“No Politics, No BS, Just Wrestling,” is the mantra of ECW legend Tommy Dreamer’s wrestling promotion, House of Hardcore. But there was something more powerful in the air when Tommy came to town.
Dreamer envisaged a wrestling promotion for wrestling fans, one that would capture the spirit of ECW. Born out of Poughkeepsie, New York in 2012, House of Hardcore took that passion all around the US, and eventually, brought it Down Under to Melbourne, Australia in 2016. This time round, with the help of Aussie All Pro Events, Dreamer and an A-list line-up of international and local luminaries took over Australian shores.
With an offering of VIP meet-and-greet packages, a live sit in on Colt Cabana’s podcast plus a panel of superstar wrestlers, House of Hardcore are always intent on delivering the best possible fan experience, bringing the tour to Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
1200 strong attended the Sydney Showground, to see the Young Bucks fight in the main event against Tommy Dreamer and Billy Gunn. Madison Eagles took on Shazza McKenzie – two stars who have represented Australia all around the world, from Shimmer and Shine, to the east in Japan, and beyond – sending Twitter into overdrive.
— Desiree (@rabbitohslover) June 17, 2017
— Ricky South (@TSRickySouth) June 17, 2017
— Brock Devlin (@BSAB_Presents) June 17, 2017
— Diane (@BubbzTheAwesome) June 17, 2017
The much-anticipated return of House of Hardcore to the Whitehorse Club in Burwood, Melbourne, lived up to hype. The glossy sprung floor was lined with row after row of plastic chairs, yet an overflow of patrons happily filled the space between the last row and the bar to get a glimpse of the action. Here, in this modest social club off the Burwood Highway, 20 kilometres from the city centre, former WWE Superstars, international headliners, indie darlings, and Melbourne’s finest, performed for a sold-out crowd.
It wouldn’t be fair to call the first half of the night the undercard – With an all-star array of independent performers, and Melbourne’s loved and loathed locals going head-to-head, the Burwood crowd were routinely on their feet in appreciation. Whether it was cheers and boos, or the Spirit Squad learning the hard way that the only word Australians can spell is “wanker”, there was rarely a dull moment. The crowd were seemingly in awe, an air of gratitude for this hidden gem simmering from the start.
Colt Cabana’s curtain jerker with Ryan Nemeth (Also known as Briley Pierce in NXT) seemed to set the tone for the rest of the night – There were laughs and frequent pauses, as wrestlers took their time to feel the room. It was as if everyone had let their guard down for the night.
Billy Gunn had a case of the giggles, as he larked about with Bull James (also known as Bull Dempsey in NXT). The Ass Man yielded to a few age jokes at his own expense, despite it being clear that the 53-year-old was in better shape than most in the crowd. He was simply radiant. Nevertheless, with a Carlton Draught beer in hand, we salute you, Billy. The match was a great show of respect from both men, and honestly presented as though they were having as much fun as the fans.
The night featured a piece of everything that wrestling promises. With a surplus of caricature and comedy all-round, there were fleeting feats of outlandish athleticism. Mark Cometti, the ’Outback Silverback’, asserted his dominance against the Might Cadman, and Matt Cross (Lucha Underground’s Son of Havoc) took to the skies, defeating local Irishman Andy Phoenix in style. But Phoenix wasn’t the only Irishman on the card, with Swoggle (WWE’s Hornswoggle) delivering a frog splash direct to Mohamed Ali Vaez for the win. Carlito even followed up his cameo in GLOW, with a short but nonetheless soul-nourishing appearance.
— Russell Wilkinson (@RussWWilkinson) June 24, 2017
— Michael Henderbutt (@toaster_oven_FC) June 23, 2017
The mood was slightly jarring for the Spirit Squad (Kenny and Mikey) taking on Melbourne’s own Mike Burr and KrackerJak. Maybe it was because ‘the Squad’ had been billed as former WWE tag team champions, albeit true, a heat-inducing ‘Surprise open challenge’. Maybe it was the stretched build to the bell and absence of gore, the referee confiscating an arsenal of foreign objects in both corners. However, KrackerJak finally put his trusty staple gun to good use, in what I guess you could call a low blow to Mikey. The local boys sent the Squad backstage with their tails between their legs, and order had been restored.
Finally, the main event: Tommy Dreamer vs MVP vs Jack Hager (WWE’s Jack Swagger) in a Hardcore Rules Triple Threat. A.K.A. this writer’s childhood come to life. I stopped to soak in the sounds of “ECW” chants, wrapped in the fluorescent stage lights. Three larger-than-life icons, battered and grizzly as they may have been, enriched the ring in this hall an hour from my home. It was out of this world.
There were sighs of discontent by the matches finish, in the lack of ‘hardcore’ spots throughout the evening – Maybe the promotion’s name had been a little misleading for some. But as Tommy himself wrote, “Hardcore isn’t about blood, barbed wire and tables. It was always and will always be about a competitor giving everything they have physically, mentally, emotionally in their match. It is about the passion of what you do, what you give of yourself in the ring. Hardcore is about giving your heart and soul to the fans. That is the backbone of what House of Hardcore is about.”
For every chair shot and ladder bump, there was an infinite show of praise for the spectacle. At the end of their match, Dreamer acknowledged the crew and his fellow performers, and there was a sentiment of respect that invited everyone in the room into this special moment, wrestling fan to wrestling fan.
Only in a fan’s fantasy could ‘old-timers’ and ‘legends’ share a ring with the stars of today and tomorrow. House of Hardcore is a fan’s fantasy come true. It celebrates the legacy of WWE alumni who had, as MVP so eloquently articulated, “Wished them the best with their future endeavours.” It rewards smarks with the aces of the underground. It gives local talent the lift it deserves. In reality, it shouldn’t work. But here, in this beautiful fusion of worlds, everything seems to fall into place.
“I have the ECW arena, and I have Melbourne, Australia,” Tommy delivered a rousing speech to his loyal Melbournian fans, many of whom had travelled from all corners of the city to be here on this night. The independent wrestling scene is enjoying successes like never before, and while the US and now the UK are all the talk, these miracles are much needed as a reminder that wherever you might be, you never know what might lie right at your door step.
To Tommy and the crew, see you next time. We’ll have a pack of every flavoured Tim Tam waiting for you.
Feature Image property of Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore. Photos by Cory Lockwood.