Interview: Tommy Dreamer

Tommy Dreamer is one of the most recognised ECW alumni around.  The 42-year-old from Yonkers, New York also had spells in WWE and TNA. Dreamer is a two-time World champion having won the ECW World Championship on two occasions, once in the original ECW and once in WWE’s reincarnation, he is also a 14-time WWE Hardcore Champion!

We caught up with the ‘Innovator of Violence’ to talk about his House of Hardcore promotion, hiring CM Punk, being snubbed by Bob Backlund plus much more.

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How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?

Being a professional wrestler has always been my dream since I was a little kid. When I first saw it on television I was hooked and the rest as they say was history. It was always my dream and I’m very blessed to still be doing it.

Who were some of the wrestlers that you enjoyed watching whilst growing up?

The first match that I ever saw was Bob Backlund vs. Bulldog Brower, they were wrestling in Madison Square Garden for the WWF Championship and I was a huge Bob Backlund fan. I then went to see him live and he snubbed me for an autograph and then I hated him.

Some of my main influences were the likes of; Dusty Rhodes, I saw him live about a month after I first saw wrestling on television and he became my instant favourite. Hulk Hogan, The Road Warriors, you name them, I loved everybody. I was your typical fan, I would cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys.

Did Bob Backlund make you name all the American presidents in order?

(Laughs) No he didn’t, I was only nine-years-old, I had made a sign for him and he had won his match, I remember slapping his hand and asked if he would sign my sign and this is when fans didn’t bring many signs to the events like they do these days. He said he would get me in a bit and I waited for him but he just got in his car and drove off.

It was funny, about three years ago I told him that story and his face went really red because Bob is such a great guy and we’ve become good friends since then, that was when we had lunch on a Thursday. A few days later a package came in the post at my house and it was a signed picture from Bob and he had wrote, ‘to my number one fan Tommy Dreamer.’

You began wrestling for ECW in 1992, back when it was known as Eastern Championship Wrestling, what were your first thoughts when you joined the company?

I thought it was a little different, Philadelphia was a tough crowd and at first I didn’t think it was going to be anything super special. It was just another up start organisation but I was happy that it lasted and I was there from the first day to the last day.

It proved like any other independent promotion if you have the right people behind it and the people like it and support it, it will grow like ECW did and I was glad that it did.

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What would you say the secret to ECW’s success was?

There were so many magical things, it was the right time and the right place from the booking stand point. The business at the time I don’t want to say was on a low but both WCW and WWF at the time were doing very family friendly wrestling with a lot of gimmicks.

Then ECW came along and it was very in your face, with lots of real and controversial storylines and not trying to insult peoples intelligence. At the time we went with violence, because the other two companies were going along the lines of family entertainment so we went in the opposite direction with violence.

Then when they went to the Attitude Era we moved more in the direction of wrestling, we were just always different and very edgy.

What was it like being involved in the original invasion angle and feuding with Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler?

It was great, it was kind of a great pay-off, we needed the national exposure to help our company grow on PPV. Working with Jerry Lawler, a lot of people know Jerry as a good ol’ announcer and the ultimate good guy but Jerry Lawler at one point was probably the most hated man in wrestling and he was a great villain.

He was a perfect enemy for me during the original ECW invasion angle and I’m happy to have got to wrestle him, I love wrestling Jerry Lawler. It helped my career a lot because he was hated in ECW, when he showed up there was real heat, people wanted to kill him and then he would go and make comments on Monday Night Raw, which was helping us promotion wise and he played a big part in the rise of ECW.

What were your thoughts when wrestlers from ECW started going to WCW and WWF?

I never took it personally, looking back at it now, it actually helped make ECW in the sense of we were almost like a breeding ground for the wrestling business, kind of like a developmental system for the business. We were giving guys a break, the likes of; Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Taz, The Dudley Boyz, they used ECW as a springboard to launch their careers.

It was good because we built the brand ECW because Paul (Heyman) knew he couldn’t compete with the other guys. It helped because it always made us the underdog and in life most people root for the underdog.

What was the highlight for you during your time in ECW?

Myself and Raven had one of the most legendary feuds in the wrestling business which I’m very proud of and I’m also proud of all the characters that came out from that. ECW was great, I had so many great matches with the likes of; Sandman, Justin Credible and Lance Storm. I’ve had a lot of great feuds and I’ve worked with a lot of great guys.

I was born into this world as Tom Laughlin but when I die I will be best remembered as Tommy Dreamer and Tommy Dreamer was born in Philadelphia and my legacy is ECW.

Was there ever a match that was deemed too ‘hardcore’ and had to be pulled due to safety reasons?

No not really, back then we did a lot of things that I don’t think we could’ve gotten away with today. There was nothing really too hardcore but nowadays with concussions, I wrestled countless times with concussions, we would do chair shots to the head and now that is a big issue for the guys safety.

There was so much blood back then and we weren’t tested, we’d have to go and get tested in our own time only if we wanted to but now the WWE have a great Wellness Policy and they take care of their athletes with concussion tests and all that stuff.

Back then you purposely didn’t put your hands up if you were taking a chair shot but again it’s a different time and a different era and that is what made us so unique.

What did you make of the second Invasion angle when Vince McMahon had purchased ECW and WCW?

The first day when we did it Rob Van Dam and myself debuted at the same time and we were both very happy, it was how I had envisioned it in the sense of it was in Atlanta, Georgia which was WCW territory and we shocked the world one last time, which is what we were all about in the original ECW.

We had the people talking, and that first night I believe 100% they dropped the ball with that invasion angle because you can look at that Invasion PPV numbers and then right after that how the numbers dropped.

What were your thoughts on the original ECW One Night Stand PPV?

I loved the whole show, I was the agent for every match, I thought it was a really great homage to the original ECW. I was very proud of it and it made a lot of money for WWE.

I thought they were going to see it in me and see the power ECW had but they didn’t realise it until the following year. Again ECW has been generating a lot of money for WWE and I’m always happy to be part of it.

What did you make of the ECW brand show WWE had?

Originally I thought it was supposed to be different but then it just became another WWE show. A lot of people knock it, but there were times when it was great and there were times when it was horrible just like any other television show. I wish it had of been different but it got a lot of guys who should have had national exposure on it, it helped the rise of CM Punk, his first break on WWE television was on ECW.

When I was working for WWE, I’m actually the one that hired CM Punk, he was on the indies, he had worked a little bit in TNA and I liked him. He was a hard person to get hired and thank goodness he worked his butt off and has got to where he’s at today.

What were some of your highlights from your time in WWE?

Getting to wrestle at Madison Square Garden, where I grew up watching wrestling, wrestling Rob Van Dam for the Hardcore title, which was the main event on Monday Night Raw. Getting to travel the world with WWE, being part of WrestleMania and winning the ECW title for a second time. I have nothing but nice things to say about WWE and it was a great time for me.

You also spent time in TNA, and they paid tribute to ECW with the Hardcore Justice PPV, what did you make of that?

Again I wrote that whole show, Dixie (Carter) gave me the power and it was another great team effort. I can always rely on my guys and the ECW crew to always bust their arses on a show. Again I was just really happy with how that PPV turned out, it was one of TNA’s most successful PPV’s ever. It was supposed to go one way afterwards but ended up going in a different direction but that was out of my control.

How would you compare your three bosses, Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon, and Dixie Carter?

Paul was great, he helped me out so much and I guess I was the original Paul Heyman guy. He taught me so much, not just the appreciation for the wrestling business which I already had but also about what to do right for the wrestling business, it is a blessing and a curse. Paul and myself are straight shooters and we will tell people our opinions and sometimes people don’t want to hear that, they just want to be patted on the back and told they did a good job. Paul and I used to sit in the car and fight, not against each other but fight for what was best for the show.

Vince McMahon, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again besides my own father Vince is the most influential man in my life. All I ever wanted to be was a wrestler and that came from what I had seen on television growing up. Vince was always cool with me, I’ve had great sit down meetings with him, I worked right next to him in Titan Towers, I had the office next to his for three years and whenever I wanted to go and talk to him I could, he was really accessible. A lot of people want to knock him, but you can’t knock his success, no one can out work him, he has coffee in his veins.

Dixie was great to me, she gave me a lot of responsibility when I first came into the company. Personally I really like her, I wish TNA will grow leaps and bounds because it has so much potential and I wish TNA would have a lot more growth than it does. 

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You have your own company House Of Hardcore, what is it like running your own company?

I’m losing more hair when I make decisions like this but I just want to show the fans my interpretation of professional wrestling. My slogan is ‘no politics, no BS, just wrestling’, and at the end of the day I’m a wrestling fan.

Through social media I hear what the fans are telling me and everybody on the shows are handpicked, the first show was very successful and I said if the first one went well I was going to do another one and it has just gone on from there. The shows feature a mix of stars including veterans of the business, guys in their prime and guys that people might not know about.

For more information about Tommy and House Of Hardcore visit HouseOfHardcore.net and follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER

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