The Retro Raw Review – Episode 2 (January 18th 1993)

By Nathan Bones @FretlessNathan

In a year that marks the 25th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw, the time seems ripe to revisit and reflect upon the early episodes of what is now WWE’s weekly cable juggernaut. As such, this piece for Kayfabe Today marks the second in a new series analysing the first year of Monday Night Raw on a week-by-week basis.

In each instalment I’ll give the key facts for each show, a breakdown of every match and an editorial analysis; detailing the in-ring/character work and booking decisions. This will act as a viewing guide and give you everything you need to know about each episode. Most importantly, hopefully it will to entice you to watch along on the WWE Network.

If you missed first article in this series, detailing the format change from Prime Time Wrestling and a rundown of the debut episode, do check it out. I welcome thoughts, feelings, suggestions and feedback to help improve this series as we go along

Now: let’s take a closer look at the second episode of Monday Night Raw!

Key Facts

Recorded & Broadcast: Monday January 18th, 1993

Location: Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center, New York, NY

Attendance: 600

Nielsen Rating: 2.8 on USA Network

Body count: 6 out of 19 performers on the show have passed away; equating to a 31% death rate.

Commentators: Vince McMahon, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Rob Bartlett

Note: On this evening, Episode 2 was broadcast live and Episode 3 was taped immediately afterwards, for transmission on the following week.

The Show

SHOW OPENING – We open on our three-man commentary team standing at ringside, as Vince welcomes us to the show, to the sound of the old school siren. As he introduces Bartlett, the New York un-funnyman tears up a picture of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and mutters cryptically, “fight the real enemy”.

Very strange, but presumably it’s a continuation of the self-contained storyline from last week of Bobby being (literally) left out in the cold after being replaced by the usurper Bartlett. In my mind, anyone of lesser talent who replaces Heenan on the headset is a heel, not a babyface. But I digress…

Meanwhile during the introductions, Savage is brutally attacked from behind by Repo Man, who then steals his trademark hat and flees. There’s utter chaos as we go to the opening titles.

MAIN TITLES – I can’t praise this theme tune enough. Even if you know it well, go and give it a listen again; it’ll brighten your day.

MATCH ONE – MR PERFECT VS “TERIFFIC” TERRY TAYLOR

Perfect walks that short aisle with the sweet neon WWF logo behind him to a thunderous pop from the Manhattan faithful. Far-from-Terrific Terry on the other hand, comes out to a proverbial popcorn fart and is clearly the heel of the piece.

The renewed Perfect was amid a landmark babyface run after turning on Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan just prior to the 1992 Survivor Series; teaming with Randy Savage (as a replacement for the recently-dismissed Ultimate Warrior) against the combination of Flair and newcomer Razor Ramon.

Sadly, this golden run was short-lived as Perfect’s nagging back injury finally caught up with him later in ’93, as he was removed from Savage’s Survivor Series team without explanation. He then re-emerged at Wrestlemania X as a special guest referee for Yokozuna vs Lex Luger; later cropping up sporadically for some time after that. As far as his in-ring WWF career was concerned, this was his swansong period (if you discount the brief post-WCW run in 2002).

Match Analysis & Key Points

· Perfect displayed some crisp, collegiate fundamentals throughout the match, demonstrating to the uninitiated just how solid of a performer he truly was. His dramatic (but not-overdone) babyface selling in the face of a weak heel like Taylor really carried the match and showed a vulnerability to Hennig that hadn’t been seen since his run as AWA World Champion almost a decade prior.

· Taking nothing away from Taylor’s ringwork, the men had a surprisingly competitive TV match; the likes of which were rarely seen in early 90s WWF. Taylor punished Perfect with chops, a cinched-in headlock and a backbreaker to his already-weakened spine. To pile on the misery, an All Japan-esque gutwrench powerbomb from Taylor (briefly turning the Manhattan Center into Budokan Hall) led to a tremendous babyface comeback from Perfect and standoff slugfest. Really thrilling stuff.

· During the match, Bobby Heenan called by telephone to give his thoughts on the Flair/Perfect situation and add some colour to the commentary. He ragged on Bartlett (for generally being awful) and remarked to Savage that Repo Man “repoed your cheap hat and he’s gonna repo your career, pal”. I thought the call-in was very effective. It furthered Heenan’s beef with Bartlett and reminded the audience of his ongoing issues with Perfect and his partisan leanings towards Flair.

· The match ended, inevitably, with interference from Flair. He distracted the babyface on the outside, attacking him with shots and chops. After bringing the action back into the ring, Perfect blocked a suplex attempt from the former Red Rooster and nailed him with a majestic Perfect Plex for the pin and the win.

Winner – Mr Perfect by PIN (10:30)

MATCH AFTERMATH – Perfect chases Flair out of the arena after the Nature Boy high-tails it following his botched distraction.

Author’s note – Worthy of note during this match is how vocal the fans were for a 1993 show. Granted, this is a hardcore, smart New York crowd, but chanting “we want Flair” and (albeit unfairly) “this match sucks” during the bout certainly seems like shifting sands. Certainly, it appears that the crowd having

their own agenda and ‘getting themselves over’ is not a recent phenomenon and quite the eye-opener for a show of this period.

IN-RING INTERVIEW – After two vintage commercials for ICO-PRO and Slim Jim, we return to the ring to see Vince invite out WWF World Champion Bret Hart for his first appearance on Monday Night Raw to hype up his title match at the next weekend’s Royal Rumble in Sacramento, California. The Hitman missed the inaugural edition the prior week due to a house show appearance he was pre-booked for.

Hart’s promo was nondescript, and that’s being kind. He claimed he had “no respect” for Razor Ramon; calling him the “lowest scum in the WWF” for his attack on Owen and slapping his father Stu. He threatened to kick Ramon down “Unconscious Street” at the Rumble and declared that he was the “toughest, meanest and best”.

Author’s note: I would confidently describe myself as an enormous Bret Hart fan. I’d dare say I’d consider him the best pure technician in the history of the genre. But was he the “toughest and meanest”? Not even close…

PROMO – In a pre-recorded promo to camera for the Headlock on Hunger campaign for Somalia Relief, the Undertaker and Paul Bearer state that “no-one should starve to death”. Whilst I fully support the statement, why on Earth would you choose a supernatural, undead character to deliver it? Welcome to 1993 WWF…

MATCH TWO – MARTY JANETTY VS GLENN RUTH

It’s back to ringside for our second match of the night. Janetty comes out to an underwhelming pop and appears just so dated with his old Rockers music and gear; not to mention the frosted mullet. His opponent is noteworthy as being the future Headbanger Thrasher. Indeed, Create-a-Wrestler Ruth is completely unrecognisable here in multi-coloured trunks, white boots and a full head of black hair.

Match Analysis & Key Points

· This was yet another standard enhancement match, with nothing of note to report. Ruth attempted to blindside Janetty with an attack at the bell, but this was met by pedestrian offense from the former Rocker in reply. Janetty looked to be off a step here and arguably a shadow of his former self.

· The match was painfully slow and far from registering the innovative offense of his Rockers heyday, Marty chose instead to slowly work on Ruth’s arm as if this was a Mid-South house show match. Entirely lacking in psychology or crowd interest, the match ended abruptly (and to utter silence) as Ruth was downed with a Rocker Dropper for the successful cover. In no way did this position Janetty as a credible challenger to Michaels’ IC title. Absolutely rotten.

· What’s more, the match couldn’t be salvaged by a mid-match call from Shawn Michaels to hype his Intercontinental title match with his old partner. HBK was a hackneyed promo at this point and whilst he didn’t spout his favourite line “I’ve got news for ya”, telling Vince and Co that he was going to “shake (Marty’s) world, rattle his bones and roll him out of the Royal Rumble” was simply embarrassing.

Winner – Marty Janetty by PIN (5:10)

PROMO – Next up is a flashback to the previous week’s episode of WWF Superstars of Wrestling, wherein the tension between Crush and the antagonistic Doink the Clown reached boiling point. Crush took a conciliatory flower from the clown and was brutally attacked by him from behind with a prosthetic arm. The beatdown was only stopped when referees and officials lunged in to the aid of the big Hawaiian.

This angle was unbelievably effective in showcasing Doink as a psychotic heel to be feared. Indeed, such was his early impact on audiences that he was soon plugged into house show main events for the WWF title against Bret Hart. Incredible to think how far his stock would fall over the coming months after this early promise.

PROMO – We then see a package highlighting Wrestlemania IX and showcasing Las Vegas as the “world’s premier family vacation destination”. It’s great to see that these commercials have been left in the Network versions of these episodes, as they provide real context for the viewer and truly illuminate what the superstars during this period are fighting for.

RINGSIDE – We’re shown a split screen between the commentary team at ringside and Sean Mooney outside the Manhattan Center with Repo Man, who is gloating over having stolen Savage’s stolen hat. Randy is irate and leaves the commentary booth to go and find Repo. As if from nowhere, Bartlett asks if anyone has seen his car.

PROMO – We’re treated to another retro-style Royal Rumble Report with “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who outlines the key matches for the next weekend’s Rumble and a rundown of entrants for the match itself.

Razor Ramon gives a short cookie-cutter promo to camera, gloating that by Sunday, the gold will be “round my neck, on my fingers, then on my waist”. Even in hindsight, Ramon just doesn’t appear a good fit for a feud with Hart and nothing in his presentation here portrayed him as a real threat to the title. In more recent years, the Royal Rumble has often been the stage for “riskier” title matches in terms of drawing ability or star power, as the Rumble match itself would be the draw for pay per view buys or tickets. This appears to be just such an occasion.

PROMO – We’re briefly back outside of the Manhattan Center whereby a desperate Randy Savage is searching high and low for the Repo Man, in an effort to gain back possession of his missing hat. Alas, the attempt is unsuccessful, as Repo is nowhere to be found. What a feud this is shaping up to be…

MATCH THREE – EL MATADOR VS RIC FLAIR

Our final match of the evening sees Ric Flair square off against perennial babyface El Matador (Tito Santana). Still, this being a smart Manhattan crowd, it’s the Nature Boy who enters the arena to a huge ovation. Bartlett posits that Ric’s wardrobe is “courtesy of Victoria’s Secret”. Hilarious…

Match Analysis & Key Points

· Considering both were veterans and arguably past their primes, the workrate on show in this match clearly demonstrated an innate ability by the two men to have a compelling TV match with no build or backstory. The match was instead all action and no filler. Workhorses indeed.

· Flair gave the New York audience a true ‘greatest hits’ package of almost every high spot in his arsenal; certainly a treat to see on a 1993 WWF show. He talked trash and crisply executed snap-mares, knee drops and chops to Matador; who sold them as if he’d been shot at close range. Ever the master of gesture, Flair absolutely owned the ring, stalking it like a preening peacock as he measured his man.

· Tito was no slouch either in the bout; showing himself to be a useful utility player (albeit in the twilight of his career). He offered a robust babyface offense of deep armdrags, hip tosses and backdrops, which Flair sold with aplomb; begging off as if his life depended on it.

· After launching Flair inside-out in a trademark spot from an Irish whip, Tito attempted to put Naitch away with his el paso del muerte (flying forearm smash), but Flair ducked, sending El Matador flying out of the ring. At this point, Mr Perfect returned to ringside to attack Flair and the two adversaries fiercely brawled with officials down the aisle to the back. Understandably, the referee had no choice but to throw out the match and rule it a no-contest. Without question, this was an excellent angle.

Winner – NO CONTEST (8:40)

MATCH AFTERMATH – After returning from the final commercial break, a clearly het-up Flair makes way back to ringside and with Vince holding a microphone, cuts a characteristically maniacal promo into the camera; directing his ire at Perfect. He states that “the WWF isn’t big enough for me and Perfect. Next week, I want Perfect!

When Vince asks Flair to clarify, Flair responds, “One of us stays and one of us goes! Not out of the building, but out of the WWF!”, setting up a loser leads WWF match next week on Raw. As a final word, Flair promises Perfect that “you’ll never see the day in your life that you beat Ric Flair”.

Mr Perfect emerges and when asked by Vince for his response to the challenge, answers in the affirmative. “I’ll take that in a heartbeat. Flair: you want me? You got me!”

As a promo segment, this was incredibly effective; the intensity was great and established next week’s blow off match with a real sense of desperation; particularly from Flair. Whoever would’ve thought that a wrestler can get their thoughts across succinctly and effectively by looking into the camera and addressing it, rather than awkwardly staring into space and reciting a scripted promo? Just a thought.

PROMO – Repo Man is seen wearing Savage’s stolen hat and cackling as he seemingly tows away Rob Bartlett’s car, much to the comedian’s chagrin, as Raw goes off the air.

Summary

Although far from perfect, this episode marked a distinct improvement from the prior week’s episode, working fairly well from both an episodic television standpoint and as a wrestling show. Showcasing Flair and Perfect as two clashing egos on a collision course was very smart and having both wrestle in competitive enhancement matches certainly built the anticipation for the stellar showdown on the following week.

Of interest to the contemporary wrestling fan is truly how little the Royal Rumble was built during the main body of the show. Certainly, Marty Janetty’s match and Bret Hart’s promo were half-hearted

attempts at hyping the impending show, but the thirty-man match itself was only covered in the old-fashioned Events Center slot with Okerlund. Instead, such was the lack of solid build that one was left with more excitement for the Flair/Perfect match next week than the Rumble itself.

With that particular anachronism notwithstanding, it’s clear from this second episode that the show was developing a direction all of its own, with some of the early wrinkles in the format being ironed out. Even the lacklustre Randy Savage/Repo Man mini-feud over the stolen hat was an example of a self-contained storyline that wasn’t being followed on any other programming from the WWF. This was a sign of better things to come further down the line.

I hope you’ll join me for my next instalment in this series, when I’ll be reviewing the classic Loser Leaves WWF match between Ric Flair and Mr Perfect. Until then…

Show grade: B– . Somewhat of an improvement, but still finding its niche.

 

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