I have to admit that this wasn't a DVD collection I rushed out to see, but when I found it used for about $15, it seemed like a sound investment for a four-DVD set.
WWE has only recently begun producing DVD's of individual "seaons" for Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, but the earliest seasons are, for me, really what hold the most intrigue.
This particular set covers 1993 and 1994 (or WrestleMania 9 and 10, if you prefer), and it was actually a really interesting time for wrestling. The majority of fans got their wrestling fix from the syndicated shows that would play on the weekend, featuring (more often than not) squash matches and local promos to build up feuds you'd see play out at live events and pay-per-views.
Raw was, of course, different because you had competitive matches on free television, mixed in with a handful of squash matches and angles (the squash matches were finally dropped during the Monday Night Wars). It made for a different show and really raised the bar for what one could expect out of a wrestling show.
Having said that.... the early years weren't fantastic. Sure, 1993 and 1994 had its moments, but Raw wasn't even must-see at that point (compared to the Attitude Era, or even now). So I was very curious to see how WWE could package a less-than-stellar area into a 12-hour DVD collection.
As it turns out, they didn't really put a ton of effort into this one. There's no documentary on the discs and the extras are scant. You don't even have a host explaining all of the clips; instead, there's just a pop-up video type factoid before each match.
Overall, it comes across as incredibly lazy and an obvious cash grab by Vince and company.
If you can get past the lousy production values, it turns out to be an interesting mix of in-ring action and memorable moments. Some of them (such Mr. Perfect vs Ric Flair in a 'loser leaves the company' match; Razor Ramon vs 123 Kid; Shawn Michaels vs Marty Jannetty) can be found on either DVD collections, such as The Best Of Raw 15th Anniversary.
Then there are the rarities which you may have missed or forgotten about. Matchups like Bret Hart vs WWI Hall of Famer Dr. Tom Pritchard; Lex Luger vs Diesel; The Headshrinkers vs The Quebecers; a sumo match between Earthquake and Yokozuna with a surprising amount of crowd reaction; and a lumberjack match between 2011 WWE Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
You also have wrestlers and personalities that don't typically get a ton of love from WWE DVD's, including Duke The Dumpster Droese, Crush, Alundra Blayze, The Smokin' Gunns, Doink The Clown, Damien Demento, Nikolai Volkoff, Rick The Model Martel, Kamala, Irwin R. Shyster and Tatanka. Not that most of them deserve their own DVD sets, but it's interesting to look back at them in an era where they were relevant.
Of course, the matches are only part of the appeal to this collection. There are memorable moments like Money Inc. attacking the surgically-repaired head of Brutus Beefcake (who recruits Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart the following week); Crush siding with Mr. Fuji and turning against Randy Savage; Lex Luger bodyslamming Yokozuna aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid; and talk shows hosted by Shawn Michaels and Jerry Lawler.
One interesting aspect to listen to is the wide variety of announcers used during Raw's first two years - the broadcast booth seemed to be under constant rotation. The soundtrack ranges from Vince McMahon to Rob Bartlett (no clue), from Jim Ross to Bobby The Brain Heenan, from Randy Savage to Harvey Wippleman, and from Crush to Jim Cornette.
Overall, is this collection for you? It really depends what you're into. If you're fine seeing a ton of Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, Yokozuna, Diesel and Doink The Clown, then by all means pick this up. If you're looking for something more wide-ranging, then I'd direct you to The Best of Raw 15th Anniversary.
Still... I'd love for WWE to produce more of the early seasons, as the show (in my mind anyways) started to pick up significant steam in the late-90's when the company gained Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Brian Pillman, Mankind, Goldust, Vader and others.
RAW: The Beginning
The Best of Seasons 1 & 2