Chris Graham: Really? Cena, again?

Watching the end of the 999th episode of “Raw,” the flagship TV program of World Wrestling Entertainment, on Monday night, was like watching the end of any of the last several hundred in the series.

John Cena came out with his Money in the Bank briefcase and challenged WWE champion C.M. Punk to a match in the main event of the 1,000th “Raw.”

Wake me when it’s over.

Ratings have been holding steady, if lower than their heights, for some time now, and it’s no surprise why. Creative hasn’t been able to come up with much more than a guest appearance by the Rock or a guest appearance by Brock Lesnar to shake the tree for additional viewers.

This is a big-time about-face for WWE, which famously thrived in the mid-1990s when Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling bought all of Vince McMahon’s stars and forced the 1964 Fishburne Military School alum’s hand.

The departures of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall et al presaged the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and the “Attitude” era that ultimately pushed WWE over the top in the famed “Monday Night Wars” with WCW.

Maybe WWE lacks creative motivation because it lacks a serious contender to the throne. OK, sure, Total Nonstop Action is at least a competitor in name, but TNA has not seriously challenged WWE in the TV ratings, and draws only a small fraction of pay-per-view buys compared to the Connecticut behemoth.

The pressure is on now, though, and it’s internal, with the decision of WWE to expand its already thin “Raw” program from two hours to three hours beginning with “Raw 1000” on Monday, July 23. If what we get is more babyface John Cena in main events, more one-off guest appearances from WWE superstars past and more of the usual circus nonsense (“Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay, seriously?), it’s a disaster in the making.

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