It's a term WWE Superstars now use as a figure of speech: “the Raw after 'Mania.”
The term connotes electricity and fascination, as in: “The people were so into that match, you'd think it was the Raw after 'Mania!”
This Sunday, Apr. 7, WWE presents WrestleMania 35 from New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Whatever transpires that night won't end there. Instead, the WWE Universe will be raptly watching the day after, when Monday Night Raw airs on USA Network at 8/7c to assess the fallout.
With much of the international crowd in town for WrestleMania 35 sticking around for the broadcasts of Raw and SmackDown Live (Tuesdays at 8/7c on USA), the atmosphere will be charged. European fans in particular are known for spontaneously breaking into song and chanting at post-'Mania events. Tickets for Raw and SmackDown Live -- each hosted at Brooklyn, New York's Barclays Center -- are valued commodities, and holders feel entitled to shout approval and derision at decibel levels rarely heard, all but taking over the show.
For many fans, the Raw after 'Mania is considered Day One of the WWE season. Since the last WrestleMania, rivalries have played out, alliances have been formed, and specific Superstars have either been adored or despised. But WrestleMania has a tendency to change those circumstances, and the Raw after 'Mania is the place to witness those machinations live.
The night also tends to be a time when competitors from NXT, WWE's heralded developmental league, receive their call-ups to the main roster, adding both energy and disruption to the landscape.
“In NXT,” noted alum Baron Corbin, “you were thrown into the fire. Now, you're ready for the fire every single day.”
Corbin graduated to Raw, along with Apollo Crews, on the night after WrestleMania 32 in 2016. On the same program, Roman Reigns marched to the ring bearing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship he'd won from Triple H some 24 hours early. When his haters cascaded him with boos, he took the microphone and told them, “Come on, I'm not a bad guy.” He paused, then added, “I'm not a good guy. I'm the guy.”
Although the Raw after 'Mania has been a significant event since the show debuted on USA in 1993, the night it took a more pronounced turn occurred the last time WrestleMania was held in New Jersey, in 2013. A rambunctious crowd, many with noticeable British accents, sang Fandango's theme music and, at one point, began a chant for -- of all people -- referee Mike Chioda.
Throughout the night, a “We Want Ziggler” chant could be heard by the audience at home. When Dolph Ziggler suddenly materialized, and cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase -- containing a contract guaranteeing an automatic title shot -- to dethrone WWE World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio, the crowd went out of its collective mind.
WrestleMania XXX weekend in 2014 was known for two landmark moments: the Undertaker's 21-0 WrestleMania streak coming to an end, and the Ultimate Warrior finally being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
On the Raw that followed, Brock Lesnar's “advocate” Paul Heyman gloated to the still-disbelieving crowd about the Phenom's defeat. “Brock Lesnar,” Heyman growled, “is the one in 21-1.”
Sadly, that Raw would become known for the Warrior's last public appearance. The day after addressing the WWE Universe on Monday Night Raw, he succumbed to an unexpected heart attack. Subsequently, a WWE Warrior Award was created to be presented as part of the WWE Hall of Fame festivities to honor recipients who displayed particular courage or altruism.
The Undertaker -- who once described himself as the big dog in the WWE yard -- would suffer his only other WrestleMania loss in 2017, this time to Roman Reigns. Although Reigns has always had a large fan base, his detractors at the time were again vocal. When he appeared on Raw the next night to address the WWE Universe, he was battered with boos each time he raised the microphone to his lips. He patiently waited for the uproar to stop, even smiling at the reaction. Finally, he uttered one definitive sentence – “This is my yard now” – before returning to the dressing room.
Last year's Raw after 'Mania saw the return of Lashley after a long hiatus from WWE, and the introductions of Ember Moon, No Way Jose, and the Authors of Pain, Akam and Rezar, from NXT. But the most memorable altercation took place when Ronda Rousey joined Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon in the ring.
The night before, at WrestleMania 34, former UFC Champion Rousey made her WWE debut, teaming with WWE Hall of Famer and fellow Olympic medalist Kurt Angle against McMahon and her husband Triple H. When it was over, McMahon left with a broken arm.
On Raw the next night, McMahon appeared to be conciliatory. But as she continued speaking, it became evident that she viewed the former mixed martial artist as a tool to bolster her own brand. In response, Rousey pretended to hug McMahon, then trapped her in an armbar -- breaking her arm yet again.
In the year that's followed, Rousey won the Raw Women's Championship, holding onto it long enough to take it to WrestleMania 35, where she will meet Becky Lynch and SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair in the main event.
It will be a historic occasion, the first time a women's match has ever headlined WWE's largest spectacular -- and the climax of a saga, some would argue, that began on the Raw after 'Mania.
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the autobiographies of WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie and Superstar Billy Graham, as well as the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment.