Reliving A Feud #36: Raven Vs. The Sandman In ECW ’96 – ’97
Extreme Championship Wrestling produced some captivating stories during their early years of producing shows. One of the most memorable feuds to ever take place in ECW happened between Raven and The Sandman.
After a failed career in WCW as Scotty Flamingo and in the WWF as Johnny Polo, Raven appeared in ECW in January 1995 as a loner and hating everyone. He hated the guy that brought him into the company, Stevie Richards. Alongside Richards, Raven was quite successful in his feud with Tommy Dreamer and won the ECW Tag Team Championships. However, he had sights for higher accomplishments.
Meanwhile, The Sandman transformed from a surfer happy go lucky to a pissed off cigarette smoking, beer drinking hardcore wrestler. Sandman became a three time champion when he regained the ECW Heavyweight Championship from Mikey Whipwreck on December 9th, 1995.
Raven stepped up as the first challenger for Sandman’s ECW Heavyweight Championship and won the championship on his second attempt on January 27th at the ECW Arena. Of course, Raven got quite a bit from Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie before hitting a DDT onto a steel chair to win the championship.
Following the loss, Sandman also lost his longtime manager Woman, who was heading to WCW. To replace her, Sandman would associate himself with Missy Hyatt. Hyatt had a brief relationship with Stevie Richards at the end of ’95, but Hyatt soured on him quickly due to Raven not liking her. Sandman ended up saving Hyatt from Raven and Richards leading into their relationship. The relationship between Hyatt and Sandman would often include sexual remarks in their promos and was kind of gross, honestly.
Raven was able to continually defeat Sandman in rematches throughout the spring of ’96 thanks to various men in his Nest helping him. By June, Raven began to play mind games with Sandman when he got Sandman’s ex-wife Lori Fullington to join his Nest and join him at ringside. Sandman didn’t appear to be all that hurt by this event. After a match with Terry Gordy, Raven revealed that he had also gotten Sandman’s 7-year old son Tyler to join his side. Tyler accused Sandman of being an alcoholic. This rattled Sandman greatly to see his son posing with his nemesis, Raven.
In following promos, Tyler blamed Sandman for the family breaking apart and his love for alcohol. Raven would be off television to deal with a drug issue and that left Stevie Richards to defend the ECW Heavyweight Championship on Raven’s behalf. On October 5th, Sandman won the ECW Heavyweight Championship when he pinned Richards. However, the championship victory was short-lived when Lori revealed she had been on a European vacation with Raven.
After a successful title defense on October 26th against Too Cold Scorpio, Sandman was surprised to see Tyler enter the ring and seemingly want to reconcile with his father. However, this was just a set-up by Raven who was there to attack Sandman from behind. Raven and his Nest proceeded to crucify Sandman on a cross in what would be one of the most controversial moments in ECW history.
Sandman managed to retain the ECW Heavyweight Championship against Raven at November To Remember on November 16th. On November 23rd, Sandamn retained again against Raven in a dog collar match in Revere, MA. They battled again on December 7th at the ECW Arena this time seeing Raven win the ECW Heavyweight Championship in a brutal barbed wire match.
Entering 1997, Raven and his Nest started to break apart, mostly between Raven and Stevie Richards. They had always been bickering, but when Richards lost the ECW Heavyweight Championship while Raven was away, that appeared to be the boiling point.
At Cyberslam 1997, Raven was fed up with Lori Fullington seemingly distancing herself from him and helping Tommy Dreamer. So much so, Raven planted her with a DDT. This shocked Tyler who went backstage and led Dreamer to the ring after having gone backstage. Dreamer fought off Raven and the Nest. Following the match, Sandman embraced his son finally reuniting the family after nearly a year of separation.
Shortly after the Cyberslam event, Raven would lose the ECW Heavyweight Championship to Terry Funk and then leave for WCW for a few years. Sandman would eventually go to WCW as well, and they’d have brief interactions in WCW in March 1999 having a triple threat hardcore match that also involved Bam-Bam Bigelow.
Raven returned to ECW in the summer of 1999 while Sandman returned in October 1999. They had a few matches, I believe, but there wasn’t a heavy focus on any stories between the two the second time around. They’d meet years later in TNA in 2003, as well, along with countless matches on various independent wrestling shows up to 2005. However, this feud was the main reason people cared about the feud.
It’s one of my favorite angles and really made Raven an awesome heel. Sandman was able to actually get some sympathy and showed his vulnerable side, which just makes character better. I can always appreciate a feud with multiple layers which doesn’t happen often anymore.
What are your memories of the Raven vs. Sandman feud in ECW? Leave your thoughts below.
Thanks for reading.