With a legendary hardcore career dating back to 1989, The Innovator of Violence, Tommy Dreamer, has done it all. Along the way, he’s had his fair share of title reigns and helped to raise ECW to it’s now legendary status. More importantly, his work behind-the scenes with up-and-coming superstars from around the globe, continues to impact the world of sports entertainment on a daily basis. Regardless of his opponent or the organization he has worked for, Tommy Dreamer never stopped chasing his dream and remains hardcore — always! On Sunday night July 22nd, this legend of the ring will touch down at the Rebel Complex in Toronto, Canada for Slammiversary 2018! Dreamer is set to face Eddie Edwards in a House of Hardcore Rules, meaning, anything goes because there are no rules! This will no doubt be the biggest night of the summer. Icon Vs. Icon recently had the opportunity to get some insight into the world of The Innovator of Violence with a quick interview. In the days leading up to Impact Wrestling’s Slammiversary, Dreamer took a few moments out of his day to discuss his legendary career, what it takes to make it in professional wrestling, and what keeps him so driven in the tumultuous world of professional wrestling.
Going back to the beginning of your story — What made you want to become a wrestler?
What made me want to become a professional wrestler was the moment that I saw it on television. It was Bob Backlund versus Bulldog Brower. I was hooked from day one! My father was a school teacher and during his spring break, he took our family to Florida. It was there where I got to see The American Dream Dusty Rhodes live. I remember being frozen in my tracks and it was like watching God on earth come to the ring. The moment the match ended I knew what I had to do with my life. I was 10 years old. I became obsessed with wrestling magazines and I would watch it on television any time I could, because back then there was no Internet. I truly have been living my dream ever since. I started at 18 and I’ve never looked back! I’m very, very happy that I’ve yet to look back!
You’ve spent most of your life in the ring as a professional wrestler. You’ve certainly inspired a lot of people along the way. What does it take to make it in professional wrestling today and to what do you attribute your longevity?
To me, to make it, not just pro wrestling but anything, the key is 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! Bully Ray and myself have a wrestling school, Team 3D Academy up in Connecticut, can we tell people, “Fall forward and don’t put your hands down.” We also say, “Fall backward and don’t look back…” or “Jump off a diving board into a pool with no water.” We do that from the top rope. That’s not normal in society! [laughs] You have to have passion for this, but you should have that in anything you do if you want to succeed. As far as longevity, I always worked out and I still work out. I know I don’t look like I work out, but I try very, very hard. A lot of my body parts are not attached! I’m coming up on 30 years next year of doing this. I was never a guy who is into alcohol or drugs. The most I ever drank was when I used to tag with The Sandman. I know I don’t look good, but I trained really, really hard to look this bad! [laughs] I see a lot of guys today or even when I came up with ECW who have these amazing bodies and have to keep up doing it. Before he passed, I was with Bruno Sammartino. I would still run 5 miles a week! If you do this all the time, it just becomes your routine. So, I have my routine and I do it as much as possible. I also love what I do. I respect that and if I feel that I can’t go in the ring anymore, I’m not going to be one of those guys who just hangs on for a payday. I’m just going to quit. When I say, “I retire.” That’s it! I’m done in wrestling. Any time I step into the ring is my favorite time. To still be competing at this age, at such a high level is amazing. I really have Terry Funk to credit because he was the one that told me that if you don’t keep evolving and changing with the business, it will pass you by. That’s why he was doing moonsaults into the crowd in his 50s! So, I still have 8 more years until my moonsault into the crowd!
What stands out in your mind as the biggest evolutionary moments you’ve seen in the wrestling business during your tenure?
Number one is the evolution of the wrestler. Back in the day, we used to do chair shots to the head. That was before we knew about the problems of concussions. I used to bend steel chairs over people’s heads. The same went for me and if someone was going to hit me, I wasn’t putting my hands up because I had to be tough and hardcore. Today, in Impact Wrestling or WWE, if someone has a concussion, they sit them out because we now know about the long-term effects. I remember once in ECW when I had 3 concussions in a week. That could have caused some serious damage to me but thankfully I’m still going. I like the fact that WWE has a program. I know in Impact Wrestling, all the wrestlers are tested for AIDS and hepatitis. In the past, none of that stuff went down, so the evolution there is great. Number two is the evolution of social media. I’ve been a fan of the wrestling business since I was nine years old. I remember when I was trying so hard to become a wrestler and I didn’t know how to do it. Now, I can just Google it! There have been changes even when it comes to talking to or meeting a wrestler. In the past, the only way to do it was to stand in the back of an arena at the show in and hope that someone didn’t tell you to get out of there! Those are my favorite parts of the evolution of the industry. It’s not only our business but football, soccer or hockey. Everything’s been about better protecting the athlete. I’d actually like to see a few more things happen, and I think in my life time they will happen. … It’s also interesting to see all of these companies working together. In this day and age, if you don’t work together, you will not survive today’s climate. WWE leads the way, cool. They have their own vision. Impact Wrestling has their own vision, fans, and different management style, and so does House of Hardcore. All of these people are working together for the betterment of professional wrestling, so how can you not get behind these guys! It’s stuff like that I love about wrestling and the BS and politics I can live without. There are a lot of men and women in WWE that are being wasted, who could make a huge impact within Impact Wrestling, House of Hardcore, and throughout the wrestling industry. I wish they were able to say, “You know what? We’re not doing anything with you. Go over there.” That’s what happened in wrestling in the 80s. You would wrestle for a long time and then when they had nothing for you, they would tell you to go somewhere else and come back in six months. I love stuff like that, but I hate the politics!
You’ve worked with so many people who have risen to the highest level of this profession. I imagine that is something you are very proud of.
Absolutely! I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women that I’ve helped along the way. I don’t need the recognition that they’ve given me. But here’s why I do it — I don’t think people realize how many people Terry Funk helped. You also hear how much Dusty Rhodes had helped. When I used to walk back as a 24 or 25-year-old kid, I would have Terry Funk helping me. I would have Mick Foley helping me or Paul Heyman helping me become better. I remember that. … I just tell people the truth about what they want to do to take their careers to the next level. I’ve been blessed to help a lot of people. When I turn on the television, it’s like I have these giant arms or tentacles where I reached out and touched a lot of people. I’m very blessed. The reason I believe in a lot of people is because I saw something in them. I don’t ever, ever judge a book by it’s cover. There are so many talented men and women out there at WWE would pass on. Even when I was in WWE, I basically ran what was NXT, a developmental system between OVW and Deep South Wrestling, for a little bit. There were so many talented people there. I remember some of the directives that were given to me and thinking, “This is horrible.” But, at the same time, I was able to fight for people. You need people to fight for you, not just in wrestling, but in every corner of life. I’m a big baseball fan and here is a great example. Mike Piazza was one of the last guys drafted and the only reason he got drafted is because his father was friends with Tommy Lasorda, who was the Dodgers manager. Then he went on to become a Hall of Famer! He had the talent but he just had to have someone notice it. That’s kind of how I am and always will be.
Superstitions play a role into the world of a lot of professional wrestlers. What are some of yours?
I have a boatload of superstitions! Back in the day, I would only change my ECW shirt if I got hurt in a match. I’m not saying the same exact shirt but the logo on the shirt. I also used to wear the same underwear for a Friday show and then a specific pair on Saturday. They were a teal thong, so for a lot of those crazy hardcore matches, The Innovator of Violence is wearing a teal thong that basically fell off my body one day because I wore it so much! [laughs] A lot of wrestlers in every wrestling company that I work for know that I have old school knee wraps that have not been washed since 1995. My knee braces have not been washed since 1996. I also get dressed the same way each time. If I’ve been to a building before, I have to sit in that exact same position in the locker room because that’s how my longevity continues — and I’m crazy.
When it comes time for you to exit the business. How do you envision it going down?
For me personally, when I feel it’s time, I’m going to do my own farewell tour. I’m going to go visit a bunch of places that I have been before. I’m going to use that as a selling point of “You’re not going to see me wrestle ever again.” Then I’m out. I will probably have one big match somewhere and then call it a career!
Well, hopefully we have many more productive years before you fade of into the sunset. Anything you’d like to add before you go?
I just want to say thank you for everyone being a part of this journey with me. I’m proud of every single match I’ve ever had an Impact Wrestling and beyond. To still be doing this, to still be at this level and to still have people this interested in Tommy Dreamer means I’m blessed. I always say that we’re a family and that I’m just a fan that was fortunate to have somebody who believed in me. The fact that I’m still doing this is a blessing and I’m going to give you all that I have. I wrestle every single match like it’s my last match because one day it will be. Thank you for supporting Tommy Dreamer, House of Hardcore, Impact Wrestling and wrestling in general. I love you guys just as much as you love me!
Follow the continuing adventures of Tommy Dreamer through social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit the official site of Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore at www.houseofhardcore.net. For more information on how to order Slammiversary, visit www.impactwrestling.com.
About IMPACT Wrestling
IMPACT Wrestling is one of the world’s largest wrestling entertainment properties, creating more than 200 hours of original content annually across television and other digital platforms. IMPACT Wrestling specializes in events, products, merchandise and music, as well as the management and promotion of professional wrestlers. The roster features such greats as Austin Aries, Johnny Impact, Eli Drake, Moose, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, Brian Cage, Pentagon Jr., Fenix, Matt Sydal, Rich Swann, the high-flying X-Division, plus the lovely and lethal Knockouts, including Allie, Rosemary, Taya Valkyrie, Su Yung and Tessa Blanchard. Its highly successful flagship, IMPACT!, broadcasts in more than 120 countries around the world, including Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Pop (a joint venture of CBS Corporation and Lionsgate) in the United States, Fight Network and GameTV in Canada, Sony ESPN in India, 5Spike in the United Kingdom, SuperSport in Africa and ranFIGHTING in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. IMPACT Wrestling also streams a 24-hour channel on Twitch.tv and is a top 10 sports video producer on YouTube with over 1.5 million subscribers, 36 million monthly views and 1.2 billion all-time views. IMPACT Wrestling’s parent company Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corp. launched the Global Wrestling Network (GWN) app in October 2017, showcasing over 3,000 hours of library programming and content from leading independent professional wrestling organizations around the world.