As the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center nears completion, the soon-to-be-Old-Yeller’d BMO Harris Bradley Center is going through a victory lap of final events, and WWE has joined the party, bringing one final Monday Night RAW to the Bucks’ old house this Monday. While WWE has been a regular visitor to the Bradley Center, it’s been stingier with its signature shows of late, often opting to run the flagship RAW in Green Bay’s more modern Resch Center, and running its pay-per-view events in Minneapolis or Chicago, skipping Wisconsin entirely. Last year’s Fastlane PPV (where your humble narrator was nearly ejected for flipping the bird at Goldberg) was the first such event in Milwaukee since 2012’s Elimination Chamber; coincidentally enough, 2012 was also the last year in which the Bradley Center hosted a Monday Night RAW.
Six years is an eternity in pro wrestling time. The main event of the 2012 Elimination Chamber saw John Cena drop Kane through the top of an ambulance to win (as one does in a legitimately contested athletic competition); the closing match of Fastlane was a 22-second squash match for a Universal title that didn’t even exist in 2012. So while the Bucks’ new home will likely bring WWE’s A-list shows to Milwaukee far more often, wouldn’t it be fun to look back at the August 27, 2012 RAW to see what’s changed since Milwaukee’s last Monday night of wrestling? (Come on, it’ll be fun! Work with me here.)
In 2012, the WWE Champion was CM Punk, a straightedge scrapper from Chicago with Pepsi and COBRA tattoos who made his entrance to “Cult Of Personality” by Living Colour. Cool! In the main event of that 2012 RAW, he faced off against then-64-year-old commentator and one-time Andy Kaufman foil Jerry “The King” Lawler in a steel cage match. Boo! Why was the world champ picking on a senior citizen? Because he was a heel with a chip on his shoulder and liked picking on people that were easy to beat up at the time, that’s why. To be fair, Lawler’s often sexist commentary toward female wrestlers probably warranted some in-ring slappin’ around, but that’s neither here nor there, as the champ beat on the former AWA World Champ (jeez, didn’t the AWA fold in like 1990? Dude is old!) long past the end of the match, forcing an intervention from the ever-heroic John Cena.
Today, the WWE Championship is exclusive to Smackdown, so the top dog on RAW is Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, a part-time employee who has spent the bulk of his title reign on his farm in Saskatchewan, ostensibly harvesting crops by pulling the combine behind him, because who needs gasoline when you’re built like Thor? His title defenses over the past year can be counted on one hand, but he’s currently prepping for his most important defense to date—against current top star Roman Reigns, the company’s anointed successor to John Cena. The Reigns/Lesnar showdown has been on WWE’s radar since last year’s Wrestlemania, much to the consternation of know-it-all “smart mark” fans that have resisted Roman’s rise because…well, because Vince McMahon wants him to be the top guy. When choosing the path of Wrestling Hipster, it’s important to knee-jerkingly reject the Company Man, because…reasons. (It’s actually a ripple effect of the rise of indie darling and WWE underdog Daniel Bryan in 2014, but that’s a whole different story.) Regardless, if you’re going to or tuning in to RAW on Monday, expect some fun segments with WWE’s new Big Dog to build this year’s Wrestlemania main event.
(CM Punk, by the way, abruptly retired in 2014, listing a litany of grievances that included the company forcing him to work while injured and sick. He now splits his time between homes in Chicago and Milwaukee while training locally to be a UFC fighter, which is pretty cool for Milwaukeeans who like to creep on celebs downtown. Side note: don’t creep on celebs while downtown.)
In 2012, the WWE women’s division was treated like a bathroom break segment and the Diva’s Championship was represented by a garish pink butterfly-shaped title belt that was probably fashioned after a tramp stamp from someone in catering. On this show, WWE Divas champ Layla defeated Natalya in about two minutes, which was the extent of the female in-ring action.
Today, fan demand and an aggressive-but-patient revamp of women’s wrestling in WWE has spearheaded a “women’s evolution” that treats the ladies as equals to the men, much to the assumed dismay of Jerry Lawler. Women’s segments often headline WWE’s shows, and that lame butterfly belt has been replaced by a legitimate WWE Women’s Championship. The titleholder currently is Alexa Bliss, a 5-foot-tall evil cheerleader that ate Harley Quinn’s soul and puked it back out over her wardrobe. It’s currently assumed that her Wrestlemania title defense will be against Asuka, a Japanese buzzsaw who hasn’t lost a match since her debut in the company in 2015. And hey! WWE is treating women like such equals that there’s even a second storyline percolating! This Monday, thrill to the continued intrigue as best friends Sasha Banks (a bling’d-out “boss” who wears ’80s-style shutter shades and happens to be one of the best woman wrestlers on the planet) and Bayley (a hugger. She hugs. That’s her thing. Trust me, it’s awesome) continue the slow implosion of their friendship and hopefully lead us to a renewal of the classic feud from their time as the top two women in WWE’s developmental brand, NXT.
In 2012, the Intercontinental Champion was The Miz, a former Real World cast member (no, seriously) who rose from barely passable segment host to beating John Cena in a title match at Wrestlemania 27. Today, the IC belt is held by—holy shit, it’s still The Miz! Now an 8-time winner of the show’s secondary belt, The Miz is one of the most valuable players on the show, cutting passionate promos week in and week out and nearly winning the fans over to his side, juuuuust before swerving back into some sick burn that triggers the boo-birds all over again. His shtick is currently one of RAW’s linchpins and the big question is who his ‘Mania IC title challenger will be: Former WWE Champion and SHIELD member Seth Rollins? Demon bodypaint cosplayer Finn Balor? Or maybe it’ll be Braun Strowman, a towering superheavyweight who engages in absurd feats of strength on a weekly basis and is one of the most popular heroes in the company right now. Tune in on Monday to watch him flip a semi truck with his bare hands, shake the gaslight building off its foundation, or punch a fucking bear, who knows? Chances are he’ll yell about someone “getting these hands,” though, and that’s always good for yuks.
Chances are the next time WWE’s in town, it’ll be at the big new house down the street, so for all those long-running Bradley Center WWE show-goers, this could be a night of reminiscing about cage matches long gone, or even of Mega-Powers exploding (that’s right—”Macho Man” Randy Savage accused Hulk Hogan of harboring lust for Miss Elizabeth in the bowels of the Bradley Center way back in 1989!). Or it’ll just be a night to get silly and yell at a bunch of highly athletic circus performers in spandex. Either way, it’ll be a night of memories, laughter, and loud, ridiculous chants that don’t mean anything. Good times.