Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Dec. 17, 2011. All rights reserved.
HEADLINE: Tommy Dreamer: born in ECW Arena in south Philadelphia
Major news hit the wrestling world recently with the announcement that the former ECW Arena in south Philadelphia is closing.
Apparently new ownership is coming in and its brass wants to make the arena a venue for larger events, such as concerts and the like. On top of that, they apparently don’t want to host professional wrestling or boxing shows there anymore.
Financially, to me, that makes zero sense. If I were a building owner, I would want to have as many renters come into my establishment as humanly possible so I can make money.
I have seen many places do things that do not make sense when it comes to money, but I suppose when you have a lot of money, some things just don’t matter. But I digress. This decision has led me to write about the emotional attachment people can have to a building or arena.
I have wrestled in every major sports arena in North America. I have witnessed many stadiums close in favour of newer, more state-of-the-art complexes. These same giant complexes also change names frequently, such as when a corporation buys that right for advertising purposes.
I think the reason people get so attached to a building or arena can be summed up in one word — passion.
Sports drive fans into becoming emotionally attached to a certain team. Their passion for the trials and tribulations of their team’s successes and failures is fiercely loyal. I have seen the closures of both Yankee and Shea stadiums, two of professional sports’ most famous venues.
I remember the first time I went with my dad to a Major League Baseball game at the old Yankee Stadium. I got my first autographed baseball at Shea Stadium. I caught a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. I have been to World Series games and I even participated in a charity softball event to raise money for victims of 9/11 at Shea stadium.
Yes, I have lived quite a charmed life and yes, my career choice afforded me the opportunity to do many of the aforementioned things, but even as cool as I appeared to be on the outside, inside I was just being a little kid at heart.
When the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, my dad told me that he could now die a happy man and at peace. A life-long hockey fan, he finally saw his team go to the promised land and bring home Lord Stanley’s chalice. The memories of these events conjure up pure passion; a great time with a family member or friends; cheering when your team scores; booing when their opponent scores; screaming out your disbelief at an official or referee.
How awesome would it be to yell at your boss after he or she tells you that you have to stay late? Or to jeer your teacher for giving you more homework?
In society, you can’t do that without fear of being fired or ending up in detention, but in sports you can. Wrestling evokes more emotion or passion because you know the bad guy is cheating to win. You plead with the official to hear your case. Sometimes that official is body slammed as part of the show, but as a fan, you feel vindicated.
ECW Arena, renamed Asylum Arena in 2010, is a place where I was able to grow up in front of the fans. I went in as a young man who had a dream. I left and watched that dream come true. The expression blood, sweat and tears has never rang more true, quite literally because I have done all of that in that very building. I knew not only the people who worked there, but I knew them by name, including the fans who came to see me on a monthly basis.
I will forever have the many moments etched inside my brain of unbelievable memories, the faces of fans and the emotionally vested trials and tribulations of my own career. It was there that I met the mother of my children. I have forged some amazing friendships because of a simple little bingo hall in South Philadelphia known for years simply as ECW Arena.
I will not be known for being the greatest scientific mat technician in my career. Rather I will be known as a guy who gave all that he had every single night, and all in the name of entertaining fans. That is a hardcore work ethic and a passion for the wrestling business.
I was born into this world as Thomas Laughlin in Yonkers, N.Y. When my time comes and I pass away, I will be best known for being Tommy Dreamer. He was born in ECW Arena in south Philadelphia.
Thanks for the memories.
Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler, father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action and now runs House of Hardcore. Follow him on Twitter — @THETOMMYDREAMER — and check out his website at www.thetommydreamer.com or the House of Hardcore website at houseofhardcore.net. Tommy can be booked for live appearances through his website.