August 4, 2010
Dreamer looking back -- and forward -- with Hardcore Justice
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
There's a hardcore reunion coming on Sunday, at TNA's Hardcore Justice pay-per-view. The man behind the gathering, Tommy Dreamer, sees it as a thank you to the fans for keeping the ECW memory alive, a celebration, a reminder that life is to be cherished and your friends appreciated.
"You never know where life's going to take you," Dreamer told SLAM! Wrestling on Monday. "This is about a celebration, a celebration of the past and a celebration of life. I hope it gives a lot of guys more life out there wrestling, where it shows their faces again. And again, it's just my way of saying thank you to everyone who supported us forever."
One of those who supported Dreamer through the years was his mother-in-law, who died at the end of July, after complications following heart surgery.
It put things into context for Dreamer.
"My mother-in-law just passed away a few days ago. She was 100 per cent fine. The kids were on vacation. She had to go in for an operation, and she never came out," he explained. "To me, it really put perspective on life because we were at an amusement park, we were bowling, we were doing everything, and then the next day you're gone."
Similarly, when asked who he might want to be a part of the hardcore reunion on Sunday, his thoughts turned to lost colleagues.
"I would love to have Louie Spicolli there. I would love to have a lot of guys who have passed there, as opposed to guys who are still around," he said.
While it seems that the TNA Hardcore Justice PPV came together quickly, it had been on Dreamer's mind for a while.
"It's been in the works for me for a long time, and I was just given the opportunity by TNA and Dixie [Carter] -- which I am forever thankful for. Yes, it did come together rapidly. But if you think about how we used to do it back in the day, well, I wouldn't have it any other way, really," he said.
Is it difficult to push a PPV without knowing the matches far in advance?
"That's kind of the route I wanted to take. When we did this, when I did this in 2005 for the WWE, we did the same thing -- we didn't announce any matches, we just let the fans see what happens," Dreamer said. "Kind of that's what we used to do, just go out there. You never know what to expect. That's kind of the motto that we're still going by."
"After I left WWE, I was kind of working on the independents and just listening to what the people said to me, talking about myself and what a lot of the guys did for the business, having the chance to basically say goodbye, getting everyone back together. I equate it to your favourite rock band getting back together for one last show, no politics, no nothing," he said.
"I think it's going to shock a lot of fans to see how the guys look as well as how they can still compete. The guys are really, really excited about it, and I'm really, really happy I was able to get this opportunity to do it."
Dreamer sees a lot of similarities between the Impact Zone and the old ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
"The Impact Zone has a great, great feel to it. I said that when I spoke in my promo. I was there, sitting in the crowd, basically observing," he said. "The energy in that building, at times, I don't think comes across on television. You have to experience it live to truly get what it is. That's how it was in the original ECW. I look at it, and there's a lot of similarities in how I saw it. It kind of reminds me of what I used to do."
When he is not rallying the troops on TV, Dreamer is on the road, hitting the indies, just like he used to.
"When I was working for WWE, that was kind of my job, where I'd find a lot of future stars and I hired so many guys and girls who made major contributions to this business. Some are still working for WWE, some are working for TNA. I gave them their first breaks," Dreamer said.
"I have a list of talent that I have seen that some are 100 per cent television ready. There's another list that could use the developmental system to hone their skills. What's great about it too is I started on the independents and it's a way to give back to the business. When I started I was the unknown kid who was wrestling first or second match, and I was wrestling an unknown guy named Taz and we would tear it up. On those shows in the main events were 'Ravishing' Rick Rude versus The Honky Tonk Man, or Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine versus another guy who was between WCW or WWE.
"Now I'm the main eventer who comes in and helps sell the crowd for the promotion; you're the name value and then there's a bunch of guys and girls who go out there and bust their butts to become bigger stars. That's why I always say you should support, I'm a fan of any type of wrestling. Go out there and support the men and women who are doing it."
He feels pride when his finds -- and his friends -- succeed.
"I loved it when Rey Mysterio won the title in WWE because he was always dubbed the little guy who couldn't do it. Same went for Eddie Guerrero, where they all cut their teeth in the original ECW. Now Rob Van Dam, who held both titles in WWE, now is the TNA champion," he said. "Those are kinds where the little engine that could did it, and how could you not get behind it? Rob Van Dam is still one of the most amazing athletes to this day. He's deceptively large, and still does things that guys his size should not be able to do. He always delivers."
Dreamer has contemplated how much longer he can deliver as well. Sunday will be a major test, both of the drawing power of the old ECW crew and of Dreamer's idea that nostalgia can still sell -- and perform.
"I think this is the preparation for the last hurrah. For me, I still feel I have something to offer," he said, adding that while on the WWE version of ECW, he was usually the "highest-rated guy on that show, main event every time."
"To me that proved that the fans still wanted to see me. This isn't about bashing WWE. This is a business. It worked out for them with the whole Nexus angle, and I'm happy those guys are getting that opportunity to go out there and showcase their skills on a national level. Even now, the last TNA Impact was the highest-rated Impact since we moved back to Thursday nights. To me, I'm so happy that people still want to see me. For TV executives, ratings mean a lot, and if I can still contribute, and still go in the ring, that's what I want people to do. I do have pride, and I don't want to be a shell of myself. I feel I'm probably in the best shape of my life. I'm 39 years old and am going to continue doing this for as long as I can."
Chatting with Tommy Dreamer almost completes Greg Oliver's ECW (original version) World champion list. Anybody know where to reach Johnny Hotbody? Greg can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.