My goal through the last couple weeks has been to start an ECW column for Saturday, but I’ve been so wrapped up in everything else, that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch any of the extreme promotion. So I thought I would counter that problem with this solution. Tommy Dreamer is one of those names whose legacy lives and breathes because of ECW. His whole lifeblood is tied to it. The promotion made him more than he ever was. I don’t say that to take anything away from Dreamer. Obviously there was a talent necessary for the fans to latch onto.
It definitely helped that Tommy was willing to take a beating. People didn’t know how to react to it, at first. When Dreamer first arrived in ECW he was pushed as a pretty boy. Was he the most handsome man in the world? No, I guess not. But when your competition is guys like Sandman and Raven, it’s not hard to be the pretty boy. Most of the dudes in the ECW locker room looked like they woke up in their cardboard homes, got dressed, and came to work. Dreamer at least looked like he knew what a shower was.
The pretty boy thing didn’t go over too well with the ECW faithful, at first. He was soundly booed, night in and night out. He was even the first man in the history of Professional Wrestling to kick out of the pin that follows Jimmy Snuka’s Superfly Splash, but it didn’t matter. The ECW fans didn’t want to see some good looking d–khead win matches, or put legends out to pasture. They wanted to see him get brutally beaten, and that’s exactly what they’d get.
Tommy Dreamer had his first breakout moment after Michael Fay was arrested in Singapore and sentenced to punishment by caning. Paul Heyman, always the forward thinker, saw opportunity where there was controversy and created the Singapore Cane match. For the very first one, it was Tommy Dreamer vs. Sandman. The loser of the match would receive ten lashes. Dreamer lost, and in the process, finally earned the respect of the ECW fans. He was wrestling as the heel, at the time. After Sandman doled out his lashes, Dreamer stood up and said, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”
Sandman brutalized him with that cane. The fans got what they thought they wanted, but quickly realized how messed up they actually were. Sympathies quickly grew for Tommy and his unfortunate situation. This was monumental. You’re supposed to hate the heel. You’re not supposed to care if he’s in pain, but it had never been done like this before. The segment is linked below. If you watch it, you’ll see. Every hit that Dreamer takes is absolutely brutal.
Things continued along this path for ECW after this, and Dreamer was one of the lynch pins. He was dubbed, “the heart and soul of ECW,” for a reason. Another big moment for Tommy came when he “blinded” Sandman. The two of them had a huge feud together. This angle blew the minds of those watching. The lines between face and heel hadn’t been blurred much before this. On one occasion, he hit Sandman with a lit cigarette and then nailed him in the face with a Singapore Cane. In the backstage segment after this happened, Tommy ran up, profusely apologizing and claiming that he “didn’t mean to do it.”
Nowadays, you see that kind of stuff all the time. They try and blur the lines every week. Not then. Back in 1993, the WWE was just kicking off Monday Night Raw, and they were still promoting the cartoonish characters of old. ECW was miles ahead of the times, and their competition. ECW began the tradition of breaking kayfabe and Dreamer was right there.
He worked for Extreme Championship Wrestling from 1993 until 2001 when the WWE bought the company, and then he worked for the WWE from 2001 until 2010. While in ECW, he won the World Heavyweight Championship and three Tag Team Championships, each with a different teammate. While in the WWE, he won 14 Hardcore Championships and one ECW Championship, which was so named after Vince McMahon brought back ECW to his company’s airwaves. It would’ve been sacrilege for them to not give that title to Dreamer.
In 2010, he worked for TNA for a little bit. Even there, they pushed his connection to the Extreme promotion. It helped that the company was loaded with other former ECW stars, including Rob Van Dam, Bubba Ray Dudley, Stevie Richards, Rhyno, D-Von Dudley, and Al Snow. It’s not just Dreamer that gets by on his association to Paul Heyman’s Philadelphia-based promotion. Heyman created a whole new world of talent that has gone on to inherit the business. ECW guys are all over the place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.