While I admit to not seeing every episode of what was originally WWF Monday Night Raw, I do remember the dawning, not to mention a time when it wasnâ<80><99>t the flagship programming of todayâ<80><99>s WWE.
Sit a spell and let olâ<80><99> Uncle Stevie tell you about it.
Before Raw, there was the two-hour Prime Time Wrestling airing on Monday nights. It went through various formats, the most famous being Bobby â<80><9c>The Brainâ<80> Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon hosting the weekâ<80><99>s festivities. From there, it became a show taped before a studio audience — some say WWF employees forced to stay at work late — with Vince McMahon joining Heenan.
The final format for Prime Time was the roundtable discussions, ala the McLaughlin Group. Such luminaries as Hillbilly Jim and Hacksaw Jim Duggan would offer their insight.
Iâ<80><99>m not kidding.
Prime Time Wrestling was an opportunity to catch up on any WWF programming you may have missed over the weekend. They would air matches and angles from the syndicated Wrestling Challenge and Superstars of Wrestling. The banter between Heenan and Monsoon was akin to Abbott and Costello. Classic and very funny. Why it was changed, I donâ<80><99>t know. It was a classic example of â<80><9c>if it isnâ<80><99>t broke, donâ<80><99>t fix it.â<80> Yet, they tinkeredâ<80>¦and tinkeredâ<80>¦and tinkered.
Until we got Hillbilly Jim and Hacksaw Jim Duggan offering their insight.
Again, Iâ<80><99>m not kidding.
On January 4, 1993, Prime Time Wrestling left the air. Monday Night Raw would take over the following week. A live broadcast from the Manhattan Center. The venue was unique and intimate. Almost a throwback, far removed from the large arenas where the WWF appeared. In case youâ<80><99>re wondering, the card featured:
Yokozuna defeating Koko B. Ware
The Steiner Brothers beating The Executioners
WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels over Max Moon
The Undertaker defeating Damien Demento
Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, and Rob (Who?) Bartlett appeared. Bartlett was (and still may be) an area â<80><9c>comedianâ<80> who primarily appeared on Imus in the Morning. He portrayed various wacky characters, including Blind Mississippi White Boy Pig Feets Dupree, an old blues musician from Louisiana.
NOTE: The above reference came from Bartlettâ<80><99>s Wikipedia page that Iâ<80><99>m reasonably certain he wrote himself.
In fairness, Bartlett made the transition quite well. When he wasnâ<80><99>t providing surprisingly insightful commentary, he was entertaining as hell, making Vince, Savage and everyone viewing Raw break up in gales of laughter.
Ok, NOW Iâ<80><99>m kidding.
He was a train wreck. Not funny. Not insightful. He would soon be gone.
A live wrestling show back then was unheard of, yet there it was. No worrying about spoilers or finding out what would happen on an upcoming episode. There was an energy and excitement that you just couldnâ<80><99>t get from a taped program.
The live broadcasts lasted for a year. For whatever reason — likely money — Raw started alternating the live broadcasts with an airing from a Tuesday TV taping. Over time, Raw would go back to live broadcasts, mainly in response to WCWâ<80><99>s Monday Nitro hanging their shingle on Monday nights.
799 Rawâ<80><99>s later, here we are. Weâ<80><99>ve had highs (the Attitude Era) and lows (see the Bartlett reference above). Weâ<80><99>ve seen the birth of Mr. McMahon and the famed Hand of Mae Young and Mark Henry.
God, I wish I was kidding on that one.