PHILADELPHIA — On a night that promised to be nothing if not nostalgic, Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore delivered that and much more before a packed house at the former ECW Arena, where Dreamer and many others laid the foundation for one of the most improbable success stories in professional wrestling history.
And while Dreamer delivered plenty of nostalgia, painting a beautiful picture of the glory days, he also masterfully dug in his heels and served notice that House of Hardcore is here to stay, a message driven home emphatically by Dreamer’s best friend, Bully Ray, as the show closed.
Ravenous wrestling fans came out in droves to witness the returns of many stars who helped transform Extreme Championship Wrestling into a now legendary time in wrestling history, while turning the arena into one of Philadelphia’s many sports shrines.
It’s safe to say no one left disappointed.
From the opening match, which featured the wildly popular Stevie Richards, sporting his BWO crop top and cut off jean shorts to the shows final of three main events, a passing of the torch that featured the future, The Young Bucks, versus the past, The Hardys, House of Hardcore delivered on every level.
Not surprisingly, there were a large number of ECW T-shirts smattered through the crowd of well over a thousand. Also to no one’s surprise, the show opened to loud chants of E-C-Dub, which were quickly replaced with H-O-H chants, undoubtedly putting a smile on Dreamer’s face.
House of Hardcore shows are built around great wrestling, well-booked shows and surprises, and Dreamer hit the ball out of the park on all three.
With ECW alum Stephen DeAngelis doing the ring announcing, the show got off to a hot start when Richards made his way to the ring. Richards worked the crowd and outsmarted his foe, scoring the win, much to the delight of the jacked-up fans.
The show’s first of many surprises was a doozy and it came following Christian York’s pinfall victory over Brian Myers. Myers, dissatisfied with the result, demanded a second challenger, which prompted the appearance of former WWE ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez, who blew the roof off the building when he introduced former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio, who promptly put Myers in a cross armbar, much to the delight of the crowd.
A clearly amped up Del Rio took the microphone, expressed his relief to be free to wrestle in North America again and put over House of Hardcore in a big way.
It was hard to imagine that Dreamer could top himself following that major surprise, but he would, several more times. Dreamer himself could be seen wearing a very proud and satisfied grin making his way through the arena while Del Rio stood inside an HoH ring.
Following the Del Rio/Rodriguez appearances, Team Tremendous and Little Guido defeated Vic Delicious, Anthony Gree and Ben Ortiz in arguably the most entertaining match of the night. Where nearly every promotion struggles to deliver quality six-person tag-team matches, Dreamer continues to put together matches that exceed expectations.
Next up was current Total Non-Stop Action star Eddie Edwards taking on Eddie Kingston in a highly entertaining match that ended with Edwards winning by submission.
House of Hardcore regular Tony Nese then defeated Lance Anoai and Alex Scott Reynolds in a match that kept the crowd alive and guessing.
Dreamer delivered yet another major surprise just before intermission when Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Hoyt issued an open challenge to anyone in the back. The crowd erupted when The Dudleys, Bubba and Devon, came home to Philly. The Dudleys delivered a message, that they were back home, and a victory, sending the crowd into a frenzy heading into the intermission.
DeAngelis led the way as the crowd paid homage to the building by reading off the names of ECW greats honoured with flags along one of its walls. The likes of Dreamer, Sandman and others had their names read, in yet another touching moment of nostalgia.
Following the break, Dreamer delivered three straight main events.
Austin Aries defeated Drew Galloway, formerly known as Drew McIntyre, in a match that showcased the skill Galloway possess that other companies rarely showed off.
Following that, Dreamer himself entered the House of Hardcore, along with his wife and longtime valet Beulah McGillicutty, to face a friend and foe in TNA champ Bobby Roode in a hardcore match. Both men took to the microphone to profess their admiration and respect for one another. Roode then shocked the crowd, which was both those in attendance and those watching around the world on i-pay-per-view, when he put his TNA title on the line in the match.
During the match, Velvet Sky appeared to help Roode, but was stopped by Beulah. The pair subsequent engaged in a battle that essentially took them out of the fray. The match ended with Roode defeating Dreamer and retaining his title, but not before run-ins from CW Anderson, Rosita, Spike Dudley, yes Spike Dudley, and Sandman, eliciting a huge response from the crowd.
It seemed impossible following that match that The Young Bucks and Hardys could top what had just taken place in the ring.
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
In a match that started a bit tentatively, the Hardys and Bucks would eventually put life and limb on the line, all in the sake of entertainment, producing easily the best match of the night, perhaps the best in HoH history to date. It was a super-kick fest from the perspective the Young Bucks, clearly one of the best tag-teams in wrestling today and a House of Hardcore staple.
Not to be outdone, Matt and Jeff showed why they are among the greatest teams in wrestling history, performing daring move after daring move and that Hardys chemistry and willingness to do anything for the sake of entertainment. I’ll tip my hat to the Hardys for the effort they put forth in this match.
Following several near pinfalls, countless high-flying moves and some great in-ring storytelling, the Bucks earned the win, and the respect of everyone who witnessed the match, an instant classic.
Following the match, Matt and Jeff attempted to goad the Bucks into a handshake that ended with the Hardys being superkicked, yet again. Just as quickly, the Dudleys came to the ring and delivered 3Ds to both Bucks.
From there, Bubba did what he does best, taking the microphone and addressing the crowd. He then spoke passionately about the wrestling business, the fans and his best friend, Tommy Dreamer.
Bubba then called out Dreamer, urged fans to support House of Hardcore and Dreamer and wrestling. The show would end with everyone in the back coming to ring and sharing beers, led by none other than The Sandman.
A deafening H-O-H closed the night, much as it used to in the arena’s glory days.
The torch has been passed. Past and present merged on Saturday night in front of some of the best, if not the best, wrestling fans in the world.
Take a bow, Tommy. The House of Hardcore is here to stay.