Take a trip down memory lane to the first month of WWE Monday Night Raw’s existence.
Welcome back to January 1993, and the very first month of Monday Night Raw! This was a good time to start a new show for WWE (still WWF at this time), as they were about to embark on a new era themselves. They were in the process of transitioning away from their top ’80s stars, and were moving more towards the younger generation of wrestlers. Having a prime time weekly show on a major cable station was the perfect way to do that.
Young fans who currently watch WWE will probably be shocked with the presentation of Raw for these first couple years. The shows were only an hour, they took place in small ballroom type venues, and they contained mostly squash matches. It’s very different from what we see now, but also very effective.
Episode 1 – January 11, 1993
Venue – Manhattan Center (Manhattan, NY)
Live from the sold out Manhattan Center, we begin our journey through Monday Night Raw in the ’90s. The announcers for the night are Vince McMahon, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Rob Bartlett. I had to look up who Rob Bartlett was, because I honestly don’t remember this guy. He’s apparently a comedian who became popular on the Imus in the Morning show starting in the late ’80s. He gets off to a great start, saying that the match that he’s most excited to see tonight is Koko B Ware vs. Yokozuma.
Since Bartlett is handling commentary tonight, Bobby Heenan isn’t needed in the building. The running spot throughout the episode is Heenan unsuccessfully trying to get into the building while Sean Mooney is reporting outside. He even dresses up as Rob Bartlett’s aunt and then as Rob Bartlett’s uncle trying to try to get in. They finally let him in as the show goes off the air.
One of the other recurring themes throughout the show is the announcers saying that Raw is “uncooked, uncut, and uncensored”. They’re usually prompted to say it when something “crazy” happens, like when one of their scantily clad “Raw girls” is walking around the ring with a Monday Night Raw sign. It’s funny, because every time they say this, each of them has to say one of the words. I wonder how long they practiced this for. They mention it about five times in this episode, so it gets old real quick.
Yokozuna (with Mr. Fuji) def. Koko B Ware
It’s kind of nice to see how quickly things got moving on Raw back then. There was a short opening with Sean Mooney and Bobby Heenan, a brief conversation with the announcers, and after only a couple of minutes we’re already on the first match. It’s refreshing not to sit through a half hour opening segment that goes nowhere. I guess that’s what happens when there aren’t three hours to fill.
Another great part of Raw back then was that the matches were a lot more meaningful. Today, it feels like we see the same matches over and over again to the point where they don’t even seem to matter. It’s just wrestling to fill time instead of wrestling for a purpose. Back then, even a squash match like this one was very meaningful. Yokozuna was set to become the WWF’s big monster heel over the next year, so this match exists to enforce that idea. Vince McMahon and Randy Savage continuously talk about how Yokozuna is currently undefeated in the WWF, and that no one has even been able to knock him off of his feet yet. Koko B Ware spends most of this short match unsuccessfully trying to knock him down, but he eventually gets crushed. Vince plays up the fact that Yokozuna will be one of the men in the upcoming Royal Rumble match.
After one match, I could tell already that I would hate Rob Bartlett, as he consistently rattles off terrible jokes. He continues with these throughout the night, but fortunately for him, Vince McMahon laughs hysterically at anything that he says.
The Steiner Brothers def. The Executioners
The Steiner Brothers, who were still fairly new to the WWF at this point, face two generic masked wrestlers dressed in all black. The Steiners easily win, and they hit some really impressive moves throughout the match. I don’t think that I ever really appreciated how great these guys were when I was a kid. Unfortunately, most of the crowd was distracted, because Doink was walking through the audience during this entire match. Still, the Steiners got a massive reaction when they won.
Shawn Michaels def. Max Moon (Intercontinental Title Match)
Shawn Michaels was the Intercontinental Champion at this time, and he puts his title up against Max Moon, who comes out to absolutely no reaction from the crowd. Bartlett calls him “Robo Wrestler” for some reason, and continues to make lame jokes. This is a surprisingly good match, but Max Moon has absolutely no charisma, so the crowd never gets behind him at any point. His stupid outfit doesn’t help either.
The announcers build the upcoming Royal Rumble match between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. The big storyline heading into this match is that Sensational Sherri will be there, but no one is sure whose corner she’ll be in. Doink walks out to ringside during the match, but doesn’t really do much. It’s not nearly as distracting as his antics during the Steiner Brothers match. After a pretty long match, Shawn Michaels wins with a side suplex (these were the days before the super kick).
Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) def. Damien Demento
In the main event of the very first Raw, we see the Undertaker easily defeat the odd Damien Demento. The Undertaker doesn’t sell any of Demento’s offense, and destroys him for almost the entire match.
Promos and Interviews
There are a good amount of promos throughout the night, and the first one is an amazing prerecorded promo from Bobby Heenan on Mr. Perfect. He says that he’ll be revealing “Narcissus” at the Royal Rumble, and that he’s “beyond perfect”. He says that comparing Mr. Perfect to Narcissus would be like comparing ice cream to horse manure.
Later in the night, Vince McMahon interviews Razor Ramon in the ring. Ramon is fighting Bret Hart for the title at the Royal Rumble, so the entire segment is built around playing up that match. Ramon is extra cocky here, and was really deep into the Scarface gimmick at this point. They show footage of him attacking Owen Hart during a backstage interview to show how personal this feud has become. Good stuff.
We also get a Royal Rumble report from Mean Gene where he goes through the matches and breaks down some of the storylines for the upcoming ppv event. The best part of this segment is that we get promos from Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, Mr. Perfect, Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji, and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.
They show a clip of Kamala turning face when he finally stands up to the abuse from Kim Chee and Harvey Wippleman thanks to Slick. I must have blocked this out, because I really don’t remember Kamala, or Slick ever being faces.
At the end of the episode, Vince interviews Doink about how Crush warned him not to make children cry. This was evil clown era Doink, so he says as long as he laughs, that’s all that matters. Ultra Hawaiian era Crush comes out, and Doink shoots him with a squirtgun. Crush chases him around, then goes back in the ring, so nothing actually happens.
Episode 2 – January 18, 1993
Venue – Manhattan Center (Manhattan, NY)
I was really hoping that Rob Bartlett was just a special guest for the first episode, but he’s sadly back again for episode number two. Raw gets off to a hot start with the Repo Man attacking “Macho Man” Randy Savage while the commentators are talking. Repo Man steals his hat, and this random feud continues throughout the episode. The “Raw girl” has a new sign that says “Get Raw”, and the announcers again mention that Raw is “uncut, uncooked, and uncensored”. So, I guess they haven’t dropped that yet. Rob Bartlett starts early with his bad jokes…they’re even worse this week, if that’s possible.
Mr. Perfect def. “Terrific” Terry Taylor
This is actually a good match, but there’s a lot of distractions during it. First, Randy Savage returns after looking for the Repo Man. He’s fired up about having his hat stolen, but Vince is extra excited about everything this week, and Rob Bartlett can’t stop making jokes about it, so it doesn’t really come off as a big deal. Then, Bobby Heenan calls in during the match mostly to yell at Rob Bartlett. It’s great, but it’s yet another distraction. Finally, Ric Flair comes out during the match to distract Mr. Perfect. They battle on the outside, but Perfect still ends up winning. I guess that the ref never saw Flair’s interference, which is why it didn’t cause a DQ.
Marty Jannetty def. Glen Ruth
We got to see Shawn Michaels get a win last week, so now we get to see Marty Jannetty show his skills off leading up to their match at the Royal Rumble. This was pretty long for a squash match, and the announcers continued to play up the idea that no one knows whose corner Sensational Sherri will be in . Shawn Michaels called in during this match as well.
Ric Flair def. El Matador
This was a really good fast paced match with a lot of back and forth action. It’s certainly the best match on these first couple episodes. Mr. Perfect attacks Ric Flair during the match, and they never announce a winner, but I’m guessing that it was Flair by DQ. They brawl for a while, and Flair challenges Mr. Perfect to a match next week. He says that one of them will have to leave the WWF, because it’s not big enough for both of them. Perfect comes back to accept the challenge, so we’re heading into an extremely high stakes match already.
Promos and Interviews
Following up on Razor Ramon’s interview from the previous week, Vince McMahon now interviews Bret Hart in the ring. It’s kind of long, and Ramon’s interview was actually much better. It’s good a good build to the match though, and continues to display how personal this feud had become.
We get another Royal Rumble Report from Mean Gene, with a promo by Razor Ramon.
We also get footage from WWF Superstars of Doink destroying Crush with a cast. I know that Doink is generally considered one of the worst characters in wrestling history, but I feel like most people are only remembering the family friendly goofy clown that he would later become. When he was originally an evil clown, he was pretty creepy.
Episode 3 – January 25, 1993
Venue – Manhattan Center (Manhattan, NY)
This is the last episode for the month of January, and the first episode to air after the highly anticipated Royal Rumble ppv event. We get to see the culmination of storylines that had been building for months, and the start of new feuds heading into Wrestlemania.
I’m sad to report that Rob Bartlett is back announcing for a third straight week, but luckily we get the return of Bobby Heenan on commentary. Heenan instantly makes everything better, and he’s on top of his game the entire night. I’m not sure if Vince McMahon had a word with Bartlett, because he was much quieter this week. He was also much more tolerable with Bobby Heenan there, because they played off of each other really well.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage def. Repo Man
Continuing with their feud from last week’s episode, Repo Man drives to the building in a tow truck with Randy Savage’s hat in his hand. Their match opens the show, and Savage gets his revenge with a nice win. This is a very enjoyable back and forth match, and proof that Randy Savage could make anyone look good.
Kamala def. Brooklyn Brawler
One of the most famous jobbers of all time, the Brooklyn Brawler, gets squashed by the “Ugandan Giant” Kamala. After turning on Kim Chee and Harvey Wippleman, Kamala is actually pretty over with the crowd. He gets loud cheers and chants throughout the match, and people really seem to have bought into the fact that he stood up for himself.
Mr. Perfect def. Ric Flair
I was actually a little bit disappointed by this match. You would think that two of the best in-ring performers of all time would put on an instant classic, but it didn’t really turn out that way. It was a long match, but it moved very slow at times, and was kind of clunky. The crowd really wasn’t into it at all for some reason either.
Bobby Heenan, who was still heavily invested in Flair here, is absolutely incredible though. His commentary makes the entire match so much better. In the end, Flair gets defeated, and would head back to WCW. His short, but successful WWF run was officially over, and he wouldn’t return to the company again until 2001.
Promos and Interviews
Vince McMahon interviews Kamala and Slick after Kamala’s match with the Brooklyn Brawler. Slick talks about how he can’t take all of the credit for Kamala’s transformation, and it’s mostly because of the fans. While Vince is gone, Bobby Heenan tells Rob Bartlett that he’s the host of the show, so he has to give him 88% of what he makes. He also tells him that they don’t need Vince, and that Vince only asks the fluff questions. He’s so good.
We get what I would imagine to be our final Royal Rumble report with Mean Gene. He says that Bret Hart retained the title, and that Yokozuna won the Rumble match. Another exciting note is that “Narcissus” finally debuted, and was revealed to be Lex Luger. Lastly, Mean Gene says that the Giant Gonzalez destroyed the Undertaker during the Royal Rumble.
I’m glad that the WWE Network has left in the wrestling themed commercials, because we get some classics in these first three episodes:
- Royal Rumble preview (episodes 1 and 2).
- PSA commercials from Tatanka (episode 1), and Paul Bearer and the Undertaker (episode 2).
- Preview for the new WWF Mania show (episodes 1 – 3).
- ICOPRO commercial with Bret Hart (episodes 2 and 3).
- Classic Slim Jim commercial with “Macho Man” Randy Savage (episodes 2 and 3).
- Preview for Wrestlemania (episode 3).
Watching these first three episodes of Monday Night Raw was very enjoyable. In just one hour per episode, they somehow manage to accomplish more than they do in three hours today. The matches were all solid…there might not have been any five-star classics here, but each match helped to either build characters, progress storylines, or showcase talent. The announcing from Rob Bartlett was really annoying, but anything with Bobby Heenan was hilarious.
I like that each episode back then was really designed to build for the next ppv, and they did a much better job of building interest than they do now. There wasn’t a ppv every two weeks, so there was actually time to develop meaningful feuds and have an entire card full of matches that people were eager to see.
Great start to a new show, and it should be exciting to see what the months leading up to Wrestlemania bring us.