Re-Writing The Book: Man In The Box

Today, fans and friends, RTB isn’t just bringing you any new story. No, RTB is finally delving outside the two dimensions of WWE and WCW, and taking a little trip to Philadelphia to explore the events that will unfold from asking …

What if Tommy Dreamer didn’t give his slot in the #1 contender’s match at Barely Legal ’97 to Terry Funk?

Our story begins at Barely Legal. Three men of divergent backgrounds and ideals have been brought together in one match, all inextricably tied by one common enemy and one common goal: to take the ECW World Championship from Raven. But the degenerate slacker will not allow three of his most hated rivals to decide his fate …

April 13th, 1997: Barely Legal

Raven’s arrival draws the attention of The Sandman, Stevie Richards and Tommy Dreamer. He stands in the aisle, arms crossed, watching, waiting for the match to begin, the match that will decide his opponent tonight. For each man, the opportunity to get at Raven is fuel for their fire, and that makes each of them dangerous. For The Sandman, he is driven by Raven’s theft of his family and the ECW Title. For Stevie Richards, it is months and months of abuse and degradation by Raven and the chance to stand up for himself. And for Tommy … for Tommy, it is the chance that he might succeed in the goal that has eluded him for almost two years: defeating Raven.

Stevie draws first, charging The Sandman. He pounds on the drunken icon of ECW, punching and kicking him to the ground, then wrests the Singapore cane from The Sandman’s hands. Tommy stands back, content to let Stevie do the hard work, and watches as Stevie lays in with the cane, cracking Sandman across the body over and over again. But Tommy misgauges Stevie’s focus, and before he knows it, Stevie wallops Tommy right in the head with the cane. Tommy goes down, and Stevie is on top of him for the cover; Tommy kicks out at 2, and Stevie is right back on him with the cane. When Tommy is still, Stevie looks at Raven in the aisle, points and pantomimes a belt across his waist. He doesn’t expect to be pulled over in a schoolboy by Sandman, but that doesn’t even get to two. Sandman and Stevie get to their feet and start brawling, a fight that Sandman ends up winning; with Stevie stunned, Sandman bounces off the ropes and charges, making a wild dive at Stevie. Stevie goes down, and Sandman continues to pound on him on the ground, even bashing his head into the mat. Tommy slowly gets up, leaves the ring and starts tossing objects from under and around the ring into it; a garbage can, a couple chairs, a frying pan, a stop-sign and, of all things, a VCR. Tommy rolls back in as Sandman picks up the Singapore cane; Tommy grabs the garbage can as Stevie stands up and puts it on him. Sandman wallops the can, and Stevie goes down. Sandman beats on the trashcan a few more times with the cane while Tommy joins in with one of the chairs; the two look like pistons in an engine, one hitting while the other winds up for the swing. But, again, Tommy’s trusting nature earns him pain, as The Sandman switches gears and tunes up on Tommy’s head. Tommy goes down again, bleeding this time, and The Sandman goes back and forth between the two with cane shots. Sandman makes a cover on Tommy, but Tommy kicks out. Sandman puts Tommy on the top turnbuckle, the set up for his “Heineken-rana”, which he hits, sending Tommy slamming down on top of the stop sign. Another cover only gets two, so Sandman sets up Tommy in the corner, then props up a chair within reasonable distance from Tommy. Sandman grabs a cane, then bursts forward running, hopping up to use the chair as a launchpad … only for Stevie to kick the chair out of the way. Sandman hits the mat and crumbles, totally unprepared for Stevie’s simple interference.

Stevie pulls himself up; in his hands is the frying pan. Sandman is up first, and the sound of his skull on the frying pan is a dull “bong!” noise that the bloodthirsty crowd enjoys. Stevie then walks over to Tommy, who is still propped up in the corner, and brains him. Tommy slides down to the mat, his face a bloody mess; Stevie pulls him out and makes the pin, but gets only two. Stevie is up like a bolt of lightening, and puts the trashcan (battered and beaten as it is) on top of Tommy; he then grabs The Sandman, cinches up and hits an overhead suplex onto the trashcan, crushing Tommy beneath. Stevie shoves Sandman out of the away and goes for another pin of Tommy, but again, Tommy kicks out yet again. Stevie argues with the referee about the speed of the count, but John Finnegan is unfazed. Stevie refuses to listen to reason, and is so caught up with arguing that he only realizes one of his opponents, The Sandman, is up and alert when The Sandman clobbers him in the back with his cane. Stevie falls forward, colliding with Finnegan and sending him out to the floor. Sandman pauses to play to the crowd, his cane raised up in the air as if triumphant… only for the beaten, damn near delirious Tommy Dreamer to come from behind and drop him with a reverse DDT. Tommy gets an arm on Sandman, but with no referee to count, the win goes unrecorded.

Raven finally shows signs of life, going around to where the referee has fallen; he picks up Finnegan and tosses him in the ring. Finnegan stirs enough to start counting, but Sandman kicks out at two, and beats Tommy to his feet. When Tommy gets up-closer to a stagger than anything, as Tommy is the walking dead from the one-sided ass-kicking he’s received-Sandman wraps his cane around Tommy’s throat and jerks back, hitting his signature White Russian Leg Sweep. Sandman makes a cover, but gets only two. But no sooner is he on his feet then a Steviekick comes out of nowhere and puts him on his ass. Stevie lets loose a primal scream of rage and fire; for him, vindication is three seconds away. He is about to cover Sandman when Raven slides in, spins Stevie around, kicks him in the stomach, and plants him with an Evenflow on the stop sign. The crowd is ready to leap the guard rail and lynch the deranged slacker, but instead of finishing off his oldest nemesis with a DDT (and thereby killing the three-way altogether), Raven dumps Tommy’s barely-moving body on The Sandman and backs away; the ref has no choice but to count, and this time, he gets to three. The crowd cheers instinctively, but realization quickly sets in: The Sandman and Stevie Richards have been defeated, and beaten senseless. And the winner of the match, Tommy Dreamer, is a bloody, confused mess who can barely stand … and has to wrestle immediately against a fresh Raven. But before that, Raven picks up Sandman before the match begins and plants him with an Evenflow, further driving him into unconsciousness. Raven rolls the body out, and then does the same for Stevie Richards; trainers and medics quickly attend to them, helping them leave the ringside area, and, thusly, eliminating Tommy’s nearest two lines of reinforcements.

Raven stands above the nearly unconscious Tommy, circling him like a vulture, yelling; “Get up, Tommy! This is what you wanted!” Raven nudges Tommy with his boot and yells at him again. “Get up, Tommy! It’s your big chance!” Raven grabs Tommy and pulls him up, then locks on the front headlock to set up the Evenflow; Tommy, though, is too weak to stand, and slumps down on his knees, his arms dangling like pendulums. Raven tries to pull him up again, but Tommy is too weak. Raven settles for hitting the Evenflow with Tommy being on his knees and makes the cover … but only gets two. Raven’s eyes go wide with surprise. He looks at Tommy for a moment, confused and unable to respond. Has Tommy been playing possum? Was it just instinct? Raven gets up, dragging Tommy with him; he puts Tommy on his shoulder, leans forward and runs at the corner, crushing Tommy in the turnbuckle. Tommy slumps down, hanging on the top ropes by arms that can barely support his own weight. Raven stares at his nemesis, bleeding profusely, slumped down, a ravaged and beaten echo of the man who has chased him for months without cease (and without success). “C’mon, Tommy, tonight’s your big chance!” Raven yells, then steps forward and slaps Tommy open-handed right across the face. Raven turns and poses mockingly, earning a round of the crowd’s wrath. But as he bends over to pick up the Singapore cane, he doesn’t notice the wrath melting into cheers; behind Raven, Tommy’s eyes have lit up, two white blazing suns amidst a field of crimson. Raven no sooner has turned around then Tommy comes out of the corner like a bullet out of a gun, tackling Raven and strangling him, screaming like a savage. Tommy finally lets go and hits his familiar pose-arms out, a primal yell from deep inside him filling the ECW arena-while Raven gets up, coughing and holding his throat. Tommy hoists Raven across his shoulders and throws him off; the death valley driver sends Raven crashing into the VCR headfirst. Tommy drapes an arm over Raven; Finnegan’s hand hits the mat once, twice, three times. The locker room empties, led by Tommy’s longtime friend and mentor, Terry Funk, as they pile into the ring to celebrate Tommy’s victory and crowning as the new ECW World Champion. Tommy barely even recognizes what is going on; his burst of adrenaline is gone, taking with it any realization that he has achieved the two goals that have eluded him for so long. All he knows is his friends and his girl, Beulah, are celebrating his amazing achievement while Raven disappears into the crowd.

April-May 1997

The first few weeks after Barely Legal, Tommy spends it looking over his shoulder. Since his defeat of Raven, Tommy’s world has been almost perfect … his beautiful Beulah by his side … his best friend, Terry Funk, cheering him on from the corner every week, and around his waist, the ECW Championship. It should be a paradise, but the happiness of the victory is fleeting for Tommy, and with many good reasons.

For one, now that he is a champion, he no longer has the luxury of being the hunter. Comers are on all sides, and he doesn’t have the option of turning anyone away. At one house show, former ECW Champion Mikey Whipwreck brings the house and then some, and tests Tommy’s limits for 20 minutes before he can put away the youngster. Another night, it is Pitbull #2, a huge, lumbering beast of a man that has several inches on Tommy, way more muscle, and is nothing more than raw strength; he puts Tommy through the paces, giving him the bloodiest brawl this side of Raven’s capabilities and asks for more … but in the end, Tommy is victorious again. And no sooner is he done with Pitbull #2 then more challengers come knocking: Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten, Chris Candido, New Jack. One by one, he has to face them, and night after night, he is taken to the very limits of his physical well being, all in the name of remaining champion.

Also weighing on his mind is something, or someone, that isn’t even there: Raven. Not a sound nor sight has been had from Raven since his sudden demise at Barely Legal, and as time wears on, the absence of his archenemy doesn’t make Tommy happy. Without Raven to constantly do battle with, Tommy feels little more than a machine, constantly defending his belt, being beaten and going home to rest for the next day. Without Raven, the direction and purpose of his life melt away, and all that is left is a cold, mechanical purpose of wrestling. The exhaustion and exasperation begins to take a toll in his matches; a title defense against Lance Storm in late April nearly gets away from him. Storm is more a technical wrestler than a brawler, and a smaller guy to boot, but Storm’s agility and speed prove to be almost blinding for the tired champion. Only the toughness and veteran skills of Dreamer save his reign, but he is noticeably upset, and waves away Beulah and Terry when he heads back to the locker room.

The very same edition of Hardcore TV that would feature Tommy’s near-loss to Lance Storm would feature a taped segment at the end. A segment filmed in mostly darkness, the face of the speaker obscured, but the voice unmistakable.

“I had everything,” says Raven, sitting on the ground, head between his knees. “I had the girl, I had friends who would follow me to the ends of the earth, and I had the ECW World Title … but bit by bit, you took it all away, Tommy Dreamer. You stole Beulah, a girl you didn’t give a second look when we were kids, not until she became a Penthouse whore! You helped drive away Cactus Jack and Stevie Richards and the rest of my Nest!” He pauses, exhaling deeply. “And a few weeks ago at Barely Legal, you took away my ECW World Title, the last thing left I had in this world. I hope you realize just how deep the cuts you’ve inflicted upon my psyche really are, Tommy Dreamer. Your pursuit of me has been nothing less than cold-blooded, and your revenge a systematic rending of my very soul. These are wounds that will never heal … I’ll carry the pain and suffering you’ve heaped upon me for the rest of my haunted, twisted existence.” Suddenly, Raven gets to his feet, boring a hole through the camera with his eyes, as if the eyes of Tommy Dreamer exist within the lens. “But I’ve not finished with you yet, Tommy Dreamer. You’ve only now noticed the Sword of Damocles above your head, how it threatens your very existence. The burden of being champion is something you’re not ready to bear, Tommy Dreamer; your weak, compassionate soul is far too fragile to withstand the crushing, lonely existence of being ECW Champion. You are a target in plain sight, Tommy, and everyone around you … everyone around you is armed to the teeth. You can’t trust anything anyone tells you, Tommy … anything except what I’m telling you right now. The pedestal the ECW fans have put you on for beating me and becoming ECW Champion is made of glass, and it’s cracked and chipped, Tommy … and it’s only a matter of time before I have the last laugh of watching all your hard work crumble underneath your feet.” And if the words aren’t haunting enough, Raven does adds the punctuation mark to his oddly poetic diatribe: a wretched smile. “They say revenge is a dish best served cold, Tommy Dreamer. But the part that always gets left off is that it’s a dish that serves two. Quote the Raven … nevermore.”

The following week’s edition of Hardcore TV (the first week of May) only serves to complicate Tommy’s life, and it begins with Beulah and Terry Funk in the ring. “Tommy,” she says, “I know you’re starting to feel the pressure of being the ECW Champion, and-” The crowd cuts her off with a spontaneous “Tommy” chant. She lets the cheers subside a bit, then continues. “Tommy, I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is to have to defend that title, but it’s something you’ve worked for your whole life, and you can’t let the pressure spoil it for you! You can’t-!” She shakes her head, too flustered to continue. Funk asks for the microphone, and she hands it over.

“Tommy, I’ve known you for a long time,” he says. “In this business, it’s damned hard finding someone you can trust, let alone think of like family, and that’s how I feel about you. I want to help you, Beulah wants to help you, we all do. You’re a tough son of a bitch, and so am I … but even a crusty old codger like me knows when he needs to call in for help, so I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let someone I think of like a son buckle without trying to help him!” The crowd cheers again; Terry says some encouraging words to Beulah, then addresses the crowd, and Tommy, again. “Tommy, I want you to come out here right now, and Beulah and I will help you work through this.”

Tommy comes through the curtains, dragging his feet as he approaches the ring. He doesn’t bother with the traditional pose or showing off the belt. His face tells the story: it is one of exhaustion and disenchantment. Terry and Beulah look heartbroken to see Tommy in such condition so soon after winning the title … but when Tommy lets the belt drop to the floor, Terry’s eyes go ablaze. “Is that how you show your respect to the men who’ve held that so proudly before you? Is that how you show yourself respect for the prices you’ve paid and the blood you’ve spilled to earn that? Pick up that belt now, you spineless bastard!

Tommy recoils in shock. He bends down and picks up the belt, nervous and cautious and even a little scared all at the same time. He mouths an apology, to which Terry replies; “You’re goddam right you’re sorry, Tommy, and you should be! Do you realize what holding that belt means? It means you represent ECW, Tommy. You’re not like that gutless little shit Raven … he only ever wanted that because The Sandman had it.” Terry taps a finger on Tommy’s chest. “But you wanted it because you’ve dreamt about it since you were a little boy; you told me so. When I won my first world tile twenty years ago, it meant the world to me, and I fought like a son of a bitch to hold onto it. And lemme tell ya, Tommy, that feeling didn’t change when I won that very belt you’re holding four years ago. I know it’s difficult to be the champion … everybody’s looking for ya. And I know that since you beat Raven for it, you been feeling kinda empty … and that’s okay! But that’s behind you now! Raven’s gone, and you’re the champ! Everything he said last week was a load of shit, Tommy! It’s time for you to embrace that belt and what it stands for and move forw-“

The sounds of The Offspring’s “Come Out And Play”, the entrance music of Raven, fill the ECW Arena. All eyes are on the entrance, awaiting the return of Raven. But Raven is not alone; in front of him is ECW co-founder Tod Gordon. He looks back at Raven with nearly every hesitant step; Raven shoos him forward, and pushes when Gordon won’t move as quickly as Raven likes. Raven ushers him into the ring, and prods him to get a microphone. “Tommy, Terry,” Gordon starts to say, “I’m sorry-“

Raven cuts off Gordon with a slap across his cheek, and screams, “Tell them!” All eyes go back and forth between Raven and Gordon, who are staring at one another-Raven with anger (and a twinge of smug self-assuredness), and Gordon in fear, loathing and sorrow. “You can beat me up all you want, Raven,” Gordon says, his voice quivering a little, “but you can’t make me do this. You wanna screw with people’s lives like this, Raven? You do it.

Gordon tosses the microphone at Raven, who barely manages to catch it. Rvane glares at Gordon a little longer, then smiles. “Fine, Tod. You don’t have to do it. All I really need you for is to confirm it, anyway.” Raven turns to Tommy and Terry, who both look ready to kill. “Didn’t I warn you, Tommy? Didn’t I warn you that you didn’t have what it takes to be champion? And that pretty soon, your precious little house of cards would come crashing down? I tried to warn you, for your own good, Tommy, from my own experience, about what kind of personal hell it is to be champion. About the loneliness, the emptiness, the despair. I tried to tell you that beating me and taking away my ECW World Championship wouldn’t do you any bit of good, because you’d crumble under the pressure.” Raven looks at Gordon and claps him on the shoulder. “And then, a little birdy sang a song, and I overheard its sweet melody. I heard about how Tommy Dreamer was beginning to crack under the pressure. I heard a song about how Tommy Dreamer was a ship lost at sea, aimless now that his port of call was gone. I heard about how maybe you weren’t ready to face the responsibility of being champion, and that maybe the duties of being champion, and the closure from defeating me at Barely Legal was too much for your fragile mind to bear … that certain people wished someone like The Sandman had won the triple-threat …” The crowd audibly gasps in unison. Tommy, Terry and Beulah all look at Gordon, but Gordon does not return the look; his head is cast down in shame. What they don’t know is that he is waiting for the rest of Raven’s sentence, the part that will truly be the nail in the coffin. “… that maybe even Stevie Richards might’ve been able to handle it.” Raven’s smile is now too big to be anything but smug, but his eyes are filled with a psychotic glee, like a serial killer enjoying the evisceration of his latest victim. “Or that maybe, just maybe, if Tommy had given up his shot to Terry Funk like the front office asked him to, they might have a champion made of sterner stuff.”

Tommy’s mouth falls open into a dinner-plate-sized O. Beulah’s hands go to her mouth. Gordon’s head remains bowed. Terry looks from Raven to Tommy and back again, then says; “You are a lowdown, lying piece of shit, Rav-“

Raven cuts off Terry, pointing at Gordon. “Ask him! Ask him, Terry! Ask him, ‘Did you offer Tommy Dreamer the opportunity to forfeit his slot in the World Title to me?’ Ask him, Terry!”

Terry steps up to Gordon. “Well, is it true?” he asks, but Gordon won’t answer or raise his head. “Is it?” Still, Gordon does not answer. “Answer me, boy! Did that happen?

Gordon’s head comes up slowly, and before he nods, Terry already knows it is the truth; the sorrow in Tod Gordon’s eyes cannot be faked. Terry backs away, shaking his head.

“Tell ’em, Tod!” Raven yells in Gordon’s face. “Tell them how you went to Tommy and told him you wanted to give Terry Funk one more shot at being in the spotlight, one more shot at a World Title, as a gift for all he’s done for professional wrestling and for ECW! Tell them how you said this was a farewell present for a man who was probably gonna retire soon, and there was a shot at me and the title down the line for Tommy anyway!” Raven backs away just enough so he can look at Tommy and Terry, even though he’s speaking to Gordon. His voice is quiet, still, cold. “Tell them how Tommy said he couldn’t give up his opportunity to stick it to me, that he might not get another shot to beat me and take away my ECW Title, and that he couldn’t give that up, not for you, not for Beulah, not for the fans … not even for Terry.”

The ECW Arena is so quiet from shock, the ticking of watches is the only sound in the place. Terry’s eyes go from Raven to Tommy, who is now shaking his head and backing away. Terry pleads with Tommy to say something, anything to explain why, but Raven interjects. “He can’t explain it, Terry! You know why? Because Tommy Dreamer is a selfish son of a bitch! Tommy Dreamer couldn’t step aside for one night for his best friend, for a man who’s been like a father to him, even when he had a promised shot! All Tommy could think about was himself and his needs. You know why Tommy Dreamer was so obsessed with destroying me? Because deep down, Tommy Dreamer is just like me; he’s a selfish, self-loathing-“

Raven’s words are buried in his throat as Tommy bursts forward and tackles Raven. Tommy’s hands close around Raven’s throat, throttling the very air out of his body (with Raven smiling the whole time, even as his face slowly turns blue). Beulah is screaming behind him, screaming for help, but Terry is still too shocked to move; it takes The Sandman, Stevie Richards, Mikey Whipwreck and Taz to pull Tommy off Raven, who is left coughing, but laughing too. Raven rolls out of the ring, holding his throat, smiling and laughing … and more so when Terry leaves the ring, walking away from Tommy without a second look, past Raven, into the locker room.

The following week, Tommy tries to patch things up by getting him and Terry a shot at the ECW Tag Champions, The Eliminators, but the gesture only serves to further sour their strained relations. Terry’s input in the match is half-hearted, and the tension between he and Tommy is palpable with the hard slap tags Terry makes, but Tommy ignores it all and focuses as best he can on winning. In the closing moments, though, as all four men are in the ring brawling, Tommy, winded from a long beat-down by Saturn and Kronus, tries to clothesline Kronus as he brawls with Terry; Kronus ducks, and Tommy hits Terry instead. This leaves Tommy open for the Total Elimination, and is pinned. Terry gets back in the ring after The Eliminators leave, and Terry starts berating Tommy for not tagging out sooner, and not being more careful. Tommy tries to reason with Terry, but Terry will not listen. Terry grabs a microphone and launches into a tirade; “Ya know, Tommy, that whiny shit Raven may be a rotten excuse for a human being, but he’s got one thing right: you are just like him! You aren’t ECW, Tommy! Wearing that belt and being the hero for all these people don’t mean the company begins and ends with your sorry ass!” Tommy tries to interject, but Terry cuts him off abruptly; “Shut the f*ck up, boy, before I smack the taste out of your mouth! You disrespectful little bastard! ‘It’s so hard being champion! I don’t know what to do now that I finally beat Raven!’ You make me wanna f*cking puke!” Terry lets out a growling screaming of frustration and throws down the microphone; he stomps out of the ring, only pausing to turn and give Tommy the finger before walking through the curtain. Tommy cannot tear his heartbroken gaze away from the curtain long enough to notice Raven coming through the crowd, having been watching the whole sick, sad tableau unfold from the Nest. Raven is clapping, and has a microphone as well. Tommy doesn’t even notice Raven speaking until he is almost in the ring.

“You see, Tommy? Do you see what revenge gets you? Your greed and your obsession has cost you your best friend and your sanity! Is this what you wanted, Tommy Dreamer? Is this the goal you so longed to accomplish for the last two years? Is this what you expected from beating me?” Raven is now at the ring; he slides under the bottom rope. Tommy is on his knees, a picture of utter confusion. Raven squats down in front of him. “Aww, are you not getting it yet, Tommy? You brought this on yourself, Tommy! A balance of good and evil, men and monsters, is what keeps this world moving. You can’t kill a monster without replacing it, and that’s what you’ve done. Your quest for my blood has turned you into what you despise most: me, Tommy Dreamer.” Raven stands up and backs up a few feet. “I can take the pain away, Tommy. I can help you learn to live with the cancer that is stealing your soul; to teach you how to turn it into fuel. I can show you the light in the darkness, Tommy Dreamer. I can give you back everything you lost when you beat me.” Raven drops the microphone and extends his arms out in his familiar Jesus Christ pose. Tommy is on his feet and charging in the span of a heartbeat; Ravens sidesteps, and Tommy crashes chest-first into the turnbuckle. He is easy pickings for Raven to drop with an Evenflow. Raven sits up, smiling that psychotic grin, and grabs the microphone as he stands. He stands over his fallen adversary; “You and me, Tommy, loser-leaves-ECW, at Wrestlepalooza! I’m going to give you your life back Tommy … when I defeat you once again, and banish you from ECW forever, I will give you back everything you’ve lost, by setting you on a quest for vengeance against me that you’ll never be able to finish!”

Wrestlepalooza: June 6th, 1997

Raven enters the ring first, and as usual, slumps down in a corner, awaiting the arrival of his archrival. His face bears no hint of the malicious glee he has experienced since coming out of hiding and dismantling Tommy’s life with one little statement; in its place is the steely determination he knows he will need to combat the rage he has ignited in Tommy Dreamer.

When Tommy comes through the curtain, there is no victorious pose in the entranceway. There is no prideful display of the belt (despite the fact that this is a championship match, Tommy has not brought the belt), and Beulah is nowhere to be seen. Tommy’s expression is grim, his eyes as cold as stone. Raven’s eyes lock on Tommy’s and see the expression on him; Raven’s maniacal pride, if there was any left, is driven out of him. Tommy has not come tonight for a wrestling match, nor did he come to defend his title … not even for something so simple as payback. Tonight, it is about inflicting pain and misery.

Tommy breaks out into a run, diving into the ring in a slide. Instead of jumping on him as he slides in, Raven stands up, urging Tommy to come bring it. Tommy is up on his feet in a flash and runs at Raven, and the two fall to the ground, punching one another over and over, rolling around on the mat as the crowd explodes. The war that has been an axle around which the company has revolved for two years is now entering its twilight, but for Tommy and Raven, it burns as bright as the day their hatred ignited. Tommy gets the upper hand in the fisticuffs, ending up on top of Raven and punching wildly, connecting on Raven’s jaw, cheeks and the sides of his head Tommy’s arms become a blur as his blows become less about measured pain and more about raining down hell on Raven, and the fists fall anywhere they see fit; all the while, Tommy screams like a man possessed, his hands rising and falling like oil derricks. Tommy gets up, slides outside and grabs a table; he pushes it in, then re-enters the ring. A few kicks to the gut keep Raven occupied with keeping himself awake while Tommy sets up the table in the opposite corner. Tommy whips Raven into the table with such force that Raven ends up crashing into, and through, the table head-first. No sooner is Raven buried amidst the rubble of the table then Tommy is outside again, getting all sorts of implements to use to kill the virus known as Raven. Many chairs are tossed in, as well as another table (and a third is set up spanning the gap between the apron and the barricade); but the weapon that gets the immediate reaction is the most deadly of all: a roll of barbed wire. Tommy slides back in as Raven is extricating himself from the wreckage of the table. Tommy is on Raven in a heartbeat, kicking and pounding away, screaming incoherently. No matter where Raven crawls to to find sanctuary, Tommy is there to bring the pain again. A legdrop to the back of the head, followed by a piledriver, puts Raven out, but Tommy doesn’t even try for a pin. Instead, he unfolds the table and puts Raven on it. Tommy climbs onto the table as well, putting Raven in position for a Dreamer-DDT … but, in desperation, Raven hits a low blow, then shoves Tommy away. Tommy’s placement of the table works against him, as he not only falls off, but over the top rope, and through the table set up outside. A “holy shit!” chant breaks out instantaneously; Raven is barely moving, shaking the cobwebs out (and wiping away blood that is quickly covering his face, thanks to the dive into the table earlier). Tommy, however, isn’t moving at all.

Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon, along with trainers and medics, come out to check on Tommy, but Raven pushes them all aside to get at his mortal enemy. Raven uses the ring and the ringside area as weapons to inflict more pain on an already near-dead Tommy Dreamer. The steel barricade almost becomes Raven’s tag partner, as he uses it to toss Tommy onto, throw onto Tommy, and score a trifecta of legsweeps into. Raven uses a steel chair to crush Tommy’s head in between it and the barricade, tearing open a wound on Tommy’s forehead that sends a cascade of blood down his face. All the while, Raven trash talks his opponent, goading him to get up and bring the fight; “C’mon, Tommy, now’s your chance!” Raven says, then sends Tommy face first into the timekeeper’s table. Tommy staggers around until Raven uses the hammer to bash Tommy’s skull in, and Tommy hits the ground, out like a light. Gordon and the medics try to edge a little closer to check on Tommy, but Raven scares them away again, and tosses Tommy back into the ring. Raven sets up a chair, then hits another legsweep on Tommy; the crack of Tommy’s skull on the unfolded steel chair sends shivers up the spines of everyone involved … except for the madman in the ring inflicting the pain. Raven does his pose to piss off the crowd, then hovers Tommy over a folded chair, in position for the Evenflow. “Here’s your f*cking hardcore hero!” yells Raven, and drops; Tommy connects with the steel, but barely reacts at all. He is already out on his feet, and the Evenflow just pushes him that much further into the blackness. Raven makes a nonchalant cover, and the referee makes the count … but Tommy’s shoulder goes up at two. The look of surprise on the faces of everyone there doesn’t equal the shock and horror on Raven’s. He gets up, dragging Tommy with him. He brings Tommy’s face up to his, cradling it in his hands: “Time to go home, Tommy!” Raven yells, then quickly hits another Evenflow. But again, it only gets two. Raven is furious, and he lets it show by hitting the referee, Jim Mollineaux, with an Evenflow.

Raven sets up Tommy on top of a turnbuckle and climbs up with him. He puts Tommy in a front facelock, the set-up for the Evenflow. This brings out Beulah, who begins to beg and plead for Tommy, offering up herself if Raven will just pin Tommy and get it over with. But for Raven, that kind of torture is old news; he flips off Beulah, and punctuates the message with; “Fuck off, ya cheap whore!”, then delivers the Evenflow from the top turnbuckle. The impact takes something out of both men, although more from Tommy, who is spread eagle on the mat, face down in a pool of his own blood. Raven crawls over, his back aching from the impact, and goes for a pin … but with no referee, no one can count. Nevertheless, Tommy’s instinct is stronger than his body, and he kicks out at what would have been two anyway. Raven scoots away, aghast at what is before him. For two years, he has managed to finish Tommy Dreamer in nearly every match with that very move; now, it gets him nothing. Raven sits in the corner, unable to process what has transpired. In frustration, he sets up the table in the corner; if he has to, he will injure Tommy Dreamer so badly, he will be rendered unable to continue. It is not a preferable way of winning-totally distasteful, in fact, compared to physically pinning someone-but at the moment, it is his only option. Raven hauls up Tommy’s limp body and starts to whip him into the table, but somehow, Tommy finds the strength to reverse the whip, and Raven goes into the table instead.

Tommy collapses to his knees, unable to lift his head, the blood dripping off his forehead; Raven gets up gingerly, holding his back (which took the brunt of the impact); he staggers forward, and turns it into a run … only for Tommy to drag himself up in enough time to back body drop Raven. For Tommy, it is a double stroke of luck: it helps switch the momentum of the match, and gives him time to recuperate, as Raven lands directly on the batch of barbed wire. Raven rolls around, trying to reach at it to rip it off, but the wire gets tangled in his shirt; the screams of pain as the barbs rip into his flesh are inhuman, but have a galvanizing effect on Tommy. With every shriek from Raven, one emerges from the throat of Tommy in response, and he rises to his feet, his screams a meaningless jumble of sound. Where he has found the strength, no one knows, but the crowd responds in kind, and a chant of “Tommy” runs through the ECW Arena. Tommy kicks Raven a couple times before ripping the barbed wire away from him. He uncoils a length of it, then proceeds to wrap it through and around a steel chair. When Raven gets up, Tommy blasts him in the head with it, sending Raven into paroxysms of pain. Tommy stands above him, raising the chair high above, and brings it down on Raven’s body over and over again. The screams of the two men melt together, but after the first few blows, Tommy’s begins to contain words; “DIE, MOTHERFUCKER! ” he says after every blow. Raven tries to get his hands up to block, but they are quickly covered in small, blood-filled holes. Tommy drops the chair, then picks up Raven, holding him by the face as Raven did to him not moments ago, and spits in his face; Raven is too glassy-eyed to register the insult, and Tommy drops him with a Dreamer-DDT. But, seeing the referee is still out, he doesn’t bother with the cover; he jostles the ref enough to wake him, and then lays out a chair near the corner. He puts Raven over his shoulder, and then climbs the turnbuckle. He wastes no time with poses or adding insult to injury; now, it is about ending the curse of Raven once and for all. Eliminating the plague. And Tommy steps off the turnbuckle, bringing Raven with him in a Dreamer Driver, which connects right on the chair. Tommy throws an arm over Raven, and the ref crawls over for a groggy count of three. The ECW Arena erupts like never before, but Tommy is once again too winded to celebrate. All he can do is clutch the ECW World Title to his chest and cry; the long, soul-draining saga is over, and Raven is no more. His mind games, his torture and humiliation tactics, are all for naught, and Tommy lets it all loose with sobs of happiness and relief. Terry Funk comes to the ring, and for a tension-filled handful of seconds, the crowd waits; Terry extends Tommy to his feet, hugs him, and raises Tommy’s hand in victory, Tommy feels a weight lift off his shoulders. Terry calls for a microphone.

“I never been more proud of you then right now, son,” Terry says, and gives Tommy another hug. The crowd cheers, and Terry joins in, leading the ECW Arena in a “Tommy” chant. When it dies down, he says; “You kicked that low-down, dirty bastard right the hell out of ECW! That was every bit the effort of a champion, Tommy Dreamer!” Terry gives the ECW Title, slung over Tommy’s shoulder, a couple jovial slaps. “Now, whattya say about letting your old friend get in line for a shot?”

All of the joy runs out of Tommy’s face; his eyes, formerly full of light and happiness, now fill up with dread and panic. Terry can see it, and his gaze becomes hard. “What, you gonna make me jump through hoops, kid? You gonna pull the same shit Flair did 8 years ago? C’mon, Tommy, it ain’t like I’m some greenhorn who hasn’t earned his spot!”

Tommy gets a microphone handed to him, but even with amplification, his voice is barely audible. “Please don’t ask this of me, Terry. Please. Don’t ruin this.”

Now Terry is confused, and angry. “Ruin? What am I ruining? All I am is some stump-dumb old codger, come to shake his good buddy’s hand and ask him for a small favor. I been like a father to you for how many years? You ain’t gonna tell me of all people to go pound salt, are ya?” Tommy tries to interrupt, but Terry won’t let him. “You really telling me no? Are you really pissing on me like that? I’m an old man, Tommy; my best years are behind me. Alls I’m asking from you … man to man … father to son … one last chance to dance, Tommy. You won’t do that for me?”

Tommy can barely even bring himself to look Terry in the eyes. “Terry, please. I can’t … please … don’t ask this of me. Don’t-“

“C’mon, Tommy, you owe me; you shit on me at Barely Legal. It’s the least … the f*cking least you can do.”

“Terry, I can’t-“

“And why not, Tommy? Did you not get your head together by beating Raven? Or are you afraid of an old man? Or are you just like Raven said … a selfish prick, just like he is? Why, Tommy? Why?”

Finally, Tommy snaps, and screams his reply in Terry’s face; “Because I won’t fight you, Terry! I will not fight my best friend! I’d rather die then fight you

Terry backs up a step, his eyes blazing with the sting of rejection. He brings the microphone up to his mouth, but he cannot find the words. Tommy drops his mike and starts to apologize, but Terry shakes his head and holds his arms out in front of him. Tommy apologizes again, but Terry’s gesture is insistent: keep away from me. Tommy’s head droops like a penitent child, and he turns to leave …

… only to be stopped by Terry cracking Tommy in the back of the head with the microphone. Tommy, already spent from the punishment of his match and the loss of blood, goes down without a fuss. He picks up Tommy and slaps him across the face. His yells of rage can be heard without the microphone: “Is this how you treat family, Tommy? Is this what you do to family, you rotten piece of shit?” He kicks Tommy in the gut, puts him in position and hits a classic Funk piledriver. Tommy’s body quivers with spasms, but Terry isn’t finished; he drags Tommy’s body by the corner. He goes to grab a chair, then stops when he sees the barbed wire chair Tommy created. He grabs both it and a regular chair; first, he puts the barbed wire chair on Tommy, then on top of it, the plain chair. Terry goes to ascend the ropes, but Beulah runs in and puts herself over Tommy, screaming for mercy. Instead, Terry picks her up by the hair and tosses her outside like a sack of potatoes. He climbs the ropes, pausing to gaze upon the shell-shocked crowd; then, he leaps, twisting in a moonsault, coming down across Tommy’s chest. The move knocks the wind out of Terry, but it is a small sacrifice; Tommy’s ribcage is crushed beneath the two chairs, and his body is perforated with holes. Terry stands over Tommy, bent over in his face; “You can’t run forever, boy!” he yells, and leaves the ring, his carnage, and his friend behind.


Week after week following his assault of his symbolic son, Terry issues his challenge over and over again. Tommy, nursing his injuries, cannot reply on his own, save to send Beulah to turn away the challenge. The second time Beulah acts as Tommy’s messenger, Terry snaps and goes after Beulah; the timely interruption of The Sandman saves Beulah from a broken neck at the hands of Terry. The Sandman and Terry brawl until Terry gets the upper hand and uses his branding iron to maim Sandman. The following week, another hero comes to stand against Terry’s fury: Taz. The Human Suplex Machine manages to get the better of Funk, but Taz’s nemesis Sabu helps Terry get the upper hand, and Terry assaults Taz’s previously broken neck with repeated piledrivers.

Finally, days before the “Orgy Of Violence” super-event in the ECW Arena on June 28th, Tommy returns to ECW to a mixed reception. “I thought when I sent Raven out of ECW, I’d get my life back in order,” Tommy says to the crowd. “But Raven was right: revenge is a dish for two. My chance to face him at Barely Legal ended up costing me my best friend. I’ve sat at home, nursing my injuries, wondering what if I had given Terry the shot … would he have won? Could he have gone on to beat Raven? I don’t know, and I guess we never will … all I know is that the path I chose is the one I felt was right, and being able to look back and appreciate that I finally gave Raven what he deserved, I don’t regret it.” Tommy pauses; the crowd is still unsure what to do. “But Raven used that against me, and has left me stuck in a trap I set up. Terry Funk is like a father to me! Terry Funk has been there for me when no one else has been! I know the legend of Terry Funk; he’s an icon in this business. But I know how sadistic he can be, how far he’s willing to go to win if he has to … and if I were to face him, I’d have to be willing to go even further then he would, even more depraved and more evil, then he would, to keep the ECW Title. Would you do that to your father? If you think I’m a coward for it, fine … if you think I’m selfish for denying him his last chance for the spotlight, you go ahead and think that … if Terry were thinking straight, he’d understand.”

Tommy considers saying more, but instead lays down the microphone … only for Tod Gordon to come out. Tommy hands him the microphone when he enters the ring. “Tommy,” Gordon says, “while you’ve been gone, there have been some significant issues revolving around you and Terry Funk. He has assaulted numerous competitors, including Beulah, and caused a great deal of panic. But he has also systematically shown dominance over many of the top competitors here in ECW, both in unsanctioned fights and in matches.” Tommy’s eyes grow wider and fill with panic. He starts pleading with Gordon, who shakes his head; “I’m not going to make you fight just yet, Tommy. I want you healed up before you have to defend your belt again. But I have to name a number-one contender, and considering recent events, I am left with only one solution. At Orgy Of Violence, there will be a four-way dance for a shot at you, Tommy Dreamer, at Hardcore Heaven, live on pay-per-view August 17th. In that match, it will be Sabu … Taz … The Sandman … and Terry Funk.” Tommy shakes his head, disregarding that Funk’s odds are 1-in-4 of winning. “And,” Gordon adds, “if you think of doing something to effect the outcome of the match, and specifically towards Terry Funk, I will have no choice but to suspend you indefinitely, and strip you of the ECW Title.”

Tommy watches the four-way dance at Orgy Of Violence from behind the steel safety railing, although he is noticeably nervous the entire time. He makes not a single noise or gesture favoring anyone, whether things turn for or against Terry. For twenty minutes, the wrestlers fight and brawl their way through a horrific slugfest until the first elimination; Taz is the first to go, victim of a cheap pin using the ropes by Sabu. Taz snaps and continues to attack Sabu, getting his Tazmission locked in, choking Sabu for several minutes, until authorities can pry Taz off Sabu and haul him away. Terry jumps in and quickly covers Sabu and eliminates him, leaving him with The Sandman. Tommy watches on as Terry and Sandman beat the living hell out of one another with canes, chairs and anything else they can muster. But in the end, it is Terry’s branding iron, pressed into the flesh of The Sandman so long he quits, that nets him the victory. Once his hand is raised in victory, Terry walks over to the side of the ring Tommy is seated at and glares at him, pointing at the belt and taunting.

Tommy stands up, hops over the barricade and slides into the ring. Terry backs away, letting Tommy have his space. “You’re mine, motherf*cker,” people hear Terry say. “Your ass is mi-” Terry’s words drop off when Tommy extends the hand holding the ECW Title. Terry looks down at it, then at Tommy, the belt again, and Tommy again. Tommy nudges it and mouths two words: Take it. Terry looks at Tommy as if he’s speaking in another language. Tommy reiterates his offer. Terry shakes his head, pointing at Tommy; “I want you,” he says. Tommy tosses the belt aside and lays down on the mat. “Pin me!” Tommy screams, but Terry shakes his head again. Tommy gets up and shoves Terry. “You want a fight? Is that it?” Tommy says and slaps Terry. Terry’s head reels back, then comes back around; he grins, rubbing his cheek. Terry shakes his head and mouths a simple two-word reply, Not yet, and leaves the ring.

The next two months see Terry launch a bitter and steadily escalating campaign against his now disavowed son. Tommy’s first defense upon his return, against Mikey Whipwreck, is marred by Terry’s interference; he beats on Tommy, yelling at him to fight back, until Tommy is down on the mat. When Mikey goes to pin Tommy, Terry attacks Mikey to keep his own title shot from vanishing. Another title defense, this one against Sabu, is marred when Terry gets himself named the special referee. He uses the position to further antagonize Tommy by allowing his opponent to use any method of offense available, but forbids Tommy from doing anything but wrestling. Once again, it takes Terry attacking Tommy’s opponent to save his own shot at Tommy at Hardcore Heaven, but Tommy is resolute in his decision to avoid confrontation with Terry at all costs. Week after week, the attacks escalate in severity and gruesomeness, but Tommy stands on his honor and refuses to fight.

It would be a taped statement from Terry two weeks before the event that would mark the turning point of the rivalry. The statement closes out an episode of Hardcore TV, and is eerily familiar for the location Terry is in: darkness, seediness, the type of place Raven frequented. “Tommy, when I look back on how I stood by you and groomed you to be a man in this sport, and I see what you’ve become, it makes me sick. That’s why I’ve pushed you so hard, Tommy, these past few months; your head ain’t in this anymore, son! You done let that cheap whore soften you up … you done let that piece of trash Raven screw with your head so much over a woman … a goddamned woman, that you don’t know what end is up. That’s why I been pushing you, boy … you need to remember that this ain’t no Newlywed Game, Tommy. This ain’t no college debate team. And this sure as hell ain’t no game of chess. This is professional wrestling, Tommy. If you can’t put friendships aside … if you can’t leave that bitch back at home cookin’ dinner where she belongs … then maybe you shouldn’t be ECW Champion. And if I gotta take away your woman … your title … your career … whatever it takes, I will pull your head out of your ass, son. At Hardcore Heaven, I will have you in between strands of barbed-wire, and I am gonna remind you of what kind of world you’re in, Tommy. As God as my witness, Tommy, I will make you remember, even if I have to do something you’ll never forgive me for.”

The fruits of that statement come to bear the very next week as he and Beulah come to the ring to be interviewed by Joey Styles. But before Joey can begin, Terry ambushes Tommy with a chair, pounding him repeatedly. When Tommy is incapacitated, Terry pulls out two pairs of handcuffs, and binds Tommy to the ropes. Terry grabs the chair and starts to swing, but the screams of Beulah stop him. She pleads with Terry to stop, but his sick smile says he has no intentions of doing so. When she again begs for her boyfriend’s life through a curtain of tears, she does so while unbuttoning her shirt; Terry regards Beulah’s body as she cries and shivers, offering herself in exchange for Tommy. Terry drops the chair, ogling her breasts; he points to her schoolgirl skirt, and she obligingly takes it off. Terry leers at her, then looks at Tommy and winks; Tommy’s face flares red, until Terry kicks Beulah in the gut and puts her head between his legs. Now it is Tommy begging, but Terry isn’t listening. He picks up Beulah, looking Tommy in the eye as he does it, then comes down, driving Beulah into the mat with a piledriver. Terry grabs her again and puts her in position; like Beulah had, Tommy begs through his tears, but Terry drops her down head-first again. Terry walks over to Tommy and yells, “You pissed off yet, boy?” Terry grabs the chair he brought in, puts it down in front of Tommy, then positions Beulah over it. Terry takes his time, making sure Tommy soaks in the moment; then, jumping for extra impact, he comes down on the chair. Beulah, already virtually unconscious, starts convulsing. One more piledriver on the chair breaks open Beulah’s forehead, but stills her trembling. When medics take her away, she doesn’t move, nor speak, or even blink. An update on her condition is posted on the ECW website which states that Beulah has suffered a broken neck, and may never return to ECW again. Following that, the site posts a short but poignant statement from Tommy: “Terry Funk has managed to ruin what little I had left in this world that made me happy. He’s taken my dignity, the pride of being ECW Champion, and Beulah. I’m sorry I ever met him and allowed him into my life. But I won’t be sorry for what I do to him at Hardcore Heaven.”

Hardcore Heaven: August 17th, 1997

The crowd firmly cheers on Tommy as he walks to the ring. Gone is the fear, the trepidation, and the respect for Terry Funk. All that is left in his eyes is a bloodlust that he has vowed cannot and will not be satiated until he personally runs Terry Funk out of ECW for good. Terry waits for him in the ring, and when the bell rings, the two meet in the center. Terry talks trash, but Tommy is stoic until Terry mentions Beulah. No sooner is her name out of Terry’s mouth than Tommy wraps both hands around Terry’s throat and squeezes. Terry’s eyes bulge out, but he is smiling, even as Tommy closes his hands tighter and tighter. The referee steps in before the very life is drained from Terry, but Tommy only stops the strangling; the beating starts, first with fists, then with boots. Tommy picks up Terry and slings him towards the wire, but Terry slides under to the safety of the floor. Tommy follows behind and the two brawl; first at the ringside area, throwing one another into the guardrails and ring posts. When Terry knocks Tommy over the railing, the fight moves into the crowd, where fans supply the two with an arsenal to unleash their hatred on one another; frying pans, a shovel, a push broom, even an old Johnny Mathis LP gets used as they beat, batter and bludgeon each other across the floor of the ECW Arena.

When they finally make it back into the ring, Terry has taken control of the match. He slings in a couple chairs, along with a fetching two tables; one is put inside, one is set up outside. Terry batters Tommy with a chair repeatedly, but a pin attempt only nets two and an emphatic kick-out. A piledriver on the chair gets Terry only two again, so he tries a second time, and neutralizes both legs when he covers; again, only two. Terry whips Tommy towards the wire, and he cannot counter in time; the barbs tear into Tommy’s body. Terry bashes Tommy’s chest with a chair, crushing him against the barbs again, then whips him to the other side. After two more whips into the barbed wire, Terry goes for another cover, but somehow, Tommy kicks out. Frustrated, Terry goes out and rummages under the ring until he brings out a sack. He slides the sack in, then goes about setting up a table. When Tommy stirs, Terry throws him into the barbed wire again, then opens the bag; he pulls out a can of lighter fluid and a lighter. Terry douses the table, then pours the rest of the bag’s contents-thumbtacks-onto the table, and lights it aflame. Terry pulls Tommy over and puts him in position to powerbomb him into the flaming table. Terry cannot get him on the first try; on the second, he only manages a little height. Before Terry can try a third time, Tommy vaults him over his back, and Terry crashes through the flaming wood and thumbtacks.

Tommy gets to his feet, a bloody, beaten mess that can barely stand. When he sees Terry rolling on the ground in pain and screaming, he pauses to consider how far they’ve gone … then, he grabs Terry and whips him into the barbed wire. Another whip into the barbed wire gets Tommy a two-count, but for Tommy, that just means more time to inflict punishment. Tommy pounds Terry in the head with a chair once, twice, three times before Terry finally goes down. Tommy puts Terry over the chair and takes great glee in driving him down in a piledriver of his own. Tommy follows it up with two more piledrivers on the chair, but he pulls away before the ref can finish the three-count. Tommy drags Terry over to the barbed wire and begins to rake his forehead across the barbs, turning Terry’s head into ground chuck. But Terry reverses the whip on instinct, and Tommy crashes into the barbed wire again. Terry lurches forward to the ref and starts digging through his pockets until he finds something: wire cutters. Terry cuts a strand of wire away and, when Tommy pulls himself off the wire, starts to lash him with it. Tommy hollers in agony as Terry whips him over and over, the barbs tearing into the back of Tommy. Terry whips him a few more times, then goes for a pin, but only gets two. Terry is on his feet again, reaching for the strand, when Tommy hits a low blow out of desperation. Terry drops to a knee as Tommy struggles to stand; when both make it to their feet, they’re in the center of the ring again, although now a bloody mess. The two trade weak, wild blows in the center of the ring, each man reeling back from the blows. Both men threaten to topple over until Tommy wisely buries a knee in Terry’s midsection. Terry doubles over, giving Tommy the chance to build some momentum. He charges, running Terry down and driving him backward into the barbed wire … but gets the surprise of his life when the wire snaps, and the two of them tumble out of the ring together, crashing through the table Terry has set up earlier. The crowd erupts into a “holy shit!” chant as the two lay amidst the wreckage of wood and wire. For several minutes, the two are still; medics and trainers attempt to check on them, but the wire dangles in their way, making attending to them tough going. By the time they can make it to their sides, Tommy is moving, and when he shakes out the cobwebs, he tosses Terry back in the ring. The voices of the medics pleading to let the referee stop the match are a distant echo in his ears; the only thing he wants to hear right now are three slaps against the mat, and the announcer call out his name. Tommy grabs the strand of barbed wire cut free by Terry and wraps it around Terry’s head like a crown. He locks his arms firmly around Terry’s head and lets loose a terrifying war cry, then drops down, driving Terry’s head into the barbed wire, and the mat, in a thunderous DDT. The ref drops down to make the count, but Tommy picks him back up and hits the DDT once more, and once more beyond that, before making the three-count. No sooner has the bell sounded then the paramedics are in the ring, checking on Terry. Tommy embraces the belt as if it his life depended on it, not bothering to notice the crowded ring until a stretcher is brought in. Tommy watches the medics lock a hard brace around Terry’s neck, his face covered in gauze and bandages. Looking at Terry makes Tommy think of Beulah; doctors had told him the day before that she would be able to resume a full and normal life … but she would never be safe in a wrestling ring again. Tommy looks at the ECW World Title and considers all that he has lost for the sake of the belt … his dignity, his woman, his best friend, his passion for wrestling, even his sanity. He looks upon his former friend, being carted away, unconscious and bleeding, a broken man of 50-something … a man he once called friend. He thought of how, if he had stood up to Terry sooner, or even given him the shot at Barely Legal, all of this could’ve been avoided. And his thoughts drifted to the words of Raven, that revenge was a dish that served two … he had been right. Beating Raven had won him the peace of ending Raven’s career in ECW and winning the ECW Title … but it had cost him everything. Raven had gotten the last laugh after all, he realized, and he hadn’t had to do a damned thing to get it. Suddenly, Tommy Dreamer felt sick to his stomach; suddenly, he was positive it hadn’t been worth it. Not a bit.

The End

Whew, what a long one!

Quick pimps to Kurtis and Bonto for lending an ear on this one. Hope you like it as much as I am proud of it.

I said Will Cooling gets a lifetime pimp, and dammit, I means it.

I can’t wait to see how Eric dissects the debates.

Did you know Inside Pulse writers now have bios and blogs? That means me too! Keep an eye on the blog … I may post teasers for upcoming stories and other sorts of RTB goodliness!

And don’t forget, if you got any personal questions for my upcoming “Getting To Know You” edition of RTB, send ’em in. Ideas too, provided they qualify. And so, I leave you with your teaser (another reader submission!) for next time …

What if there was no romantic reunion at WrestleMania VII?