The dying days of Extreme Championship Wrestling took their toll on Tommy Dreamer. Facing financial woes, mental health struggles, and deep depression, Dreamer’s unabashed devotion to ECW in 2001 took a sinister turn: he plotted to murder his mentor Paul Heyman before taking things one step further.
Tommy Dreamer: The Heartbeat of ECW
For several years, Extreme Championship Wrestling was home to all that was excess. Whether it be blood, violence, or sexuality, ECW was the renegade promotion that pushed the envelope on all things extreme.
Tommy Dreamer came into ECW with a ‘pretty boy’ type persona and would often be jeered mercilessly because of it.
It wasn’t until he embraced countless lashings at The Sandman’s hands that Dreamer’s character emerged fully realized.
Paul Heyman and His Vision for Tommy Dreamer
Every promotion has someone that is that heartbeat. Tommy Dreamer was the lifeblood of ECW, and he was synonymous with all things Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Paul Heyman had a vision for Tommy Dreamer’s in-ring persona.
“I always explained to Tommy the inspiration for his character was Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard,” explained Heyman in an interview with Bleacher Report. “An ordinary man pushed to extraordinary circumstances who has no option left but to resort to extreme means just to survive. The formula worked.”
But for as much as Dreamer gave in front of the camera, it’s what he had committed to the company and Paul Heyman behind the scenes that soon made his passion for the industry descend into an abyss of anger, regret, and depression.
Relationship Between Tommy Dreamer and Paul Heyman
Tommy Dreamer held an administrative role in ECW and could be considered Heyman’s right hand.
He was part of Creative, paying off the talent, and more.
Even more, Dreamer seemingly looked at Heyman as a mentor, friend, and business associate.
“When ECW went out of business, I was 29 years old,” Dreamer explained on his House of Hardcore podcast.
“I had a lot of my money, my parents’ money, trying to float the company. I thought me and [Paul Heyman] were super tight, [but he] screwed me over big time.
“He was in the WWE the whole time. I had turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to WCW. And, now, I was unemployed.”
It was impossible not to feel a sense of betrayal. But even more so, Dreamer had financially compromised his career and his family for Heyman.
“I went from a $750,000 offer and Paul crying to me that if I leave ECW, it will go out of business. Meanwhile, he was getting a paycheck from WWE. I don’t begrudge him, but then I did.”
Feeling Completely Alone
“I was depressed as depressed can be.”
On his podcast, Tommy Dreamer further expressed how, despite having success, it meant nothing.
“I had women, I had fame, I had everything, and yet it was the worst time of my life. It really was. I was making decent money on the Indies. But, I lived at home.”
Paul Heyman Tries to Make It Right
Paul Heyman would attempt to make amends for all that had transpired between him and Tommy Dreamer with an opportunity at WrestleMania X7.
Tommy Dreamer looked forward to the opportunity, but it came and went.
“WrestleMania [X7] in Houston [was where] Paul Heyman told me I was going to debut,” Dreamer explained. They had TLC, and Spike Dudley came in, Rhyno came in, and Lita came in. That was supposed to be my spot.
“Then, it got ixnayed.
“There was gonna be a hardcore 24/7 thing that would be ‘all about you.'”
This was the straw that seemingly broke his back.
Dreamer began considering how he would eradicate Paul Heyman.
Where Tommy Dreamer Wanted to Commit His Act Against Paul Heyman
Tommy Dreamer’s emotions had come to a head.
“I remember I did a show and saw a sign that said [“Firearms Welcome”] I was in Houston. I did an indie show. ‘What is this? I’m from New York; what do you mean [that’s welcome]?'”
“‘Oh, you are allowed to bring those into the venue.’ was the response.”
This is where his thoughts took a sinister turn.
“I was across the street from the Astrodome. It resonated in my head so, so much.
“I’ll tell you what I wanted to do; it’s sick that I think this.
“At WrestleMania, I was gonna hop the rail and whack Paul E. in the back of the head right at the announce table; then I was gonna whack myself. The ultimate martyr, I was going to hit my pose crack, boom, pull the trigger.
“Because I was that insane, that’s what I was thinking about every day. I was like, ‘I will go down in history. Pop, boom.'”
Jim Ross to the Rescue
While he doesn’t know if he would have gone through with it, one voice ensured it wouldn’t happen.
“First, they’d think it was an angle until I shot him,” Dreamer described on his podcast.
“I was so severely depressed and so mental with rage I needed help.
“Randomly, I get a phone call from a number I didn’t know. I didn’t pick up; I remember having these thoughts, which was bad. Think about the horribleness that I would have done to my legacy.”
On the other end of that phone call was Jim Ross.
Ross told the troubled grappler that WWE remained interested in his talents, representing a sliver of hope to Dreamer.
It changed his mindset, and Dreamer had a moment of clarity after his conversation with JR.
Being Grateful for that Call
Tommy Dreamer realized what his actions could have done, and ultimately, he was grateful for that call.
“I would have ruined WrestleMania. I love WrestleMania,” Dreamer later admitted.
“These thoughts were so so crazed in my head. ‘How dare that person? He screwed my parents over,’ and I come from a mobster mentality.
“I was like, ‘I would become infamous.’ Which is famous for the wrong reason.
“I’m glad I didn’t do it. Think of how stupid I would have been if they had come to fruition.”
Subsequently, Dreamer has held a producer position in IMPACT wrestling and has remained actively competing on the independent circuit and as an on-screen character in IMPACT.
Today, Dreamer is a revered veteran with a history of classic matches, brutal brawls, and sacrificing his body for his Art.
Fate can deal with a cruel hand, but Dreamer finally succeeded in wrestling on his terms.
These stories may also interest you:
- Women of ECW: Untold Stories (More Than Meets the Eye!)
- Sandman and the ECW Incident That Went Too Far
- Evelyn Stevens – From Champion Wrestler to Murderer
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