Lee Maughan: Hosted from ringside by Vince McMahon and Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan, with not a Rob Bartlett in sight, thank heavens.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Marty Jannetty
We begin with one of the most famous episodes in Monday Night Raw history as McMahon looked to boost ratings during May sweeps with two major surprise moments during a live episode. The second was The Kid’s shocking upset victory over Razor Ramon which we’ll get to later; the first occurred earlier in the show as a hooded figure emerged from the crowd during a standard Shawn Michaels promo in which ‘the Heartbreak Kid’ bragged about being the kind of guy who would defend the Intercontinental Title “anywhere, any time, against anybody”, and revealed himself to be none other than Michaels’ rival and former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. The upshot was the WWF finally delivering the long-awaited blowoff to the Barbershop window-smashing angle after a pair of false starts owing to Jannetty’s 1992 house arrest and early 1993 firing by the WWF over his alleged drug problems. Never let it be said though that McMahon wouldn’t brush problems with talent aside for the betterment of his product, as was the case with this match. And what a match, a real gem of Raw‘s first year on a par with the superb Ric Flair-Mr. Perfect Loser Leaves the WWF match a few months earlier, with the two cutting a breakneck pace right from the off, never missing a beat and never hesitating on a single move. But the reason I think the match is so fondly remembered has to be the entirely unexpected nature of Jannetty actually winning the title. True, Michaels would get the belt back just twenty days later at a house show in Albany, New York, in order to set up his title defence against Perfect at SummerSlam, but the fact he’d been feuding with him for months and their match had been all but set in stone, not to mention the fact Michaels had also seen off the challenge of Jim Duggan a few weeks previous, made Jannetty’s win all that more unexpected. NOBODY saw it coming. And when you couple that with Jannetty’s return not being announced ahead of time, and the overall quality of the match, you have one of the most memorable moments in Federation history.
Final Rating: ****
The Kid vs. Razor Ramon
Speaking of legendary moments, The Kid had joined the WWF fresh off a stint on the Global Wrestling Federation’s ESPN show as The Lightning Kid, where he’d contested a series of much talked about matches with a young Jerry Lynn. Kid at the time was very highly regarded by smart fans and insider newsletters, but had such a lean, diminutive frame that his signing came as huge surprise. Though, most feared the worst when he was trotted out on TV week after week under a variety of different names such as The Cannonball Kid, The Kamikaze Kid, etc. and was routinely beaten in short squash matches like any other nondescript enhancement wrestler. That was, at least, until the match. What looked to be yet another destruction job of the hapless youngster turned into one of the most memorable scenes in WWF history. With Ramon absolutely battering the Kid from pillar to post, he missed a charge in the corner allowing Kid to scoot up to the top rope and deliver a moonsault for a stunning pinfall victory. Never before had the WWF introduced a new star in such a fashion, by establishing someone as a no-hoper then giving them the most incredible of upset wins. The Manhattan Center crowd responded in kind, figuratively blowing the roof off the joint in a cacophony of excitement and disbelief. Overnight, Sean Waltman was a made man in professional wrestling, recast as the plucky underdog. The trick had worked so well that the WWF/WWE would recycle it again with Barry Horowitz (having already established him as a TV loser for many years before he pinned Skip in 1995), and Santino Marella (who was “plucked form the crowd” before beating Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship in 2007 in the so-called “Milan Miracle”). Not much more than your standard squash match, but an unforgettable moment in time.
In a ‘Monday Night RAW Moment’, Bobby Heenan attempts to persuade Doink to dump a bucket of water on Vince McMahon and Randy Savage, but Doink instead flings the pail of drink in Heenan’s face instead, which in turn allows him to take a series of pratfalls on the wet mats at ringside like only ‘the Brain’ can. Oddly enough, despite the joyous reaction from ringsiders, this wasn’t the angle that turned Doink babyface.
King of the Ring Qualifying match
Mr. Perfect vs. Doink the Clown
Doink! Doink! We love Doink! Well, that’s what I hear. In truth, the character only really hit the skids once it was turned babyface and the role assumed by Ray Apollo after Matt Borne was fired due to substance abuse problems. It’s a damn shame too, because heel Doink was a riot, and Borne was a great worker, both in playing the evil clown character to a tee, and in being a terrific in-ring mechanic. Case in point, this bout with Perfect which, if you take away the make-up and the wacky finish, is a really good straight up late 1980s style wrestling match that would have been right at home in the AWA. As for that finish, a second Doink appears from under the ring after the first Doink has already taken a pounding, but puts his head down early on a backdrop attempt and gets caught with the Perfectplex, which is just about the perfect ending for their three-match series, with the heel finally outsmarting himself/themselves with one trick too many. The two Doinks destroy Perfect after the match until Crush makes the save, and that’s just begging for a follow-up tag team match which sadly never came, because as we all know, there only was one Doink. Right.
Final Rating: ***½
P.J. Walker vs. IRS
After The Kid had beaten Razor Ramon earlier in the year, Razor offered him $10,000 to get back in the ring for a rematch. The rechristened 1-2-3 Kid accepted, fleeing the match with the ten grand under his arm. That resulted in Money Inc. mocking Ramon for losing both the match and the money, before offering him a job as a toilet cleaner. Razor refused, turning himself babyface in the process, and went on to defeat Ted DiBiase at SummerSlam, in what would prove to be DiBiase’s last ever match in the United States before a serious back injury in Japan forced him into permanent retirement. With one down, that left one to go, and Razor appears at ringside to distract IRS just long enough for Walker to schoolboy Irwin for the pin after 1:20. That’s not just the coolest, and that’s not just the best. That my friends, is P.J. Walker. Obviously this was more about furthering the Razor-IRS issue than any meaningful push for Walker. Though, the WWF did later find a yellow jockstrap for him to wear on his head so he could be the ‘Portuguese Man O’ War’ Aldo Montoya, after he spent some time working as a crash test dummy for Lawrence Taylor in the run up to Taylor’s WrestleMania XI match with Bam Bam Bigelow.
Final Rating: ½*
A look behind the scenes in the WWF’s production trucks reveals just how boring it is to have to listen to the producer verbally call out the names of which camera angle he’s about to switch to, over and over and over again.
The Savage/Crush Summit
Previously, Crush had been hospitalised after Yokozuna gave him three banzai drops, and this was his big return to try and clear the air with Randy Savage, who’d been sat at ringside, unable to involve himself in the situation at the risk of being fired. Crush arrives with Mr. Fuji and holds Savage responsible for advising him to wrestle Yokozuna despite a back injury he had incurred whilst attempting to slam him on the U.S.S. Intrepid, and is upset that Savage just sat motionless at ringside while he got destroyed. Savage attempts to calm the situation down by offering to talk things over, and they eventually shake hands with Crush telling Fuji to go to hell. Can you smell a set-up coming? Crush decks an unsuspecting Savage on the floor and drops him throat-first across the ringside railings, before Yokozuna arrives to aid in the beatdown. This of course led to the reintroduction of Crush as a Japanese sympathiser, or whatever the hell he was supposed to be, and built to the Savage-Crush Falls Count Anywhere match at WrestleMania X, which brings me to another point. Prior to re-watching this tape, I’d been taking a look at WWE’s The Best of SmackDown 2009-2010 Blu-ray, which featured an angle in which CM Punk shaved Serena’s head bald in an attempt to “cleanse” her and inordinate her into the ways of straight edge. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that even fairly standard angles like this one stand out so much more than the aforementioned Straight Edge Society thing, and have so much more lasting value. Clearly the over-saturation of wrestling on television is to blame, as it became less and less viable to run mid-card angles for significant periods of time like the Savage-Crush feud did. I’m not necessarily advocating a return to the squash match-fuelled formula of early 90s pro wrestling telecasts, but it’s certainly a sad reflection on the evolution of the business over the years, an evolution ironically enough that was caused by the advent of the so-called “Monday Night Wars”, with Eric Bischoff programming WCW’s Monday Nitro head-to-head with, what else, Monday Night Raw, creating a boom that would cause irreparable damage to the industry as a whole.
In another Monday Night RAW Moment, Mr. Perfect bumps into Shawn Michaels outside the Manhattan Center before the show and, surrounded by fans, they get into a crazy brawl on the street with Perfect throwing Michaels onto the bonnet of a nearby car, breaking the windshield in the process. That was actually a rib as the car was actually being rented by ring announcer Howard Finkel, who hadn’t been clued in to the angle. Pretty intense stuff for its time.
Yokozuna (c) vs. Crush
Unusually, this is actually the match that led up to the previous Savage/Crush Summit angle, so why Coliseum Video couldn’t have compiled them in chronological order, I’ve no idea, and it’s really jarring to see a guy who’s just turned heel suddenly come out as a babyface again, even when you know you’re watching a compilation tape. Crush is such a weird subject really as in early 1993, he looked like the kind of guy who could have conceivably made a play to being the WWF’s top star and champion, had it not been for Lex Luger’s push. But instead he couldn’t beat Doink, lost to Yokozuna, began listening to The Vapors, went heel, then put part-timer Randy Savage over at WrestleMania X before doing not a whole lot until his real-life arrest for firearms possession and temporary disappearance from the WWF. Obviously, this match is an excuse for the double whammy of setting up the heel turn and giving Yokozuna a strong win heading into his SummerSlam title defence against Luger, but in kayfabe terms, you really do have to question what on earth Crush had done to earn this shot. In actuality, it had been semi set up as result of his almost slamming Yokozuna on board the U.S.S. Intrepid during Yokozuna’s Bodyslam Challenge, but why that should entitle him to a crack at the gold when Luger actually slammed the sumo slob is open to your own interpretations I guess. The match doesn’t follow any particular conventional form either, as Crush looks pretty good in the early going before the magic of a commercial breaks gives the advantage to Yokozuna, who anti-climatically pins Crush with the Banzai Drop a few minutes later, in what wound up more closely resembling an extended squash bout. And then it literally turns into a squash, as Yokozuna drops three more Banzais on the helpless Crush, whilst single-handedly putting down Tatanka AND a bunch of jobbers to boot. Can anybody say “monster heel”? Eventually, Savage jumps up from the announcers desk at the behest of McMahon, who continually tries to remind Savage that he faces suspension if he gets involved, and Savage pulls Crush out of the ring to safety when Yokozuna goes up for a fifth banzai. You can kind of see his point about Savage not coming to help him actually, and he does a stretcher job just to put the exclamation point on things. Better match that you’d expect from these two, and primo angle to boot.
Final Rating: **¾
Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger Contract Signing
And now we go even further back in time as this contract signing took place before the Yokozuna-Crush match. Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji arrive with Jim Cornette, who declares himself the official “American spokesperson” for Yokozuna, blaming WWF president Jack Tunney for providing the Japanese contingent with poor translators. Obviously, there was some truth to that as Cornette had actually been brought in to the WWF to do the speaking for Yokozuna, whose gimmick was that he only spoke Japanese, and Fuji, who was a terrible promo at the best of times. Luger comes out to sign the contract, following which Cornette reveals a clause that states Luger only has one shot at the title, with no rematches, absolutely guaranteeing that he’ll win the title at SummerSlam. Watching this stuff back, it’s easy to feel sorry for Luger because the WWF was totally playing into his “choker” status that came from years of losing NWA World Title matches to Ric Flair in Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW. By putting him in this position and changing their minds at the last minute, they just completely killed him dead. He spent the rest of his WWF tenure in mid-card limbo, waiting around for a badly-needed heel turn that never came before finally packing his bags and heading home to WCW just in time for the first ever episode of Monday Nitro. This was a really weird contract signing too by pro wrestling standards, as no table got turned over and no babyface destruction job occurred, although I suppose they’d already done that angle earlier in the year with Yokozuna and Bret Hart leading up to their title match at WrestleMania IX. Luger blows his final line, declaring that he’ll be bringing the WWF title back to the “UFA”, so there’s one for the conspiracy theorists as to why he failed in his “one and only shot.” Jim Cornette was superb in this whole thing of course, though why it warranted inclusion on this tape given the lack of an available follow-up is anyone’s guess.
In a further “Monday Night RAW Moment”, Randy Savage crawls under the ring during a match with Doink, as Tiger Jackson crawls out the other side dressed as the rather politically incorrect “Macho Midget.” Doink finds the whole thing hilarious, so at least there’s some character consistency there. Jackson later joined a babyface Doink as his pint-sized doppelganger Dink.
Quebec Province Rules
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Steiner Brothers (c) vs. The Quebecers
A handy on-screen guide informs us that under “Quebec Province Rules”, the titles can change hands on disqualifications and count-outs, and that piledrivers, jumping off the top rope, and throwing an opponent over the top rope are all considered grounds for a DQ, all of should be enough of a red herring to point to a screwjob title change on the horizon. In reality, that was likely down to the fact The Steiners were an established team who didn’t much like doing clean jobs on television, whilst The Quebecers had only been around for about two months and are essentially made up of The Mountie and his apprentice, although Jacques Rougeau seems pretty reinvigorated not to be quite so smothered by a one-dimensional cartoon gimmick, even if he is dressed in The Mountie’s old togs. Perhaps his heightened enthusiasm comes from his younger partner, Pierre. Either way, The Quebecers were a hell of a team, at least during their first run. Once they got to WCW as the Amazing French Canadians, they deeply lacked in credibility, and Jacques in particular just looked old and tired. In many ways, this is the start of his last big run, despite another WWF stint years later and a string of well-attended, big money house show cards he promoted himself in Montreal, including a rather famous pinfall victory over Hulk Hogan at the Montreal Forum in April, 1997 whilst Hogan was still WCW World Champion. Here though, the team are still relatively young. A little rough around the edges perhaps, as there are one or two awkward spots of hesitation where both teams look to be on different pages of the same book, but generally they hold things together well for the 17+ minute duration of what is essentially The Quebecers grand coming out party as a legitimate duo, or a trio if you count their preppy, rich boy manager Johnny Polo, a guy you probably know better as moody grunge rocker Raven, but here fresh off a stint in WCW as surfer beach bum Scotty Flamingo. As you might expect, there’s a lot of teasing in terms of piledrivers, over the top throws and that sort of thing, but the decision eventually comes when The Quebecers piss The Steiners off one time too many, and Scott blasts Jacques with Johnny’s hockey stick, drawing the disqualification and gifting the titles to Jacques and Pierre. A clean win probably would have done more to establish The Quebecers here, but the result did at least set up months of rematches on the house show circuit, although The Steiners never really got any revenge on television as they were on the outs with the promotion by early 1994. Good match, though The Quebecers would go on to have even better ones throughout 1994 against Bret & Owen Hart, Marty Jannetty & 1-2-3 Kid, and The Headshrinkers. Nice to see them win their own match too, unlike say, The Undertaker, who’s record in casket matches is utterly abysmal.
Final Rating: ***½
One final Monday Night RAW Moment sees a man in the front row propose to his girlfriend as Bobby Heenan makes a nuisance of himself, handing her a snotty tissue, eating her popcorn and later announcing: “I just knew he was in love, he loves her, you can tell. He’s four-and-a-half bucks in the hole already!” In case you didn’t know, Heenan was awesome.
20-Man Intercontinental Title Qualifier Battle Royal
Before the match, Heenan declares that he’s going to pick Booger, which is like the kind of joke Rob Bartlett would have made, only much, much funnier. I assume everyone reading this is already au fait with how battle royals go, so I’ll just note a few key points, firstly that this is actually the last match Giant Gonzalez had in North America, although he did make one last appearance on WWF television, coming to ringside to square up with Adam Bomb and former manager Harvey Wippleman after Bomb’s match with Mike Davis on the October 24th edition of Wrestling Challenge. Also in there is Superfly Jimmy Snuka, making up the numbers on a two show swing, which is notable because he was actually still ECW Television Champion when this match was taped, even though ECW was still just a blip on the independent wrestling radar at the time, and in fact, by the time it aired he’d already lost the title to Terry Funk in a cage match at NWA Bloodfest Part 1. There’s also a Stampede Wrestling reunion going on as Owen Hart renews his rivalry with the former Makhan Singh, Bastion Booger.
Things eventually come down to six guys who divide themselves into some rather lopsided teams, Randy Savage and Razor Ramon on one side, Adam Bomb, Rick Martel and The Quebecers on the other. Savage dumps Bomb with a fireman’s carry, but that allows The Quebecers to quickly chuck Savage to the floor, making it 3 vs. 1. If he had any sense, Martel would team up with Razor because clearly The Quebecers are going to turn on him at some point, but then heels are often idiots so I guess that’s okay as long as you ignore the psychological aspect of things. The WWF audience in 1993 in general probably wouldn’t be able to grasp the concept of a heel and a face briefly teaming up for a common cause, just so they can fight one another later. Not that it matters much anyway as miscommunication leads to Pierre eliminating Jacques on a poorly-timed clothesline, and Razor throws out Pierre from behind, leaving Razor and Martel as co-winners. Very standard stuff until the end, but the crowd was amped up since they knew they were getting a new champion out of it.
Final Rating: *¾
WWF Intercontinental Championship (Vacant)
Razor Ramon vs. Rick Martel
This is from the same taping as the battle royal but aired the following week, and in a nice touch, Razor has switched from red to green attire in an attempt to at least try and make it look as if there’s been a passage of time greater than 20-minutes. “They’re starting slow, but not really” says Savage. What the HELL does that even mean? So they’re starting at a relaxed, mid-range pace more suited for a leisurely Sunday afternoon float across a lake on a swan-shaped pedalo are they? Actually, they pick up the pace considerably, “fast, but not slow” as Savage might say, building a pretty exciting back-and-forth match, heightened by an enthusiastic crowd buying every near fall. It helps that the gap between these two at the time wasn’t as great as it would soon appear, as this is basically a passing of the midcard torch of sorts, with Martel teetering precariously on the edge of a cliff marked “usefulness” and Razor having not yet ascended up the ranks to become something of the perennial babyface Intercontinental champion of the mid 90s. You can actually see Martel on the downswing just from the fact that Razor powers out of his Boston crab finisher, a sure sign that he was nearing the end, at least until his brief WCW resurgence in 1998. Razor rolls through a crossbody which the fans buy as the finish, but Martel kicks out. It’s all over for real just a few moments later though as Razor blocks a backbody drop and nails the Razor’s Edge for the first of his four reigns as Intercontinental champion. Martel worked really hard to get Razor over here, and Ramon had his working boots on for his big win. It wasn’t a classic or anything, but it did a lot to establish Razor as a player in the WWF, and it was the first step towards building the Ramon-Michaels ladder match at WrestleMania X. Good stuff. “Look at THIS!” barks Savage to conclude, as if he’s never seen a guy wearing a title belt around his waist before.
Final Rating: ***
Summary: Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. Yes, internal politics dictated that Ric Flair’s rejoining of WCW in February, 1993 meant he was officially considered persona non grata in the WWF, and consequently, his thrilling Loser Leaves the WWF match with Mr. Perfect, the first truly great match in Raw history, is omitted from an otherwise damn fine look at the first year of the most important television program in wrestling history. Indeed, further imperfections arise when you consider the dullness of the battle royal as compared with the excitement of Marty Jannetty’s matches against Doink and the 1-2-3 Kid, or the famous angle in which Money Incorporated smashed Brutus Beefcake’s surgically repaired face open with a briefcase after Beefcake’s return match from his parasailing accident in 1990. But minor quibbles aside, this is two hours of great angles, killer matches and genuinely important moments. Released many years later, RAW: The Beginning, Seasons 1 & 2 would bring a lot of the footage from this tape into the DVD era, and is a terrific pick up. However, that particular collection omits the Steiners-Quebecers title change, and the angle involving Randy Savage, Yokozuna and Crush, making Raw: Prime Cuts still a very worthwhile addition to your library. Highest recommendation.