When WWE Raw’s 25th anniversary came around in January 2018, it had to be a big occasion.
But what could WWE do for Raw 25 that they hadn’t already done for Raw #1000,Raw 20, Raw Reunion, Old School Raw…
…and all the other throwback episodes they’d had seemingly every year?
They could bring back Stone Cold to stun the McMahons.
They could stuff a bunch of freaks into an office backstage.
They could have Ron Simmons say Damn.
They could trot out some former stars to wave to the crowd.
They could even flash back to some of D-X’s classic, racist hijinks.
But the only thing that could truly set Raw 25 apart from all the others would be to return to the Manhattan Center, Raw’s original home. And so they did.
Make no mistake — hardcore fans were absolutely jazzed about Raw 25. Why else would they pay up to $800 for a ticket (or over a grand from a reseller)? Why else would one man fly all the way from London?
The evening started promisingly enough:
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler greeted viewers from the old-school location…
…while fans at the Manhattan Center cosplayed as Bobby Heenan in drag…
…showed off their vintage denim from the Didinsky collection…
…or, perhaps most impressively, repped Silk Stalkings.
The great thing about those early Monday Night Raws was the anything-can-happen feel. And by the end of the night, the Manhattan fans were begging for anything to happen.
See, the poor saps in the Manhattan Center had to watch the real episode of Raw…
…(emanating from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center)…
…on a screen the entire night.
How do you think that one fan felt who’d flown in from England? Well, at least it beat staying up till 4 AM on Sky Sports.
Raw 25 featured only one match in its first hour, an eight-woman tag contested in Brooklyn. That may have been good news for the women, who got to wrestle an entire borough away from Jerry Lawler…
…it was a slap in the face to everyone who’d paid half their rent on a watch party.
The broadcast didn’t even return to Manhattan until The Undertaker showed up for an extremely cryptic speech.
Well, not so much cryptic as vague, with the Dead Man declaring that his former opponents would rest in peace.
Not his future opponents, suggesting he’d continue wrestling. And not that he should rest in peace, suggesting he’d retire.
Next, the Miz beat Roman Reigns for the IC title… at the Barclays Center, of course.
Then it was time for the return of Christian’s Peep Show… also at the Barclays Center. But at least it was advertised for Manhattan.
Along the way, the hardcore fans were treated to two non-televised cruiserweight matches:
One lasting two minutes during a commercial break…
…and another one also lasting two minutes, also during a commercial break. This time, all four men simply brawled up the aisle and disappeared so fans could get back to watching the TV screen.
Then, after Raw 25 went to commercial again, they wandered back to the ring like they’d gotten lost backstage.
It looked like things were finally turning around for the Manhattan crowd when Bray Wyatt arrived. Jerry Lawler noted that no one dared speak during Bray’s entrance. Like clockwork, fans began speaking…
…chanting what sounded like a combination of “We got shafted” and “We want something”.
Still, the fans must have been pleasantly surprised, only six days before the Royal Rumble, to see this much-anticipated match between WWE’s two supernatural Superstars: Wyatt and his rival, “Woken” Matt Hardy.
Matt Hardy, if you’ll recall, had made a surprise return to WWE at the previous year’s WrestleMania, but had been barred by Impact Wrestling from using his red-hot “Broken” gimmick.
At last, Hardy had regained the rights to his gimmick, leading to this, the first of no doubt many big matches for the innovator of the cinematic bout.
He lost in six minutes.
I’m not saying Vince McMahon didn’t appreciate Matt’s gimmick, but he’d later have his announcers warn viewers that the Ultimate Deletion match would suck.
After Hardy-Wyatt, the poor saps in the Manhattan Center had to go back to watching Raw 25 on a TV. I’d have been pissed to pay half a grand to watch even a greatRaw on a screen, but ignoring the Manhattan fiasco, this was still an unusually bad episode.
For example, in just the show’s fourth match in two and a half hours, Heath Slater and Rhyno wrestled Titus Worldwide. The match was so bad that fans were booing it after just four minutes, only to cheer when the referee threw it out.
But no matter how bad things were at Barclays, they couldn’t get any worse than the Manhattan Center, where the unfortunate men and
women woman grew so restless…
…WWE had to shuttle Miz across town just to quell the “Bulls**t!” chants.
It was too late for JR and The King, though, who actually fell asleep during one of the extra-long lulls.
Poor King had started Raw 25 hoping to see puppies, not knowing X-Pac’s would be the only one.
Speaking of X-Pac, D-X was in the house, along with Razor Ramon (whom fans booed when he mentioned “both locations” )…
…to pass the torch to the Balor Club. Old-timers giving the rub to the younger talent? What a concept!
After Gallows & Anderson beat The Revival in two minutes…
…D-X joined in, hitting all their finishers on the two-time NXT tag champions.
The evening ended in Brooklyn, where Brock Lesnar emerged from hibernation…
…briefly brawling with Braun Strowman and Kane.
It was one thing to deliver a bad Raw…
…but to also charge die-hard fans like Brock Lesnar Guy, Green Smiley-Face Guy, and Frank the Clown a fortune to be quarantined from the real broadcast? Call it a wash.