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Dreamer 'good nervous' over House of Hardcore debut
By JAN MURPHY - Kingston Whig-Standard





Tommy Dreamer has been kicked, punched, assaulted with everything from kendo sticks to garbage can lids, cut, concussed, thrown through tables ... but all of this physical punishment may pale in comparison to getting his own promotion, House of Hardcore, off the ground. If nothing else, it has certainly prepared him for it.

Just days before the promotion's inaugural show, Dreamer admits to having butterflies.

"I'm feeling, I guess apprehension ... nervousness," he said over the phone. "It's a good type of nervousness. The show has definitely caught a buzz (in) the wrestling industry. I look forward to it happening ... as well as ending. I really just need to get the show done with."

His reasons for wanting the show to be behind him are as much personal as they are professional.

"As you know, I've had a lot of personal issues, with my mom's health -- with her suffering a brain hemorrhage -- my dog getting diagnosed with an enlarged heart ... as of last night he had emergency surgery, he had bloat," said Dreamer, who writes a regular column for this very paper. "(Veterinarians) basically opened him up and had to re-rotate his stomach. I never knew that bloat was the second-leading killer in dogs next to cancer. He's a 10-year-old bulldog; he's your family member, you love him to death."

Anyone who follows the ECW legend on Twitter will know how much Dreamer loves his pets. There is nothing he won't do for them.

"We're at $6,000 right now and that was just for bringing him in, the surgery and he's going to have to be at the place for the next two or three days," Dreamer said of the vet bill. "I'm thinking at least $10,000, but you can't put a price tag on (the life of) someone that you love."

Putting a price tag on things has been a regular occurrance in the Dreamer household of late.

"I've had to put a price tag on all of (the) wrestlers I love as well," he offered, saying that he is responsible for everything from making sure flights for the House of Hardcore talent are booked and paid for, hotels are looked after and more.

And what talent.

The show features such household names as Dreamer himself, Adam Copeland, better known by his WWE moniker Edge, Rhino, Carlos Colon, Big Daddy V, The Steiners, the Young Bucks and The Sandman, to name a few.

"One of the greatest tag teams I've ever seen is the Young Bucks," Dreamer declared. "They're amazing and they're young; they're in their 20s. They are every bit as amazing as I've ever seen any two people -- they remind of The Rockers back in the day, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty -- they're just so good. They're veterans at such an early age. To have them wrestle Paul London and Brian Kendrick, that to me is a dream match.

"Then you take somebody who has been around a long time, but isn't old -- like Rhino -- and put him in the ring against Sami Callihan, who I myself have faced and Sami Callihan is the next big star in this business, all he needs is a break and an opportunity. His in-ring work is amazing and he's not a household name, but after this night, I hope he is."

And then there is his good friend, Copeland, a WWE hall of famer whose in-ring career was cut short by neck injuries. So close to Dreamer is Copeland, in fact, that he delayed neck surgery to help his friend with his debut gig.

"He literally cancelled neck surgery," Dreamer said. "He needs another neck surgery, (after which) he's going to be laid up. They wanted him to have it sooner. When I asked him to do (the show), he was like ‘no problem,' Dreamer said, adding Copeland realized the conflict when Dreamer told him the date of his show.

"He's having (a loss of) strength in his hands, all that stuff, (but) he was like ‘you know what, I'm more than happy to be there.' "

Copeland is willing to do whatever he can for his friend -- even having joined Twitter, something he was adamant he would never do.

"He's like ‘hey, I want to help out in the back, and if you need me to do something in the ring, I physically know I can't do it, but if you want me to go out there, cut a promo, whatever you need, hell yeah.' "

Having Copeland, who won 31 championships in his illustrious WWE career, at his show is significant, Dreamer says.

"The guy just helped the television show Haven get its highest-ever rating," he said. "He just was on SmackDown!. WWE wants him to come back, he has a good relationship with them, but he's just not under contract with them. And that's kind of how he wants to live his life right now. To have him at the show, in any capacity, is awesome.

"To me, he is the headliner. This is the first, and probably only, appearance of his career outside the WWE. I mean, he started in WWE, pretty much. He worked some Canadian indies, but once he was in WWE ... he really has just done WWE stuff. This really is his only non-WWE appearance of his career and it's really cool to have it for my show."

Securing talent for his show has been the least of Dreamer's problems.

"I've even had guys who aren't on the show, my friends, they were just like ‘hey, if you need me, just let me know. Bubba Ray Dudley -- he works for TNA -- and Devon Dudley, were like ‘hey, if you need us, let us know. If you want us to get back together just for your show, we'll definitely do that.'

"I'm blessed with having so many friends in this business. And for whatever adversity comes my way, I always get my spirits lifted and/or something else good comes out of it."

Dreamer had to secure a second wrestling ring after his first ring guy took another booking.

"He wasn't sure he was working my show because I'm doing this in co-ordination with the promoter from FWE (Family Wrestling Entertainment), his name is Jordan Schneider," Dreamer said. "FWE is the promoter of this show. Without them, this show would never have happened."

The show is set for Oct. 6 at the Mid-Hudson Civic Centre, which will house 2,050 for a wrestling event. What then, are Dreamer's hopes?

"I'm hoping for 2,050," he said, matter-of-factly. "That, to me, is what I consider a success. If I have 2,000, I won't really harp on it. But if I had 10 fans, and they went home happy, I would be financially upset, but emotionally happy."

While sales are doing "very, very well," and the venue brass are happy, Dreamer remains all business.

"I'm kind of a perfectionist," he said. "I go about business as if every single show is my WrestleMania ... every single show has to be sold out. That's been my mantra forever."

House of Hardcore came to be thanks in large part to a couple of Poughkeepsie-area wrestlers, Vik Dalishus and Hale Collins, who formed a tag-team known as The Now.

"They were very, very influential in the Poughkeepsie area," Dreamer said, adding the duo approached him about helping them establish a wrestling school, which he agreed to.

"I said yes, but if my name is attached to it, I will be there and I will be there hands on," he said.

Together, they searched for a building to house the school.

"We had a building and the building wasn't zoned for business," Dreamer said. "It was zoned residential."

As it turned out, all three had a mutual friend.

"I know the guy who runs the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, and he's friends with those two kids," Dreamer added. "He was like ‘hey, would you want to do your school here?' And I was like ‘uh, yeah, where do I sign up?' "

The only request building management had in exchange for housing the school was that Dreamer and company run a show there.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least it will be.

"It's been an amazing, wild ride," Dreamer said, reflecting on his journey. "You have your ups and your downs. You have to deal with different problems as they come your way. But that's kind of how life is.

"That's how I led my life for so many years in ECW when you didn't know where your problems were coming from, if it's dealing with the state athletic commission or someone's trying to take your building, or WCW trying to ruin your show, or WWF at the time trying to sabotage your talent. That's how the wrestling business, sadly, was for so many years. Now it's changed. You still have some of your problems, but they're not as bad."

Even though the inaugural House of Hardcore show has yet to happen, Dreamer is torn on whether another show lies in his future.

"It's 50/50," he said, before softening slightly. "It's a lot more aggravation than I remember. It's a large financial risk ... I look at it like if it does well, I will definitely invest in another show, he said, adding that if there is a second show, it may have to take place elsewhere.

"I do feel the New York market will be kind of dried up. (WWE) has WrestleMania coming here and (there are) so many other wrestling promotions running around at the same time. I just think if you're a fan, (you're thinking): ‘OK if I'm going to spend my money on wrestling, am I going to invest it in an independent company, even though it's a loaded show, or am I going to go to WrestleMania?' I think most fans would go to WrestleMania. I think the New York area would be kind of tapped out until at least next October."

Dreamer admitted that while no follow-up show is in the immediate works, it is not off the table, adding that he and FWE's Schneider are working on long-term plans.

The single most important thing for Dreamer, though, when it comes to House of Hardcore is the fans. They are the reason he undertook this project.

"I said this before, I feel professional wrestling is the greatest form of entertainment out there. It's better than live theatre because of the physicality. It's better than a movie because you can yell and scream at the people on the big screen, but they don't yell back. In wrestling, the wrestlers can.

"I want the best show I've ever put on. I want (fans) to leave there saying I got my money's worth, ‘wow, what a great, amazing show,' ‘what a great, amazing moment I was able to be a part of.' "

He wants fans to leave his show with the kind of memories he left shows with when he was a boy.

"I have so many great wrestling memories, with my dad, who's no longer with me," he said of his late father. "I remember my first time ... touching Bob Backlund's hand when I was a kid. I remember my dad and I jumping up and down watching Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat in New Jersey at the Meadowlands ... I want people to have that type of time or that memory ...

I'm betting they do.

TOMMY DREAMER LINKS

  • Sep. 22, 2012: Lead-up to debut show has seen its share of drama
  • House of Hardcore website
  • Tommy Dreamer bio and story archive
  • Tommy Dreamer column archive
  • thetommydreamer.com

    Jan Murphy is the news editor at the Kingston Whig-Standard and has written about wrestling for 15 years.