The First Ever WWE Show: Monday Night RAW (May 8, 2002)
Vince McMahon made his company national and global after the World Wide Wrestling Federation dropped the ‘W’ in 1979 to become the WWF. The World Wildlife Fund used the same acronym at the same time. Despite a legal agreement, was found to have violated its terms. The World Wrestling Federation was dissolved. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), was created.
The name change was abrupt on television. The WWF hosted the UK-only Insurrection Pay-Per-View on Saturday, May 4, 2002. Two days later, however, the Raw from Hartford, Connecticut, began with an elderly lady trimming a hedge to form the WWF logo. After some clipping and lighter fluid, the ‘F” was gone and we were presented with the slogan “Get The F Out”. Jim Ross welcomed the audience to the broadcast by calling it “World Wrestling Entertainment”. He was still wearing the WWF logo-emblazoned shirt.
It was more than just a time of Fight Night. It was more than a year ago that WCW and ECW had ceased to exist, and numbers were rapidly falling. The company was a mix of WCW rehashes and worn-out AttitudeEra stars, sexual exploitation, and attempts to make new stars one year later.
RAW’s main storyline was about the nWo. Vince McMahon brought back Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan to RAW in February. They were dressed in black and white from the New World Order. Although it was shocking, the angle quickly ran out of steam. Within weeks Hogan was back in red and yellow, Nash was out, and Hall was clearly struggling with his own demons.
Their days were over by May 6th. X-Pac, Shawn Michaels, and the Big Show had joined them. However, the previous day’s episode of RAW featured the infamous Plane Ride From Hell. Scott Hall would lose his job that day, so no original member was on TV.
Hall spent his final day at RAW promising Ric Flair, the owner of RAW, that he would surprise the nWo with a surprise that would forever change the show. At the end of a six-man main event, Ric Flair turned on Stone Cold Steve Austin. The pair teamed up with Bradshaw to take on Hall, X-Pac, and Big Show. This reimagined the Austin vs. McMahon storyline which had been the focal point of the Attitude Era. Despite the talent, this feud led to Austin leaving the company in dismay the next month.
Hulk Hogan, now World Wrestling Entertainment Undisputed Champion, was the other issue that took time. Although the Hulkster had enjoyed a nostalgic ride to a sixth heavyweight title, the bloom was soon fading as evidenced by ratings. After a brief return to the middle-5s in the immediate aftermath of Wrestlemania X-8 (which was short-lived), RAW dropped to a 4.6 and then to a 3.0 the following week.
Hogan began the night by stealing the motorcycle belonging to his opponent, the Undertaker. Hogan was still in his underappreciated “Big Evil” phase. However, the feud between the two was a failure. Hogan was unable to ride his motorcycle up the ramp in order to chase Undertaker backstage. Hogan looked anachronistic at this point. He cursed his way through the arena threatening Deadman and came across as someone who was trying to be edgy, rather than someone who suited the more adult-oriented direction of the company that became WWE.
This direction also saw titles change each week without notice. This edition of RAW saw William Regal win a fourth European title against Spike Dudley. The night began with a No Disqualification Women’s Championship match featuring Jazz and Trish Stratus. It descended into a series of Hardcore title changes, which briefly saw Stratus lift the belt.