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" The Gravel Pit "
Raven Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Mar 17, 2003, 19:30
Hey everyone... I was going to post the Mike Awesome shoot interview today but I ended up getting this in the mail on Saturday and wanted to get it reviewed ASAP since it's only been out a week and a half. As much as I liked the Awesome shoot, this one is just as timely and even BETTER.
Next week SHOULD be the Mike Awesome shoot interview, although I also have the Konnan, Sid Vicious, and Disco Inferno shoots in the pipeline and plan on getting to the Rock and Roll Express, Midnight Express, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, Stan Hansen, and "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart shoots sometime in the near future.
I also need to send a belated shout-out to Bob Patel of Patel Tapes, who's supplied me with several shoots lately. For those of you wondering why I finally got around to the Tod Gordon shoot a few weeks, back, that's who you can thank.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Raven Shoot Interview (Early 2003)
This is a well done and professional shoot but is also the first one I know of to come with MacroVision copy protection warning stickers on the tape.
Why did he get into the business? He’d loved it since he was little and wondered why anyone would want to be anything but an athlete when they’re a kid. He says that “people who want to be adored by millions have a bit of insecurity in their life, and I had that.” He would watch Florida Championship Wrestling and see someone like Ricky Santana and think “If he can do it, I can do it.” As a result, Santana isn’t a big fan of his.
How did he get into the business? He tried to train with the Malenkos but had a lot of trouble finding it since it wasn’t advertised anywhere and couldn’t find it in the phone book. “It was really piss-poor marketing by Boris Malenko.” They turned out some good students “but they also turned out some guys like Van Hammer and Johnny B. Badd, so you got to take the good with the bad, or the REALLY bad for that matter.” He contrasts that with Larry Sharpe’s school, the Monster Factory, in New Jersey, which had gotten a lot of publicity in Sports Illustrated but the only publicized star graduate was Bam Bam Bigelow, who was not yet a superstar. He also looked at Killer Kowalski’s school and a few others before going with the Monster Factory.
First territory- Memphis. He compares it to the Hotel California because “You can check out but you never leave. Hell, I never thought I’d be back there again, but look at me now.” When he, Vince Russo, and Disco Inferno got out of the car the other day at the Nashville Fairgrounds for a TNA PPV, he remembered thinking to himself before that he’d never be there again. He isn’t sure who his first match was with and talks about how he realizes now why old-timers he’d talked to didn’t remember angles they did during his childhood. He thinks it may have been with Ray Odyssey, although he’d also gone to Puerto Rico at one point and did jobs for three people, including TNT (Savio Vega). He talks about how he’d only been at the Monster Factory a month when Sharpe told him “You’ve got all the moves down, you just need to work in front of a crowd.” He then started sending out tapes and letters to all the territories still in operation, such as Continental (Alabama), Portland (Oregon), Memphis, Puerto Rico, etc. and no one would hire him. He would send stuff every three weeks until he finally got a call on a Thursday from Jerry “The King” Lawler in Memphis telling him he was starting on that Saturday. He says that people who get developmental deals have no clue about how much things used to suck back then because it would take forever to get booked then you might be somewhere for a week or 5 years, and only be paid about $300 a week to drive thousands of miles to shows. He would travel with Marty Jannetty at that time because Marty and his Rockers teammate, Shawn Michaels, weren’t getting along at the time.
He’d been in Memphis for three months and then got released over BS reasons. He showed up for the first TV there and was asked what his finisher was and went “Uhh… the clothesline?” because he had no idea that he was going over that day. “As bad as it was back then, it’s not as bad as if I’d said it today because people throw 87,000 clotheslines in a match.” Since they weren’t happy with it, he quickly improvised and said it would be from the second rope, which they were happy with. They then sent him out there with a TV jobber and told him he had four minutes, then “I forgot everything I’d ever learned in that first minute.” That night, they worked at the Nashville fairgrounds and put him in a 10-minute broadway with Jesse Barr (Jimmy Jack Funk), who he puts over as a worker. He then starts talking about how Larry Sharpe didn’t prepare him for some aspects of the business, like speaking carny, but figures it made him better in the end than if he’d come in thinking he knew everything. Jesse carried him to a good match, so they thought he was good and put him with the Zebra Warriors the next night, where they proceeded to have a bad match. At that point, Memphis management decided he was going to be a jobber and was kept on for several months.
Raven then convinced Tom Brandi (Sal Sincere, The Patriot after the original Patriot, Del Wilkes, retired) to come to Memphis and they had a good time. The problem came in when Raven had been there about a month, as he had figured out how to work and got pissed about putting over veterans who, routinely, had matches worse than the one he had on his first night in the territory. “It’s not like I was good yet but these guys sucked far worse.” Some of the other people who came through the territory at the time were the Harris Brothers (Skull and 8-Ball of DOA, Creative Control), Yokozuna, and Scott Steiner. This was in early 1988, by the way. He felt he should be getting used better around this time, but was released instead. “That seems to be a recurring theme in my career.” He left the territory through an angle where Missy Hyatt promised him a date if he beat Lawler. He went out, lost to Lawler and, when he asked if he could still have the date, Missy slapped him. He says it’s still a running joke today with him and Missy. (I find this to be a case where art imitates life, as both Missy shoots have a section about the time she promised sexual favors to former UFC competitior Paul Varleans if he would tap out to Tazz and then reneged.) Luckily, Florida was restarting around this time and, since Gordon Solie, Steve Kiern, and Mike Graham were hanging around Memphis, Graham took an interest in him and brought him into the territory. He says that certain people always got his character and others didn’t but that Graham was one of the guys who always dug it.
Lawler- He always liked Lawler a lot even though “Lawler heeled on me in his book.” One time when he was helping the developmental guys in Memphis, Lawler gave him the booking journal from when Raven first started in the territory.
Florida- He was brought in to be a smartass heel there and was paid about $50 a night working a few nights a week. He ended up living in a house with Denny Brown and Luna Vachon, “three people who you just wonder ‘WHY are these people living in a house together?’” Dick Slater would pop in every so often because he and Luna were together.
Main things he learned in Florida- Mike Graham taught him something that didn’t sink in until much later… don’t just do something to do it, make it mean something. Example- Instead of just doing a plancha to get a guy, set up a few spots where the guy is trying to get away from you to build towards hitting him by doing a plancha. He had only been working for three months then, so it didn’t really make sense to him at the time. It was also a big deal for him that he could commentate with Gordon Solie. He didn’t get along with a lot of the guys in the locker room, partially because guys like Bret Sawyer were there. He calls Bret Sawyer “a complete piece of shit that I’d beat the fuck out of if I ever see him again.” (Sounds about right… NO ONE likes Bret or Buzz Sawyer but Ole Anderson or Ken Shamrock.) He didn’t get along with the Nasty Boys at the time but does now. His smartass attitude didn’t help him as well as the fact that he didn’t realize he was behaving in a way that wasn’t proper for a guy who was at the bottom of the ladder in the business.
Getting fired from Florida- He never jobbed clean the whole time he was there until Steve Kiern, one of the owners wanted him to put him over. He never refused but apparently asked if him about it in a way that Kiern didn’t take well, pissing him off. He was released the next day and said that he even knew at the time that what he had done was wrong and that they had no choice but to do it. He said it made him realize how even the slightest bit of fame goes to someone’s head and he’s glad he realized it when he was starting out instead of down the road. He says that it was a problem with some of the guys in The Flock like Stevie Richards and Lodi because they didn’t realize that he was trying to get them over in the long run and not trying to make them look bad just for the Hell of it. Graham didn’t want to let him go and told him to try and come back in three months, so he got him booked on a Hawaii tour in the meantime. Guys like Dick Slater were given a wrestling script on that tour and said “What the fuck is this shit?!?” before tearing it up, while Raven got to come up with his own stuff because the office liked him so much. One of the other guys on the tour was Moose Morowski, who got the gimmick and told him he’d book him in Vancouver.
Vancouver- They made him a babyface and made a bunch of dumbass gimmicks like a tag team comprised of two guys named Chip and Dale. He says the owner of the territory was obsessed with Verne Gagne and would bitch about how Verne pushed Greg Gagne and Greg was too small, etc. “but this guy pushed his own son who made Greg Gagne look like Andre the Giant.” He wanted to go to Calgary, but figures in hindsight that he would have been beaten to death physically or crushed psychologically due to his smartass attitude. “I would have really fucked myself up if I went there” based on his attitude at the time. Once the promoter saw that Raven was getting over more than his kid, they tried to turn him heel. Soon after that, they cooked up some stories about some girl that he’d supposedly assaulted, at which point Raven’s father told him to get out of the country until it could be resolved. He went to Portland from there and immediately found out from his dad’s lawyer that the whole thing was BS invented to chase him from the territory. He wishes they hadn’t been underhanded about it but he ended up better off because Portland taped every Saturday night.
Portland- Roddy Piper was helping book at the time. He got to the show one night trying to get booked in the territory and Don Owens’ kid insisted on him paying $7 for admission. He went to the dressing room area but they wouldn’t let him in, etc. He ended up getting hooked up with the bookers through some of the wrestlers that had been through Florida the same time he was there. When he was asked what he did, he mentioned working heel in Florida and how he’d commentated with Gordon Solie, which got them interested because Solie was the best announcer in the business for decades and would only have agreed to work with him if he was talented. He was made the first heel commentator in the history of Portland and given three weeks to get over. He starts talking about how he feels that no one should be thinking “how can the promotion get me over?” rather than “how can I get myself over?” Part of his deal was having all kinds of outfits to wear to the ring and talks about how that is just one of the little things that helps people out. “Look at how much better Kurt Angle looks coming down to the ring in the sweats and the jacket than he did in just a singlet.” He ended up wearing a cowboy hat, a set of Oakley sunglasses, a jean shirt and a jean jacket to commentate and bringing a random girl with him to ringside each week. He says it was also a good way to get laid each week. It went over so well during the first week that he was brought in permanently instead of on a trial basis and ended up staying there for two years.
The arena- He says that the converted bowling alley used for shows was pretty damn cool to wrestle in. This was mainly due to the acoustics from the arena working out perfectly for the guys in the ring, as they could call out spots in a normal tone of voice but the fans couldn’t hear them because of the way the cheering was reverberated.
The average week in Portland- It was a paradise for him at the time because you’d be making $50 a spot show and a few hundred from the TV taping in addition to gimmick money (taking Polaroids with the fans and so forth). They’d work six nights a week with 15 minute matches and driving all over the region. He thinks that Vince McMahon is nuts for not putting more money into territories like Smokey Mountain Wrestling or Ohio Valley Wrestling because the long-term benefits of teaching the guys to work long matches and become seasoned before they reach TV far outweigh the costs. “It can’t cost that much to run a bunch of armories and let people work.” He knows why Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Association was dropped as a developmental territory and says that some of the things they had them do, such as working in the WCW ring which had lower ropes and so forth, was part of the problem. Most of the week was made up of spot shows in small towns but they’d work cities like Salem, Eugene, and Portland from Thursday to Saturday. As one of the top heels, he was still selling as much each night in gimmicks as top faces like Beetlejuice (the late “Love Machine” Art Barr, Eddy Guerrero’s ex-teammate from Los Gringos Locos in AAA). In short, it was $550 a week plus gimmicks and not a lot of long drives so it was a lot of fun. He says that people bitch about how he used to have his flunkies drive him but says it isn’t any different from when he used to drive the booker in Portland around and pick his brain about the business. He says that he learned to build on everthing he did, such as having to come up with an angle to logically explain him getting into a cage match that he wanted to do, then figuring out where he wanted to go from there, etc. and not doing anything until the whole deal was mapped out.
Did he develop the Scotty The Body character himself? Yes, as everyone used to write their own stuff until Vince took over that for them. He says that most of the top promo guys in the business today can’t think of them on their own because someone’s always written it for them. Back then, you had to be able to speak well, have charisma, AND write your own promos in order to get over. He and Jericho used to talk about that and how, if things were like they used to be, “we wouldn’t have to worry about these non-talented fucks blowing past us.” He feels there are some good things about writers but in other ways it’s HORRIBLE.
More on his Portland run- “So, we’re going to skip over my coke-filled days of Portland?” There were a lot of drugs and a lot of women. “It was like the last great [ring] rat territory out there.” Considering that the only pro team in Portland was the Trailblazers, all of the town’s sports fans tended to watch wrestling and the wrestlers were superstars. “The show was on from 11 to 12:30 on Saturday nights and it did a better rating than Saturday Night Live did.” One guy who ran an appliance store was a local celebrity because he’d get to come on and do his sales pitch on the show each week. He finally got a permanent valet, Ginger, who happened to be at his coke dealer’s house smoking crack when he first met her. He got her to look like a sloppy whore and, more than once, her tits popped out right before they taped the promo and it was left on the final product, as were a few times when he slipped and said “Aw, fuck it” and so forth. Matt Bourne’s wife came up to him pissing and moaning about Ginger, at which point he told her “Cathy, it’s heat. You’re smart to the business and you can’t stand her already. Imagine how much the fans will hate her.”
Feuds based on his valets- He ended up running a series of matches where he lost Ginger then won her back, then she didn’t want to come back to him so he got a new valet named Veronica, who just happened to be a ringrat of a promoter sent to work in Portland as a valet. He’d be trying to make up with Ginger each week but Veronica would freak out and do stuff like tearing up the stuffed animal he’d just given Ginger, etc. They ended up using it to build on Raven’s long-term feud with Steve Daubin and made for good soap-opera TV which doesn’t happen anymore. (Yep, now we get BAD soap-opera TV where Triple H wears a Kane mask and hump a dummy that’s supposed to be a corpse, Chuck Palumbo and Billy Gunn in a “commitment ceremony”, and Dawn Marie screwing Torrie Wilson’s father to death.) They timed the whole angle out so that he had gotten Ginger back and was set to marry her right before Christmas, which was the biggest wrestling time of the year. He tells a funny story about how people bought into it SO much that a girl slept with him because she thought he really WAS getting married to Ginger the next day. He ended up leaving Ginger at the altar and getting HUGE heel heat. He and Steve were doing hardcore stuff like piledrivers onto the floor and selling it like they were dead, and the rematch was set for Christmas day, It still wasn’t on the top of the card though (this is one of PLENTY of jokes Raven makes about wrestlers who book always being in the top feud no matter what the crowd thinks of things). After Christmas, they started mixed tags with him and Veronica vs. Steve and Ginger, at which point the guys were kicked out of the angle in favor of the girls and were replaced by Art Barr and some other wrestlers.
Getting fired from Portland- He felt like the booker was keeping the territory down and figured out exactly what he was doing. The booker was keeping business at a certain level intentionally so that, when Don Owens started pissing and moaning about how bad business was doing, he could turn things up overnight and make himself seem like a great booker. It DID give the business longevity because they weren’t always forced to keep topping themselves creatively, but he felt they had enough creative talent to have a great run. He didn’t make a play for the book but it was spin-doctored as such and was released as a result. He says that getting released around Christmas is a recurring theme as he was released from Florida, Portland, AND the WWE during Christmastime.
Global- He was distraught after being released from Portland and was looking for someplace to work. He’d already missed out on a WCW offer of $100,000 conveyed by Jim Ross during his first few months in Portland. He had been offered a spot as a heel commentator and as a wrestler but thought he wasn’t ready for it at the time because he’d only been in the business for about a year and a half. He’d mentioned to a friend of his in Portland that he felt he wasn’t ready and the friend offered to keep in touch with JR for him until he was ready to go, then he never heard from JR again. It taught him that you’ll always get screwed over and you HAVE to do your own business and not rely on other people, not to mention that timing is everything. WCW wasn’t even taking his calls after he got fired from Portland, which was when he figured out that his friend had screwed him over. The WWF was a big-man territory at the time, so that wasn’t an option. He eventually decided that he needed to move to Atlanta to work with all the indy promotions in the area and, hopefully, get picked up by WCW. He was one of three guys under contract to Global, with the other two being the original Patriot (Del Wilkes) and “Conan” Chris Walker. He got $300 per show and $300 a week and they only had one show a week, so he got $600 a week. To make more money on the side, he started working as a male stripper which had the added bonus of getting him a lot of chicks. “I only stripped for women… I don’t strip for men like guys do now.” The only reason he messed with the Scotty The Body gimmick was that he wanted to move over into acting or something else eventually and he would need a last name. He ended up becoming Scott Anthony at that time. Global fell apart because the owner, Joe Pedecino, was floating a bullshit story about some Nigerian backer who was willing to pay millions to support the federation and it never came to pass. It was still cool to see Bill Eadie (Demolition Ax) work as Masked Superstar again because he did a lot more than he did when he was Ax in the WWF. He used to hang out with Buff Bagwell at the time.
WCW- Diamond Dallas Page became a good friend of his and got him hired. Dusty Rhodes didn’t want to use him because of how he was in Florida but DDP bugged Dusty enough to get him in the door. He did a dark match where he was sent out before a commercial break but before his opponent was introduced. While the cameras were off, he used what he’d learned in Portland to rile up the crowd then bumped his ass off in the match. After the match, Eric Bischoff, who was just an announcer at the time, went over to him and said it was the best tryout match he’d ever seen. Dusty then calls him into the office and told him “I’ll make you the next Ric Flair.” He was told that he was going to start as a cruiserweight and that he’d eventually be a top guy at the heavyweight level… then Bill Watts came in and decided that he was leaking information to the dirtsheets and started screwing him over. He says that he helped out a lot of guys in the territory including Brian Pillman, who’d pushed for him so he would have another American to work a program with instead of just the Japanese wrestlers like Jushin “Thunder” Liger.
Brian Pillman- Pillman tore up his quad soon after Raven entered WCW, so Pillman was freaking out but Raven decided to start working around that injury. He pulled out some of what he learned in Portland and helped Pillman learn some new tricks which he kept using after that. While working for Watts sucked, he enjoyed getting to ride with Pillman and Steve Austin at the time. They called themselves “the comedy trio” and says he was the weak link in the group because Austin’s hilarious and Pillman’s pretty good himself. He mentions that they were screwing him around on house shows, as they booked him only about two times a month for them but, the one time he’d specifically requested to be off so he could go to a high school reunion, they booked him that night. It was still fun to live in Atlanta because “it was the stripper capital of the world” at the time and that even the ugly guys had hot girlfriends back then, although not anymore.
Beach Blast 1992- He finally had his big match on PPV with Pillman at Beach Blast 1992, where he won the Lightweight title, and thought he’d get a push then. He says that a bunch of people congratulated him after the match and that the last person in line was Ole Anderson. He says that, unlike most people, he likes Ole Anderson because he’ll tell you what he thinks. DDP told him “If this doesn’t get you a spot on the full-time roster, nothing will.” Nothing did end up happening because Watts was hired and decided to screw him over. He lost the belt to Brad Armstrong and was out of the company when his contract expired in a few months.
Bill Watts- He doesn’t know if the rumors were true about Watts being racist or anti-Semetic but he doesn’t like him anyway. After “that fat fuck let me go”, he ended up back in Memphis.
Memphis- He thought his career was over because he didn’t think he’d ever get into the WWF and WCW was screwing him around, so he was in Memphis just for the sake of working. The WWF made him an offer to come in and be a manager at this time and he took them up on it, creating the Johnny Polo gimmick.
Working in the WWF as Johnny Polo- He feels that the Johnny Polo character should have been Shane McMahon because he was the quintessential Greenwich rich kid. He didn’t like it because he wanted to be a wrestler but they didn’t think he had it in him. Vince didn’t “get” him when he was on camera, either. For the longest time, he hated the gimmick because he was having to live it down. Now he looks back and enjoys it.
The Quebecers- Jacques Rougeau was smart enough to know that the focus needed to stay on him and Pierre instead of on Raven. He didn’t have a problem with that though. Pierre, on the other hand, thought he was supposed to be a shoot manager at first and expected him to take care of his car reservations. “Well, Paul Ellering does that for the Road Warriors” “They’re PAYING him to do that… you aren’t.”
Hosting WWF TV with Gorilla Monsoon- He loved Gorilla to death. The producer of the show was Jerry Jarrett and he gave them a bunch of fun stuff to do.
Rumors that he was going to be strictly a member of the creative staff for the WWF- He was going to be the associate producer of RAW. He co-hosted an episode of RAW with Vince and brought a set of notes with him to the broadcast booth about stuff he wanted to do, such as asking Vince to feed him a particular line if he said a certain phrase. “It impressed the fuck out of him.” That’s why he was going to become a producer. He wanted to be a wrestler, although he settled for the office job for the time being. Vince eventually looked at him and realized how far the Johnny Polo character was from his personality, as he usually wore torn-up jeans and so forth like he did as Raven.
Off-air duties for the WWF- He was writing for the WWF B-shows at the time which, since there were no angles on any of them, took him about a few minutes each week and was paid $75,000 a year to do it in addition to his house show payoffs. He also came up with the idea of showing an old match from the extensive WWF archives each week, which was an excuse for him to go to the footage vault and watch a bunch of old matches then pick one for the show. The problem was that Vince can’t stand ANY of his old stars, as he was feuding with Bruno Sammartino, he didn’t want to show matches with anyone who worked for WCW, etc. He WAS able to get a good Bob Backlund vs. George “The Animal” Steele match on there though. He eventually realized that his hardest week of work only took 16 hours, so he’d wake up at 10 AM and call the office to say he would be at the studio all day and call the studio to say he’d be at the office all day. He’d then go to bed until 3PM and then start drinking or go to the gym. He was being groomed to join Vince’s inner circle but it wouldn’t have happened because he didn’t get along with Bruce Pritchard or Pat Patterson at the time. He won’t go into further detail but says that it wouldn’t have happened and he’d have hated it even if it DID happen. He doesn’t mind coming up with ideas but he doesn’t want to do it full time. Eventually, Vince decided to scrap the Johnny Polo gimmick completely and put him to work in the office full-time,
Shane McMahon- They were really good friends and they’d go hang out every night drinking until about 4AM, which he figures got him heat with Vince. He also got heat from the locker room because they were telling him “You’re sucking Shane McMahon’s ass, you’re kissing his ass”, etc. while he’s thinking “Hell, I’m BURYING myself if nothing else.” He used to refer to Vince as Vic on the air as a goof and Shane actually started calling his dad Vic as a result. Their friendship collapsed after Raven left the WWF and he says that’s just the way things are in the business. He says that Shane would be a winner, figuratively, in the Biggest Dick Contest of life, as he’d be willing to do anything and everything such as trying to out-drink people, and it comes across when he gets into the ring. He was a little sad that their friendship didn’t renew when he came back to the WWF in late 1999.
Why did he leave the WWF? They took him off TV as a character and just used him backstage. The boys were pissed that he’d given up $100,000+ a year between salary, benefits, residuals, etc. so he could go be a wrestler again, but he felt that he got into the business to wrestle and wanted to do it. He gave notice to the WWF and figures that he made enemies doing it because Vince hates it when people leave him.
Did he know he was going to ECW before he gave notice? He did because his dad had always told him “Don’t leave one job until you have another.” Art Barr had always told him that Love Machine was based off of Scotty The Body, but he says that Art would lie about a lot of stuff. If you watch Love Machine, he WAS like Scotty The Body though. He started talking to him about trying to get into AAA as the third member of Los Gringos Locos but Konnan wanted to be the third member of the group. Konnan’s version of it is that Art couldn’t stand Raven and wanted Konnan to be the third member, but Art used to tell Raven all the time that he couldn’t stand Konnan. Knowing Art, he might have played both sides off of each other, but the reason Raven feels his side is more accurate is that he would put him on three-way calling when talking to AAA promoter Antonio Pena. Turning Konnan heel was, in his opinion, probably the stupidest thing the promotion could have done considering how over Konnan was. Raven ended up going to a show in New York and ended up talking to DDP, who told him he can’t be a chickenshit heel forever. He told him that no one wanted to be a chickenshit heel anymore, so fake being a badass heel. He changed his look up by growing his hair long instead of just having a mullet. DDP then came up with the idea of Raven becoming an alternative/grunge type of character, which he says “wasn’t far from home considering my fucked-up childhood.” It irritates him when DDP takes credit for the character, though, because DDP came up with the broad concepts but Raven made it work.
Was he following ECW before he entered the fed? No. He had moved to Philly because all the indy groups were there. He wanted to reinvent himself so he could go back to the WWF as something different, as if he’d just asked to stay a wrestler in 1994 they’d have just made him a jobber. (Hrm… sounds like his LAST run where he told them where to shove the commentator gig they wanted to give him. It’s a shame too because he was GREAT at it.) Even if he came up with a new character, they’d never have let him do it there. Jim Cornette HAD promised to bring him into Smokey Mountain but it never happened. He’s glad in hindsight that Cornette never brought him in because he needed to develop his character on TV. (I’m assuming what he means is that he’d never have developed it like he wanted to on SMW TV for whatever reason.) Around this time, he was leaving messages with every promoter he could think of and left one for Tod Gordon of ECW. He ended up watching the show around that time, which he’d heard was garbage, and ended up thinking it was the best TV he’d ever seen. He called up DDP and got him to hook him up with Paul Heyman. He compared ECW to a woman that’s not only hot but also smart, good in bed, etc. A few days after talking to DDP, he passed out after a night of partying and woke up to his roommate yelling that DDP was on the phone and needed to talk to him, and found out that Paul E wanted to use him immediately. He called Paul but, of course, Paul didn’t pick up the phone right away and called him back a minute later telling him everything he was going to do and when he started. Unfortunately, he was so screwed up at the time he talked to Paul that he forgot everything as soon as he hung up the phone. He was thinking to himself that he couldn’t call back and say “Uh… I was too coked up to remember when I start, so could you tell me again?”, so he just started going to ECW shows.
Paul E- They knew each other from when they were in WCW together in 1992 but didn’t really get along at the time. Paul E thought that the Raven character would be comedy, like Scotty The Body in flannel, instead of a serious character. As soon as he did the first promo, though, Paul E immediately got the gimmick. He compares their relationship to a Robert DeNiro / Martin Scorsese relationship, although he doesn’t want to compare himself to DeNiro. He thinks that Raven may have become Paul E’s inner vision of what he wanted himself to be on TV.
Did he see ECW as having the potential to be as big as it got? Yes, and that’s why he pushed as hard as he did to get in. He didn’t know if the business would expand as much as it did but the on-air product was great.
Did he see Paul E’s talent in booking at the time? He doesn’t know.
Did he pitch the Raven idea to anyone else besides Paul E? No, because there were just Vince McMahon’s WWF, Eric Bischoff’s WCW, Paul E’s ECW, Jerry Jarrett’s Memphis, and Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain out there at the time and he’s STILL waiting for Cornette to bring him in. He knew he couldn’t go back to the WWF until he’d made it somewhere else. He doesn’t remember why he didn’t go back to WCW although they may not have had any interest in him.
Impressions of how ECW was when he first came in- He did a house show first and saw people doing all kinds of moves and nearly killing themselves, and it was infectious. He talks about how he tried to do a plancha on Hack Meyers once and Hack screwed it up and how he doesn’t do a lot of that stuff unless he’s on TV these days. He says he tried to do one on Steve Blackman a few years ago but Blackman just stood there and didn’t attempt to catch him then said “sorry” afterwards. “Good guy but not a very good catcher.”
Some of the talent that caught his eye immediately- Axl Rotten, who’s a better worker than anyone gives him credit for when he does old-school stuff instead of garbage wrestling. He thinks he screwed himself because he created the British character but would almost never cut promos in British English. Mikey Whipwreck was great as well, like X-Pac, but he was more interesting than X-Pac because Mikey’s character was scared shitless of everything instead of being a daredevil. Cactus Jack meshed great with Mikey. Public Enemy was entertaining. “That’s all I’ll say about that other than Teddy (Ted Petty, Rocco Rock) was a great guy and it’s a sad thing that he passed.” Johnny Grunge sucked, though, because he could talk and bleed but not work.
Was he only supposed to be there for four months at first? Yes, he was only supposed to be there for three or four months to get Dreamer over then probably go back to the WWF. He just decided that he wanted to stick around then because he enjoyed the artform of wrestling he got to practice while he was there. He feels that wrestling, done correctly, is an art that most people tend to ignore. He didn’t want to leave in 1997 for WCW but the money was too good to pass up.
How did he come to form Raven's Nest? Paul E decided to pair him with Stevie Richards and, according to Stevie, it was Raven’s idea for him to wear the Daisy Duke shorts and a shirt for a band like Poison in order to get him over as a clueless putz, which worked to perfection. People didn’t realize how good he was in the ring because of how he was portrayed in his character. The rest of Raven's Nest were supposed to be his dysfunctional family and that the concept of Raven was that he was so cool that people wanted to follow him.
Stevie Richards- They’re close friends now but weren’t then. He tended to shit on Stevie at the time. “It was like a really successful marriage in the ring but a bad marriage behind the scenes” in addition to the fact that Raven’s drug use had peaked around that time. He was paying Stevie to be his assistant at the time and Stevie ended up doubling his pay as a result, as Raven paid Stevie the same that Paul E did.
Does he regret the way he treated him? Not really. A lot of people were pissed at how he treated Stevie until they found out he paid Stevie for it. Raven freely admits he was a much bigger jerk back then than he is now, although he isn’t proud of it.
Did his drug problems get out of control? Not as far as he was concerned because it didn’t interfere with his life. People may have said he was a dick because of it but he feels he was going to be a dick anyway.
The parodies of other wrestlers- He wanted to pay homage to some of his favorite wrestlers like the Fabulous Ones, so he got Stevie and Blue Meanie to dress up like them. They did that for a lot of wrestlers and eventually got to Baron von Raschke. He says that this was the kind of stuff he would have done as Scotty The Body but couldn’t do as Raven because it would be out of character, so he made Stevie do it. He says that Meanie was one of Stevie’s friends who would drive them around and that Stevie bugged him to get Meanie a job. He ended up seeing Meanie, “a fat slob”, doing a moonsault one night which was pretty cool. He ended up getting drunk one night while watching Yellow Submarine and came up with the idea of turning him into a Blue Meanie, one of the villains from the cartoon. The Meanie character changed after Raven left ECW, though, as Meanie was supposed to be insane like a cartoon villain but it became a more comedic character after he left. The way it was supposed to work was that Raven would yell at his lackey, Stevie, and Stevie would yell at his lackey, Meanie, except Meanie would ignore him. Tod Gordon approved Meanie’s introduction for one night as a test to see if it would be over because he thought it was one of Raven’s drunken ideas and that he’d give up on it after one night. They ended up planting Meanie in the crowd, have him switch shirts with Stevie, then come in for the finish with the Meaniesault. It got over immediately.
Other stuff he came up with- The Dudleyz for one, as he was thinking of Slap Shot one night in the locker room and decided to make wrestling’s version of the Hansen Brothers. He also came up with the backstory for his feud with Dreamer over them being kids together at summer camp, although Paul E came up with Beulah McGillicuddy being inserted into the story.
Beulah McGillicuddy- He was at the Super Bowl in Miami and ran into his friend, baseball player Ron Gant, at a nightclub with a girl named Teresa. Teresa told him she wanted to get back into wrestling again and told him about being Brian Pillman’s sister in Stampede. She also told him about being in Penthouse and sent him copies. Paul E loved the nude pictures and insisted on introducing Beulah into The Flock. They couldn’t think of a name for her and, at the last minute, someone blurted out Beulah McGillicuddy and it stuck. Raven himself came up with the storyline that Beulah had liked Tommy back at summer camp, he’d blown her off, then Raven slept with her anyway even though she was a fat pig at the time. Then Meanie called her up to bring her in and Raven started yelling at him about how he didn’t want to see her and backhanded him.
Beulah taking a piledriver from Dreamer- It was Paul E’s idea. He thinks that it was just an idea for a spot where she takes a bump, plus the added bonus of her skirt falling down and people getting to see her panties. He jokes that when Dreamer did that and his head was bloody because he bladed that it looked like he just went down on a girl having her period.
Did Paul E start making promises to him in order for him to stay? No, because he doesn’t think anyone was breaking down his door with offers at the time.
Did Paul give him a lot of creative control? Yes and no… he could do whatever he wanted to do in his matches but Paul had to approve angles and new talent, like bringing in Blue Meanie and Nova.
Going from comedy to hardcore- He loves hardcore style. It takes more balls than some other styles and talks about how Big Show is 7’4” and still puts his arm up to take a hit from a trashcan. Trashcans don’t hurt too bad compared to other stuff in wrestling, although chairs do. He says that The Rock is really good about taking hardcore bumps like those because he’ll only put up his arm at the very last second to deflect the blow. He then starts talking about Gary Wolfe of the Pitbulls being a dick and hitting Stevie extra hard when he gave him chairshots. During the double dog collar match between the Pitbulls and the team of Raven and Stevie, Wolfe put his arm up to take Stevie’s chairshot . Anthony, the other Pitbull, refused at first to take a Superbomb (a Bubba Ray Dudley top-rope powerbomb) despite the fact that he’d given the move to half the guys in ECW. He thinks it’s REALLY bullshit when the Pitbulls like to dish out stuff a lot harder than they’ll take it. He thought that match would be as good as it ended up being because they laid it out beforehand and he knew how to work around the Pitbulls’ limitations.
The Crucifixion of Sandman- The WWF stole it when Undertaker put Steve Austin on the “logo” and gave him a “logofixion.” He also says that they ripped off the Raven gimmick and tried to get it over with Edge in that role when he first started in 1998. He thought it shouldn’t have been controversial because he’d just gotten out of rehab and wanted to come back with an impact. He had Sandman build the cross himself and it was about 7 feet tall. They hid it under the ring before the match. They then thought about ways to string him up on it without giving it away so they shot it at an angle where they couldn’t see what he was doing as well as having members of Raven's Nest turn their backs to block it from the crowd. They ended up putting a barbed-wire crown on him to complete the image. They made sure that he’d prop his head to the side and cross his feet when they put him up. He says it was a brilliant angle and that the crowd were into it and had bought it but Paul E had misread them. In addition to that, Paul E was in the process of trying to bring Kurt Angle into ECW (he had been to the Olympics but was working as a sportscaster in Pittsburg at the time). Angle claims he wasn’t offended by it but Raven thinks that Angle really was offended and just didn’t let on to it. He says that Angle’s a great guy, by the way. Tazz was REALLY offended, though. Someone ended up scaring Paul E that people would take it the wrong way because most of the main people involved were Jewish. Paul E ended up apologizing for it and made him apologize for it too, but it came out in a sarcastic way that Angle thought was hilarious. He says that someone asked angrily why they didn’t build a Jewish star to put Sandman on and he said “First, it would take forever to build. Second, if we put him up on that, it would start rolling down the street with him attached.” It might have been due to the heat between him and Tazz back then, although they get along now.
Heat between him and Tazz- Tazz was miserable and he enjoyed being miserable at the time. He’d make Tazz laugh and Tazz hated him for it. He thinks that Tazz mellowed out after he had a kid. He jokes that Tazz used to be all about the gym and training but “the motherfucker ain’t seen a gym in 5 years now.”
Chairshot Heard Round The World- He wanted to crucify him at first because he saw his character as a martyr. (He makes a big point about how this was way before he crucified Sandman) Then he wanted to make Tommy into the good-guy version of Raven and dug up a backstory to explain it, which was the summer camp story. He handcuffed Dreamer’s arms to the ropes in a way that he was in a crucifix position. He then starts going off on a tangent about how Dreamer wanted Raven to blade him but Raven never had done that before, not even in Portland because “the commissioner had been smartened up and was a real piece of shit, so if they saw color, they stopped the show.” He ended up cutting Tommy pretty bad because he’d never done it before and blood was spurting everywhere. Tommy never beat him for two and a half years and it stayed fresh because they kept bringing in new elements, such as people turning heel and joining Raven's Nest, turning face and joining Tommy, then sliding back down the card. They finally built up to the Chairshot Heard Round The World where Tommy hit Raven with the chair while he was crucified on the cage. He had to get Paul E to settle for one instead of the 10 or 15 chairshots he wanted in order to put over how big a deal it was. Tommy always listened to him and would side with him against Paul E, so he agreed to it.
The Sandman feud- He needed a new valet after he’d already gone through Beulah, Francine, and several others. He doesn’t remember whose idea it was to bring in Lori, Sandman’s wife, as his valet, but it was his idea to put the “kinderwhore dresses” on her and make her look like Courtney Love with the bad makeup and so forth. He thinks it may have been Sandman or Paul E’s idea to bring in Sandman’s son Tyler into it. He loved working with Tyler. “The kid knew his cues better than I did.”
Whose idea was it for Dreamer never to beat him? Paul E came up with it.
Was it true that he tried to get out of jobbing to Dreamer in his final ECW match? He didn’t mind losing to him but both he and Dreamer thought there was no point because he was coming back some day. Paul E was convinced he wasn’t coming back, though. He felt that it gave Tommy a third dimension and it would make his character better since he went through all that and didn’t win. He thought it seemed right the way it was done at the time but, in hindsight, wishes Tommy hadn’t won since he DID come back in 1999.
How did he feel about the match? He felt it was good because they were building off of all the matches they’d done over the past three years and the fans knew it.
Losing the belt to Sandman- Paul E took the belt off him while he was in rehab, which was a good idea, and put it on Sandman. Paul E told him that the only way he’d get it back was for him to be a barbed wire match, which was the only way Paul E could get him to do that kind of match. Once he actually did one, he wasn’t scared of them anymore and was willing to do them again.
How bad was he at the time? He was having an emotional breakdown so it wasn’t the drinking. He had slipped into a depression and just needed the time away from everything. It was a lot of stuff that had built up over the years starting with his childhood that he just had to deal with. Paul E’s reaction was great, as he understood and he made sure that the sheets and the media know that he just needed some “personal time” and that he wasn’t going to discuss it further.
Working with Sandman vs. working with Dreamer- He works better with Sandman because he and Dreamer have bad matches if they don’t do garbage stuff and brings up their stuff on WWE TV as evidence of it. Dreamer’s skills are based on garbage wrestling while his are more rounded. Part of why he likes Tommy is that he likes to sell and his matches with Tommy are about the only ones where his opponent sells more than him.
Was anything suggested for the Dreamer feud that didn’t happen? He thinks there was something but can’t put his finger on it. “I think there was the one where we were going to sodomize Gabe Szapolski… (current Ring of Honor booker and one of the interviewers)”
Barely Legal 1997- He thought that they should have had a PPV sooner but, in hindsight, it was the beginning of the end. He was about to leave around that time anyway because Eric Bischoff was offering too much money to pass up and, besides that, he’d wrestled everyone in the fed in every type of match possible so there wasn’t much left for him to do. On top of that, they were running out of ideas and couldn’t top themselves anymore because the WWF and WCW were using their ideas and they just became mainstream. In addition to that, Paul E was burning out creatively and all their talent was being raided by the other federations. WCW alone took Rey Misterio, Juventud Guerrera, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Shane Douglas, himself, etc. The WWF also took Shane once as well as Cactus Jack and Terry Funk. He wanted to stay but Paul E couldn’t afford what he wanted, which was 1/3 of what Bischoff was offering him. Even though the company started drawing around that time, it was all downhill from there creatively.
His relationship with Paul E at the time- Strained, mainly that Paul E was pissed about him leaving. He says that he gave Paul a chance to keep him by offering to take significantly less than WCW would pay him but Paul wouldn’t do it. There were no problems with bouncing checks around this time, though he got stiffed for about $78,000 for his run there in 1999.
Terry Funk match- It pissed him off that the show’s poster was centered on Tazz-Sabu and that Paul E likes to claim that Tazz was at the center of the show. He feels that the big story was Terry Funk winning the world title nearly 20 years after he lost the NWA belt to Harley Race. Paul E claims that the poster was Tazz’s fault and Tazz claims that Paul E told him to make it like that, so he feels that the truth is somewhere between there. He felt it was a “fuck you” to him because he and Dreamer had carried the company in 1995 and he and Sandman had carried the company in 1996 and yet Tazz and Sabu were getting the focus. He then starts talking about the quarter-hour breakdowns for RAW and Smackdown as guys like Eddy Guerrero and Chris Benoit have phenomenal matches yet have some of the worst quarter hours of the show. On the other hand, a shitty wrestler like Big Show will have some of the best quarter hours because of the angle he’s involved in. Thus, people tune in for the stories and Tazz-Sabu wasn’t much of a story compared to the stuff he was doing.
When did his relationship with Paul E start getting strained? It was always a weird relationship between the two of them because they had clashing personalities. They always came together about the Raven character though. They are both very passionate about the business and for telling stories but, on the other hand, he’s always been obnoxious and Paul E’s always been eccentric. He says their problems today are all Paul’s fault because he’s tried to rekindle the friendship but Paul E refuses to budge. He doesn’t know if things will change but figures it’ll happen if TNA breaks out and either he becomes a big star or they hire Paul E away from the WWE.
Influencing the ECW locker room- He used to give classes to them explaining why something worked and why other stuff didn’t. He once had a selling class where he would beat them up until they got it right. Amongst the other material he used was 1-hour UWF TV, which he says was the best episodic wrestling TV before ECW.
Shane Douglas- They only had a small program together. Kimona Wannalaya had left him for Shane and Shane cut a long promo where Kimona was supposed to say one line at the end. She took 20 takes before she could say something like “I told you.” He personally likes Shane and thinks he’s a good worker. He thought he’d have a good singles career ahead of him and had believed it ever since he was in the Dynamic Dudes and had a singles match against Arn Anderson. The story he told in that match was that Arn had beaten his arm so badly that he couldn’t use it but he was going to keep on going anyway.
Cactus Jack and his anti-hardcore gimmick- It was great. He needed to turn heel and did it on the premise that he was killing himself in the ring but the fans didn’t care, so he just did regular wrestling instead of the garbage ECW style. He feels the best promos he’d ever heard were the ones that Cactus cut at that time. He said that Cactus would take all kinds of things that seemed to have no connection and then “tie them all together like a Seinfeld episode” in the end. He wanted to cut a promo of that caliber once and he did that exactly once, which was where he was sitting against a wall drinking a beer in Revere, Mass. He thought that Cactus’ idea about using restholds to get heat was GREAT, especially when it got to the point where the fans were doing The Wave to entertain themselves since the matches pissed them off so bad. He did give Cactus at least one idea, which was Cactus throwing Tommy to the floor so the crowd would thing that he was going hardcore again… then putting a headlock on Tommy on the floor.
Was it hard keeping the Sandman and Dreamer feuds started? Well, the Dreamer feud was off and on for about three years, as he’d take time off in between Dreamer stuff to feud with Sandman, Shane Douglas, and others.
The Terry Gordy match- It was one of the proudest moments of his career and Paul E talked it up as one of the best matches in his career along with the Goldberg match, the Rhyno match from Backlash 2001, the Dreamer match where he left the company, and a few others. He was proud about it because Gordy had been a natural before he had his coma and was limited as a result. For the one night they wrestled in ECW, he made Gordy look incredible and everyone thought that Gordy had returned to form… until he wrestled someone else the next week and it wasn’t good. It was kind of a dream of his as he always wanted to be Michael PS Hayes of the ORIGNAL Freebirds and NOT the bastardized version with Jimmy Garvin in WCW. He put over Hayes tremendously as a commentator in UWF as he would put over the psychology of the heel. Whenever he became a commentator, he made it a point to put over the psychology of the match and the story the wrestlers were trying to tell. All of his early characters were based off of Hayes. He was sitting in the corner before the match and something went wrong and he ended up sitting out there with his thumb up his ass while they fixed it. About 20 minutes later, Gordy came out to Freebird and no one could believe it was him because he hadn’t worked in the US in years. That was great but having one of the best matches in his career against him was even better.
Global story- When he was working Global, he was hanging out at a bar in Atlanta when he spotted Hayes. While he was debating whether he would go up to Hayes and talk to him and make an ass out of himself in the process by marking out, a woman came up to him and said “Excuse me, my husband would like to meet you.” It turns out her husband was Hayes. They ended up talking a lot and eventually Hayes’ wife said “Oh, I know him… that’s the guy you make me watch every day on Global.” That made his year.
Other fond memories of the first ECW run- The Double Dog Collar match where he took a double powerbomb through the table. That match also tied into a lot of storylines, as 911 chokeslammed Fonzie (referee Bill Alfonso) for the first time, the Dudleys putting Dreamer through a table (Big Dick Dudley and company, NOT Spike Dudley, DVon Dudley, or Bubba Ray Dudley), etc. He isn’t sure if it holds up now but that it was incredible at the time because it built off of all the feuds. Since Anthony of the Pitbulls was being a dick and didn’t want him kicking out of the double powerbomb through the table, Anthony bounced him off of the table instead of putting him through it, hitting his neck on the table in the process. He didn’t know he’d done it intentionally at the time.
Favorite moment of the Dreamer feud- When Stevie and Francie would put fluff on each other, the bit they did where he made Stevie choose between him and Francine where Stevie teased hitting him then superkicked Francine, Tyler coming out and telling Sandman “Daddy, you’re a drunk and I’m with Raven!” and doing the crucifixion pose that Raven used, etc.
Where was he happier, ECW or Portland? ECW because they were creating something that was going to last. Even if people don’t watch ECW footage ever again, you can see their influence on WWE TV today.
The shoot ends here as they plan to do a second Raven shoot when his non-disclosure agreement with the WWE runs out.
There are no matches. I’d assume they didn’t want to find Portland or Global matches and all of his other material is either owned by the WWE or will probably be owned by them soon.
Thoughts: Even though I usually care less about most of the federations he’s talked about, such as Portland, Memphis, Global, Florida, etc., this was still an incredible shoot. He’s funny as hell, very honest, controversial, AND he could read a phone book and get people to enjoy it. While I’m disappointed that the first half ended right as he jumped to WCW in 1997, the ECW stuff and his first runs in WCW and the WWF are informative as well as entertaining. He also has an incredible insight into the business and it’s a shame that he’s unwilling to do that for a living because the WWE sorely needs someone that knows their head from their ass right now. It’s equally as good as Arn Anderson’s shoot but a hair away from being as good as Jim Cornette’s 8-hour shoot. The as-yet unreleased second part to this interview may top Cornette, though.
Highest possible recommendation.