This week Throwback Thursday marks a truly landmark moment in the history of professional wrestling as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Monday Night RAW on the WWE Network by reviewing the very first edition of the show, which aired 25 years ago today!
Today, Monday Night RAW is not simply a mainstay of World Wrestling Entertainment but of television itself. With 1,285 editions under its belt thus far (more than twice the episodes of The Simpsons, America’s longest-running sitcom, and 447 more episodes than Saturday Night Live, in its 43rd season as of this writing) it seems as if RAW will go on forever. In fact, younger fans don’t know a WWE without RAW. After 25 years, the “Monday Night Wars”, and 1,285 episodes it’s easy to overlook the fact that RAW, created out of necessity, was no sure fire hit. Monday Night RAW was, in many respects, as big a risk as the inaugural WrestleMania nearly eight years earlier.
By the fall of 1992 the ongoing steroid, sex, and harassment scandals had taken a toll of the WWF and pro wrestling as a whole. Syndication, the WWF’s bread and butter for so many years, was beginning to dry up. In many markets (including my own) infomercials would air in place of wrestling. Add to that the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and slowly but surely syndicated weekend wrestling shows, usually airing in the morning, became more of a liability for stations than an asset.
To combat the erosion of syndication (and to cut costs) the decision was made to reboot the Prime Time Wrestling time slot on USA Network (a ratings loser for some time before its ultimate demise) and create a new cable TV “A-show” where the WWF would have more freedom in respect to content and have only one network boss to deal with. The original idea was to do a “live” show every week from the Manhattan Center but the concept would quickly evolve to include (cheaper) smaller market arenas that didn’t ordinarily get TV tapings under the old Superstars/Wrestling Challenge format. Even in the debut edition one can see the seeds of the “Attitude Era” and McMahon’s keen sense of when to push the envelope and how to far to push it. Though they still had a few kinks to work out (like Rob “Art Donovan” Bartlett) the ingredients for the future success of the show are apparent.
But how well does the show hold up 25 years later? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Context for this edition of RAW is sketchy at best. While all previous PPVs and Saturday Night’s Main Events are available on the Network for you to enjoy right now, Prime Time Wrestling only runs to July 24, 1989 and the weekly syndicated TV (Superstars and Wrestling Challenge) is absent from the Network as of this writing.
WWF Monday Night RAW #1 (WATCH)
Date: January 11, 1993 – Location: Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center, New York City, New York
Attendance: 1,000 – TV Rating: 2.5 (>2.35 million viewers)
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, & Rob Bartlett – Interviews: Vince McMahon & Sean Mooney
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Shawn Michaels
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Schyster)
We open with a foggy shot of the Empire State building. Sean Mooney, outside the Manhattan Center, welcomes us to the show. As Mooney prepares to toss it to the crew inside Bobby Heenan shows up and tries to get inside to work but Mooney tells Heenan that “The Brain” has been replaced by Rob Bartlett. Bobby tries to get in and buy a ticket but Mooney says that the arena is sold out and there’s now way for Heenan to get in.
We get the classic Monday Night RAW opening next. In the arena Vince McMahon introduces Rob Bartlett and Randy Savage and the three run down the card for the night.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 2:00)
Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna w/Mr. Fuji
This is, perhaps, the most memorable squash match in RAW history. Rob Bartlett sets the tone for the show when he quips that “[Yokozuna’s] got an ass like an amphitheater!” Which leads to the first “uncooked, uncut, and uncensored” sighting of the night. At this time Yokozuna wasn’t just undefeated, he hadn’t even been knocked down. Koko does a great job selling Yokozuna’s weight and the power of the big man. Yoko does a total of five moves and is o-v-e-r in a match that is wrestling psychology 101 at its best. Yokozuna ends Koko’s suffering with the Banzai Drop for the pin at 3:46, after which Bartlett says, “Record players just skipped in Guam.”
WINNER is Yokozuna w/Mr. Fuji (Pin, 3:46)
After replays we see a promo for the 1993 Royal Rumble, the first to guarantee a World title match at WrestleMania for the winner. In the arena the first “RAW Girl” parades around the ring holding a small “Monday Night RAW” sign.
We get a great Bobby Heenan promo next for “Narcissus” (Lex Luger) directed at Mr. Perfect. Heenan says “Narcissus”, set to debut at the Royal Rumble, is ice cream to Perfect’s “horse manure”. It’s heavily scripted but a great delivery.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 11:11)
The Executioners (Duane Gill & Barry Hardy) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)
The Steiners had debuted with the WWF in December of ’92, making their WWF TV debut on the January 3, 1993 edition of Wrestling Challenge. Doink the Clown makes his presence known throughout the match as Doink (or “Dork”, as Bartlett calls him) interacts with the fans. This match is a great squash match that establishes Scott Seiner’s powers, Rick Steiner’s wrestling, and the chemistry of the Steiner Brothers team. The story is simple: when the Steiners work together they are unstoppable. In the end the Steiners hit their Steinerizer bulldog for the 1-2-3 at 3:01.
WINNERS are The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) (Pin, 3:01)
After replays we go outside where Sean Mooney confronts a woman trying to get in the building. The woman says she’s Rob Bartlett’s aunt but the wig comes loose and Mooney discovers it’s actually Bobby Heenan that’s trying to get in the building! Heenan begs to get in but is left in the cold.
After a break Vince McMahon interviews the “Bad Guy” Razor Ramon in-ring about facing Bret Hart for the WWF Championship at the Royal Rumble. Razor says he’s ready for Bret and that’s he’s going to do in eight and half a months what it took Bret eight years to accomplish. We see footage from that week’s edition of Mania (a series currently unavailable on the Network) of Razor attacking Bret Hart’s younger brother Owen at the close of Owen’s interview with Raymond Rougeau. Razor says that “squashing your little brother like a cock-a-roach, that was fun, mang.” Razor says Bret can’t do anything about it “not, chico, that you don’t wanna do nothing about it, ’cause you can’t do nothin’ about it.” Razor closes the interview by telling Bret Hart, “you know what else you can’t do nothing about? Chico, you can’t do nothing about Razor Ramon taking your precious gold—ha ha—at the Royal Rumble.” Razor flips his toothpick in Vince’s face before walking off.
Randy Savage plugs the WWF/Red Cross Headlock on Hunger event at Madison Square Garden January 29, 1993 and runs down the stacked MSG card. This is followed by a Tatanka promo thanking those who donated for the cause.
— WWF Intercontinental Championship (WATCH – 20:21)
Max Moon vs. Shawn Michaels(c)
Paul Diamond, of Bad Company and Orient Express (Kato) fame, had taken over the gimmick of Max Moon in late 1992 when Konnan, the original Max Moon, walked out of the WWF. This was one of Moon/Diamond’s final televised matches in the WWF before leaving in early February ’93. Despite the gimmick, Paul Diamond and Shawn Michaels had a real history and it shows in this match which, for my money, is very good. Unfortunately we have to sit through Rob Bartlett’s terrible Mike Tyson impression which goes on for way too long. Seeing Doink again is one thing, having to sit through a Bartlett set is something else entirely. In the end HBK hits the Teardrop Suplex for the pin at 7:54.
WINNER and STILL WWF Intercontinental Champion, Shawn Michaels (Pin, 7:54)
Up next we see a promo for WWF Mania on the USA Network and graphic for the Damien Demento/Undertaker main event.
After a commercial break we get an old school Royal Rumble Report with “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Man, I miss these things… anyways, we get official confirmation that Shawn Michaels will defend the WWF Intercontinental title against Marty Jannetty at Royal Rumble with the only question being whose corner Sensational Sherri will be in, after which we get dueling promos from Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. Okerlund plugs the “Royal Rumble” and explains the rules before revealing some of the names. Along the way we get promos from Mr. Perfect, “Yokozuma” (as Mr. Fuji calls him), and Jim Duggan. Okerlund reminds us that the winner of the “Rumble” earns a WWF World title shot at WrestleMania IX and then plugs the Bret Hart/Razor Ramon WWF World title showdown at Royal Rumble ’93 before wrapping the report.
Outside Sean Mooney is with fans queued for tickets for next week’s RAW when Bobby Heenan appears yet again, this time dressed as an old Rabbi man named Uncle Morty. Again Heenan begs to get inside and yet again Mooney discovers the ruse and turns him away. We get an All American Wrestling promo next.
After a break we see ticket information for future tapings of Monday Night RAW. Next we see footage from the prior week’s Superstars when Kamala turned on Kim Chee and Harvey Wipplemen and joined Reverend Slick after Kim Chee attacked Slick.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 39:41)
Damien Demento vs. The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer
This is another squash that sees Demento selling the power and resilience of The Undertaker. It’s sloppy at times but neither man loses their cool. A tombstone piledriver ends things at 2:26.
WINNER is The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer (Pin, 2:26)
After the match Vince sells next week’s show and jokes that Woody Allen and Mia Farrow will battle in a “steel cage” match.
After a break Vince interviews Doink the Clown at ringside about enjoying making children cry and Crush’s warning to stop. Doink says that so long as he laughs it’s all good. Crush comes out and confronts Doink, telling him he’ll have both arms and both legs in a cast the next time he catches Doink messing with children! Doink squirts Crush with a squirt gun and Crush gives chase. Crush slides into the ring and his music hits as Doink rolls around outside the ring laughing.
On the outside Sean Mooney tells Bobby Heenan that “The Brain” can finally go inside, just as the show fades to black.
If you can make it past Art Donovan—err—Rob Bartlett’s atrocious commentary the first edition of Monday Night RAW is a fun trip down memory lane for fans of a certain age.
It’s also an interesting place to start for new fans who don’t know much about the product of the era or how much trouble the WWF was in at the time. This debut edition of Monday Night RAW was the first step in the effort to pull the WWF out of its funk, reinventing itself in the process.
And the running Heenan gag still puts a smile on my face. 🙂
Already a WWE Network subscriber? Then what are you waiting for? You can relive this classic piece of WWE history 25 years to the day or see it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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