WWE News RAW FLASHBACK: WWE celebrates Raw's 10-year anniversary with disappointing Special (01-14-03)
Jan 14, 2013 - 10:02:05 AM
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PWTorch Newsletter Cover Story Flashback - 10 years ago
Politics and logistics lead to disappointing Raw Special
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
WWE's Raw 10th Anniversary Special on Tuesday night (January 14, 2003) at The World in New York City, N.Y. was roundly panned by fans and critics this week. Despite hints and outright promises of big surprises, nothing surprising took place. The Rock appeared via videotape. No other big name wrestlers from past or present who aren't currently on the roster made any type of appearances.
That's not the way it was originally planned. A few weeks ago, WWE intended to make it a gala event featuring a number of names, big and small, from the past. Politics and snubs, though, got in the way of that happenings.
Bret Hart was invited, but he decided against appearing for a variety of reasons. For one, he hasn't recovered enough from his stroke (from his bike accident last year) to feel comfortable appearing on camera on national U.S. television. Also, he didn't feel ready mentally to return given the controversial way he departed.
Mick Foley was invited, but turned down the invite. His no-compete clause with WWE ended just over a month ago; his actual contract expired just over a year ago. Insiders say Foley turned down the offer because he wants to stay out of the WWE spotlight for a while so that if and when he returns, it will mean something. He has been outspoken about his feelings that he was overutilized in a somewhat flippant manner on TV after his retirement.
Bobby Heenan was also invited, but due to health issues, he wasn't able to commit to travelling to New York City.
The original plan was for Steve Austin to be there. He could have been there since all sides have agreed to him returning to WWE TV next month, but Vince McMahon decided the Raw Anniversary special wasn't the right circumstance for an Austin return. The company is banking on Austin's return having a tremendous impact on business, and the angle to reintroduce him is going to be bigger than anything that could take place in the Anniversary Special format.
Hulk Hogan was in Japan. He wasn't interested in being at the Raw special unless it was part of a larger agreement for him to return as part of a major storyline at WrestleMania. Since no such deal was struck, he continued to pursue opportunities in Japan (even though ultimately his announced appearance for the Tokyo Dome show fell through in the final days).
Undertaker wasn't present because they've been hyping his return for Sunday's Royal Rumble. If he appeared on the Raw special, it would eliminate the intrigue they've been building toward for Sunday's PPV.
Without any big name special guests available, the decision was made to not invite any mid-carders from the past, either, and stick with a format featuring current stars and older clips. It was a controversial decision, but a deliberate one. If Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and Rock couldn't be present, they felt it would look second-rate to have only mid-level talent present, especially since the logistics and politics of gathering former mid-level talent would be a lot of work with little potential payoff. They didn't feel it would be worthwhile to fly in a dozen mid-level names and only show them in the background. Nor was it worth actually give mid-level former talents time behind the mic if it wouldn't lead to benefiting current storylines.
Another subject of controversy was the exclusion of Shawn Michaels from the "Raw Wrestler of the Decade" nominee list. Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker were shoe-ins. They didn't want to have more than six nominees listed for this category (most just had five), so it came down to Mick Foley or Shawn Michaels for the last slot. They went with Foley, after okaying it with Michaels, because they felt strongly that his exclusion would lead to justified outrage among fans and even wrestlers. Even though Foley wasn't present, they still wanted to recognize him.
Triple H, Michaels, Angle, Brock Lesnar, Edge, and Chris Jericho were given prominent mic time as presenters of awards. The Rock also had a presence via videotape. He was booed by the rowdy fans at The World, but since his segment was pretaped, he wasn't able to react to the heckling.
The two-hour special drew a respectable 2.9 rating on TNN.
(Live from New York, N.Y. at The World)...
An excellent video set to Kid Rock "Bawitdaba" opened the show with clips from the past ten years... Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler introduced the show.
Shawn Michaels awarded the "Diva of the Decade" to Trish Stratus (over nominees Sable, Sunny, Lita, and Chyna).
Jonathan Coachman and Stacy Keibler introduced the countdown to the Top Ten Raw Moments.
(10) Mick Foley's "This is your life, Rock"... Shane McMahon awarded the "Don't Do This at Home" award to Kurt Angle's moonsault from the top of a cage (over Jeff Hardy, Big Show, The Dudleys). Team Angle held an American flag behind Angle while he delivered his acceptance speech.
(9) Steve Austin's monster truck crushing Rock's new car... Booker T announced Mick Foley as the winner of the "Tell Me I Did Not Just See That" award. Booker accepted on Foley's behalf... Ric Flair introduced a memorial video that showed clips of Andre the Giant, Joey Marella, Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, Owen Hart, Gorilla Monsoon, Yokozuna, and British Bulldog... Chris Jericho awarded the "Give Me the Mic" award to The Rock, who accepted in a pre-taped segment that was presented as if it were live. The N.Y. fans booed Rock.
(8) Shane announcing he had purchased WCW... Michael Cole and Tazz presented the "Shut Up and Kiss Me" award to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (over Mark Henry & Mae Young, Chyna & Eddie Guerrero, and Matt Hardy & Lita). Triple H teased kissing Steph, only to show her his bare ass (on camera) when she opened her eyes.
(7) Foley using Mr. Socko to cheer up Vince at the hospital... Gene Okerlund and Pat Patterson awarded the "Network Difficulties" award to Mae Young for giving birth to a hand (over Austin Stunning Santa, HLA, Brian Pillman pointing a gun at Austin).
(6) DX impersonates the Nation of Domination... Brock Lesnar awarded the "Raw Superstar of the Decade" award to Austin (over Foley, Rock, Bret Hart, Triple H, and Taker). Vince accepted the award for Austin, who he said wasn't invited to the show. Triple H and Flair left in jealousy over not winning.
(5) Austin confronts Mike Tyson... Ross and Lawler awarded "Best Match of the Decade" to Kane, Christian, Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Bubba Dudley, Spike Dudley, and Jeff Hardy for their TLC match (over Hunter vs. Foley, Hardy vs. Taker, Austin vs. Kane).
(4) DX invade WCW.
(3) Rock challenges Hogan.
(2) Owen Hart memorial show... Edge presented the Viewer's Choice Award for Raw's greatest moment to...
(1) Austin giving The Corporation a beer bath... Edge invited all of the wrestlers to join him on stage to thank the fans for their ten years of support...
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