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Raven Torch Talk


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Raven Torch Talk

 

The following is a "Torch Talk" with Raven, one of the most intelligent, frank, well spoken, controversial, well_travelled main event wrestlers in the country. In this interview, conducted Aug. 17, Raven (real name Scotty Levy) talks about virtually every aspect of his career, from his start in the territories to his acclaimed ECW days to his falling out with Paul Heyman to his drug problems to his stints in WCW and the WWF to his current run in TNA. He also talks in depth about drug use in general in wrestling.

 

Wade Keller: I want to begin by touching upon where you came from before wrestling. Where did you grow up and what kind of childhood did you have, what were your hobbies?

 

Raven: I was born in Philadelphia, then moved to just south of West Palm Beach when I was nine or ten, upper middle class, but not rich rich. I really didn't want for much. I was actually one of those kids that needed extra attention and I didn't get a normal amount at home, so it caused me to be very insecure and led me to be incredibly egotistical in my later years.

 

Keller: Were you an only child?

 

Raven: No, I had an older sister. She had a lot of problems. My father was emotionally stunted and she had a lot emotional problems. There's a history of Looney Tunes and insanity in our family. Not that she ever had any insanity, but she had a lot of emotional problems and all of the attention went to her, so I felt even more slighted. Really more than anything it caused me to be who I am, an overachiever - the loud, obnoxious overachiever - to compensate. People don't realize that what we do, we're artists. I mean, you can say we're athletes, you can say we're a lot of things, but ultimately, we're a bunch of artists, a bunch of sensitive artists. I mean, what we do is art. It really is. I think it's a much harder art form than ballet or anything else. I defy the ballet to globally choreograph what they're going to do that afternoon and then go perform it that night, with no rehearsal. There's no way. What we do is so incredibly complicated to do it well. Anyone can do it crappy. To do it well is such an art form and you have to be a bit of an artist for that. You notice the boys have some of the thinnest skins, whether they want to admit it or not. I've never seen a touchier bunch of guys regarding critiques or anything else.

 

Keller: I've never noticed that. It's funny you would say that... I'm kidding.

 

Raven: I'm not saying that as a bad thing, that's how we are. If you have the need to be adored by complete strangers, obviously there's a certain psychological component missing in your own life, because otherwise why would you need to have this adoration whether it's cheers or boos from complete strangers. I think anybody who becomes a celebrity in some capacity has that need. I'm sure there are some people that just get into wrestling strictly for wrestling and it has nothing wanting to do with celebrity, but, let's face it, they come hand in hand, part and parcel. They are inextricably linked together.

 

Keller: Was your father involved with the National Enquirer?

 

Raven: Yea, he was not the owner or the publisher or anything like that, although I wish he would have been. He was the senior editor for about 15 or 20 years. So, he was the number two guy or the number three guy, off and on, rotating back and forth. I guess between the number two guy and number four guy for most of those fifteen, twenty years. He was paid a pretty lucrative salary. It was the highest paying newspaper in the world and it was definitely a comfortable living, but we weren't rich.

 

Keller: What did you do to occupy yourself growing up? What would you say looking back at your preteen and teen years were your main hobbies?

 

Raven: Drugs for awhile. Drugs was a big hobby. Sports was a big hobby. I never played sports well, though. I was never anything more than a mid_carder. But, going back to my previous point, this business isn't about, you know, the more athletic you are the better chance you have at it. Let's face it, some of the top workers ever were horrible athletes. You know what I mean? I mean, it's not even that they were horrible, but none of them were world class, none of them could have played pro sports as a starter anywhere else. Yet most pro athletes can't do what we do. Mongo McMichael, who was abysmal at what we do, what was he, a five_time All Pro? He said wrestling was five times harder, ten times harder than football ever was. What's rather interesting is this guy's an All-Pro at football, phenomenal at it, but stunk at wrestling, and thought wrestling was ten times harder than football considering what we do, including the travel. The travel alone would kill most people. I've had friends on the street who were just incredibly tough people, really badasses, and they'd start taking bumps, and be like, Oh my God! They thought it was so easy, then one day they take a bump. It's not easy. It's physically demanding, mentally challenging on so many levels. I think Jim Cornette said any other sport they tell you what to do and you just follow the basic instructions; here's a play in football, go run the play. But in this (wrestling) you have to think for yourself. You don't have a coach. You have to come up with everything yourself, so it becomes much more complicated and much more difficult than if you're just following along with the game plan.

 

Keller: What are your first memories of actually noticing professional wrestling existed? How old were you and what were the circumstances?

 

Raven: I had to be 7 or 8 and I loved it as a kid. It was the ultimate combination of sports and drama. I remember Sonny King and Chief Jay Strongbow were tag team champions. I used to love Chief Jay Strongbow. He could get beat down to the point where there's no way he could come back, then he would go into this miraculous war dance. He had so much fire when he came back that you couldn't help but just be overwhelmed by the sheer greatness of it. I mean, he's like wow. I couldn't wait even then for him to get beat up just so I could see him make a comeback. Like I understood that intrinsically as a kid that if he didn't get beat up, he wasn't going to go on the war dance. So as much as he was my hero, I hoped they beat him up just so he would go on the war dance.

 

Keller: Do you remember the first time you saw wrestling in person?

 

Raven: The first time I went to an actual match was when I was 10 and my dad gave me one of those home haircuts and he completely butchered me. Of course, I cried. I was 10 years old. This was when we moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a year and he said, "Alright, I'll take you to wrestling. You know how much I love wrestling, I'll take you to the wrestling match just to make up for butchering your hair." I said, "Alright, cool." I don't even know who was on the card. I think Baren Von Raschke and Horse Hoffman and I think Dusty Rhodes was a heel because, I don't know if he was on the card, but I remember he was a heel there because when I went to Florida he was a babyface there and I thought that's kind of weird that they hate him in that part of the country but they love him here. And I mean they loved him in Florida. It was totally one extreme to the other. When I moved to Florida, I was like, Man, all the other kids say, "Dusty Rhodes, he's the man." I thought the guy sucked, but within three weeks he was so charismatic and he had so much fire, he completely won me over.

 

Keller: At what point of being a fan did you look at this and say, "I want to do this myself"?

 

Raven: I probably said that from day one. We used to wrestle in the back yard. But I never thought I could do it. It's kind of like anything in the celebrity field. You don't actually think you can do it; it's something other people do. Plus, I never thought I'd be big enough. Years later, I guess I had six months or a year left in college and I realized I wanted to be a celebrity of some capacity - like I wanted to be in the celebrity field. I had never stopped watching wrestling, I had never stopped going to the matches. I never stopped loving wrestling, but I never thought I'd do that, either. I always thought I had a better chance of doing something else. I was watching Florida Championship Wrestling and Ricky Santana was being pushed with Dave Sierra in a tag team. They were pushing him as this pretty boy cool heel, whatever. I was like, Man, I'm bigger than he is and I know I'm better looking than he is. If he can do this, I can do this. He's not a big fan of this story, of course. Then we became good friends over the years and I always like to tell this story. But it's true. That is how I decided that I could be a wrestler, because if Ricky Santana could do it, I could.

 

Keller: What steps did you take once you said you were going for it?

 

Raven: I went about it like I would anything else, like a college project. All right, where are the wrestling schools, how do I learn how to do this? I heard about the Malenko school because I lived in Florida. I went to the matches to try to meet some of the boys just to find out where I could go to wrestling school. I wasn't really interested in meeting them to meet them, I was more interested in getting something out of it. For some reason people kept telling me Malenko's school was closed, but it wasn't. I don't know why they said it. The only schools I could find anything about since this was pre_Internet days, was Larry Sharpe's school, Killer Kowalski's school, and there was a pro bodybuilder Ken Pasterello who shared his gym with Tony Alchamary who had a wrestling school. I think those were the only three I could find. No, I also stopped by Tyree Pride's school, but I wasn't impressed. I ended up going to the Monster Factor because they were in Sports Illustrated. Even though they hadn't put anybody famous in the business. Bam Bam hadn't gone anywhere yet, he hadn't been to New York (WWF) yet; he had only worked in Japan. I didn't know anything about Japan. I didn't even know there was Japanese wrestling. He got into Sports Illustrated, so I figured he must have something going for him. So I went to Larry Sharpe's Monster Factor.

 

Keller: What year was that?

 

Raven: 1987.

 

Keller: What did you think once you began training to be a wrestler? Were you shocked? Were you surprised?

 

Raven: Nah. Well, I was surprised Larry was never there. It probably worked out better that he was never there. He was always in Japan with Bam Bam. Charlie Fulton actually trained us. He had worked for 20 years. He was always a really well_respected worker, but he never got a push because he was kind of vanilla. But he was always one of the guys who put people over. The boys would make sure he looked good because they all respected him. They didn't guzzle him like they did the other guys.

 

Keller: Were you smart to how the business worked when you began training?

 

Raven: Tyree Pride tried to tell me wrestling was a shoot when I stopped by his training camp. That was preposterous. I always hated the fact once I got into the business - I consider myself an old_timer because I went through the old territory system. I'm probably the last of the old timers. (Chris) Benoit and (Chris) Jericho are the first of the new school. They started right around the same time, and they did wrestle in Smoky Mountain, but Smoky Mountain wasn't really the old territories. They went to Calgary and Japan and went overseas, but it was like a year or two later. But I hated telling people that wrestling was real because it was obviously not. It was so poorly done for the most part. There were a lot of guys who did it phenomenally. For the most part, though, there was no way you could tell somebody this is real and somebody wouldn't laugh at you. I always said it was completely real. I always did tow the company line because I've always been a team player and I wasn't going to say it was fake. But I hated saying it was real. I was so happy when Vince outed us, you know what I mean? Because nobody believed it anyway. Nobody can take fifteen punches to the face. If you watch MMA now, you can see how much a human being can take before they crumble. And I think it's kind of obvious. This might surprise a lot of the guys in the business, but I've probably been in a hundred fights in my day. I'm not known as a fighter in this business because I try not to be, but I bounced for years, and being as obnoxious as I was, it wasn't hard to get into fights whether I wanted to or not. But people know what the human body can take. Plus people are so conditioned to know it was fake, even if they never watched it, so trying to tell people it was real, they'd just look at you like you were retarded.

 

All the old timers talked about how it would be doom and gloom when they outed the business, but when they outed the business, it didn't change a thing. It became more popular than it had ever been before. The boys who went to Japan would say the fans there think it's real. No they don't! They just recognized a long time ago that we were busting our asses, that it takes a lot of athletic skill, that it's a very athletic endeavor, and they respect it. They respected it before we did. But I don't think they ever thought it was freakin' real. Giant Baba was 6_10 and a skeleton and he'd give the lightest chops to the tops of their heads and people would sell it like they were shot. Nobody could take that seriously. There is no reason to. As long as you can get them to suspend their disbelief for your particular thing, that's what you want. It's like if you go to the movies and you're watching a gladiator fight, and then one of the gladiators has a Rolex on, the Rolex takes you right out of your suspension of disbelief. But on the other hand, you're never at the theater going, "Ooh, I bet Russell Crowe really sliced that guy open." You're never thinking that, but if Russell Crowe is wearing a Rolex, you would go, "Ah, come on, he's wearing a Rolex."

 

Keller: Exactly. I like that example a lot as a way to illustrate what suspension of disbelief is all about. When you went to training camp, what came most easily to you, the psychology of the matches, the bumps?

 

Raven: Honestly, I went to school for a month. My friends laugh at me when I tell it, but I'm kind of a natural for being a mid_card athlete my whole life. It helped that I wrestled for years in my backyard with my friends and in college we used to put on little costumes in our fraternity house and we beat each other senseless. After about a month Larry Sharp comes to me and he's like, "Look there's nothing else I can teach you here at the school. You know how to do every basic headlock, armdrag, lockup, blah, blah, blah. You need to work in front of people. You can come to the school as long as you want, you paid your three grand." Wrestling school is the only thing inflation hasn't hit. It was three grand 15 years ago, it's three grand pretty much everywhere now. It's unbelievable how wrestling school has fought the inflation battle for us. But anyway, he said, "Look, you can stay as long as you want, but what am I going to teach you? You need to be in front of people." So for nine months I sent all my pictures of "Scotty the Body" (Raven's original ring name) to Portland, Continental, Memphis, Puerto Rico, everybody, and every three weeks I had my whole list and I would call these people, the promoter, and they would say no and I would check it off and call back in three weeks.

 

Finally, I had about five or six matches. Larry Sharpe only promised you one match when you signed up. But he had a very good point, that is just like a college, nobody promises you a job out of college. They just give you the education and what you do with it is what you do with it. So I had five or six matches and finally Lawler hired me. I went to Memphis on February 20, 1988. The only reason I know the actual date is that when WWE sent me to Memphis to help the minor league guys, I told (Lawler) the story and he actually brought out the (records) from that timeframe and my first date turned out to be Saturday, February 20. That was my first territory, Memphis. They were the first to hire me.

 

Keller: What did you think working in front of a crowd? Did you get a rush from that immediately or was it a challenge to get used to it?

 

Raven: You know, it was kind of ironic that I got there and I couldn't believe that they were actually going to put me over, cause they go, "What's your finish?" I didn't have a finish. I just always laid on my back. Then after two, three weeks of being there, I picked it up that quick and I was like, "Why am I putting these stiffs over?" After my second house show match, they realized I was too green, I wasn't good enough yet. So, they turned me into a jobber after all. But after like three or four weeks of being there, I picked it up. But something I learned right away, once they see you in a certain light, it's very hard to get them to change that. That's how they saw me. So for two-and-a-half months, I just put people over and then they gave me my release. But in the mean time, Florida re_started back up with Mike Graham and Steve Keirn and they were coming up there to get some footage to show on their TV show before they actually started their thing. Mike Graham thought I had a lot of talent and was a good talker and whatnot. That was from just seeing me in the locker room, since I had never actually talked on the Memphis TV show. He said he wanted to bring me in as a cocky heel. "You have no business being a babyface," he said. "You're a cocky heel." I've pretty much had a spot ever since except in New York (WWE) where they **** on me and in WCW when (Bill) Watts let me go.

 

Keller: When did you end up in Portland?

 

Raven: After Florida, I finished up there in about ten months, and actually went to Vancouver to work for Al Tompko. Because I was on a Hawaiian tour that some guy ran and Moose Morowski was on there who I guess was a Canadian guy, I don't know if he was a midcarder or a top guy, but he was around Canada for 20 or 30 years. I guess he was real good friends with Al Tompko and so he told Tompko, "You oughta bring this kid in." So when Florida finished me up, I went up there, but that didn't work out at all and after about a month I drove down to Portland on a Saturday night to see if I could get a job there and (Roddy) Piper hired me. At that point I had been in the business, I consider, full_time... Guys will talk about, "Ahh, I've been in the business 15 years." Yeah, but you only worked full_time for three of them. You know, to me it doesn't count if you're only working 20 dates a year. So at that point I had been working full_time just 11 months as Scotty the Body.

 

Keller: I think your time in Portland was when people began saying, "Hey there's this guy over there. He's interesting. There's something about him behind the mic, the way he carries himself." People started taking notice of you. Do you look at Portland as a period when you got people's attention?

 

Raven: Yeah, that's where I learned how to work. You had to go 15, 20 minutes at night. You were either going up the ladder or coming down the ladder if you were in Portland. Nobody was on top of the ladder at that point. It wasn't a high paying territory, but it was an easy job with easy rides and you worked six or seven nights a week, never less than six. Just five nights a week was rare. So, I'm working 11 months, probably five or six months later, Jim Ross calls and wants to book me on TBS and pay me a hundred grand a year, which was a lot of money back then.

 

Keller: Yes. It's a lot of money now for guys.

 

Raven: Yeah, but it was a lot of money back in '88, '89, whatever. A year and a half in the business and they're already calling me up to the show. I didn't think I was ready and I ended up burning a major bridge for a long time, which I didn't even realize I did. But they called me up to the show. They wanted me to come in as commentator, because I did color commentary in Portland. But I wasn't ready yet. I was like, "I've only had a year and a half." I didn't realize that when somebody wants you, you're valuable now, but I thought I'd be more valuable when I had more seasoning. That's not how it works in this business. When your number's called, your number's called. But I didn't think I was ready. The Grappler told me he was going to stay in touch with Jim Ross while I thought about it for a month. I learned a valuable lesson here to do your own business because it turned out he never talked to J.R. He told me he was going to take care of it, but he didn't, so J.R. thought I was some prima donna. "Who the f___ is he to not call me back," he was probably thinking. I rode with Grappler and I thought he saw me as his boy. I don't know, maybe he didn't want me to leave the territory cause I was the top draw at that point. It was kinda interesting, I'm the top guy after less than a year and a half in the business. I didn't realize how good I had it until years later. But anyway, I burned that bridge and that took a long, long time to repair. I also burned a bridge in Florida because there were some guys I didn't get along with, so that spread. I'm not saying my rep wasn't well deserved. I've been known to be an obnoxious prick. I think it was some my fault, definitely some of their fault. A lot of it was my doing. I mean, a lot of it was my own doing. So now I'm this great, gifted young guy in the business and I already have a bad reputation. So, I mean, that's the story of my life.

 

But the long shot being, I spent two years in Portland and I was probably better off anyway, because if I had gone to WCW, I didn't have the skills yet. Instead, I spent two years working 15 to 20 minutes a night with guys like the Grappler, who's a hell of a worker. I mean, he was on top when he was 20 years old for Bill Watts. Al Madril, lazy as hell, miserable bastard, but good guy and knew how to work. I learned psychology. I learned how to be able to tell the difference - which the workers today just have no clue. Here's an aspect that nobody gets anymore. It's like, they think just because they get shouts from the crowd, like if they get a yea, it's the right yea, or if they get a boo, it's the right boo. It's the same thing as if I say hello to you, I can mean, "Hello, how you doin'?" I can mean, "Hello, go f__k yourself." I can mean, "Hello, leave me alone, I'm tired." It can mean a lot of different things.

 

Crowd reaction, just because there's noise, doesn't mean good or bad. It's shades of gray. You don't learn that unless you're in front of a crowd every freakin' night. And at least once a week I was in front of a crowd of a couple thousand people. So, even if we were only drawing a couple hundred during the week, every single Saturday there were at least a couple thousand. So, you're learning how to sense you've spent too much time in the ring, so you need to get to the floor. You learn when you've spent too much time on the floor and it's time to get back into the ring. The people, even though they're with the match, we've spent too much time doing ga_ga, we need to get into it. We didn't spend enough time doing ga_ga. The boys don't get that because all they hear is black and white, yea or boo. They don't know the shades of gray that come in between and the subtle differences in crowd responses. There are guys who stall and the people are making noise, and they think they're doing all right, but in reality they're burning them out. To some wrestlers, if they get a reaction, they don't realize that by getting that reaction they're sacrificing the end of the match. Or even worse, they're sacrificing later on on the card for your own thing.

 

Keller: There's a big picture, not just your match, right?

 

Raven: Right. Sometimes you're not there to steal the show, just be part of the confines of your acceptable area. There are confines you have to stick to. It is a team sport in some ways, you know.

 

Keller: When you were in Portland, your talking was what was getting you the most attention nationally. Did you consider that an opportunity to avoid going on the road five or six nights a week and instead shift to being primarily a color commentator?

 

Raven: No, no, it was never color commentary by itself. It was always color commentary as a different way to lead me in as a working character. I never had any interest in just being a commentator. The working thing would always get my nuts. I loved commentating. When WCW wanted to bring me in, that was around the time when (Brian) Pillman came in and they had him in the helicopter as Flyin' Brian to that song "Rocket" by Def Leopard. It might have been around the time of Norman the Lunatic, too. I think they thought, "We'll stick him on commentary like (Roddy) Piper did, but then he'll come off the commentator and into the ring eventually." Especially because Piper also came from Portland. I think they liked the idea, the symmetry of it.

 

Keller: Now, how about managing? Did you ever think you could be a wrestle/manager where you did a little bit of both, or did you still want to be the main wrestler?

 

Raven: I wanted to be the wrestler. I mean it was like when they made me the office guy in Titan, when I went to New York the first time and they made me an associate producer of Raw, and then I quit and the boys were like, "How could you quit? You're making six figures. You don't take any bumps." I said, "If I didn't want to take any bumps, I would've picked a different job." I didn't get in this to not take bumps, although I will say there was a period when my drug addiction and laziness got so bad that I started thinking, "I'll do the Cyrus thing." This, of course, was way before Jackal. I loved ripping on Don (Callis), because he could work but he would much rather commentate or be a manager. He didn't want to take any bumps. This was long before he came along and stole his gimmick from me and that whole thing. Or Edge stole his original gimmick from me also, but that's a whole other story. But what a shameless ripoff of me that was.

 

Anyway, long before the drugs and the wear and tear and just, "I don't know if I want to do this," but then I would see a great match and I'm like, "I've got to be in it." No matter how lazy I was, I'd see a great promo or a great match in ECW and I'd think, "I've gotta be in the ring." I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's the greatest high there is. I mean, I've tried every damn drug there is and nothing beats when you've got the crowd in the palm of your hand and you know you can do anything you want, you can take 'em anywhere you want to go, you can make them believe, you can make them cry, you can make them mad, you can make them happy. There's nothing greater. That's why, in my opinion, old-timers can't step down. And, why would you want to, if you can still perform? I mean, if Terry Funk can still go, why would he want to step down? Why would you want to give that up? It's phenomenal, ya know. Why would Ric Flair want to give it up if he doesn't have to? Hogan, ya know?

 

Keller: So you passed up the WCW opportunity. Where did you end up after Portland? Was it the Global Wrestling Federation on ESPN?

 

Raven: Oh, okay, that was up next. But it wasn't quite a seamless transition. But suffice to say Global came next and I moved to Atlanta. I started doing the indies around the Georgia area hoping to get into WCW because, like I said, I still had that burned bridge with Jim Ross. He always had a lot of power. I don't blame him. Why wouldn't he think I was a prima donna idiot? At least from his point of view. So, I figured if I'm in the area, it's my best chance to get hired, plus I knew there was a lot of indy work there. So after two years in Portland, I moved to Atlanta. Then Global started, so they put three of us on contract. If you think of all the people in the business, these are the three best guys they could come up with: me, the Patriot, and "Conan" Chris Walker, whose not even in the business anymore. Those were the three best guys who were running around at the time or that they thought were the best. Eventually X-Pac got a contract too.

 

Keller: And Jerry Lynn, too?

 

Raven: Jerry never got an actual contract. We were the three with actual contracts. They were pretty good contracts. You got $300 a week, plus $300 a match, but we only ran one match a week. So, it was basically $600 a week. So, I took a job as a male stripper to supplement my income, which was a phenomenal job because this was back when only girls came to guys strippin', like it wasn't like, ya know, like whatever works, I don't have a problem with guys dancing for other guys. It's not my thing, though. But back then it was only girls that would come to the club. Guys weren't allowed in. It was called the Lemon Peel, which I thought they should've called it the Banana Peel, but either way. So you would work three nights a week, pick up another four or five hundred bucks takin' off your clothes and taking women home, getting drunk for free at the bar while you're working. You dance maybe twenty minutes worth of dancing the whole night in a four or five hour shift, whatever the hell it was, and you're taking women who are just dying to be with you because you're a male stripper. It was one of those jobs, you're like, "I can't believe someone's actually paying me to do this." It's ridiculous.

 

The thing was I didn't get to work Saturday nights. Global was on a Friday, I think, but they always tried to bogey our ticket, cause you get the Saturday stayover (discount), so they'd try to make you stay until Sunday. So I think I worked like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, so I think I picked up another four hundred bucks, which for those lame nights, you know, wasn't bad. So I was making a grand a week. Which back in '92 wasn't bad. Ya know what I mean? It was half cash. It was good, although I still wanted to be in WCW. I figured I never had a shot in the WWF because I was too small. Lookin' back on it now, I don't know what I was thinkin', tryin' to get into the business. I was 220 pounds when the business was all monsters. But by that point my arrogance was, "Man, I'm good enough. Why can't I get a freakin' job?" I'd get pissed about it. But I never thought I'd get into New York (the WWF), because they still refused to bring in smaller guys. I mean, the Rockers were my size and they were in a tag team and they were a low level mid-card team at best. At the time there was no sign of them going higher. So my only hope was to get into WCW where I had the burned bridge.

 

Keller: What steps did you take to get into WCW?

 

Raven: Let's see, I became friends with everybody in Atlanta - Kevin Nash, Dallas Page, and all those guys. I believe it was Page, I'm pretty sure it was Page that got me a tryout. He and Dusty have always been good friends. It's like, "This kid's really good. I know he's got a bad reputation, being an arrogant ****, and he is, but he isn't, and give him a shot." So they gave me a tryout and (laughs) I don't remember who the hell I worked with in the tryout, but I mean literally they gave me the job that day. It's actually a pretty interesting story. After the tryout, Bischoff - who doesn't remember any of this - came up to me and said it was the most unbelievable thing he'd ever seen from a guy that he'd never heard of before. I pulled every old school trick out of the bag to get this thing over, and wrestling was quite a bit different ten years ago. It wasn't just non-stop highspots, so I pulled every gaga trick I could find out.

 

The thing was they sent me out there before a commercial break and I got my thumb in my ass for three minutes which most guys would've been like, "Ah crap, I'm out here for three minutes." For those three minutes I just worked the crowd into a frenzy because I knew how from Portland. By the time the actual match started any bumps I took were going to get over. I took all the crazy ones I could think of and just totally won it over to the point where Dusty calls me in his room. I thought it might have been the same day, it might not have been the same day, no, it was the same day. Ah, I don't know, you know, a lot of drugs, I can't really remember. Suffice to say, Dusty calls me in and Page is in the room and Dusty goes, "Kid, you got it, baby, you got it. I'm going to make you a star. I'm going to make you the next Ric Flair. I'm going to make you the Ric Flair of the '90s."

 

Keller: Describe your gimmick when you entered WCW the first time as Johnny Flamingo?

 

Raven: I had these jean jackets with fringe and neon, which now you look at and you would just cringe, but back then, they were really trendy and I always it was a visual presentation. So even as a guy with no money, I had fifteen ring jackets. So, you'd never see the same ring jacket twice. I'd go buy a jean jacket at Marshall's for 30 bucks, then I'd cut holes in it, I put neon on it, hang some fringe off it, you know the whole jacket cost 50-60 bucks by the time I was done, but it looked totally cool, like you couldn't see any wear out, kind of David Lee Rothish kind of thing. I had the long curly hair, bolero hat. It got over. Dusty actually remembers this conversion, we've talked about it. He was going to make me the Ric Flair of the '90s because he saw me as a cruiserweight who was big enough so I would fight heavyweights. So he was going to make me the cruiserweight champion, which he did and then I was going to move up and start challenging the heavyweights. Because Ric Flair had the suits and stuff, I was going to be like a trendy newer version of it. Then Bill Watts came in and ruined my life.

 

Keller: What did Bill Watts do that ruined things?

 

Raven: So, Dusty, first saddled me with the albatross G.T. Southern, who was abysmal. I don't know how I survived that. Then they put the cruiserweight belt on me. Then Bill Watts came in and a week later he took it off me and then gave me my notice. I mean, it was pretty much that simple. He just f----d me so royally it was ridiculous.

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Keller: What was his motivation for that because it wasn't really personal, was it, as much as he was trying to cut the budget?

 

Raven: You know, it is kinda ironic, his kid Erik and I are best friends now, like really close friends, so it's ironic that his dad f----d me so royally. But his dad now says, "Hey, if it wouldn't have been for that, you never would have become Raven, so you can thank me for the rest of your career." But he doesn't mean it in a mean way. He says now that he felt I needed to go because I hadn't been there very long. But whatever, it all works out. But it was kinda ironic, too, because my first pay-per-view was the one where I beat Pillman at Beach Blast for the Cruiserweight Title and we went a legit 20 minutes. We went a legit 17 in the ring. It was opening match of the show and nobody really had known if I could work really well or not. Me and Pillman had a phenomenal match, still one of the best matches of my career when you put it in perspective of where I was and whatnot and my skill level. I came back and I've never seen this before or since. Literally there were like 15 of the boys lined up to put me over when I came back. It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had in my entire life. I mean, literally it had to be 15 people who lined up, stood up, and got in line saying, "Kid, phenomenal match, kid, phenomenal match." I could not believe my luck and Ole Anderson wanted to talk to me and he was waiting until everybody got done and then he pulled me aside and he said, "You raked the eyes too many times." I liked that. I want someone to tell me what I did wrong. I love hearing praise, but I also love hearing critique, like someone saying you raked the eyes too many times. Page pulled me aside. And here's the funny part. At that point they weren't booking me much, they were only booking me at TVs because they were finishing up all the other guys, so they were giving them house shows before they sent them packin'. So I didn't get to make much money, but it was the beginning of what looked like a good run, and Page goes, "Look, if they're not going to use you after this you're never going to get used." Then Watts basically, the next week, dropped the belt off of me and then finished me up. He was very prescient in his comments.

 

Keller: Yes. Well, how did you take it?

 

Raven: It crushed me. I was crushed. F--k, what the f--k.

 

Keller: Because you thought that the WWF was going to be your home for a decade or two?

 

Raven: Yeah, you know I got along with the boys at that point. I've had a very up and down career as far as getting along with the boys. Sometimes I'm very popular in the locker room and sometimes I'm very hated. Of course, it's all my own fault, but I mean, I'll take all the culpability for that, but I got along with everybody at that point in time. I think I was smart enough right then to keep my mouth shut and it was just, "F--k, it's over. What the f--k, it's over." I had to go back to Memphis. Where else was I going to go? It was the Hotel California; you can check out, but you can never leave. Which I find to be really f---ed up 'cause now I'm back there again. Not f---ed up in a bad way. When I pulled up to the (Nashville) Fairgrounds my first week in TNA, the last place I ever expected to be was the Nashville Fairgrounds and I like it, I mean I love it, it's just kind of funny that I ended up back there again. We used to call it the Hotel California. You can check out but you can never leave.

 

Keller: Back after you were booted out of WCW and went to Memphis, how did you end up getting your first WWF gig?

 

Raven: They wanted to make me a manager. I thought I was going to be a manager then I would eventually be a wrestler, but no, it was just a manager. They wanted to make me Johnny Polo, which should have been Shane McMahon's gimmick, cause he's the rich Greenwich kid, ya know what I mean?

 

Keller: Yes.

 

Raven: I think it was Worcester, Mass. where they said, "Here's some money, go buy some outfits." So I went out and bought some outfits and then I just made the most of it. I was like f--k, allright, if this is what they want to do I need my career so...

 

Keller: They didn't offer you guaranteed pay at that point, did they?

 

Raven: No, I was going to be a just a manager.

 

Keller: But they didn't have guaranteed contracts at that point, so you came in without having any idea what you would make.

 

Raven: Yeah, nobody had any idea what they were going to make. But I knew I would do okay. I wasn't really worried about it. I just wanted to stay in the business. They put me with Adam Bomb (a/k/a Bryan Clark), as Adam Bomb's manager and Adam Bomb thought I was supposed to be his real manager. He thought I was supposed to get the rental cars for him. I was like, "Go f--k yourself." But he didn't know any better. He's like, "Ah, the Road Warriors' manager does." And I go, yeah, and he gets equal pay. So give me some of your money and I'll go f--kin' make the rental car reservations.

 

Keller: That's funny.

 

Raven: Then they put me with the Quebecers and then Lawler got some legal issues and they had me come in and commentate Superstars, which was Vince's baby. Even when Raw was going on, Superstars, the syndicated show, was Vince's baby. So he had me be his co-host on that and I came prepared. I came with a stack of notes and material and bits that I wanted to get in and I was like, "Alright, if you get a chance Vince, if you could feed me this line, I'll zing with this. And he loved it because wrestlers never come prepared. And he said, "Wow, I'm gonna make you a producer." I was like, "Alright great." He goes, "We'll put you on a salary. You get health benefits, you get everything." I was, like, sweet. Then they made me the co-host of All-American with Gorilla Monsoon, who was just a great guy, a fun guy to work with. That worked really well for awhile until Vince one day realized something I'd known from day one - that I wasn't Johnny Polo.

 

You know, I guess, he just finally one day was like, "This isn't you." I used to come in ripped up jeans and t-shirts, I mean what I wear now, what I wore as Raven was what I wore in real life. Doc Martins. I mean, the jacket I actually wore, that was my actual personality.Vince was like, "Johnny Polo really isn't you, is it?" I go, "No, I never really thought it was. But I wasn't going to say anything. I was going to keep the gig." Then as much as I hated being a manager and not getting the work, I wasn't going to pass up a paying gig, but as soon as they took me off TV completely and put me completely behind the scenes, I was like, "Nah, this ain't going to work." Then I started working on the Raven character. I called Vince up or pulled him aside or whatever and said, "Alright, I really thank you for this, blah blah blah, but I'm trying to move on."

 

Keller: What kind of money were you making when you were writing television?

 

Raven: Here's the thing, I didn't write the first-run TV, like I was never invited into that circle. I wrote the second-run TV, so the stuff that had already aired the magazine format, I just reformatted it. They thought it was some 60 hour a week job, but it took about eight hours to do. I would sit in the studio and I would (laughs), then I came up with the idea to have the nostalgia matches, because I know people love that stuff. So basically half of my day was spent sitting in the studio watching old tapes just because I enjoyed 'em. I would take a match out that they'd air on Sunday and I'd edit it and put it in the show. But, honestly, I would wake up about 11 and I'd call the office and say I'd be at the studio and I'd call the studio and say I'd be back at the office, because it was two different building, and I'd go back to bed. And they were paying me a hundred grand for this.

 

Keller: (laughs) Is that about what you made, a hundred grand doing the TV scripting?

 

Raven: I think so.

 

Keller: About how long did you do the B-show scripting?

 

Raven: I don't know. It was awhile, too long.

 

Keller: Like a year?

 

Raven: No, not that long. In my frame of mind it was long.

 

Keller: But it was not you?

 

Raven: No, it wasn't me. I mean, I'm a performer. I gotta be in front of the camera. Then, although Konnan disputes this - I've come to realize that there's probably some middle ground - me and Art Barr, I went to see Art Barr, we were spending a ton of time in Portland when he was the Love Machine in Mexico and he was one of the hottest deals in the country. He was at a show at the Paramount. We started talking and we would literally talk 30 times a week. We would talk all the freakin' time. He was going to bring me in as the third member of the Gringos Locos, with him and Eddie. But it was great because according to Konnan's version of events, Art hated me and didn't want me in it, but Art would always tell me how much he hated Konnan and didn't want Konnan in it. Which knowing Art, it's probably both true. I love Art to death, but I've come to the conclusion that he probably told Konnan that, because I know what he told me and I can totally see him telling Konnan the same exact thing. But he would call Pena of AAA on a three-way and we'd talk and then finally Konnan got the third member spot in Gringos Logos, which I thought was a bad move anyway, because he was the hottest babyface in the country and I thought it was a bad move turnin' him heel. But who am I to argue?

 

In the meantime, I came up with this deep, dark Raven character based on my own personal inadequacies, insecurities, baggage. I kind of spewed up my subconscious in a very cathartic way and now I needed a TV show to be on because I knew that if I just worked indies nobody would get it because it needs a TV show, because it's a three-dimensional character. So (Jim) Cornette told me he was going to bring me into Smoky Mountain in September. Of course, that didn't happen. So he said October. That didn't happen. He said November. That didn't happen. December. Of course none of that happened which worked out well because in the meantime I was in Philadelphia and I finally caught an episode of ECW. Like all I heard was it was garbage wrestling, blah, blah, blah. So I never really tried to tune into it. I moved from Stamford to Philly because I knew all the independent work was in the Northeast, so I figured the best place to live was in a central place so I could get as much indy work as I could to make money, which was Philly.

 

I finally watched the show one day and it was just the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. It was just... I had to be a part of this show. It was so f---ing good. People don't realize how good it was the first couple of years, the first three years. Maybe not the first year, but once it caught its stride, you know what I mean? I was lucky I got there just in time, just as they were finding their groove. So me and Paul E. never really got along or anything. We didn't have any heat or anything, but we didn't get along great. So I called up Page once again. Page did a lot for me early in my career. He'd done some sh---y things to me later, but I'll give him props for what he deserves. He called up Paul E. for me. He and Paul E. used to be close. I said, "You gotta call on a favor. I gotta be on the show. I saw it one time, I have to be on this show." It was visceral. You could feel how good this show was and take in the reaction. If you were a wrestling fan, you wanted to be on the show.

 

I love this story. I totally remember that I went out all night when I pilled up and coked up out of my gourd. It was like four in the afternoon on a Sunday, I'm still sound asleep. My roommate comes running saying, "DDP's on the phone. You've gotta talk to him. It's real important." So I stagger out of bed, I pick up the phone. He says, "You gotta call Paul E. right now. Paul E.'s gonna give you a gig." So I called Paul E. up right away. Of course Paul E. said, "All right, I'll call you back." So he calls me back. He says, "All right we're going to start you in on this date, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, at this building." I hung up the phone and I'm like, "Yes, I just got a job with him." So my roommate goes, "Where do you start?" I go, "I don't know." I was so groggy and so out of it I had no idea what he told me." I had no idea when I started, where I started, anything, and I was like, "Oh crap." So then I just watched the show, went to the next show and I said, "Oh yeah, what day did you want me to start again, Paul?" He's like, "Oh yeah, this day." I was like, "All right, cool."

 

Keller: When you entered ECW with the new Raven gimmick, how involved was Paul Heyman in the creation of the character?

 

Raven: Paul E. thought it was going to be some grunge version of what I had always been doing. Kind of a pseudo, comical, fun, chickensh-t, heel act. But I'm figurin' bolder plans. Originally when I came in it was supposed to be for four months to put over (Tommy) Dreamer and then hopefully I was going to be able to get back into New York (WWE) with the gimmick. That was my plan. But once he caught wind of it, it was like he knew the gimmick as well as I did. That was Paul E.'s alter-ego on TV. And if you talked to anyone who was close to him, they'll tell you. It was unbelievable. I mean, me and him just had that thing. It was f--kin' phenomenal. For two and a half years things just went, you know what I mean? I will still stack up Raven-Dreamer, and Raven-Sandman with any story in the history of the business. I'll put it up there with (Tommy) Rich vs. (Buzz) Sawyer, I'll put it up there with anybody, I think it was that damn good, and anybody who's watched it will tell you it was that damn good. Both of them were.

 

Keller: Then let me ask you this. Is there anything looking back that you wish you had done differently about that feud? As good as it was and as proud as you are of it, are there things you wish you and Paul E. and Tommy and the gang had done differently?

 

Raven: The only thing I would have done different - which is saying a lot that there's only one thing I would have done differently - and that's when I finally left, I wouldn't have put Tommy over. I knew I'd be coming back some day, so why do it? Tommy didn't even want to go over.

 

Keller: Explain that.

 

Raven: After his WCW run, we'll just jump back in where we left off, which was totally true. But I understand for business that Paul E. can't let me, the top heel, after two and a half years just go without putting over his top babyface. By the same token, for aesthetics, for best case scenario, it would've worked so much cooler that way. But I totally understand it.

 

Keller: Do you have a low point during your ECW stint? Was there a memory or something that stands out, a time you would not want to relive or a time you got especially frustrated?

 

Raven: I don't know. I've gotta think about that. (Pause.) No, me and Paul E. were like Dinero and f---kin' Scorsese. I mean, he knew my character. I knew my character. We were just on the same page with everything. I mean, it sounds kinda vain to compare it to those two, except we just everything, boom, boom, boom. I'd say, "Let's do this." He'd go, "Great. Let's do this." I'd say, "Perfect, and we'll do that."

 

Keller: What makes Paul Heyman tick?

 

Raven: I don't know. No one knows. Honest to God, wrestling. Wrestling makes him tick. Telling stories in a wrestling environment. He's a storyteller with wrestling as his backdrop. You know, some people like sci-fi, some people like fantasy. They are storytellers. Stephen King has horror. Paul E. has wrestling. And he does it better than anybody there is. And I'll still say that to this day. If I owned a company and needed a booker, I'd pick Paul E. With all the baggage and all the quirks and all the idiosyncrasies, Paul E. is still the most creative genius I've seen when it comes to professional wrestling.

 

Keller: Why is ECW not in business then?

 

Raven: Paul E. burned out, in my opinion. He had a new cast of recruits who didn't have the same skill levels... Not even skill levels, but the same visceral connections with the crowd. Like Sandman, no one was going to confuse him with being a good worker, but what a visceral connection with the crowd. Although, he's not a bad worker at all. People don't realize that. You're never going to convince a lot of people of that unless they spend time in the ring with him. Even so. It was different guys. He didn't have the money and he didn't have the budget. Now he had to go step up and compete with the Big Two without the budget. So he had that hanging over his head. He had a lot of the same guys that had been there for five years that could have used a break. I'm sure Tommy could have used a break, left for somewhere else and then come back. He had guys who just weren't ready. He just didn't have the characters he originally had to mold and manipulate. I think he just got burned out. I think also because he's a control freak, he had to run everything himself and he could not delegate, and by not delegating he burnt himself out even worse.

 

Keller: How did your relationship with Paul E. change over time?

 

Raven: When I came back the second time it wasn't the same. You can't go back home. I think I recognized that he was burnt out, so I allowed myself to slip accordingly. My drug addiction got really, really bad. It just soured things and we've never really been the same since.

 

Keller: You couldn't call him up on the phone right now and shoot the breeze?

 

Raven: I don't think he'd return my call. It's surprising, it's kind of a crappy thing, but I don't think he would return my call.

 

Keller: But he wouldn't always return your calls even when you were on great terms, so is this different? Does he have a problem with things that happened that he can't forgive you for?

 

Raven: I don't know. I think he's just Paul E. It's just one of his quirks.

 

Keller: How did Paul's reputation with wrestlers ebb and flow because of his quirks, his idiosyncrasies, his reputation for saying one thing and doing something different? How much did that work against him in terms of the loyalty of the wrestlers in that locker room? Or was he just so good, so high-energy in so many other ways that he more than made up for the other stuff?

 

Raven: The second run I don't remember as much.

 

Keller: How about during the glory run, the first stint?

 

Raven: He just had a way, man. When he talked, you just listened. He would have a state of the union address where he'd go over everything and when you were done, you couldn't wait to go out there and tear the house down, even if you wanted to throttle him by the throat. You'd be so pissed at Paul E., you'd want to kill him. You'd be like, "Man, when I see Paul E. I'm going to choke him out." I never got that way myself because I took Paul E. as just Paul E., plus I was always used well. It's much easier to forgive idiosyncrasies when you're the top guy. If I had been underneath, I'm sure I would have gone ballistic. Some of the guys would vow they were going to kill him, then they'd go talk to Paul E. and when they were done, they'd say, "Damn, that Paul E. is a great guy." He was a master of telling you what you wanted to hear. He would have been a great football coach. I'm not a football fan at all, but he would have been a Lombardi. He knows how to motivate people. He knows how to get you to do what needs to be done. He's also very smart in realizing that everybody's different and he treats everybody accordingly. He knew how to play my strengths to get me to do what he wanted, but he would treat Tommy in a completely different way. He would treat Tazz in a completely different way.

 

Keller: The term genius is thrown around a lot, but...

 

Raven: I think that probably applies to Paul E. This is an artform, as I said before.

 

Keller: Do you have one or two moments or matches that stand out in your mind?

 

Raven: The two or three that I think would be the double dog-collar with the Pitbulls, which was just a dramatic, incredibly told story where so many things occurred. You'd have to get a tape. You'd have to get somebody to put together a tape showing you the last six months of TV to know how special that match really was because so many storylines came to a head at the end of the match. Dreamer winning his first title, then the Pitbulls got it. 911 for the first chokeslam of Bill Alfonso. There were so many things that occurred in the context of that match. The match itself I thought was spectacular, but when you added all the other factors, all the drama, all the storytelling, I mean, I thought it was one of the best things I had ever done. Definitely the best thing I had done up to that point. The match with Terry Gordy is up there, too, because that to me, I showed everybody I was good. Terry Gordy had the stroke and he was not the same anymore and couldn't work at the same level. At age 14 he was a better worker than most people were at 30. He was just one of the all-time greats, but after he had that stroke in Japan, he was never the same. Then they put him in the ring with me, I was his first match with ECW, and I put together a match that was simple, easy, yet it told a story. It didn't look as easy as it was on the surface. When it was over, everybody thought the old Terry Gordy was back. Everybody, like it was in the sheets, they didn't have the internet back then, but it was "the old Terry Gordy's back, it's unbelievable." Then all of a sudden he started working with other people and it was evident he wasn't back. Belatedly people started realizing, Holy crap, that was Raven who carried him to that match. To have Terry Gordy's last great match, that's tremendous.

 

The third standout moment was the final match with Dreamer where I put him over. It was two-and-a-half years in the making. For two-and-a-half years he never pinned me. We feuded for two-and-a-half years, it never got stale, it never got old, he never ever pinned me until that match. And what was cool, we brought out all of our old finishing sequences that we had done. They showed all of the things that had occurred in the build-up to this long feud and the finishes, so anytime we'd go into the same thing and somebody would kick out, the people thought it was it. "Oh, we've seen this one. They're going to do one-two-three!" But we'd kick out. We'd do it again and again and had the people in the palms of our hands. I don't know what match it was, but there was a point where I totally knew I owned those people. They were really smart fans, ahead of their time. They all knew the inside stories, they were sheet readers, and they knew the behind the scenes and everything that was going to happen. Paul E. had believed that there were no more babyfaces and heels anymore, that that was a thing of the past. So he was going to let people be whatever. And I came up to him and said, "Paul E., it does not work. You must have heels and you must have faces because you have to have a set of heat to build to a comeback. That's how a match builds its structure. And I said I would be a heel and anybody who fights me will be a babyface and I will not do it any other way. I single-handedly turned the company into faces and heels because everybody else had been a tweener, and I single-handedly by being a full-blown 100 percent heel and not letting the people cheer me and every time they were going to cheer me, showing my ass so they would not cheer me, we split a division down the company and then people ended up being on sides. It finally built to the point where we set up this finish, and it was a false finish, but we set it up so perfectly. Oh, here's another thing. Paul E. always gave clean finishes. It was always a clean finish. You have to know it was a product of its time. The people were sick of the ga ga. They were sick of screwjob finishes. There were a lot of things people were tired of and that's why wrestling was down in a depression. And so Paul E. was going to buck those trends and have clean finishes. I set up this great screwjob false finish and as we did it and I covered Dreamer, the people started going, "No more screwjob finishes!" The chant broke out with all twelve or fourteen hundred people. "No more screwjob finishes!" Of course, he kicked out at two-and-a-half and the people had to eat crow. I said to myself, yep, I own you motherf---ers. You will follow me, I will lead you where you think you're going and I will take you somewhere else and you will never see it coming.

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Keller: Those were the moments where it really sunk in why you didn't want to be writing TV in an office somewhere no matter how good the pay might have been?

 

Raven: Exactly. A moment like that where the ref is slowly dragging himself over to count, right? And the people were chanting "No more screwjob finishes." They were vociferous; they were f--ing hot because they had never seen a screwjob finish in a year or two, and now they're finally going to see one. And who the f--- is this Raven to come in and show them one. Then when Dreamer kicked out, they were, like, "Oh, the motherf---er had us."

 

Keller: To understand ECW, you have to understand the context in time when it became successful and why it worked.

 

Raven: But it would still hold up today.

 

Keller: It would hold up today, but was ECW the type of thing that almost was destined to burn out? As you said, you can't go home again. Was ECW the type of thing that was so hot that it couldn't be sustained over a long period of time?

 

Raven: No, absolutely not.

 

Keller: So it could still be thriving?

 

Raven: I believe anything can be sustained with good writing. Good writing. Everything is based on good writing. People will watch wrestling as long as the writing is good. If the writing is bad, they're not going to watch it.

 

Keller: Do you think ECW's writing got bad, or was it just economics and Paul burning out that led to the end?

 

Raven: I think the writing got bad because of Paul E. overworking himself, but also the economics.

 

Keller: Could ECW be brought back if Paul E. were not part of WWE?

 

Raven: Well, why would you want to bring it back, though? My thing has always been, why rehash the past, why not create something new?

 

Keller: Well, when I say bring ECW back, what I'm reacting to is you saying ECW could still be around today if there was good storywriting. And Paul E. was as much ECW as any two or three people otherwise. Could Paul E. come back and start another promotion in the spirit of ECW and succeed again and have it be compared to ECW?

 

Raven: Absolutely. The best cast scenario the way I see it is if you were to find somebody with the financial backing and they say, "Paul E., you're our creative guy. You're not going to have a say in anything else, all you're going to do is use your creative brain as efficiently as possible and you're going to write us some phenomenal f--in' TV. As long as he's not involved in the business end and all he has to worry about is creative, then he's going to produce. And especially if he doesn't have to answer to anybody. You've got to believe that there was so much good sh-- in WWE that just shot down.

 

Keller: People look at ECW and say people had never seen violence like that before, they had never seen the luchadors and the cruiserweights used well, they had never seen the internationally travelled workers like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero used well. And it's a combination of all of those things along with the storytelling that...

 

Raven: No, no. Back it up. The ECW fans booed a lot of those matches. That's another mystique that is infuriating to me. I remember one night when Dean and Eddie had, according to the sheets, a five star match, except the place booed them out of the joint to the place that Dean was so hot, Dean got the mic and cut a promo on the people. So this whole mystique of these great cruiserweight matches, they weren't over with the fans. I mean, sometimes they were, a lot of times they weren't at all. That always infuriated me that they get reviewed like this is the best match on the card. Well, if that's the case, then how come the people booed it out of the joint and hated it. It couldn't have been that f--in' good! And that pisses me off to no end that people who write to the sheets and on the internet go by what they like, not by what the masses like. This is about the masses. I'm trying to appeal to the largest common denominator. I'm not trying to appeal to the smallest common denominator. My match against Shane Douglas on TNA, I'm sure there were better matches technically, but it was a palpable, visceral reaction that that crowd had that you could feel through the TV set. It was incredible the heat that he got as a heel and the fact that they were behind me as a babyface. You could feel the tension through your TV set.

 

Keller: I will get to TNA later in detail, but sticking to ECW, you believe that the major reason ECW succeeded was storytelling and execution and the type of thing that you were involved in, but also that they had never seen violence like this before. They had never seen rock music incorporated into wrestling like this. And they had never seen this mix of styles. Do you think that added to it or was it irrelevant?

 

Raven: Yeah, it added to it. I'd be an idiot to say it didn't. But that doesn't mean you couldn't do that again. How Paul E. was smart is that as musical tastes changed, so did he. He started off with rock music, then they had Gangsters Paradise by Coolio. That wasn't rock. I mean, Paul E. was great at picking out what was hot and incorporating it. What nobody understands is that you could pick any time and do that, you just have to be a product of your time. You have to have the right storytelling, the right execution, and the right characters. Another great Paul E. thing was that he hid people's weaknesses and accentuated their strengths. The world was convinced that The Public Enemy were the greatest tag team that ever existed, but really Teddy did a bunch of cool acrobatic stuff and Grunge was a good bleeder. Paul E. convinced the world they were the greatest tag team ever. He only showed them at their best because he didn't actually show full matches. He just showed parts of matches and highlights, which was a revolutionary way of showing a wrestling show.

 

Keller: Which is why he wanted pay-per-view to be pretaped, but the PPV industry wouldn't let him do it. When he went on PPV, he wanted a few days to edit it because he thought exactly what you just said, that he would lose the control of hiding the weaknesses of some of the wrestlers.

 

Raven: You know, I don't think he needed it at that point. When you have a hot enough crowd, going back to the match Shane and I just had, there was a major f--- up at the end, but we engendered so much goodwill with the people that they were willing to forgive it.

 

Keller: Let me ask this. We talked a lot about how great Paul E. is as a booker and what his strengths are - as a booker, not a businessman, not interpersonal relations, not returning phone calls. Now, as a booker specifically, what is a weakness of his that you can point out? Where is an area where he might have leaned on others for help?

 

Raven: During my first run, there wasn't. During the second run, everything was different. During the first run, he allowed me to have my say in the product. If you knew what you were talking about, he'd listen to you. If you were right, he'd go with it.

 

Keller: During the second run, do you think Paul was a different booker or do you think he was just burned out? The second time you talk about him in a very different tone. Did Paul not even know who he was at that point because he was so burned out?

 

Raven: I think he was so overworked and so under the gun that he wasn't able to create the magic he did before. There's no other way to say it, during the first run, he was the right guy at the right time and the only reason he wasn't the right guy at the second time is there were too many other mitigating factors. I still believe he's the right guy. Paul E. knows wrestling. He knows how to make the people care. You have to care about the characters. You have to care. You can say what you want about Eddie Guerrero's matches then, and they might have athletically been better than they are now, but Eddie Guerrero is much more over now because the fans are into his character. He didn't have a character back then. Know what I mean?

 

Keller: Absolutely. Here is one isolated question a bit off the topic. When you've bled in a match and your opponent's been bleeding or the match before you is bleeding all over the mat, has it ever crossed your mind that you might be at risk of getting sick or getting a disease?

 

Raven: Awww, not really. There are a few people I won't bleed with. I won't mention any names. But for the most part, the previous match I'm not even worried about because the blood is going to dry and I'm not really sure what the airborne time is for diseases, but I really don't think it's going to carry long. I mean, you have as much a chance of catching staph from a skinned knee, I think. Bleeding with your opponents, I mean they say that the odds of an infected male giving AIDS to a woman during unprotected sex is 1-in-200. I still don't personally want to take those chances, but it's pretty f--in' slim. I don't think there's a whole lot of risk factor in it. Plus, no one has come up with the AIDS virus yet. Now they test, WWE tests once a year, and stuff like that.

 

Keller: What about less serious infections or viruses, such as hepatitis? Is that even talked about among wrestlers?

 

Raven: I think people would rather not talk about it.

 

Keller: Steve Austin talked about it.

 

Raven: Did he? What did he say?

 

Keller: He didn't want to work in the ring after certain guys bled and he told Paul E. that.

 

Raven: Yeah, like I said, there are certain guys I wouldn't bleed in the ring with. But for the most part, guys don't talk about it because nobody wants to think about it.

 

Keller: You talked about doing drugs when you were growing up. When did you first get exposed to drugs? Six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen?

 

Raven: Eleven years old.

 

Keller: Was there even a six month period that went by in your teen years and on that you didn't do any drugs?

 

Raven: Oh yeah, of course. I didn't become an addict until I got into the business, and even then I was more of an alcoholic. That came before I became a drug addict. I had to quit drinking because I got pancreatitis and then I become a rip-roaring drug addict.

 

Keller: Do you believe the business has contributed to you becoming a drug addict?

 

Raven: No, I would have become one anyway. I think that's bullsh-- to blame it on the business. I completely do. I think it's horsesh--. You are who you are and you're going to become who you are. If you don't like the odds of the business - if you don't want to take steroids or feel you have to take them to make it in this business, then sorry but pick a different career. If you don't have the skills to be a basketball player, you're not going to be one. Certain people are going to be certain things. And certain sacrifices have to be made. I mean, if you're going to be a larger than life character, then you need to look larger than life. If you don't want to, that's fine. Then you need to diet twice as hard, you need to train twice as hard. Steroids are shortcuts. The business does not force you to do anything. No one forces anyone to do anything. I don't think the business should be culpable for it, you know what I mean? You need to be responsible for your own behavior and if you can't take responsibility for it, then you're just not an adult.

 

Keller: What do you think about how Jerry Jarrett has played his role in TNA in that he's had to stand back and watch as his son Jeff made mistakes on his own running TNA?

 

Raven: I think you have to (do that as a father). But I also know Jeff consults with Jerry on a lot of stuff. I think ultimately Jeff makes his own decisions, but he'd be stupid not to. I tell you what, I talk to Jerry before every show to get his feedback. Let's face it, how long has this business been around? And what is the only promotion that survived besides Vince and WCW? It was Jerry Jarrett. Obviously, he was doing something right. Obviously, to draw a 65 share with (Jerry) Lawler, something must have been done right because you can't even fluke into that. Ultimately, wrestling at its heart is pretty simplistic as we discussed before. It's simple babyfaces and heels. The psychology never changes. The pyrotechnics change, the wherewithal, the accessories and ornamentation, but ultimately it comes down to a morality play - good vs. evil and the good guy has to triumph through adversity in the end. That will always be there and that will never change. You go to a good movie, that's always going to be there as well. It's a good story. It goes back to Joseph Campbell and the hero's journey, the famous book about myths, and all myths about the hero's journey to overcome. That's what they're doing here with the babyfaces. That's what my journey, my quest, is to battle through all these villains that are in my way that are doing everything they can to stop me because of personal beliefs or whatever to finally get my chance to win the title and sit on top of the world and be the best at what I do. So it's a quest. It's in every great book, every archetype. I go to Jerry for that because it hasn't changed. But the problem with old school bookers was, they didn't realize the ornamentation and everything changed. They couldn't step into the future because they couldn't get with the bells and whistles. Simple psychology works, but if you don't have the bells and whistles and understand the audience and times, it won't work. Like I said before about Paul E., he knew what was current and what worked. You have to know all that, too. It's not just black and white. But once you get all the current stuff established, it boils back down to babyfaces and heels and good triumphing over evil.

 

Keller: Do you think Jerry Jarrett, with all of his years of experience, has enjoyed this experience the last year and a half?

 

Raven: Absolutely. I think it killed Jerry Jarrett not to have a promotion. I think it killed him and I think that's why he got back in the business, because he grew up in it and he loved it. I think he does it for the love of the game. Honestly, I think making money is probably secondary to him. I think he's smart enough to know you have to make money and don't throw your own money in there. But I really believe he's doing it for the love of the game. Let's face it, he's never going to be able to spend all the money he has and his kids are never going to be able to spend all the money he has, so it's not like he needs to keep earning it. It's not like he's some destitute wrestler who's down on his luck and he has to make one last big run, because he couldn't spend all the money he has if he tried.

 

Keller: This is a question you can only realistically answer one way, but I'll ask it anyway. Do you think Panda are good owners for TNA?

 

Raven. Yes. Absolutely. They believe in the product and they love the product. I think what really works to our advantage is that they weren't huge wrestling fans, then became fans. So, there's always something when you have a convert. There's a certain passionate belief when you weren't into something, and now you are, because it's a completely different situation. As opposed to somebody who's always liked it, these people are even more passionate, I think, because they went from the complete opposite. From the same token, they don't interfere with the creative process. If they interfered with that, I think they'd be crappy owners. They don't interfere one iota in the creative process, which is how it has to be because that's not their expertise.

 

I think another reason they're really good (as owners) is after the hair vs. hair match (Raven vs. Shane Douglas), I never expected it, but Todd Carter, who is Dixie's brother - and Dixie is the one who's hands-on and Todd is the guy involved with the financial and money - called me up and said, "Listen, what a hell of a job you did." I mean, the fact that he felt highly enough of me and what I did to call me up and put it over and had no other reason to call except to say, "Thank you for bleeding and busting your ass and killing yourself for this company, and I want you to know I appreciate it." I mean, f---, you live for something like that. You live to hear somebody say, "I love what you did. Thank you for doing that." When the fans say it, it means so much, but let's face it, if they're talking to me, they're going to put me over. If they're talking to Denny Brown, they're going to put him over. You know what I mean? Fans are going to put over any wrestler they come in contact with. But the owner of the company who has more money than I'll ever make, who has no reason to call, to put me over and say that, that means a lot. That alone means more than you can imagine.

 

Keller: If you couldn't physically wrestle and it got to the point that there was an injury or you were just worn out, are you still going to be involved in wrestling or are you going to just get out because if it's not about you, it's not something you're interested in?

 

Raven: Yeah, I think I'd get out.

 

Keller: You don't see yourself being able to work behind the scenes?

 

Raven: I don't have any interest in that. I'm a performer. That's why I didn't want to be a writer for Vince (McMahon) and that's why I didn't want to be a commentator even though there was an extreme luxury of financial security to all those jobs. I'm a performer, I want to perform.

 

Keller: If you couldn't perform in wrestling, would you try to perform elsewhere?

 

Raven: Absolutely.

 

Keller: Doing what?

 

Raven: Ultimately my goal is to act, which every wrestler wants to do, and I've taken acting classes to take steps toward it. That's a difficult dream to accomplish. I'd like to have enough money set aside when I'm done wrestling that I can go out to Hollywood and try to succeed without having to worry about getting a job and being a waiter. If I don't have the money or it doesn't work out, either way, what I want to do is radio. I loved when I was in WWE doing WWE Radio, having a call in show and haranguing my callers, it's just a really cool gig. There's spontaneity, you have to think on your feet, you don't have to get all dressed up. You can do it in pajamas if you want. It pays. If you get a good gig, it pays six figures. And it's stable and a lot of fun. I get to perform without any of the hazards of having to audition or any of that. Ultimately, even if I succeeded in the acting realm, I'd still want to do radio when I retire. That's either my mid-term goal or my long-term goal or both. I would love to do the show Lovelines. If I could beat up Adam Carola and take his spot, I would do it - well, I wouldn't do it tomorrow because I'm not done with wrestling, but that's what I'd want to do. I'd love to have that exact show, that type of thing, where I get to dispense my advice and what I think is wisdom to people. Whether I'm right or wrong, I'd still want to dispense it with an audience to listen to it.

 

Keller: At two different points in this interview we've talked about creativity and about drug usage. Do you think the amount of drug usage in ECW your first time and your second time there made the product better, worse, or no different at all?

 

Raven: Honestly, I think it added the first time. I think there is a certain thing to be said for creativity under the influence. Talk to Aerosmith. They'll tell you the same thing. Steven Tyler will tell you the exact same thing. There's a point where it's very conducive to creativity. Obviously, you can take it too far and it becomes a detriment.

 

Keller: Let's say there were 25 wrestlers in ECW your first time there. How many of them were under the influence of drugs or extreme alcohol most of the time on most shows?

 

Raven: We always said if you passed a drug test, you'd be fired. It didn't affect anybody in the ring. Nobody went to the ring to the point where they couldn't work. Everybody took care of them. There is such a thing as functional addiction. I was drunk and pilled up for years, and if I didn't want you to know there was no possible way you'd know that I was. I could totally function. There is always something to be said that certain drugs give you a heightened sense of perception. I don't want to come across that I'm condoning usage, but I also want to be totally honest about it. I totally think it helped my creative juices up to a point. Then once I went too far with the drugs, it became a detriment. But I think if you talk to any creative artist, they're going to tell you the same thing - up to a point they're beneficial to being creative, and then after a certain point they're a complete detriment.

 

Keller: How much peer pressure is there if any at all for a wrestler like a Lance Storm or a Mick Foley?

 

Raven: There isn't. Unless you've been in the locker room day in and day out you don't know, but there isn't anyone going? Sandman doesn't put on a pair of devil ears with a tail sticking out of his ass and go up to you and say, "Come on, have a beer!" We were always of the mindset, more for us! If you wanted to party, great. If you didn't, great. Nobody was going to force you to. Now here's an example. A lot of people might have felt pressure to because they felt insecure or inferior. They might have wanted to do it to fit in with the gang. The gang never forced them to do it. The gang wasn't putting on pressure, people put the pressure on themselves. There were certain people who every once in a while would come do coke with us, but we'd say, "What the f--- is he doing that for? He doesn't do that." You could tell it was only because he wanted to fit in with us. But it was never us going up to him saying, "Hey, you've got to do drugs with us."

 

Keller: When a wrestler gets really bad, is there enough of a fraternity that?

 

Raven: Yeah. The second time I was there, Paul E. goes, "You need to get cleaned up or I'll fire you." In WWE they got rid of (William) Regal, Jeff Hardy, they sent Eddie to rehab. I think it's bullsh--, this whole thing of blaming the business. I think they just want a scapegoat. People need to take responsibility for their own lives. It's really that simple.

 

Keller: With your experience in seeing others take steroids, do you think that steroids should be legal?

 

Raven: I haven't thought about that. Should they be legal? To an extent. Actually, they are legal. If you are over a certain age and your testosterone count is low, they're going to give you steroids, hormone replacement. I'm trying to separate your question. Do I think they should just be legal because they're not dangerous? Or should they be legal because all drugs should be legalized? Let me give you my gross overview: All drugs should be legal. They should be completely legal and they should be taxed. Then (a) we would not have the war on drugs costing us forty-gazillion dollars and (B) we would make all that money plus more by taxing them. And then people can make their own mistakes. The only reason we don't do that is because there are idiot right wing politicians who think they know better than everybody else and they're trying to impose their will upon us. You should be able to make your own choices in life.

 

Keller: Would it destroy the U.S. economy if suddenly everyone was smoking pot and stopped caring about going to work the next day or getting their college homework done?

 

Raven: It would help the economy because they wouldn't be spending all this money on the war on drugs. It would be the greatest thing for the economy they could ever do because all of a sudden you wouldn't have to pay for the war against the drugs and you'd be taxing them, so you'd be making twice as much money because you wouldn't be spending any. If you want to find pot now, you're going to find it. It's easy as f--- to find. Think about this. All the criminals who are dealing drugs would be out of work. It would literally change the face of the country for the good if they made drugs legal.

 

Keller: Do you think steroids are dangerous?

 

Raven: No, when used moderately. I don't think anything is dangerous when used moderately. It's like you could kill yourself with antibiotics if you take too many of them. You can kill yourself with aspirin of you take too many of them. Steroids are the same way. If used intelligently, they're incredibly safe. You could get by on a small cycle off and on for 20, 30 years. Do you ever see people dropping dead in the bodybuilding community who have been around for 50 years using them? No. The only guys dropping dead are the guys who get into the diarrehetics and the really toxic sh--, but the roids aren't killing anybody. Otherwise we'd be seeing all of these 1970s bodybuilders dead now because you know they're still using sh-- off and on. You don't hear about it. Schwarzenegger is still doing fine. All the bodybuilders from Pumping Iron are still doing fine. I mean, it's one of those things that they have been given a bad name because society doesn't want you to do it. But that doesn't mean that it's definitely bad for you. Almost anything is fine for you in moderation. Heroine is non-toxic to your organ system. When it is processed by your liver and kidneys, it is broken down into a benign substance. It is non-toxic. Acetaminophen is toxic. I'm not saying you should go out and do heroin. I mean, I'm just telling you there are a lot of facts that people aren't aware of that completely skew the argument in a completely different way. Of course, heroin is going to give you constipation, it's going to play havoc on your system because it's going to slow your metabolism down, and it's a ***** to find if you're an addict, you're going to be crawling around, slapping your arm, jonesing all day. Look at Ozzy Osbourne, he turned out pretty good. He's still with it. He's a happy guy. Honestly, I think the biggest problem with society isn't drugs, it's poor parenting. If you've got a loving family to go home to, you're going to be okay at the end of the day. It's pretty much that simple, I think.

 

Keller: Do you think Vince saw much of ECW?

 

Raven: I don't think he saw any of it. I don't think he saw anything of anything. I remember when I was producing, when I was an associate producer on Raw, we did a radio show. Which, once Vince stopped doing it and it was just me and Stan Lane and we stopped talking about wrestling and just made it funny to entertain me and Stan, it was a really good show. It was so good to the point that Shawn Michaels wanted to come to the studio and do it live with us, which he did. The boys never want to do anything wrestling-related in their free time, but it was really entertaining. Anyway, we had to meet there around 6 o'clock and WCW would be on. So Vince would glance back and forth at the TV. I remember he really liked Johnny B. Badd and I forget who else. I always got the sense that Vince didn't watch the other stuff. I don't know why. Maybe he had no time. Let's face it, the guy's got eight billion things to do. Maybe he didn't want to put over the competition. Who knows what it was? I just never got the sense that he watched it. I honestly don't even think he knew I was in WCW because I left him to go to ECW and I was in ECW when I came back to him. I think he thinks I was there the whole time and I think he saw me as a guy who was a big star in a small promotion and didn't realize I was a huge contributing factor ? that's not the right word. I was a huge supporting player on WCW. I don't even think he realized that.

 

Keller: Is Vince right to judge wrestlers on what he sees first-hand, and not taking into account success that they've had elsewhere?

 

Raven: Yes and no. Look, it doesn't matter what you did anywhere else, you have to produce here and now. But I don't think that's always necessarily so. A lot of guys who were over other places, he took them because they were over other places even though they sucked. So I don't necessarily agree with the premise of your question that he did do that."

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Keller: Which WWE wrestlers do you regret not working with?

 

Raven: The Rock. Oh, my God, I would have loved to work with The Rock. Now that I'm a babyface, I always thought I'd love to work with Rock as a heel because I always thought he was one of the greatest bumping heels. I so much more enjoyed him as a heel than a babyface, but I think he had to become a babyface because he was so big, there's no way they were going to boo him, at least at that time frame. He was always a better heel than he was a babyface, in my opinion. Hunter, and not because I want to suck up to him. The Hunter now ? not that I wouldn't want to work with him, because he's the champ ? but the Hunter before he blew out his quad, I thought he was the best worker in the history of the business. I thought he was that good. I genuinely believe and I've always said that, and not because I want to work there or get a job, because I've always bit the hand that feeds me, so I have no problem burying someone. But he was at that point the best worker in the business, period. I thought he was better than Bret, I thought he was better than Shawn. His wrestling was more realistic. I've always been about the selling. To me that's the real art form, because all the flip-flops, that's acrobatics. Selling is something that anybody could do, but very few people do it well.

 

You don't have to be an acrobat or a great athlete to be a good seller. Acrobatics is completely genetic, but you can become a good seller through sheer hard work. To me, there is nothing better than a great seller. Ricky Steamboat, back in the day, phenomenal. At the end of his run, I thought he was too much like William Shattner ? too big. There's an art form to it. Hunter was just so damn good for that period of time, for that one or two year period, he was just brilliant. What he did that no one else did, and it irritates me to no end, he would go back to the sell. Bret Hart, as good as he was, once he took over, he stopped selling because it was his turn then. If you were working his arm for five minutes, then he'd cut you off and go into the heat, he's not selling the arm anymore. I've always gone back and sold the arm. Hunter always went back and sold the arm. You knew for the next couple of minutes he would remind you it was damaged. If you ever got the chance to get back on the arm, the guy was gonna have the chance. Shawn didn't do that, either. Shawn was phenomenal, don't get me wrong. But Hunter during that time frame was the best there was.

 

Keller: Why don't guys sell? Cause they don't get it, or they're selfish and they won't?

 

Raven: They don't get it. I want to punch them in the face. It infuriates me. To me, this whole business is based on selling. The people can't feel it, they can only see it. So it doesn't matter whether you're squeezing a guy as hard as you can or barely touching him. I mean, the whole art form of this business is to make it look as realistic as possible and make it as painless as possible, which always makes me laugh about Japan. I showed my buddy a Japan tape and he goes "I could do that. They hit each other for real.

 

Where's the art form in that? Granted, it takes a certain kind of discipline to be able to take that kind of beating, but that's not what this business is supposed to be about. This business is about making it look realistic, but not feeling real. Anyone can go out there and punch some guy in the face, there's no art in that. To me, the Road Warriors were a big bomb with that. I loved watching them as a kid, but I thought they were really detrimental because -- I don't think it was their fault they were detrimental, they were told don't sell, and with their look at the time they shouldn't have sold. Except what happened is a whole generation of kids that got into the business wanted to be like the Road Warriors, and selling, which was once an art form, was an archeological dig to find somebody who could. All of a sudden instead of everybody being able to sell, which is how it should be, nobody could. It was a lost art.

 

It never really came back from that because the next generation that grew up wanted to be like Shawn Michaels, so acrobatics came in. To me, it's still all about the selling. That's how you build the drama. That's why I look at all these cruiserweight guys and I think if I could have done all that athleticism, I really would have been world champion years ago. But you're never going to get anywhere because if all they see is a pinball, they're never going to connect with you on a visceral level. I know I use the word visceral quite a bit, but it's the only way to describe it. If you're not hurt, there's no drama to it.

 

I always thought when 1-2-3 Kid came out, I thought that was really cool. Mikey Whipwreck in ECW had a very similar gimmick. I always enjoyed Mikey more because the difference was the 1-2-3 Kid was fearless, so there was no drama when he went and did all this crazy stuff. But Mikey was so terrified of doing it that when he finally did it, it showed courage and connected on a viseral, emotional level. Of course, then he could sell and make everything mean something. But with the Kid, once he went down he was down, and once he was up he was up. It didn't have the same long-term impact for me as a drama.

 

I think the Kid's a hell of a talent and I always got along really well with the Kid, so I'm not taking it as a slight on the Kid, I just meant for my preference at the time. I like what the Kid became later much more than when he started. I found it much more interesting when he learned that it's about selling and connecting with the people emotionally. Once he did that, what a much more interesting character. He always had heat as a heel. You wanted to punch him in the face. I thought he single-handedly revived Ric Flair in WCW because he brought something out of him. With Flair, it was "I don't know if I can take Nash or Hall, but I know I can beat your ass". It was the selling and the drama. That's what this business is based on, and that's what none of these dumb idiot cruiserweight kids get, so I'm like the old-timer preaching "Come sit around. You dumb kids, when I was your age..." I'll make a great old man. "Hey, get off my porch!" At least a lot of the guys actually listen. They come to me. Like C.M. Punk, AJ Styles, Chris Daniels, they all come to me now and go "Okay, how could I have sold this better, how could I make this mean more." I like that the new generation is getting beyond the acrobatics and so now another generation is coming in, and hopefully they're all gonna want to learn the actual art of this business.

 

Keller: How would you define the "WWF style" that people said guys like Jericho didn't get?

 

Raven: Honestly, it's simple basic psychology there. Here's what the stupid kids today don't get. This is the whole concept of the business in a nutshell, and this is WWE style. The babyface outwrestles the heel. He outwrestles because he is either a little better, he's got a little more heart, a little more intestinal fortitude, so he outwrestles the heel. The heel finally has to cheat because the heel is either deep down a coward, an arrogant bastard, he has some fault or foible that is exposed, so finally because he can't get the advantage because the babyface is either a little bit better or has a little more heart, he cheats. Now he has some heat. Then he can beat the crap out of him and get the heat. Boom boom boom boom boom. Heat. Finally, when the babyface has had enough, through sheer intestinal fortitude and the people are getting behind him, and that emotional connection is there, he makes the big comeback. It's that simple. That's the business. And the whole match is geared and based towards the comeback. And that's why you have to have faces and heels like I talked about before, because a match is built toward a comeback. You keep delaying the gratification until the right moment, and then when it's the right moment you blow the big comeback and that's how the people get their rocks off.

 

Keller: Did you see enough of Jericho's work back then to know that he didn't work that style?

 

Raven: RVD definitely didn't. I can't remember Jericho because that was during the lost years. But I think if you talk to Jericho now he'll definitely say that there is a definite WWE style, but to me it's just basic common sense. That's just how the business was. For the most part, maybe not everybody does it, but that's what WWE style is supposed to be. But it's really just ?wrestling style', Wrestling 101. What's happened is, people don't understand that, so they just do some crazy spots and I'll do some crazy spots, and then we'll go home."

 

Keller: Does that sum up RVD's style?

 

Raven: It does, but they molded him into the WWE style, then they never gave him a chance to capitalize on it. Honestly, when he came in, I hated his style because he hurt you, he's stiff, he didn't get the psychology of it. But to me, even so, he had such a connection with the people that they should have pushed him anyway because he would have been nothing but money. If they would have let him go with Austin during the Alliance deal, that would have been huge. For whatever reason, it didn't happen. There's definitely something to ? and I'm sure this is what your next question is going to be ? the main event style.

 

Abso-fu?in'-lutely. The difference is, it's so hard to explain... first of all, as a main eventer, they have to believe that you are willing to pull some guy's eyeball out and eat it to win. You have to function on a different level because they're going to suspend disbelief on a different level in the main event. You have to know how to build the people. You have to have Wrestling 101 down to a science. It's about presence. It's about carrying yourself.

 

I'll give you the best example. I love Chris Daniels. He's a very good friend of mine in the business. I think he's one of the most superb, pure athletes in the business. And I think in six months or a year he'll be a main eventer, no doubt about it. But you read some of the sheets for years and they were saying he should be in WWE main eventing, blah blah blah blah. But no, he shouldn't because he's never been a main event style worker. He never carried himself like a main eventer. It's a whole different level. Obviously people see now, it's like a lot of guys were exposed once they were put in a main event slot. All of a sudden people go, we thought he was supposed to be a main eventer, and they put him there, but people realized ?oh, wait, that doesn't work'. That's because there's something completely different to it.

 

I have no doubt that Chris will be there in no time. What's really good about Chris is that he asks for advice and he listens. That's better than the guys who ask for advice and don't actually listen. He takes criticism really well. I love the guy. He's a tremendous athlete. He's smaller, but you can compensate for that. Look at Low Ki, who is 150 pounds? He carries himself with such a presence and such an authority that you're like, whoa! You can't expose him with a 270 pounder, but he's totally believable in the right circumstances. He doesn't quite get the main event style yet, but he has the presence which goes a long way.

 

Chris is getting the match psychology, but he doesn't have the presence yet because it's not just one or the other. There's definitely something to needing the main event style, because so many guys have failed. The converse, there were a ton of guys who couldn't work main event style, and part of the job of the guys who can work is to carry the guys who can't. If you're a really good worker, the worse the guy is, the more you can carry him."

 

Keller: Remember when you lost to Goldberg, what was that like?

 

Raven: I didn't care about losing so much as I really thought I was really going to get a chance to prove myself with the U.S. title, which sometimes has been a devalued belt and sometimes they put some steam on it. I really felt I could have been the guy to hold it for three months or six months and get some steam on it. I felt I could have elevated it. I thought we could have elevated each other because there were certain guys that had it, you just look at them and know. It irritated me on that level. I didn't care about losing.

 

The thing I hated about the whole Goldberg phenomenon is if he would have come into WWE, they would have made him respect the business. Instead, everybody, all the top guys sucked up to him because they realized he was going to be a top guy. So instead of making him humble and earning his place, they just let him walk right in on top. I've talked to him about it. He was like "I don't have to pay my dues because I paid them in football". It doesn't matter what you did in football, this is different. I couldn't go from wrestling to football and go "Hey, I paid my dues in wrestling". I'd still be a jobber in football until I earned my way. If he would have gone to New York, they would have made him big, but it wouldn't have been like in WCW where the top guys gave him a free ride where he never respected the business. I f-ckin' resent the fact that he made more money sitting at home than I made in my whole career when all he ever did was talk f-ckin' bad about wrestling. "Ah, I'd much rather play football," he'd say. Well, if you were so good at football, why didn't you have a career in it? Because he wasn't a star football player. What, he played one year with the Falcons? That's more than I ever did. I never could have played. I rode the bench in high school. But my point is, if that's what you wanted to be, you should have done it. But instead, we put over that he was a Falcon which means one of the lowest football players is our best guy. So imagine how good the top football players would be.

 

Keller: Do you have a problem with anyone's background in another sport being brought up if they weren't a superstar in that sport?

 

Raven: To me, if he was a guy who played one year of pro football and we talk about him being a football player, and now he's portrayed as the best wrestler we got like they did with Goldberg, that to me is a slap in the face to wrestling. Then the fact that he would always bad-mouth wrestling, "F--- you." The fact that this paying you all this money, giving you a life of luxury and prestige, and all you do is sh-- on it. Even if you think that, don't f--in' say it because it makes us look like a bunch of idiots. You're the top guy in the sport, you're bad-mouthing the sport, and we're bleeding our hearts out for it and all you do is think it's the f---in' sh-ts." That infuriated me. I always liked Bill before he got in the business. I don't see him anymore. I'm sure I'd say hi to him or whatever, but I resent the hell out of him. If you don't love what I do, that's great. But it rewarded you so hugely, don't sh-- on it.

 

Keller: Why do you think he bad-mouthed wrestling?

 

Raven: Because he really didn't give a sh-- about it. He was a gym rat. I know in Atlanta, we've had mutual friends. We all knew each other from the scene. Everybody thinks every big guy can do it, but they can't. Bill happened to have a phenomenal charisma and presence at it because Bill's smart, he's a very smart guy. But I think he would have respected it and never bad-mouthed it if he'd have gone to New York (WWE) because they would have made him earn it like they're doing now. Like Jericho did when he front-facelocked him and choked him out.

 

Keller: So you think Bill Goldberg is a smart guy?

 

Raven: He didn't strike me as stupid. He's smart enough to know... Just because someone is not wrestling-smart doesn't mean they're stupid. Some people just can never grasp wrestling. To me, I don't know how they can't, but they can't grasp the ABCs of it, the Wrestling 101. I've had conversations with Bill. He seems like an intelligent guy. He's not going to win any Pulitzers. I think his mom was a teacher or a violinist. I think he had well-to-do parents. He couldn't have fallen too far from the tree.

 

Keller: When you worked with Bill Goldberg in WCW, did you think he had natural abilities that could blossom, or did you think he had some fatal flaws?

 

Raven: He was never going to learn how to sell. I couldn't get the concept across. I would try to explain to him how to sell. I would say, "Bill, if you got hit in a fight in the stomach, you would double over like this, right? You would be breathing hard." He said, "No, I wouldn't sell it." So I went, "There's no sense having a conversation." If you don't believe you're going to sell in real life, you'll never get to sell in fantasy wrestling, fake life.

 

Keller: Do you think ultimately the Monday Night Wars were good for wrestling, bad for wrestling, or kind of irrelevant to wherever it ends up going?

 

Raven: I don't know. Ultimately whether I think they're good or bad is irrelevant because it happened. I thought it was good originally, then I thought it was bad.

 

Keller: Did the wrestling industry from an in-ring art standpoint, from a storyline crafting standpoint benefit from the Raw-Nitro war? As a student of the game, do you think the head-to-head competition led to an accelerated evolution of wrestling in (a) a bad shortcut way or (B) did they drive each other to be better?

 

Raven: Both. Absolutely some of both. Ultimately we make our own audiences see what we want them to see. Look at how we're reeducating them now to holds and stuff because they haven't seen them in five years. The only reason holds became sh--y is because people stopped working holds. They would just grab it as a rest spot. The people came to know them as restholds. I've been in about a hundred fights and they all turned into someone grabbing holds. At least 50 percent end up with a guy in a front facelock. People grab holds in real life. It's not like you'd just grab a hold to rest. If you were in a real fight, you'd grab a hold to try to choke the guy out. In most fights, people have no skill level. Even if they have a skill level, the easiest way to choke a guy out is to grab a front facelock and put the blade across his throat and out he goes. There are so many things like that. To me, holds should be incorporated into matches because it's very realistic. But guys got lazy with them. Now that fans haven't seen them in five years, it's all brand new again. Hell, there's so much sh-- that's new.

 

I talked D-Lo into doing the armpump spot at a recent indy show. It's the old Memphis spot where there's a heel tag team. The heel brings the babyfaces arm over, the heel on the apron turns around and pumps his arm across his back three times like cranking it across his shoulder, then he gives it back to the heel. The heel works him a little bit, brings it back a second time. The heel on the apron cranks it a few more times and gives it back to the second heel in the ring. Then finally the third time, the heel on the apron knows the guy's bringing the arm back, so he turns his back to him, and the babyface reverses it, and the heel has his own partner's arm, and the guy cranks it. It's a ridiculous spot. He thought no way would it ever work. I go, "D-Lo, they've never seen it. It's a brand new spot now because no one's seen it in at least five or six years." It might even have been ten years. So every hold is usable again because the audience hasn't grown accustomed to how these holds and moves were prostituted before. Like the "boring" chant. I wish they never would have brought it back because it wasn't even part of the vernacular anymore. Wrestling fans stopped using "boring" five or six years ago, and the new fans never even thought to yell boring at a match. Even if you were bored, you never would have thought that because it's not part of the vernacular, so to bring it back, oh what a crime against humanity. Idiocy. Whoever thought of that is an idiot.

 

Keller: What were the major reasons WCW isn't around today. As a student of the game, being around it first hand for a lot of it on both sides, why is there just one company left? Why didn't WCW succeed when it had everything going its way at one point?

 

Raven: Same thing I said before. Ultimately it was because they didn't mix up the top.

 

Keller: That was enough? Or were they making enough other mistakes that even if they mixed up the top stars, it still wouldn't have worked?

 

Raven: Nope, that would have made the difference. Think about it. The fans were tired of seeing the same guys wrestle the same guys. If they would have seen me and Jericho and Konnan bust through the top at that time, whole new match-ups would have been there, a whole new reason to draw money. Let's just say one guy busted through. I could have worked with Big Show, I could have worked with Ric Flair, I could have worked with DDP, I could have worked with Sting. All of a sudden you've got ten new match-ups. Let's say I didn't click. You bring Jericho up, or Konnan up. One of us is going to click. Then you have all new match-ups. It's like when Lesnar came up, all new match-ups.

 

Keller: Did Eric Bischoff burnout?

 

Raven: I don't know. Honestly, I can't even remember. I can't remember thinking one way or another because in my mind I was already gone before it happened. I never got past the fact that they wouldn't raid the middle because remember, that's why I left.

 

Keller: Who are you most glad you had the chance to work with during your latest WWE stint?

 

Raven: Matt Hardy. We had a phenomenal time. They gave us a cool house show run. I think we did some angle on TV or something. It obviously wasn't that big or I'd remember it. But it was enough of a thing to give us a ruffle on the house shows and people really got behind it. We had some tremendous matches. I really enjoyed working with him. He truly gets babyfaces and heels - that babyfaces need to make a comeback, taht heels have got to get heat on them. Another guy was Hurricane. What also really meant a lot to me was that me and Stevie Richards had this really rocky road for a long time in ECW, but we ended up becoming really close friends because of our time in WWE and I'm really proud of that. I was a real bastard to him, but by the same token I think he deserved it, too. There are always two sides to every coin. He grew into such a great person that he really grew up. It's so impressive to see somebody who was so squirmy and grow into such a great person and as insidious as I treated him, and as I said I think he deserved it, but then for us to really end up being close friends is really cool.

 

Keller: How do you enjoy working the indy scene?

 

Raven: I really enjoy it - and I want to point out I'm available for indy bookings. If you want to book me, call up Rob Feinstein. I also want to put over the fact that it's really cool working indy dates because seven years ago when I did 'em, people came to sh-- on wrestling. They'd chant boring. Even if you were killing yourself, people didn't want to be entertained. They just wanted to heckle. Now you go and the people really want to be entertained. They really love what they're watching. It's such a pleasure to work for an unjaded, uncynical crowd that just came to have a good time. It makes it so much easier and so much more enjoyable to do what we do. Suffice to say, I think the people who aren't going to indy shows because it's not a big enough show, I think they're missing a whole huge part of wrestling because part of the fun is finding some stars who you can't see anywhere else. I've always said there is nothing like going to wrestling live, whether it's an indy show or a WWE show, there's nothing like it because the emotional reaction of the crowd is so rewarding. You get to see guys who are nobodys now make a name for themselves. You can follow them from the beginning, which is always cool. You get to see guys who are never going to go anywhere in the most preposterous f--in' gimmicks. There are guys who are out there performing for the love of the game even though they know they have no hope of ever having a career in this. There's one guy, he's kind of overweight, and he wears a Mr. Spock outfit. It's just so preposterous. It just entertains me to see this guy wrestling in a Mr. Spock outfit. I can't remember his name, but I guess he'll just be happy that I mentioned him. If you're a wrestling fan and you're thinking you're above indy wrestling, don't be a snob because you're really missing something entertaining and rewarding.

 

Keller: Compare your TNA experience lately to Ring of Honor and Major League Wrestling.

 

Raven: Three entirely different things. To me, I don't know if I would still do this if I was still doing just indies. Even after everything I just said, I need the TV fix. I need the live feel, sure, but more than anything I need the episodic TV. I need to feel that what I do today is going to have consequences next week and the week after and the week after that because ultimately it's the story. So I need to be on episodic TV, and as much as MLW is episodic TV, you shoot it a month's worth all at once. It doesn't have the same resonance as doing it weekly. There is no greater thrill and no greater high than episodic TV that is weekly TV and being a part of that, a part of the show, an integral factor in why people are coming to see the show. I still enjoy MLW, but it's a different enjoyment. The Ring of Honor I enjoy because it's a whole other thing. I get to see people I don't normally get to see. There's also a lot of camaraderie in the business. I also think what's cool about the indies is there's no backstabbing going on (among wrestlers) because what you do at an indy show doesn't impact your career, so nobody's trying to cut anybody's throat like in WWE where it's so backstabbing that everybody's miserable. At indy shows, you know what you're getting paid and you know what you're going to make until you become a star, and if you are a star, you know what you're going to make because that's your going rate for stars. So there's no backstabbers. Everybody's having a good time which is so cool because it reminds me of the old ECW days. There the boys weren't smart enough - not smart as in intelligent, but smart as in smizart enough - to know to be cynical and jaded about where their position was and whatnot. They just went there to have a good time for the most part. Hey, it was their first national exposure and they were just happy to be part of the game. That's what the indies are now for the most part. It's cool because it's two different products. Ring of Honor has their own particular style. MLW is a very ECW-type style. They all have their own certain benefits and enjoyment. I like working some shows where I do all ga ga, where I can do Memphis spots like the arm crank. There are so many different things I like about the business, and as Raven, I only get to do so many. Stevie Richards is always my funnel alter-ego. All the goofy spots they did where they spoofed all the other tag teams - not really spoofs as much as homages - where they'd dress as Baron Von Stevie & Col. Meanie, where they were supposed to be Baron Von Raschke and Col. DeBeers. Stuff like that that my character couldn't do because it would kill my character off, so I got to come up with that for Stevie and watch Stevie do it and be entertained. Now, on indies, I can do all the goofy stuff I want because it doesn't impact my TNA. If I'm in front of 400 people in Illinois and I want to do the Tennessee tip-toe spot, or slide out to the floor while the guy's running the ropes back and forth, and he thinks we're doing a criss-cross and I'm sitting in the front row drinking a soda, and he's running until finally suddenly his heart stops racing and he drops from exhaustion and lays in the middle of the ring, and the ref?s got to give him mouth-to-mouth, I can do goofy sh-- like that. I get to view the whole compass of wrestling from Wrestling 101 from A-to-Z. I enjoy all aspects of it, but ultimately if I had to choose, it would be episodic TV as the Raven character for TNA. And if it wasn't TNA, hopefully it would be for someone else.

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