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Looking At The Decision To Broadcast WWE 'Raw' Live On Christmas Night

September 6, 2017
Kevin Eck is a former member of the WWE creative team and now blogs about pro wrestling for PressBox.

Did you hear WWE Studios is producing a remake of "A Christmas Carol" with Vince McMahon cast as Ebenezer Scrooge?

OK, not really. But the WWE chairman and CEO has been likened to Scrooge after WWE announced Sept. 4 that "Raw" will air live on Christmas for the first time. The show will be live on New Year's Day as well, but, obviously, New Year's Day is not as revered as Christmas Day.

As it turns out, McMahon may not be the person responsible for ruining Christmas for the "Raw" talent and crew after all. After WWE star Jeff Hardy's wife complained via Twitter about her husband having to work on Christmas (the couple has two small children), she subsequently tweeted that "apparently" it was USA Network's decision, not WWE's. So what we have is the real-life version of "Scrooged," the movie in which a heartless network executive played by Bill Murray forces his staff to work on Christmas Eve.

Regardless of who actually made the call, the questions remain the same: Is there any benefit to doing a live episode of "Raw" on Christmas? And is it fair to the "Raw" talent and crew to have to spend Christmas away from their families?

The answer to the first question is a no-brainer: absolutely not. In WWE.com's announcement about the live holiday episodes, it states, "These unprecedented broadcasts aim to best serve you, the WWE Universe, during the holiday season."

Yeah, nice try. The fact is WWE television shows airing on holidays never do well in the ratings, and history has shown that it makes no difference in the ratings whether a WWE program is live or taped. There's no reason WWE couldn't tape the Dec. 25 episode of "Raw" sometime during the week prior.

That said, however, if USA Network and WWE truly believed a live episode on Christmas best served its fans and there was evidence to back up that claim, I would have no problem with WWE doing a live "Raw" on Christmas.

Now before anyone labels me Ebenezer Scrooge, allow me to explain. I have young children, so, trust me, I know how important it is to celebrate Christmas with family. However, I also know first-hand that not everyone gets holidays off.

As a former longtime member of The Baltimore Sun sports department, I worked more than my share of holidays. Admittedly, I don't recall ever working on Christmas night, but I did work late on Christmas Eve. My wife, a registered nurse, works every other holiday during the calendar year and has worked 12-hour shifts on Christmas. 

In the world of sports, the NBA always plays games on Christmas and the NFL has on occasion (as my fellow Baltimore Ravens fans and I know all too well after the team's heartbreaking Christmas Day loss to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers last year).

Having pro wrestling shows on holidays is not new either. Starrcade, the National Wrestling Alliance's star-studded closed-circuit event that was the forerunner to WWE's WrestleMania, was held on Thanksgiving from 1983-1987. WWE eventually got in on the drumsticks-and-dropkicks action by holding its Survivor Series pay-per-view on Thanksgiving from 1987-1990. And prior to the days of closed circuit and pay-per-view broadcasts, Georgia Championship Wrestling held a tag-team tournament on Thanksgiving from 1979-1983. 

You're probably thinking, "Well, sure, but that's Thanksgiving, not Christmas. A lot of people wouldn't mind spending turkey day away from their relatives." Fair enough, but running live events on Christmas Day was once as much a staple in pro wrestling as incompetent referees.

During pro wrestling's territories era, a number of promotions ran annual live events on Christmas, including Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling, which presented its big Christmas Stars Wars shows from 1981-1987. 

One of the most storied feuds in pro wrestling history -- the Von Erichs vs. The Freebirds -- began at Christmas Stars Wars in 1982. Freebird Michael Hayes, who was the special referee for an NWA World Title Match between champion Ric Flair and Kerry Von Erich, slammed the cage door on Von Erich, costing him the match and igniting a feud that would last years. 

At Christmas Star Wars the following year, after Kevin and Mike Von Erich defeated Freebirds Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts, Hayes -- who had lost a loser-leaves-town steel cage match a month earlier (on Thanksgiving!) -- showed up disguised as Santa Claus and attacked the Von Erichs.

Wrestling fans from that era still talk about those angles today. Who knows? Perhaps WWE will run a big angle on "Raw" Christmas night that will have fans reminiscing about it more than 30 years later. It would be a gift to wrestling fans that keeps on giving. 

The major difference, of course, between the Christmas Day events of yesteryear and "Raw" is that the former were not televised. Through the magic of videotape, WWE can actually air "Raw" on Christmas night and give its talent and crew the day off.

It's a Christmas miracle.

Catch "The Hot Tag" every  Wednesday  on PressBoxOnline.com, and follow Kevin Eck on Twitter,  @KevinEck_WWE .