Ripped To Shreds:
Tommy Dreamer - Innovator Of Respect

December 16, 2007 by David Landons

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Being thrown through a table that is blazing with fire. Having parts of your skin completely shredded by barbed wire. Blading to the point of having your entire face covered in blood. Suffering 16 concussions throughout your career. Screaming out in pain with blood curdling yells. When most wrestlers step foot into the wrestling business, they probably don't desire to have the aforementioned thoughts become a reality at their own expense. Very few people want to sacrifice that much for any business under any circumstances. But as it is, such has become a way of life for Thomas Laughlin, better known to wrestling fans as "The Innovator Of Violence" Tommy Dreamer.

Never in my life have I ever seen a professional wrestler who has commanded both intrigue and respect from me quite same the way Dreamer has. He went through so much pain and suffering throughout his career, but has never been considered a star outside of the now defunct ECW and the new ECW, which were/are both distant number three brands during their existences. Now, while I greatly respect this man, I'm not going to type page after page of lies to you. Tommy Dreamer is not one of the biggest draws the business has ever seen. He is not charismatic. He is not a good actor. He can't cut good promos. But I will say something that is completely honest about him, and this comes from the bottom of my heart: Tommy Dreamer is someone special. And by the time you're done reading this column, I hope you will be willing to say the same thing about him.

When looking on Tommy's career, one will probably ask the question, "Why exactly has Tommy Dreamer given so much of himself to the wrestling business?". And that is a very good question to ask. Why is it that Tommy willingly took ten of the most brutal and viscous Singapore cane shots to his back by such a stiff worker in the Sandman, when the average wrestler would have never gone through with so many of them?

How could it be that this man would agree to be thrown out of a balcony through multiple tables (when ever you see that ECW highlight where a man crashes through 4 tables stacked on top of each other, that was Tommy.) when probably very few people at that point in time had ever thought of an act so dangerous, let alone be willing to go through with it? Despite what a person says, their actions will always speak louder than their words. And Tommy's actions over the years have not just spoken, but screamed out the answers to these questions.

The first answer that comes to mind is seemingly obvious. That is, he probably has suffered so much violence over the years due to the fact that he has a passion for the business. But I believe there's more to it than that. Not only does he have a passion for the business, he has an OVERWHELMING passion for the business. You can't tell me that he doesn't love the industry. Even if he didn't go through with all the physical punishment he received, he was still losing the majority of his matches and even went through periods of not receiving pay checks. Yet he never quit the business.

He's like the main character in my favorite movie, "Rudy". "Rudy" is about a kid who grows up dreaming of playing football for Notre Dame. The problem is he has very little talent for sports. He eventually does go to Notre Dame, and even though he does terrible in try outs, the coaches admire his heart more than his talent. Almost as a gift, they allow Rudy to join the team. With his lack of talent, he is practically condemned to being on the practice team for the rest of college career. He didn't even get to dress and stand on the side lines for the games (until his last game). He would get pounded on in practice by his much larger teammates. Yet he showed up to practice, day in and day out. His passion for Notre Dame football was so immense that he just wouldn't quit. Just as Tommy's passion for wrestling is so immense that he just never quit.

Here's another way of visualizing this concept. Teenagers may enjoy playing baseball while they are in high school. They may love throwing the ball to first base to get an out, the challenge of trying to hit an 80 mile an hour fastball, running after fly balls, running down a base runner in order to tag him out, and so on. What could be better than trying to do all of those things? Actually doing them successfully. Face it, you might enjoy the game of baseball, but if you're striking out almost every time you go to bat, you're constantly making costly errors on the field, and you show little signs of having potential to get better, you're probably not going to continue to keep playing it much longer.

Professional wrestling is very much the same way. You might love sports entertainment, but if you're constantly losing matches, rarely getting any championships, and having newer wrestlers constantly pass you by in terms of getting higher places on the card, you will probably not want to continue wrestling. But there are people who go through a career like that, and not only do they continue wrestling, they go above and beyond what is asked of them. Tommy Dreamer is simply one of those people.

That's one of the answers that seemed to stand out loud and clear to me. But that's not the whole ball of wax. Not by a long shot. It is my belief that Tommy not only has a passion for the business, but he has a very large amount of self respect and a very high spirited competitive nature. I know what you're thinking. "But Ripper, how can a man who drinks tobacco spit and has had vomit poured all over him have a very large amount of self respect?" The fact that he has done those things is actually part of the reason that he has an overwhelming amount of self respect. Allow me to explain.

I've used this analogy before, but it fits in perfectly with this column and because it was one of my best received analogies, I'm going to use it again. One of the most successful facets of the entertainment industry is the pornography industry. I'm not an expert on pornography by any means, but I do know that Playboy and Penthouse are the two most successful adult magazines oriented towards straight men. Playboy is the magazine company that has been around since the fifties, and is credited with playing a very large role in the sexual revolution of the United States culture. It's considered a classy way of displaying female nudity by many people, and some women dream of being displayed on the pages of this famous magazine.

But Penthouse is the opposite of this. Yeah, they're both adult magazines, but it's considered to be anything but classy. In the one Penthouse magazine I've seen (and from reading about it on Wikipedia) it was radically different from the several Playboys that I've seen. Penthouse has women in the nude, the same as Playboy does, but the "Pets" of the magazine are shown with much more graphic imagery. The "Playmates" of Playboy are displayed simply in the nude, and do not have to go through with such hardcore activities.

That's because the Playboy's Playmates don't need to do them. They are often times better looking than Penthouse Pets (OK, maybe I've seen more than one Penthouse). For a woman who dreams of being in the adult industry, being in Playboy is probably their dream. But if they don't have the looks for the number one adult magazine, they can also take the road of trying to be in Penthouse (or another adult magazine, as Playboy is the only soft core magazine with nude female pictures). It will mean receiving less money, doing acts that they're probably uncomfortable doing in front of a camera, and gaining an overall reputation of "being easy" (much more so than if they had posed in Playboy).

But some women do it anyways, simply because they have a very competitive nature about themselves. That may sound weird to you, but allow me to explain. Some women want to be part of the adult industry, and most of them probably would have Playboy as their first choice. But if they are turned down, do they give up? Some do, others don't. They are still willing to make it into the adult industry by being in Penthouse, despite the aforementioned consequences mentioned in the paragraph before this. They have too much self respect (I know it's odd to use that word here, but it does apply to the situation) to just quit and give up when their first choice is no longer an option.

This is applies to Tommy Dreamer. When Tommy grew up, he self admittedly dreamed of being a professional wrestler. What he didn't say is what wrestling company he wanted to wrestle for. But do you really think he grew up dreaming of wrestling for the number three wrestling promotion in the United States? He probably wanted to wrestle for what was then known as the WWWF or the NWA, Much the same way women who want to get into the adult entertainment industry probably dream of being associated with Playboy. Tommy did not have the talent to make it far in the wrestling industry. His promos were below average, his acting was cheesy, and his wrestling ability was far from that of a Ric Flair or a Ricky Steamboat. But he had too much self respect to give up. He didn't have the talent, but he had the heart. And his heart is what made him continue on, suffering horrendous beating after horrendous beating in order to try to become a somebody in the industry. Self respect is what has driven him to have his name become synonymous with the blood and gore of the wrestling industry in an effort to be successful in wrestling.

So now we've covered two answers as to why Tommy Dreamer has chosen to take the rather unique path of hardcore that he has taken in the wrestling industry. But I believe there's still more to the story than what I've covered so far. It is my belief that Tommy has such a love for entertaining wrestling fans that he has felt pressured by them time and time again to give them a good show. As I mentioned before, Tommy is not that talented. But by taking so much physical abuse, he has shown that he is willing to go to extreme measures to entertain the fans.

This is different from the first two answers, in that while Tommy has a passion for wrestling and he probably has too much self respect not to at least try to be a somebody in the business, wanting to please the fans in and of itself is still a different reason. Baseball players and football players may love their respective sports, but few of them are in it to give entertainment to fans. And while people may be competitive and have self respect, that doesn't necessarily mean they feel pressured by the fans.

This may only apply to Tommy's stay in ECW, but that was a very large portion of his wrestling career. In ECW, the fans were very ravenous to be entertained. It didn't matter if you were a technical wrestler, a high flyer, a power wrestler, a brawler, or a hardcore wrestler. They wanted to see you perform, and they wanted to see you perform WELL. There was so much pressure from the ECW fans that if pleasing them meant doing magnificent flips off the top rope, you did it. If it meant doing some excellent catch as catch can wrestling, you did it.

And if it meant getting the living hell kicked out of you, you let it happen. While those weren't the only options limited to ECW wrestlers, the last option mentioned was pretty much Tommy's only choice of pleasing the fans. Don't get me wrong, he didn't take hardcore beatings every single match he was in, because he would be dead by now if he did. But he did as much as he probably could have. When you're performing in front of hundreds and thousands of people who want to see some action in the worst way possible, you give it to them the only way you can. If it means bleeding like a horse, then so be it.

Throughout most of this column, I've portrayed Dreamer as being a guy who never really made it in the wrestling industry. When someone can at least make a living off of wrestling like he has, he has made it, because there are thousands of independent wrestlers who simply can't make enough money from the business to support themselves or their families. But as it is, most people will probably see Tommy as being a big fish in a small pond when he was in ECW (even though he lost most his matches and only had one ECW title reign that lasted for 16 minutes.), and being nothing more than a Virgil or an Orlando Jordan when he went to WWE.

However, the fact is that Tommy Dreamer will always be someone special in my view. He could have chosen a profession that is less demanding than professional wrestling. He could have chosen a profession where he knew he would probably be more successful. He never had to put his body through unimaginable pain like he did throughout many matches in his career. But he did it all anyways, due to him having a passion for the business, having too much self respect and competitiveness to allow himself to be mediocre, and being pressured by the fans to give them a great show, even if it meant risking his body in horrid ways. Most wrestling fans will look upon Dreamer as not amounting to much. But despite the fact that his career highlight was being ECW World Champion for 16 minutes, he has had the heart of a champion for his entire career.

In the second paragraph of this column, I said I hoped you would be saying that Tommy is someone special by the end of this column. And despite my efforts in this column to make you think that way, I suggest you watch several matches from Dreamer (specifically from ECW), because his actions throughout his career have said more than I ever could.

by David Landons (View/Submit your feedback here)..

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