Kayfabe Commentaries Timeline ECW 1996 – Raven
Written by: Brian Bayless
This was released in 2015
It is hosted by Sean Oliver
The interview runs at two hours and sixteen minutes long.
Unlike the other Timelines for WCW and the WWE, this did not have a brief rundown of the year. Also, it was shot differently with an overhead camera and the room darkened and lighted up in red. They also have some clips of ECW featured here, courtesy of RF Video, who still owns the rights to some ECW footage.
On January 5th, at the House Party ’96 show from the ECW arena, Raven came out to confront Beulah stating that the baby she was carrying was not his, but rather belonged to Tommy Dreamer. Oliver asks Raven if this was too much like a soap opera as Raven said you can never be too much like that because that is what wrestling is just that it takes place in the ring. However, Raven said that the angle had no payoff and he hates when the fans get ripped off when that happens. He compares it to Mae Young giving birth to a hand and how he liked that as it was so fucking ridiculous. Raven thinks that Paul Heyman had no payoff and probably thought it up on the fly. He then talks about having a great relationship with Heyman, as he saw the Raven character the same way as himself, but that it failed as Raven called himself out for being an “asshole.” Raven also puts over Heyman always having time for business but that he would go off on drunken riffs after that, along with Sandman. Raven then talks about thinking that Beulah wouldn’t fit his character and take away from his interactions with Stevie Richards but that she ended up being great in the role. He then puts over Richards and how he got over as a babyface for being great as a “ludicrous idiot.”
Rob Van Dam also made his debut at the House Party ’96 show. When asked, Raven said that he fit in well in the locker room and said he was a pothead. Raven then talks about the different cliques within the company such as Philly (Sandman, Tod Gordon, Pitbulls) and New York (Dudleys, Taz, Heyman) as Raven states he was mostly aligned with Philly.
Shane Douglas made his return to the same show, stating he had been in “purgatory” before slapping Bubba Ray Dudley in order to teach him English as the fans chant “Dean is Dead.” Raven says this was the beginning of the “lost years” for himself as he talks about Douglas hating Ric Flair, the WWF, and the Outsiders. Raven respects Douglas for his ability to stand up for himself, even if it burns bridges.
The Public Enemy cut a promo in the ring on this show has they claimed the ECW Arena was the house they helped built while the fans chanted “you sold out.” Raven then talks about how there was a thought of him being in Public Enemy and how he wanted to do a rapper character as far back as his first WCW stint because he was listening to a lot of rap at the time, stating he lost interest in that genre after “gangsta rap” was phased out. Raven is asked about if WCW was considered an enemy as Raven talks about being one of the only people in the company then who had been to many places and never bought the Kool Aid that other promotions would be considered the enemy. He did state that he understood what Heyman was doing, especially how he built up the company as a team sport because he feels that they are all trying to draw money together. Raven then says Heyman saw himself as a Vince Lombardi-type who could motivate anyone. When asked how Heyman motivated him, Raven stated that he knew how to coach and allowed him to “be who he wanted to be and do what he wanted to do.” He also gives an example of how he wanted to be in a barbed wire match but at the same time was intimidated to do so. Heyman told Raven that they wanted to put the belt back on him but the only way he would do so was in a barbed wire match. Raven said it wasn’t about the belt, which he describes as the “dangling carrot,” but Heyman put him a spot to be courageous and get over his fear of the match.
Raven pinned Sandman with a DDT on a steel chair to win the ECW World Title on the January 27th edition of “Hardcore TV.” He said that he compared the ECW Title, for himself, as the “King of the Shriners” circus instead of the “Ringling Brothers” and how he held himself to such a high standard while other guys there felt that ECW was it for them. Raven states he wouldn’t change it for anything and proud but they were still the third company behind the WWF and WCW at that time. He then talks about how next week, Heyman made the whole show about Sandman, who just lost the belt. Raven approached him as Heyman said that since Sandman lost the belt, they needed to rebuild him and that Raven was fine as he was the champion as he said that was a brilliant decision.
On Kimona Wanalaya, Raven first talked about how he went out every night of the week, which later on became a problem as he was deeper into drugs and alcohol, but one week decided to go to the strip club across the street from his apartment in Philly. He got to DJ as he was friends with the person there and even got paid at the gig then saw Kimona and needed a new valet at the time. Raven talked to his buddy about getting her into the business and it happened after that. Raven said she didn’t do much of anything but had a magnetic personality on TV. When asked, Raven said they were never romantically linked but was with most of his valets.
They talk about 911 (Al Poling) and how he kept asking for a bigger in-ring role to the point he annoyed Heyman which then led to a confrontation ending with 911 giving his notice. Raven talks about how 911 pulled off his look and wanted to work but he couldn’t and would instantly get exposed, hence why Heyman kept in him his role. Raven said he finally let him wrestle against Ron Simmons and it was a disaster. Raven then talks about how 911 was getting crazy reactions and chants from the crowds and how that will automatically go to your head and when asked to do a job he got upset.
Raven is asked how Chris Jericho, who made his debut on February 2nd, fit into the ECW locker room. Raven said Jericho is a good-natured, funny guy that can fit into any locker room. He also puts over his career outside of wrestling. On Bam Bam Bigelow’s surprise debut, Raven doesn’t know how Heyman got him there or why he left the WWF and said he was always his own guy.
He talks about the luchadores (Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, and Psychosis) and how Heyman knew Mysterio would be huge as Raven puts him over for being amazing. He even said that Juventud was just as good as Rey but not as clever and more in the “fucked-up mold” like himself. Raven said that he thinks Juventud behaved in ECW but not in WCW. Raven said Psychosis was brought in to pair up against Rey.
Brian Pillman made a surprise appearance at the February 17th Cyberslam show, stating he was just fired by “Eric Jerkoff” before referring to Paul E. as a “piece of fucking shit.” Raven is asked about Pillman’s breaking character in WCW and said that he immediately knew it was work because if it was a shoot, they would have cut out on the camera feed. He said that wrestling fans gradually get more knowledgeable with the more that they watch but does put over Pillman for being Andy Kaufman-esque with his execution. Raven said that he rode with Pillman and Steve Austin in WCW and mentioned how when Pillman came into ECW they did a lot of cocaine together. He believes that Pillman allowed life to imitate art, much like himself, and his addictions got even worse.
When asked about Tod Gordon’s role with the company despite having already sold it to Heyman, Raven first said that Gordon was the heart and soul of ECW and loved in Philly as he talks about the pawn shop he owned. Raven also puts him over for being a great babyface commissioner.
After the March 9th Big Ass Extreme Bash show, Cactus Jack calls out Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie as they dance to “New York, New York” in his last night with the company before heading to the WWF. Raven is asked if he was misused at first in the WWF and he agrees, stating it was until they let him become an extension of himself when he got over and became popular.
On Axl Rotten, Raven said he was really good and could work but everyone saw him as a death match guy. He also adds that losing the British accent hurt his career along with his drug problem. Raven said his British punk character was unique but he did not want to do the accent.
Raven talks about the Dudleys. He said while in Tampa at the Fairgrounds, the movie “Slapshot” popped up in his head and he started quoting lines from the Hanson Brothers. He goes off topic a bit to talk about how Taz somehow made himself the costume designer and the guy who did the posters (noting that Taz put himself and Sabu as the only two people on the first ECW PPV poster) but gave him credit for coming up with the glasses and the overalls. Raven said that Dudley Dudley was the best worker but it got too expensive to fly him in from Florida and that Dances with Dudley got let go after New Jack jumped him (Raven said that’s a whole other story he doesnt want to get into) and Chubby Dudley was just there for a cup of coffee. He also said that Sign Guy Dudley infuriated him at the shows because he thought he was “in the business” so he made him a Dudley as Raven thought it would piss him off by trying to trump him each show with all sorts of signs and after a while Sing Guy stopped bringing signs to the show altogether.
Nova made his debut fighting El Puerto Ricano to a no-contest. Raven said that he found him at an independent show where he was trying to act like Adam West’s Batman character and thought he would make a good “idiot” to add to his flock.
When asked how not to get heat in the locker room, Raven said that you shake hands with everyone. He even adds that if two guys are in the middle of a conversation, just politely interrupt and shake their hands before taking off because you do not want to risk the chance of getting “heat” with someone for if you did not introduce yourself. He then adds how its like high school.
On the Kimona/Beulah lesbian angle, Raven said it was ridiculous. He adds that they were supposed to kiss at one point and after agreeing to do so, refused to so they put a giant “X” on the screen instead to pretend that it was happening. When asked, Raven said it was not his idea and it was Heyman’s.
On Taz, Raven said that he believed his own hype. He then talked about how he had a Napoleon complex and constantly got on guys for not “paying dues,” despite the fact he had never done so himself. Raven said Taz never went to a territory to work. He talks about how when Taz came to the WWF and said people couldnt wear orange or black because they were his colors as the rest of the WWF basically went “fuck you” and did whatever they want, while Raven points out how that right there shows you that ECW was still the 3rd promotion.
Regarding Gabe Sapolsky, Raven said he remembers him and how he learned from Heyman and would listen to him but also said he doesnt get why people think he is a great booker because he saw his “Guest Booker” DVD for Kayfabe Commentaries and just put together matches fans wanted to see, without any storylines. Raven adds when in Ring of Honor, Sapolsky would just put together matches fans wanted to see but that doesnt make you a great booker, who is someone that tells story. Raven puts him over for being a good guy but at the same time he let his hype to go his head.
On Taz defeating Paul Varleans, a UFC fighter who initially refused to job to Taz until a compromise was made, Raven is first asked if Taz would stand a chance if it was a shoot fight. Raven said probably not but adds how all wrestlers are tough, noting that small guys like Spike Dudley are as tough as they come.
On the night when Sandman’s son came out and called him a “drunk” and said that he worshipped Raven instead, Raven called that the greatest night of his career. He also added that Sandman himself coming up with the idea for his family to join the Flock, joking he probably did it to get them a payoff.
Raven said Louie Spicolli was a good guy who got along with everyone. On his drug use and if his was that evident, he did not but said no one’s problem was that evident at the time as it hadnt progressed to the point where you were unable to perform in the ring.
Raven said that some of Joel Gertner’s stuff was really clever and he liked him as a manager but didnt care for him as a ring announcer, noting that it took away credibility when he went off doing limericks.
On Shane Douglas breaking Pitbull #1’s neck with a DDT on the Championship belt, Raven said that he hung around with Pitbull after that, who was complaining about his neck. Raven brought him to his chiropractor, who suggested he get an x-ray at the hospital. Ptibull showed up and they saw his neck was broken on both sides. Raven said it was painful watching him in the halo, which we wore for six months. The doctors also told Pitbull that the only reason he was not paralyzed was due to the fact his neck was extremely muscular.
He talks about working in Japan and when asked about them being quiet thinks that its bullshit. Raven said that they acted to them like the American crowds did.
Raven confirmed that there was legitimate heat between Lori Fullington (Sandman’s wife) and Missy Hyatt, which made their on screen feud great. Raven said Missy was talented but also a pain in the ass. He talks about sleeping with her once when he was Scotty Flamingo but years after that there was some animosity, which he learned was due to her actually liking him. Raven also said that Missy complained that he came too fast, which he laughs about and said it worked for him.
Raven is asked about his match against Pitbull #2 at the “When Worlds Collide” show, which had as many as 13 people involved. Raven said its effective when done correctly and and compares it to a science experiment that you have to work on to perfect. He also said he put this match together.
On the segment in which Raven hosted Tyler’s (Sandman’s son) birthday party, he said it was genius and Heyman’s idea. He does not remembered where it was taped though then goes on about how everybody has ideas and does not want to take credit for stuff he does not deserve and thinks he might have came up with a few things in the segment.
He is asked about the “House of Hardcore,” which was the wrestling school Taz and Perry Saturn ran during the week to make extra money. On whether or not they were qualified, Raven said anyone can teach bumping and opening level stuff but his problem with wrestling school teachers is that you have students of students who never really worked anywhere teaching guys. He does say they were both more than qualified.
During the ECW Invasion of the WWF “In Your House” PPV, Raven said ECW came out looking like jabronis as their toughest guy (Taz) jobbed to the WWF commentator (Lawler).
On Sandman winning back the ECW Heavyweight Title in a tag match against Stevie Richards and Brian Lee, Raven said it was because he was in rehab at the time. He was only gone for about ten days as Raven stated he had an “emotional breakdown” and had nothing to do as he stopped working out and took the structure out of his life. He said he checked himself into rehab as he couldnt even get out of bed but denied that he was going through withdrawals at the time. On whether or not Heyman should have taken the title away, Raven said he is unsure and did not remember where the storyline was at the time.
Regarding Kurt Angle making an appearance, shaking Taz’s hand, Raven said Angle never had interest in pro wrestling but his other plans did not work out and he briefly came into ECW but left and after that went to the WWF.
Chris Candido returned to the company. Raven talks about how he got along with everyone, noting no matter what people thought of Tammy Sytch they always liked him. Raven is asked about Tammy and said it is a sad story because she was the first girl in wrestling to break out in a long time but it went to her head and she crashed and burned hard. He then tells a story about one night they had a show at the Nassau Coliseum and he was with Candido and Tammy at their house. Tammy told Raven to stay over as it was too late then when Candido either went to bed or in the shower, Tammy came into the room and blew him and said at one point he thought he saw someone looking from outside the window as it happened, suggesting it could have been Candido or just his mind playing tricks, then talks about how Tammy once slept with Hack Myers while Candido was passed out………..in the same bed.
On his crucifixion angle, Raven said it was approved before it happened, despite the fact he stated to the crowd afterwards he did not receive approval to do so. Raven said that Angle was pissed backstage, because he was a Christian, and Taz followed suit because he wanted him into the company and jumped on that bandwagon. Raven then talks about how it was stupid for him to apologize, which was Heyman’s idea, because they were the extreme promotion and if they did cross the line not to repeat it again. He then talks about art using religious iconography all of the time to promote things and how he had this idea after getting out of rehab.
Terry Funk returned to ECW as Raven talks about how he got criticized for working “light” with Funk. Raven puts him over or being tough and just an amazing guy.
Next, he is asked about the Mass Transit incident where New Jack bladed 17 year old Eric Kulas in a match and cut an artery, causing him to be rushed to the hospital and the kid’s father suing New Jack. Raven said he did not pay much attention as in that venue you could not really see the stage from the locker room. He also said he made it a point to stay away from New Jack’s drama.
At the “Holiday Hell” show, Raven regained the ECW World Title from Sandman. He is asked about working a barbed wire match safely as Raven said you cant but just make sure to avoid getting it stuck in your eyes. He then tells a story about working with Sandman once and how there was watermelon juice all over floor as someone got one smashed over his head and when he ran down to the ring to attack him, slipped on the juice and did a split, going right into the post and ended up knocking himself out. So, Raven had to go out and pick him up to put in the ring and ended up having to grab Sandman’s hand to make it look like he got punched and ended up DDT’ing himself to make Sandman look like he performed the move.
Raven said this was one of the best years of his career but also the year where his drug and alcohol problems began.
Final Thoughts: At times, this interview was very insightful. However, there were some points that were tough to sit through as Raven kept going off-topic and rambled without any entertainment value. He does this to begin with but it can be worth listening to, especially when he discusses psychology.
The first half-hour or so of the interview was not very good. Raven kept talking about how he always expected more from himself and never felt he was good enough at the time but through therapy has now stopped those thoughts. It was almost like he had to get that all out of his system. Once he did, the interview improved.
Raven is great at discussing psychology and explaining the insight that Heyman had behind his decisions. There was not many wild stories here but Raven has more than enough of those in previous shoot interviews. While his memory is not great, he was still able to paint a picture of what the company was doing in 1996.
Overall, I would recommend this shoot but be warned that it can really drag at certain points. The good outweighs the bad here.
You can purchase the DVD for $20 or buy it On Demand, which you own forever, for $15.99 by clicking on the link below: