Anniversaries can be fun. They allow you to reflect on the time you have spent on whatever it is you are celebrating. For me it's my WWE Raw Deal column. This Monday night's episode is four years of writing that column. I haven't missed one. I'm not the type to take vacations and when I did I always wrote the column when I got back home.
While I wish there was some sort of organized way to put every Raw Deal column in order so that you can read them at your convenience, sadly that's not to be. This site has changed from johnreport.wordpress.com to thejohnreport.net and now TJRWrestling.com (for the past year). Other sites I write at have changed. I'm not going to go back to repost 200+ columns.
If you have been reading my work for that long or even longer I thank you for the support. It's been pretty cool to see how far things have come especially since I committed to writing about Raw four years ago. I think that's the cue for a story.
How Did the Raw Deal Get Started?
I've been writing about wrestling on the internet since late 1998 when I was around 18 years old. Yes it's been that long. Basically after Survivor Series 1997 I started reading about wrestling online and then as somebody that always loved writing I started to get into writing. It's not like I've been writing for 15 years straight. I took many breaks along the way. From 2004 to 2008 I probably "retired" five or six times. Life was busy in those years because of school, work, girlfriends (mainly one) that took up a lot of time. That's just how things go. In that five year period I may have written 50 times total, which isn't a lot when you think about it.
The main places I wrote at were a site I helped run called The Oratory (that still exists today in a new home the-oratory.com) and most notably Rajah.com, which was Rajahwwf.com for a while. Rajah's site (yes there's a guy named Rajah that runs it) is one of the biggest wrestling sites out there that has been around since 1996 or something like that. I wrote at a lot of smaller sites along the way too, but once I started at Rajah's in late 2000 that's when things started to get bigger for me in terms of notoriety. I'm willing to guess that 70% of the people that read my work found out from that site.
As mentioned, I wasn't writing a lot in those mid-2000s years. I missed writing, though. I loved writing about wrestling and in 2008 I really got back into it thanks to Jericho's return (best year of his career) and the Ric Flair retirement angle. Things fell into place for me in early 2009 because I had just gotten out of a stressful job I didn't like and found one that allowed me more flexibility with my hours. That led to my idea to write about Raw every week. I figured with Rajah.com and The Oratory there was a built in audience. I should use it.
The other thing I thought about was how popular Facebook was, how I could try to communicate with a community through that and also check out that Twitter thing. The original Facebook account got hacked a few years back (by some computer in Nigeria apparently), but we rebuilt it and here we are with over 3,500 people plus the FB page as well. I jumped on Twitter in the summer of 2009 and I love it. The marketing grad in me saw social media as a great opportunity to interact with people who have a common interest (in this case, wrestling) without paying a dime. Later in 2009 I launched johnreport.wordpress.com and through that we also found some awesome writers like Andrew Johnson and Christian Michael (among others), who are still with the site today.
That brings us today. The WWE Raw Deal column is the most popular thing that I write because it's about the main WWE show and I can devote the time to it every week. I still mark out like 12 year old whenever I see a TJR related sign too. Some weeks I write it live. Other weeks it gets posted on a Tuesday morning or afternoon. I actually like the Tuesday posting better because it gives me more of a chance to analyze things on the show, but doing it live allows me to relax on Tuesday morning. I don't mind that either! The format has changed from more of a commentary on the show to a full recap of the show (type while I watch) and plenty of analysis too. The format could always change. I try to tinker with it to see what I'm most comfortable with.
I found the first Raw Deal column using Archive.org and was able to find a lot of other columns too, so that's cool. You can see the title was Raw Opinions. It was posted 4 years ago this week. It was a brutal episode with Vince McMahon's beef with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke (also owner of my beloved St. Louis Rams) at the forefront and terrible matches in the midcard too. It was also Ken Kennedy's last match in WWE. I used a really old school Cena banner for it too. A week later I called it the Raw Deal. I wrote about the Kennedy thing in there.
Remember the Festus character? It was so stupid. He wouldn't react to anything until a bell rang and then he became a wild wrestler who beat people up. He turned into Luke Gallows and is now Doc in TNA, so congrats to him for getting rid of that character. He's what I wrote in the first Raw Deal column about it:
"They should have Festus star in a sitcom. He’s eating dinner with his wife, son and daughter with the three of them talking about their day while he just sits there. Then the doorbell rings and he goes nuts on his wife for cooking a steak that’s not medium rare like he asked. He then berates each child for poor grades in school and just as he’s about to choke the dog for shitting in his bed the doorbell rings again and it saves the life of the dog. And the studio audience laughs at the hilarity of it all because the person at the door is Michael Vick. That’s gold, Jerry. Gold!"
It really was one of the stupidest characters in the history of wrestling. Looking back, 2009 was a terrible year for WWE especially on Raw. At least on Smackdown they had that awesome CM Punk/Jeff Hardy storyline to carry it for a while. Raw was pretty brutal, though.
That's a bit of history into how the Raw Deal came about. I don't like talking about myself too much because I know you guys/gals are reading this for my thoughts on wrestling. Here's a look back on the good and bad of Raw in the last four years.
Good Raw Moments in the Last Four Years That I Really Enjoyed
- CM Punk's speech in Las Vegas on Raw on June 27, 2011. Can we just refer it as The Speech? Let's watch it again.
There were a lot of Punk speeches that I could highlight and I remember fondly as well. He's been the best performer on Raw in the four years since I've been writing about it every week.
- Money in the Bank cash-in by Dolph Ziggler the night after WrestleMania 29 this year. Huge moment. Absolutely loved it. I know it could have been a bigger deal at WrestleMania, but it got a very loud reaction on Raw and that's something I will never forget.
- The Rock's return to WWE in February of 2011. I missed him. It was great to see him back in WWE again even though I wish they could have booked some things better over the two years that followed. Still, to see him back in a WWE ring calling out John Cena was a huge deal.
- The Jerishow team of Chris Jericho and Big Show. A lot of people think that I created the name because I wrote it for weeks before used it. However, it's not like it's that hard to come up with. I'm not taking credit, but not going to discourage anybody from crediting me either! Haha.
- Shawn Michaels retiring. He's my favorite wrestler ever, so I miss him. However, it was great to see him go out the way he wanted and without ending his career with an injury. His speech was heartfelt. I was emotional just writing about it.
- Edge retiring. This one sucked because he had to retire due to injury, but like with Michaels I'm glad that he got out before he got injured even more. His retirement was more of a surprise because all we knew was that he'd have an announcement without knowing what it would be.
- Brock Lesnar's WWE return on the April 2, 2012 edition of Raw. I had read rumblings of it happening, but until I saw it I didn't really believe it.
- The John Cena vs. CM Punk match from the February 25, 2013 edition of Raw. I think it's the best match I've written about since writing the Raw Deal. It was incredible. Will never forget the piledriver either because that's so rare.
- Daniel Bryan and Kane go to Anger Management Therapy. Kane's speech in particular is one of the funniest things WWE has ever done. Go to 4:00 for that.
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- Bret Hart's WWE return. I remember it well because it was the first Raw of 2010. When he hugged Shawn Michaels I marked out because they're two of my favorite wrestlers ever. I never thought I'd see that. It felt like a real moment. I'm glad that Bret is back in the "WWE Family" again. It's where he belongs.
- When The Nexus showed up to destroy John Cena in the summer of 2010. The stable wasn't booked that well after that, but that was a very memorable moment. It also led to Daniel Bryan getting fired for choking Justin Roberts with his tie. Of course that only lasted a couple of months.
- Any time somebody attacked Hornswoggle. I always love seeing that.
- CM Punk's heel turn on Raw 1000 and subsequent partnership with Paul Heyman. They're outstanding together. I love heel Punk so much. Heyman returning to WWE is one of my favorite things WWE has done in the last year.
- Jerry Lawler's return in November 2012 after suffering a heart attack two months earlier. Of course it didn't take long for WWE to use it in an angle since CM Punk and Paul Heyman mocked it immediately. It was great to see Lawler again after his near tragedy.
- Tea Time with Santino, Kozlov and Sheamus. This was from November 2010 in England. Sometimes WWE comedy fails miserably. In this case it really worked. Santino invited Sheamus to the ring for Tea Time and it was an interesting dynamic since Santino beat Sheamus (still a heel at this point) prior to this.
Santino: "I can't remember why you (Sheamus) hate me."
Kozlov: "Sheamus hates you because you beat him." (Crowd: "Ooooohhhh.")
Santino: "I don't know what he's talking about."
Kozlov: "Yes you did. You beat Sheamus. It was the biggest upset in Double Double E history. Ever."
Santino: "Thank you very much, Kozlov. Your memory is so good."
(Crowd starts a "Kozlov" chant.)
I don't remember many too many Kozlov chants over the years.
- Commentfest. If you know if it you probably liked it too. It was fun while it lasted. Sometimes I miss it, but it was too time consuming. For those that participated, thanks for continually making me laugh.
- Money in the Bank cash-in by The Miz. I'm not a huge Miz fan, but I liked when he cashed in on Raw in late 2011. I was actually in Mexico when that happened, so I missed it live. Still enjoyable.
- People Power! I was a fan of John Laurinaitis as an on-screen character. I think WWE overexposed him by putting him on Raw and Smackdown. He should have had a longer run as the GM of just Raw. Their current situation on Raw is pretty boring. At least he was an interesting character.
- Memorable guest hosts like Bob Barker, Shaquille O'Neal, Mark Cuban and Hugh Jackman to name a few. I really mean a few.
Barker's "Price is Right" segment was a lot of fun especially the part with Chris Jericho. Shaq's confrontation with Big Show was awesome. It's a shame they never got a match out of it. Hugh Jackman's involvement actually helped Zack Ryder win a lot and gave him momentum too. Remember Sheamus putting Cuban through a table? That was a good spot that put Sheamus over as a dastardly heel.
- The crowd the night after WrestleMania 29. All of the chants were great, but singing the Fandango theme song was the most memorable part for me.
- I don't know how many video packages we've seen on Raw in the last four years (definitely in the hundreds), but I think this is the best one: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26. It first aired on Raw about a month before the match.
Placebo's song "Running Up That Hill" was something I would listen to fairly regularly before this video came out. Then I saw this video and it always reminds me of the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, which a great memory no matter what match you are talking about.
I could go on talking about other things, but for now this will do.
Bad Raw Moments in the Last Four Years That I'd Like to Forget
- That Kane/John Cena/Zack Ryder "Embrace The Hate" feud in early 2012 that saw Zack Ryder make a direct stop into Jobberville despite being the US Champion. He has not recovered.
- Anything involving the Michael Cole/Jerry Lawler feud, which lasted way too long and got far too much television time.
- Terrible guest hosts. There were so many bad ones that I don't know where to begin. The Jerry Springer in-ring sketch was one of the worst segments I've seen on a wrestling show. Al Sharpton was brutal. ZZ Top looked like they were asleep and they were barely on the show thankfully. Two NASCAR drivers were on one time - they were not entertaining. Jeremy Piven? At least he gave us Summerfest and apparently hooked up with Kelly Kelly, so congrats to him for that accomplishment that does not make him unique.
- John Cena getting "fired" from Raw during the Nexus angle only to be on television every week during the angle. Why book an angle if you can't live up to the stipulation? It hurt my head.
- The anonymous Raw GM angle. There were some funny moments along the way like Edge beating up the laptop or Jericho yelling at Cole about it, but generally it was really annoying. The fact that they paid it off with Hornswoggle as the big reveal showed that WWE treated it as a joke when they really could have done something beneficial.
- Speaking of Hornswoggle, why the fuck did they have all those Hornswoggle vs. Chavo Guerrero matches?
That might be the worst feud I've ever seen. Seriously.
- Whatever that Charlie Sheen segment was on Raw 1000. It led to nothing.
- When Vince McMahon did a terrible comedy sketch along with Freddy Prinze Jr. (a former WWE employee) as a way to promote his wife's political campaign. It was Vince emerging from a coma.
At least we didn't get another of these skits in 2012 when Linda McMahon's political campaign was a failure again.
- R-Truth turning heel by smoking a cigarette. Remember R-Truth - main event heel? That did not work out well. I thought it was ridiculous that they randomly had him smoking a cigarette as well as drinking a water bottle during a match as a way to turn him heel.
- The lack of in-ring time for the divas. This is not a specific point, but it's a general one. I wonder how many times over the last four years there's been a divas "match" that gets three minutes or less. I'd say it's happened for about 80% of the divas matches. That number might be low too. Nobody can get over when you don't get time to tell a story. It's simple to understand that.
- "Does he have a pulse." Go to 1:11 in this clip.
Yes he has a f'n pulse. This was brutally bad.
- Kelly Kelly's yelling. Please be quiet. She wrestled for like five years and apparently didn't know that you could sell a move by using a facial expression or grabbing a body part. All she did was yell as loud as she could. I have no idea what she's doing in her life now, but I don't miss her.
- Raw going to three hours. I don't like it. The show's too long. I know that once in a while we'll get some matches that get 15 minutes or more that were great, but you could still do that on a two hour show. Like I say all the time, WWE is getting paid by USA Network to put that third hour on. They're not going to turn down money even though the long show has proven to be too much and has killed a lot of crowds too.
I could list dozens of other things, but I think I covered enough of them. I'm not a negative person. I also do my best to try to forget about things that make me upset or angry. That's why we'll leave the bad mentions right there.
Has Raw been great in the last four years? No. At least not a consistent level. I think the best period was that time that we've come to know as "The Summer of Punk" in 2011, but even that was ruined when they had him losing to Triple H and in a feud with Kevin Nash of all people.
I still think there is more good than bad because I will always remember the good stuff while trying to forget the bad stuff. I just wish Raw was a more consistently good television show because it would make the writing more fun while also bringing happiness to all of us as we watch it week after week. Then again, I've had people write in over the years saying they love it when I rip on bad shows or make jokes about stupid segments. You may love it and that's great, but I'd rather write about great shows. Trust me on that one!
Thanks to Steve Melo (aka Melo Man) for making every Raw Deal banner at least over the last two or three years. I don't know when he started, but he's responsible for so many of them. Sometimes we collaborate, but sometimes they are just his idea.
In closing, thanks for all the support over the years and especially in the four years of the Raw Deal. I didn't know how long I'd write it for when I started and I have no plans of stopping it any time soon. As long as it's fun I'm going to keep doing it.
I'll be back tonight for a live Raw Deal from my home country of Canada as the show emanates from Calgary. Let's hope for a good one. Thanks for reading.