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Dream continues for Tommy Dreamer
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun


Tommy Dreamer acknowledges the crowd at TNA Turning Point. Courtesy TNAwrestling.com.

Thirty years ago, nine-year-old Thomas Laughlin was kicking back, ready to sit with his dad and watch his New York Rangers on TV -- in Montreal to play the Canadiens.

Turns out a winter storm in Montreal meant the game wasn't available on TV.

So the dial was turned and they settled on wrestling. It was Bob Backlund vs. Bulldog Brower. He was hooked. And the dream began -- the dream that turned into the character of Tommy Dreamer. The dream that helped shape the legend of hardcore wrestling.

"I was hooked from that moment," says Dreamer. "Bob Backlund was this clean-cut guy. But Bulldog Brower was a crazy maniac, throwing chairs. I was big into comics, but these superheroes were real people."

And 10 years later, when he was getting his start, he came up with the moniker, Tommy Dreamer.

"It was kind of a tribute to (The American Dream) Dusty Rhodes," says Dreamer. But it was my dream to be a professional wrestler. All the stars kind of aligned."

When Dreamer travels to Montreal on Dec. 11, at 8 p.m., at the CWR Arena (4372 Boul. des Grandes Prairies, Saint-Leonard), he will compete in a Great North Wrestling eight-match card. He will take on Hannibal, who beat Abdullah the Butcher in a retirement match, broke Terry Funk's ear drum, and is now looking to take out Dreamer. Check out www.greatnorthwrestling.com for more details.

Hannibal will have his work cut out for him. As an ECW icon, Dreamer became the Innovator of Violence.

There have been harrowing moments.

"One time, we used tape to tie a towel to a flaming chair. Well, the fire melted the tape so it was the towel that was really on fire, not the chair. And you have the towel on top of you."

Has he ever been challenged to prove how violent he really is?

"In the original ECW, we had riots. We'd get challenged. And we dropped a lot of dudes.

"I get psyched up by the crowd. I've broken so many body parts and still continued to wrestle. I wrestled for four months with a broken neck and didn't know it. I wrestled Canada's Lance Storm in a pay-per-view. After he pinned me, I couldn't get up."

After time in WWE, he signed on with TNA and he's having a blast.

"A big reason why I left (WWE) is that I felt I had more to contribute. I wanted to prove my worth. (In TNA, I have a lot of creative input," said Dreamer. "I want to help in every way possible. Part of the deal with coming to TNA, (Dixie Carter) gave me complete autonomy.

TNA is showing the world that you need guys who have won championships, combined with a lot of youth. It gave them possibilities for a lot of cool dream matchups. (Imagine) Wayne Gretzky vs. Sidney Crosby."

He's impressed with the talent.

"The wrestlers do things with their bodies and they don't use chairs. Generation Me ... The Motor City Machine Guns. I watch their matches and sit and say, 'how do you do that?' TNA reminded me of the original ECW ... A lot of people working for a common cause. The WWE machine is very strong. But you can't knock their success."

In WWE's Becel version of ECW, Dreamer put up the numbers. Ratings showed he was the show's most popular character. But it didn't matter much. WWE decided to squash the product and shelve the name.

"I heard about it before it happened. It is what it is. I had some great times," said Dreamer. "They were dead-set on getting rid of ECW."

With Dreamer, there is no in between, he's all-in every night. And he still feels an attachment to ECW, which he says was a bit misunderstood.

"Some guys phone it in. Other guys go balls to the wall. That to me is hardcore wrestling. I want to be remembered as the guy who gives 100% every time out there. It doesn't matter if it's in front of 13 fans (or thousands). I have the saying: 'I wrestle every single match like it's going to be my last ... because it could be.'

"People thought (ECW) was all about violence. At the time, WWE and WCW were all about characters, so we were about blood and violence. They became more edgy, so we brought in Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, luchadores. (We were different.) Hardcore wrestling is somebody going out there and doing anything he can to entertain the fans."

Fans have taken to his work ethic.

"I've been a good guy my whole career," said Dreamer. "Fans can relate to me. I'm not the biggest guy, I'm not the smallest guy. But I am a working-class guy."

Dreamer said wrestling has evolved so that in many cases fans have a preconceived notion about how they will react.

"It's a lot easier to hate a new character, say a guy like Alberto del Rio, when the WWE machine makes people hate you," said Dreamer. "They tell you he's richer than you, he's better than you ... and you hate him."

Dreamer is looking forward to being in Montreal, to being in Canada.

"Canadian fans are more rowdy and still, more respectful," he said. "Canada is so deep and rich in wrestling history, the crowds are just amped up."

And while he's happy in his skin, content with what's he's doing, he says he'll know when it's time to go away.

"I see some guys hanging on way past their prime," said Dreamer. "But I look at Ric Flair and he's still having amazing matches. And I remember what Terry Funk did in ECW when he was in his 50s ... He was still doing moonsaults into the crowd."

RELATED LINKS

  • Hannibal cuts a promo on Tommy Dreamer on YouTube
  • Tommy Dreamer bio and story archive

    Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.baines@sunmedia.ca.