Still liking it Raw

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November 18, 2007

Monday nights haven't been the same since Jan. 11, 1993 -- when Raw premiered on USA Network at the Grand Ballroom in the Manhattan Center Studios.

In its 15-year history, Raw has produced more original episodes than any program, surpassing Gunsmoke's 635-episode milestone in 2005. What would Mondays be like without Mr. McMahon, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and the other Superstars who have captured the imagination of our fans worldwide since Bill Clinton was just emerging as a household name?

The long-running success of Raw reflects the fact that sports-entertainment -- particularly pro wrestling -- has been a cornerstone of television for more than 50 years. Wrestling programs, along with TV shows like Amos 'n' Andy, Leave It to Beaver, Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy and others, helped usher in the golden era of television in the 1950s. Gorgeous George, Haystacks Calhoun, Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino and Hatpin Mary were almost as big a stars as Lucille Ball and June Cleaver.

Sports-entertainment today has come a long way from the no-frills, televised matches emanating from dark, smoke-filled arenas and school gymnasiums that our grandmothers watched. Raw has set a standard for slickly produced live shows, complete with pyrotechnics and theme music and nearly-sold-out crowds every week. It has been among the highest rated programs on cable television for more than a decade, and the Superstars have crossed boundaries into the mainstream media, often setting new trends in pop culture. In many ways, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson owes his film career to his beginning with WWE and Raw.

The differences among legends such as Sammartino, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, The Rock and Triple H are obvious, but they have all served a common purpose. They have entertained. Their larger-than-life images have provided viewers an escape from the everyday. They have put smiles on people's faces. Just ask any soldier serving overseas about WWE and you'll likely see a grin stretch from ear to ear.

So here's to Raw and 15 years of putting smiles on our fans' faces. The fun has only just begun.

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