In late 1992, Vince McMahon wanted to push the World Wrestling Federation [WWF] into a new era. Business was down, as popularity in the product was waning. Prime Time Wrestling was the flagship show of the company, and when ratings plummeted, the program was cancelled by the USA Network.
Wrestling was in need of a jumpstart. McMahon also knew his company needed to make a change and shake up the product. Enter Monday Night Raw.
On January 11, 1993, Monday Night Raw aired for the first time on the USA Network. Raw took televised wrestling away from taped broadcasts and studio voiceovers and on to a live audience. Airing weekly from the Manhattan Center in New York, Raw had a new feel for a company that desperately needed it and WWF started a new revolution.
In late 1993, WWF took Raw out on a touring schedule and the show permanently entered the lives of professional wrestling fans.
In 1995, Atlanta based World Championship Wrestling launched Monday Nitro, which was direct competition to McMahon and the WWF. WCW basically copied the homework of WWF, and the Monday Night Wars began.
Nitro and Raw would be in a ratings war, and talent changes from one company to the other, were the driving force in establishing power over the competition.
In May of 1996, Scott Hall, who had been in the WWF as Razor Ramon, entered a live Nitro broadcast and claimed he was there, and that the viewers would find out why in short order. 6 weeks later, Hulk Hogan turned his back on the fans, for the first time in his storybook career, and began the New World Order with Hall and Kevin Nash, formerly Diesel in the WWF.
Raw quickly lost control of the ratings and WCW took over power through the remainder of 1996, and deep into 1997. WWF, during this time, were doing well, but WCW was just doing better. Steve Austin, the Rock, Degeneration X, amongst others, were carrying the WWF flag and making money, but WCW were still winning the ratings battle.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, quickly became a household name in the United States and in the mid-point of 1998, WWF and Raw began to fight back in the ratings. During this time frame, WWF would go live with Raw on one Monday night, then go to a new city and tape the following weeks Raw on Tuesday night.
On Tuesday December 29, 1998, WWF was in Worcester, Massachusetts at the Centrum. A snowy night, the Centrum was packed to the rafters and on this night, WWF made a move that would swing the power back in their control.
A raucous Worcester crowd celebrated as lifelong underdog, Mick Foley, as Mankind, overcame all of the odds and defeated the vicious and calculated Rock, for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The crowd nearly blew the roof off of the Centrum that night and Worcester seemed like the only wrestling city on the planet for one night. This moment was recently named the ninth biggest moment in the history of Monday Night Raw.
It was unprecedented for WWF to change the title, at this stage, on a taped broadcast. It takes away some of the mystique of the result, and internet spoilers were easy to come by. But, enough people wanted to see Foley capture that title, and they tuned in to Raw on January 4, 1999, and Raw would never lose to Nitro again.
The Foley title change, was not the first Raw to emanate from Worcester. In fact, Worcester has hosted Raw on eight different occasions.
On August 14, 1995, Monday Night Raw made its debut in Worcester when the WWF went live from the Auditorium. Raw would also air a taped episode from the show the following week, and fans were able to see superstars such as Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker.
Raw then returned on March 10, 1997, at the Centrum, and WWF debuted a new logo and stage set. Now titled Raw is War, the first Raw from the Centrum, featured a debate between Paul Heyman, of Philadelphia based Extreme Championship Wrestling, and Jerry Lawler.
After the Mick Foley show, Raw then returned to the Centrum twice in 1999, once on June 14, and again on December 6. WWF kept running shows in Worcester, and the fans kept coming out.
June 26, 2000 was a day after the WWF ran the King of the Ring event in Boston. On this night, Worcester saw Vince McMahon deem himself the genetic jackhammer, in a memorable moment, on a show headlined by Triple H, the Rock, and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat match.
After that, Raw did not return to the Centrum until it was the DCU Center on November 2, 2009. The now WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment, featured a live broadcast with guest hosts Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne.
It is unknown for sure why WWE does not run in Worcester more often. Some say it is due to the DCU Center using a union to set up their stages, whereas Vince McMahon likes to bring in his own guys for the job.
As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw, it is safe to say that Worcester has a very large part in the history of the longest run, episodic show in the history of cable television. Raw 25, on Monday night, will feature many guest returns and surprise appearances, live from Brooklyn at the Barclays Center and Manhattan in the Manhattan Center.
Hopefully, the announcement of a return date to Worcester for the ninth time isn’t too far around the corner.