Extreme invasion: ECW takes over Raw in 1997

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February 18, 2013

The back-to-back incidents generated tremendous buzz throughout the wrestling industry for both companies. In an unprecedented accord between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman, ECW was formally invited back to WWE several months later. In February 1997, the groundbreaking organization competed in sanctioned matches during Raw at the Manhattan Center in the ECW hotbed of New York City. The company’s first pay-per-view, Barely Legal, was only two months away. (MORE ON ECW BARELY LEGAL)

“They needed a boost and we definitely needed a boost,” Dreamer said. “WWE was getting their butt kicked by WCW and they needed something that said you have to tune in to Monday Night Raw because anything could happen.”

But this time, ECW needed an antagonist from within to facilitate the invasion, and it was presented in the form of Jerry “The King” Lawler.

“I had heard about ECW before and honestly, what I had heard was not necessarily fact,” Lawler told WWE Classics. “I spent most of my career in the Mid-South area, and we had a little world of our own. The only thing we heard about other promotions was stuff you’d see in wrestling magazines. So honestly, at first glance, I thought this was a group of misfits. I thought these were guys who couldn’t catch on with the major organizations. Cast-offs. I found out later on that wasn’t necessarily the case.”

To make matters more interesting, Heyman and “The King” had a history that wasn’t widely known to most WWE fans.

“Paul Heyman had worked for my promotion down in Memphis [Tenn.] that Jerry Jarrett and I owned from 1977 up to 1997,” the WWE Hall of Famer explained. “We made him the manager of Austin Idol and Tommy Rich, which, at the time, were two of our top guys in the territory. It was a great spot for Paul to be in. I thought at the time, Paul had a lot of charisma and got a great villainous reaction from the fans.

“We had a Scaffold Match in Louisville, Ky.,” Lawler recalled. “I remember telling Paul before the match, ‘When you’re up there on that scaffold …’ And he said, ‘Oh no, I can’t go up on the scaffold.’ ‘What do you mean? We’ve built up this match for weeks.’ He said, ‘I’ve got a fear of heights.’ He just flat refused and it ruined the plans we had for the match.”

Things got so tense between Lawler and Heyman that “The King” hit the controversial New Yorker. The ECW mastermind had resented Lawler ever since, so it made perfect sense for “The King” to be the guy to invite ECW back to Raw for a fight. Even if the majority of sports-entertainment fans didn’t know the pair’s history, many in the locker room did, adding a layer of genuine intrigue.

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