With the 20th anniversary episode of Monday Night Raw in the books, the overwhelming sentiment has been that the WWE failed to deliver on what was supposed to be a huge show.
The fact of the matter is that the show itself was high quality and the only reason people came away disappointed was due to the influence of outside sources.
Some, myself included, believed that the 20th anniversary of Raw had the potential to be bigger than Raw 1,000. It was being held in Houston, after all, and that seemingly meant that native Texans like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stood a decent chance of appearing.
The big problem, however, was that several dirt sheets reported their appearances were either imminent or even a sure thing in some cases. According to The Wrestling Observer (via Wrestling News Source), HBK was "a lock" due to the fact that he appeared on the first Raw.
Also, according to PWInsider (via Wrestle Newz), The Undertaker was expected to appear and begin a potential feud with WWE champion CM Punk.
On top of all that, F4WOnline (via WrestlingInc.com) reported that Austin would most likely appear and that the WWE was going to "go very big" with the 20th anniversary edition on Raw.
With so much misinformation floating around the Internet, it should come as no surprise that many fans fully expected top-tier legends to show up. It isn't their fault that they had such high expectations, but the dirt sheets need to take some responsibility. If any credible news site essentially reported three things as fact and was wrong on all of them, they'd be ridiculed publicly and viewed as "the boy who cried wolf."
That should be the case with dirt sheets as well. Most people have a negative outlook on dirt sheets to begin with, but they're usually allowed to skate by without consequence since they're on the Internet and aren't viewed as credible sources. At the same time, countless wrestling fans trust them for news and are duped time and time again.
There are certainly occasions where the dirt sheets are correct, such as reporting Eve's departure from the WWE, but those instances are few and far between. Most of the dirt sheets' "credible reports" are based in common sense and have disclaimers such as "things can change."
It has gone far beyond the point of embarrassing, and these bogus reports actually caused many to detest the 20th anniversary show of Raw.
Many are blaming Vince McMahon and the WWE for the fact that we didn't see as many legend returns as we were "promised," but the fact of the matter is that Vince didn't promise or even hint at anything.
The 20th anniversary Raw was hyped a bit more than normal Raws are, but there was nothing to suggest that it would compare to Raw 1,000. The 1,000th episode of Raw was advertised weeks and months ahead of time and it was obvious that it was going to be a huge deal.
The 20th anniversary Raw, on the other hand, wasn't even mentioned until a couple weeks beforehand, so there shouldn't have been such high hopes.
Although I understand that some fans are going to be upset regardless of who provided the false information, the show itself was actually quite good if you put aside anything having to do with Austin, Undertaker, Michaels or any other legend who was expected to show up but didn't.
The closing segment was fantastic, particularly The Rock's song about Vickie Guerrero. Also, his fight with CM Punk was a great way to accelerate their feud. For the first time in a long time, Punk came away looking legitimately tough, as he initiated the attack on The Rock and beat Brodus Clay cleanly earlier int he night.
Also, the steel cage match between Dolph Ziggler and John Cena, while booked poorly, was highly entertaining. I can't fathom why Cena continues to overcome insurmountable odds against Ziggler, but there is no doubt that the two of them have great in-ring chemistry, which has led to some enjoyable matches.
Add in Wade Barrett going over Randy Orton clean, Kane and Daniel Bryan undergoing a follow-up evaluation with Dr. Shelby, The Shield attempting to attack Mick Foley, The Rock 'n' Sock Connection having a fun moment backstage and a cool segment involving The Miz, Ric Flair and Antonio Cesaro, and it's clear that this Raw was absolutely packed with action.
I'm not trying to say that it measured up to the 1,000th episode of Raw, but when you compare it to a run-of-the-mill show, it was fantastic. There was very little fluff and even the video packages were pertinent to the theme and nostalgic to watch as well. If not for unrealistic expectations, there wasn't much to complain about.
It's truly unfortunate that the dirt sheets pulled the wool over our eyes once again, because a lot of wrestling fans take everything they report as gospel. Hopefully the 20th anniversary Raw proves that it isn't wise to do that because it ruined a high-quality show in the eyes of many.