Later tonight, WWE celebrates the 25th anniversary of its flagship program – Monday Night Raw – with a three-hour celebration of the show’s history, coming live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center, the show’s original home. For now, though, let’s go back to the very first episode!
After years of watching Prime Time Wrestling Monday nights on the USA Network, the then-World Wrestling Federation announced a brand new show would debut on January 11, 1993 – MONDAY NIGHT RAW! 13-year-old me was very excited about this, though I couldn’t have any idea how this new show would help to forever change the landscape of professional wrestling.
Instead of a two-hour recap show, Monday Night Raw would be one hour of live wrestling action, coming live from New York City’s Manhattan Center, a small venue not far from the WWF’s main arena, Madison Square Garden. From the moment the show went live, it had a different feel from other WWF programming, which was typically recorded from larger venues with the company’s usual stellar production values. Being live, the commentary wasn’t polished – and there’s no way it could have been with the show’s lead announce team.
Company owner Vince McMahon was joined by wrestling legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage and New York City radio DJ Rob Bartlett, a guy who knew nothing of wrestling. Every word out of Bartlett’s mouth proved this. It’s amazing he lasted on the show til April.
While Monday Night Raw is the flagship show now, featuring marquee matches and addressing multiple stories over the course of three hours, when it started, it was simply another show. The main event of the first episode was The Undertaker fighting Damian Demento – which not even Gorilla Monsoon would call “a main event in any arena in the country.” The only title match on the show was Shawn Michaels defending his Intercontinental Title against Max Moon.
It was a different time, before the Monday Night Wars started and every quarter hour was hotly contested between the WWF and their rival, WCW’s Monday Nitro. The WWF Champion at the time, Bret “Hitman” Hart, didn’t even appear on the show. We did get an interview with Razor Ramon, his opponent at the upcoming Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
The show also included a match between the newly-signed Steiner Bros. and the Executioners. The first match ever aired on Monday Night Raw? The 500-plus pound future WWF Champion Yokozuna literally squashing Koko B. Ware. The best segments of the evening, though, had nothing to do with wrestling, though. Former Prime Time Wrestling co-host Bobby “The Brain” Heenan trying to get inside the Manhattan Center, wearing a variety of costumes, only to be thwarted by Sean Mooney.
It was not what I would call a good show. It certainly can’t compare to anything that’s been put on TV in the 25 years since. Raw would go on to feature huge title changes and big storyline development, which were completely absent from the first episode. In fact, it would be two weeks before the first real big match – Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair in a loser-leaves-WWF match – and May until the first real memorable angle – 1-2-3 Kid upsetting Razor Ramon – happened.
Monday Night Raw has evolved over the last 25 years, and surely we’ll see a lot of that evolution (and maybe even members of the wrestling faction Evolution) tonight on the USA Network. WWE has already released a hype video for tonight’s show, with clips from the history of the program. Check it out:
What are your favorite Monday Night Raw moments? Let us know in the comments.