Raven Interview

050812_ravenOne of the true enigmas of professional wrestling, Raven (aka Scott Levy) captured his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship at TNA Slammiversary in June 2005, and is one of the few men to have seen success in World Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and now Total Nonstop Action.

Trained by Jake “the Snake” Roberts and now with a professional career spanning some 17 years, the man who once studied Criminology in lieu of becoming a Lawyer is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent in the business, and his hardcore style has seen him earn the respect of countless fans.

Just 3 days out from TNA Sacrifice where Raven will team up with Sabu to take on Jeff Jarrett & Rhino in the main event of the show, The World Champion took time out to speak with NZPWI Editor Dion McCracken on life as the Champ, WCW, Hardcore Homecoming and even threw in a prediction for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup encounter!

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Dion McCracken: He’s the reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion and one of the few men to compete in the four biggest pro-wrestling promotions of the last few decades. He’s teaming up with Sabu this Monday at TNA Sacrifice to take on Jeff Jarrett and Rhino in what should be an epic tag team match – he is Raven.

Raven, thank you so much for joining me today…

Raven: Not a problem, not a problem.


Congratulations on your NWA World Heavyweight Championship win back at Slammiversary – does it feel good to be Champ?

Ah I love it, I mean I…you know it’s like, I told this to another radio show I did, it’s a vindication. Umm…you know, very…usually when you become World Champion, the other belt’s don’t mean as much because, a lot of them just get shuffled from people to people, person to person with no regard to whether it’s going to mean anything, whereas World Titles, they shouldn’t be traded around, I mean the World Titles shouldn’t be, you know…not that many people should be able to say they’re World Champion because I mean, it’s the highest honour and prestige you can get in this business.

Ken Shamrock had it, Ron Killings, Jeff Jarrett, AJ & me. You know, over three years which, in the old days that would’ve been a lot but today in the modern era, that’s not very many.

And umm, I think it’s a vindication, it’s the Company saying “look, we think you’re as good as, you’re the best in the Company, or one of the two or three best in the Company, and we want to build the Company around you for the time being, and you’re going to be our flagship”. And it’s just a vindication of your talent, you know, because we’re all a bunch of sensitive artists – we always want to be vindicated for our work, you know we want…we want people to recognise us, and we need some level of…you know, as good as you always think you are, you’re never really sure how good you are.

You know and it’s funny, like you know, you have all of these insiders that are putting over all these guys that…4-star matches but they’re not, they can’t draw any money because that’s not, that’s not the uhh…that’s not how you become the best at what you do. The best at what you do in wresting is the best at drawing money. That’s why Hogan was the best, for years. Because he was the money maker.

You know, And this is the Company saying “look, we think of you with promos, interviews, matches, character, personality, everything across the board, you’re one of the best”, and, it’s nice to, it’s nice to be respected for that.


With that in mind, umm, do you consider it the pinnacle of your career so far?

Ummm….one of ‘em. Definitely one of the highlights. I mean, obviously the first time I won the World Title was for ECW, was a huge thing for me.

You know, it’s funny. My goals continually evolve, I mean, when I first won the Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Title, that was a pretty big deal, and then umm, although ironically all these things, because I’m so jaded and cynical, because when I got in this business, I was taught not to be a mark for the business.

So, by the same token, all of these things that I’ve won, all these accolades on some level don’t, … they don’t … what’s the word … umm as much as they mean to me, in many ways they’re just, umm…it’s just ancillary to the work. You know what I’m saying?

Yeah.

Umm, you know winning the Pacific Northwest title, winning ummm…what came next, I can’t remember – getting my first break in WCW as Scotty Flamingo, then going to the WWF, then you know, being made Associate Producer of Raw, I’ve had so many career highlights but this would be one of the, this would definitely be one of the top four, three or four things and the only reason I don’t say top two is because, obviously off the top of my head, it’s in the top two with winning the ECW Title, I would say those two and probably…I don’t know, I’d have to think about it, but I’d put it in the top five, because, there’s other stuff as well that meant a lot to me, although I can’t recall at this time, right now.

You know, one of my favourite things I ever did, was when TBS paid me, when WCW paid me six figures to sit in the front row and get drunk every night.


Is it a stressful time to be the World Champ?

050812_raven1No, I don’t get stressed. Umm, the uhh – no it’s probably the least stressful time because we’re in between TV deals so I mean to be honest, it’s probably the exact opposite, the antithesis.

Because, umm…I’m hoping I’m the World Champion for the next 10 years, but I mean, I’m going to be a realist and say of course I’m not going to be, but right now, our buy rates are only going to be so much because there’s no TV backing them, so there’s really no pressure because I could have the world’s worst buy rate and still go like “well, there’s no TV”, so, it’s not a reflection.

Umm…but… yeah, I mean, so yeah, the only way I can answer that is that I don’t think there’s any pressure right now, I think the pressure will start once we go on Spike.


You spoke earlier about your run in WCW. How bad was WCW for you to walk away from a six figure income?

Ummm…it wasn’t, it wasn’t hard at all actually because I wasn’t happy. I’ve never, I’ve never done this for money, although, I love the money, don’t get me wrong, this is one of the greatest gigs, although, when you really think about it, we get paid 10-15% of the gross and all pro-athletes, most pro-athletes get paid 50-75% of the gross.

So, yeah, it’s a huge disparity between all other pro-athletes what they make and what we make, and uhh, but nonetheless this beats the hell out of working at McDonald’s.

That being said, I’ve never done this for the money, I’ve done it for love of game and so when I walked out, I walked out because I wasn’t happy. If I can’t, if I couldn’t play the game I wanted to play then why, that’s not why I got in the business. That’s why I’ve left every Company I’ve left, because I wasn’t happy doing what they had me doing and umm, you know, I wasn’t being used…the reason I left the WWF was they had me as a producer and not a wrestler the first time, and they weren’t putting me on the air and I mean, you know that was ridiculous, I mean I got in to be a wrestler not a Producer.

Yeah, WWF made me a Producer, and they said uhh, you know “We don’t want you as a wrestler” which I couldn’t believe and then they’re like “We want you to produce here” and I’m like, and then they took me off air and I was like “you know what, forget it, I’m not getting this”, and that’s why I quit there.

In WCW I quit but it’s kinda funny quitting there was, I never should’ve even been in the position to quit because, from the top of the Company, the top guys started talking about how crappy the product was and it would trickled down so everybody started talking about it, so I would bury the Company and, you can’t let, I mean…

Vince McMahon never would’ve tolerated anybody burying his Company, and he shouldn’t have. And Bischoff – I like Bischoff a lot by the way – but Bischoff should’ve cut it off right at the top and said “look”, to whoever was burying the company and say “look, you can’t do that, you’re gonna get suspended or fined”, but you can’t talk shit about the Company you work for. And uhh, it never would’ve got to the point where I would’ve quit you know, because I never would have been burying the Company publicly.

That being said, I had no problem leaving, because I couldn’t wait to get back to ECW at that point, and uhh, except I didn’t know Paul E. was so freaking burned out that he had nothing left in the tank, coupled with the fact that the network we went to had no interest in pushing us and uhh, that was just as big a, you know that sucked just as bad. But the difference was I didn’t have to work as much.


Whereabouts have you been happiest?

Umm…ECW the first time and TNA, now. Portland, Oregon was great. Umm, what else? Global was a blast, it was only one day a week. Yeah I would say Portland, ECW the first time and TNA now.

I love TNA now. It’s great, I mean I work three days a month, get paid an assload of money. I get to do…the majority of things I want to do I mean, you know it’s…I get ummm…they respect me enough that they always come to me and say “this is what we’re going to do, how would you like to make it better?”, “What can you do to help?”. I mean, you know, they keep me in a good position and I don’t want to be the Booker, ever.

You know, as creative as I am, it’s not something I aspire to because, I don’t want, I don’t want to be responsible for that. I like having no responsibility except, I like my responsibility in being performing, and that’s it.

Which is why I’ll never own a Company. People go “why don’t you buy a bar, buy a business you know, with your money and invest it that way”. I don’t want to own something because then I’d have to be responsible for it.

I’d much rather be a performer and they go look, “there, this is what we need done, go out and do it” and that’s what I want to do.


How does TNA stack up in terms of leadership and morale backstage?

Morale is good, morale is really good right now, especially since we’ve got on Spike but it was good before that.

Leadership? I think D’Amore is doing a great job, you know?

I think ummm…people love Dixie. I mean, how could you not love Dixie? If you know her, she’s the sweetest, nicest lady, her parents are just you know, phenomenal. I mean, and I think that’s a big difference, because the Company is owned and ran by people that are genuinely caring people and uhh…as opposed to a lot of other places I’ve been.

So, I mean I, you know, I think I… nothing but thumbs up


You’re noted as having a very high IQ. You studied Criminology at Delaware, so that begs the question what’s your biggest strength in the industry, brains or brawn?

Oh, obviously it’s my brains and my creativity. I mean, I was never a great athlete in High School. I mean, I rode the bench in Football, Baseball I was a decent player but you know, nothing special. Umm…wrestling I was a mid-carder.

I mean, but, two factors. One is I actually, I was a late bloomer so I got better as I got older but even then I wouldn’t have been a great athlete.

But wrestling is not about athletics. As much as athleticism is an important aspect of it, you can be a complete Spaz and be a huge money draw. And that takes brain and creativity to be able to figure out what the people want, and how to give it to them, how to package and give it to them in a way that they’re going to pay money to see you.

And, you know, if you look at all the top guys, they’re all exceptionally smart. You know, Nash, Hogan, Shawn Michaels, you know whoever, they’re all really bright guys.

You have to be really bright to be a main eventer here because this is about, it’s uhhh….you know it’s like ummm selling. You know, even if you’re a complete unathletic person, you can watch somebody sell, you can watch people and you can figure out how they’re doing it that makes it effective and you can teach yourself to do it, because…

You know it, that’s kinda funny, like I could drop a fly-ball, but I’ll look really athletic running and catching it, because I know how to look athletic. My skills may not be the same as somebody like say, you know, AJ Styles, you know, but I, and I may drop you, if we play baseball, I may drop you know, a percentage of fly-balls except that I’m not going to look like unathletic, not going to look like a Spaz because I know how to take what I watch and figure out the mechanics of it, and then apply it to myself, you know so I can overcome the fact that my athleticism is limited at least in appearance but you know, not necessarily in the actual action.


How was Hardcore Homecoming?

It was fun but it was just too hot. Just so hot.

You know the locker rooms, there was no room, I mean honestly, it wasn’t, that was for the fans, it wasn’t…it wasn’t as cool as it could’ve been backstage, I mean, not that everybody wasn’t cool, I didn’t mean it that way I just meant, there was so little room, and so much going on that you couldn’t really have the homecoming for the boys, you know what I mean?

Mmm.

Like it wasn’t. It wasn’t – that was completely for the fans. Whereas, you know, a lot of times the reunion is as much about the people, the boys as well, you know what I mean?

Yeah, yeah.

050812_raven2But I’ve seen most of those guys over the years anyway so you know, so, and umm, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t seem them in forever. But the locker room was too small, it was too hot. I mean, there was just, there was so much crap going on, well not crap, I mean there was so much stuff going on, crap’s the wrong word, so much stuff going on that ummm, you know I thought Shane did a great job running the show but there was just so much going on that it wasn’t like a normal atmosphere would’ve been where we were just “hey, it’s great to see everybody, let’s hang out and bullshit” you know what I mean and talk for an hour, a couple of hours, you know what I mean? But there wasn’t the time the space and the heat was just awful. Don’t get me wrong, in front of the people, it was great, but umm…

Yeah, I don’t know, part of the problem was, it sucked for me as well was because I had to turn myself heel which I love being a heel, and I wanted to be a heel, and I prefer to be a heel but I hated having to heel on those fans, well actually – part of me hated having to and part of me loved it because if you can turn the smart fans it just means you’re really good at your job. So I did my job really well, but part of me was like you know, they came here to celebrate this thing and I was one of the, you know the, the main institutions.

And you know, I just felt, there was a part of me that thought this kinda bites you know I gotta crap on the people you know, so I can be a heel and Shane can be the babyface and we can get the most out of the match.


Did you catch One Night Stand?

No. I had no interest.

I don’t, you know, it’s funny umm, I love performing more than ever, but somewhere when wrestling started getting bad I just lost all interest in watching it.

When I was in the WWF, I mean, I was one of those guys who would sit in front of the monitor, catch every match and then I would tape the shows, in case I missed matches whatever I missed, you know, and I would watch, I would watch, you know I would tape, when Raw and Nitro got on whichever one I watched I would tape the other. You know, whichever, I mean when I was at Raw, I’m sorry, when I was at Nitro I would tape Raw and uhh…

You know, when wrestling got bad, I lost interest in watching it. But I love performing more than ever.


What do you think it’s going to take to get umm… wrestling back to the “glory years” I guess of the late 90s?

Ummm….I think you know what would help?

What’s that?

Umm…one…well…now let me think if I wanted to say this or not.

Umm…I have a couple of different opinions I think our Company, I think we can absolutely do it. I think our Company has tonnes of potential to do it.

Your probably thinking, what your thinking and I’m talking about is something probably most people haven’t even considered but you know if we got, let’s say a Mick Foley. You know, if we got that one key guy and brought him into our Company, there’s only a few guys you could do it with.

Instead of it being a long war to drag it out, to get, I mean to make it a competitive fight, I think you find the one right guy you pay him enough money, and he’s going to be enough to get you in the game instantly as opposed to fighting to get into the game.

You see what I’m saying?

Yeah.

I hate to put that on Mick, I’ve talked with Mick about it, I hate to put him on the spot, but…

There’s only a few guys with that much name power, that much leverage, that over that if they jumped to our Company, people would go “Holy crap, I gotta watch this show”.

And uhh, you know, with that kind of juice, you know like a Rock, or an Austin or a Mick Foley and that would, that would give us that jump to get from point A to point B, otherwise we’re going to have to go A to B to C to D which I absolutely think we will, but that’s a short cut.


TNA has created a lot of new, young stars. Who stands out for you?

I like Sonjay Dutt a lot. I think he’s got so much talent.

Umm, Chris Daniels is a hump. Heh heh…I like Chris, I just like calling him a hump.

Umm, I like Samoa Fatty – he’s got a ton of potential.

And ummm…I mean I’ve always been hugely high on AJ.

But I think Samoa Fatty umm, and Sonjay Dutt, I would definitely get behind those two.

Umm, who else?

Umm, Daniels, I would have to make a baby-face. Or, I would have to pull him aside and teach him to be, actually I have pulled him aside with this, but Daniels wants to be liked, he’s just not mean, he just not evil, he won’t portray evil in the extreme yet. And if we could get him to do that he would be a tremendous heel, and I think that’s the only thing holding him back is uhh, is umm, stepping over, crossing the line to be a true heel as opposed to just, a guy that people boo just because they’re supposed to. Unless he turns back baby-face.

But I think there’s enough baby-faces and he has the verbal skills, the verbal dexterity that he should be a heel he just gotta, he’s just gotta cross that line and be like “You know what? These people, I’m going to have to make these people hate me.”

Because, I think that’s a lot of problem with the young Cruiserweight guys is, on some level they want to be liked. You know? You can’t, I mean Kid Kash, he didn’t care if you hated him and he made you hate him. You know what I mean?

Yeah, yeah.

That’s your job, you know? And uhh, if you’re not making these people hate you as a heel, you’re not doing your job. You’re letting everybody down. I don’t mean that in a bad, like Chris is letting everybody down I’m just saying, but he has the talent and the potential that if he decided to truly make the people hate him? He would be a huge, huge factor.


Do you think it’ll be difficult for TNA to retain a lot of these younger guys?

I don’t think so at all.

I think they all know that if they go to New York they’re just going to be opening match. Because they’re all smaller guys, ummm they’re all going to be Cruiserweight guys that are just you know, and that Vince is never going to push, he’s never, ever going to push the Cruiserweight Division because that’s not what he likes and bless his heart, he doesn’t have to, he’s a billionaire, well I mean, he’s a, he’s a multi-millionaire.

And umm, even, I mean think about it now, as bad as business is, they just had one of the most successful quarters in the history of the Company. So, even though the boys aren’t getting paid, Vince is making a fortune. You know, that was one of his fourth or fifth biggest quarters of all time.

So he’s making jackloads of money so, he doesn’t have to do like, he doesn’t even have to make business better. See, that’s what nobody gets. Vince does not have to make business better because he’s making a fortune. I mean, he should make it better so the boys get more, but he doesn’t have to so he doesn’t have to change what he likes. He can do what he wants, because he’s always gonna keep making money doing what he wants, so why should anyone change what he wants to do?

Nobody gets that. But it’s a simple psychological portrait, you know? Let’s say you want to be, umm, you want to be the quarterback for your team and you’re not that good but it’s your team, you know, you’re making all kinds of money. Well sure it would be better if they replaced you but you know what? It’s your team, you want to be it, so screw it, you know? It’s your ball.


What will be the legacy of Raven?

Umm, what I would like, what I would truly, truly like is to have another guy say, whoever, this is what I’ve always thought, this is what I would like, is to have another guy come along say like on the level of a Rock or a Kurt Angle or somebody like that and go, “You know what, I got into wrestling because of Raven”.

That would be the greatest thing for me. Now I’m not saying that it’s ever going to happen, but you know, it may or may not, but umm, like that kid Jack Evans, the highflying kid, he like, it was cool, he pulled me aside one day and he goes, Teddy Hart told me, he goes, he goes you’re his favourite wrestler which is pretty cool, you know what I mean, even though we have completely different styles that’s pretty cool.

Yeah.

So that would be the best legacy that I could think of, if some guy who just became the next big break-out star, and he got into the business because of me. And that would be, you couldn’t ask for anything for more than that.


When it’s all said and done and your pro career is over, what’s next for you?

Ah, I want to work on a radio show. Um, not work on one, I want to have my own radio show. Like uh, “The Loveline With Dr. Drew” or something like that where people can call in and I’ll give them advice, and screw with them.

I mean, honestly I’d like to be able to do this when I’m 61 like Funk and you know, hopefully my shoulders and uh, my shoulders will hold out but umm, as long as my shoulders hold up I mean, you know, I don’t want to, uh, if you know how to work, you can do this forever. Because it’s a work. That’s the funniest thing, you know.

You know, if you have an injury, you work around it. Once you know how to work, you can do so much with so little, even with today’s discerning fans, you know, discerning fans, you just have to know how to do it. And it’s sad that most people don’t know how to do it, so they have to rely on killing themselves to get reactions when they could do so much less and get so much more.

But um, I would love to do it, you know, I’d love to wrestle you know, like a couple of weekends a month you know until I’m 100, you know if I could. I don’t know if I ever could but I mean, you know, but I don’t see, you know, it all depends how you take care of yourself, I guess. Barring no injuries, you know, I would.


TNA Sacrifice is airing live in New Zealand on Monday. Are you excited at the prospect of teaming with Sabu?

Um, absolutely. I love Sabu, me and him go back a long way and you know, I love working with Sabu. And you know, he’s always cool, you know. I like to be able to put the, my imputer, if that’s the right word? My imprint on the match and umm, Sabu never has a problem with this.

We went through and I was like “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah,” and he’s like “Hey, what if we do this?” and I’m like “Oh that’s cool, but what if we um……?”. I’ll always defer to Sabu, I’ve got tonnes of respect for him. So if he wants to do something different, well I’ll be like “What do you think if we did this instead of that because we need to go here” and he’s like “Not a problem.” He’s so easy-going with it, you know.

Just like Sandman, another guy I love working with. Sandman will be like “What do you want to do?” and I’ll be like “Let’s do this, this, this and this.” When I come in some days and I’ve got nothing, he’ll goes “What about this, this, this and this? I’m like, “Alright, let’s not do any of that, let’s do this instead,” and he goes, “OK, whatever you want.”

And that’s respect, you know what I mean? Either that or they just don’t feel like listening to me argue with them for half an hour, but I like to think it’s respect.


What about after Sacrifice? Is there, are there any guys that you’ve set your sights on that you’re willing to give that…..

Rhino. I want to work with Rhino. Rhino to me is so much better then many people realise because his stuff looks so realistic but it’s so light that you can’t even feel it.

And uh, Rhino, Rhino’s one of those guys that all he needs is a mouthpiece, you know, that’s why managers are so valuable and you know, even though Vince has phased them out. Some guys are just never going to be, their talking will never add up to what their work is. You put a Jim Mitchell with a Rhino, talking for him; off the charts.


Big game for New Zealand tomorrow, the Bledisloe Cup….

Oh wait, wait, before you even say, I want to give you my prediction: New Zealand by fifteen.

You…really?

Yeah, absolutely, I’m a huge New Zealand fan.


Good man, good man. Alright, thanks very much for talking with me aye? It’s been absolutely, just fascinating listening to you.

Take care, man.