Tommy Dreamer is one of the most hardcore superstars in the history of the wrestling business. Revelling in the nickname ‘The Innovator of Violence’, he is a man who can’t even look at a steel chair or piece of barbed wire without imagining how it would appear wrapped around his opponent’s skull.
He’s also not one to let something lie – he’s been feuding with fellow hardcore grappler Raven for 15 years! Tommy was one of the founders and most famous stars in Extreme Championship Wrestling – enjoying bloody matches and rivalries that took the grap game by storm in the 1990s.
Now – nine years after ECW went out of business and five after WWE started a failed attempt to revive it – Tommy Dreamer put on a one night reunion show with TNA. TNA HardCORE Justice – written entirely by Dreamer and starring Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Mick Foley – was aired live on the Extreme Sports Channel (Sky 419 and Virgin 527).
Below, in an Extreme chat with Sport.co.uk, he talks about his bloody ECW highlights, dream TNA bouts and the promises that WWE broke.
You began wrestling for ECW in 1992, back when it was simply Eastern Championship Wrestling, what were your first thoughts on the organisation when you joined?
I remember it was really small, there were probable 34 people at the first show and we just kept on building up and it became something really special.
Through a lot of hard work from the men and women working for the company, it grew to proportions that it has today. It was an amazing time of my life and I truly loved it.
What was the secret to ECW’s success?
The word hardcore has been taken out of context when it comes to ECW.
A lot of people just think it is all weapons and chairs with ladders and tables. Basically it was just a style of no matter what, going out there and putting it on the line in front of the audience.
You go all out in your wrestling match. ECW had the greatest wrestlers – Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio and all those guys were a huge part of the growth of the company.
From the Raven/Dreamer feud to the wrestling matches to all the spectacular things you saw that is part of hardcore wrestling, not just going out there with violence - it was just so far ahead of it time.
What were your thoughts when ECW wrestlers started being poached by the then ‘Big Two’ of WCW and WWE?
At the time, when it first happened, I was happy for them because this is also a business and they were being offered a lot more money to do what they do.
But at the same time when they were getting offers, it was hurting the company and I was torn because they were my friends but from a business standpoint it hurt.
But that was the beauty of the original ECW. If someone left it was up to someone else to step up.
For example when the Dudleys left in 1999 to go to WWE they were replaced by the Impact Players.
The next guy was always in place, if somebody left great, it would open the door for someone else to move up as well as someone else to come into the company.
You had some great feuds during your time in ECW with Sandman and Raven. If you had to pinpoint one match as the highlight of your career, which match would it be?
That’s a really hard one. I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was nine-years-old. I love every match that I have. I have had some great matches and such defining moments in my career, to only pick out one is so hard.
There are a few that stand out, me versus Brain Lee in a scaffold match and against C.W Anderson in an I Quit match. I have had so many great matches.
I am a fan still living his dream.
Dreamer takes on Raven in another classic encounter
If you could have your dream match, whom would it be against and what type of match would it be?
I have had a lot of matches in my head that I have wanted to do here in TNA. I would love to wrestle Soma Joe and AJ Styles. I would love to go one on one with Ric Flair.
I can’t just pick one person.
Was there ever a match back in ECW that was deemed to hardcore for the fans or had to be pulled due to safety issues?
We had the match with Sabu taking on Terry Funk, at Born To Be Wired, which as the name suggests was a barbed wire match.
Sabu ripped his arm off and need 140 stitches – that was pretty brutal, but we let anything go back in the day.
When you first came to the WWE you were involved in the Invasion angle. Were you pleased with the way that angle went?
Yes very much so! Because it totally shocked the world yet again and that is what I was used to doing.
At the time the WWE needed ECW’s help because the WCW Invasion part was a flop, so we were there to save the day again.
Good old ECW!
WWE first paid tribute to ECW in 2005 with the One Night Stand PPV, which was a highlight. Do you think it should have stopped before the second One Night Stand event and eventually the ECW television programme?
I was very happy with the first one, I wrote the whole show and was very excited about it. Then when it drew the millions of dollars for WWE, I was very excited and they said they were going to bring it back.
In the second year we were going forward and I was excited again, but this is what prompted my decision to leave WWE – a lot of guys were promised a lot in the beginning but it didn’t materialise.
It left a sour taste in the fans’ mouth of what they did to the legacy of the company and it wasn’t what it was supposed to be.
What is your role going to be with TNA now, going forward?
My going forward in all of this is that if I can help TNA in any way possible – and whether that’s on camera or behind the scenes – I will do that because that is what I have been doing since I came into the business and it is a way of giving back.
Dreamer with TNA owner Dixie Carter - "A lot better looking than Vince"
With that being said who has caught your eye on the TNA roster?
The Motor City Machine Guns and Beer Money are putting on some of my favourite tag team matches right now. The roster is so deep with so many talented guys as well as great veterans.
You are good friends with former ECW owner and legendary wrestling booker Paul Heyman on camera and off camera. There has been a lot said regarding Paul coming to TNA recently. Can you reveal anything?
I have spoken to Paul – I heard from him on the Saturday and Sunday before the PPV. If Paul chooses to come to TNA he will be an asset.
What can we expect from TNA in the years to come?
At the Hardcore Justice PPV we had to turn away over 1,000 fans, which is a good sign when you have to turn people away from your events.
Plus we have seen ratings increases in the US and UK recently.
It is part of my plan and goal to put TNA on the map more than it is, in the sense that this is the must watch TV.
The IMPACT! After the PPV is probably one of the best IMPACT! Taping I have ever seen and the fans were chanting “Best Show Ever”.
Finally, what are your thoughts on your two most recent bosses – WWE’s Vince McMahon and TNA’s Dixie Carter?
Beside my own father, Vince has probably been the most influential man in my life.
That’s because since I was nine-years-old this is all I have wanted to do.
I have a great relationship with Vince. He asked me not to leave WWE and he gave me a great send off for leaving the ECW television show. I have nothing but respect and admire Vince a lot.
As for Dixie, she has been beyond great. When I see her I just want to hug her every time just because she is so nice.
She’s a businesswoman but she is like my sister in the sense of she is so warm and caring. She goes out of her way for everybody.
And Dixie is a lot better looking than Vince – he’s got a great body but she is smokin’ hot!
The stars of TNA are coming to the UK for the Maximum iMPACT! 2011 Tour in Glasgow (Thursday January 27), Manchester (January 28) and London (January 29). For more information go to tnawrestling.com