In the 1990’s, you would be hard pressed to be a fan of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and not see some of the most hardcore, brutal, bloody and outrageous matches and gimmicks in pro wrestling history. ECW has seen barb wire matches, flaming tables, scaffold matches, suicide dives from balconies..etc, etc. Despite all of that, on October 26th, 1996…ECW did an angle that many in that company found to be too “extreme.”
The site was the ECW arena in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania..
The participants in the angle were Raven and The Sandman…
The background to this feud…
Raven and Sandman had a violent feud for the ECW title throughout 1996. During the course of this feud, Raven was able to brainwash Sandman’s ex wife Lori Fullington and his adolescent son…Tyler. Raven’s head games with the Sandman only raised the bar of violence between the two wrestlers.
On this night, the culmination of this feud was to take place. Raven real name Scott Levy wanted to do something big. Not only big, but memorable and to be talked about for years to come. His plan involved attacking the Sandman and then crucifying him on a cross with the aid of his cult like faction the Nest.
When it was time to do the big spot, not many people in the ECW arena knew beforehand what Raven had planned. As an unconscious Sandman lied on the arena floor motionless…Raven along with Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie began tying Sandman to the cross. Stevie Richards recalls…an uneasiness in the arena and he looked over to the Blue Meanie in shock as if this was really going to take place. Meanie was apparently just as shocked and uncomfortable as Richards was.
When the cross was raised upright…there was a definite silence in the audience that wasn’t all that common at the ECW arena. Were the fans stunned into silence? According to Raven, the fans were the only ones that”got it.” The commentary from ECW announcer Joey Styles was shock and disgust and you could hear that in his voice as he was calling the angle. Raven recalls that the most offended from the angle that were ECW employees were the aforementioned Joey Styles and Taz. They weren’t the only ones disgusted however….
There was another individual that was there as a guest that night…none other than Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. Kurt was invited to attend that night from Shane Douglas in an effort to sign him to a contract. Kurt, at the time, was considering a career as a pro wrestler. The plan from the beginning was to introduce Kurt to the ECW product and have him come aboard and work an angle with Taz.
Kurt was sitting at ringside when the crucifixion angle took place. Kurt was so disgusted by it…he got up and walked to the back to meet up with Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon. Kurt asked both if they had any knowledge that this was going to happen and Paul Heyman swore he had no idea that this was going to take place. Paul insisted he gave his wrestlers freedom to come up with ideas for their respective characters.
Despite the pleas from ECW management for Kurt Angle to stay…Kurt refused…instead he demanded the money he was owed from them for his appearance and threatened ECW with a lawsuit if his segment taped was used in light of this angle. Kurt then walked out and eventually signed with the World Wrestling Federation.
The aftermath was Paul Heyman demanding that Raven go back out to the ring and issue an apology to the fans in attendance. Raven argued that an apology was the worst thing to do and just let it be. His argument fell on deaf ears and Raven was forced to go back into the ring and in fact did apologize for possibly offending anyone with the crucifixion.
In the end, Raven broke the “4th wall” by apologizing for the incident and Kurt Angle never returned to this version of ECW. Raven insists to this day that Kurt had no intentions of wrestling for ECW because the WWF were hot on his trail wanting to sign him as well. Through the years, Kurt has been somewhat indecisive about the crucifixion. In many interviews he’ll insist he was thoroughly offended and other times say it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.
What we do know is..if that angle was so offensive…why have variations of it been done in the years after?
It’s been done in Japan…
It’s been done in Mexico…
It has even been done in the WWF…
Was it offensive? To some…definitely….to others, perhaps. What we do know, it is an angle that is till talked about to this day. An angle that cost ECW an Angle.