Amongst the many highlights of a busy WrestleMania weekend, you may have noticed that a new WWE 24 documentary on the 25th anniversary episode of Monday Night RAW has been added to the WWE Network. Despite only taking place thirteen weeks ago, it feels like a long time since WWE hired both the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center in New York City to commemorate RAW’s silver anniversary given how much has gone down since then, from Ronda Rousey’s official arrival in WWE to The Ultimate Deletion to Daniel Bryan being medically cleared to wrestle to, of course, ‘Mania itself earlier this month.
So, it’s convenient that RAW 25 has just been released in the form of the “RAW 25th Anniversary” DVD, providing a reminder of what went down on the night that RAW reached its latest major milestone. Star-studded PPVs come and go (the Greatest Royal Rumble being an upcoming example), but pure nostalgia celebrations such as this only happen every few years, where WWE serves up plenty of names from its colorful history for just one night.
This review will take a slightly different format, because the crux of the show concerned the segments as opposed to the matches. So, let’s make it nice and easy with quick Pros and Cons of the evening, as well as some thoughts on the DVD extras that come with this show.
The Opening Package
One thing WWE does very well is rounding up a plethora of vintage clips into a quick-fire, action-packed montage. The latest example of this provides the opening for RAW 25, as introduced by Shane and Stephanie McMahon. The majority of RAW’s finest moments are included, from the heart-pounding to the hilarious to the emotional, and almost every key player from the past 25 years makes an appearance at some point.
Austin and McMahon
If you didn’t experience the Attitude Era, you weren’t around to witness the greatest feud in WWF/WWE history, a lengthy and highly entertaining saga of one-upmanship between the evil boss and the blue-collar worker (which provided the blueprint for all future owner vs. wrestler storylines in WWE, from Eric Bischoff vs. John Cena to The Authority vs. Daniel Bryan). On a show celebrating RAW’s rich heritage, it was only fitting that Stone Cold Steve Austin would confront Vince McMahon once more, dropping him and Shane with Stone Cold Stunners to a raucous reception. This opening segment proved the high point of the night, and it brought a smile to the face of anyone who lived through their classic feud. It was the first time that Austin has Stunnered Vince since RAW’s 15th anniversary celebration in December 2007, and sadly it will likely be the final time that we see this iconic visual.
Roman Reigns vs. The Miz
This was the only match to be announced for RAW 25 beforehand, as Miz looked to regain his Intercontinental Championship from The Big Dog. With The Miztourage to back him up, Miz’ efforts appeared to be in vain, but some subtle shady tactics enable him to pull off the win via a Skull-Crushing Finale, much to the delight of fans in Brooklyn. It meant that Miz has now won the IC crown on RAW’s 1000th episode, SmackDown’s 900th episode and RAW’s 25th anniversary episode. Given his recent title loss to Seth Rollins at WM34, could Miz capture the title once more at SmackDown’s 1000th episode (which will take place later this year, on Tuesday October 16 to be exact)?
Walk With Elias Or Pay The Consequences
Elias has been one of the true highlights of RAW over the last 12 months, and he had a chance to shine here as well. When John Cena interrupted his latest performance, everyone assumed that Cena would ultimately leave Elias laying. Instead, it was The Drifter who laid out the 16-time Champ with a guitar. A pleasant surprise for fans of Elias, and another example of how the days of SuperCena are long gone.
DX, Meet Bálor Club
The expected faces came out for D-Generation X’s latest reunion (along with Scott Hall; Kevin Nash was absent having recently undergone surgery), but it was a surprise when they were interrupted by Bálor Club. It looked like a confrontation was going down, but instead the two groups showed a united front by way of a Too Sweet. It made for a cool moment, though it hasn’t done much to elevate Finn’s standing, judging by recent events.
More than 30 names from the past were featured on this show. Besides those already mentioned, we had Trish Stratus, The Godfather, The Dudley Boyz, Brother Love (who got a HUGE pop) and many more. Chris Jericho also appeared, though his recent and future contributions prevent him from being considered “the past” (his appearance here was brief but amusing in a backstage segment with Elias, while wearing an Alpha Club T-shirt from his New Japan adventures). Whether many of the former stars were used effectively is another matter, but on a show like this, just getting to see so many colourful characters is a definite positive.
A Tribute To The Brain
On the first episode of RAW, Bobby Heenan was unable to get into the Manhattan Center, ultimately using disguises (as Rob Bartlett’s “aunt” and as a Rabbi) to try and enter the building to no avail. By now, we’re used to seeing fans dress up as wrestling personalities, but a big shout-out to the two fans in New York City who attended RAW 25 in the very same costumes used by Heenan 25 years ago. Now, that’s creativity.
This Is Why I Don’t Play Poker
One segment involving The APA and selected legends playing poker would have been sufficient. But there were close to half-a-dozen of these backstage visits that ate up a ton of time while providing little in the way of entertainment. It was all designed to set up a tag team match involving Heath Slater and Rhyno, but surely this could have been downsized to one long angle, rather than a bunch of uninteresting visits to Faarooq and Bradshaw’s “office”? (It also would have been more faithful to the past had Heathy Baby hired the services of The APA for his match; had they turned on him anyway despite receiving payment, even better.)
Woken, But Nearly Broken
It’s easy to forget that as RAW 25 came around, Matt Hardy had yet to face Bray Wyatt in a match since becoming “Woken” after a previous showdown with Wyatt. Their battle here wasn’t announced beforehand, it only lasted a few minutes, and Bray cleanly pinned Matt. What? Only the recent Ultimate Deletion match has turned things back in Matt’s favour, but the gimmick (last seen in Impact, of course) took a major, and unnecessary, hit on this night.
The Revival Need Reviving
On the one hand, at least one act was going to fall victim to the legends, especially when it comes to DX (Damien Sandow had that role at RAW 1000). For Dash and Dawson, though, the post-match beat-down by DX and Bálor Club was compounded by the speed at which they lost to Gallows and Anderson beforehand. That WWE hasn’t come close to rehabilitating the duo since then also makes this a worrying turning point for their WWE careers as things stand. Hopefully, the team which lit up NXT TakeOver after NXT TakeOver will get a chance to shine again, but it doesn’t look like a guarantee as things stand, with their current lack of momentum being triggered via this RAW 25 pummelling.
I personally loved the idea of RAW 25 being broadcast from multiple venues, and with one being the original home of RAW, no less. But that was with the assumption that the content would be split evenly between Brooklyn and NYC, or at least, that fans in the Manhattan Center would get more than they actually received. The Undertaker’s promo (which I’ll come to next), Bray vs. Matt and DX/Bálor Club/Revival were the only on-screen happenings from Manhattan Center, which was less than a quarter of the show’s entire content. Some untelevised matches and angles (which are included amongst the bonus material in a nice touch) did little to placate fans in attendance, who were understandably angry. It doesn’t have a great impact upon one’s enjoyment of the show on DVD, but it is a reminder that WWE probably should have just selected one venue, or throwing Manhattan a bone by letting them have, say, the women’s eight-man tag team clash.
IN THE MIDDLE
This was the first match of the show, pitting Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James against Nia Jax, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose and Alicia Fox. I was surprised to see it go two segments, given how WWE tends to rush through matches on nostalgia celebrations such as this. It served its purpose in promoting the Women’s Royal Rumble match six nights later, but it was easily forgettable on a night where the attention was focused on the past.
A Cryptic Promo
In hindsight, WWE would have been better having left The Undertaker off this show. His promo (marking his first appearance since he seemingly retired at WrestleMania 33) both intrigued and confused, in that his language didn’t confirm his retirement nor suggest that he would wrestle again, instead leaving the door open for either option. Problem was, during the storyline where John Cena continuously challenged Taker for ‘Mania 34, this segment wasn’t mentioned at any point, nor was it at WM itself when Taker returned to defeat Cena. So, a pointless moment in retrospect, though one that generated a fair amount of discussion at the time.
The Peep Show Returns!
Christian popped up to host The Peep Show with Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan, only to be interrupted by Sheamus and Cesaro. This is entertaining and worth a second watch, though it’s a shame that Jordan was injured around this time and put on the shelf indefinitely, as his oblivious, spoiled kid character had so much potential, as the boos and catcalls from the Barclays crowd demonstrate here.
He’s Got Kids, They’ve Got Tables
I mentioned Heath Slater earlier; he and Rhyno battled Titus Worldwide in a match that somehow also covered two segments, but which was all designed to lead up to a post-match assault (involving – what else? – tables) by The Dudley Boyz. The big pop for Bubba Ray and D-Von justified the match that had taken place, but this could have been pulled off in half the time, providing additional minutes for other happenings on the show. Let’s face it, the highest RAW rating in nearly three years probably wasn’t achieved by the allure of this particular bout.
An Underwhelming End
Similar to the women’s match, the segment involving Brock Lesnar, Kane and Braun Strowman served its purpose in providing a final push for the Universal Championship match at Royal Rumble. Unlike Slater/Rhyno vs. Titus Worldwide, though, this segment DID feel rushed, and it didn’t help that everybody knew Brock would be retaining at the Rumble (then again, we all thought he was losing at WM34 to Roman Reigns, and look how that turned out), making it a futile exercise, and a damp squib of a way to close the show.
Joining the RAW 25 show are a collection of RAW highlights from down the years – The Top 25 Moments in RAW History, which are as entertaining as ever. The only downside is that we’ve seen them all before, in some cases on many DVDs. They are a worthy addition to this set, no doubt, but chances are that you’ve already seen the Countdown to the Millennium, the Pipe Bomb and the confrontation between Stone Cold and Mike Tyson before. If you don’t own any of the previous RAW compilation DVDs, then these will obviously enhance the value of the release, but if you DO, then I doubt that you would be too fussed about paying to see them once again.
On the plus side there’s a ten-minute extra featured that you may get a kick out of; a non-televised RAW 25 segment from the Manhattan Center involving The Miz, Seth Rollins, DX and Bálor Club.
Watching an episode of RAW on DVD is never the same as watching it live; the show prides itself on being unpredictable (insert jokes about WWE’s creative output here), so it doesn’t have the same impact when you know what’s coming on a second viewing. The same applies for a celebration episode, because you’re looking out for surprise cameos and past-meets-present angles, so again, their significance drops when the shock factor is gone.
Nevertheless, RAW 25 still manages to be a disappointing show overall, being a mixed bag when you weigh up the pros, the cons, and the moments that lie somewhere in the middle. Part of the problem was its timing; had it been held one week earlier (which would have been closer to the actual anniversary date of January 11), the required promotion for Royal Rumble wouldn’t have been as big of an issue, and the focus could have been entirely on celebrating the past. That all of the legends were announced beforehand (as opposed to, say, having Undertaker be an unannounced participant, as was the case for RAW 1000) also reduced the element of surprise; you knew that certain people were coming, but you just didn’t know when (which funnily enough perfectly describes the Royal Rumble).
The issues with the Manhattan Center were also an annoyance, though more so on the night (and certainly for fans in New York City that night) than here on DVD. But it’s the lack of truly memorable angles which truly makes this a show that didn’t reach the expectations held by fans beforehand. Austin attacking the McMahons will be the moment that we remember RAW 25 the most for; otherwise, the DX/Bálor Club reunion and, maybe, Miz vs. Roman were the only things that left a positive impression upon the viewer. Everything else ranged from average to missable, unfortunately.
It’s definitely an entertaining presentation, but on the whole, RAW 25 didn’t live up to the hype. With the 25 top moments having been seen on many WWE releases in the past in some form, I would only recommended the “RAW 25th Anniversary” DVD to collectors and die-hards (and to anyone who was either in Brooklyn or NYC on the night).
Get your hands on the new WWE “RAW 25TH ANNIVERSARY” DVD…
– United States: RIGHT NOW! Get your “RAW 25” DVD right now here on Amazon.com.
– UK/Europe: RIGHT NOW! Get your “RAW 25” DVD now over on Amazon.co.uk.
– Australia: May 23rd. Your pre-order opportunity has now arrived at Madman.com.au.