena to gather enough strength to kick out. Punk goes for his go to sleep move, but this time Cena catches the champion in the STF (Stepover Toehold Facelock). Punk does a great job of selling the extreme agony that Cena is inflicting on him, but is bailed out once again by the Big Show. The ref has no choice but to call for the bell, which makes John Cena the first wrestler in WWE history to fail to cash in the Money in the Bank contract and become champion. Punk stands there and watches as Big Show knocks Cena around. The Rock’s music hits and he runs to the ring in an apparent effort to help Cena. The Rock goes after the Big Show and manages to take the big man off of his feet, but as he is about to deliver his patented people’s elbow, Punk gives him a clothesline knocking the Rock down and then picking him up and giving him the go to sleep. Punk slowly walks up the ramp as the crowd, once so fervently behind him, turns on him with boos and bad language; and as the historic 1,000th episode ends, CM Punk has just turned heel.