HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OWW Wrestler of the Week: Tommy Dreame
Our resident philosopher profiles his favorite wrestler, this week. Tommy had a great match at The Bash, retaining his title in a Championship Scramble.
Anyone who has read my columns, for any length of time, realizes that Tommy Dreamer is my favorite wrestler. Tommy is one of the last of the “Old School” wrestlers. He respects the business and the fans. On Sunday at The Bash, Tommy retained his prized ECW title in a Championship Scramble. It is with the strongest of pride that I bestow this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award to the Hardcore Icon, the Heart and Soul of ECW, Tommy Dreamer.
A Solid Start:
Thomas James Laughlin was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1971. Growing up in Yonkers, New York, Tommy was a fan of the WWWF/WWF during his youth. When he decided to try his hand at pro wrestling, he was put in contact with the WWE Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodz. Rodz trained numerous stars, from Dreamer and Tazz to Matt Striker. Dreamer was put in contact with the Savoldis, who owned ICW/IWCCW.
Tommy was placed in a “brother” tag team in the group. G.Q Madison was already an established star in the company. When Tommy came in, he couldn’t use his given name (since Tom Laughlin was a registered and copyrighted name for the star of the Billy Jack movie series). Tommy worked as T.D Madison. The Madison Brothers held the company’s tag belts on three different occasions. When Tommy broke ties with the Savoldis, he needed a new name. According to several sources, Tommy took his own given first name and chose Dreamer for two reasons. The first was as a tribute to “The American Dream“, Dusty Rhodes. The other was due to many people saying he was a dreamer if he thought he could make it as a wrestler. Which story, if either, is true is up for debate. Regardless, Tommy Dreamer debuted in the Century Wrestling Alliance in 1992. Tommy would hold that company’s top title before making a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
The Early Days in ECW
Tommy Dreamer was brought into the-then Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1993. His first character in the company was a model-like stud that the women were to swoon over. His “glamour boy” gimmick drew incredible heat for the young Dreamer. The rabid ECW fans nearly rioted when Dreamer became the first person to ever kick out after being nailed with the Superfly Splash from Jimmy Snuka. Paul Heyman, then-booker (and later owner) of the renamed ECW, decided that if Tommy could draw that level of heat, he could likely become the biggest face this side of Hulk Hogan.
Heyman drew on a news story about a kid being caned in Singapore to make Tommy’s turn. Paul booked the first Singapore Cane match between Tommy and The Sandman. In the match, Tommy lost and was supposed to take 10 shots from the cane. Taking a line from the cult classic, Animal House, Tommy yelled at Sandman “Thank you, sir, May I have another?” as Sandman caned Tommy, several times beyond the required 10. The display of courage and toughness instantly transformed Tommy to the company’s top face. The feud with Sandman took numerous twists and turns, including a faked blinding of Sandman by Tommy. Tommy appeared to knock a lit cigarette into the eye of Sandman. Tommy then seemed to take out the other eye with a cane shot. Tommy then became an assistant to Sandman, helping with menial tasks. Eventually, Sandman would reveal that it was a trick to get into his head.
The Sandman feud was amazing, but nothing compared to his next big series of wars. Raven had been working in WCW as Scotty Flamingo, a beach kid with a semi-clean cut appearance. The creature that arrived in ECW was based on the popular Grunge sub-culture. Raven and Dreamer were set up as childhood friends that were always competitive against each other. Raven brought in a beautiful young lady, named Beulah McGillicutty. The surname came from the old I Love Lucy TV show (that was Lucy’s maiden name on the show). Beulah was portrayed as a shy, chubby kid that had a crush on Tommy. In the years since they were kids, Beulah had transformed into a supposed Penthouse Pet. Eventually, Beulah would leave Raven to join her lost love, Tommy. Years later, the two would marry, in real life.
When Raven returned to WCW, Dreamer began an odd feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lawler had gone to an ECW show and cut a vicious promo, insulting the fans and wrestlers. Dreamer stood up for the company and took the fight to Lawler. This established Tommy as “The Heart and Soul of ECW”, a moniker that has remained with him to this day.
Strangely, Tommy was never supposed to win a title in ECW. Tommy and Paul wanted Tommy to be the most successful person to never win a title in the company. The WWE would change that, twice. When the Dudley Boyz took a contract with the WWE, Tommy was tapped to take the tag belts with the returning Raven. The tag team would dissolve when Raven dumped Tommy for Mike Awesome. Tommy would also be asked to accept the ECW title with a win over Taz(z) who was leaving for the WWE. Tommy was very vocal about the fact that he only won titles because people were leaving.
Getting the Brand back together again
The WWE purchased both WCW and ECW in 2001. To push the mergers, WWE created an Invasion storyline. Tommy and several ECW stars were brought in to feud with established WWF/E superstars.
When the Invasion/Alliance storyline reached its conclusion, Tommy was sent to HWA, the company’s developmental territory.
When Tommy was called up, the following April, he was given a gimmick that was somewhat based on his idol, Dusty Rhodes’, “Common Man” persona. Tommy did all kinds of odd things, like sharing a toothbrush with his dog. This gimmick just didn’t fly and was quickly abandoned.
The Innovator of Violence, reborn
When Creative decided to go with a new gimmick for Tommy, they drew on Tommy’s old ECW character. Tommy took 14 Hardcore titles during this time. Most of the title reigns were less than one day, as the hardcore title would often switch hands several times in the same day. Tommy would be the last person to hold the belt before it was unified with the Intercontinental title. Rob Van Dam, an old ECW ally/enemy, took the title from Tommy. Tommy then went on to feud, again, with Raven. Tommy took the deciding match in a Loser Leaves Raw match.
ECW lives again
WWE eventually began to run out of things for Tommy to do. Tommy took various indy dates when his WWE TV time was dramatically cut. He both wrestled and provided commentary on both of the WWE’s minor league territories, OVW and DSW. Tommy was pleased with his relaxed schedule and took the time to enjoy his family with Beulah. Tommy took several behind-the-scenes positions when his official wrestling contract expired. He planned to go into semi-retirement. That plan would change with three little letters…E-C-W.
In 2005, the WWE ran an ECW Reunion Show to help push the release of several ECW-oriented videos. The PPV, One Night Stand, garnered some of the best buy rates of that time period. The decision was made to try a third brand in the WWE. The ECW Brand was created in the summer of 2006. Tommy was seen as the Leader of the new group. Tommy, Sabu, Sandman and RVD feuded with several younger stars, including Matt Striker, Marcus CorVon (Monty Brown), Elijah Burke and Kevin Thorn. The ECW Originals, led by Tommy, battled the New Breed at Wrestlemania 23. The Originals won but Tommy watched his various partners disappear, over time. Tommy would end up as the final original ECW member to remain on the roster.
After the originals all left the company, Tommy took on the job of training and motivating the lovable loser, Colin Delaney. Tommy claimed that he saw a lot of himself in Colin and wanted to help mold him into a star. Colin would eventually turn his back on his mentor, setting off a nasty little feud. The feud was short-circuited when Colin was released from the company.
Putting it all on the line
Tommy began to get frustrated with not being able to win the ECW title. By early 2009, Tommy decided to prove to himself that he deserved to remain a wrestler. He set a deadline of June 6, 2009 to either win the ECW title for walk away. Tommy went through a monster losing streak before starting to get on track. he challenged the then-champion, Jack Swagger, for the belt. Swagger cheated his way into keeping the belt in their various battles. As the 6/6 due date approached, Tommy still hadn’t won the belt.
The ECW-oriented PPV, Extreme Rules, was scheduled for June 7th, one day after the end of Tommy’s contract. ECW’s acting GM, Tiffany, convinced Tommy to sign a one-day extension of his contract. At the PPV, Tommy accomplished his goal and took the ECW strap. Tommy was forced to defend his title at The Bash in an ECW Scramble match. Tommy overcame Christian, Finlay, Jack Swagger and Mark Henry.
Tommy Dreamer reigns supreme on the Extreme Brand. He’s looking to future battles against Christian, Finlay, Swagger and (possibly) Vladimir Kozlov. How long with Tommy hold the ECW strap? That’s hard to say. How long will he be respected by the fans and wrestlers as one of the best of the best? Forever isn’t long enough. Tommy Dreamer brings dignity and honor to the chaotic world of wrestling. It is my most distinct honor to bestow this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week award to my favorite wrestler, Tommy Dreamer.
— Jay Shannon