With the 20th anniversary episode of Raw taking place in Houston on Monday, many fans expected stars such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels to appear. That didn't happen and it led many to label the night a failure, but The Texas Rattlesnake and HBK had a prior engagement they had to honor.
According to NoDQ.com, the native Texans were unable to appear on Raw because they were already booked for SHOT Show in Las Vegas. SHOT Show is an annual shooting and hunting trade show and since both Austin and Michaels are avid hunters, they were already committed to appear at the event.
Rather than consider the fact that Austin and Michaels might have had other things to tend to, many fans jumped to conclusions immediately following the show and tried to place blame on Vince McMahon or the WWE as a whole. The fact of the matter is that the timing just wasn't right when it came to the 20th anniversary of Raw as it coincided with something of great importance to Austin and Michaels.
I have no doubt that McMahon pushed hard for both Austin and Michaels to appear on Raw, but there wasn't much he could do. Austin has always been a straight shooter and Michaels seems to be one now as well, so they weren't about to go back on their word and skip SHOT Show. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances, but we have to respect the WWE legends for sticking to their guns both literally and figuratively.
Michaels answered several tweets regarding his absence and said that he was being honest when he told people the week before that he would be at SHOT Show rather than Raw.
The most interested part about this entire situation is that it was known that both Austin and Michaels were booked as SHOT Show guests ahead of time, but despite that, many dirt sheets and wrestling "news" sites reported it as fact that they would be appearing on Raw. That obviously wasn't the case and it led to a lot of agitated fans.
Had these sites done their due diligence rather than either making things up or listening to unreliable sources then the fans wouldn't have gotten their hopes up about Austin and Michaels showing up. I'm sure that both Austin and Michaels wanted to be at Raw since they were such a huge part of the show, but they aren't at fault in this situation and the WWE isn't at fault either.
Neither Austin nor Michaels said they would be at Raw, the WWE never said or even suggested that they would be there and both men insisted that they had other things they had to do. Regardless of that, the dirt sheets pushed ahead with irresponsible, baseless reporting and managed to negatively influence everyone who read the reports.
There was also a lot of talk about The Undertaker appearing on Raw, and while nothing has come out about him having a prior engagement, I don't have a problem with the WWE leaving him out. Taker did make a guest appearance on the 1,000th episode of Raw, but he's the type of superstar who should be saved for certain situations and shouldn't just be trotted out there because it's a milestone show.
If Taker is going to face CM Punk at WrestleMania, then it would have been silly to bring him back as it would have overshadowed Punk's rivalry with The Rock. Brock Lesnar is another potential 'Mania opponent for The Undertaker, but he's obviously being saved as well, so there wasn't really a spot for Taker on Raw.
Now that it has been established that Austin and Michaels were never realistic options for the 20th anniversary of Raw, hopefully fans can look at it more objectively. The show itself had a lot of great moments including The Rock and CM Punk squaring off, the Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena steel cage match and Ric Flair's appearance.
Too many fans had illusions of grandeur because of baseless reports and that's certainly unfortunate. I have no problem with Austin and Michaels making the decisions that they did and I'm glad that the WWE was exonerated on allegations that it somehow dropped the ball in this situation.