After having covered an alternative to WWF Magazine last week, we continue that idea in this week’s column, reviewing the very first issue of RAW Magazine from May/June 1996 (I wonder if this is worth anything to collectors today). RAW Magazine was the brainchild of Vince Russo, who wished to have a magazine that would cater to more mature and knowledgeable fans. This followed Russo’s failed attempt to launch a newsletter under his magazine personality Vic Venom. RAW Magazine was bi-monthly in its circulation until 1998 and when the WWF launched its brand split, RAW Magazine became exclusive to the RAW brand in 2004. That was an incredibly stupid decision and was one of the reasons I finally cancelled WWF Magazine. Why should you have to buy two magazines to keep up with one company? RAW Magazine continued until the summer of 2006, when it and the newly christened Smackdown! Magazine merged into a new WWE Magazine that ceased publication in the fall of last year.
Vader is the cover man of the first issue of RAW Magazine, but the big selling point was lots of photographs of Sunny, which you can see in the insert in the top right corner of the page. The picture of Vader is taken from his assault on WWF President Gorilla Monsoon the night after the Royal Rumble, which caused Vader to be indefinitely suspended until In Your House 6.
You can purchase some Coliseum Video releases of WrestleMania for $19.95 each, but if you want the greatest WrestleMania of the them all – WrestleMania XII – it will run you $39.95. If you want to buy WrestleMania III or WrestleMania IV, though, you are out of luck. That is not the first time that I remember those tapes not being for sale either so I am not sure what was going on there. You can also purchase “Spring Explosion ’96,” which are the matches from In Your House 6. I never understood why the WWF felt the need to brand those shows after the fact for tapes. “Spring Explosion” is such a generic name anyway, but the company has gone back to it with “Fast Lane.” Parallels to the Dark Ages continue!
Vince Russo’s “From the Editor” piece discusses how he is happy to launch RAW Magazine so that he can “can the fluff and get down to the stuff!” In what could be written about the product today, he rips the company for catering too much to kids because of demographics, although he admits that catering WWF Magazine to kids in the mid-1990s paid dividends with improved sales. He says that hardcore fans ripped him for doing so, though, which is why he has launched this new product.
And what will a subscription to RAW Magazine set you back in 1996? If you wanted two years you had to pay $19.97. One year cost $11.97. What really irked me, though, is that they make the cutout portion to get your subscription run into the column on the next page. That is a bad layout decision.
Our first piece of RAW Magazine is an extended “Informer” column, which is loaded with new rumors.
The Smoking Gunns are unhappy that they were stripped of the tag team titles in February. Evidently, they see nothing wrong with not having defended the titles in thirty days due to Billy’s neck injury. Unfortunately, they did not have the precedent of Brock Lesnar to fall back on. The Informer proceeds to rip the Gunns for dominating a weak tag team division, but it says that they can earn more respect if they listen to Ted DiBiase, who is looking for a new team. It suggests they could be called the “Hired Gunns,” which would not have been the worse idea in the world I suppose, but the Gunns would not have saved the awful Corporation stable, which was going bankrupt by early 1996.
The Informer also lets us know that Hunter Hearst-Helmsley has eyes for Marlena, laying the foundation for an eventual feud with Goldust that would kick off in the fall of 1996. Similarly, we get another piece of foreshadowing as the piece says Owen Hart and the British Bulldog will team up more, thereby adding “some life back into the tag team division,” although they never coined themselves as “The New British Bulldogs,” as the piece suggests. We also hear that all those “parental discretion” spots Sunny filmed for RAW made her seven figures. Like Vince had that money to throw around in 1996! The Informer says that Sunny is making overtures toward Shawn Michaels, but if that fails she might buy Vader’s contract from Jim Cornette. A Vader-Sunny pairing would have been such a train wreck and Vince may have been tempted to make Vader a new Bodydonna, providing us with lots of workout vignettes from the Mastodon!
Vic Venom then pens an extended “Venom RAW” column, where he talks openly about World Championship Wrestling. Of course, since the WWF cannot use WCW photographs, we get the Huckster and the Nacho Man:
Venom says that WCW is an embarrassment to wrestling, but he does take some digs at the WWF for insulting his intelligence with the Red Rooster and Outback Jack. He rips the company for having nostalgia for the 1980s by employing old WWF talent, although he exempts Sting and Ric Flair from that list. This is probably the first time that Sting was actually mentioned in a WWF publication. For fans watching both companies, there is some fun humor here, with Venom saying Elizabeth has a “shoe fetish” – a dig at WCW running lots of finishes involving women’s shoes at this time – and that WCW never told us how “that Giant [fell] off the roof of the Cobo Arena and [came] back to wrestle 15 minutes later.” Some of the humor is juvenile, with Venom calling Eric Bischoff “Eric Ripoff.” The highlight of the article is that it criticizes WCW booking, citing how they squandered Razor Ramon and Diesel. However, by the time that this issue hit newsstands Ramon and Diesel were on their way to WCW and would help it overtake the WWF in the ratings by forming the New World Order.
Keith Elliot Greenberg, who typically did the pay-per-view recaps for WWF Magazine, handles a cool column in this issue entitled “The Night the Belt Changed Hands,” that talks about an important title change in WWF history. The subject for this month is the Ultimate Warrior-Rick Rude Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania V. As you can tell by the picture, albeit obscured by the crease in the middle of the pages, Donald Trump was a fan of the match.
The article provides a blow-by-blow summary of the match, as well as its context, which includes the Warrior beating the Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988 and Rude picking a fight with the Warrior at the Royal Rumble. For such a “smart” magazine, the recap still portrays wrestling as a real competition, with the Warrior’s loss pegged to him being too “preoccupied with memories of the attack [at the Rumble] to concentrate on protecting his championship.” As a history buff, I did enjoy this feature, which would reappear in subsequent issues as it provided the context for the match, what happened, and then summarized what happened after, namely the Warrior going on to win the WWF title at the next WrestleMania.
Speaking of the Ultimate Warrior, we get a full page ad about all of the items you can get from him. It hypes Warrior University, Warrior’s World, Warrior Workout #1, and Warrior…The Comic Book. I remember that WWF Magazine sent subscribers a copy of the comic book with an issue of the magazine. As a kid, who dabbled a little into older comics, I was excited to get something free, but had no idea what I was looking at when I opened the pages. I should have known the quality would be poor, after all, the ad lets me know that “It’s B…A…D…D.”
A career retrospective piece is provided about the Dynamite Kid, who it says most fans have probably forgotten.
The article chronicles Dynamite’s British origins, his Canadian battles with Bret Hart, and his run with Davey Boy Smith in the WWF. It is a sanitized view of his career and his reputation has taken a hit over the years due to revelations in Bret Hart’s book about his family life and other shoot interviews that talk about how he was a locker room bully. Matthew Randazzo’s Ring of Hell even blamed him for the Chris Benoit murders, as Benoit emulated Dynamite’s style. On a happier note, though, I still cannot get over how young Davey Boy looks in this picture:
Vince Russo then provides his top ten list of best WWF champions. If there were any marks reading this magazine, they had to weep when they saw #10, who Russo says did not have the “whole package” because they were not a “complete wrestler.” Not mentioned is the fact that he is working for the rival company
And Pedro Morales? He may not be able to beat the Mountie in the Scott Keith Blog of Doom Intercontinental title tournament, but he did enough with the WWF title to rank #4 on this list. Rankings for the others were as follows: 9-Ric Flair, 8-Randy Savage, 7-Ultimate Warrior, 6-Yokozuna, 5-Diesel, 4-Pedro, 3-Bob Backlund, and 2-Bruno Sammartino. Sorry, but any list that puts Diesel’s title run, which sank the company’s financials, over Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and the Ultimate Warrior loses all credibility. Is there any surprise over who #1 happened to be? This person probably made sure to shed a tear.
Our main story is about “A Man Called Vader” or in Vince McMahon’s case “A Man Called the Mastodon.” Thank god Jim Cornette talked McMahon out of that idea.
The article, written by Greenberg, says Vader has never achieved his full potential because he is out of control, wrecking promotions and hotel rooms along the way. It says that one of the reasons Vader attacked Gorilla Monsoon is that Vader looked up to Monsoon as a kid, but did not react well when Monsoon told him that he ran a “law and order administration” and that he would be fired if he got out of line. Vader also did not appreciate Monsoon getting into the ring after he blew a gasket following his elimination from the Rumble match. It warns that Vader will plunge the WWF into a state of lawlessness, but really, all of the momentum came out of Vader’s push when he failed to win the WWF title at SummerSlam.
And then we get the real reason people bought this magazine:
You can pay to see even more today on Skype, but you cannot invent a time machine and get these types of “Sunny days” back. Leave the memories alone!
A brief recap piece follows all of that to document Razor Ramon’s attack on Goldust on a January RAW episode before the Royal Rumble.
A similar feature comes next and it gives play-by-play of the Bret Hart-Diesel cage match at In Your House 6. The booking of that match did little to help Bret, as Diesel was primed to win the title before the Undertaker interfered.
The only real highlight of the article is the last line: “While the Hit Man experienced a victory as his boots hit the arena floor, Big Daddy Cool was experiencing a much different place…a place that he would never forget…a place some people would call…HELL.” Or in the case of D-Generation X in the 2000s, Little People’s Court.
Keith Elliot Greenberg then questions the WWF’s decision to install “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as the interim WWF President following the injuries Vader inflicted on Gorilla Monsoon.
You see, Piper is out of control. He gave Vince McMahon an airplane spin upon being introduced as commissioner and, in a nice tribute to the past, it brings up that “the last time Piper was given a special forum, he transformed into his personal asylum,” using it to attack WWF superstars such as Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
There is yet another recap of a Bret Hart title match, this time his In Your House 5 title defense against the British Bulldog. This was Bret’s only clean victory on pay-per-view during this title run and it is an underrated bout. The blade job is one of Bret’s best.
The last time we saw a “Fantasy Warfare” article, it concerned the 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly. On this occasion, we get two WWF superstars that the fans would really like to see matched up:
There were rumors in 1996 that the company wanted to run Shawn Michaels-Ultimate Warrior for the title, but all we got was the Warrior feuding with Goldust and Jerry “the King” Lawler. Talk about disappointing. The match is framed as Warrior’s power versus Michaels’ speed. Both men’s egos are deemed to be their biggest detriment for a possible encounter. Unlike Vince Russo, Greenberg refuses to commit to a winner, saying that it is “too close to call.” There was nowhere to write my own winner, so there will be no analysis given from ten-year-old me on this issue, but as a fan I would have cheered for Michaels.
We the get some exclusive photographs of Ahmed Johnson being taken to a hospital after wrestling Jeff Jarrett at the Royal Rumble. Ahmed received a severe concussion from the match, but he only missed two days of television tapings, so he was okay!
And are you SURE you do not want any Warrior gear?
This was a decent first issue. It had some good content at the beginning, but after the Sunny photos we just got a lot of mark-type pieces that you would expect to find in WWF Magazine. Next week, we will go back to the pages of WWF Magazine and look at its August 2000 issue, which promises to discuss “Chyna’s secret.”