Corny? Nostalgic? Stuck in the past? Maybe, but that very first RAW on January 11, 1993 was a big night for the WWF, a turning point, and the start of something big. I’m not sure VKM knew just how big the WWF/WWE would grow when that first RAW aired, but it’s amazing to look back and see where the company has come – good and bad – in the past twenty years. Yes, I know the WWF was huge at that point, but this was before the Monday Night War and all that came about from that – and for me, that’s when the WWF grew to the jaw dropping amazement that made me the wrestling junkie I am today. I honestly didn’t realize how nostalgic and heart touching it would be when I first clicked that button to start the show – even though it’s been less than two years since I last watched it – but as soon as I saw Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan trying to get into the show, it all came flooding back. Heenan was the comic relief for the night, and did a wonderful job with it, as he always did.
Heenan really set the tone for the show from the first moments and showed that the WWF would be using big name stars all the way around. Okay, maybe they weren’t the legends we know they are now, but they were still quite big names at that point. Heenan broke into the industry in 1965 as a manager and wrestler, basically with the same loudmouth character we all know him as, but what I didn’t know was that he dropped out of high school in the 8th grade to help support his mother and grandmother. Not saying that dropping out of school is the thing to do, but it was a different time, and he sure made it work for him.
Who the heck is Rob Bartlett? I honestly had no clue who he was before I looked him up. Looking at the time he spent on RAW – his last show was April 19, 1993 – he wasn’t right for the job, but was he as bad as Adamle? The storyline was that Heenan had been replaced and wasn’t to be admitted into the arena. Of course hilarity ensued.
Koko B Ware vs Yokozuna
The was part of the downslide and end of Koko’s wrestling career. Prior to this he’d been tagging with Owen Hart, but had still been struggling. When Owen suffered a knee injury Koko was on his own and basically became a jobber, starting here with Yokozuna. Koko stayed with the WWE for another year and a half, but it wasn’t a fruitful time for him.
It sounded as though Bartlett called him Yokozuma, but that could just be the quality of the video I was watching. It was not long after this match that Yokozuna won the Royal Rumble by eliminating Macho Man Randy Savage, then went on to WrestleMania IX where he won the WWF Championship from Bret Hart, with the help of the salt Mr. Fuji threw in Bret’s eyes. After the match Hogan made his way to the ring to check on Bret. Earlier in the PPV Hogan had stated that he wanted to face the winner of the WWF Championship Match. While out there Fuji challenged Hogan to take on Yokozuna for the WWF Title. During the match Fuji again threw salt, but it accidentally landed in Yokozuna’s eyes. Hogan won the match and the WWE Championship in 22 seconds with a leg drop. Sheamus beating Bryan for the WHC in 18 seconds made the match between Yokozuna and Hogan positively time-consuming!
At the start of this first match on the very first RAW, VKM, who was on announce with Macho Man Randy Savage and Bartlett, made a big point of saying that Yokozuna wasn’t only undefeated going into this match, but that no one had even knocked him down! Makes Ryback and his build look rather feeble. Bartlett said you had an ass like an amphitheater, but the rest of his jokes fell flat. VKM kept stating over and over that we were watching RAW and that it was live. I was surprised at how loose the ropes were. I know that they tighten the ropes a lot more than they did twenty years ago, but the middle ropes were almost touching the bottom ropes when Yokozuna stood on them.
Winner – Yokozuna (3:44)
I honestly didn’t remember that they had Ring Girls in the WWF, but there she was in all her big haired glory, smiling as she walked around the ring holding a Monday Night RAW sign over her head.
I will admit that in some ways I miss the classic way that managers and wrestlers would stand in front of a wall, or curtain, or logo and talk smack to whoever they’re net getting along with at that point. In this segment Heenan was talking about The Narcissist who would be debuting at the Royal Rumble, and would be taking out Mr. Perfect as The Narcissist is so perfect you’d think he was from another world. Of course he was talking about Lex Lugar who would come to the ring and pose in front of full length mirrors before every match.
Steiner Bros. vs The Executioners
Holy mullet Batman! Watching Scott Steiner in TNA became painful because by that point he could barely touch his own toes due to stiffness, but in these earlier days of their careers, both brothers were jaw dropping in the ring. The strength and agility that the both showed was was as impressive as their jacked up looks. Between their stylish singlets and Scott’s flowing locks – in the back – these two were bound to be a top team for quite a long time. I actually watched this match with a huge smile on my face. It was short, but the two of them looked better than I remember them being. That was a blast from the past that was better than I remembered it, especially the double teamed bulldog headlock that they executed, then showed again in slo-mo.
Then there’s The Executioners. As far as I can tell, under those masks were Barry Hardy (Agony) and Duane Gill (Pain) who ran around in all black and under black hoods as jobbers wherever and whenever needed in 1993. They jobbed to The Steiner Brothers a number of times in the first couple months of that year.
Winners – The Steiner Bros. (2:56)
Heenan in drag! It seems like no matter what Heenan did, it worked. The outfit he wore was terrible, but he played it for all it was worth. Why anyone would believe that he was Rob Bartlett’s aunt who needed to get into the arena to see him, I don’t know, but it made for funny TV and broke up the show in a creative way.
In Ring Segment
There’s certain parts of the 90’s that should never come back, and the shirt Razor Ramon wore on the first RAW is one of them – ouch! I do have to say that Razor was fantastic in this segment. That man was wonderful on mic, and he brought this character alive. I can’t say that I know when his drug and alcohol troubles started, but he looked pretty spry here. It’s so sad to see how far he’s fallen from this point.
Intercontinental Championship Match – HBK (c) vs Max Moon
I have to admit that I’d forgotten that Konnan was Max Moon back in the day, but what I didn’t know was the story behind Konnan’s time in the WWF. First off, the Max Moon character was created by Konnan, but after the WWE bought this expensive costume for him ($1,300) he ended up wrestling only three televised matches for the company. He claimed VKM was discriminating against him and resented VKM’s refusal to give him a guaranteed contract. The character was handed over to Paul Diamond for a brief run before it disappeared into the WWF history books.
HBK, on the other hand, is one of the WWF/WWE’s biggest success stories. During this point in his career he had dropped the Heartbreak Kid nickname and became a cocky bad-boy with Sensational Sherry as his mirror toting manager. Not long before the first episode of RAW aired, HBK had a falling out with Sherry, and the big question was if she would be in his corner, or Marty Jannetty’s when they faced off. She ended up turning on HBK, but the storyline ended up scrapped when Jannetty was again released from the company. It was only a few months later that HBK was aligned with his new bodyguard, Diesel.
Winner – HBK (7:52 / minus commercials)
Heenan played his characters for all they were worth that night. When dressing in drag didn’t work, he went for a cliched, and not very politically correct, ‘Jewish’ costume of a black suit, hat wig and beard. The accent wasn’t quite appropriate either, but he sure did try to get in and see his nephew Rob Bartlett.
Speaking of cliches, Kamala was the epitome of stereotypically cliched characters of that time, though I have to say he stuck with the character beautifully. He’s one of those who immersed himself in his crazy character and didn’t break kayfabe in the ring. I didn’t know Kim Chee was played by Steve Lombardi (Brooklyn Brawler), but then again, it’s not something I ever thought to look up. In some ways it does make sense as they had someone around who could play a variety of characters beyond his normal in-ring persona, as I know he was one of the many who played Doink The Clown – though not much during that specific time in the WWF.
Damien Demento vs Taker
Damien Demento sure didn’t last very long in the WWF. He debuted on October 2, 1992 under his previous ring name of Mondo Kleen, only to lose to Jeff Jarrett. On October 12th he debuted as Damien Demento, from ‘the outer reaches of your mind’. He was seen on TV playing his villainous and deranged character, and actually main evented the very first RAW against Taker. From there he worked his first PPV (Royal Rumble) and lasted 12 minutes in the match before being eliminated by Carlos Colon – Carlito and Primo’s father. After that he only worked house shows and left the WWF in October of 1993. Not the longest WWF career, but we’ve seen worse. In December of 2007 he made a number of rather strange and abusive videos that were posted on YouTube, but those stopped as abruptly as they started. While he still works some indy matches here and there, he really hasn’t done much in the wrestling industry beyond what I’ve written.
Seeing Taker in the ring with his gray tie, gloves and boot covers, with Paul Bearer in tow, really brought a smile to my face. They man has changed so much, and really evolved through the years, but he’s always been such an iconic character. This man was the reason I got up early on Sunday mornings when I was in college, just so I could watch the recap shows and possibly catch a glimpse. While I loved wrestling before Taker, he’s the one who stole my heart. While this match with Damien wasn’t a major point in his career, it will always be remembered as the first RAW main event ever. It’s just sad that the match was so short. Oh, and when Taker went old school, he might have been standing on the top rope, but he was also standing on the second rope because they were so loose!
Winner – Taker (2:25)
In Ring Segment
I didn’t remember Doink being so vocal, but I have to admit that I remember little of him but his appearance. I have to say I kind of like the bad guy clown thing, but I’ve always thought clowns were creepy. I actually thought that Matt Osborne’s job on mic here was pretty solid. Crush was also fairly decent in this segment. I have no clue how, but he somehow ran under my radar in the WWF. I do remember him from the WWF, but also from his WCW days. Too many mullets, so little time.
That’s right, let Heenan into the arena after the show was over! I will say that I liked the little comedic segments, and that they were kept to a minimum. I know the show was only an hour long, but I think Heenan’s segments were perfect little nuggets of comedy placed through the show, just like Team Hell No’s best segment.
Prior to this first episode of RAW, wrestling shows for television had been produced very differently. They had mostly been filmed on sound stages, in front of small audiences, or in huge arenas. This was aired live and everything played out as it happened. Raw’s predecessor, Prime Time Wrestling, showed taped matches with studio voice overs and taped discussion. This first episode of RAW was the start of a weekly live wrestling show which the WWF aired from the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios. The show was a great success, but also a huge financial drain on the company. Because of this the WWF went to a different taping schedule, something similar to what TNA used to do where they showed RAW live on Monday, then taped the next RAW on Tuesday. So one week would be live, the next taped. In a world without the internet as we know it today, it wasn’t too terrible. That is until Bisch started telling everyone what would be happening on RAW before it aired, but in the end, it came back and bit him on the bum.
We all know that RAW’s ratings haven’t been the best, but did you know what garnered the highest ratings for RAW? Up to that point (May 24, 1999), the highest rated show was the Owen Hart Tribute show that garnered a 7.2. It warms my heard to know that so many people tuned in to watch that very special episode of RAW. It was not long after that (September 27, 1999) that RAW drew its highest rating, 8.4, for Mick Foley’s This Is Your Life segment for The Rock. Sadly his most recent renditions of that segment have been the biggest flops in the ratings.
Going into the 20th Anniversary of RAW, I thought a look back at how it all started would be fun. If you found this interesting, and something you’d like to see more of, I’ll take ideas specific shows – firsts or otherwise – that you’d like to see.