WWE Raw (full title: WWE Monday Night Raw) is a Professional Wrestling TV series that showcases the superstars of WWE. Airing new episodes year-round (for the most part) since its debut in 1993 - with over 1,200 episodes (and counting) under its belt so far - Raw is the longest running series in the company's history, and the longest running nationally-televised wrestling show, with other longer-running shows such as WCW Worldwide having been regional-only for parts or all of their runs (the Portland territory's show ran locally for 38 years).
It originally aired on the USA Network, switched to The National Network (TNN) note in 2000, and went back to USA in 2005, with its first night back on the Network dubbed the "WWE Homecoming" (which isn't far off, considering that the 'E has since formed a trusty partnership with USA's parent company, NBCUniversal).
During the '90s, Raw had fierce competition in the form of WCW Monday Nitro, which led to the legendary period known as the Monday Night Wars, a source of the industry's biggest success (and some of its most famous take thats). Because Raw was generally pre-taped in its early years, WCW's Eric Bischoff would often spoil the results of the program on Nitro, which was aired live every week. It also helped that WCW had a hot faction in the form of the New World Order. For 84 consecutive weeks, Nitro beat Raw in ratings, and WCW nearly sent WWE into bankruptcy during this period.
In reflection of the company's shift into the Darker and Edgier Attitude Era, the show was re-christened Raw is War—appropriate, considering the series was at war with Nitro. In a Take That! gone horribly, horribly wrong for WCW, the January 4, 1999 episode of Nitro featured Tony Schiavone spoiling the results of that same night's (pre-taped) episode of Raw by saying Mick Foley (who wrestled for a time in WCW under the name Cactus Jack) would win the WWE Championship, sarcastically following up with "That's gonna put some butts in the seats." The jab backfired as over a half-million viewers switched the channel to Raw to see Foley win the title. It also didn't help that Nitro provided those who stuck by Nitro with a WCW Championship match that infamously ended in under a minute with the Fingerpoke of Doom. Following that night, people would bring signs to WWE events that read "Foley put my ass in this seat!". This marked the beginning of the tides turning between the two programs, with Raw always beating Nitro in the ratings from that point on, and when Raw permanently switched to a live format starting in September 1999 (thanks to healthy pay-per-view buyrates and what was once Raw's Tuesday taping day being taken over by WWE's new show, SmackDown!), Nitro had no more spoilers of the competition to fall back on.
In September 2001 (a few months after WWE bought out WCW), Raw is War was renamed to simply Raw in light of the 9/11 attacks—with Raw back to a convenient short name—although a few years later the name would be reverted to Monday Night Raw. note
With the brand extension of 2002, WWE was split into two brands: the Raw brand and the SmackDown! brand (a third brand, ECW, was around from mid-2006 to early 2010). During this period, Raw developed a reputation for housing established veterans and high-level main eventers.
From 2009 to late 2010, thanks to a mandate by network overlords NBC-Universal, Raw was given a special "guest host" gimmick where a celebrity / group of celebrities of varying levels of fame hosted an episode each week, and - up until the appointment of a General Manager - they were also allowed to book matches, having been given "unlimited power" by Vince McMahon. While quite a few were undoubtedly stinkers (Dennis Miller, ZZ Top), there were some gems as well (Seth Green, Bob Barker, William Shatner, Mike Tyson), and it was thanks to this gimmick that Bret Hart returned to Raw for the first time since the Montreal Screwjob. The guest host gimmick eventually started losing steam after Bret Hart was named Raw's General Manager (a role he served for a couple of months before being "taken out" by The Nexus); eventually, guest hosts were called "guest stars" to reflect their loss of booking power, and showed up mainly to shill their latest stuff. By the end of 2010, the "guest stars" gimmick was dropped almost entirely.
On July 23, 2012, Raw aired its 1000th episode, and with it switched from a two hour format to a three hour format.
As of September 5, 2023, here is the list of people who perform on Raw. Michael Cole and Wade Barrett are the commentary team, with Byron Saxton and Jackie Redmond handling backstage interviews, and Samantha Irvin as the ring announcer.
- Akira Tozawa
- Apollo Crews
- Braun Strowman (inactive)
- Bronson Reed
- Cody Rhodes
- Dexter Lumis
- Drew McIntyre
- JD McDonagh
- Jey Uso
- Johnny Gargano
- The Miz (with Maryse)
- Odyssey Jones
- Seth "Freakin'" Rollins (World Heavyweight Champion)
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- Tommaso Ciampa
- Becky Lynch (NXT Women's Champion)
- Candice LeRae
- Chelsea Green (WWE Women's Tag Team Champion, could appear in any brand)
- Indi Hartwell
- Nia Jax
- Nikki Cross
- Piper Niven (WWE Women's Tag Team Champion, could appear in any brand)
- Ronda Rousey
- Shayna Baszler
- Sonya Deville (inactive)
- Tegan Nox
- Trish Stratus
- Xia Li
- Zoey Stark
Tag Teams and Stables
- Alpha Academy (Chad Gable and Otis; with Maxxine Dupri)
- Imperium (Gunther [Intercontinental Champion], Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci)
- Indus Sher (Jinder Mahal, Sanga, and Veer Mahaan)
- The Judgment Day (Finn Bálor [Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champion, could appear in any brand], Damian Priest [Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champion, 2023 Men's Money in the Bank Winner, could appear in any brand], Rhea Ripley [Women's World Champion], and Dominik Mysterio [NXT North American Champion])
- Katana Chance and Kayden Carter
- Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions, could appear in any brand)
- Liv Morgan (inactive) and Raquel Rodriguez
- Los Lotharios (Angel and Humberto)
- The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods)
- The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar; with Valhalla)
"RAW IS WAR IS A TROPE IN YOUR SIDE!":
- Aborted Arc:
- The Anonymous Raw GM storyline. In June 2010, Vince McMahon appointed a new Raw General Manager "who [preferred] to stay anonymous" and thus relayed all his orders through a laptop computer seated next to the announcer table. Despite some teasing hints that went nowhere, some mildly heelish decisions and a couple of feuds (including one where Edge actually beat up the laptop), his identity was never revealed and the whole thing was quietly swept under the rug in October 2011 when Triple H took over. It was eventually resolved in July 2012 when Hornswoggle was revealed as the GM.
- A far worse example would be the "GM-less" era; after Eric Bischoff was fired from the position in December 05, the central story Raw was who would replace him. Shane McMahon, Dusty Rhodes, and various other big names were teased, along with a running gag of the most unlikely people approaching Vince and asking for the job only to be blown off. After about a month or two, the whole thing was dropped, with one glaring problem; there was still no general manager. The position would not be filled until June of 07, a year and a half later, and would receive no mention up until that point. That is, until the July 9, 2012 episode of Raw when the mystery Raw GM was finally revealed (more on that later).
- Bad Boss: Whoever is in charge of the show tends to be one of these (i.e. Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, John Laurinaitis, Vickie Guerrero), as opposed to Smackdown's typically more benevolent GM's.
- Bowdlerise: The Hulu Plus version of Raw has several matches and segments cut out. Those matches usually feature either mid-carders, jobbers, or women.
- Broadcast Live: Since September 1999.
- Butt-Monkey: Vince McMahon, during the later half of 2012.
- Canon Discontinuity:
- The promos for the March 4, 2013 show, billed as "Old School Raw," started with a scene from the beginning of the very first episode before jumping ahead to The New Age Outlaws, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and the Attitude Era in general, as if nothing had happened during the four years in-between.
- The week after The Authority lost their power after Survivor Series 2014, the Anonymous General Manager made a reappearance. With no on-air explanation given to the fact that Hornwoggle had been revealed as him two years prior, and the only vague mention to it being a WWE.com article.
- For obvious reasons, the 2007 Chris Benoit tribute show has not been acknowledged by WWE since its initial airing. Notably, it is the only episode of Raw missing from the WWE Network, where an alternate recap show that aired internationally the week of the murders is on there instead.
- Cue the Flying Pigs:
- Darker and Edgier: The Raws broadcast during the Attitude Era compared to earlier episodes; the darkness started seeping in around 1995-96.
- Demoted to Extra: Since the early 2010s, full-time mid-carders such as Wade Barrett, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, and Zack Ryder as well as the Divas have been demoted storyline-wise in order to make room for part-time (but very marketable) talent such as The Rock and Brock Lesnar (usually in the weeks heading into WrestleMania and SummerSlam) in an effort to give Raw a boost in the ratings.
- Downer Ending: The last episode of 2014 ended with John Cena forced to reinstate The Authority, turning his team's prior Survivor Series victory into a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
- These are common right before a pay-per-view, with the top face getting a beatdown from their heel opponent(s) as the announcers question what kind of condition the face will be in for their big upcoming fight.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The first several years of RAW were taped; it switched to its current live format in September 1999 during the Monday Night Wars in response to WCW Monday Nitro.
- Enemy Mine: The 2010 rise of The Nexus Power Stable on Raw saw the teaming up of former rivals John Cena, Edge, and Chris Jericho after each getting ambushed by the Nexus.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The NXT season one rookies were just some wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-out-of-training nobodies — maybe something someday, but for now not worth much. Then they banded together to form The Nexus, and completely tore apart Raw. For a few months after that, they were "the biggest threat WWE has ever faced" — bigger than The Alliance, bigger than the NWO, bigger than the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, you name it. Ironically, their undoing came when Daniel Bryan, the only rookie who actually had a good amount of experience before coming on NXT, and who had been expelled from the group for showing remorse, joined the WWE wrestlers in the fight against The Nexus.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: This has recently become this to an extent as there are generally two or more women's matches on each episode.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: An anonymous general manager who only communicates to whomever's in the arena via e-mails sent to Michael Cole. On the July 9, 2012 episode of Raw, his identity was revealed to be Hornswoggle.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: In the Dec 6, 2010 edition, circumstances had led to CM Punk subbing for Michael Cole in reading the e-mail from the Raw General Manager, a role that Punk played up for all its worth.CM Punk: I've always really wanted to do this. I HAVE RECEIVED AN EMAIL!
- Jobber Entrance: This was the standard in the mid-nineties when Raw was only an hour long, which made sense because there was only so little time to do the matches. Ironic though, ever since Raw went to three hours beginning with the 1000th episode on July 23, 2012, many wrestlers (even some high carders) have had their entrances cut out in order to make room for more commercials, in-ring promos, backstage segments, recaps, and social media segments. Only John Cena and CM Punk seemed to be immune from this since they're the top two full-time Superstars on the show. Other Superstars who are spared from a jobber entrance are The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, and The Undertaker. Note that the last four are all part-timers.
- Law of Chromatic Superiority: Called "The Red Brand" by both the IWC and the WWE staff themselves, where the Superstars performing on the brand are called "Team Red".
- Lighter and Softer: Since it went from being TV-14 to TV-PG.
- Long-Runners: As Michael Cole constantly brags, the show has been running since January 11, 1993, and barring occasional postponements (most notably for the Westminster Dog Show), has been airing weekly ever since. As of October 12, 2020, the show has aired 1,430 episodes, with no end in sight.
- Muppet Cameo: Yes, The Muppets did show up on Raw during the Halloween Episode. Notable highlights include Sheamus meeting up with Beaker and Statler and Waldorf snarking on the main event as only they could. They later guest-hosted again, with a memorable bit involving Daniel Bryan running into his cousin, a muppet goat. The Muppet episodes do very well in the ratings — because even wrestling fans love the Muppets — and they later guest-hosted again in March 2014 as a promotion for Muppets Most Wanted.
- No Theme Tune: The opening credits (and with them the show's theme tune) were seemingly dropped in late-2012 in favor of an opening recap, though it was reinstated in the second to last Raw before the Money in the Bank 2013 pay per view.
- Politician Guest-Star: One 2008 episode featured campaign speeches from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Later in that same show, Obama and Clinton impersonators went head-to-head in an alleged wrestling match.
- Previously on…: You'd be surprised how easy and addictive following WWE is... when you only watch the PPVs. Those video recap packages make all the Raw segments look Emmy-worthy.note
- Product Placement: Frequent — see the trope page for some specific examples.
- Punk in the Trunk: In October 2002, Kane and Triple H were in a feud; and at the end of the episode Kane tossed Triple H into a car's trunk and drove off - but then we saw the car trunk pop open just as they were going to black! Oops. Dealt with at the top of the next episode:Triple H: I've got a special guest gonna come out here later - but before we come to that, I'd like to give a little personal message to Kane. Kane, this is just advice, but next time you try to accost somebody by sticking them into the trunk of a car, you should try to make sure that the trunk does not have one of those child safety latches on the roof - I mean, you can just pull it and jump OUT of the trunk before the person even drives off. Just a bit of advice.
- Retraux: The Monday Night Raw "Old School" specials in 2010 and 2013.
- Strictly Formula: For a three-hour program, it's remarkable how little happens on any episode of Raw. Expect that, if a wrestler does something unexpected, like unveiling a new move, and it goes over well, it'll become a staple and get used in every match after that, removing the novelty.WrestleCrap: We talk today about how formulaic Raw is, and trust me, I am on that bandwagon. Looking back, though, Superstars was arguably more cookie cutter – you had an “Event Center” with whatever random Ken doll look alike they had at the time (Sean Mooney, Craig DeGeorge, etc.) and a talk show segment (Piper’s Pit, Brother Love, Flower Shop) wherein angles took place. Throw in Lord Alfred shilling at the end for Mr. Freeze Freeze Pops, and every week it was basically the same.
- Tear Up the Contract: CM Punk tore up his contract with WWE at the end of the July 11, 2011 edition. The segment, fresh off the events of the June 27th, 2011 edition of Raw, where Punk declared his intentions of letting his contract expire and get out of the company holding the WWE title, began with Vince McMahon wanting to renew the contract, giving him the things he demanded until the whole ordeal devolved into name-calling and rage on both sides. Then John Cena came to put Punk in his place, and Punk dressed him all over the place, even going as so far as to tell Cena that he wasn't the underdog anymore, he was an empire "like the New York Yankees". Cue the usually calm John furious at the comparison punching Punk, and Punk getting out of the ring and shredding the unsigned contract.
- Thematic Theme Tune: Previously used with "The Night" by CFO$ (under their original name of Kromestatik). Also seen in the past with Jim Johnston productions such as "Thorn in Your Eye", "All Together Now" and Union Underground's "Across the Nation".
- Welcome Titles: Some of the title sequences have Steve Austing walking through a disused factory on fire in which the supporting cast is fighting each other.
- Wham Episode: CM Punk's pipebomb, the Raws after Survivor Series 2012 that chronicled the rise of The Shield, and the Raws leading to WrestleMania XXX that chronicled the rise of BryanMania are some recent examples.