By Amanda Dyslin
Last week, headed up to an amusement park called Dinosaur World with his twin 5-year-old girls, Thomas Laughlin took a few minutes to talk about his alter ego, Tommy Dreamer.
Dreamer is a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler who has been in the business about 20 years. He’s been a 14-time Hardcore Champion while wrestling with the WWE. And he won the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) title this year, reclaiming the title nine years after he won it the first time with the original ECW. Which makes him the only wrestler with the title in both the original ECW and the WWE brand.
All of that remains important to Dreamer outside of the ring, in his everyday life. But Dreamer is really two guys, he said. When he’s at home, he’s the family man, spending as much time as he can with daughters Kimberly and Briana.
“(When I’m home), I don’t want anything to do with wrestling,” said Laughlin, who will perform at the WWE Presents SmackDown/ECW SummerSlam Tour show Saturday at the Alltel Center. “There’s two different sides of me when I’m wrestling and when I’m not.”
Of course, these two sides often cross over. Last week, for example, Dreamer was nursing a puncture wound on his arm. Christian, a wrestler who is one of Dreamer’s closest friends and favorite wrestling partners, hit him in the arm with a crutch and the screw bolt went into his tricep. At the time, he wasn’t sure if he could move his arm, but he finished the match anyway.
“I am feeling it today,” he said.
Other injuries have included a broken neck and back, a nose broken four times and 17 broken fingers, “which stinks because I only have 10,” he said. He’s also torn his pec and bicep and crushed his heel. Although he considers himself lucky to never have had surgery.
So, while much of professional wrestling is pre-determined, Dreamer said there’s a lot that is very much real. When paired with other wrestlers who have been wrestling a long time, there’s a lot of spontaneity involved in the matches.
Some of his favorite opponents over the years have included Raven, a storyline Dreamer and Raven are perhaps best known for. “Raven was a great feud,” he said. The two men were portrayed as being childhood friends who had competed in one way or another their whole lives. They feuded for two years, and Dreamer never won against Raven until Raven’s last match in the ECW.
“I’ve been blessed with so much, such great rivalries,” he said, citing Christian and Jack Swagger as other examples.
A major moment in Dreamer’s career happened this year. On Jan. 13, 2009, he threw down the gauntlet, announcing that if he didn’t win the ECW Championship by June 6, he would allow his WWE contract to expire and wouldn’t wrestler for ECW anymore. It wasn’t a storyline. No one told him to say that. “That was the real deal,” he said.
Dreamer was set in his position and wanted to prove to himself he had what it took to reclaim the title. The higher-ups went for it, and the story followed Dreamer on a run of losses until he beat Paul Burchill Feb. 24. The ECW Championship match April 28 against Christian, who was the current champion, ended in a no contest when Jack Swagger interfered.
Dreamer got one more chance at the title when he challenged Christian and Swagger in a triple-threat match. He won the title when he pinned Swagger, a moment he said was very important to him. Later, during Night of the Champions, Christian reclaimed the title.
These days, Dreamer is enjoying time back in the ring, having taken time off years ago to do more behind the scenes work, including talent scouting. He’s also serving as a mentor to some of the new kids coming in, including Swagger and CM Punk.
Things are a lot different now for the new guys than it was when Dreamer started out, he said. Twenty years ago, there were more places for guys to wrestle. Now the WWE is pretty much it, he said.
“The competition is more intense,” he said. “So many guys fighting for the same spot.”
Dreamer has wrestled a lot of guys over the years. Looking forward, it’s hard for him to say who he’d like to face off with in his final match when the time comes. But he knows he’d want fresh meat.
“Triple H and Shawn Michaels, those are two guys I’ve never done anything with,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s having a good time on tour with Christian, Shelton Benjamin, William Regal and a few others.
And while he’s at home, he has an even better time with his girls, who aren’t quite old enough to watch Dad on TV.
“I let them watch my entrance, and if I’m doing something funny,” he said. “They say, ‘Daddy falls down a lot for a living.’”