The 25th anniversary of Monday Night RAW isn't just a celebration of longevity; it's a celebration of television.
Who else does what WWE does every week?
The majority of its episodes in 25 years have been live. Every week that live episode is in a different venue around the world with no off-season. Saturday Night Live is the closest to compare. However, it takes an off-season and is 1 hour each week in the same controlled climate.
Pales in comparison to RAW.
But somewhere in the 25 years, Monday Night RAW transformed from being a wrestling show on television to a television show that featured wrestling. To some, that sounds like when it all went bad. On the contrary, it's when things were at their best.
That time was when Stone Cold Steve Austin became the top guy. When Austin was the leading man, he was the first ever in the industry to truly become a TV star with his character.
Hulk Hogan was the leading act in a traveling circus. Syndicated on television all around as the lead superhero. He was the epitome of traditional professional wrestling good guy you built to the epic showdown match for.
Stone Cold was a character that drove pop culture. For as smart of an in-ring performer he was in matches, it was the antics leading up to week-to-week that shine his highlight reel. Looking back, he should have been a nominee for an Emmy Award with other recognized television characters during his time.
There was nothing traditional about him. He blurred so many lines of good guy and bad guy while being relatable. Like many great characters, they need an arch nemesis or a love interest.
Mr. McMahon played both.
He was the corporate suit, "the man" trying to hold Austin down. Their relationship also had romantic comedy layered in it as constant hurdles and situations would challenge their existence around each other. Their feelings that started as hatred and evolved into many other interactions.
Under Austin's lead, there's never been another time in the 25 years that had such consistency in must-see. If you missed a Monday night starring Austin, you were going to be behind the talk the next day at work or school. Much of that must-see factor was a result of Austin's character being so interesting in its makeup. He was fighting against evil but admittedly rough around his own edges, willing to do whatever it took to survive.
Whether it's WWF or WWE, professional wrestling or sports entertainment—it all runs off of one core value. Emotion. Stone Cold Steve Austin supplied emotion.
The excitement when you hear the glass break for his entrance. The anticipation when you see the BMF walk to the ring.
Laughter with his wisecrack remarks about "that bass in your voice when talking to me."
Disbelief when he makes his entrance with a beer truck.
Stunned when he's holding a gun to Mr. McMahon's head only to realize it's a toy.
Inspired when the deck is stacked against him and he won't give up.
Sympathy when he's dripping blood refusing to give up preferring to pass out from pain.
At RAW 25, we'll see a lot of talent from the past. Many have all made us feel something. Nobody can top Stone Cold Steve Austin on how much he could make us feel. Nobody can top Stone Cold Steve Austin for how he ensured RAW would continue on to see 25 years.