*** Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV and TV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***
Monday Night Raw #1
January 11, 1993
New York, NY
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Randy Savage & Rob Bartlett
Fun Fact I: The WWF had been running a weekly prime time program on the USA network since 1985, Prime Time Wrestling. For most of the broadcast, the show was a recap of current storylines from the main syndicated shows along with some exclusive matches from the house shows. In its waning years, the format changed first to a talk show format with a live audience and then to a roundtable discussion. The final episode of Prime Time Wrestling aired on 1/4/93 with a revolutionary new show taking its place the following week, Monday Night Raw.
Raw would broadcast live from the Manhattan Center in New York City. This venue was much smaller than where most WWF events were recorded, but it provided a more intimate atmosphere and rowdier crowd. A new broadcast team was put together for the initial episodes made up of Vince McMahon, Randy Savage and Rob Bartlett, a comedian from the Imus in the Morning radio program who had no previous background in wrestling (which would become apparent very quickly). The format of Raw introduced matches between top stars instead of the typical squash matches shown on other WWF programming.
Fun Fact II: Bobby Heenan, who appears in this episode continually trying to get into the Manhattan Center, is the only person to appear on the inaugural episodes of both major shows during the Monday Night War. He would appear on commentary for the first episode of WCW Monday Nitro on 9/4/95.
1) Yokozuna defeats Koko B. Ware with the banzai drop at 3:45
Scott: So there we are. The answer to the trivia question: What was the first match in the history of Monday Night Raw? Koko vs. Yoko. It even rhymes. We begin the new live Monday night concept with Koko B. Ware doing the same job he used to do on Saturday Night’s Main Event: Putting over new talent. Yokozuna debuted in late-1992 and even got a squash win over Virgil at the Survivor Series. I was perplexed as to why Rob Bartlett came in for commentary. Vince rarely brought in outside sources to do shows, but maybe he wanted to have a cutting edge guy (Bartlett worked for Don Imus) to add some sizzle to the show. This match really didn’t have much sizzle; it was as Randy Savage said a “squashamundo”. Yoko continues his ascent as he heads to Sacramento for the Royal Rumble. Grade: *
JT: The night the WWF’s world changed for good. For years, syndication was the prime TV outlet for the company’s programming but with Prime Time Wrestling having run its course, the WWF decided it was time to shake things up. And that include the decision to go live on Monday nights with an hour of rowdy live wrestling TV that saw big time matches and angle progression not quite seen before outside of Saturday mornings. So, live from New York’s Manhattan Center, we have Monday Night Raw. Vince McMahon is in the booth, picking up the gig after Saturday Night’s Main Event died, and he is joined by the semi-active Randy Savage and local radio comedian Rob Bartlett. Our opener featured the current star heel on the rise Yokozuna taking on the ever present stalwart Koko B. Ware. Yoko had debuted in the fall and was clearly being lined up for a big time push right away thanks to his immense size and presence. Koko is rocking the high flattop here in 1993 and of course is in his High Energy gear but he is going it alone tonight. Bartlett wastes no time using “Oriental” so we are off to a hot start. The crowd is really fired up here and the concept definitely feels like an immediate hit as a result. Yoko completely overmatched Koko from the start, just shoving him hard to the mat and corners and swatting off any attempt at offense by the Birdman. He capped things off with a giant leg drop and a Banzai drop for the win. Poor Koko. This was the epitome of a squash and it made perfect sense as Yoko was being prepped for big things. Grade: DUD
*** Bobby Heenan cuts a promo teasing the impending debut of Narcissus, calling out Mr. Perfect specifically. ***
2) Steiner Brothers defeat The Executioners when Scott pinned an Executioner after a top rope bulldog at 3:01
Fun Fact: The Steiner brothers began teaming together in the NWA/WCW in January 1989. The pair of amateur wrestlers from the University of Michigan used that as their gimmick, wearing amateur singlets and headgear to the ring. In less than a year, the team would defeat the Freebirds and win the NWA World Tag Team championships, their first titles as a team. The Steiners would remain with WCW until November 1992 when the team would leave due to receiving a low contract renewal from Bill Watts. They would quickly sign on with the WWF and would make their debut before the end of 1992 on Prime Time Wrestling.
Scott: The WWF’s newest tag team comes in to demolish the ambiguous Executioners. I feel bad for the poor bastards that had to don those masks because it was a stiff, straight ahead beating that Rick and Scotty gave those schmucks. The crowd in the Manhattan Center was pretty hot and the announcers are trying to keep the fire going. There isn’t much more to say here, it’s a straight forward squash to keep the brothers hot heading into the Royal Rumble. Grade: DUD
JT: We continue to show off some of the newer talent of the WWF as the recently arrived Steiner Brothers get a showcase squash match against the Executioners. The Steiners were one of WCW’s top acts for over three years but finally decided to mix things up and head north for a run. They added instant credibility to a lagging tag division and was a no brainer move for the WWF to pick them up. Vince notes they are set for a big throw down with the Beverly Brothers at the Royal Rumble, a good matchup for them to get on track with as far as PPV goes. Both Steiners were cut and jacked here and looked ready to dominate. As they put a beating on the masked men, Doink the Clown showed up and putted around the crowd, messing with the fans. One of the Executioners shockingly got a couple of punches in but that would be about it. Rick was nasty out there, shoving one of the masked men hard into the ropes, pasting him with a clothesline and then driving him into the corner with an Oklahoma stampede. In a weird little fun fact, Vince notes that Buffalo Bills player Mitch Frerotte was heading into the WWF soon. Obviously that never happened, but an odd thing for Vince to push aggressively on a big night like this. The Steiners mixed in a couple more stuff suplexes and then finished things off with the top rope bulldog for the victory. I could watch Steiner squashes all day long. Bring on the Beverlys. Grade: 1/2*
*** Vince McMahon interviews Razor Ramon in the ring to talk about his upcoming WWF Title match against Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble. We also see footage from WWF Mania when Ramon attacked and injured Owen Hart.
3) Shawn Michaels defeats Max Moon to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with with a side duplex at 9:56
Fun Fact: Thomas Boric was born in May 1961 in Croatia. His family moved to Canada when he was 13. He played soccer in college before signing on as a goaltender in the North American Soccer League, which he played in until 1984 when the league folded. He soon began his wrestling training under the Malenko family in Florida. He took on the ring name Paul Diamond and began his career in Texas. Most of his early wrestling was in various tag teams, teaming up with Nick Kiniski and Shawn Michaels in Texas and Jeff Jarrett and Pat Tanaka in the CWA. The pairing with Tanaka to form the team Badd Company led to much success in both the CWA and AWA. When Diamond signed on with the WWF in 1990, it was in a lower card singles role, primarily that of a jobber. He was later reunited with Tanaka in the Orient Express where he wore a mask to conceal him not being Asian and taking on the name Kato. In the fall of 1992, Diamond was given the new role of Maximillian Moon, a character originally created for Konnan before he left the WWF. Max Moon was supposed to be a man from the future, signified by his futuristic space outfit, just one of the many gimmick characters we will see around this time period.
Scott: Our first title match in Raw history pits the IC Champion taking on the electric Max Moon. Shawn Michaels is one of the big stars that Raw was meant to be created for with his provocative outfits and exceptional in-ring work. During the match we have Bartlett with cheesy jokes and even equally bad impersonations, like Mike Tyson. During the show we also see Doink moving around the crowd with the WWF fans. It is pretty funny that they make fun of Tyson considering what would happen five years from now. This was a surprisingly good match as Max Moon really took it to Shawn and the crowd (back then anything could happen I suppose) maybe was feeling that Moon would pull off the upset. But Vince does mention Shawn vs. Marty at the Rumble and that kind of went out the window. Shawn gets the victory but the match was much better and more competitive that I remember it being. Grade: **
JT: For the first time in the show’s lengthy history, the WWF Intercontinental Title is on the line as Shawn Michaels defends against the mysterious Max Moon. Of course, Michaels won the strap in the fall from the British Bulldog and was just getting his legs under him as champion. His biggest challenge to date would be at the Rumble against his former friend Marty Jannetty. Moon popped up in mid 1992 and despite the garish outfit and assumed attached plans for the character, he fizzled into quasi-enhancement talent very quickly. Bartlett buried Moon right away and you could already tell he was probably going to be trouble with his off the cuff comments. A lot of them were also really forced and unfunny. We got a quick pace here with Moon grabbing most of the momentum until Michaels begged off and regrouped. Moon would hook in a hammerlock submission as he started to focus on the arm of the champ but Michaels waited him out and then caught him on a charge and dropped him with a stun gun. Doink showed up in the aisle just as Bartlett did a terrible bit where he called in to pretend he was Mike Tyson. In the ring, Moon grabbed a near fall on a roll up but Michaels maintained control of the bout. He meandered a bit through his offense, laying in strikes here and there while also preening for the fans. Savage took the Tyson stuff to the next level when he flat out said Tyson got a raw deal in getting sent to jail. Vince cut that down quickly. Moon made his comeback by slingshotting Michaels to the floor and then diving out after him. Back inside, Moon hit a nice spin kick and followed with a rolling fireman’s carry for a close near fall. A moment later he missed a senton and Michaels took advantage by pelting him with a superkick and hitting the teardrop suplex for the win. The match was sluggish in the middle but the open and finish were pretty good. The commentary did it no favors with all the nonsense bits and barely talking about what was going on, but it is what it is at this point. A nice showcase win for Michaels, who is clearly a high priority for the company at this point. Grade: *1/2
*** Gene Okerlund delivers the Royal Rumble Report, with the following matches announced:
Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty – WWF Intercontinental Title
Royal Rumble Match: Ric Flair, Tatanka, IRS, Bob Backlund, Jerry Lawler, Mr. Perfect, Ted DiBiase, Crush, Rick Martel, Yokozuna, Randy Savage, Papa Shango, Earthquake, Berzerker, Undertaker, Carlos Colon, Tenryu, Tito Santana, Typhoon, Fatu, Samu, Jim Duggan
Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon – WWF Heavyweight Title
Two weeks away on PPV! ***
*** We head back to Superstars to see footage of Kamala finally getting fed up with Kim Chee and Harvey Wippleman after one of his match. Reverend Slick would come out and protect Kamala but after Kim Chee slugged him in the face, Kamala saved him and attacked his now former handler. ***
4) Undertaker defeats Damien Demento with a tombstone at 2:25
Fun Fact: Phillip Theis was born in June, 1958 in Long Island, New York. He was training under Johnny Rodz and made his wrestling debut on the independent circuit in 1987. He got his break with the WWF when the Bushwackers forwarded an interview tape of Theis to WWF management and he was signed to a contract. He would be given the character name, Damien Demento and would be announced as being from “the outer reaches of your mind”. He received an initial push, winning his first few matches in the fall of 1992. His only PPV match would occur at the Royal Rumble later this month.
Scott: Our main event really isn’t a main event at all, but a showcase match for the Deadman. Going into the show back in 1993 I didn’t even know who the hell Damian Demento was. As for the Undertaker, well he was the top babyface, along with Bret Hart, in the company and it made sense for him to end the show with in essence a squash. This first Raw was meant to introduce the new concept and to get the top talent on the show. Winning and losing was not the focus here, nor was really having decent matches (other than the title match). Easy win for the Deadman. Grade: *
JT: Our first Raw main event is here as the increasingly popular Undertaker closes the show out against the bizarre Damien Demento. Demento is in the same boat as Max Moon, an over the top character that debut in the middle of 1992 and has done pretty much nothing besides job since. Taker is joined by Paul Bearer and is kind of in limbo when it comes to feuds as he has finished off Kamala back in November. He did have a brief issue with Nailz flair up but that ended when the convict went nuts and got himself fired. Demento went right at Taker but his attack was brief as Taker mowed him right down and then cracked him with his top rope axe blow. Demento landed one lonely final blow before Taker nailed him with a running clothesline and put him to sleep with the Tombstone. Another showcase squash for a top star here and once again, nothing to write home about. Grade: DUD
*** Vince McMahon interviews Doink the Clown and they talk about Crush’s warning to the Clown to stop making children cry. Doing basically says he doesn’t give a shit and that draws out Crush, who gives him one last warning to stop messing with the kids. ***
Scott: The debut episode of the WWF’s new flagship show was exactly what they needed. A simple look at the new set, the fresh announcing team and the top flight talent. Only WWF Champion Bret Hart was absent, which is ok as it gets new viewers hooked to the next week’s show. Sure there was some questionable gimmicks but the most important part of the show was for me the Shawn Michaels/Max Moon match. It showed that the company will put solid matches on as well as the goofy gimmicks. Speaking of goofy gimmicks, Vince can still get away with that now, but as we will see over the next couple of years, that runs old as does the look of the company. I will grade this a little high for historical purposes, but after that I will certainly be more stringent. Final Grade: A
JT: Well this certainly was a fresh environment for WWF action. Outside of PPVs and the Main Event specials, the company did not offer much in the way of live televised wrestling action, but now we will get it weekly. We still get a few squash matches but they are wisely using some name enhancement talent that had been built up in syndication to put over the stars. It at least feigns that we are getting higher quality matchups to start off here. The show cruised right along and the format felt right: four matches, one for a title and a few promos or interview sprinkled in throughout. The commentary was hit or miss and most of Bartlett’s jokes were terrible but it is just week one, so we will give him some time to settle in before completely making a judgment. Regardless, this was a huge step in the right direction and brought a lot of excitement to the WWF product. In a vacuum, there wasn’t a ton here to fall in love with but I will grade on a curve for it being the first episode of a really innovative venture. Final Grade: B-
*** Be sure to listen to the Place to Be Podcast Live Watch of this episode of Monday Night Raw. ***