|"Quoth the Raven" - Scott Levy, Pro Wrestling Veteran: Part 3 Back to the Big Time and then Back to Square One (2000-Present Day|
WWF: Take Two
Late in the year 2000, Scott Levy's wish was granted and negotiations with the WWF saw him back on federation programming before the year was out. This time there was no question of Johnny Polo being resurrected as the WWF had finally begun to move away from the gimmick-based product it had favoured in the past. This time round the only real change made to Levy's in-ring persona was the baffling renaming of the Even Flow as the "Raven Effect." As a result Raven made his debut on WWF Raw with little fanfare, jumping out of the crowd to interfere in a match between fellow former ECW employee Tazz and ring veteran Jerry "The King" Lawler. Taking Lawler by surprise, Raven executed the Even Flow allowing Tazz to score a victory.
This led to a brief feud between the popular veteran and the two former ECW champions and a spate of tag-team matches with the pair as partners. The team was dissolved as Raven turned against the diminutive Tazz and struck out alone once more. Unfortunately for Raven, while he did not face the struggle that Johnny Polo had endured to be allowed to enter the ring he was still effectively hamstrung by the fact that the simple fact that the WWF management seemed to have no clue as to what to do with him. Apart from its love affair with big, muscle-bound types that brawled like enraged grizzly bears, the federation had also tended to favour the more polished performer and the pretty boy image over the smash-mouth offence and rough image that personified the character of Raven.
Whether unable or unwilling to create a role for Raven in the limelight, the powers that be dropped Levy character into the hardcore division. Perhaps this was due to the fact that his brawling style had its genesis in the heyday of the ECW, the very thing that the WWF had sought to imitate in its hardcore style matches. It came as no great shock when Raven came out of nowhere to defeat long-standing WWF hardcore champion Steve Blackman on 22nd December 2000. Despite the fact that Raven was not only back in the WWF and wearing championship gold, all was not well.
The simple fact was that the WWF, while having started its hardcore division with grapplers capable of producing the levels of innovative and convincing violence that had made the formula work in the ECW such as Mick Foley, Al Snow and to a lesser extent Bob "Hardcore" Holley, it had lacked the stomach to stick with the concept. The result of this was that over time the federation began to pull the more talented wrestlers away from the division and replace them with the detritus of the roster. The content of the matches also devolved into a tired slapstick affair where the title changed hands constantly in places as diverse and bizarre as airport departure lounges and even once on a bouncy-castle.
Thus the world was treated to the sight of one of the most respected brawlers in the business engaging in antics such as escaping his would-be challengers by haring around backstage at arenas on golf-carts and staggering around like a drunk after being smacked in the side of the head with a dustbin lid week in and week out as Raven repeatedly lost and regained the hardcore title. In all he held the belt more the a dozen times before he was done with the WWF take on the hardcore match.
Despite his best efforts it was clear that Levy's career was slowly withering away to nothing and it seemed that the WWF management was simply not concerned in the slightest. To compound his problems Levy suffered a string of minor injuries over the following year, which further removed him from the foreground in the promotion. Rather than offer the veteran performer the support that he needed in these trying times the WWF instead attacked Levy for his inactivity despite the fact that the injuries he had sustained were in the federation's own ring. The promotion's talent-management top brass demanded that Levy get in shape and book his ideas up quickly. Perhaps a questionable demand to make of a thirty-nine year old athlete who has given the best years of his life to the industry.
It has to be said that Levy was not idle in the face of these demands. The quality of his ring-work visibly improved and he took steps to evolve the character of Raven beyond the grunge-warrior image, which had defined him for more than half a decade. The ripped jeans were first replaced with leathers and his hair braided. Later the leathers were replaced with a kilt and the braids with dreadlocks, but even this did not seem to change the minds of the powers that be and Levy was subsequently packed off to the Hartford Wrestling Association in early 2002.
The Hartford Wrestling Association (or HWA) serves as a "feeder promotion" for the WWE in that it has links with the larger promotion and talent can be shared both ways. In this quite common relationship the smaller promotion will act as a training environment for wrestlers from the larger who are either rookies needed to gain in experience or veterans who have been judged to need time to recover from injury or refocus their efforts away from the bright lights. The smaller promotion may also be able to benefit from periodic visits from famous names from the larger promotion as a gesture of goodwill to make their supercards go with a bang and enjoy other fringe benefits through association with the more powerful partner. In his time there Levy teamed with fellow WWF exile Bill De Mott to win the HWA tag-titles.
While he was away plying his trade in the HWA however, there were big changes afoot in the WWF. Firstly the promotion had lost its long-standing battle in the courts with the World Wildlife Fund over the use of the WWF abbreviation and was forced to rebrand itself as World Wrestling Entertainment. The newly renamed WWE also decided to split the talent on its roster between the primetime Raw and Smackdown television shows in order to give more prominence to wrestlers overlooked due to the sheer numbers the promotion employed at the time. Finally summoned back to the big-time in 2003, Raven found himself a member of the Raw roster and briefly became involved in a feud between the tagteam of the Hardy Boyz and the Undertaker serving as little more than a lackey for the latter and jobbing to the former.
Again the Raven character had been tweaked in his absence and now even the dreadlocks and kilt were gone. All remnants of the former image had been pared away and all that remained was a man in black trunks and boots with a short head of bleached blonde hair. And yet even after all this there was no place for Raven in the WWE and he soon sank into the background once more.
A New Beginning?
It wasn't long before Levy found himself released from his contract with the WWE. More than a decade and a half into his professional career he had twice managed to find his way into what is regarded by many as the greatest promotion in the pro-wrestling industry, but on both occasions he had failed to achieve the sucess he craved. But rather than retire and brood over his expulsion from the WWE, Levy returned to the indie circuit that had been the birthplace of both his own career and the character of Raven.
Raven himself resurfaced in the fledgling NWA:TNA promotion (which stands for National Wrestling Association: Total Non-Stop Action, by the way) and rembraced his more traditional image as the toned-down black trunks were tossed aside for the kilts and braids which had proceeded them. Whatever problems had dogged Raven in the WWE seemed to have disappeared as he became his old self once more, challenging for the promotion's heavyweight championship and performing as if the time he spent languishing in the HWA had sapped none of his passion for the squared-circle.
Though he can still pull a fine performance out of the hat, Levy is moving into his forties and may well be forced to choose from the options of either retiring from the industry as a whole (something that almost all grapplers find impossible in the long-term) or peruse another avenue in the business, which will not require physical exertion on his part. The most logical move would seem to be to sit Levy behind the commentary table as a colour commentator as he has already proven himself in this role. But in the end the decision lies in the hands of the man himself.
Regardless of what his future may hold, Scott Levy will always remain an icon to his fans and a fine example of what can be achieved in the wrestling business as a result of guts, determination and raw talent.
So what about him, what about Raven?!?
Only time will tell.
One of the best presented and researched sites on the veteran wrestler can be found at the aptly named:
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