Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling is fondly remembered by many fans for a multitude of reasons. Being the first ‘major’ company to bring the lucha libre style to the US in a big way, bloody hardcore brawls and insane spots and moments. But one of the most under the radar reasons to love ECW may just be the long-form storytelling that took place mostly in the ECW arena in the mid-90s. And while there are many great examples of this, they all pale in comparison to the story and feud between Raven and Tommy Dreamer. Join us as we take a brief look at their history together.
Beginning with journeyman talent Scott Levy, who had spent time in both WCW as Scotty The Body and in the WWF as Johnny Polo, Levy would revive his fledgling career and become a legend when he took on the mantle of Raven in ECW. Adhering to the popular grunge look of the day, Levy would cut promos unlike anything heard during that time, leaning into a much more cynical and evil style a la Jake The Snake Roberts as opposed to a loud in your face Hulk Hogan style. While in the early days’ Joey Styles would frequently bring up Raven’s past alter-egos in WCW and WWF, as the character gained traction this would end, with the story and Raven’s sights fully shifting to one Tommy Dreamer.
When Tommy Dreamer first showed up in ECW, he was the smiling handsome good guy. And the fans hated him for it and let him know thusly. It was only through a well-matriculated feud with The Sandman (who oddly would be the man who Raven would have his second most memorable feud with) that he would become the performer and ECW legend we all know and love. Before being asked to write about this feud I randomly watched an old ECW supershow on the WWE Network which featured a match between Tommy Dreamer and Steve (yet to become Stevie) Richards with Raven in his corner. The audience reaction to Dreamer is unlike anything I have seen in pro wrestling in an awfully long time. It is organic, it’s beautiful and it’s real. The odds that the day after watching this match I would be asked to write an ECW article about my favourite feud is something written in the stars.
The backstory to their feud was well built, with both Raven and Dreamer having attended a summer camp in their youth, where Dreamer was the handsome jock and Raven was the misfit outcast. But arguably the most important player in the feud was introduced through this story, Beulah McGillicutty. While attending camp, she had a crush on Dreamer but never had a chance as she was the token fat girl of the camp. Fast forward to when Raven brings her out, now a (shoot) Penthouse centrefold. The feud took the main billing in ECW between 1995 and 1997, with only the Sabu and Taz beef coming close in the hype. Throughout this time, perhaps Heyman’s masterstroke was that Dreamer never got one over on Raven. Every single match they had resulted in Raven having his hand raised. Dreamer would run through all of Raven’s cronies who included at different times like the BWO of Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie and Super Nova as well as Mick Foley briefly among others. And in the end, Raven always won.
Given the strength of the feud and the performances by all involved, it was only a matter of time before one of the big two came calling, and in 1997 Raven would leave for WCW. In their final match before his departure, Dreamer finally beat his archrival, although, in the classic method of moving from one feud to another, Dreamer would immediately be attacked by Jerry Lawler and Rob Van Dam, igniting the WWF invasion happening at the time.
Fast forward to 1999, when Raven would leave WCW and return home, wherein his first appearance he struck an uneasy alliance with Tommy Dreamer, lifting the ECW Tag Team Championship from the Dudley Boyz, preventing the duo from taking the titles with them to the WWF. While their feud never reached mass hysteria again, watching the two work together was always a pleasure for fans, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Alas, Raven would leave for the WWF in September 2000 and a few months later ECW would shutter its doors.
The true highlight of the feud is how well Heyman orchestrated the length and kept it hot over an entire two-year period, something that seems impossible in today’s day and age of wrestling. And of course, I truly believe no one other than Raven and Dreamer could have performed the parts to perfection any better. That is not to say less of all the auxiliary players like Beulah, Richards and others. If you aren’t familiar with the feud, I implore you to go back and relive some of it, when even a rather simple storyline could seem so real and ignite a fire in the bellies of both the performers and fans alike.
The Raven And Tommy Dreamer Timeline
January 10, 1995 – Raven debuts his new character in ECW.
April 8, 1995 – At ECW ‘Three-Way Dance’ Beulah was introduced into the storyline on the same night that Raven and Dreamer faced off in a singles match for the first time. Earlier in the night, Raven had changed the look of Raven’s Nest by getting rid of Johnny Hotbody and Tony Stetson and replacing them with The Pitbulls. Beulah and Stevie would interfere during the match giving Raven the win.
June 30, 1995 – Raven and Stevie Richards defeated Public Enemy to claim the ECW Tag Team Championships.
July 1, 1995 – At ECW Hardcore Heaven 1995 Raven and Stevie Richards defeated Tommy Dreamer and Luna Vachon to retain the ECW Tag Team Championships. Following the match The Pitbulls turned against Raven’s Nest and sided with Tommy Dreamer, turning face. This would lead to The Dudley Brothers, who debuted earlier in the night, joining Raven’s Nest. (Note: This was the team of Dudley Dudley and Snot Dudley, before D-Von and Bubba Ray entered the equation.)
July 15, 1995 – At ECW Heatwave Tommy Dreamer and The Pitbulls defeated Raven and The Dudley Brothers. Later in the evening Dreamer would handcuff Raven to a steel cage and delivered what is affectionately known as the “chair shot heard ‘round the world.”
August 5, 1995 – At ECW Wrestlepalooza Raven, Stevie Richards & The Dudley Brothers defeated Tommy Dreamer, The Pitbulls and Cactus Jack when Jack turned on Dreamer and joined Raven’s Nest.
September 16, 1995 – At ECW Gangsta’s Paradise, Raven and Stevie Richards lost the ECW Tag Team Championships to The Pitbulls when Dreamer interfered.
October 7, 1995 – Raven and Stevie Richards regained the ECW Tag Team Championships from The Pitbulls but went onto lose them to Public Enemy the same night.
November 18, 1995 – Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk defeated Raven and Cactus Jack. This night was also notable for the debut of The Blue Meanie, joining Raven’s Nest as Richard’s lackey.
December 30, 1995 – At ECW Holiday Hell, Raven defeated Tommy Dreamer for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship Number One Contendership but lost to Sandman later that night. Following an altercation with Stevie Richards, The Dudley Brothers also left Raven’s Nest.
January 5, 1996 – At ECW House Party, one of the most replayed and important moments in the feud would happen. Stevie Richards would attempt to kiss Beulah, who refused and announced she was pregnant. Raven would be informed that he was not the father, causing him to attack Richards. Beulah then announced that the father was Tommy Dreamer causing Beulah to join his side as Dreamer beat down Raven, Stevie and The Blue Meanie.
January 27, 1996 – Raven introduces Kimona Wanalaya as his new girlfriend and goes onto defeat The Sandman for his first ECW World Heavyweight Championship. This would lead to Raven’s other legendary ECW feud with The Sandman, involving him brainwashing Sandman’s wife and son to his side. This would move the Dreamer feud to the background while also still being prevalent.
June 6, 1997 – At ECW Wrestlepalooza Raven and Tommy Dreamer competed in a “Loser Leaves ECW” match that resulted in Tommy Dreamer finally getting the win over Raven for the first time in his career, leading to Raven leaving for WCW.
August 26, 1999 – On the debut episode of ECW on TNN, Raven returned as Tommy Dreamer’s surprise reluctant partner to win the ECW Tag Team Championships from The Dudley Boyz, preventing them from departing for the WWF with the titles. They would go on to reign for several months before losing the titles and briefly feuding once again, but it was never the same.
ARTICLE COURTESY OF Kyle Scharf