It is good to be back. So before we get into it, let me go ahead and give you a heads up as to where I have been lately. My fiancée and I moved into a house together in November, and I was actually without internet until mid-December, which is why “Through the Booking Glass” just kind of fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, my notes for that didn’t make the trip somehow, and I don’t feel like starting from scratch at the moment, so I’m discontinuing that for the time being. Not sure for how long. But I’ve been getting the writing bug lately, and I wanted to do something fun.
Now, many of you likely remember when I wrote for another site a decade or so ago that every week to ten days, I used to write a series of Today in Wrestling History columns. Those were always fun, so I’m bringing that idea back. Now, the idea is to do one of these every week, likely on Mondays, and I want to do everything I can to switch some things up. Yes, this will likely be very WWE-centric, but we’ll throw some Japan or some old NWA or some random indy or what have you whenever we can.
But yeah, most of these will be available on the WWE Network. Like this one.
The story so far… From August 1983 on, the World Wrestling Federation had a weekly presence on the USA Network, stemming from All-American Wrestling replacing Southwest Championship Wrestling on the station. House shows had aired periodically up to that point. On January 1, 1985, a new show called Prime Time Wrestling began. The show consisted of Jesse Ventura and Jack Reynolds sitting in a studio, watching some previously taped matches usually taped months prior at various house shows, and commenting on them afterwards. Gorilla Monsoon replaced Reynolds later that year, the matches airing became more current, and in 1986, Bobby Heenan replaced Ventura. Heenan was just supposed to replace Ventura for a few weeks while he was filming Predator, but the Monsoon/Heenan teamed gelled so well that it became a permanent fixture. And there was much rejoicing.
But as the show continued and house shows were being taped less and less, the matches began either coming from the syndicated shows, or taped at the same tapings, and ratings dropped as the show began to look just like all the others. Ratings began to drop, and efforts to update the show, including a modified version of the old Tuesday Night Titans format and a McLaughlin Group-like roundtable, failed to bring the ratings up.
So at the end of 1992, Vince McMahon tried what was considered a bold move. He would present a “live” wrestling show every Monday show in the Prime Time Wrestling time slot. As a result, the January 4, 1993 episode of Prime Time Wrestling would be the last, and on January 11 — 23 years ago today — a new show would debut that would change how wrestling on TV would be presented forever.
Without further ado, let’s go back to the very first episode of (in best Vince voice) MONDAY NIGHT RAAAAAAAAAW!
January 11, 1993 – WWF Monday Night Raw originally airing live on the USA Network from the Manhattan Center in New York City, NY
Sean Mooney is outside, and Bobby Heenan tries to get in the building, but Mooney tells him he’s been replaced and is banned from the building.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, and Rob Bartlett. Don’t remember Rob Bartlett? Nobody else does either. But for those who care, he was a comedian that Vince thought was funny and hired him to do commentary despite having no knowledge of wrestling whatsoever.
One fall: Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna (w/Mr. Fuji)
Bartlett on Yokozuna: “He’s got an ass like an amphitheater!” Vince laughed. Bartlett makes about 15 fat jokes about Yokozuna, and this was before his weight ballooned out on control. Pretty much a squash and not much to say about it. Yokozuna wins with a Banzai drop at 3:46.
After a commercial, we see one of the Raw girls, who held up ring cards normally saying “Uncut, Uncooked, and Uncensored” (which was repeated ad nauseum on this show) or some pun incorporating the Raw name.
Bobby Heenan cuts a pretaped promo claiming “Narcissus” was on his way to come after Mr. Perfect.
One fall: The Steiner Brothers vs. The Executioners
I believe this version of the Executioners were long time enhancement talent Duane Gill (of Gillberg fame) and Barry Hardy. One has pain on their Pain on their tights and the other has Agony. The Steiners are set to face the Beverly Brothers at the Royal Rumble in two weeks. Doink the Clown (or Dork, as Bartlett calls him) is walking through the crowd. Another squash, and maybe 15 minutes into this show and I’m already sick of Bartlett. Scott pinned Pain after Rick came off the top with a bulldog at 3:01.
Backstage, Sean Mooney says a security guard is detaining a woman, who claims his nephew Rob Bartlett is inside waiting for him. Of course, it’s Bobby Heenan in drag, who then offers the security guard 50 bucks to let him in. Heenan is single handedly saving this show.
After a commercial, McMahon interviews Razor Ramon about his upcoming shot at Bret Hart for the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble. Razor had attacked Owen Hart earlier in the weekend on WWF Mania, and Razor said Bret can’t do anything about it…or about Razor taking the title at the Rumble.
Savage pushes the 1/29 MSG show which was the Headlock on Hunger fundraiser. Specifically mentioned were Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow. This sounds infinitely better than the Rumble card so the wrong show made PPV that year. This is followed by Tatanka cutting a promo for Headlock on Hunger.
One fall for the WWF Intercontinental Championship: Max Moon vs. Shawn Michaels©
This is more what I was expecting when they initially advertised this show. Michaels with an armdrag early. As the wrestlers feel each other out, Bartlett makes a lame Amy Fisher joke. Now you know why comedy in WWE fails. Moon with a nice armbar takedown and he puts Michaels in a hammerlock. Of course we take a commercial break during the one decent match on the card, and Moon worked on the arm during the entire break. Michaels cuts off Moon and works him over. Beautiful dropkick as Vince says Michaels will defend the Intercontinental Title against Jannetty at the Rumble assuming he retains here. Bartlett now does a horrible Mike Tyson impression, which is sad because Tyson is, next to Randy Savage and Dusty Rhodes, the easiest impression to do. And it takes way too long to the point that I no longer care about this match. Hey, Moon with a near fall. Michaels locks in a chinlock and Bartlett is STILL doing that Tyson impression. Moon counters a dropkick and slingshots Michaels over the top rope. Moon then dives onto him before sending him into the ring. Corner whip, leg lariat, and a rolling Samoan drop for 2. Moon misses one move and eats a superkick, but it’s not Sweet Chin Music yet. Moon counters a Teardrop Suplex, but Michaels goes right back to it and gets it for the pin at 7:58 shown (so approximately 10 minutes with commercial). The match was fine but Bartlett has become beyond unbearable at this point.
Ad for WWF Mania.
Still to come, Damien DeMento vs. The Undertaker.
After commercial, Mean Gene Okerlund hosts the Royal Rumble report. Remember when pay-per-views started at 4pm Eastern? I actually miss these reports and wish they’d bring them back. You have over three hours to kill every Monday night anyway, why not do a legit hype job and make these shows mean something? Oh wow, I forgot Crush was supposed to be in that Rumble match. Jim Duggan was also originally scheduled and even gets promo time. I think his injury angle aired after the Rumble PPV though, so that’s odd.
Bobby Heenan tries to sneak into the show dressed as a stereotypical Jewish man. “There’s got to be a way in on the roof!” This leads us to commercial
Tickets are still available for Raw on January 18 and February 1! I think we were supposed to think January 25 was already sold out.
Footage from earlier this weekend on “the WWF Network” shows Kamala’s face turn, which to this day is one of those turns that just seems too strange for words.
One fall: Damien DeMento vs. The Undertaker
Demento is billed as being from “the Outer Reaches of your Mind” which is awesome. Too bad he was mediocre at best in the ring. Great character though. He actually gets a decent amount of offense, but the “main event” of the first ever Raw is the shortest match of the night. Taker pins DeMento with a Tombstone in 2:26.
In plugging next week’s show, Mr. Perfect vs. Papa Shango, Ric Flair vs. Tito Santana, an interview with Bret Hart, and Woody Allen vs. Mia Farrow inside a steel cage. I don’t remember that cage match. I guess it didn’t air due to time constraints.
After a commercial, McMahon interviews Doink, who says despite Crush’s warnings, he’s going to continue to make children cry. Crush comes out and says if Doink plays anymore practical jokes, Doink might be wearing four casts instead of just the one on his left arm.
Outside, Sean Mooney tells Heenan he’s finally allowed inside the building, and of course that’s how we go off the air.
Overall thoughts: Moon vs. Michaels is good if you mute the commentary and Bobby Heenan is gold. The rest of the show is a complete miss. The show had a much different look and feel to it from what the WWF was offering at the time, but it was still basically the usual series of squash matches with one solid feature match thrown in.
I’m actually a fan of that format, but this was pushed for two weeks as being a far bigger deal than what it wound up being.
Watch it once if you’ve never seen it for historical purposes, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.