The Raw formula was very different than its predecessor, Prime Time Wrestling. Instead of taped matches, with studio voice-overs and taped chat, Raw was a show shot to a live audience with angles as they happened.
“Before I got into WWE, I had my first wrestling match in Memphis, Tennessee in 1970,” said Lawler, who’s basically worked every job in the business — in front of the camera and backstage.
“So I’d been around and already a grizzled veteran by the time Monday Night Raw started.
“When I was in Tennessee, we had live events in Memphis, and we had them on a weekly basis on Monday nights at the Mid-South Coliseum. We would regularly draw sellout crowds of 12,000 people every Monday night. So I knew people wanted to be entertained, and wrestling could fly on Monday nights. I knew that from 20 years of experience in Memphis.
“When Raw came on TV on Monday nights, I just had a gut feeling that it was gonna fly. Honestly, I never dreamed it would be as big or fly like it did. Just the fact we’re having out 1,000th episode is a testament to that.”
• The King’s favorite bath: beer truck or milk truck
He answered: “Beer truck bath”
WrestleMania became a catalyst to the growth and success of WWE as did the innovative Raw.
“Any time you’ve got the longest running weekly episodic television show in the history of television, there’s never been and probably never will be anything to equal it, that’s something you can not under-estimate the importance of it,” Lawler said. “When you have those kind of bragging rights to talk about and the rating success from that show, it’s huge, and especially when you’re hoping to get your fans to purchase a pay-per-view every month. That’s not going to happen unless they’re faithfully following Monday Night Raw.
“The success of Monday Night probably is the driving force behind our whole company.”
Another driving force, the most significant, is WWE CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon. He is the one constant in 1,000 Raw episodes — whether it was calling the action as an announcer, portraying the infamous Mr. McMahon character or just working extremely hard behind the scenes.
Talent notes Mr. McMahon wouldn’t ask you to do something that he wouldn’t do himself, and in some instances, he did do it himself on screen.
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels wrestled on episode 1, a one-hour show emanating from the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios, a small New York City theater. Both are expected to be involved in episode 1,000.
“It goes without saying,” Lawler said. “Undertaker is literally a piece of work. This guy is amazing. There’s never been anyone like him and probably never will be again.
“So many words come to mind — dedication, perseverance and a love for this business. You really have to have those kind of things to last anywhere near as long as the Undertaker has lasted and to still be on top and relevant in this business today after 1,000 episodes of a weekly TV show is hard to imagine.”
Lawler continued: “When DX invaded WCW, that was not only unheard of, it was almost unthinkable to do something like that. To have the nerve and the intestinal fortitude to show up at your opposition’s live TV show in battle gear, no less, and actually try to force a confrontation, that was just something that had never been done before.