Welcome to From the Nosebleeds. This will be a regular blog on The Network Insider, taking us on a trip down memory lane in chronological order. I’m Jon Potter, and I’m far from an expert. One thing that I am though is a fan. I began watching professional wrestling when I was a small kid. My very first memory was seeking The Ultimate Warrior in his prime, ranting and raving. It terrified me and I ran out of the room screaming. Naturally, I became a vehement watcher of the “sport” from then on.
But enough about me. Before we get into my review of the debut episode of Monday Night Raw, I’m going to give everyone (including myself) a history lesson on what led us to this cold January night in 1993. For me, this all began in the summer of 1992…
The Winds of Change Begin to Blow
By SummerSlam of 1992, it was obvious that an era was coming to an end. Hulk Hogan’s star was no doubt beginning to fade. He had a relatively minor match in the mid-card against Earthquake. Trumping him for main event status on that night were Ultimate Warrior versus “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWF Championship and The British Bulldog versus Bret “Hitman” Hart for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Both of which could claim equal rights to being the main event of the night due to a switching of the card order depending on the market. By October, Bret had become the WWF Champion, (beating Ric Flair) and Hogan had gone on another leave of absence.
But this was definitely not a clear-cut “changing of the guard” situation. The new champion was definitely not a made man. Business was down all around and the new Monday Night Raw show was a gambling attempt to try and freshen an ageing business model up. Most wrestling TV shows until this point were syndicated and taped in advance. Raw was going to be live and was a bold move right when a new generation of talent needed to be highlighted. The show didn’t usher in an immediate change, but it was steady and noticeable.
And so, with the brief history lesson out of the way, let’s get into the DeLorean and travel back to January 1993…
Monday Night Raw, (episode #1) January 11, 1993
Ah, Sean Mooney. A man who was only tolerable because Todd Pettengill was so much worse! We see him here, outside the Manhattan Centre, New York. It takes him only a few seconds to usher in the first verbal misfire in Raw history. While he’s in the middle of welcoming us to the show, is interrupted by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan tells Mooney that he’s desperate to get inside. Mooney informs him that the place is sold out. Needless to say, Bobby doesn’t give up that easily.
We follow this piece of high drama with the classic Monday Night Raw intro. As high as the production values have become in more recent years, nothing will beat this intro as far as pure nostalgia goes. There’s no doubt though, it’s pure 1990s cheese.
At this point, we’re introduced to the commentary team for tonight. I like “Macho Man”. As far as the ring goes, he’s one of the all-time greats. But as a commentator, it’s almost as if the guy’s on crack. Seriously, even in the opening promo for the show, Savage can’t stand still for a second. He seems to find it physically impossible to just look straight into the camera. As far as Vince McMahon goes, his mediocrity as a commentator is legendary. Then we get to Rob Bartlett. Dear God. Why? As I go through these early shows, anyone unaware of him will get to know Rob Bartlett all too well. Just remember this: WWF openly acknowledge that Bartlett is a replacement for Heenan on this show. That’s like replacing a diamond with a dog turd.
Koko B. Ware vs Yokozuna
This match really is the definition of a squash. We have Koko in his neon attire. There’s another quintessentially 90s thing to add to the list. It’s worthwhile noting that Bartlett made the mistake of referring to Yokozuna as “Yokozuma” prior to and during this match. Good to know that you have people who know your product, Vince!
After the commentators have finished making weak jokes about the size of yokozuna’s posterior and suggest that he might have eaten Koko’s parrot Frankie, Yoko proceeds to throw Koko (ha ha) Aaound like a rag doll. Koko tries to rally back with a few dropkicks, but Yokozuna barely wobbles. Koko rapidly gets squashed in the corner, before Yoko finishes him off with a Bonsai Drop. Bartlett ends this segment by suggesting that putting Yokozuna, on a diet would mean the company wouldn’t have to carry on with their Headlock on Hunger campaign. Vinnie Mac laughs this off, before moving on quickly. Get used to it, we’ve got months of him left yet!
Winner by pinfall: Yokozuna
We get a brief promo for Royal Rumble 1993. It was a decent show. I look forward to reviewing it.
We get our first glimpse of a “Raw ring girl”, before being sent to a pre-recorded promo by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan hyping up Lex Luger’s debut as the Narcissus. Shortly after his debut, they realised that was a stupid name and changed it to The Narcissist (which is only marginally better). The promo is a perfectly fine hype job, but on this particular show, it only serves to remind me who else we have on commentary in his place.
The Steiner Brothers vs Local Talent
Yet another definitive squash match. This is literally just a showcase for the Steiners to show just how brutally they can throw jobbers around. The more notable occurrence is Doink The Clown being shown in the crowd tormenting children. Bartlett calls him “Dork”. Vince goes along with this for several moments, (even using the new name himself) before realising and aggressively correcting himself. Watch out, the ineptitude is spreading… Oh and by the way, the Steiners win with a double-team top rope bulldog. I want to refer to it as a Steiner Line, but our crack commentary team didn’t name it, so I’m just guessing.
Winner by pinfall: The Steiner Brothers
We next see Bobby Heenan in drag in a second attempt to get inside. This would be a whole 100% funnier if Gorilla Monsoon was involved. As it was, it made me smile so no harm done.
A nice, succinct promo from Razor Ramon follows this, hyping up the upcoming Royal Rumble. Ramon basically just says how he’s got just as far as Bret Hart in a matter of months, as Bret has in years. Remember when newcomers were treated this special? Not in a long time. We also get some footage from Superstars where Razor interrupted and attacked the Hitman’s brother Owen. Not exactly mind blowing build, but solid enough. It makes “The Bad Guy” look even more bad and gives the Champ even more reason to fight.
We get a brief advert and promo for Headlock on Hunger. “Tatonka” (thanks Rob) lends his support to the project and we’re told of an upcoming event to help raise funds.
Max Moon a.k.a. “Robo Wrestler” versus Shawn Michaels © – WWF Intercontinental Championship
Well, for better or for worse this will go down as the first-ever championship match in Raw history. Shawn was still fairly fresh as a singles competitor here. In fact, Marty Jannetty was still expected to be the breakout member of The Rockers at this point. Yeah…
This is actually a fairly competitive match. I mean, it’s still obviously designed to showcase Shawn Michaels, but Max Moon is at least shown to be somewhat competent. Indeed, Max has Shawn’s number for quite a lot of it. It should also be noted that Rob tries to tell everybody after the commercial break that Michaels “pulled a knife out” while we were gone. McMahon quickly shuts him down. Oy vey!
Now remember, this is the first-ever championship match in Monday Night Raw history. With that in mind, we become more preoccupied with a poor Mike Tyson impersonator who is supposedly calling from his prison cell. Savage even alludes to Tyson “having fun on dates”. Stay classy.
Anyway, despite all the offense that Mr Moon gets in, once Shawn gets control he quickly finishes him off with a Teardrop Suplex. This definitely should have been the main event, without the stupid Mike Tyson impersonator.
Winner by pinfall: Shawn Michaels
We now get a Royal Rumble Report with Mean Gene. God, I miss those. I loved the one done for SummerSlam this year.
Next, we get the third Bobby Heenan segment of the night. This time he tries to claim to be Rob Bartlett’s Jewish uncle. I’m all for Bobby Heenan humour, but this is getting a bit tired by now. We also get a re-cap of the recent Kamala face-turn. That didn’t last long.
The Undertaker vs. Damien Demento
Before this match up even begins, Rob Bartlett almost manages to destroy the mystique of The Undertaker with one misjudged sentence: “get your hair out of your eyes, you have such a pretty face!” Idiot.
The basic gist of this match is undertaker going through his trademark moves with an absolute bare minimum of offense from Demento. He quickly ends it with The Tombstone. Nothing to see here.
Winner by pinfall: The Undertaker
After the break, we get a brief interview with Doink the clown, which does a very basic job of furthering the feud between himself and Crush. Doink acts tough, then Chris shows up and threatens him, to does the typical heel thing and runs for cover, before mocking the Hawaiian by rolling on the floor with laughter. Again, nothing to complain about and it at least makes Monday Night Raw feel like something worth watching.
We end the show with Sean Mooney finally allowing Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to enter the building. Too late, Bobby. Bartlett already inflicted more than enough damage!
Yokozuna beat Koko B. Ware
The Steiner Brothers beat Local Talents
Shawn Michaels beat Max Moon (Intercontinental title defence)
The Undertaker beat Damien Demento
Moments of Historical Significance
- The first-ever championship match on Monday Night Raw
Overall, it’s hard to recommend this show as a wrestling entity. You may find some enjoyment in watching the Steiners destroy a team of jobbers. The Max Moon vs. Shawn Michaels match isn’t bad either. But on this particular show, it’s impossible to call anything truly good. So why do I recommend it? Because this is where it all began. This show is a very tiny hint of the great things that are to come. For that, it’s worth a quick look.