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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

900 to 1

Next Monday, WWE celebrates the 900th edition on Monday Night Raw. Whether this is or isn't the exact 900th ep (their 800th one was a little off) and whether you like WWE or not, this is really is a marvelous achievement.

I was curious to see, though, how exactly the first show would be able to compare with the most recent offerings, so I got into to my high tech, patent pending McNichol Time Expander (a subsidiary of the McNichol Eliminator company) and went back to January 11th, to the Manhattan Center, for the first ever Monday Night Raw.

Here are my findings.......

So, we're ready for the first ever Monday Night Raw. And who will be the first ever guy we see on the Broadcast? Vince McMahon? Shawn Michaels? Bret Hart?

Nope, it's legendary announcer Sean Mooney. There's a trivia question to ask your friends. Mooney tells us it is cold in New York, but hot in the building. Or something. He stumbled over the word 'Elements', which was sort of funny because it came over a little bit like "elephants" - "braving the elephants" would have been a fun gimmick for the opening night.

Mooney is interrupted by Bobby Heenan trying to get into the building, but Mooney tells him Rob Bartlett is hosting. Who? I don't remember him at all. Wait, stop the tape, Google time.........

Wow, Bartlett hosted along with Vince and Savage for the first 3/4 months of the show. I genuinely have no recollection of the guy. Admittedly during this time we didn't get Raw in this country, but we were shown highlights on WWF Mania, with Todd Pettengill (ooh, I wonder if we'll get Pettengill, the poor man's Borash, on this show?)

Back to the tape, and Heenan is upset because he can't even buy a ticket. Nice (not very) subtle way of saying they are sold out.

After some dubious theme music - I think Raw have had some great theme tracks, but not this one - we hear the familiar "welcome everyone" of mid-90s Vince. He intros the show over a very annoying siren. I assume that's the fashion police come for Savage's garish gear and Bartlett's appalling sunglasses.

Bartlett does an Adamle, and tells us it's going to be Koko B Ware v YokozuMa. Not Jeff Harvey then? Actually Adamle did his faux pas in MSG, so maybe it's a New York thing.

Sure enough, here is Koko, quite oddly to Owen Hart's music. I always think of Bird Bird Bird and Piledriver when it comes to Koko, but I forget he teamed with Owen for a bit in High Energy. Indeed, Yoko also teamed with Owen, winning the tag belts.

Yoko comes out, and he is pretty sizable. Yoko was a big star and a multi-time WWF champion. The other was a jobber. Which one is in the Hall of Fame?

McMahon says that Yoko has a combination of all of the martials arts. Yeah, he was a real high-flier, with some great kung fu style kicks, wasn't he? (Note sarcasm) Bartlett says Yoko is "One big butted Oriental." McMahon replies "In a manner of speaking, yes." I assume in the manner that he has a big butt, and not oriental, since he was Samoan. Bartlett says ass, and Vince and Savage piss themselves a little bit. Remember when WWF was PG and you couldn't say 'ass'? Oh right......

From this point, just assume that Bartlett does a weak Yokozuna - sorry, YokozuMa - size joke every twenty seconds, and suffixes it with "eh Vince?"

Vince gives a plug at this stage for the Royal Rumble (it was thirteen days later) and says tat Yoko will be in it, as will Savage. In fact they were the last two remaining.

Yoko has a big bruise on his left, erm, breast, but it doesn't stop him, erm, standing basically still, but throwing Koko all over the ring. Eventually he drops a leg, hits the splash in the corner then the Banzai Drop. The ropes look really loose, by the way.

After a Rumble hype video and an ad break, it's back to Vince and co, with a swift cutaway to a gratuitous shot of a young lady in a leotard holding up a Monday Night Raw board. Wearing a one-piece, still PG.

They cut to a Bobby Heenan-in-front-of-a-curtain promo (despite him being outside the building). He talks up his new charge "Narcissus", who is yet to be named as Lex Luger. He would be unveiled at the Rumble, and he'll be going after Mr Perfect. Good stuff from Heenan, though he ended up going well overboard at the Rumble.

Steiner time next. Bartlett exposes idiocy a little bit more by asking which is Scott and which is Rick. I didn't catch the names of their opponents, who are such uber jobbers, it seems, that they don't get clear announcements and are under hoods, too. I'm guessing they are called The Executioners, because they did that gimmick a fair bit back then, with different outfits.

(As soon as I typed that, Vince called them Executioners)

Just as this match starts, with Scotty hitting a hard looking tilt-a-whirl slam, Doink appears in the background, with Vince referring to him as "That goofy-looking clown." and not by name, initially. Eventually Bartlett calls him Dork the Clown, and Vince actually agrees, and has to be put right by Savage. Quite the turning of tables.

The Steiners destroy their opponents with an array of good (and painful) looking moves, including a finisher of a bulldog version of the Doomsday Device. I miss these old squash matches. They only take up a couple of minutes, and really get over the moves of the wrestlers in question.

Cut back to Mooney outside. (I like how they wouldn't let Heenan in, but Mooney is on the team and still has to stay outside) He sees a security guy stopping a 'woman' who claims to be Rob Bartlett's aunt. Of course it's Heenan, and it's ludicrous, but it's funny because Heenan was just a riot.

In house adverts next. Bret putting over IcoPro (it was a supplement that WWF promoted), Savage putting over Slim Jims, and Lord Alfred (badly) putting over WWF video games. I think he said Bert The Hitman Hart.

Next it's Razor Ramon, who was number one contender at the time, doing his Bad Guy Cuban shtick. He does draw some cheers for this with the (slightly) raucous NYC crowd, but overall it isn't a big sell promo considering he is a world title match less than two weeks later.

Some promotion for Headlock for Hunger charity event later, it's time for the IC champ. Which was.....any guesses.........? Yes, you at the back, well done, it was Shawn Michaels.

Before HBK, we get the entrance of Max Moon, who gets no music and seems to firing off some balls of fire. Bizarrely, though, this is shown from a very long range camera. The music starts and the focus comes in as he enters the ring and does a couple of forward rolls. That's Paul Diamond (Kato) in the suit by the way.

Michaels has his old music, the one Sherri sang, and a blue strap to the IC belt. The crowd are getting a little behind Shawn (the heel) as Vince says "Thus far it seems to me Max Moon is outclassing Shawn Michaels." I guarantee that is the only time that sentence has ever been used in the history of man.

Mid match break, and it's back with Michaels on top, and a little plug for Shawn v Marty Janetty. This is all over the place now, because Doink is back out, while Bartlett does a bizarre Mike Tyson impression for about five minutes, with Vince 'interviewing' Tyson and including a reference to two royal divorces. I wonder if they played this to Iron Mike (Tyson, not Sharpe) when they got him on board in 1999.

Michaels, near the end of the match, hits Sweet Chin Music, but this is before he put lead in his soles, or whatever, because it is simply called as a "savate kick", and he actually finishes Moon with a side suplex, which was his finisher at the time. Imagine someone having a side suplex as a finisher now.

After a WWF Mania plug, it's Gene Mean and his little mustache to give us a Royal Rumble Report. Promos from Shawn and Marty, and a run down of some of the Rumble competitors. At one point Fuji talks for his charge, and says YokoZuma fives times. Not just Bartlett then.

A guy with a big beard and ringlets tries to get into the building. Hmm. No joy there for Bobby Heenanstein. Which is nearly the name of the other ballroom, funnily enough.

A flashback to Superstars shows a Kamala face turn, when Reverend Slick tried to stop Kimchee and Harvey Wippleman berating the Ugandan Giant, and Kamala turned on is captors. Man, face turns were easy back then.

BONG! Taker is here......I think. The crowd cheer the weak sounding gong, and the camera stays on Damien Demento, Undertaker's opponent for the evening. No lights out, nothing. Suddenly Taker is getting in the ring. We just take that entrance for granted now.

Taker swiftly beats Demento, as Vince plugs Santana v Flair and Perfect v Shango for the following week's show. He also plugs Woody Allen v Mia Farrow in a steel cage, which I assume was a one hit joke, as I don't remember a Donald v Rosie style segment, though I may be wrong.

Finally, we get Doink (dork?) with Vince outside the ring. Vince asks why Doink makes kids cry. The clown says they have no sense of humour. Vince says Crush is after him, to which Doink sells no fear. Crush comes out to threaten the clown. I don't remember too many Crush promos. I now know why. Doink squirts the big Hawaiian with a water gun. Crush chases him (slowly) around the ring a little, then gets into the ring, and his music plays. Is that it? Remember this angle would play out at WRESTLEMANIA.

The show ends with Bobby Heenan finally being allowed into the building. The joke being that the show is over, and Bobby doesn't realise it. Har dee haha.

So that's it. How does it compare to today? To use an Eric Bischoff phrase, it's apples and bricks. There are aspects of wrestling that worked in that era that could still be used, like the squash match, but we've evolved so far we often don't even realise it. From a production standpoint, this looks so different. There are less big stars, a lack of quality in the ring. The crappy Vince humour is prevalent in both, mind you.

I quite enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane. Maybe I'll take a look at some other old shows in weeks to come. Thanks for joining me in this little jaunt. Mind your step, now.

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