Reliving Raw 1000 and How Different WWE Has Become 8 Years Later

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2020

Reliving Raw 1000 and How Different WWE Has Become 8 Years Later

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    DX at Raw 1000.
    DX at Raw 1000.Credit:

    WWE loves nothing more than celebrating its own milestones. Whether it's a certain number of episodes or years, the company is sure to make a big deal out of every anniversary.

    On July 23, 2012, WWE celebrated the 1,000th episode of Raw. For any show that isn't a daily program, reaching that number of editions is unheard of, especially when it comes to scripted television. Even Gunsmoke didn't come anywhere close to 1000 shows despite running for two decades.

    To mark this special occasion, WWE filled the show with big segments and cameos from numerous legends both in and out of the ring.

    One thing became glaringly obvious when rewatching the 1,000th episode, though: The company has changed a lot in eight years. In some ways for the better; in others, for the worse.

    The roster looks completely different, but there are some still familiar faces who were a big part of the show in 2012.

    Let's revisit some of the biggest segments before we examine how different WWE is these days. 

Vince McMahon and DX Kick Things off

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    The show opened with an energetic Vince McMahon welcoming the WWE Universe to the 1,000th episode of the flagship show. He didn't spend a lot of time talking before he brought out Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

    The Heartbreak Kid was already a couple of years into retirement by this point, but his partner was preparing to battle Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2012 at the time.

    The founders of DX were soon joined by X-Pac, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn to continue the reunion. After some of their trademark banter, Damien Sandow tried to crash the party.

    A few moments later, The Intellectual Savior of the Masses was hit with Sweet Chin Music and a Pedigree before being unceremoniously thrown out of the ring.

    This segment was designed to feed into people's nostalgia and in that regard, it succeeded brilliantly. DX is one of the most dominant and important stables in WWE history so it made perfect sense for them to help get the show off to a good start.

    Sandow was so over as a heel that it's hard to believe he didn't have a better WWE career. He and Gunn were the first of many Superstars who appeared that night but are no longer part of the company. 

Mysterio, Sin Cara and Sheamus vs. Del Rio, Ziggler and Jericho

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    The first match of the show saw Rey Mysterio team up with Sheamus and the original Sin Cara to take on Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho.

    The Celtic Warrior was the then-world heavyweight champion, Ziggler held the Money in the Bank briefcase and Del Rio was still driving expensive rented cars to the ring while Ricardo Rodriguez introduced him like only he could. Vickie Guerrero was at ringside since she was managing The Showoff at the time. 

    This was a smart match to book because it featured six unique and talented Superstars who management could rely on to deliver a good performance.

    For a six-man tag bout, this was  shorter than it should have been, but we still got to see all six Superstars hit some of their signature moves. Sheamus used his Brogue Kick on Jericho to secure the win for his team.

The Wedding of AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan

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    One of the biggest segments of the night was the wedding of AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan. To make things even more interesting, WWE legend Slick was the officiant for the ceremony.

    The Yes Man was operating as a heel at the time and was known as a verbally abusive boyfriend who would belittle and berate AJ. He even blamed her for him losing the world title to Sheamus at WrestleMania 28. 

    The crowd gave Slick the "What" treatment during his speech, and he played into it perfectly by pausing in the right spots to allow the fans to yell. 

    Bride and groom both said "I do," but AJ revealed she wasn't saying yes to Bryan. That was when Vince McMahon came out to reveal Lee was the new Raw general manager. She accepted his job offer and left The Yes Man at the altar, causing him to spiral out of control in weeks that followed.

    As far as failed weddings in WWE go, this one was as tame as it gets. Nobody had their face smashed into a cake, nobody threw a single punch and nobody was having an affair. Bryan was left jilted but he didn't get physical until CM Punk showed up after the commercial break. 

    He mocked The Yes Man for being stood up by the woman The Straight-Edge Superstar ended up marrying in real life. As Bryan yelled about being the greatest WWE Superstar of all time, The Rock made his way to the ring. The Great One traded barbs with both Punk and Bryan before revealing he had a title shot at the 2013 Royal Rumble against whoever was WWE champion.

    The segment ended with Rocky hitting Bryan with his trademark Rock Bottom while Punk watched on with a smile on his face. 

The Miz vs. Christian (Intercontinental Championship)

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    Bret Hart came to the ring to talk about his history with the Intercontinental Championship and introduced The Miz and Christian for their IC title bout.

    The Hitman made a point to reference his famous title bout with Mr. Perfect and called him one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time.

    The Miz then went on to defeat Captain Charisma and win what would be the first of his eight IC belts.

    This was the only title change of the evening but considering how important the Intercontinental Championship has been to so many Superstars over the years, it made sense to have this belt change hands during the show.

    The A-Lister gave a quick promo after the match and while it wasn't long enough to judge on its own, you could see how much he has grown as a performer in the eight years since this night. His confidence used to be a facade but now it's just part of who he is.

CM Punk vs. John Cena (WWE Championship)

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    The main event of the evening was a WWE Championship match between CM Punk and John Cena.

    At the time, they were two of the biggest rivals in the whole company, and Cena was cashing in his Money in the Bank contract for this bout. 

    Both men went into the match as babyfaces, but Punk clearly had the lion's share of the crowd's support. He offered his hand as a sign of respect for the challenger. 

    They lived up to their reputations by delivering a competitive fight, but it ended in controversy when Big Show interfered and knocked Cena out with a huge right hand. The Straight-Edge Superstar was reluctant to take advantage of the situation but still tried to get the pin. 

    The Giant returned and continued his attack on The Leader of the Cenation to cause a disqualification. The Rock ran down to make the save. As he prepared to hit The People's Elbow, Punk came out of nowhere to hit him with a clothesline.

    This marked the start of Punk's heel run during the second half of his 434-day reign as WWE champion and his feud with The Rock that ended with The Great One taking the WWE title at the Royal Rumble in 2013.

Other Segments

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    Here's a rundown of everything else that took place on the 1,000th episode of Raw:

    AJ Lee was preparing for her wedding to Bryan with Layla when Jim Duggan walked by and Little Jimmy was jumping rope with Roddy Piper and R-Truth. Mae Young and her grown hand of a son showed up randomly. 

    Brodus Clay defeated Jack Swagger in less than a minute. Clay was still being accompanied by The Funkadactyls, Cameron and Naomi. Dude Love made an appearance to dance before and after the match. He also used a tie-dye Mr. Socko on Swagger.

    Trish Stratus tried to give Triple H some breathing exercises, and they recreated a similar segment from several years earlier. DX arrived to make fun of The Game.

    Triple H was back out for a confrontation with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman and to officially challenge The Beast Incarnate to a match at SummerSlam. Heyman and The Game both still had their ponytails. Stephanie McMahon joined the party and berated Heyman before smacking him in the face.

    This led to Heyman angrily accepting the challenge. He insulted McMahon until she attacked and beat him down. The Beast came out and brawled with Triple H to end the segment.

    United States champion Santino Marella and Hornswoggle handed out some free WWE toys at ringside before Howard Finkel introduced Heath Slater. The One-Man Band had been facing a series of legends leading up to this show and it was Lita who answered his challenge this time. All of Slater’s recent opponents showed up to watch her defeat him with her trademark moonsault.

    Kane and The Undertaker reunited to take out Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre, Tyler Reks, Curt Hawkins, Hunico and Camacho in a pointless but entertaining segment. 

Who Is No Longer with WWE and Who Is Still There?

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    Raw 1000 took place eight years ago, so it comes as no surprise that several people who were featured on the show are not around anymore.

    Here is a list of the full-time performers from that episode who are no longer with WWE and what they are up to:

    • Billy Gunn is a trainer and performer with All Elite Wrestling.
    • Damien Sandow now performs for NWA as Aron Stevens.
    • Jim Ross is a commentator with AEW.
    • The original Sin Cara performs in CMLL as Caristico.
    • Chris Jericho is a top star in AEW.
    • Alberto Del Rio is semi-retired from pro wrestling.
    • Vickie Guerrero is Nyla Rose's manager in AEW.
    • AJ Lee has retired from pro wrestling.
    • Brodus Clay has not wrestled for a few years and works as a contributor for Fox News.
    • Jack Swagger competes in MMA and works for AEW under his real name, Jake Hager.
    • Cameron has not wrestled since being released in 2016.
    • Santino Marella runs the Battle Arts Academy.
    • Hornswoggle has appeared for Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor in recent years. 
    • Heath Slater is now with Impact Wrestling.
    • Tyler Reks hasn't wrestled in years.
    • Curt Hawkins is now with Impact Wrestling.
    • Hunico has appeared for AAA as Cinta de Oro in 2019.
    • Camacho currently wrestles for CMLL and New Japan Pro-Wrestling as Tanga Loa.
    • Layla is retired from pro wrestling.

    Surprisingly, many of the non-legends who appeared that night are still with the company in some capacity. 

    • Daniel Bryan is still a fixture on SmackDown.
    • Road Dogg, Triple H and Shawn Michaels are all with WWE in corporate roles.
    • Rey Mysterio just had his eye pulled out at Extreme Rules.
    • Sheamus is feuding with Jeff Hardy.
    • Dolph Ziggler is in a WWE title feud with Drew McIntyre.
    • The Miz is on SmackDown with John Morrison.
    • CM Punk is retired from pro wrestling and recently worked as a contributor for WWE Backstage.
    • Christian is retired from wrestling and works as an actor and contributor for WWE.
    • John Cena is a part-time wrestler these days.
    • Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman are still part-time performers.
    • R-Truth and Kofi Kingston were the tag team champions at the time. Both are still with the company, but only Truth appeared that night.

Who Is Being Booked Differently These Days?

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    Two of the most notable Superstars who were in different positions eight years ago are Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal. They were being used as jobbers at the time but can now both claim to have held the WWE Championship.

    The Maharaja has been out with a couple of injuries for most of the past year, but the Scot is at the height of his reign atop the Raw mountain. He defeated Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36 and hasn't lost an ounce of momentum since.

    The years McIntyre spent away from WWE allowed him to grow as a performer and reach his true potential. He has made the most progress from Raw 1000 to now. 

    R-Truth is still being used for his comedic abilities and Daniel Bryan, while no longer a heel, is still a mainstay on WWE television. Rey Mysterio works a more limited schedule these days, and it has been years since Sheamus held a world title. The Celtic Warrior spent several years in a tag team with Cesaro before recently returning to singles competition. 

    Triple H has slowed down his in-ring career to focus on running NXT while John Cena's eyes have been fixed on his acting career, but both still work the occasional match for a big event.

    Kofi Kingston was still a tag team specialist in 2012, but he was teaming with R-Truth at the time. The tag team division received no attention from WWE that night. 

    Layla and AJ Lee may have appeared on the show but the women's division was largely ignored. Layla didn't even have her Divas title with her, so you would be forgiven for having no idea who held the belt while rewatching the show now. 

WWE's Use of Social Media Is Much Different These Days

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    When Raw 1000 aired in 2012, WWE was just beginning to embrace social media as a tool for connecting with the WWE Universe.

    It had barely been more than a year since Zack Ryder got himself over organically using Twitter and his YouTube series, Z! True Long Island Story. The company was just realizing how powerful these services were but its understanding and use of them was still elementary.

    Twitter didn't allow polls at the time but WWE did use hashtags for voting on things such as "Should AJ marry Bryan?" It barely plugged this or any Superstar's Twitter account during the show.

    The main service WWE was trying to feature was Tout, which the company had a financial stake in until 2014. It was a short-video service where fans posted 15-second clips talking about their favorite Superstars. The service no longer exists.

    WWE was also using Skype throughout the evening to talk to Charlie Sheen. He was the social media ambassador for the night, which used to be a thing the company did for some reason. 

    These days, WWE Superstars all have their own Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, with many also having Twitch and YouTube channels. Even The Undertaker joined TikTok this week in case you needed some idea of how prevalent social media is these days. 

    WWE announcers are constantly talking about things Superstars say on Twitter, they plug the company's various official accounts multiple times every night, and WWE will even list a wrestler's Twitter handle as part of their entrance graphics sometimes. 

What Else Has Changed in 8 Years?

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    While WWE was a much different company in 2012, a lot of the presentation has stayed exactly the same. The camera angles haven't changed, the company still produces its shows with a glossy finish and there is just as much filler between matches as there was eight years ago.

    One of the most noticeable differences when rewatching Raw 1000 is how much the women's division has advanced in that time. There wasn't a single women's match on the show unless you count Lita facing Heath Slater in a glorified squash.

    AJ Lee was the most prominent figure from the division, and all she did was leave Daniel Bryan at the altar and accept a non-wrestling position. Nowadays, almost every WWE show will feature multiple matches and segments that are dedicated solely to women's wrestling. 

    The tag team division was also ignored on Raw 1000. WWE only had one set of tag titles in 2012, and most of the teams were made up of two wrestlers thrown together for one reason or another. WWE had almost no established duos at the time. We didn't even see the belts on the night. 

    This show also came during a period when WWE was much stricter with its PG guidelines. It has loosened its policy on swear words and blood in recent years, but it is still relatively tame compared to other promotions.

    One of the few things that is exactly the same is Brock Lesnar's booking. He is still a special attraction who only shows up to promote big matches a handful of times per year. As far as John Cena goes, the WWE Universe no longer boos him out of the building, which has to be seen as progress. 

    This was the night WWE permanently switched Raw to a three-hour format, so a lot of fans may see Raw 1000 as the point when it became more of a chore to tune in every week to watch the whole show. 

    Revisiting this show was a fun exercise because CM Punk was such a prominent part of the company then. Other than that, it wasn't much different from any of the other anniversary shows WWE does for milestones. But it's an event worth revisiting if you want to feel nostalgic or were too young to remember it at the time.