Five countries in four weeks is hardly fake
TOMMY DREAMER - For SLAM! Wrestling
I am still amazed in this day and age that I still get asked — or told — that what I do for a living isn’t real … that it’s fake.
Yes, the outcomes are predetermined, but I feel most people cannot comprehend the physicality it takes to perform the feats that they see during matches or on TV so they assume it’s fake. They also cannot grasp the commitment it takes to endure the lifestyle of a professional wrestler. But rather than get angry at such ignorance, I prefer to educate.
My own life, for example, has been incredibly hectic in the weeks since living through hurricane Sandy. Consider:
• I flew to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, where I wrestled that day and then back home the same day.
• The next day, I drove to an event some 100 miles (160 km for my Canadian friends) away and back that same night.
• After a few days off, I received my Japanese visa, which I need in order to go wrestle there (more on that later and in future columns). I travelled to the Japanese consulate in New York City the next day to get it approved. There, I was told that it takes four days to get it approved and that I was required to leave my passport with them. That couldn’t happen as I was scheduled to fly to Holland the next day to wrestle, and I couldn’t leave the country without my passport.
• Once home, I engaged in a series of email exchanges with my contact in Japan to rectify the problems.
• I then flew to Holland. I was awake for the entire seven-hour trip. After I cleared customs, I waited for two other wrestlers to arrive and we then went for breakfast. After I finally arrived at the hotel, I had been up 24 straight hours, if you count the time difference. I proceeded to fall asleep (during the daylight hours), naturally, woke up in the middle of the night — wide awake. Eventually, I managed one more hour of sleep before leaving for the event, where I participated in a meet-and-greet with fans, then travelled to the wrestling event itself. There, I had a really good match. It’s nice to wrestle someone who has a different style and whom I’ve never faced before. I left the show around midnight, headed for the hotel, packed up and caught a few hours of sleep before heading to airport for 5:30 a.m. Following the usual airport issues — lineups, customs, etc. — I departed for the eight-hour flight home.
• After arriving in New York City and enduring the usual New York traffic, I arrived home 11 hours later. That night was spent working out, paying bills, returning phone calls and text messages ... trying to be a normal person.
• The next day, I did a media and speaking tour in my hometown to promote a wrestling event in my local area to raise money for a school fundraiser (I wish they had something like this when I was at school; the best fundraiser we ever had was a soup drive and bake sale … lame). I appeared at six schools between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., then drove into Manhattan to the Japanese consulate to retrieve my visa for my trip to Japan.
• After getting all the paperwork done, including leaving my passport with them, they tell me to come back the next day. The Japanese company that hired me told officials at the consulate the urgency of the matter, so I was spared the usual wait.
• I went home, did some laundry, went to the gym, and spent the evening being a father. That night, I couldn’t sleep due to jet lag, so spent most of the night awake. I packed for my Japan trip, hoping I would get my visa without issues. If I didn’t get it, besides the monetary financial loss I would incur, thousands of wrestling fans would be disappointed and the company that hired me would face financial losses and a hit to its reputation. I wouldn’t risk trying to enter the country on a pleasure trip. That would raise red flags and I didn’t want to fly 13 hours only to be detained by customs and then deported and sent back on a 13-hour flight home.
On a side note, I have had eight passports filled with extra pages added in my lifetime. I normally have two working passports at one time, but one recently expired. Unless you’re working for WWE, it is hard to carry two passports at one time. A passport is valid for 10 years. To put it in perspective, my non-wrestling friends have had one or two passports in their entire lifetimes. But I digress.
• I awoke after about two hours of sleep, spent some time with my daughters, then planned to drive to New York City in morning rush-hour traffic to be at the Japanese consulate for 9:30 a.m. when it opened. The plan then was to drive to JFK airport, where my flight was scheduled to leave at 12:45 p.m. For an international flight, passengers are required to arrive two hours beforehand. You do the math. My planning meant I had precisely an hour and 15 minutes to accomplish all of this. Distance-wise, the consulate and airport aren’t far. But when you take into account New York City traffic, it’s a nightmare.
• I set out for the consulate at 8:15 a.m., and arrived at 9:25. Naturally, there was a lineup. Apparently a bunch of people also needed visas for future travel. My “future travel” was hours away. I got my visa, which really is a miracle considering that even the mighty WWE has to wait about three days to get them. I rushed to the airport, dodging New York City buses and taxi cabs, and arrived at the airport at 10:50. I was starved, having been up five hours and only having a protein shake up to that point, so I grabbed the breakfast of airport champions — McDonald’s (beggars can’t be choosers). I endured a 13-hour flight, in which I didn’t sleep a wink, instead watching six movies.
• I cleared customs and endured a three-hour bus trip to my hotel, where I finally got some rest.
• A press conference the next morning kicked off an eight-day tour, which opened with an eight-hour bus ride, a fanfest appearance, wrestling an opponent who spoke zero English and wrestled a different style.
Are you sensing a pattern here? I will get to my Japanese tour in next week’s column, after I arrive home on Thursday, fly right back on Friday and Saturday, am back home until the following Thursday, when I participate in that aforementioned cool fundraiser, which is 10 minutes from my house. Time to relax, right? Not quite. I then have to drive six hours on Friday to Altoona, Pa., six hours back, then detour an hour to Connecticut, then drive the hour back home, leave the next day at 6 a.m. to perform at a show in Puerto Rico on that Sunday. I then fly home again on Monday.
So that’s Canada, the United States, Holland, Japan, U.S., Puerto Rico — in a span of four weeks. If I were still with WWE, you could multiply my schedule by five.
On another side note, I was told by a back specialist that some of the worst things for someone with back troubles to do are driving in a car, sitting in an airplane and sleeping. Check, check and check. That doesn’t even take into account getting thrown on my back more times than I can count and the extreme wear and tear I have endured fighting for 23 years of my life. This is the life of a pro wrestler. We do this for the love of the business, to entertain the people and to be able to make a living for ourselves and our families. My recent travel schedule would take its toll any normal person.
Fake? I don’t think so.
Thanks for reading.
House of Hardcore website
Tommy Dreamer bio and story archive
Tommy Dreamer column archive
TOMMY DREAMER LINKS
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. His column appears in the Kingston Whig-Standard and on SLAM! Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER and check out his website at thetommydreamer.com. He can be booked for live appearances through his website. Check out his new, custom-designed T-shirts and merchandise on his website as well.