(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)
Monday Night RAW #1
January 11, 1993
New York City, New York
This blog moved to www.classicwrestlingreview.com
The WWF had three primary TV shows throughout the 80s and early 90s. Those shows were Superstars, Wrestling Challenge, and Prime Time Wrestling. The first two aired in syndication and the latter aired on the USA Network on Tuesday and eventually Monday nights. All of their shows were pre-taped because it cost less than airing live. The WWF would film multiple shows in one sitting and then split them into one-hour episodes that would air over the next month. This worked perfectly in the age before the internet because there were no spoilers. However, when the business began to decline, Vince McMahon realized that he needed to make some changes. The old format had become stale, so he devised a way to spice up the product. He decided to change the name and format of Prime Time Wrestling, so it became Monday Night RAW. This show would air live (occasionally) and it would be entirely produced at the arena, as opposed to studio segments mixed with pre-taped matches. The change would allow for more on the fly decisions and spontaneity. It would also give the show a more intimate atmosphere. The business was still low, so Vince chose the small Manhattan Center as the venue for many of the early episodes. It had a great look, but it was located in the Grand Ballroom, which was on the 7th floor of the building. They apparently had to load all of the equipment into a small elevator, which took a long time. The Manhattan Center also houses the Hammerstein Ballroom, which ECW would use often, but Vince passed on using it.
Vince also made some changes in the personnel department. He decided that it was time to shift the focus to the younger stars and new faces. The slew of scandals and departures had shown him that he could no longer fully rely on the old guard. One of the biggest victims of this change was Randy Savage. Vince wanted to limit his in-ring role and began using him as a color commentator. Randy, who was only in his early 40s, didn’t agree with this decision, but he complied for the time being. Randy would still wrestle occasionally, such as in the upcoming Rumble, but he was now primarily a commentator. Vince wanted to use the remaining old guard to help put over the younger talent, so he also brought in some faces from the past and even from other promotions. Bob Backlund, a star from the 70s and early 80s, made a surprising return. The story was that he was looking to regain some of his old glory. However, the most surprising acquisition was Jerry the King Lawler, who swore for years that he would never come to the WWF. It felt like Hell had frozen over when Lawler arrived. He would take over as a color commentator on Superstars, but he would also wrestle, much like the role Savage was filling. (Plus, Lawler was an accomplished artist, so he could make better use of the Brain Scan than Heenan.) There is also another new addition to the commentary team, but I’ll discuss him in a moment.
The show opens cold (literally) on a shot of the Empire State Building. Sean Mooney welcomes everyone to a chilly New York City, where he is standing alone outside the Manhattan Center. He swears it was a mob scene moments before, but now it’s quiet until Bobby Heenan arrives. He tries to enter the building, but Mooney stops him. Sean says Bobby can’t go inside because he’s been replaced on commentary by Rob Bartlett. (I know the Grand Ballroom is small, but wouldn’t the off-screen talent still be allowed backstage?) Heenan says he doesn’t care. He has to be inside to host the show. Mooney tells him he can’t, so Bobby says he’ll buy a ticket. Sean then tells him it’s sold out and there are no tickets left. (I know for a fact they gave away some free tickets, so that’s a stretch.) Then, Heenan asks for a press pass, but Mooney says something about the rules. The two of them begin arguing, so they cut to the intro.
The opening video is a mix of generic rock, saxophones, sirens, and photo negative images of wrestlers. It’s about as 90s as it gets. Vince McMahon welcomes everyone, while sirens continue blaring. He’s with Randy Savage and a new commentator, Rob Bartlett. He was a local radio DJ on the Don Imus Show and a comedian (that’s debatable). Vince added him to commentary to give an outsider’s opinion and try and inject some humor into the broadcast. He apparently loved Bartlett’s celebrity impressions, which will make an appearance in this episode. The problem is, Bartlett clearly isn’t familiar with the product and spends much of the time insulting the stars. He doesn’t know half the names and calls Yokozuna, “Yokozuma,” within the first few minutes. Rob follows that up by rambling about Yoko wearing a diaper, so Vince quickly changes the subject. (I wonder if Vince had regrets already.)
Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. Koko B. Ware
Koko enters to the High Energy theme, which would eventually become Owen Hart’s singles music. (It’s so weird hearing that tune and not seeing Owen.) Bartlett jokes that Koko is a grown-up Gary Coleman. Yoko then makes his way to the ring and Vince acknowledges that his name means Grand Champion, but Bartlett simply insults Yoko for being fat. He even goes as far as to say, “He’s got an ass like an amphitheater!” Vince responds by saying RAW is, “Uncut, uncooked, and uncensored.” However, Vince does join in on the fat jokes by implying that Yoko might have eaten Koko’s bird, Frankie. (I’m sure some kids at home cried at that idea. Vince! You’re making kids cry! I’ll remember that for later!)
Yoko shoves Koko around the ring, but Koko responds by attempting some shoulder blocks. He bounces off of Yoko like a pinball before trying some dropkicks, but Yoko sidesteps him and Koko crashes onto the ropes. Yoko then hits a leg drop and a corner splash before hitting the Banzai Drop for the win.
This was another squash to put over Yokozuna. Poor Koko didn’t even get as much offense as Virgil did at Survivor Series. I’m surprised they didn’t use a jobber for this match, but I guess they wanted to open the show with two stars. This match served its purpose and made Yoko look like a monster, but it was over in a heartbeat.
Winner: Yokozuna (3:45)
Then, they show a commercial for the Royal Rumble. The narrator says the earth will rumble, while they show footage of Earthquake stomping around the ring. (That was a nice touch.) He also talks about the WWF Title Match between Bret Hart and Razor Ramon.
When they return from commercial, they show one of the RAW girls in the ring. She’s carrying a sign that says “Monday Night RAW.” Vince took this idea from boxing, but the RAW girls are dressed a bit more modestly. This particular woman is wearing a one-piece swimsuit and is sporting the most 90s hair I’ve ever seen. Savage jokes that he’s glad he has x-ray vision, so Vince repeats his line about RAW being uncut, uncooked, and uncensored. Then, he introduces some pre-taped comments from Bobby Heenan about a debuting wrestler named—Narcissus.
Heenan says he’s heard that Mr. Perfect has been asking about Narcissus. He implies that Perfect is worried that Narcissus might be better than perfect and have superior qualities. Then, Bobby says that comparing Narcissus to Perfect is like comparing ice cream to horse manure. (That’s the same line he used about the Big Gold Belt in ‘91. I like you, Bobby, but get some new material.) He says that manure might have its purpose, but there’s only room in the world for one human being that is perfect and mentally superior. He even says that he and Flair agree that Michelangelo couldn’t sculpt anything more perfect than Narcissus. It’s like he’s from another galaxy! Finally, Heenan tells Perfect that when he unveils Narcissus at the Rumble, he’s going to think he’s from another world. (You could tell Vince wrote this promo. It sounds like his true feelings. Heenan oddly never said the full name of Narcissus. I guess they were trying to keep it secret. If you don’t know who he is, you’ll find out in my Rumble review.)
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Executioners
The Steiners finally left WCW after a falling out with Bill Watts. Rick had been on the shelf with an injury and Scott had been working as a singles wrestler. Watts approached Scott about a new contract, but he offered the Steiners a fraction of what they were making. Scott took offense and accused Watts of archaic business practices. They reportedly had a heated argument and the Steiners ended up leaving the company. When Rick recovered from injury, they would work in Japan for a short stint before settling on the WWF. They will be facing the masked jobber team of the Executioners (I wonder if they’re big leaguers), which is Duane Gill and Barry Hardy. (It’s Gillberg and what I guess is the lost Hardy Boy!) During the match, Bartlett doesn’t know which Steiner is which. Also, Doink the Clown appears in the crowd and Rob calls him, “Dork.” Vince can’t even remember his name, so Savage has to remind it’s Doink.
Scott starts the match with what I’ll call, Executioner #1. He hits a tilt-a-whirl slam and a snap mare before tagging Rick. He’s nice enough to let #1 get in a few punches before Rick whips him to the ropes. However, #1 stumbles, so Vince covers by saying Rick whipped him too hard. Rick simply laughs and hits a Steinerline before picking him up and running him into the corner. The Executioners try to regroup outside, but Scott gives them the ol’ double noggin’ knocker and sends #1 back inside. Rick catches him in a powerslam on a leapfrog and tags Scott. He hits an overhead belly-to-belly before tossing #1 into his corner for a tag. #2 falls victim to a Tiger Driver and then the Steiners hit the Steinerizer for the win.
This was another squash match, which was common for early RAWs, but it’s always fun to see the Steiners demolish a team. You can tell they have fun. (Sometimes, they have a bit too much fun.) This was a good way to make the Steiners look awesome and the crowd loved it. I think they should utilize squash matches more nowadays. It’s a good way to make contracted talent look like winners.
Winners: The Steiner Brothers (3:00)
Meanwhile, Mooney is still outside and apparently, there’s a commotion. (Everyone is talking about Heenan trying to get inside, but poor Mooney spends the entire show out front.) Sean says a security guard has detained a woman and we see a very familiar looking “lady” arguing with him. The supposed woman says her nephew, Rob Bartlett, is inside and she needs to see him. Sean almost appears to believe her, but then he snatches the wig off Heenan’s head and says he’s seen everything. Bobby starts begging to get inside and even offers Mooney money.
They go to commercial and then return to Vince in the ring with Razor Ramon, who is wearing what appears to be the Saved by the Bell intro in shirt form. Vince says that Razor is heading to the Royal Rumble for a golden opportunity when he faces Bret Hart for the WWF Title. Razor says he was born ready and golden opportunity has Razor Ramon written all over it. Vince responds that it took Bret eight years to reach the top and Razor is a Johnny-come-lately. Razor replies that Bret may have been there eight years, but it’s time to say hello to the bad guy! He then threatens to cut Bret and calls himself, “Numero uno.” Then, Vince asks why Razor attacked Owen Hart on WWF Mania. They show a clip of the attack, which is amusing because Razor somehow jumped Owen from the front. (How did Owen not see him coming!?) Razor says that he likes to have fun like everyone else and claims it was fun to squash Bret’s little brother like a cockroach. He also says there’s nothing Bret can do about it, whether he wants to or not. Razor spent the whole promo cutting off Vince and ends it by throwing his toothpick in Vince’s face. (Vince looked legitimately annoyed.)
Next, Savage talks about an MSG house show. The proceeds will go to a Somalia relief charity called, “Headlock on Hunger.” Tatanka even says a few words and thanks everyone for their support before doing his war cry. Vince has to remind everyone that his name is Tatanka because Bartlett botched the name when introducing him.
Intercontinental Title Match: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Max Moon
I know what you’re thinking. Who or what is Max Moon? It’s a futuristic character that was originally the brainchild of Konnan. He got the idea while watching anime. The gimmick looks like a cross between Mega Man and the Michelin Man. He would wear a jet pack to the ring and had devices that shot out flames and streamers. Konnan originally portrayed the character on house shows, but he realized he could make more money in Mexico and chose them over the WWF. Vince decided he had put too much money into the gimmick to let it die, so he gave it to Paul Diamond, who used to be Kato in the Orient Express. I don’t know how Max got an Intercontinental Title Match, but he and Shawn Michaels have worked together in both the AWA and WWF, so I can see why they trusted them against each other. On a side note, Bartlett chooses this match to do an awful Mike Tyson impersonation. He pretends to call the show from prison and makes some terrible jokes. Also, Doink appears again in the aisle. (They’re doing their best to distract from this match!)
They trade arm drags, reversals, and leapfrogs until Shawn regroups. Then, they meet in a mid-air do-see-do before Max goes to some mat holds. The show goes to commercial and comes back to Max still working on Shawn’s arm, but Shawn breaks free and misses a corner charge. However, he catches Max on a leap-over and hits a hotshot. Shawn then slowly beats on Max, while Bartlett does his Mike Tyson bit. Max gets a couple of surprise roll-ups, but Shawn continues wearing him down with a chinlock. Max eventually catches Shawn on a dropkick and catapults him over the ropes before faking him out on a slingshot cross body. Shawn moves, so Max hits a—flying crotch tackle? They return to the ring and Max hits a spinning wheel kick and a rolling Samoan Drop, but he misses a somersault senton. Michaels answers with a superkick and finishes him off with a Teardrop Suplex after a couple of attempts.
This wasn’t a great match. Max’s offense looked pretty decent, but Shawn seemed unmotivated. (Perhaps he knew they wouldn’t be focusing on the match?) I know these two are capable of better against each other because I’ve seen them work together. This was disappointing, especially for the only important match on the show.
Winner: Shawn Michaels (10:30)
Next, they show a commercial for a new show, WWF Mania, on Saturday mornings. They show two parents sleeping in bed, but the Big Boss Man yells at them to wake up and their kids begin jumping on the bed. The narrator then says you’ll love the great superstars, interviews, and action and it’s 100% caffeine free!
Mean Gene has a Royal Rumble report after the commercial break. It’s brought to you by ICOPRO! He talks about the Intercontinental Title Match between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty and he says Sherri will return, but he doesn’t know which man she will manage. They show comments from both men. Shawn calls Marty undeserving and claims Sherri will be in his corner. Jannetty declares the Rumble to be Marty Jannetty day (Is that like Rusev Day?) and says he will end Shawn’s career. He also tells Shawn he doesn’t know Sherri as well as he thinks. Then, Gene explains the rules of the Rumble Match and lists some competitors. They show some comments from Mr. Perfect, who says he has no problems because he’s perfect. Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji are also there and Fuji says no one can move or lift Yoko, but he also calls him, “Yokozuma.” (I see why Bartlett was confused. No one can get his name right!) Gene then lists more competitors, including Carlos Colon from Puerto Rico and Genichiro Tenryu from Japan. Then, they show comments from Jim Duggan, who says he can’t guarantee victory, but he’ll give 110%, tough guy! (Duggan is oddly not in the Rumble Match. I guess they replace him.) Finally, Gene talks about the WWF Title match and says that emotions are at a fever pitch.
They go back outside to Sean Mooney, who is with some fans lining up to buy tickets for next week. However, a strangely familiar looking Jewish man tries to cut in line and Sean stops him. The man claims to be Bartlett’s Uncle Morty and says he has to get inside to see Rob. He accidentally lowers his fake beard while talking, so Sean yells at the exposed Bobby Heenan. He begins mumbling about a fiddler on the roof and says there has to be an entrance up there.
Next, Vince recaps a recent development in the Kamala story from Superstars. They show Wippleman and Kim Chee berating Kamala for not obeying. They shove him around, so Reverend Slick arrives to stop them. He tells them they’ve gone too far, so Kim Chee attacks Slick and demands that Kamala do the same. However, Kamala has enough and attacks both Kim Chee and Wippleman before chasing them away from the ring. (This wouldn’t lead to much, other than some vignettes of Slick attempting to teach Kamala bowling. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds.)
The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Damien Demento
I know what you’re thinking—again. Who or what is Damien Demento? He looks like a reject from Mad Max and he’s billed as being from the outer reaches of your mind. The only cool thing about him is his entrance gear, which includes massive shoulder pads with tusks on them. He also has a nearly shaved head, except for a patch in back with a few rat-tails. He’s already in the ring when they return from break and he speaks to himself like a madman. Bartlett jokes about Damien using his real name. Then, the Undertaker makes his quickest entrance ever. It looked like he was already halfway down the aisle. Bartlett has no idea who Paul Bearer is, so Vince calls him out on it.
Damien immediately attempts some ineffective punches, but he ducks and Taker hits a—sort of facebuster. (It looked like he was trying to yank Damien backward, but Demento bumped the wrong way and Taker rolled with it.) Taker then hits Old School, but Demento gets a boot up on a corner charge. He follows up with a sloppy axehandle and a shoulder tackle, but Taker fires back with a jumping clothesline. (Damien was out of position and it looked terrible.) Taker then mercifully ends the match with a Tombstone and I’m sure he was glad to get out of there.
This wasn’t even a fun squash like the Steiners Match. I felt bad for Taker for having to work with this fool. I can see why Demento didn’t last long. (They even put him in the RAW intro. Did they have plans for this guy at some point?) This match was thankfully kept short, but it wasn’t a good main event. Why didn’t they put the Intercontinental Title Match on last?
Winner: The Undertaker (2:26)
Vince then talks about next week’s show, while Paul Bearer has to hold Taker back from continuing an attack. (That might have been legit. I wouldn’t blame Taker for being pissed.) Vince says that Mr. Perfect will be in action next week and there will be a Steel Cage Match. (Really? Oh—wait. It’s a joke.) He says it will be between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, so I’m guessing it’s more Bartlett impressions.
They go to another commercial and come back to Vince with Doink the Clown. He says that Doink has been making kids cry and Crush warned him about it. Doink makes Vince repeat himself before saying it’s the children’s fault if they don’t have a sense of humor. He says it only matters if he laughs. Then, Doink says that if Crush were there, he’d be crying. Crush hears him and enters the arena. He calls Doink, “Brah,” a few times and warns him to look over both shoulders. Crush then threatens to break all of Doink’s limbs because Doink is currently wearing a sling. (He was faking an arm injury and would use it to his advantage in an attack on Crush. I’ll talk more about that in the Rumble review.) Doink isn’t fazed and responds by squirting Crush with a water gun, so Crush chases him. However, he gives up when Doink won’t follow him into the ring.
Finally, they go outside once more to find Heenan still attempting to enter the building. Mooney tells Bobby he got the word that he can go inside now. Heenan is overjoyed, but the joke is on him because the show is ending. The copyright graphic appears while Bobby waits on an elevator.
– The Heenan segments were amusing.
– The crowd was hot and the atmosphere was unique.
– The Steiners squash was fun.
– None of the matches felt important, even the IC Title bout.
– Rob Bartlett is not funny.
– The main event was disappointing.
Performer of the Night:
I’m giving it to the Steiners because they put on an amusing squash and looked like they were having fun.
There would be far better episodes in the coming weeks and in the future, but this did a decent enough job of establishing the format. I guess Vince didn’t want to give away his best stuff immediately, but it could have used at least one big match. On the positive side, it was only one hour (45 minutes without commercials), which is far better than the three-hour marathons of today. I did like the intimate atmosphere and the novelty of the show. I would imagine fans at the time would have enjoyed it, for the most part. However, it would have been a lot better without Bartlett. Vince didn’t need to add comedy. Heenan is already funny as a commentator.
It will be back to business, as usual, this Saturday when I will review Royal Rumble ‘93. Look for my review then!