Monday Night Raw officially turned 20-years-old this year, and to celebrate WWE has released a monstrous 12-disc collection containing what they feel are the 20 greatest episodes of their flagship show, uncut and unedited. That's 31-plus hours of WWE content, showcasing some of the best matches, best moments and historic returns in Monday Night Raw history.
The first thing you need to know about "Raw 20th Anniversary Collection" is that it's just that: a collection. I've seen a few complaints in other reviews that there isn't a lot of extra material, outside of the actual episodes. On disk one, there's a 30-minute video package hosted by Michael Cole and the Bella Twins that runs down some interesting statistics. This is similar to the annual Royal Rumble facts and figures, and contains things like most popular host cities, title changes, who has wrestled the most matches, etc. It's a fun bit of extra content, but aside from that, there isn't a lot in the way of special features. But like I said, this is a collection, not a documentary. If you're looking for new interviews and never-before-seen content, check out the new "History of the WWE" set.
Let's get down to content. There's 20 episodes of Raw on 12 disc, and for the most part, they are extremely well selected. It was important to me that these episodes be complete; not just one big moment or one great match, with a lack of substance to support the highlights. I'm happy to report that the selection process was a success. There's a great diversity among the included episodes, not resting too heavily on the wrestling, the comedy, the special guests, or big moments individually, but picking the shows that blend all those qualities together.
No matter your favorite period in Raw history, there should be something here to entertain you. There's a big gap between 1993 and 1996, which a lot of fans consider to be WWE's "dark ages", but they bounce back with a ton of Hart Foundation content, Shawn Michaels pre-injury, and great matches from great technicians. Then of course you've got the Austin/Rock/McMahon reign throughout the Attitude Era, with plenty of nostalgic goodness, including the highest rated segment in WWE history. There's another period where the collection sprints from 2001 to 2008, with only a few episodes in between, but you can blame both the rise of WWE Smackdown and a lack of a truly dominant figurehead for that. There's also plenty of special episodes, including the 15th Anniversary of Raw, the program's homecoming to the USA network, the original ECW invasion and more. This is one of the biggest, longest collections WWE has ever put out, and the content they include is well worth the $60 price tag, for my money.
If I had a real complaint with this set, it's that they went out of their way to label it as "uncut and unedited." I'm assuming that's to appeal to those fans who miss the blood and violence of some of WWE's more brutal matches (and there's plenty of blood, if you're worried). But when you cut out Chris Benoit's entrance, and edit the audio whenever he's mentioned, you lose the right to call your collection "uncut and unedited". I understand the predicament they are in when it comes to the controversial Benoit issue, but it's beyond obvious what's going on when Jim Ross just stops talking mid-match. Still, I'm happy the match was included to complete an otherwise great edition of Raw. It's a small complaint that lasts only a few minutes, out of a 31 hour collection.
"Raw 20th Anniversary Collection" is a fantastic set with a great selection of matches, moments, returns and high profile feuds that takes you from the Raw debut in 1993 through the return of Brock Lesnar in 2012. It's a perfect way to celebrate 20 years of Monday Night Raw, and the Superstars, Divas, announcers, interviewers, owners, general managers, and of course, members of the WWE Universe that have made our favorite television show so special.
In stores December 3rd, 2013.