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Case Number 19749: Small Claims Court

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WWE: Raw: The Beginning

WWE // 2010 // 540 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // September 23rd, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Ike Oden never breaks kayfabe.

Editor's Note

Our review of WWE: Raw: The Best of 2010, published February 27th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Anything can happen…

The Case

Next to Sunday, Monday is possibly the least-looked forward to day of the week. For kids, it marks the first of five grueling days of school. For many adults, it marks the first of five grueling days of work. Hell, the sheer anticipation of it is the only factor that holds Sunday back. (Unless you're religious, then I suppose nothing holds Sunday back. I envy your belief system.) Since 1993, there's only been one reason for wrestling fans to look forward to Monday: WWE's Monday Night Raw.

The program colored my childhood since its inception, and was one of the few excuses my family gave me to eat dinner in front of the television or stay up past my bedtime on a school night. The wrestlers were loud, colorful, and charismatic, sporting gonzo nicknames like "Macho Man" or "Mr. Perfect" to fit their cartoonish personas. Storylines were simplistic, often ridiculous, and just childish enough to keep me from switching over to, I dunno, WCW's Nitro or, if it was a late night encore presentation, Red Shoe Diaries (I had an unwieldy childhood). With Raw having just passed Episode 900, WWE celebrates the anniversary with Raw: The Beginning.

Prepare yourself for nearly 12 hours of the most badass, painfully cheesy, and nostalgia-instilling wrasslin' action you could ever want. We're breakin' it down match by match, clip by clip, and disc by disc, so hold onto your hat, brutha, 'cause anything can happen on Monday Night.

Disc 1

• Koko B. Ware vs. Yokozuna
"Was that a butt drop!?!" Yes, Vince McMahon, as a matter of fact, it was. The set starts us off with a whimper, rather than a bang, in what feels like a one-sided squash of a match: Koko stands nary a chance against the zillion pound 'Zuna. Like watching an elephant have a street fight with a housecat, we all know how this one's going to turn out. Skip.

• Undertaker vs. Damien Demento
Again, we're given a total job (re: predictable match), clearly meant to build up the badassitude of Undertaker. It's meant to set him up for bigger matches later in the set but, as Undertaker is still super relevant in contemporary WWE, I don't see why this is necessary. Pass.

• LOSER LEAVES WWE MATCH: "Nature Boy" Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect
"We're pickin' up the Sci-fi Channel on USA!" Randy Savage inexplicably blurts as blonde narcissists clash. It's an epic match that starts out with a lot of hilarious face slaps and builds toward a heel-on-heel Figure Four Climax. Watch for brass knuckles from the heeliest of the two.

• 10 Bell Salute To Andre the Giant
A somber slide show of the big man accompanies a honorary salute led by McMahon, making for a fitting remembrance to an unforgettable entertainer.

• Lex Luger vs. Jason Knight
Lex, still in full heel mode, manages to elevate another "job match" with sheer showmanship alone. His 'pin by pinky' is the ultimate in jock arrogance. Fun, but thankfully brief.

• Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
Everybody has a price and everybody's gonna pay: DiBiase hams it up with his Troll 2 worthy cackle and ruthless cheating, giving Brutus quite the handful. The results are too much mullet to keep in one ring.

• The Megamaniacs
"Hulk" Hogan, the real American and Elvis Presley of 80s wrestling, follows up on the previous match to foretell a Pay-Per-View prophecy, an alliance against DiBiase and his heel cronies. While a neat piece of jaw-flapping, it's a total tease, representing Hogan's only appearance on the set. Still, Hogan's gift-of-gab makes it hard not to like. I mean, who else can dub his wrestling chums "The Megamaniacs" and still look like a badass?

• Bret "The Hit Man" Heart vs. Fatu>
Bret Hart's rep is built up in this match against Fatu (one-half of the tag team wonders "The Headshrinkers"). The match is pretty even, and some interference from Satu makes it sweet when the Hit Man takes care of business. Elvis as a commentator (a wrestler who I believe later became The Honky Tonk Man) is beyond stupid, but it's worth hearing "Macho Man" play along with the gimmick.

• Doink the Clown Pie-Faces Elvis
I find Doink especially terrifying outside of the ring. Even when hurling pies at Elvis impersonators. Let's continue, shall we?

• Crush on the Sands of Hawaii
Crush does an interview. Crush crushes a coconut. Move along, folks, nothing else to see here.

• Mr. Perfect vs. Rich "The Model" Martel
Again, this one plays out a lot like the previous Mr. Perfect match. Martel feels like a knockoff of the real deal, and when the action finally kicks into gear, it's over. Chalk this up to more filler.

• Doink the Clown vs. Kamala
"He is…the worst clown that ever lived!" according to Macho Man. I agree (well, maybe next to John Wayne Gacy). Though Doink creeps me out, even I have to admit the clown can wrestle and cheat with equal gusto, as this match proves. He's to the WWF (he left well before the "WWE" name change) what the Joker is to Batman, sans the rabid popularity. I find this fact disappointing as I think I enjoy more of his matches on this set than any of the other second stringers featured the set. Love it or hate it, he's featured in a lot more matches to come. I, for one, love it.

• Lex Luger vs. Crush
Luger, still heel, gives it (non-sexually) to Crush. Here in all its glory is Luger's mirror gimmick, not to mention a cameo by not one, but TWO Doinks. It's a recipe for roided up fun, especially for Luger fans.

• Mr. Perfect Attacks Shawn Michaels
A man-on-the-street interview with sexy Shawn Michaels goes crazy-street-fight when Mr. Perfect enters the picture. You will believe a man can be pile-driven onto a car.

Jim Duggan, a personal childhood hero of mine (I wish I still had my foam hacksaw) has a great match Michaels that devolves into a veritable massacre! For the ladies, there are lumberjack wrestlers wearing flannel shirts sans pants-surely every woman's fantasy.

• The Kid vs. Razor Ramon
"Say hello to the bad guy!" No, I didn't mess that Scarface (1983) quote up, that's Ramon's catchphrase. This is a classic match that turned The Kid into the 1-2-3 Kid. Witness the match for this turning point and to see a pre-Face (re: Good Guy) Razor Ramon (actually Scott Hall doing a bad Al Pacino impression) in action.

This is a pretty high-flying match, featuring lots of rope flips and drop kicks. Solid, but not mind blowing, and Mr. Perfect makes another cameo, which is always interesting.

Here's the introduction of the Doink switcheroo, wherein the "evil, evil clown" (Savage's words) has a double hidden underneath the ring. Will Mr. Perfect pound the prankster? A fun, if ridiculous match between two solid wrestlers.

Disc 2
• Shawn Michaels vs. Russ Greenberg
Shawn Michaels does what he's good at: be a big douche bag and accomplished wrestler. Still, he can't quite save this match. Just ask the people in the background who leave before it ends. Apparently no one thought to tell them the WWF, unlike High School Football, typically ends their matches with crazy reversal climaxes (this one's no different). I hope they beat the traffic.

• 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH: Marty Jannetty vs. Doink the Clown
Hells yeah! This is a solid match, filled with tons of reversals, body slams, and, fast paced action. Janetty and Doink distinguish themselves athletically before the plot twist bothers to kick in…and bring "Macho Man" into the ring with it! Check it out.

• Yokozua Body Slam Competition on the U.S.S. Intrepid
Witness history in the making as American athletes across the professional sporting sphere attempt to body slam 'Zuna, who mocks the USA with Japanese stoicism and ginormous girth. It's sort of embarrassing for the non-wrestlers present (mostly football players), but worth it to see a defining moment in the career of Lex Luger. Also, you get to hear Savage call Yokozuna and his crew "gooks." It's…awkward. They don't make gimmicks like this anymore (or allow such blatant racial slurs on basic cable, thank God).

• Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Bam Bam bites off seemingly more than he can chew in the form of the Hitman, but the match is interrupted by the nefarious Jerry "The King" Lawler. Marvel at Bret Hart's parents (?) being mocked with-gasp!- old person jokes. The gimmick fizzles out quick.

• Jim Cornette Arrives in the WWE
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan reunites with the tennis racket carrying heel in question. 'Nuff said!

• Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Doink the Clown
Could there be a more ridiculous pairing? The day-glow clothed Savage seems licked as Doink exploits his weak, spray-tanned back, but the "Macho Man" has other plans. Wonderfully cheesy stuff.

• The 1-2-3 Kid vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
This one takes a while to get going, as The 1-2-3 kid is apprehensive to enter thing ring. Razor Ramon calls in to give some pretty bad commentary on the action, and, since DiBiase is involved, you can already tell how it's going to fizzle out. Ho-hum.

• The Quebecers Are New Tag Team Champions
The Quebecers, Jacques and Pierre, are probably the lamest wrestlers in the WWF during this period and are my least favorite part of this DVD. These guys are the Nickelback of the WWF, right down to bad theme music. Now would be a good time to start feeling guilty, Canada.

• Doink the Clown vs. Corey Student
More Doink action and we all know a light-weight like Student doesn't stand a chance. Pass.

• INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Razor Ramon vs. Rick "The Model" Martel
"After this match, these two will never be the same!" extols McMahon. He couldn't be more right as we're treated to an awe-inspiring, tooth-and-nail match between two accomplished, agile wrestlers. Undoubtedly one of the best matches of the set.

• Crush Hires Mr. Fuji as His New Manager
See Crush become a heel! See the betrayal of "Macho Man"! See Mr. Fuji look smug! Continue to the next segment!

• Randy "Macho Man" Savage Attacks Crush
See "Macho Man" attack Crush mid-commentary! See "Macho Man's" last appearance on Raw for more than a few matches! See Vince McMahon get caught in the crossfire!

• Bret "Hit Man" Hart is Wrestler of the Year
Bret and Lex Luger are honored by the fans, as led by McMahon. Both guys sort-of-kind-of break kayfabe(character and storyline) and show some genuine thankfulness for all they've achieved. A softer moment in an otherwise testosterone boiling set.

• Razor Ramon vs. Diesel
Witness Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (Diesel) fighting each other long before they were paired up by the WCW. Things go pretty well until, y'know, the plot kicks in, along with Shawn Michaels and the 1-2-3 Kid. Speaking of which…

• The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Shawn Michaels
Michaels refuses to give up the Intercontinental Belt (even though he didn't win it). See above for the outcome, a twist that's getting a little tired.

• Gorilla Monsoon Throws Out Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
"The Brain's" mentor kicks him out of the WWF for being, well, a big jerk.

• Thurman "Sparky" Plugg is Ready To Race
A semi-pointless promo meant to set up a "Sparky" match later on the disc. Move along.

• Jeff Jarrett vs. PJ Walker
Jeff Jarrett, a self-proclaimed failed country singer kicked out of Nashville because of the "corrupt music industry," carries what is surely one of the most unique wrestling personas of all time. The match is a total job, but Jarrett, despite his inherent goofiness, manages to show some genuine finesse in the ring. A guilty pleasure bout to be sure.

Disc 3
• Is Yokozuna Afraid of the Casket?
Undertaker brings a 'Zuna sized casket into the ring and pops out of it, thus scaring the behemoth out of the ring. I don't get it, either.

• WrestleMania X Coin Flip
A bunch of old guys (WWF's "board members") flip a coin to see who wrestles who at a Wrestlemania not included on the set (bah!). Luger and Hart rekindle the romance of their "Wrester of the Year" moment, with more kayfabe this time, angling Bret against his own brother-Owen Hart!

• Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. Tom Prichard
A prelude to the Hart-on-Hart match at Wrestle mania. A cameo by Owen spices things up, but this on goes the way you think it would for superstar Bret.

• WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: The Quebecers vs. Razor Ramon & the 1-2-3 Kid
Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid wail on those annoying French Canadians, and just when my bloodlust is nearly satisfied Shawn Michaels and Diesel are thrown in. Anti-climactic, anyone?

• SUMO MATCH: Yokozuna vs. Earthquake
Wow, this is like watching real Sumo wrestling. Oh my God…it IS real Sumo wrestling. The match is a fun change of pace for the usual rough-and-tumble antics, resulting in real suspense. Earthquake seems like a wonderful equal to 'Zuna, and it's a shame he didn't get more appearances here (an injury took him out of the ring shortly thereafter).

• KING OF THE RING QUALIFYING MATCH: Owen Hart vs. Doink the Clown
Doink is out-Doinked by Owen Hart in this heel-versus-heel match. I'm not sure if it's great, but it has a clown-sized little person (Doink's sidekick "Dink") thrown into the mix, and that seems pretty great to me.

• Duke "The Dumpster" Droese Makes His Raw Debut
Eh. The Dumpster fails to impress with his "banging-the-trash-can" gimmick. Skip.

• The King's Court with Bret "Hit Man" Hart & Diesel
Lawler stirs the flames of hate between Diesel and Hart. It's all a trap, of course, and an excuse for Lawler to make more old people jokes ("Bret's mother, Ellen, was old as a teenager…she had acne on her liver spots!").

• Not-So-Rowdy on the King's Court
Rowdy Roddy Piper is mocked on this pretty lame segment. Considering Piper never appears on the set, I think it a little unnecessary to tease. Dig those They Live references.

• The King's Court with Duke "The Dumpster" Droese
Droes + Lawler = Garbage Man Jokes = Epic fail.

• The King's Court with the King of Harts
Owen appears with Lawler following his win of "King of the Ring," announcing a new persona that doesn't really stick. Still, its miles better than the King's Court segments above.

Disc 4
• WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. The 1-2-3 Kid
Here we have two distinguished wrestlers in the prime of their career battling for both the Championship and one another's respect. To say anything else would spoil what is the best match on the set, bar none.

"Mr. Cool" Diesel takes on Luger, post-deal-with-the-devil-DiBiase (he sold out to the Million Dollar Man on a PPV). Lacking the back-up, Luger gets some unexpected help when things go brouhaha thanks to the cheating Diesel, making for an above-average match-up with some good, team-up twists.

• $10,000 CHALLENGE MATCH: Tatanka vs. Nikolai Volkoff
While I could care less about "The Native American" Tatanka or the Million-Dollar-Sellout Volkoff, seeing Macho Man bellow, "Pay him the mon-eeeeey!" at the match's climax makes it all worthwhile.

• Alundra Bayze vs. Bull Nakano
The ONLY all-girl match on the set is a pretty good one. Bayze is an agile performer while Nakano has all the makings of a female Yokozuna, only she's more fun to watch because she's fast on her feet. I only wish these ladies were featured more.

• Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
This match moves with a breakneck pace, and both performers turn in their "A" game. It would be perfect if it didn't resort to more interference. But hey, I guess that's why God made Pay-Per-Views.

• Owen Hart vs. The 1-2-3 Kid
A lot like the match above, but with a climax that's both frustrating and rewarding. The 1-2-3 Kid proves to be nary the master of reversals at this time period.

• Undertaker vs. Kwang
Hrm. Undertaker pitted against a more obscure Japanese wrestler. I wonder how this is going to turn out? Pass.

• Mr. Backlund Demonstrates The Chicken Wing
Would-be Senator Bob Backlund, the conservative heel, demonstrates his signature move on a hapless journalist. It's a great heel moment that actually ratchets up the tension thanks to the awkwardness of the affair.

You'd think this one would be a lot cooler than it turns out. Its great watching RR try to drop 'Zuna, but when a casket appears out of nowhere, you know where things are going. Enough with the Undertaker wankery!

• Jeff Jarrett vs. The British Bulldog
This one's made better by Shawn Michaels' commentary (filling a void left by Macho Man). Jarrett is typically hilarious, counterbalancing Bulldog's milquetoast persona, making for a decent enough match.

• Bob Backlund vs. Doink the Clown
Backlund distinguishes himself with some actual wrestling, giving Doink a run for his money and showing his "Chicken Wing" in action. I have to say, it looks pretty painful, something this match, thankfully, isn't.

• The British Bulldog vs. Tatanka
Aka International Milquetoast vs. Minority Milquetoast-boring, uninspired filler, saved by Shawn Michael's wonky commentary.

• The King's Court with WWE Champion Diesel
Diesel puts Lawler in his place and it's wonderful. The end.

• Undertaker vs. The Brooklyn Brawler
Do you remember the Brooklyn Brawler? Me neither, making this another half-assed attempt to build up the Undertaker yet again. I would've just taken away the purple rubber gloves.

While it lacks the crazy cinematic montages, soliloquies, complex storylines, and nu-metal rock songs of contemporary Raw episodes, Raw: The Beginning validates itself by harkening back to a time when wrestling took itself a lot less seriously. That's not say the early 90s were a better period for the sport, but rather to point out a sense of fun (intentional and non) that feels refreshingly natural and more than a little experimental in comparison to today's wrestling.

My only real qualm is a lack of Pay-Per-View matches that capped off so many of the feuds and storylines at work in the set. As is, they're scattered across the home video spectrum in various formats, forcing fans to do some serious collecting simply to be complete the plots at hand. WWE could've taken out some of the filler at work here and replaced it with said events, but unfortunately that's not the case. Also, what's with bleeping out the "F" whenever anyone says "WWF"? Is it a legal thing? Revising the history books? The "WF" logo is still prominent, which makes matters unclear. Anyway, it's a minor annoyance that sticks in my craw based on sheer principal, but shouldn't ruin anyone's enjoyment of the DVD.

Technically, this is the best these episodes are going to ever look or sound, sporting a newly minted transfer that's especially sharp considering the source material as well as a 5.1 audio mix (compatible with 2-channel DVD outputs for a good stereo mix if you want to relive the original broadcasts). Extras wise, we're treated to a series of promotional clips and commercials that make the matches in question look downright sophisticated in terms of writing and photography. That is to say, they're hilariously dated and highly recommended.

The Verdict

If you're retro-wrestling crazy, or a fresh faced fan looking to revel in simpler times, this set is a must-buy. If you're a pro-wrestling hater, you shan't be swayed. Not guilty, brother!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: WWE
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 540 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Sports
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Footage

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