Tommy Dreamer, From Innovator of Violence to Legend of Hardcore Wrestling (Interview)

Just before Slammiversary XVI, as he was about to compete against Eddie Edwards, Tommy Dreamer took part of an Impact Wrestling media call. As trying to focus on the upcoming PPV, I couldn’t help but listen to how this wrestling Legend has never been more important for the business he’s been a part of for 30 years. Because of everything he has done, in ECW, WWE, TNA/Impact Wrestling, also House of Hardcore, the promotion he created, Dreamer is a voice that deserves to be heard. How many wrestlers thanked him for the opportunities he has given them?

Dreamer has loved this business so much he has made it a family where he can be the genuine man and wrestler he has always been. So when he started to talk about how hardcore wrestling, and wrestling in general, has changed over the years, the impact of social media and streaming platforms on wrestling right now, and his longevity, I thought his voice couldn’t stay unheard of all of you.

About his longevity

To still be competing at this age at such a high level, I really have Terry Funk to credit, because he was the one who told me that you don’t keep evolving and changing with the business that will pass you by and that’s why he was doing moonsault into the crowd in his 50s. To me, to make it not just in wrestling but for anything like this, it’s passion. You have to have a love for this because, honestly, you’re not going to make it. Everything we do in wrestling is what they tell you not to do in life. For my longevity, I always worked out, I still work out. I know it doesn’t look like I work out but I try very hard. There’s a lot of my body parts that are not attached. I’m coming on 30 years of wrestling next year doing this. I was never a guy who was into alcohol or drugs. The most I’ve ever drunk was when I used to tag with the Sandman. I know I don’t look good but I train really hard to look this bad.

“Before he passed, I was with Bruno Sammartino and I would talk to him a lot and he used to still run like five miles a week. If you do this all the time, it just becomes your routine. So I have my routine, I do it as much as possible I possibly can. I also love what I do and I have respect. If I feel I can’t go in the ring anymore, I’m just going to quit and, when I say I retire, that’s it I’m done in wrestling. I’m gonna do my own farewell tour and I’m gonna go visit a bunch of places that I’ve been before and then I’m gonna use that as a selling point of “hey you’re not going to see me wrestle ever again” and then I’m out and I will probably have one big match somewhere and then call it a career.”

About his favourite hardcore weapon

“I would like to say the Singapore cane. For some reason I’m the one who always brings it to the ring but yet it always gets used on me so I’m a bit of an idiot. Honestly, old-school will never die. Once you fight outside to the floor, the match is now escalated and, if you think about it, there’s the ring apron, the steps, the guardrails… Then it’s the floor, then if you reach under the ring whatever is under there. And even if it’s from a cookie sheet, which also surprisingly makes the greatest noise. A lot of people think it doesn’t hurt but I have busted more people’s heads open or given or have lumps on my head from cookie sheets than anything else, a garbage can, a chair, a cane, barbed wire or thumbtacks. To me, old-school psychology is always the best. The term hardcore has been bastardized by the WWE in the sense of people think about blood or tables or chairs. To me, hardcore is a work ethic.”

About the 3 major evolutions he has witnessed after 30 years in the business

Number one: The evolution for the wrestler, in the sense of, back in the day, we used to do chair shots to the head before we knew about the problems of concussions and I used to bend steel chairs over people’s heads. If someone’s gonna hit me, I’m not putting my hands up because I had to be tough and hardcore. The fact that even in WWE or in Impact Wrestling, if someone has a concussion, they set them out because they know about the long-term effects. I remember once in ECW, I had three concussions in a week that could have had some serious damage to me. Thankfully I’m still going so I like that WWE has a Wellness program. I know at Impact Wrestling, all the wrestlers are tested for AIDS and hepatitis.

“Number Two: the evolution of social media. I’ve been a fan of this business since I’m 9-year-old. I remember when I was trying so hard to become a wrestler. I didn’t know how to do it. Now I can just google it. You can even talk to a rest or try to meet a wrestler. The only way to do it, you’d have to stand in the back of an arena at a show and pray and hope that someone just got out of here.

“Number Three: Women’s Evolution. I think it’s great and you also understand I came from ECW where we always treated the women equally in the sense of the women would get piledrivers, they would fight with each other. Beulah, Francine, Dawn-Marie, Lita, Jazz, we really didn’t have women matches but they were out there in the men’s corner but they were not only eye candies. I never treated women just like eye candies. That’s why for me like I hired Lita, Jazz or Beth Phoenix, people who have surpassed me in their own career’s accolades. I couldn’t be prouder of the women out there.”

If ECW would make it now

“I think we’d be out of business because everything we did in ECW would be illegal now. Most of the music, which was such a huge part of ECW, we wouldn’t be able to use now. If you want to talk about conflicts and dramas, we would have riots all the time. Now think of the era of the cellphones and camera. I don’t think it would exist whatsoever. You could not today pick up a bloody wrestler and throw him into the crowd and expect people to bodysurf him everywhere, you would be sued up for that.”

About recognition

“I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women that I’ve helped along the way. I don’t need the recognition that they’re given me. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many people Terry Funk helped or how much Dusty Rhodes has helped when I used to walk back as a 24 or 25-year-old kid. I would have Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Paul Heyman helping me become better. I’ve been blessed and now I just tell people the truth or what they want to do to take their careers to the next level. I am very proud of everybody that I helped.”

About the next hardcore legend

“I would say Sami Callihan and maybe Penta. Even though he’s a luchador and he does a Lucha style, he gets pretty hardcore.”

About being Tommy Dreamer

“I learned a lot of lessons in my life. Everyone talks about ECW and the greatness of what was ECW and it was. But none of us ever knew that Paul Heyman was in bed with the WWE the entire time, I saw those effects. I had to live with those effects for a very long time. Impact Wrestling, I worked there on there through a lot of different regimes, but once politics or BS started getting involved, I just left. I’m not a very hard person to deal with. I’ve wanted people to deal with me how I deal with them, I’m a man of my word and I expect to always be that way. I balance that with just handshake agreements because I’m a man of my word and I’ve proven that for a long, long time. I’ve always lived up to my stipulations. I feel it’s important to be a man of your word, that’s just me, that’s how I am.”

A message for the fans

“I’m blessed. I always say you are our family. I also always say that I’m just a fan that got fortunate that somebody believed in me. The fact that I’m still doing this means I’m going to give you all that I have. I wrestle every single match like it’s my last because I know one day it will be. I love you guys just as much as you love me.”

You may dislike hardcore wrestling, but you can’t dislike Tommy Dreamer. Because of everything he represents to this business, for all the wrestlers he has given us the chance to see compete in a ring, Tommy Dreamer has earned a very special place in the business that no Hall of Fame could ever equal, this place is the heart and the soul of the fans.

All pics courtesy of Impact Wrestling