21st Sep2020

Wrestler Retrospectives: The Extreme Career of Tommy Dreamer!

by Chris Cummings

In the first in a new series of wrestling career retrospectives, Chris takes a look at the Extreme Career of Tommy Dreamer…

Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1971, Thomas James Laughlin was a wrestling fan in his youth and at the young age of only 18 years old he became a wrestler himself. Training under legendary New York pro-wrestler Johnny Rodz, Dreamer would debut in 1989. Rodz would train many wrestlers who we all know very well, from Dreamer himself, to guys like Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley, Taz and others. Working indie federations such as IWCCW out of Boston, Dreamer began plying his craft in the ring, and it didn’t take him long to land a bigger job, that being with Eastern Championship Wrestling, which he joined in 1992. From there, the man formerly known as Thomas Laughlin’s life would change forever (And ever!…. And ever!…. And ever!)

His early days in Eastern were very different to what would happen eventually, with Dreamer wrestling in neon suspenders as a “pretty boy” type, a handsome boy-next-door style wrestler, competing in full-on early-90s babyface mode. Things took a turn for the unpopular good-guy though, when he began a feud with The Sandman and took a major lashing at the hands of a Singapore Cane. With Paul Heyman booking ECW, and the product beginning to change its image, Dreamer too changed. He went from the bland babyface to the brave and bold guy who wouldn’t quit, and the fans warmed to him in the process.

On August 27th, 1994 Eastern Championship Wrestling, once under the NWA, became Extreme Championship Wrestling, withdrawing from the National Wrestling Alliance in order to drift into its own ocean, an ocean of violence, blood, weapons, bad language, heavy metal and… oh… some damn fine pro-wrestling. Dreamer became, quite quickly, a main player in the Land of the Extreme. Black shirt with an ECW logo adorned upon it, and black trousers, Dreamer was the every-man, the respected bad-ass who would stand up for ECW and the side of good, whilst not being overly “goodie-goodie”. He was, over the course of his ECW career, the heart and soul of the promotion, but that didn’t happen overnight.

Working with the likes of Raven, The Sandman, Taz, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Rob Van Dam, Sabu and a variety of others, Dreamer was a workhorse in the promotion. He wasn’t always on the top of the card, he wasn’t always in title matches, but he was still one of the top draws, the constants in the company, and the ECW faithful who bought tickets every week loved him for it. Whether he was throwing people into ladders, falling off balconies through stacks of tables, or taking shots to the head with chairs, Dreamer bled, broke and bruised for ECW. Dreamer wasn’t just a vital part of ECW on-screen, but also behind them, working in a producing role, as well as helping with various other things, from merchandising to bringing in external talent, and more. Dreamer was even a big part of landing a deal for the ECW Action Figure line from Original San Francisco Toymakers. He wore many hats in ECW that made him undeniably irreplaceable.

Dreamer’s career in ECW would go hand-in-hand, for a long time, with his real-life wife Beulah McGillicutty, who worked as his valet, and took part in many memorable angles and moments herself, including a bloody brawl with manager Bill Alfonso. Dreamer and Beulah were such an important part of ECW. I remember their feud in 1997 with Shane Douglas and Francine, and their angles with Raven, Stevie Richards, Luna Vachon, Kimona and others. Must-see TV at the time, for sure. Dreamer became ECW Champion on only one occasion, bizarrely, and only for about thirty-minutes, when he beat Tazz (who had signed with WWE and came back to work out a weird deal involving Mike Awesome and WCW) and lost it to Justin Credible in the same night. Still, Dreamer didn’t need titles in ECW. He was a guy who could draw without them.

He remained with ECW until the company closed its doors in 2001 and Dreamer would follow many of his former Extreme running mates, like RVD, The Dudleys, Tazz and Paul Heyman, and debut in WWE as part of the Invasion storyline in the Summer of the same year. Dreamer’s on-air run in WWE wasn’t what it could have been, though, and while he did have a memorable run as WWE Hardcore Champion which involved Dreamer doing gross things like brushing his teeth with dogfood and drinking tobacco spit, he didn’t really go far. Backstage, though, Dreamer worked in the office in WWE in a variety of roles, including as part of the talent relations department. He was part of the booking-team when WWE revived ECW in 2006, and worked backstage in an agent role for a while, too. He did have a memorable match at One Night Stand in 2006, where he teamed with lifelong hero Terry Funk to take on the team of Edge and Mick Foley. He’s also worked a multi-man tag at WrestleMania 23, which would be his one and only match on a WrestleMania show. In 2008 he would challenge for the WWE ECW Title on PPV against Mark Henry, and his response from the crowd during that time proved one thing; Tommy Dreamer was still a beloved name in pro-wrestling, and the fans really wanted to see him succeed.

In 2010 Dreamer was released from WWE, and he’d begin appearing on various indies across the US, from Dragon Gate to Evolve to Chikara. He would then, in 2012, open his own wrestling school and promotion named House of Hardcore. House of Hardcore, which is still alive today, ran many shows from 2012 and featured a wide array of talent. ECW alumni such as Terry Funk, Rhino, RVD and Lance Storm appeared at shows, while newer names such as Sami Callihan, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Jacob Fatu and John Morrison would also make appearances. To date, House of Hardcore has promoted 57 shows and, all going well, will continue to promote events once they’re able to. Aside from a couple of smaller returns to WWE in 2012 and 2015, in which he worked in some tag matches, Dreamer has also done a lot with TNA/IMPACT. Dreamer worked for the company for a couple of years back in 2013, and returned in 2018 in a relationship that is still ongoing today. Working as a member of the creative team and producer, Dreamer is an important part of the IMPACT puzzle, and a reason why the product has seen such vast improvements in recent times.

Tommy is a beloved worker. He’s looked at fondly by his fellow wrestlers and by the fans, and it’s no surprise when you look back on his wrestling career. He’s been a very giving guy, never making news for politics or bad behaviour. His jack-of-all-trades side that began in ECW has helped him adapt to various jobs in WWE and now in IMPACT. He has so many friends in the business that he’s never short of offers, either. It was only last May that Dreamer appeared at AEW Double or Nothing in their Casino Battle Royale. He also worked as a producer backstage at AEW’s All Out event last August.

When you look at Tommy Dreamer you see a legend in the business, you see a guy who made a name for himself through hard work and memorable moments during his run in Extreme Championship Wrestling, who solidified himself during his time in WWE and who continues to help grow and give back to pro-wrestling to this very day. You also see an Irish American bad-ass who innovated violence, took a caning and came back for more, held down the fort when everyone else was running for the hills, and who is willing to do all he can to keep the business he loves alive. Hall of Fame? I think so. It’d only be right to see Dreamer be induced one day, but until then I’m interested to continue following the career of a guy who has been doing this for 31 years and counting. Now, put your hands out to your size, your chin in the air, and say with me… “E… C…. FUCKING W!”


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