I know the answers to your questions, but I don’t feel obligated to answer them. All right, out of the goodness of my heart I’ll answer three of them.
1. Will the Greek god of wrestling be making a list of the top matches in RAW history? No. By this point, you should know my disdain for columns that regularly feature Top 10 or Top 25 lists, which are usually done because the writer has run out of ideas or to cover the obvious fact that he or she has difficulty writing complete sentences and paragraphs. This leads me to a question of my own: are there any women writing Internet wrestling columns or are they almost all written by single – and likely to stay single – men?
2. Will Achilles Heel be in St. Louis on Monday for the 1,000th episode of RAW? Yes.
3. Will Achilles Heel be part of the show for the 1,000th episode of RAW? Well … that’s none of your business! (Yes, I consider this a third answer. Stop whining.)
One more thing I can tell you is that, judging by the volume of emails, there is a lot of interest in the 1,000th episode of RAW. WWE has done a terrific job of making the 1,000th episode seem important. Not only has WWE promoted the show by bringing back former stars, mostly in an entertaining program involving Heath Slater, but there have been videos of wrestlers talking about their favorite moments from RAW. The 1,000th episode will also be the week RAW moves to three hours.
Just to make certain lots of eyeballs are watching RAW on Monday, WWE has loaded up the show with star power. The Rock, Brock Lesnar and Bret Hart are all advertised for Monday’s show, which will kick off at 8 p.m. with a reunion of Degeneration X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H). What would really be cool is if The New Age Outlaws (Road dog Jesse James, Billy Gunn) and X-Pac were also there to complete DX.
The three-hour show will be headlined by John Cena cashing in his Money in the Bank contract for a championship match with WWE champion C.M. Punk. There also will be a wedding ceremony between Daniel Bryan and A.J. Warning: televised wrestling weddings rarely proceed without incident.
The WWE hype machine is running at full strength for the 1,000th edition of RAW, but it’s not undeserved. RAW truly changed professional wrestling.
It’s difficult to overstate how much RAW changed professional wrestling. During the decades prior to Monday Night Raw’s debut on Jan. 11, 1993, pro wrestling shows were frequently taped in small television studios, sometimes with just a few rows of fans. WWE (then WWF) would tape in an arena, but it would tape several weeks of television in one day, as organizations such as Ring of Honor still do today.
Televising a weekly show live before an audience was something that hadn’t been done since most Americans only had black-and-white televisions. In truth, WWE eventually moved to a system in which RAW was live one Monday then the following week’s show was taped the next night, but the idea of a weekly live show was a huge change.
Another change was that the purpose of weekly television shows used to be to promote the house shows in each market. RAW cemented the evolution of television shows becoming the focal point instead of the house shows. Instead of promoting house shows, televised wrestling started being used to promote pay-per-view events. But RAW became a destination in its own right.
The first RAW, emanating from the Manhattan Center, definitely had a different feel from previous wrestling shows. The show featured Yokozuna beating Koko B. Ware, the Steiner brothers defeating The Executioners, Shawn Michaels successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship against Max Moon, and the Undertaker defeating Damien Demento. But it was the live feel of the show, with live interviews and an anything-can-happen excitement that made RAW feel different.
The moment when I knew RAW would be successful was its third week, which featured a “Loser leaves the WWE (then called the WWF)” match between Curt Hennig and Ric Flair. Other than specials such as “Saturday Night’s Main Event” or taped matches from house shows on, for example, “Prime Time Wrestling,” fans weren’t accustomed to seeing a televised match between stars of the magnitude of Mr. Perfect and The Nature Boy.
Hennig and Flair delivered a tremendous match worthy of a pay-per-view main event. Keep in mind that, unlike what would occur today, only a tiny segment of the audience knew Flair was leaving WWE, so there was real suspense in the outcome of the match.
When I saw the Flair-Hennig match, I knew RAW was going to be a huge success. As is evident by the 1,000th episode this Monday, Achilles Heel was right again.
RIGHT ON THE MONEY: Speaking of being right, those wise enough to follow my advice about Money in the Bank saw a very good pay-per-view. Both Money in the
Bank matches lived up to their hype, Sheamus defeated Alberto Del Rio in a solid match for the World Heavyweight championship, and C.M. Punk retained the WWE Championship in an excellent match with Daniel Bryan.
My only complaint is with the presence of filler matches, which included a tag team match between Primo and Epico and the Prime Time Players (Darren Young, Titus O’Neil), a handicapped match between Ryback and the team of Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins, and a six-woman Divas match. Because these matches weren’t promoted ahead of time, they felt like filler. WWE would benefit from announcing all of its pay-per-view matches ahead of time so the fans would have a reason to care.
The filler matches prevent Money in the Bank from rising to the level of excellent, although all four advertised matches delivered. I would go over them for you now … except you should have followed my advice and watched the show for yourself!
Although I didn’t make official predictions, my preview made it clear that I thought John Cena and Dolph Ziggler were the best choices to win the Money in the Bank matches. Sometimes I almost get tired of being right all the time. Almost.
RAW TRIVIA: Who were the broadcasters for the first edition of Monday Night RAW? (The answer appears later in this column.)
FINDING REWIND: WWE isn’t the only wrestling company going to three hours. TNA announced that “Impact Wrestling Rewind” would air on Spike at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, serving as a preview for Impact Wrestling at 8 p.m. However, the Spike listings for Thursday don’t include Rewind. If you want to see Rewind, it is available on TNA’s Web site.
HOT POTATO: The Combat Zone Wrestling World Junior Heavyweight Championship changed hands twice last Saturday at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. Sami Callahan defeated champion Drake Younger in a one-hour Ultraviolent Ironman match, only to have A.R. Fox come to the ring and cash in a guaranteed title match, similar to the Money in the Bank contract, and defeat Callahan for the title.
TOURNAMENT NEWS: As I told you last week, Ring of Honor will conduct a tournament to crown new tag team champions, a vacancy created when Kenny King, who recently won the titles with Rhett Titus, left for TNA. The tournament will begin at television tapings on Aug. 3 in Baltimore. The tournament final will be at “Death Before Dishonor X,” an Internet pay-per-view from Chicago Ridge. Also on Aug. 3 in Baltimore, Ring of Honor World Champion Kevin Steen will defend his title against Homicide.
MORE TOURNAMENT NEWS: There are now 10 teams entered for CHIKARA’s King of Trios tournament in Easton on Sept. 14-16. The latest team to be added is the powerful trio of The Warlord, The Barbarian and Meng. The Warlord and Barbarian teamed up in WWE to form The Powers of Pain. Meng, who also wrestled as Haku and King Tonga, is a very well-respected wrestler who won tag team gold in WWE.
Heel Turns will have more next week on CHIKARA, which returns to action July 28-29 in Maine and Massachusetts. The main event in Maine features Grand Champion Eddie Kingston defending his title in a historic match against Sara Del Rey, who is leaving for WWE. Del Rey faces Icarus in another man vs. woman match the next night, which features the Young Bucks defending their tag team titles against the Throwbacks in a best-2-out-of-3-falls match.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The broadcasters for the first edition of Monday Night RAW on Jan. 11, 1993, were Vince McMahon, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and New York radio personality Rob Bartlett, who was supposed to add humor to the broadcast. Bartlett was off the show by April.