Friday, August 17, 2012

Blogging Raw, from the beginning

I started watching WWF right around the time that Monday Night Raw began its run on the USA Network. Unfortunately, we wouldn't have cable in our household for another two and half years or so. I thus had to make do watching WWF Superstars on Saturdays to keep up with the storylines (which, not even being school-aged yet, I barely had the attention span for) and to catch the all-important squash matches, featuring name talent squaring off against no-names (whom my brothers and I would refer to as "flabby guys" and, later, "scrubs." "Jobbers" and "enhancement talent" would have to wait until we got internet access). Essentially, we were catching only a glimpse of what was happening in the world of the World Wrestling Federation.

It wouldn't be until mid-1995 when my family got a trial run of cable TV, which finally allowed us to stay up until the wee hour of 9 PM and catch the weekly hour of Raw. (Remember when Pay-Per-Views actually ran three times the length of a TV show? Nowadays, with 3 hours of Raw every week, we're expected to pay money for a show that's shorter than what we can catch on TV. And since Raw is basically an infomercial for the next PPV, it would be like watching a 3-hour long trailer of The Dark Knight Rises, filled with replay after replay of Harvey Dent plummeting to his death in the previous movie, Bane demanding that we feed him more, and Christopher Nolan prompting the audience to vote on whether Batman should come out of retirement.) Knowing that we wouldn't have cable for long, we decided to tape every episode we could. As a result, there is a period during the summer of 1995 where my brothers and I have memorized every feud, promo, and bit of commentary (including a rare Vince McMahon call of "One, two, and a kick-out!? No."). This is especially peculiar because, in retrospect, we started watching Raw in what is without question the worst period in the company's history. Diesel had the title, Mabel won the King of the Ring, Pay-Per-Views started running once a month despite a shallow talent pool, The Undertaker feuded over a gold chain that the announcers insisted on calling an urn, Bret Hart had a string of inexplicably bad PPV matches against Bob Backlund and Jerry Lawler, the Tekno Team 2000 and Mantaur graced the squared circle, and Barry Didinski hyped WWF Pogs on prime-time TV.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few years ago I started watching old Raws from 1993 online and actually found it to be compelling programming, nostalgia aside. There was something different about those early Raws which was lost by 1995. The atmosphere was electric, the show was (almost) always live, and there was a feeling that anything could happen. People always talk about the 123-Kid upsetting Razor Ramon, but there was also PJ Walker upsetting IRS, Mr. Perfect fighting Shawn Michaels in the street, Jerry Lawler heckling Bret Hart, and Doink the Clown putting on wrestling clinics without Dink, Pink, or Wink. If WWE has another "Old School" Raw, it needs to be at the Manhattan Center.

In the spirit of scientific discovery, I have therefore decided to watch every early episode of Raw (at the very least to the end of 1994) from the beginning to track its rise and fall. It's a big investment of time, but then again, so is watching a 3-hour Raw each week, and there are literally thousands of people who do that, so I have no excuse. Expect many uncut, uncensored, and uncooked blog posts in the very near future.

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