Just because it’s wrestling doesn’t mean episodes don’t matter.
For years, syndicated wrestling shows on local UHF stations were nothing but occasional angles and non-competitive matches. The WWF was particularly guilty of this, but as cable television rose in importance ratings were falling for its Monday primetime show, fittingly called Prime Time Wrestling, Vince McMahon and company tried something new.
Emanating from the Manhattan Center in the heart of New York, Monday Night Raw would be something different. Rob Bartlett was brought in as an announcer. Even though he was terrible , there was something new. Mr. Perfect ended Ric Flair’s WWF career on the second edition of the show. As the weeks went on, Monday Night Raw would continue producing slightly better quality matches and having important events take place on “free” television. While Raw’s quality was mostly up and down in the first year (and took a nose dive until Monday Nitro forced WWF to be more competitive), there was a notable episode that shook the company up. The date was May 17, 1993, and two very memorable events took place on the same show.
Billy and Bart Gunn shooting off fake guns would probably be a big deal in 2017. That certainly wouldn’t happen given the number of gun incidents in the US. Their victory was against two non-WWF roster members and doesn’t need to be discussed except to say this was an example of the kind of match you’d see on the one hour wrestling shows of this time. Another said match was Tatanka against Scott Taylor (future WWF star at the very least). Yokozuna as the number one contender for the WWF title was clearly being back up for champion Hulk Hogan. He at least a semi-competitive match with Kamala. Now that we’ve gotten through the time killing matches, let’s get to the important stuff.
The Kid as he was called had lost a number of matches on various syndicated shows under different names. He was supposed to be squashed by Razor Ramon as he had been previously. Then in about two minutes, whole world went crazy. The Kid hit a moonsault press into a three count and turned Raw from just another wrestling show into something *Vince McMahon voice* WHERE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! The Kid, who became the 1-2-3 Kid and a number of other names over the years, would become one of the smallest wrestlers to receive a push and even become a multiple time champion. He was a junior heavyweight in the land of giants. Before wins and losses didn’t mean anything, this moment meant everything in making Raw matter.
Shawn Michaels was involved with a number of different people at this time as he wrestled a pair of matches with veteran Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He was attacked the previous week by Mr. Perfect, including a very famous moment when Perfect threw the Intercontinental Champion on top of a car. Lord Alfred Hayes mentions a surprise heading into the building at the beginning of the episode. Shawn Michaels comes out to chants of “Shawn is gay.” Needless to say, a chant like that DOES NOT HOLD UP IN 2017. A masked man interviews Michaels’s gloating, and it turns out to be former tag team partner, Marty Janetty. Jannetty challenges him for the main event later on in the show. Vince McMahon calling out Michaels was a great bit of character work. Regardless of what you think of him personally, his on-camera presence is a net positive. On a show with one huge happening, WWF had another shocking moment as Jannetty finally conquered his former Rockers tag team partner, Shawn Michaels.
This edition of Monday Night Raw certainly wasn’t perfect, but it proved what could happen with an intense crowd and actual genuinely shocking moments. Monday Nitro would even better exemplify shock and awe when it came on the air 2 ½ years later. This also shows the advantage of a one hour television. This was so much more digestible than almost any modern wrestling show, most of which go two hours and many others which go three hours or longer.