Tommy Dreamer about to ring Carlito’s bell – Photo Credit: www.thewhig.com
The legendary Judy Garland once famously uttered "there's no place like home."
A more appropriate phrase cannot be found to describe what will happen next month when another legend, Tommy Dreamer, takes his House of Hardcore brainchild to his wrestling home.
"I've always said I was born into this world Thomas Laughlin, but Tommy Dreamer was created in Philly," said the always humble Dreamer over the phone when asked about the locale for his sophomore show, which will take place on June 22 in the City of Brotherly Love.
"I said if the first show was successful, which it was thank God, that I would always want to do a second one and Philly, being a place a where Tommy Dreamer pretty much was born, that's kind of where I want to do it."
This show, Dreamer says, is for his Philly fans.
"The fans have always been loyal to me, dedicated to me and I want to pay them back the only way I know how, which is giving them a kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall show," he said, adding the fans have so far rewarded his faith in them with solid pre-sales.
"I'm hoping to have a sellout," Dreamer said. "I will be very, very disappointed if not, because I think the card is loaded."
Dreamer debuted his House of Hardcore last October in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., another town known for its appreciation for pro wrestling. The sold-out show exceeded even Dreamer's wildest dreams, prompting an encore.
Like the inaugural show, the emphasis of the show will be on the wrestling matches themselves.
"I kind of went a little different route (with) this one, just (with) announcing more matches," he said. "Just looking at the matches that I have already announced, I know me, as a fan, I would pay to see it, so hopefully the Philly fans want to see it too."
Oh, those famous Philly fans.
"It's a tough market," Dreamer admitted, referencing the famous song New York New York — "New York, if you can make here, you can make it anywhere — in wrestling, it's if you can make it in Philly, you can make it anywhere."
Dreamer knows and respects Philly's famously fickle fans.
"They'll let you know if they agree or disagree with you ,and not just in wrestling, but in any sport in town. They've booed Santa Claus, they'll boo if their team is bad. They're an amazing city for their undying support, but they also know if people aren't living up to expectations or not playing well, they let you know it, which is how it should be."
Not surprisingly, that adds a bit of pressure, Dreamer admitted.
"I feel pressure to perform in front of Philly, moreso than even the first show because it's Philly and again, I have a special bond there."
For his part, Dreamer will face his old ECW nemesis, Canadian star Lance Storm. The show also features a couple of legends in the Nature Boy Ric Flair and hardcore god Terry Funk.
"Ric Flair, I worshipped him as a kid," Dreamer said. "Being a wrestler, I have a really close relationship with him. Terry Funk is another person who helped create Tommy Dreamer and, to me, it's a great way to help give back to the people who have helped me in the business."
Also on the card are former WWE superstars John Morrison, Carlito Colon, Too Cold Scorpio, the Steiner Brothers, Rosita, MVP, Crowbar, Tony Nese, Petey Williams, Alex Reynolds, The Young Bucks, Brian Kendrick, Paul London and others.
Not appearing this time around, much to Dreamer's chagrin, are his close friends Adam (Edge) Copeland and the manbeast known as Rhino, both of whom had scheduling conflicts.
"I would use Edge on every one of my shows, but he's busy filming the television show Haven. I wanted Rhino on this show, but (he) was unavailable … He's actually officially the first person I fired from my company," he joked, never missing an opportunity to zing one of his buddies.
"I love him, I was mad that he's not on the show."
Every single guy on this show has played a part in Dreamer's career.
"Everybody on this show I have some sort of connection to," Dreamer said. "That's kind of how it all came together. John Morrison, I wanted him on the first show, but he couldn't do it," Dreamer said, adding he's glad he Morrison locked up for the sequel.
"That's the beauty of the business, there's always someone else there."
Not everyone on the card is a household name, Dreamer said … at least not yet.
"You look at, I don't want to say they're unknowns, but they're unknowns to the mass population … someone like an Alex Reynolds, who I see the world in, as well as a Sami Callihan, as well as Tony Nese. Tony Nese and Alex Reynolds I felt was an amazing match that really, really picked up the flow of the first show. I wanted to almost do a rematch, but I have The Young Bucks versus (Brian) Kendrick and (Paul) London and they had a match where I didn't even know who was going to win going out there and they just tore it up.
"That's a match where you advertise that as a rematch, because it's that good. I think Nese and Reynolds, at the first show, was amazing and now I'm adding Petey Williams. To me, that could be a show stealer right there. It is going to be a different card, I am bringing some guys back from the first show."
What: Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore 2. Where: National Guard Armory, 2700 Southampton Rd., Philadelphia, Pa., 19154 (free parking). When: Saturday, June 22. Belltime: 7:30 p.m. Featuring: Ric Flair, Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk, Lance Storm, John Morrison, Too Cold Scorpio, The Young Bucks, Brian Kendrick and Paul London, Tony Nese, Petey Williams, Alex Reynolds, The Steiner Brothers, Carlito Colon, MVP, Maria Kanellis, Mike Bennett, Rosita, Crowbar and others. Tickets: $25-$45. Online: www.houseofhardcore.net
For his part, Dreamer can't wait to climb into the ring with his old foe Storm.
"Me and Lance had a great feud in the original ECW," he said. "He's just one of those guys that I just love going out there and wrestling with. He is so talented in the ring. I asked him who he wanted to work and he's like 'you,' and I was like 'OK, perfect.' He's graceful. He can do it all. I look forward to our deal, especially with our history in the Philadelphia area, and just history with him and I, feud-wise. I really look forward to it."
His praise for Storm, who these days spends much of his time training the next generation of wrestlers, didn't end there.
"Technically, he can do it all," Dreamer said. "He also has a wrestling school up (in Calgary). He's a great trainer. Him and I, after he left in-ring and I was working for WWE and running the developmental systems and I was hiring a lot of the guys who are on television today, Lance was the one who was training them. Lance helped train John Morrison. He helped train Carlito, even though Carlito was second generation. In the developmental system, there are a lot of guys who Lance has contributed to the business to behind the scenes that a lot of people don't know about."
Not unlike the man on the other end of the phone.
Get ready, Philly, Tommy Dreamer is coming home.
House of Hardcore 2 takes place at the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia. For tickets, and details, go to the House of Hardcore website.
Jan Murphy is the news editor at the Kingston Whig-Standard and has written about wrestling for 15 years. He recently launched Chinlock.com to archive his wrestling stories, and this is his first original interview for it. You can follow Jan on Twitter at @Jan_Murphy.