Tommy Dreamer celebrates his 50th birthday Saturday night in fitting fashion, spending it in a cherished and intimately familiar setting.
Dreamer challenges Rich Swann for the Impact Wrestling Championship on Saturday night’s No Surrender special, seeking to add a memory to a career that long ago surpassed all expectations.
“I am blessed to still be here,” said Dreamer, who has been wrestling for over three decades. “This means everything to me. I’m still doing what I love.”
A quarter of a century has passed since Dreamer’s promotion-defining feud with Raven in ECW, establishing himself as a legitimate commodity in an industry filled with larger-than-life personalities. While the ECW faithful was not immediately warm toward Dreamer, he forged a genuine connection with the crowd, which has served as a hallmark of his career.
“For me, wrestling is a connection,” said Dreamer. “It’s an emotion with the fans, one I’ve felt for the past 31 years. This is my life, it’s real to me.
“I’ve thought a lot about Terry Funk lately. He was only 52 when ECW held its first pay per view [Barely Legal in 1997], and Terry was magical. He made you forget about the world and its problems, and you focused so closely on what he was saying and doing. That’s what I hope to make happen against Rich Swann at No Surrender.”
Perhaps best known for his run in WWE as Cruiserweight Champion, Swann is building a reputation as Impact’s top performer. While his work has been overshadowed by the bright lights and attention given to the stars appearing from AEW, that does not change the fact that Swann is producing some of the best in-ring work of his career. He is determined to do everything possible to ensure that tonight’s match resonates for all the right reasons, and Dreamer is grateful to share the ring with him.
“Pound-for-pound, I think Rich Swann is one of the best in-ring competitors I’ve ever seen,” said Dreamer. “He’s a kid from Baltimore that grew up fighting, and now he’s a world champion, which is an incredible story. I’ve known him for a long time, since he was grinding it out on the indies, and I thought he was a star back then—and he is showing now exactly why he is a star.”
Swann still has much to prove, but the past will forever define Dreamer. For one night, however, he looks to turn back the hands of time and deliver a performance worthy of a world title match.
“I stop loving wrestling, that’s the day I’ll stop being part of this business,” said Dreamer. “Thankfully for me, that day hasn’t arrived. Wrestling still consumes my life. It’s still what I want to do and where I want to be, and now I have this opportunity to be in the ring against Swann. That’s all I can ask for.”
Dreamer is not the same in-ring performer he was in ECW or WWE, but this match has potential because it combines Swann’s wrestling brilliance with Dreamer’s raw emotion.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to capture that feeling and that emotion again,” said Dreamer. “One more time, on a very big stage, this is where I get to be. I have given my life to this business, and I’m so grateful to still be here. I wouldn’t want to spend my birthday any other way.”