Friday, February 10, 2017

#FBF -- Fake Fighting Frenzy -- Monday Night Raw Episode #1 (January 11th, 1993)


"WELCOME EVERYONE TO MOOONDAAAY NIIIGHT RRRRRAAAAAWWWWWWW!!!"

This is the first in what will hopefully be a continuing series wherein I go through and literally watch every single episode of Raw from the beginning and share some (hopefully) amusing and (possibly) interesting thoughts on each episode. These early episodes are really kind of hilarious and ridiculous and wonderful in their overwhelming 90s-wrestling-ness and if you have the WWE Network, I highly recommend going back and watching them as they are maybe one of the most entertaining things on the Network. And so, without further ado...


-We begin with the "Bobby Heenan can't get into Raw" story arc for the night. Heenan arrives at the Manhattan Center to find out that he has been replaced by none other than Rob Bartlett, a stand-up comedian and actor that no one has ever heard of.
If he looks a little bit like a deer in headlights, it's because he absolutely is. More on that later. Or, well, probably sooner rather than later. I kinda low key love this opening video though...

-Hey, I was right! Rob Bartlett just called Yokozuna "Yokozuma!" and then followed it up with "you know, the guy who's got the diaper going there between dead man's land and no man's land." Oh, it gets worse.


-Koko B. Ware comes out to the music he shared with Owen Hart while they were a tag team who's only gimmick was basically dressing as 90s as f****** possible. Just look at this guy. He looks like Romero Brito's vomit. It's amazing how much Owen progresses over the next year and a half. He was really a main event level guy there for a brief moment in 1994. I dunno where all that momentum went because I haven't gotten far enough along in the episodes yet but it can't be good, judging by where he ended up. But anyway, seriously, look at f****** Koko B. Ware. His nick name is the Birdman. He's flapping his arms like wings. If you can't love this, you're not going to get very far into early-to-mid 90s Raws.


-Enter one of my favorite and one of the most underrated wrestling villains of all time. Yokozuna was big, menacing, and deceptively athletic and yet still cheated regularly to win matches for some reason. He also had the best tandem of managers with Jim Cornette as his American representative and Mr. Fuji his, I dunno, guru or whatever. At this point he only has Fuji but he's still pretty much the top heel in the company and is billed as never having been knocked down let alone defeated in a match. He's looking pretty slim at this point at a mere 505 lbs. (he would later get as high as 568).

-One of my favorite things about these early Raws is this ridiculous catchphrase they would constantly try to shoehorn into totally random places (with sometimes unintentionally hilarious results): "UNCUT! UNCENSORED! AND UNCOOKED!" Or, well, some combination of those, anyway. There's really no way of knowing what the originally intended order is because I'm pretty sure they never once said them in the same goddamn order two times in a row. Just one of the many special charms about these episodes.

-Rob Bartlett once again refers to "Yokozuma" to ask whether the rules stipulate that he should be wearing a bra. I would make fun of this but the guy just got done saying he has his own gravitational pull and his own "no fly zone" and "an ass like an amphitheatre." It's 1993. Let's just marvel at that patented Announcer Vince McMahon Fake Laugh ©. I mean that thing is great. It's literally exactly the same every time. I honestly think he might just have a soundboard of himself where he just pushes a button for his laugh. I know. It's 1993. Whatever.


-Here's Bobby Heenan telling Mr. Perfect all about NARCISSUS. So it was never really clear to me if this character's name was originally intended to be Narcissus (with the emphasis on "cis"--that's not a metaphor, that's just the syllable with the emphasis; although...) or if Bobby Heenan pitched it in a pitch meeting by mispronouncing "narcissist." Because eventually it's decided that the character is "The Narcissist" but Heenan continues to pronounce it "NarCISsus." Either way, this is pretty great. It's Bobby Heenan talking, so, y'know. Also, note that Heenan makes a point to mention Narcissus's mental prowace here. Just want you to remember that for later when we find out who this Narcissus is. I can't wait.


-Oh man. The old school Steiner Brothers. Complete with University of Michigan letterman jackets and amateur wrestling headgear for Rick and a killer mullet for Scott. And who else would they face on this debut edition of Raw but The Executioners?! Get a load of these guys.
This is kinda one of my favorite parts of early episodes of Raw--the totally random, blatantly obvious jobbers fighting the biggest stars in the company. I can't decide which I like better: the ones with TERRIBLE 90s gimmicks or the ones that they care so little about, they don't even HAVE gimmicks. Like the cult hero Barry Horowitz or Duane Gill. Even Justin Credible and Matt Hardy were lowly jobbers in these days. But anyway, The Executioners are your basic garden variety low [LOW] budget BDSM ninja tag team. It's the most 90s wrestling thing ever.) (Also of note: the first "WHAT A MANEUVER!" in Raw history. Certainly not the last.

-Anyway, the Steiners obviously just wreck these guys and, honestly, if you don't love watching the Steiners just beat the living dog mess out of people, you probably shouldn't be watching wrestling. Scott Steiner arranges a "meeting of the minds" for The Executioners and Bartlett feels this is a good time to bust out his Three Stooges impression. (I know it's 1993 but surely THAT has jumped the shark by then, has it not?) The whole finishing sequence is phenomenal. Double underhook powerbomb punctuated with a top rope tandem bulldog. That's how you win a goddamn match. Even the little things like Rick punching out the other Executioner to stop him from breaking up the pin. Excellent.


-You may have noticed Doink in the crowd there. I'm pretty sure he's still heel at this point. I kinda feel like he was at his best as a heel. He was just this creepy evil clown who was weirdly mean to people (especially children) and it was kind of great. I'm a big fan of Doink either way because he could wrestle and he was a f****** clown. If you can't love a wrestler who's a f****** clown, I dunno what to tell you. Rob Bartlett, being someone who was grabbed off the street and has probably never watched wrestling in his life, asks "That's Dork the Clown?" and for some unfathomable reason, Vince says that yes, in fact, it is, even going so far as to wonder aloud what kind of name that is for a clown. Savage is about to chime in to correct them but Vince beats him to it because obviously someone is screaming in their headsets "IT'S DOINK YOU F****** MORON, WATCH YOUR GODDAMN MONITOR!"

-"It could be Dork! It could very well be Dork!" Vince has this wonderfully obnoxious tendency to essentially respond to any inane thought the other announcers might bounce of him with "YOU MAY VERY WELL BE RIGHT, WOULDN'T THAT BE SOMETHING?!" He seems to think it creates some sort of weird excitement that something totally stupid could be true just because he isn't 100% sure it isn't. It's so weird and delightful.


-Presenting Act II in the Bobby Heenan saga wherein he dresses up as a woman and claims her "nephew Rob Bartlett" is inside and she's supposed to see him. Heenan gets found out ONLY when he accidentally gets caught adjusting his wig because wrestling is the best ever at appealing to stupid people by making them feel smart.


-Razor Ramon comes out to the ring for an interview, apparently wearing a shirt designed by a young Romero Brito. I know that's two Brito jokes in the first 15 minutes but how else can you describe that thing? I mean, it's the 90s, everything looks like it was designed by Romero Brito. Also, dear GOD that accent. Although I can't deny that I giggle every time he says "Hitmang" or "McMang." I'm only human, after all. Having said that, why is Razor talking like he's recovering from serious brain trauma?


-OMG you guys. Max Moon. I love Max Moon. Just look at his entrance. HE'S SHOOTING FIRE AND STREAMERS OUT OF HIS ARMS. And he's challenging for the Intercontinental title. I take it back. I like the jobbers with gimmicks better. Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels is still coming into his own as a singles performer and doesn't even have the self-performed theme song yet. This is actually a surprisingly good match considering one of the guys in it is kinda maybe supposed to be a robot from the future I guess? Max Moon is actually a pretty good wrestler. Also it's super weird to see Michaels hit the Superkick as a transitional move.

-I was going to say something about Rob Bartlett's terrible Mike Tyson impression but like...what could I possibly say? And he WON'T STOP DOING IT.


-I can't express how much I love these little news-style breaks starring Mean Gene Okerlund and featuring the classic cheap ass blue screen wrestler promos. I don't know when they decided to replace this concept with the contrived backstage interview centering around some pointless question like "how are you feeling right now?" but I wish they would just bring back the blue screen (or green screen now, I guess) promo. It's all contrived and ridiculous. Just do the the thing.


-Act III of the weird Heenan story sees him dress up as Rob Bartlett's apparently orthodox Jewish uncle? Yeah, I don't know either...


-Oh God...Kamala. What could be more 90s wrestling than blatant racism. Kamala, you see, is a savage from Uganda who is controlled by these two handlers dressed in African safari gear. So these two guys LITERALLY went to Africa and brought a jungle savage to America to make him fight for money. This isn't me being a "SJW" or whatever, this is the exact story being told. And no, it doesn't make it OK that Kamala is portrayed as the babyface and his handlers as the heels. He's an AFRICAN SAVAGE. He can barely f*cking speak.


-DAMIAN DEMENTO! Guys, I can't. He's got TEETH in his giant vampire cloak collar! Look at his hair! Seriously I don't know what I was thinking before when I said I couldn't choose between jobbers with ridiculous gimmicks and ones without gimmicks. This is amazing.

-I don't even know what I could say about Crush, brah. This is the most nothing gimmick you could possibly get. Having him close the show by yelling at Doink and getting squirted with a water gun is the kind of thing that makes you wonder if they cared at all about this show succeeding.

-Hey, look, Heenan finally gets in when the show is already over. I do love a happy ending.


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