WWE Monday Night Raw: How Stone Cold Steve Austin Made the Program Successful
WWE Monday night Raw. Episode 1000. Wow.
Hard to believe it’s been that long.
The longest-running weekly episodic program in television history hits a gigantic milestone, as we all know, on July 23. 1000 episodes of action, drama, tragedy, controversy and comedy.
And, it’s a pro wrestling program. How cool is that?
How cool is it that the one TV show that has hit this monumental mark is centered around a business that so many outsiders turn those noses up at on a daily basis? The business, that a legion of critics all dismiss as nothing more than “fake,” or a “male soap opera,” or, “filled with sensationalistic storylines, based upon totally unbelievable situations?”
Okay, that last one is kind of true. But, it’s still wicked awesome. Makes my inner fan boy jump with joy. Obviously, look at the silly adjectives I’m using to describe the thing.
Who am I kidding, there’s nothing inner about this fan boy.
Monday Night Raw is it.
For all of the frustrating moments, all of the poorly handled talent and angles, there have been some truly great matches, characters and events that have defined the industry. It just does not get any bigger, or any better, than WWE’s flagship program.
And, it was never any better than when Stone Cold Steve Austin was steering the ship.
The Texas Rattlesnake, the breakout star of his generation. Austin went from being a guy with a lot of potential, to being the hottest Superstar that the business has seen in years. He surpassed all expectations, achieved success at the highest level and did it all his way, on his terms just by being himself.
Imagine if you showed up at a new job, and when you asked, “What do I do first,” your boss answered, “What comes naturally.”
Austin was wide open, told that the ball was his, to run with it. And, he did just that.
Looking back now, the entire Stone Cold persona was absolutely perfect for its time, and felt totally comfortable to fans who had been screaming for something new, something fresh, from Vince McMahon.
In fact, I would submit that the idea behind Stone Cold is the most original concept WWE has produced in the past 20 years.
And, it was so basic.
Black vest, black boots, black trunks. Throw in a goatee and one severely ticked off attitude, and you have the recipe for superstardom.
Who would have thought it?
In my experience, one of the primary principles in a pro wrestling locker room is K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple Stupid. This goes for the matches, when a finish or spot is being decided and for the storylines themselves.
Whenever it came time to develop something new, to put two guys on a program and flesh out the events around them, the temptation was always there to make it as complex as possible, to keep the fans guessing and coming back for more, the following week. But, in the process of making that happen, I often found myself beginning to lose the point of the feud to begin with, and when that happened, the time came to stop and reevaluate the idea.
Simply put, no matter how good the concept, if you lose the fan’s interest, you’re dead in the water.
Stone Cold got over by keeping it not only simple, but very relatable. He was a normal guy who didn’t look like anything special, but who woke up one day in a bad mood, and decided that he wasn’t going to take crap from anyone.
Even his boss.
Steve Austin versus Vince McMahon became the driving angle in WWE, and the highlight of Monday Night Raw. Every week during the Monday Night Wars, there were two obsessive habits for pro wrestling fans all over the world.
One, was to flip to the end of WCW Nitro to see Sting‘s entrance and subsequent attack on the nWo And, the other was to watch Raw to see what crazy stunt Stone Cold would pull, at the expense of McMahon.
Those were the days.
When Austin walked away, it was a tough pill for fans to swallow, and to this day, there is still that desire from the masses to see him wrestle one more match. With each WrestleMania, the speculation begins, and each time, fans are disappointed.
But, there’s always next year.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is an icon in the business, a man who worked hard for what he had, and was the catalyst for an explosion the likes of which WWE had not seen since Hulk Hogan.
Austin was the highlight of Monday Night Raw, and though he was not alone in making that program succeed, he was its biggest star ever.
I have to say, I am looking forward to Raw’s 1000 episode. As a fan who was around long before the program began, and has watched it up to this point, it will be very gratifying for me to see how WWE will celebrate its achievements, and the moments it will give to fans.
And, the moment that needs to happen, the moment that has to happen, is when the glass breaks and Stone Cold hit’s the ramp. To me, it’s still the coolest entrance ever, and when the pop erupts from fans, it will be not only out of love and admiration for the man who made so many of them tune in to begin with.
It will be out of respect, and no writer can make that happen.
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