FanPost

My favorite episode of Raw ever - May 22, 2000

WWE.com

I turn 30 in March. Meaning I was a 12 year old sixth grader when I tuned in to Raw is War on May 22, 2000. It has been nearly 18 years since that episode aired, so if you need a little bit of a reminder as to what happened, you can click here.

So why is this episode my favorite Raw -- perhaps, my favorite episode ever of any bit of WWE television? Well, I'll explain in three parts: the background, the actual show, and why we'll never see anything like this ever again.

Background

The feud of my wrestling adolescence -- I didn't start watching until the tail end of 1999 -- was The Rock's feud with the McMahon-Helmsley Faction. With Steve Austin's injury, The Rock would rule 2000 as professional wrestling's top box office draw and catapult him on a ride to entertainment superstardom that still continues to this day. Triple H, meanwhile, was becoming the finest villain of his generation; his performance in 2000 was probably the best work done by a heel wrestler in WWE in the past 25 years.

Chris Kreski had only taken over as head writer a few months before as Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara both bolted for WCW, largely in protest of McMahon wanting to develop a second weekly televised show, Smackdown. Kreski was an experienced television writer and used storyboards to develop angles. Kreski largely solved what had been a growing problem in 1999 despite the high ratings -- angles became too convoluted. However, Attitude Era WWE embraced the "soap opera for men" format, and Kreski helped straighten out the clutter.

The Rock had regained the WWF Championship after nearly a year at Backlash 2000 held at the end of April. The championship match was highly overbooked -- probably would alarm some of you -- however, even with all of the chaos it was extremely well done. The pop that Austin received when he came out to save The Rock was among the loudest crowd reactions you'll ever hear at a pro wrestling event, period. To be honest, this should have been the Wrestlemania 2000 main event. But I digress.

Austin was still recovering from neck surgery, so his appearance was a one-time thing (he would return later that year). The following night, Vince McMahon booked The Rock in a cage match against Shane McMahon in hopes of Shane winning the belt from the Rock to fork it over to Triple H. The Rock won that match on interference by Earl Hebner, who had returned the night before thanks to Linda McMahon. (See? SOAP OPERA FOR MEN!)

That Rock / Shane McMahon bout still remains the second most watched cable match in pro-wrestling history. Earlier that night, Triple H challenged The Rock to an Iron Man Match at Judgment Day. Shawn Michaels offered to be the Special Guest Referee as then the Commissioner of the WWF.

The Iron Man Match at Judgment Day was very entertaining. However, most hated the finish -- the Rock lost 6 falls to 5 when Shawn Michaels disqualified The Rock due to interference from the returning Undertaker. That would then set up the events that transpired on Raw the following night.

The Actual Show

WWE programming at the time focused more on advancement of angles rather than in-ring work. In-ring work was serviceable, but not necessarily unwatchable. To be honest, the show outside of the main event angle was largely unremarkable.

The show opened with Vince McMahon rubbing The Rock's loss in the face of the crowd and informing the crowd that he would face The Rock later on that night with DX and Triple H in his corner. As Vince McMahon was walking in the back to his limousine, he was ambushed by The People's Champion.

The first to arrive was X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Tori. Hardcore Champion Gerald Brisco attempted to warn the three about The Rock's ambush, but to no avail. A lead pipe to X-Pac. A lead pipe to Road Dogg. He then tossed them in the back of a delivery truck and shut the door.

Shane "The Giant Killer" McMahon arrived next, blowing off Brisco's warning.

He would end up being the The Rock's fourth victim. McMahon came out to cut a promo to mock the Big Show (you would probably forget how good Shane McMahon used to be on the microphone as a heel). The Rock's music hit and he, without words, came marching down to the ring and started beating on Shane.

"No more talking! No more talking!" Jim Ross would exclaim.

They would continue through the crowd.

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon would be the last to arrive. And lo and behold, they actually listened to Brisco. After the commercial break, Triple H plotted his next move with Brisco and Stephanie. After they waked out of the shot, The Rock appeared out of the shadows. "He's being stalked by The Rock!" J.R. quipped.

Believe it or not, by the time the main event segment rolled around, The Rock had only uttered one line in this episode thus far: he told the driver after he beat up Vince to "You get this asshole out of here!" In his red $500 shirt, slacks, and dress shoes, The Rock walked out to cut a promo. He hilariously ran down his previous attacks as well as addressed The Undertaker, saying that he "did the right thing" but did it on "The Rock's time". He then finally called out Triple H.

The WWF Champion finally came out. In a decent, slow, dramatic heel promo, Triple H (after telling the crowd he wasn't in the mood for their shit after the "slut" chants directed toward his wife), ran down the previous nights events and declared that he's "that damn good."

(An aside here: for those that don't remember, WWE tried making "That Damn Good" a marketable catchphrase for Triple H, which had some degree of success).

After The Rock says just bring it, Triple H finally strolled down to the ring and began fighting. The Rock had the upper hand until the McMahons and the rest of DX returned, swarming The Rock. The Undertaker (who Vince McMahon threatened to have arrested at the start of the show if he showed up because he was "not under contract"), made the save, running the rest of the Faction off, leaving only Triple H and The Rock.

Triple H was about to deliver a Pedigree to The Rock on the steel steps until The Rock countered with an enormous back body drop. The two took it outside the ring. The Rock was going to follow up with another punch, but Triple H hit the Brahma Bull with the ring bell and then tried setting him up for a Pedigree on the announce table. The Rock countered with a low blow and then a Rock Bottom "all the way to People's Hell!"

It was exhilarating. It was memorable. And it brings a smile to my face every single time I think about it. Today, I just appreciate how well this episode was put together and executed. Sure there was a little bit of filler between each of the main event angle segments, however, each bit of that filler had a purpose as it did a decent job of advancing mid-card and tag team angles.

However, do want to give a few things about the show an honorable mention:

  • It's a credit to Kreski's writing ability that perennial mid-carders D'Lo Brown and The Godfather actually had a mini-feud worth paying attention to. D'Lo Brown reunited with The Godfather a few weeks previously adopting the Godfather's pimp gimmick. Brown would later turn against The Godfather, but the angle was given a few episodes to play out. It played out a segment here, with Godfather interfering Brown's match with WWF European Champion Eddie Guerrero.
  • There were seven matches on this show, which was the norm during this time. However, Raw was only 2 hours plus the overrun, so these matches were pretty damn short. During this era, a wrestler only had to be competent and safe in the ring. Impressive wrestling matches weren't required, granted you would see pretty remarkable TV matches occasionally. Still, there were a ton of great in-ring workers performing at this time, such as Brown, Guerrero, Edge, Christian, Kurt Angle, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Val Venis, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit -- all of whom actually appeared in this episode.
  • This quick match booking in such short show may lead to confusion. However, the soap opera format largely made the show easy to follow -- and I was only 12 at the time!
  • About 7 million people watched this show on average, with the second half (as usual) being the highest rated of the two hours. And the second hour of Raw at the time is the third hour of Raw now.

Why you'll never see anything like that again

There's tropes about that would be seen again, such as the dramatic confrontation and the babyface exacting revenge throughout an episode. And there are indeed many aspects of the Attitude Era that have not aged well, but one aspect did: the (creative) presentation.

The Attitude Era had one great year (2000), a fantastic year (1998), and two serviceable years (1997 and 1999). It took WWE a bit to develop (1997), hone (1998 and 1999), and master (2000) the "soap opera for men" format. And I don't mean that in a sexist way -- please don't think that. It was a description that was often used to describe WWE programming at the time. It incorporated a lot of aspects of daytime soap operas, including layered storytelling and intertwined conflicts.

The format that came together in 2000 would start to unravel during the latter half of 2001. With Triple H's injury, The Rock having to film The Mummy Returns, and the bloated roster due to the acquisition of both WCW and ECW, programming became a bit chaotic. The original brand split that would set off the Ruthless Aggression Era would help alleviate that somewhat, but by 2004, the quality of both shows was beginning to diverge.

Today's WWE is not that bad. It's great in spurts. In fact, WWE today is probably better in re-watch than it is live and in progress. I'm probably the only one that feels that way. But why do those that started watching during the Attitude Era act aggrieved by what they see now?

Part of it might be the more family-friendly nature. Part of it may be the stars of the era are long gone. Personally, I think it has more to do with what I mentioned before: presentation. Back then, it was a soap opera for men; today it is a cross between a soap opera, a variety show, and a sporting event. A mix that's...yeah.

I guess really the bottom line is far simpler than that. Seventeen years after the most successful era in the company's history concluded, WWE is still trying to figure out how to evolve their programming model. To be honest, what you see now is not too terribly different from what the WWE started doing in 2008. Some wrinkles, some differences.

The Attitude Era fit television at the time like a glove. Primetime programming was becoming a bit raunchier and violent. Even daytime television went towards it.

However, today's WWE programming doesn't fit today's television like a glove. Where today's TV shows feature deeper plots and superb acting ability, WWE does not. It is still forcing performers to not only act outside of their comfort zones, but their actual strengths. They will not give audiences layered narratives. It is still trying to find that sweet spot, if you will, in their programming.

Regardless, it is a remarkable achievement to have a continuously televised show being broadcast 50 to 52 weeks out of the year for 25 years. Good for WWE.

And no, I will never enjoy another WWE broadcast as much as I did on May 22, 2000.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.