Monday Night Means Wrestling: Shawn Michaels vs. Max Moon (1/11/93)
*It’s hard to believe, but WWE’s flagship television program, Monday Night Raw, turned 20 this year. When considered alongside WCW’s Monday Nitro, which ran from 1995-2001, there exists thousands of hours of primetime wrestling content, a rich tapestry that, as is true of most professional wrestling, manages to be good, bad, and often head-scratching. With Monday Night Means Wrestling, Fear of a Ghost Planet will be diving into the history of Monday night wrestling on a week-by-week basis, bringing back only that which stands the test of time.
Background: This match comes to you from the first episode of Raw, which, in its infancy, didn’t have much of an identity. Oh sure, the commentary trio of Vince McMahon, Randy Savage, and Rob Bartlett often allude to Raw’s “uncensored” (and uncooked/uncut) nature, but beyond being a live television show filmed within the cozy confines of the Manhattan Center, there wasn’t much distinguishing Raw from, say, SuperStars or Mania—WWF shows where big superstars squashed hapless jobbers for an hour while building to the next pay per view. The first main event in Raw history pitted The Undertaker against Damien Demento, but the first good match on Raw was an extended showcase for WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels. Here, he makes a defense of his championship against goofy looking intergalactic luchador of the future Max Moon.
The Max Moon character was originally created by and intended for Konnan, the future Hulk Hogan of Mexico. Before introducing lucha libre to the United States by way of Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, he came up with Max Moon, had a costume commissioned, and sold it to Vince McMahon for a sum just north of one-thousand dollars. When the gimmick didn’t get Konnan anywhere, he quit, and the suit was foisted upon Paul Diamond, no stranger to hiding his ethnicity beneath spandex bodysuits and masks. While this match is often attributed to Konnan, it is, in fact, Diamond underneath the mask, making this an extension of the long-running rivalry between Michaels and Diamond that went back to their days in the AWA as members of the Midnight Rockers and Badd Company, respectively. Their most famous encounter, the brilliant tag team match between The Rockers and the Oriental Express from the 1991 Royal Rumble, can be viewed here.
The Match: Quite honestly, it’s not much to write home about. Beyond early classics like the Ric Flair/Mr. Perfect “Loser Leaves Town” match and a number of contests involving the 1-2-3 Kid, matches like Michaels/Moon really only stand out because the competition is so dull. Though Michaels was obviously a game-changing superstar in the making, Moon, as talented as the man under the mask was, is exhibit A as to everything that was wrong about the oncoming WWF New Generation era: talented men were wasted in matches against goofy gimmicks nobody believed in or cared about, and talented men were often saddled with those gimmicks, chewed up, and spit out. That promotions like CHIKARA are able to look back at 1993’s WWF and mine a considerable amount of gold from it is a testament to the creative minds behind it and the faith the performers underneath the mask put into that creative process.
Still, if you’re able to get past Rob Bartlett’s beyond awful “impersonation” of Mike Tyson and his gags that very often give away the theatrical nature of wrestling (why wouldn’t Michaels pull a knife to defend himself against a futuristic cybertnetic organism shown shooting fire from his hands as he approaches the ring?), the Moon character was the WWF’s second attempt at dipping its toes into the waters of lucha libre. (You can read about the first here.) Though it’s Diamond under the mask, his maneuvers are very clearly modeled on the more athletic heavyweight wrestlers of Mexico. That Vince McMahon would attempt to do this without the Mexican wrestler who created the gimmick under the mask perhaps explains his later attempts to clone departed workers Razor Ramon and Diesel. The difference here, of course, is that no fan in his right mind could claim to love Moon, or particularly care who was under the mask. Those spin kicks in the corner and that seated senton off of the ring apron would both become staples of American professional wrestling, especially as the WWE became a vast melting pot of international styles in an attempt to capture as much of a global audience as it could. This match offers but a mere flash of that future and the future of Shawn Michaels, but that’s just what Raw functioned as in 1993: a brief glimpse of wrestling’s future on television.
Next Week: Mr. Perfect goes one on one with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and the loser will leave town.