I should probably preface this interview by noting that Tommy Dreamer is without a doubt my favorite performer today in professional wrestling.
To me, he is the last of the old school generation, of performers like Mick Foley and Terry Funk who have that unique synergy between their fans and themselves, making sure that every fan in the building has seen their money's worth. For that I hold a tremendous amount of respect for Dreamer and I am sure I am not alone in that respect.
I love the emotion that comes with a great wrestling match. I have seen so many emotional moments out of Dreamer's performances in Extreme Championship Wrestling, he stands out as someone who has given of himself mentally and physically above and beyond the call of duty, sanity and logic. Whether you call yourself a Tommy Dreamer fan or not, looking over history, one cannot discount his heart.
Whether it was Dreamer's ECW World championship victory over Tazz and his post-match speech, his lap around the ECW Arena after finally vanquishing long-time nemesis Brian Lee in the High Incident match, the many wars with Raven and Shane Douglas, and even Dreamer's salute to the fans after his final PPV bout against C.W. Anderson, Dreamer has been able to draw me into the match in a way so few performers have been able to.
Tommy Dreamer was Extreme Championship Wrestling. He was the heart and soul of the promotion and for much of it's later days, he was in charge of everything from booking to policing to locker room to production of promos to any number of things that could be listed here.
Whenever there was a problem at an ECW event, there was Tommy Dreamer there to quell the situation and make sure the fans were taken care of.
He was the performer who used his influence to make stars as opposed to make one of himself, and that was the way he loved it.
He was selfless and in truth, he was the last man standing when all was said and done in the ECW locker room, fighting the inevitable to the very end by trying to find a way for ECW to survive.
Now, ECW is no more. So what does the "Innovator of Violence" think of his past with ECW, his potential future with the WWF, saying farewell to the fans who helped make his career, the chances of one more ECW event and more? That's what I wanted to find out. Enjoy.
This interview was conducted Saturday May 26th backstage at the Madhouse of Extreme in Queens, New York.
MICHAEL JOHNSON: I guess the best place to start would be to ask you what you've been up to since the closing of ECW, your feelings on that, and your feelings on being back on the independent circuit after being with ECW the last seven years.
TOMMY DREAMER: I have a good time. Again, I'm still doing what I love to do and that's wrestle. I still get to travel. I still get to meet a lot of new people. I get to see a lot of old faces. Did I want ECW to go out of business? No, I walk around every day with a broken heart but you know, it's over, it's done and I've got to move on. Some of the independent federations I work for are great.
There's one in California, Rick Bassman's group [UPW]. I love working for Dusty Rhodes' group [Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling]. You have to deal with a lot of wannabes, but not in those federations. They are run very professionally, but with me as long as I'm getting my money and getting paid, I'm happy. I just love to wrestle.
JOHNSON: ECW fans really didn't get a chance to say good-bye to you or any of the other ECW performers. If you had that one last show to say your good-bye speech, what would you want to say to the ECW fans?
DREAMER: I would just say 'Thank you.' I gave it my all and so did everyone else and it was a great, great emotional ride for a long time. I love ECW with all my heart and it's unfortunately, it went out of business. It happens, you know...Stern's [Northeast Department Store chain] is going out of business. There's no good way to go out of business.
There still may be just one more final show which I am kind of working on myself just to say good-bye to the fans. That's kind of what I wanted to do tonight, to say good-bye to the fans who used to come to the Madhouse of Extreme...just for me, myself to say thank you because I never got that chance to say thank you.
Think about how Michael Jordan went out, he won the championship with that last three-pointer against the Jazz and he got to home on top, but we didn't have that for ECW. I would like that for myself and for a lot of people. I am still friends with almost all the crew, and a lot of guys wish it didn't happen. They understand that it happened but there are a lot of people that are real sad from the wrestlers on down. You and I were just talking about that before, about what a great, great time we all had.
JOHNSON: There has always been a lot written about your injuries in ECW, and obviously there were many, which we don't need to go over. How are you feeling now that you've had some time off and have been picking your dates as opposed to going out there every weekend and leaving it all out there for ECW?
DREAMER: I still kind of kill myself when I'm on the road. That's just how I am. I can't just go out there half-ss no matter what I do. Physically, I feel great. I am at 252 lbs. which is the lowest I have been in a long time. I still feel all the pains but it was harder in ECW because I was also in production at the studio with Paul E., eating Chinese food and the Chinese Food catches up to you, and caught up on him. But even look at him, he's dropped some weight. It's less stressful.
JOHNSON: Jim Ross reported on WWF.com this week that they were within weeks of signing you. How much can you go into about that, and how do you feel about going there as opposed to say staying on the Indies, Japan or even opening your own company?
DREAMER: I kind of take every day for what it's worth. I was depressed for a while and I kind of had a revelation. Myself, I gave up everything for ECW. For it not to be around...a lot of things that were said to me didn't happen. I was kind of mad...it was like going through a breakup of a relationship....now, there's only one place to wrestle and that's the WWF or WCW. I would love to be part of it and I would do my job and go out and wrestle, just like I did for ECW.
I have spoken to Jim Ross. I have spoken to Shane McMahon. I've spoken to Paul E. Everyone's real cool to me. Again, I've spoken to them when I was in ECW and when I went to those shows to say what's up to the guys. The WWF has always treated me real cool. I'd love to work for them. I love to do Indies. Again, I'm getting paid to do what I love to do and that's being a professional wrestler. I think a lot of athletes forget about that and this is a game that I love to be in.
JOHNSON: Should you sign with them, how do you feel about the WWF putting their twist on the "Innovator of Violence" character as they have done with Tazz, who they went in a totally different direction with, the Dudley Boyz who they tweaked, and even Spike who in the short time he's been there, has been tweaked? How do you feel about expanding and going in different directions?
DREAMER: I couldn't care less. Whatever they want to do, I would do. I think I've proven I'm more of a team player than a lot of people. I think the Tommy Dreamer character of ECW would be good in WWF. Think about a heel Tommy Dreamer, no one's ever seen that. Think about me being mad at Paul for going out of business. That would be a hell of an angle....leaving me behind, that's a natural angle right there...not saying he left me behind, but he had a job before I did. There's a lot of things that could be done.
To me, I've thought about it a lot and I think Tommy Dreamer could be good for WCW. Not that I'm saying I don't want to wrestle in the WWF. Everyone knows I'm the biggest mark in the business, I tell everyone that, so of course I would love to wrestle there.
If you think of an guy who's been unemployed for a long time and Shane McMahon came to him and offered him a job, knowing he'll fight for WCW the same way he fought for the other company, that's a good angle right there. A guy who won't go down to nothing. When you think about it, that's what Vince and Shane McMahon do. They get in the ring and they fight for their own company. I think that's a great angle, but that's just me being a...who do they call it....a Monday morning armchair booker. [Laughs]
JOHNSON: I guess the best way to close this up, as I don't want to take up much more of your time, is what do you think exemplified ECW more than anything else and what was your favorite memory of the run?
DREAMER: The strongest thing about ECW was ECW itself and the fans. If you think about it, every wrestler that walked through that door and every wrestler that left, it made other wrestlers step up to become higher players. When the Dudley Boyz left, it made the Impact Players. When Shane Douglas left, Justin Credible.
Whenever somebody would leave and go somewhere else, someone else became a major player so that mean the company was the most over thing. When you think about it, they would always chant, "F him up Sandman" or "F him up Tommy" but the Sandman was the Hardcore Icon and he left and the houses never dropped.
The company was the most over thing in the world. We had the best fans and they still are the best fans. I think that was the greatest thing about ECW and that's what made it work. There are people who are still upset. I think about the days when we weren't getting paid and we didn't know about our future and they were still some of the greatest times in front of the fans and even that last weekend we worked, it was still a great weekend. We didn't know what was going on and we were all so depressed, but because we were together, it was a great thing.
Every ECW fan was one big dysfunctional family that stretched from New York to California, from Maine to Florida, Texas everywhere. You get e-mails from fans saying, "Oh I wish it didn't happen" and that was the most important thing about ECW...ECW.
My greatest moment. I get asked this question all the time and I have so many. I've been very, very fortunate. I've been living my dream. Every time I got into the ring and wrestled in ECW was a great night.
JOHNSON: Nothing more can be said. Tommy, thank you for your time.
DREAMER: Thank you.