Vince McMahon Almost Fired Tommy Dreamer & ECW Stars In 2006, Paul Heyman Reveals

Hamish Woodward

Paul Heyman revealed that Vince McMahon nearly fired all the ECW wrestlers in 2006, which showed just how little he understood about the brand, and of Tommy Dreamer in particular. This article came out in 2009, soon after Dreamer won the ECW Championship from Christian at Backlash 2009.

In a blog post for The Sun – a UK tabloid – Paul Heyman wrote a column about Tommy Dreamer, soon after he won the ECW Championship in June 2009. While you may think the article is a celebration of Dreamer’s achievements, it is actually an indictment of Vince McMahon’s failure to understand, and make the most out of, Dreamer’s “John Mclane” character from ECW.

Heyman highlights Dreamer’s transformation from a “pretty boy” character to a symbol of resilience and determination, comparing him to the character John McClane from the movie “Die Hard.” Despite suffering losses, Dreamer’s popularity continued to grow, and he became a symbol of ECW’s extreme values.

The article also mentions a moment when Vince McMahon considered releasing several ECW originals, including Dreamer, as part of a rebranding effort. However, with the intervention of figures like Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and a demonstration of the value these performers brought, they were kept on board.

Paul Heyman finally concludes by acknowledging that Tommy Dreamer’s ECW Championship win was not just about the title itself but about gaining Vince McMahon’s attention and being in the spotlight, which can translate to success and financial value in the world of professional wrestling.

“If you’re looking for this blog to contain one of those gushing, glowing testaments to how Tommy Dreamer winning the ECW championship is the salvation of the Extreme Vision, the resurrection of all that’s right in the world, or the absolution of the Spirit of the Original ECW, then I am sorry to say that you’re reading the wrong person’s perspective.

When I took over creative control of what was then called Eastern Championship Wrestling in September 1993, I came into the position with the determination to break away from the stereotypical small minded booking philosophies that permeated the independent landscape.

“Take a bunch of local guys,” the promoters would always theorize, “and feed them to stars coming off WWE or WCW – and back then World Class or AWA – television programs. My goal was to make new stars. Our own stars. Use the television-established stars to make our own ECW crew more important than the castoffs we could find on the open market.

Easy concept, right?

Just because you’re on Vince McMahon’s TV show doesn’t mean you should mop the floor with our guys. OUR guys are the pushed commodities. In other words, set a trend for the entire industry to follow, except for TNA, which still to this day has yet to learn the simple concept of having “branded” superstars on your own brand.

Sigh.

I rant, therefore I am. Back to Dreamer. One of the people I had in mind for a big push was Peter ‘Taz’ Senerchia. The Brooklyn-born suplex machine had a travel partner that he brought to shows as his “victim,” and Taz put in the good word for the kid.

“He calls himself Tommy Dreamer,” Taz told me, “and this kid can take a beating like no one else.” When Tommy first came to ECW, he looked like something out of a bad WCW creative meeting’s view of a hot young babyface.

Baggy genie pants, suspenders, a total “pretty boy” look. The Philly crowd hated him. The turning point was the storyline in which Dreamer lost a Singapore Cane Match to The Sandman. He took the 10 cracks of the kendo stick in brutal fashion – with Sandman drilling Dreamer so hard, there was blood and welts all over Dreamer’s back – and yet he would keep telling Sandman and manager Nancy ‘Woman’ Sullivan: “Thank you Sir, may I have another?”

The willingness to stand up in the face of adversity for what he believed in became the Dreamer mantra.I always explained to Tommy the inspiration for his character was Bruce Willis as John McClane in the John McTiernan movie Die Hard.

An ordinary man, pushed to extraordinary circumstances, who has no option left but to resort to extreme means just to survive.The formula worked. Dreamer became what is known as the flag waiver for ECW, defending the Extreme virtues against all comers.

In his most memorable rivalry, Dreamer spent two and a half years of his career embroiled in a war with Scott Levy’s ‘Raven’ character. Dreamer lost every single match to Raven for those two and a half years, until finally pinning Raven on Levy’s last night in ECW at WrestlePalooza ’97.

And yet, no one ever branded Tommy a loser, or “Raven’s job boy.” Every loss made him more popular. He was always so close, only to have victory robbed from him. He could never fulfil his Dream. There were many times where the Raven character was left unconscious in the ring and Tommy won the fight, but he never got the win.

The tormented, ever-suffering babyface made everyone forget the pretty boy who wore baggy pants and suspenders.In WWE, Tommy faced a different adversity. While many members of the creative team, like Ed Koskey and David Lagana, actually grew into wrestling fanatics cheering in the bleacher section of the ECW Arena during the 1990s, Vince McMahon just didn’t understand the character.

“Paul,” the Chairman of the entire industry would say, “what exactly IS a Tommy Dreamer? I don’t get it!” This was never more apparent than a few weeks into the re-birth of ECW as a television property in 2006, when Vince had an epiphany.

Kill off the originals. All of ’em. Well, we’ll keep Sabu and Rob Van Dam, but the first week after Big Show won the ECW title, Vince wanted the newly-minted “Heel Heyman” to come out on television and publicly fire Sandman, Balls Mahoney, Little Guido, Francine, Al Snow and especially Tommy Dreamer.

Vince declared: “Time to let people know that concept is dead, and so are those guys, one and all.”

With help from Talent Exec John Laurinaitis, and even a surprisingly impassioned endorsement from Stephanie McMahon-LeVesque, I was able to persuade Vince to keep the originals on board, and not because the brand needed the Bingo Hall alumnae, but because there was actual value in those talented performers.

While the firings, which were going to include the real life behind the scenes “best wishes in all your future endeavours” notice given to Dreamer and company were averted, Vince’s lack of belief in Dreamer continued.

You could see it on television for the past three years. Tommy Dreamer was a enhancement talent. Nothing more, nothing less. Earlier this year, something changed. Dreamer vowed to win the ECW championship or leave the WWE.

While many make such grandiose statements, it was unusual for someone who got beat and/or beat up every week on television to make the claim. Even when Dreamer was getting squashed, the statement was picking up momentum. Finally, not only did WWE creative have to take notice, but Vince did as well.

Lo and behold, Tommy Dreamer was on Vince’s radar. And not just because “Dreamer can make Mark Henry or Khali or The Hart Dynasty look good. Book the match!” But because Tommy Dreamer worked his way into a position that offered something far more valuable than a transient title that has clearly lost its value. Tommy Dreamer won the “spotlight.”

Being the “focus” of the show, especially on the ECW program, is far more valuable than the championship. WrestleMania had excellent title matches this year, but nothing had the focus and spotlight rightfully offered to The Undertaker v Shawn Michaels.

Last year’s WrestleMania is not remembered for any championship match, but for what was to be the final match in the illustrious career of Nature Boy Ric Flair. In World Wrestling Entertainment, “focus” and “spotlight” means “money.”

So, if you’re looking for me to declare a holiday because Tommy Dreamer is the ECW Champion, you’re not following my diatribe. I’m very proud of the not-quite-so-pretty-anymore kid from Yonkers, New York. He won the most coveted, most valuable, most sought-after prize in WWE. He has VINCE’S ATTENTION.

Attaboy, Tommy. John McClane couldn’t have done it better himself!

Vince McMahon’s disdain for ECW was clear from the moment he brought the promotion back from the dead. The ECW revival in 2006 showed that he simply did not understand what made ECW such a force in the 1990s, which extends to show how he did not understand the character of Tommy Dreamer.

Despite Heyman’s proclamation that Tommy Dreamer finally had Vince’s attention, it did not quite go as planned for the ECW Champion. He lost the ECW Championship just 49-days later to Christian, and wrestled his last match for the WWE a year later, as he was released from the company in 2010.

He returned in 2016 for a series of matches with The Wyatt Family, alongside fellow ECW legends like The Dudleys and Rhyno. He now wrestles for TNA, where he most recently held the Impact Digital Media Championship.

Tommy Dreamer was a huge part of the ECW revival in 2006, but nearly missed out on the chance when he planned to kill both himself and Paul Heyman in the ring at WrestleMania X7.

Learn more about Tommy Dreamer killing Paul Heyman at WrestleMania X7.

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