Raven On His Return To MLW, IMPACT Hall Of Fame Induction, His Issues With Modern Hardcore Wrestling, And More - EXCLUSIVE

It's been nearly two decades since the legendary hardcore wrestler Raven stepped foot inside a Major League Wrestling ring, but soon that will change.

MLW has told Wrestling Inc. that the former ECW and IMPACT Wrestling star will be making an "imminent" return to the promotion he last worked for in 2004. Airing Tuesday nights on Reelz, MLW has been gearing up for major back-to-back shows next month with its April 6 "War Chamber" event and the ensuing Battle Riot V pay-per-view on April 8 at the old ECW Arena, where it hosts most of its shows.

Speaking exclusively with Wrestling Inc. this week, Raven said he's "excited" to not only make his return to MLW but also to the ECW arena where many of his most memorable matches took place -– including twice winning the ECW World Heavyweight Championship there in 1996. The two world titles are arguably the pinnacle of Raven's career, having also held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once, the ECW World Tag Team Championships four times, the WWE Hardcore Championship a record 27 times, as well as the WCW Lightweight, United States, and World Tag Team Championships throughout his time in the ring.

Wrestling Inc. caught up with Raven (aka Scott Levy) to discuss his upcoming MLW return, whether he sees himself wrestling again after recent knee and shoulder surgeries, and his recent work as a pro wrestling agent for promotions like Billy Corgan's NWA.

Raven's future in pro wrestling

So you're coming back to MLW. Are you going to be wrestling? Or is it going to be more in a managerial or announce position?

Managerial, onscreen. Upper management. [Laughs] I'm kidding.

Oh yeah, so you're running the show now? [Laughs] But seriously, you're not planning any in-ring work in the near future?

No, not wrestling. I just had my knees replaced last year and they're still finishing healing up. And I got my left shoulder replaced in 2013, but I got to get my right shoulder replaced this year. Plus, I'm old. [Laughs] Don't need to take bumps anymore.

Yeah, I hear you. Is that something you ever envision yourself doing again? Or do you really see yourself as officially retired?

Well, I've still been working. I've been working nonstop the last five, seven years, but I've had a policy that I only do baby face tags. I prefer being a heel, but on the indie show, it's hard. It's not really fair to make the fans cheer or boo you. I mean, I can make them boo me, but they don't want to. They came to cheer me, because I'm a name. Unless I'm wrestling another [big] name, then they're inclined to cheer me. What I'll do is I'll do a baby face tag match where I'll tag with a local guy. And so I'll come in on the show and I'll beat the other guys up so I don't get touched. Then I tag my partner, they beat him up and get the heat. I tag in for the hot tag, so then once again, I'm coming in offensively, I bump the other guys and then we go right to the finish. Because everybody's doing a million false finishes, so I'm doing something different. I just go right to the finish and the comeback like it used to be done 30-to-40 years ago when most matches were won that way. At least on TV they were. And then what I'll do is, instead of DDT-ing the guy, I'll have the local guy DDT him and give him the rub, so I end up taking no bumps.

I consider it working smarter, not harder. I've always been known for being lazy and working smarter, not harder to the point of laziness. But there's no reason for me to bump, you know what I mean? That's a perfectly great match. The fans don't know the difference. They don't know that, "Oh, Raven didn't bump." They don't know that. Now if they [read] this, they'll know, but they're not going to notice it when they're watching the match, unless they're specifically looking to see if I take a bump. And there's no reason to put my body through any more trauma than it's been through now. I'm 58 years old now. But I still intend to wrestle again the way I just explained once my shoulder surgery, once my shoulder's re-attached.

When do you have that surgery planned?

This year sometime.

Raven's Impact Hall Of Fame Induction

Okay. That's good. I get what you said about the fans wanting to cheer you as a "name." It made me think of your Impact Hall of Fame speech last year when you convinced the crowd to boo you. What was getting inducted like and what did that mean to you?

Well, considering they only induct one person a year, I thought it was pretty cool. Also, my ego was a little bit irritated, though, that they hadn't inducted me sooner. But that's neither here nor there. No, I'm just kidding. [Laughs] No, but I thought it was nice. I think with TNA, they only try to induct people that deserve it as far as they worked at TNA, you know what I mean? I think if they gave five a year they'd run out of people so quick. Because it's supposed to be exclusive, the hall of fame.

What was it like to get inducted by Tommy Dreamer, too? I know you guys have a long history and of course friendship backstage and everything, too.

Perfect. I wouldn't have wanted anybody else.

Did he come up with the idea to take the bump after the speech? Or was that you?

We both did. We both did. I said, "I'm going to DDT." He said, "Absolutely." But as you could see, it was a terrible bump. I took a terrible bump. I'm in dress clothes and dress shirt. It's on a metal stage. But not that I cared. I just couldn't bump clean. None of those factors really inhibited me. I just couldn't bump clean at this age. I hadn't done it in a long time. And that's the only bad thing about my finish is you have to take a bump to get it.

Why Raven Stopped Watching Pro Wrestling

Yeah, and that takes a toll. I wanted to ask: Throughout your career, you've done a lot more in wrestling besides work in the ring. You've announced, you've done managerial stuff on screen. Have you been getting recruited for work besides your upcoming run with MLW?

I'm a road agent with the NWA with Billy Corgan, but I missed most of last year because of the knee replacement.

And what all goes into that role?

You get like three, four matches. Well, three to five matches, I guess. And you just agent it like anybody at any other company. You help the guys put their match together. You make sure they know their cues and all that. They come up with some ideas. And then you can tell them, "That sucks. Let's do something else." I'm kidding. [Laughs] But you throw your two cents in and I try to pass on some knowledge along the way.

Of course, in pro wrestling, you're always learning from the last generation and everyone keeps passing it on. How often are you doing that nowadays with NWA?

Whenever they had shows. I mean, I just started back with them a couple weeks ago with the first set of shows they had since my knees were healthy enough to travel again.

With that time off recovering, have you been watching wrestling pretty regularly?


Not at all?

Not at all. Not at all.

Is that a hardline choice you made at one point?

It was a long time ago, back in the early 2000s when they did The Alliance angle [in WWE] and then they didn't use anybody and they just buried everybody. And I lost interest and I stopped watching it and then I never picked it back up, you know what I mean? There's so many other things on TV that I wanted to watch and books I wanted to read. I just didn't have time. And I'd already seen and done everything that can be done in wrestling, pretty much. I was also an associate producer on "Monday Night Raw" when I was "Johnny Polo." So, I worked in Titan Towers. I've been there, done it, seen it. Plus, I'm a completist, so if I watch one show, I'm going to have to watch every show.

Yeah, and wrestling never ends.

I just don't have the time or the inclination. I've got too many other interests.

Raven's daily routine and his regrets

I wanted to ask you a couple things just about the pro wrestling business, but I won't ask you about things on TV right now if you're not really keeping tabs on it.

I'm not around any of the big companies. I'm kind of a hermit, so I don't talk to people on the phone. And if I do, I don't want to talk about wrestling, anyway. I mean, I did for 30 years. I've been doing it for 35 years, 36 years, something like that. And for the better part of it, for the better part of 30 years, that's all I talked about.

Was it hard to adjust to not being in the ring anymore and finding, like you said, other stuff to talk about? What are your other interests outside of wrestling?

Sleep. [Laughs]

Yeah, me too. [Laughs]

Yeah, I'm a TV watcher. I'm a huge TV watcher. I'm on the road enough. I'm on a schedule where a couple times a month I go on the road. I don't want to go any more than that, though. I like being semi-retired. I beat myself up so bad. I mean, physically in the ring, chair shots to the head. Plus, all the drugs I took, which I'm not recommending. I need to get my eight, nine hours of sleep a night plus a nap. I've got a sleep disorder, so I wake up 20 times a night. So when I wake up, I'm just as tired as when I went to bed sometimes, so I need a nap every day, too, pretty much. But other than that, I just run errands, do the usual bull****, workout, do cardio, do physical therapy for my knees, see a chiropractor. The usual suspects. It's a very leisurely pace, and I like it.

Well deserved, too. You put your body through quite a bit to earn that time off.

Yeah, I don't feel like I need to do much more with my life, you know what I mean? Getting out of the ring, like you said, does it bother me? Getting me to stop wrestling? No, not really so much because it was so gradual. And my body started giving out –- not giving out, but tapping and saying, "We got to back down, back off." And so at that point, what are you going to do? I already had to get three replacements, and I'm going to get the fourth body part replaced, so I went into that semi-retirement that people do. I went in 10 years early.

Are there things you wish you did differently in regards to how you wrestled?

A million things. A million things I wish I had done different. I have a ton of regrets, but I'm happy with where I'm at, which is the only thing that matters, really.

Raven's advice on hardcore wrestling

Yeah, of course. Is there any advice you have for younger guys who are following that same path with hardcore matches? There's a lot of bloody, very dangerous matches on TV every single week.

Yeah, learning psychology. That's my biggest problem with hardcore matches, is they usually have no psychology to them. They're just people hitting each other with weapons back and forth. If you watch my hardcore matches, I'd like to think that they stand out completely uniquely, because mine had a story. The baby face shines, the heel gets heat, baby face makes a comeback. It's a basic story, but it's a story. Most hardcore matches [nowadays] are just, "I hit you, you hit me." And then they just upped the weapon ante. But I always tried to be clever with it and creative.

To me, one of my favorite things ever was Dreamer and I were working, and we did a double down, but I got up first. And while we were down, Dreamer hung his leg off the apron and Beulah [McGillicutty] taped a frying pan to his shin. And it's like, "Why is she taping a frying pan to his shin?!" Psychology-wise, instead of standing up tall and doing it, she was creeped down low doing it so nobody could see what she was doing. And then when I go to get up, I pick Dreamer up and he goes to kick me in the gut. I catch his foot and he hits me with the frying pan taped to his ankle. It's amazing, what a clever spot. That's the kind of stuff that I live for.

And unfortunately, most hardcore matches at least ... I don't watch it anymore, so I can't say now, but I don't presume that the business has changed much because the business doesn't really change much unless people force it to. And very few people reinvent the wheel. I kind of feel like I helped reinvent the wheel to an extent in the sense that I had a three-dimensional character and everybody else was a two- dimensional cookie cutter. So to me, that's what I love about hardcore. When Rhino gored the shopping cart, and I moved, went to gore me, I moved and he gored and hit the inside of the shopping cart. It was brilliant.

Back towards the end of your viewing experience, was there anyone that kind of stood out in terms of doing that psychology well?

Yeah, I always saw CM Punk and I always liked Punk. And I used to do a lot of pay-per-view parties where they pay you to be the celebrity guest. And so I seen some Punk matches when WWE. He was fantastic.

But I think the hardcore name is kind of simplistic. I think I used weaponry in a clever and creative way that made it stand above just a regular, hardcore match to an extent. But I understand the label and what else are you going to call me? But I just hate guys that just use weaponry as a substitute for knowing how to work. For knowing how to bump, for knowing how to sell, because guys hit each other with weapons and they're either dead or they barely sell it.

They're either one or the other. There's so many degrees to selling. Selling's the most democratic thing because anybody can do it. But it's also one of the least used skills. My mom could sell if you taught her how. Anybody could sell. It's so democratic.

And it tells the story of every single little move.

Right. To me, I think part of the reason Raven was so respected by the fans is because Raven took a beating, but he kept getting up. To me, the toughest guy isn't the guy who gives the beating. It's the guy who takes the beating and then gets up and says, "Alright. I'm going to keep coming." And I think that's why Raven was so endearing. Also, the fact that he was a misfit and misfits found someone to represent them.

Talking on the phone and MLW plans

I know you said you don't like to hop on the phone and talk wrestling with a lot of people nowadays, but is there anyone from the wrestling world you keep in touch with regularly?

I'll talk to Dreamer every once in a while. I'll talk to Lodi once in a while, but I'm not big on the phone. I'm a big talker in person, but I'm not a talker on the phone.

Are there any guys or girls there that are sticking out to you so far in MLW?

Yeah, there's a lot of them. Other than when I'm in the ring, I'm busy watching this stuff, because what else is there to do in the locker room? And I want to see the other guys and then learn what their strengths and weaknesses are so it informs my decision making when I'm helping put stuff together. But yeah, a lot of guys. The two guys I'm ... no, I can't say that. I can't give away too much of the storylines.

But I really think you're going to be impressed with the stuff we do. My stuff is so amazingly cool. I'm not just saying that because I did it and because I want you to watch. If I didn't think it was that cool, I'd be like, "Oh yeah, it's really good." But you can tell the difference in the tone of my voice that I really am impressed with the stuff we did. I think if you're a Raven fan, I think you'll really like this stuff. And if you're not a Raven fan, go f*** yourself. No, I'm kidding. [Laughs]

"MLW Underground Wrestling" airs live every Tuesday night on Reelz at 10 pm ET.