It was a year ago that I attended my first ever wrestling event that didn’t involve matches in a ring. It was a panel and Q&A event hosted by Nick Aldis (Magnus from TNA), his wife, a pre-WWE returning Mickie James, Bull Dempsey and Carlito. The event was supposed to be the ‘trial’ of Vince Russo and his crimes against professional wrestling, but due to personal circumstances at the time, Vince was unable to attend. I really enjoyed the show and hoped they’d return in future. On Thursday 26th October 2017, they did – albeit with a different lineup.
Nick Aldis was back, but with Mickie James enjoying a welcome return to WWE TV, he was joined by Daivari, Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria in WWE, or Tara in TNA) and the Hardcore Legend himself, Tommy Dreamer. I was hyped to meet Tommy and have been a big fan of his for years. To me, Tommy is one of the major links from WWE into the old ECW, and managed to outlast many of his colleagues in a long and decorated career.
I’d purchased VIP tickets for myself and my buddy. This meant we would have a professional photograph with Tommy at the start of the night, as well as reserved seating for the event. I waited in line and had my picture taken – with Tommy’s Kendo Stick dangerously close to my face. I’m 6’2 and I’m continually surprised by how physically imposing wrestlers are. Tommy was taller than me. He shook my hand and thanked me for coming when we posed for the picture.
When Tommy had finished, we then had individual photographs taken with Daivari, Magnus and Victoria. She was such fun and a bundle of energy throughout the evening. Always smiling, chatting and genuinely so nice to everyone – as were all the stars. My buddy is about 6’4 and a big guy, so when he had his picture taken with her, she leaped into his surprised arms and posed as the photographer quickly snapped a picture of him holding her aloft. My buddy was quite perplexed, pleasantly surprised, and very flushed in the face.
The panel began with Nick hosting and he sat down with Tommy for a conversation. While I’m a fan of Tommy, I never knew much about his background or his early career and it was eye opening and very interesting. Tommy told us how he’d broke into wrestling and his first trainer. In comparison to the training methods of Stu Hart – who had a tendency to outright hurt his pupils – Tommy’s schooling was similar but with a definite purpose. For example, he told us how he would be performing a powerslam and if his technique wasn’t right, his trainer would deliberately pull his neck or pinch his arm to remind him how easy it was to hurt your opponent. Nick agreed and had experienced this style of training and both men praised it, because if you’re a danger to your opponent in the ring, nobody will want to work with you and no promoter will want to hire you.
What came across in this conversation was the old school values and rules in professional wrestling. It was more than kayfabe or keeping secrets, they spoke about the fundamentals of pro wrestling – it’s about making money and protecting yourself and your opponents. Nick told a story about how he was a young guy just starting out and was working with a guy in his mid-thirties who would call spots in the ring, then not do them – all to watch Nick look like a fool to a paying audience by falling for a clothesline that didn’t happen or fall for the kick that never came. He wasn’t bitter about it, but just took it as a lesson learnt.
Both men talked about their trainers and promoters and their reluctance to leave them when bigger and better things came calling, the guilt they’d be made to feel if they wanted to split form their mentors. They said this was/is a really common occurrence in pro wrestling and some trainers will guilt their trainees into staying with them for longer – promising them the earth or big tours to keep them working for them. It was sad to hear these stories, but when you consider the trainers don’t have the allure or pull of WWE, or other promotions, one can emphasize with their predicament. They train a young rookie to a level where they’re good enough to be a star, and the trainer is dropped in a heartbeat. No compensation, no payback, nothing.
Daivari and Victoria joined Tommy and Nick on stage and took some questions from the audience. Daivari was a cool guy and came across with a real passion for wrestling. He was very animated when talking and enthusiastic about his point of view. It was a shame he didn’t speak more (or that his mic wasn’t turned on loud enough), because he was an interesting man with experience of pro wrestling from a different standpoint. I’d like to have spoken to him more.
Victoria was like a live-wire; very excited, enthusiastic and always smiling. She told us how when she was in WWE and TNA, she would be very over-analytical with her matches, scrutinizing everything she’d done and always seeking feedback from the agents at every turn. She spoke warmly of Fit Finlay and her time in wrestling, treating us to the story of her 2002 Survivor Series match against Trish Stratus, in which she busted her nose on the way to winning the Women’s Title.
I could write thousands of words about Tommy Dreamer’s ECW tales, but to do so would take away the enjoyment of seeing the show in person. If you get the chance, I’d encourage you to see it, or Tommy himself in any format. If you want tales of friction with Paul Heyman, Sandman earning $28,000 a week, ECW taking matches onto the street, Tommy being thrown into a moving bus or his idea that if ‘Who shot JR’ was good for Dallas, wouldn’t ‘Who shot Tommy Dreamer’ be just as good for ECW? And, he wanted to be shot for real. By a sniper. You read that right.
I hope to see another event in the near future, especially as the tickets for this show were very reasonable for the average fan (£43 for a VIP, which is about $56 – and included professional pictures with all the guests). Some other shows, as good as they are and with huge names in wrestling as guests, charge upwards of £200 or $260, and so are a bit out of my reach. I’d like to thank Nick Aldis and Superstar Promotions for having this event and I hope to attend another soon.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and would encourage you to attend one if you get the chance. As always, thanks for reading.