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Raven arrived in ECW with a point to prove. Having spent the past couple of years as "Johnny Polo" – a stuck up, goofy heel manager come announcer in the WWF, his character went from forgettable – with the Quebecers - to irrelevant, calling shows that hardly anyone was watching. Having burned through in WCW prior too, ECW (in the short term, at least) offered the last hope of any kind of significance.
Dreamer had been knocking around ECW for the year prior. After a feud with "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, where Dreamer kicked out of not one but two splashes from the top rope. Dreamer went from belts and braces to eventually finding a pair of wrestling trunks, all in the name of "toughening" up the character. After a hellish program with The Sandman, who had gone through an evolution himself, Dreamer needed a new opponent.
In a land of brash, louder than life characters, "The Raven" gimmick offered something different. Arriving as a school friend of Dreamer, Raven's cut promos on an eerie swing, followed by a school classroom. There was plenty of mystique, perhaps not a tonne of forward planning at this stage - Dreamer was wrestling in Japan at the time.
February bought their first confrontation, Dreamer wanted to resolve this – the past issues bought up by Raven would be on hold for now. Raven aligned himself with the man who bought him in, a goof by the name of "Steve Richards". Richards would quickly become a man in Raven's image, wearing the cut off Metallica shirts and Dasie Dukes. Richards was the first in a line of bodies lined up to ensure that while Raven and Dreamer would be closely tied for the coming months, the chances of them meeting in a one on one situation were minimal.
If 1994 was about shedding the "pretty boy" image from Dreamer, 1995 was about trying to turn Dreamer into a legit bad ass wrestler. The other thing that was increasingly becoming important was getting him over full stop. Around this time Shane Douglas was departing for the WWF, Terry Funk had gone back to Japan and (depending on when you want to set your date point) about half of the ECW roster was being linked to WCW as they prepared for the start of the Monday Night War.
The feuds ability to attract continued with the addition of Beulah McGillicutty. Beulah was rejected by Tommy when they were younger, and when she was fat. She wasn't fat any more, she was hot (six months later Beulah would be promoting "Beulah's Box" as an item for the ECW Hotline – ask whatever questions you like). Beulah would accompany Richards at ringside for Raven's matches.
Dreamer faced Raven in a singles match with Richards and Beulah on the outside. The matches were decent, Dreamer was clearly becoming a fan favourite in Philadelphia, taking Sandman's "four corners" piledriver (showing the opponent to all four corners of the crowd) and turning it into his own signature move. That wasn't enough to put Raven away, and when a staged altercation between Richards and Beulah on the outside caused Dreamer to go out and play peacemaker, Dreamer walked right into a perfectly timed DDT from Raven on the concrete.
Dreamer's then faced Raven in a "Generation X" gauntlet match. He would firstly have to run through both of the Broad Street Bullies (hired by Richards), then Richards himself – Raven was even handcuffed ringside to ensure there was no funny business. Dreamer disposed of the trio, then went over to Raven – who had been released by Terry Funk shortly before.
Raven stayed in position before surprising Dreamer with a DDT to the floor and a victory. The story, that ECW were already starting to bill even at this stage, was that Dreamer still hadn't pinned Raven. It would soon become the theme of the feud.
Dreamer got another opportunity to face Raven in one of the best ECW segments of 1995. The match, predictably, decended into chaos – Dreamer got so pissed off he just DDT'd the referee as Richards broke up the pinfall that would've given Dreamer the win he wanted. Dreamer had enough of Beulah's antics – picked her up for the piledriver, revealing her minimal underwear to all four corners of the now rapturous ECW crowd – before dropping her down. If ever there was an indicator at just how underground and unscalable it was ECW's treatment of women. Dreamer mimmicked Raven's signature pose, before channeling Hulk Hogan by cupping his ear to the crowd. Finally he joined the hundreds six rows deep in the bleachers, leading an ECW chant as the segment ended. Again, Joey Styles was on hand to reaffirm, Dreamer still hadn't pinned Raven.
In four months Raven vs Dreamer had become the hottest feud ECW had going. Little did most people know things were only getting started. This will end this first blog, I will write the follow up in the coming weeks and months.