James Dixon: We begin with a montage covering the first ten years, which makes RAW seem like a far better show than it generally tends to be. And believe me, we would know a thing or two about that in the HoW offices! We are live on January 14, 2002 from The World, the rebranded name for WWE’s struggling attempt at running a non-wrestling venture in a prime NYC location, formerly WWE New York. This is a two-hour award show -one not motivated in any way by politics- aired live on TNN.
Award: Diva of the Decade
Presenter: Shawn Michaels, who could stake a claim for being the biggest “diva” of the past ten years himself. He has had some fun with one or two divas over the years too. I am sure by now it is no secret that he was tapping Sunny in the showers while her boyfriend Skip was in the ring. Classy girl. “We have come a long, long way since the days of Bertha Faye and Bull Nakano… not that there’s anything wrong with full-figured and masculine women. Is there ‘King’?”
Nominees: Sable, who gets booed heartily. I am surprised she gets a consideration considering the terms she is on with the company at this point. That will change later in the year of course when she makes her unwelcome return to WWE television in April. Sunny, who was a real state in 2003, is the next nominee. She got even worse after having made a bit of a comeback on the hotness charts for a while. I have noticed with Sunny that the fatter she gets, the more porn she is willing to do. At her biggest yet in 2015 when I write this, she is about to embark on a hardcore porn career. How the mighty have fallen. Trish Stratus who is the obvious favourite out of this bunch, and so far, the only one I can tolerate. Lita who was always popular but sucked balls in the ring. This was pre-Edge affair/career suicide, so she has a chance. Chyna, another future porn star, is never going to win either because she too is on terrible terms with the company due to the way she left, and, if she is to be believed (which she isn’t) the confrontation she had on her way out with Stephanie McMahon for stealing her man.
Winner: Trish Stratus. Well, I agree with that. Trish’s dress is so short you can see her dinner. Crikey. Trish puts the award over like it actually matters, gives props to all of the other women in the running, and the customary shout out to The Fabulous Moolah. She also thanks Fit Finlay for helping the women’s division grow into something far better than it was during the Sable era, though they are my words, not hers.
Coach and Stacy Keibler are handling the live presenting duties, and they introduce the “Top Ten Moments in RAW History”, starting with #10 – Rock: This is Your Life. It is the segment from 1999 that Mick Foley and WWE claim is the highest rated in RAW history, but that isn’t actually true. The honour belongs to a Steve Austin–Undertaker match from earlier in the year. The segment is good, though not as good as some make it out to be, and it probably wouldn’t crack my top ten moments of the first decade.
Award: Don’t Try This at Home
Presenter: Shane McMahon. Urgh, what rock did they drag this twit out from under? With the focus not on him, Shane struggles with the task of public speaking. As an obnoxious self-aggrandiser he is usually full of misplaced confidence, but on the New York stage he gets nervy. It doesn’t help that someone in the crowd puts him off by yelling, “Are you high?”
Nominees: The Big Show for chokeslamming The Undertaker through ring, which was a half-assed ending to a really crappy match. Jeff Hardy for trying to kill himself in the TLC IV match towards the end of last year. Anything for ratings. The Dudley Boyz for putting Mae Young through a table off the stage, which was definitely memorable. Kurt Angle for his absurd moonsault off the top of a steel cage. Who needs Jimmy Snuka when you have Kurt doing things like that?
Winner: Big Show, who from what I gather is as deluded as Shane in regards to how he perceives his own value, thinks he has won and heads up for the award. He doesn’t win though, Kurt Angle does, and he celebrates like he has just won another gold medal. He doesn’t cry this time though. Angle’s buddies Team Angle hold the U.S. flag up behind Kurt as he does his speech, though they very nearly get it the wrong way around. Angle has prepared a long soliloquy to read out, which gets him a “What?” chant from the crowd and played off the stage by the producers. What is this, the Hall of Fame? “This is bullshit,” mouths Kurt, angrily.
Stacy brings up some of the “bad ideas” in WWE over the years, including a dentist with bad teeth (to which everyone yells “Kane!”) and The Gobbledygooker, who pre-dated RAW by over two years. We get a disparaging video package burying some of WWE’s wackier gimmicks, though I take umbrage with some of them. Doink the Clown for one, because he was one of the most entertaining performers on the show in 1993, and had some genuinely great matches. And Rick Martel, who is often overrated by misty-eyed wrestling fans, but certainly had a career worthy of respect. He does not belong on a list with the likes of T.L. Hopper (another great worker away from the WWF), Man Mountain Rock, Max Moon and Bastion Booger. Neither does Earthquake, whom WWE actually offered a tryout to in 2001 with the intention of bringing him back. Quake was one of the better big men around. Johnny Polo being included on a list like this is an outrage. He was one of the best mouthpieces the WWF had used in years, far better than frustrating bores like Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji or Slick. I find it funny that Tatanka is on here too, as WWE would rehire him a few years later.
#9 – Rock funeral for Steve Austin which was a mainly nonsensical ranting promo from The Rock, and was only saved by the brilliant off-the-cuff mock politeness of Steve Austin to a guy watching Rock’s car. As is the case in a lot of clips in this top ten, the segment ends when Austin gets creative with an over-sized vehicle, in this case driving a monster truck over Rock’s car.
Award: Tell Me I Didn’t Just See that
Presenter: Booker T, who thinks the last ten years have been like a giant Spinneroonie because they have left him dizzy. That’s one way of putting it. Before going to the nominees, Book mocks Chris Jericho for dressing in all-pleather and dying red tips into his hair. Quite right too. He looks like he just came from a bondage club.
Nominees: Mick Foley for portraying three unique and memorable characters with Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack. The still-jarring hug between Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, which was memorable for sure, but WWE always forget that they ruined it first by showing Bischoff arriving backstage. Bart Gunn for his Brawl For All antics, whose appearance on this list is almost certainly a rib on Jim Ross. Kane for the magic tricks he was able to do in his early days, such as throwing lighting with his mind. Fucking A! Steve Austin for the post-King of the Ring ‘98 zamboni ring crash and subsequent battering of Vince. Classic television.
Winner: Before Booker reveals the winner, his tag partner Goldust joins the stage to talk about his “golden globes”. Mick Foley wins the award, leaving me a tad surprised because he isn’t here. Why give someone an award who is not with the company, especially when it wasn’t even an obvious winner. It’s not like there would have been a public outrage if Mick hadn’t won. I don’t get it. Coach asks Bischoff for his thoughts on not winning, but he doesn’t care. After burying Foley, calling him “highly overrated”, Bisch gets into storyline mode, saying he only cares about the next month and fulfilling Vince’s decree that he makes RAW more entertaining. Twelve years later, still waiting…
Ric Flair gets serious, talking about WWE being a close-knit family, then brings up having lost many members of that family in the last decade. Cue a moving video package set to classic WWE tune ‘Tell Me A Lie’ The piece remembers Andre the Giant (who died in 1993 and never actually appeared on RAW). Joey Marella (1994), Brian Pillman (1997), Rick Rude (1999), Owen Hart (1999), Gorilla Monsoon (1999), Yokozuna (2000), and Davey Boy Smith (2002). We only get footage of their WWF work, and very little of it is actual wrestling. Notable by their absences are the likes of Kerry Von Erich, Dino Bravo and Big John Studd, none of whom appeared on RAW but all of whom died in the previous ten years. If Andre makes it, they should too. Louie Spicolli did work on RAW as Rad Radford but he doesn’t get mentioned either because he died young from drugs. WWE don’t want to call attention to that. There are others too, but I guess they had to draw the line somewhere and went for those they considered to be bigger names. It’s a touching video, but sadly a reminder that while things had been rough on the wrestler death front, they were about to get a whole lot worse. In 2003 alone the business lost some true industry greats. The most notable amongst them were The Sheik (Ed Farhat, who died four days after this aired), Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig, February), Miss Elizabeth (Elizabeth Hulette, May), Fred Blassie (June), Pitbull #2 (Anthony Durante, September), Roadwarrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand, October), Stu Hart (October), Crash Holly (Michael Lockwood, November), Moondog Spot (Larry Latham, November), and The Wall (Jerry Tuite, December). The rate these guys were dropping was phenomenal and devastating.
Award: Gimme The Mic
Presenter: Chris Jericho, who claims Fred Blassie advised him on the suit.
Nominees: Steve Austin, who is probably my favourite behind the mic of all time. D-Generation X, who were all about catchphrases and cock jokes rather than ever saying anything meaningful, but it certainly made them popular. Kurt Angle, who was brilliant in the role of wide-eyed goof who rubbed up people the wrong way. Mick Foley, who was one of the last great storytellers behind the stick. Vince McMahon, who was the perfect dickhead heel at his best, but an absolute chore once he over-exposed himself. Finally, The Rock, whose inclusion needs no explanation.
Winner: The Rock, who like Foley in the prior award, gets booed for not being here. “The Rock wins this award over me?” pouts Jericho, despite not even being nominated. Rock appears via satellite. It’s not live, though it is presented as such. “Finally, The Rock has come back to NYC.” Lots of booing, again, because he isn’t actually there. He will be back soon enough. Jericho does well reacting to the screen, but everyone sees through the charade. Rock drones on for a long time, but he doesn’t say much worth hearing other than burying Stephanie McMahon with a promo: “Blow out the candles, not the pool boy.” After what seems like ten never-ending minutes, the crowd chant “boring” and ignore Rock’s “millions” sing-a-long bit. You can see Bubba Ray Dudley holding his head in his hands in the background. He looks like he would rather be anywhere else.
#8 WWF buys WCW. Creative editing covers Vince’s botch where he mixed up TNN and TNT. The potential of WWF buying WCW being something momentous was ruined immediately when Shane McMahon was given storyline credit for doing the deal. It became the McMahon ego show after that. In many ways, that was the week modern pro-wrestling died.
Shut Up and Kiss Me
Presenters: Tazz and Michael Cole. Tazz mistakenly thinks the award is for best duo, and expresses his belief that he and Cole are the frontrunners… until Cole hurriedly points out it is an award for onscreen romances. I knew there was something going on there.
Noms: Mark Henry and Mae Young, which was silly and made me feel dirty all over. Chyna and Eddie Guerrero, which Eddie made work with his charisma, but was still a complete waste of Eddie’s talents. For some reason, they blur Victoria’s face when showing the angle where GTV caught Eddie in the shower with ho’s. Lita and Matt Hardy, who became one of wrestling’s most infamous duos a few years later. Vince McMahon and William Regal! Of course, this is for the latter’s induction into Vince’s “Kiss My Ass Club”. Or in other words, more of Vince’s ego running wild. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, who were a good onscreen couple for a while, until they started to engulf every segment, and, even worse, the WrestleMania X-8 main event.
Winners: Steph and Hunter, who accept together, though reluctantly because they are at storyline odds. Hunter takes a drink first for courage… even though he famously doesn’t drink. Steph thinks what Rock said about her earlier means he has the hots for her, because, of course, every guy finds her so irresistible, you see. She says some nasty things about Hunter, inadvertently points out how overbooked RAW has been over the years, then puts over SmackDown! as the superior show, which it genuinely was at the time. Hunter is feeling nostalgic and asks for a kiss, then bends over and pulls his pants down, exposing full moon. Steph playfully spanks his ass in response. Real life voyeuristic fantasies come to life.
#7 – The debut of Mr. Socko which is another segment WWE loves. While I prefer Mick Foley as a serious performer rather than a comedy act, I do still greatly appreciate his comedy stylings. I also enjoy Steve Austin’s light-hearted side, and his bedpan assault on Vince McMahon remains amazing fun after repeated viewing.
Award: Network Difficulties
Presenters: Mean Gene Okerlund and Pat Patterson. “That right there, is a pair,” comments Jim Ross. Yeah, lock up your… everything.
Nominees: Mae Young gives birth to a hand, which even all these years later still makes no sense to anyone. And is still disgusting. Steve Austin giving Santa Claus a Stunner, which didn’t even air on RAW, it happened after the show went off the air. Three Minute Warning murdering the Hot Lesbian Action girls. The HLA stuff was the most transparent of all WWE ratings ploys as they started to get desperate about RAW’s tumbling ratings. The top rope splash they delivered to the lesbians while in “69” position was good mind. Brian Pillman and the gun angle, which came pre-Attitude Era, but remains perhaps the most controversial thing the company ever did. I thought it was awesome.
Winner: The crowd want Pillman, but they get Mae and the hand, which is, well, whatever. Mae is over the moon. She tries to thank people, but they play her off the stage immediately. For some reason, Shawn Michaels looks concerned.
#6 – DX’s Nation of Domination impression, which was hilarious.
Tangent: A note on the editing on this release: it is very lazy. They have kept all of the links between adverts in there, complete with “RAW continues” and “We are back” segues. Just get rid of that stuff!
Award: RAW Superstar of the Decade
Presenter: Brock Lesnar, who gets announced as WWE Champion, even though Kurt Angle is the title holder. Lesnar hasn’t been champion for two months, and won’t be again until WrestleMania. It is rather odd having a SmackDown! wrestler present this award, but the whole thing is a farce anyway so why not?
Nominees: Mick Foley. There is a story behind this. The decision was made by WWE that they didn’t want too many names in this category, so in order to accommodate Foley and avoid pissing off his fans, they decided to put him in ahead of Shawn Michaels. They cleared it with HBK first, and I am sure he couldn’t have cared less, but what a fiasco. Foley was good, great at times, but there is no doubt that Shawn is better. For a category like this, does it really matter if they add an extra nominee? The lack of Michaels in the running for the award renders it even more pointless than it already was. The other nominees are exactly who you would expect: The Rock, Bret Hart (who WWE are trying to butter up, and who gets a huge cheer from the audience and loud, “We want Bret!” chants), Triple H, Steve Austin and The Undertaker. The latter is a laugh. He barely featured in 1993, was absent for nearly all of 1994, had some of the worst programs of his career in 1995, had a reasonable 1996, a decent 1997 albeit one hampered by daft storylines, a strong 1998 but few good matches, and a terrible 1999 with the Ministry of Darkness nonsense. After returning in 2000 he was reinvented as the woeful ‘American Badass’ and sucked up the ring week after week. That he is in when Michaels isn’t again sums up what a mess this is.
Winner: Steve Austin. Who isn’t there. He could have been, and at this stage has already agreed to a WWE comeback, but Vince changed his mind at the last minute about him returning for this show, because he felt it was a waste. He was right. Vince accepts the award, as the crowd chant, “We want Austin”. Vince says there is a good reason he isn’t there: he was not invited. Triple H is pissed off that he didn’t win, so he storms off with Ric Flair.
#5 – TYSON AND AUSTIN! TYSON AND AUSTIN!
Award: Greatest Matches
Presenter: No presenter for this one, just a voice over. I cannot explain why.
Nominees: TLC IV (2002), which is a good match but overrated; Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (1997), which seemed far better at the time because of the novelty of seeing the hardcore style in a WWF ring, but again it was decent, not great. There sure is a lot of Foley love on this show. The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy (2002) in a ladder match, which was… you know the story by now. Steve Austin vs. Kane (1998) the night after King of the Ring, which was merely average. It was a good moment, and Austin’s win got a huge pop, but there are far better options. Where is Davey Boy Smith vs. Owen Hart (****¾), Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair (****¼), the brace of Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty bouts (both ****¼)? This show becomes more comically nonsensical with each passing award.
Winner: TLC IV! A match from two months earlier pitting mishmash teams against one another in a pure spotfest. Christian and Chris Jericho run on stage to claim the award for themselves. Kane, wearing a suit, his mask, and with his hair tied back in a ponytail, says the award is a big deal and that they all have to share it. Ooh, monstrous!. Bubba Ray Dudley is pleased to have been involved and thanks the other TLC match pioneers, while Rob Van Dam simply thanks his favourite wrestler: himself.
We run through the remaining moments of the decade, as apparently they have made a hash of interlacing them evenly through the show.
#4 – DX invade WCW. One of the most famous moments in the Attitude Era and definitely one of the highlights of the Monday Night War.
#3 – The Rock confronts Hulk Hogan, which led to their famous match at WrestleMania X-8. It was a spine-tingling moment, one that long-time fans and misty-eyed nostalgics thought they would never see.
#2 – RAW is Owen, which I would hardly quantify as a great moment. An emotional moment, yes, but to rank a tribute show in a throwaway list of “great” moments is ridiculous.
Edge hits the stage to announce the winner, and to little surprise #1 – Steve Austin and the Beer Truck takes the duke. It was a hugely entertaining segment, for sure, but for it to be the “greatest moment” on a wrestling show, rather sums up what RAW actually is. Which is not really a compliment. After that, Edge brings everyone on stage to say thank you for the past ten years, and we go off the air.
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