The number one way to make money in pro wrestling is with a great feud. Nothing draws bigger at the box office than a rivalry pitting good vs. evil. Today I spotlight one of professional wrestling’s greatest feuds.
Raven vs.Tommy Dreamer
In speaking of pro wrestling’s greatest feuds, one of the greatest from the last decade began locally in the city of Philadelphia, PA.
Extreme Championship Wrestling was in the early stages of a revolution in 1995 that arguably changed the industry forever. The days of boring matches, intelligence-insulting storylines, and characters you couldn’t relate to were over. ECW would bring their fans closer to their heroes and villains than any other company in the history of the business.
In walked Scott Levy. Levy, just out of the WWF under the name, “Johnny Polo” where he went from an in-ring talent to an outside of the ring employee. Tape collectors who followed Scott Levy from his early days in Portland, to trips through Memphis, Global, and WCW were aware of his talents. At this stage in the game, it was truly a make or break career move for Levy to go from the WWF to ECW under a completely different gimmick.
Tommy Dreamer entered ECW as a muscle-headed jock with overalls, and a pretty-boy smile. His in ring talents were never questioned, however, the character became the antithesis of everything ECW fans hated about pro wrestling. Tommy would morph his character from smile to grunt as he became angry, took off the overalls, donned black pants and a black t-shirt, came back for beating after beating, and completely reinvented himself to something the fans could identify with.
The feud started when Stevie Richards began wearing some of Scott Levy’s old ring jackets to the ring. Richards and Dreamer had some altercations, and Levy would emerge as Raven.
Raven wore t-shirts, ripped jeans, and was anything but the “Scotty Flamingo” character Levy portrayed in WCW. Raven was dark, evil, manipulating, a cross between Jim Jones, Jim Morrison, and the scary kid who walked the school halls alone with little to no friends.
The back story to their rivalry was that the two were friends from summer camp. As kids, Dreamer got all of the girls and had all of the friends, while Raven was a loner. The two became rivals then, and this would continue into ECW. Raven hated Dreamer and Dreamer learned to hate Raven.
Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven turned into the longest running feud in ECW history. Starting in 1995 and continuing through 2000 when the two became a hostile team. Not enough credit is given to Dreamer, Levy, and booker Paul Heyman for sustaining fan interest over such a long period of time. On paper, the storyline looks rather ridiculous. But the emotion, the intensity, the hate, the drama, the twists and turns in the story, and the tremendous abilities of Levy and Dreamer made it work.
The golden years of the feud were from 1995-1997. During this time period, Dreamer and Raven had wrestled each other at least once just about every weekend, in every kind of match possible. Raven would include his crew of followers which included Beulah McGuillity, Mick Foley, the B.W.O, and others. In a business today where wins and losses are forgotten by the week, Dreamer was never able to beat Raven. During that time period, the frustration and angst that Dreamer would carry with him into the ring against Raven made for wrestling heaven for ECW fans.
Their matches were the last of a dying breed of old-school brawls. The two would brawl all over the arena, come back to the ring, wrestle, brawl all over ringside, use chairs, ladders, tables, bleed buckets, and leave the fans standing on their feet yelling, “ECW” in unison.
In 1997, ECW took the company to a whole new level by entering the world of pay-per-view. WCW started to take them seriously and raided ECW by signing then champion Raven. Raven and Dreamer had what was billed as their final encounter at Wrestlepalooza in an old-school “Loser Leaves Town” match.
This presented an interesting scenario to everyone involved in this at the time. The ECW fans read the Internet, read the newsletters, and were already aware of Raven’s signing with WCW. The news would obviously telegraph the result of the match. Behind the scenes up until the match, Raven had politicked hard to win the match, completely throwing off logic and the fans. Would Paul Heyman go the traditional route and do what was right for business or leave the fans stunned?
The two had one of the greatest ECW matches of all-time. The fans went nuts from start to finish. Unlike in the past where fans would split down the middle, this was bigger than Raven vs. Dreamer. This was now WCW vs. ECW and there was nothing more the ECW fans hated more than WCW.
The match itself was even more of a roller coaster ride than their previous wars. Dreamer, Raven and everyone involved wrestled this match as if they were in the main-event of WrestleMania. The match featured tons of interference, foreign objects, and twists and turns. Every time the fans expected the match to end, someone would kick out and the war would continue. This wasn’t about a championship it was about life to these two men.
Tommy Dreamer eventually won the match. The war was over, Raven was leaving for WCW, Dreamer theoretically represented ECW by killing off the (WCW) enemy, and the book on this feud was complete. Or so the fans had thought.
Just like great feuds of the past including Dundee-Lawler, Freebirds-Von Erichs, Flair-Steamboat, the feud would see new life several years later. Just like those great feuds of the past, the feud would never come close to reaching earlier proportions the second time around.
Raven would return to ECW three years later from WCW. A new twist of the feud saw Raven and Dreamer strike a small truce and win the ECW World Tag Team titles. The constant tension between the two provided for some great teases that never seemed to get off of the ground. Some things are better left untouched.
Search around You Tube and you are bound to find dozens of clips from the Raven-Dreamer feud. For old-school fans, their ECW biased probably won’t allow them to recognize this feud for the greatness that it once was. For someone like me who as a ring announcer during that time in ECW had the pleasure to see this series every weekend, it was one of the greatest feuds of all-time.