LIVING THE DREAM

The “Innovator Of Violence” Does It His Way With House of Hardcore

Text by BRIAN SOLOMON

Once upon a time, Tommy Dreamer made a name for himself as one of the most fearless, extreme pro wrestlers the sport has ever seen, wielding the Singapore cane and demolishing tables with reckless abandon. Back in those days, annihilating his opponents and causing as much collateral damage as possible were his two main concerns. But fast-forward two decades—Tommy Dreamer is no longer just a wrestler, but is now his own boss. And with that shift comes responsibilities the old Tommy Dreamer probably never imagined. For instance, now he has to pay for those tables.

“I love breaking tables, I do. I made a career out of it,” he explains. “But there’s only one place now where you can still get those kind of tables to break, and they’re anywhere between $135 to $185. It’s literally taking almost $200 and ripping it in half. So that’s what you have to be mindful of.”

It’s probably not what you’d expect to hear from the man who once took pleasure in taking repeated cane shots from Sandman, and crucified Raven to a steel cage for the chair shot heard ’round the world. This is Tommy Dreamer, responsible businessman and proprietor of House of Hardcore, one of the most talked-about independent wrestling companies to burst on the scene in quite some time. However, make no mistake—he may be running the show these days, but he has most definitely not lost his edge, which is evidenced by the loyal fan following HOH has attracted in just six short years.

Long-time fans may remember the original “House Of Hardcore,” which was the training camp that prepared wrestlers for ECW, the revolutionary company where Dreamer originally made his name during the 1990s. Naturally, this new House of Hardcore was named as a tip of the hat to Dreamer’s “alma mater.” It also started in the spring of 2012 as a wrestling school based out of the venerable Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. When the owners of the Civic Center approached Dreamer to put on a show using his trainees and trainers in October 2012, Dreamer agreed.

One show then turned into two shows, and by 2014 Dreamer was presenting four House of Hardcore events per year, even using the legendary 2300 Arena in South Philly—the building once known as the ECW Arena, where Dreamer and so many other “ECW Originals” made wrestling history every month during the era of Bill Clinton and Seinfeld. And yet, from the beginning, it was important to Dreamer that House of Hardcore not be seen as simply an ECW tribute show.

“I never wanted to be the next ECW,” he says. “When we first came out, people said it was another ECW reunion, because I had me and Rhyno on the show. And I said, no, it’s not. And I work super duper hard that it will never be that, because that was awesome, and I got to live so many amazing moments, but now I just want to create new moments for people, because I was blessed to be a part of so many.”

But it wasn’t until 2016 that Dreamer truly began to realize the potential of HOH, when he made a deal to bring the show to Toronto’s Ted Reeve Arena. Dreamer turned a lot of heads in the industry when the Canadian-based Fight Network put HOH on the air for a 10-week run to promote the Toronto debut. And when HOH set the all-time attendance record for wrestling in the 60-year-old venue, Dreamer realized he just might be on to something. From that point forward, HOH has been presented on a roughly monthly basis, which is just the way Dreamer wants it.

“I feel there’s too much wrestling on TV,” says Dreamer, who has bypassed TV altogether by streaming HOH events on the Internet. “I just want to do monthly specials for now, with a weekly hype, and so far it’s been paying off. The world is all about content, so it’s on your phone, on your laptop, on your smart TV, just like the WWE Network—except it’s free.”

That “weekly hype” comes in the form of a streaming show on Amazon’s twitch.tv platform, which began offering HOH content last November. Thanks to the exclusive deal, Twitch now live-streams all of HOH’s monthly events, as well as the weekly House of Hardcore TV, which features promos for upcoming events, results of past events, and archived matches. The new regular platform has also encouraged Dreamer to focus more on developing episodic angles, and even introducing championships for the first time in HOH’s history, beginning with the House of Hardcore TV title captured in April by Willie Mack in the finals of a tournament that stretched across the first four months of 2018.

Along the way, Dreamer has enjoyed co-promotional partnerships with companies including Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, raising HOH’s profile in the process. Dreamer’s passion for House of Hardcore comes through in the product. He believes this is a big part of why the company has been able to succeed for six years in the sink-or-swim world of independent wrestling, connecting to an ever-growing fan base. Fans believe in Dreamer and, most importantly, they trust him.

“It’s what I learned in ECW,” he explains. “What I learned from Paul Heyman was never lie to the fans. My reputation with the fans has helped me because they know I’ve never lied to them. When I wasn’t happy in WWE, I did that thing with Zack Ryder, where if I lost, I would never wrestle in ECW again. And I did. Same with when I was in Impact, and the stipulation was I would never wrestle Raven again, and never do any ECW reunions again. I’ve been asked to wrestle Raven a million times since then, and I say no. I hate when wrestlers announce their retirement and come back. I’ve kept to every stipulation. Fans appreciate things like that, and they appreciate my hard work. With House of Hardcore, I’ve brought them along on my journey the entire time.”

For HOH’s growing faithful, that’s a journey they’ve been happy to take, and a journey that looks to be only beginning.

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