For the first time, you can watch House of Hardcore for free this Saturday.
Thanks to a new a deal with streaming service Twitch, House of Hardcore 35 will broadcast around the world, bringing fans into the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. Tommy Dreamer’s promotion has already begun broadcasting on Twitch, airing a weekly show on Wednesdays and offering past matches on-demand.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you want to miss out on the live experience. It’s a star-studded event this Saturday as Austin Aries returns to HOH, Nick Aldis (Magnus) faces Billy Gunn, Matt Cross takes on Petey Williams, and Dreamer fights Joey Mercury in a First Blood Match.
Several new talents will be seen for the first time, including the Philly debut of The Luchasaurus, and ECW veterans like Little Guido and Super Crazy will be back home. Plus, MVP, Shane Douglas and other big names will be on hand.
Dreamer spoke with The Wrestling Estate in preparation for HOH35.
Every time I talk with you, you have something new going on. How did the deal with Twitch come about?
Tommy Dreamer: “An ex-ECW fan that worked with Twitch approached me about it, and I was like, sure. Twitch was basically just a device sued for gaming. We were in Florida and I gave him a T-shirt and he helped carry the T-shirts back and forth into the arena. That’s how we met, and then through social media, he told me he met me before and that he was doing good in his life, and thought we’d be a perfect fit.
It didn’t work out, but then Twitch came back to me two and a half years later, to re-explore the option. It was exactly everything I had been looking for, so let’s do this.”
You must have been pretty surprised to hear back from them.
Dreamer: “Yeah, as you know, I’ve been knocking on this. In a bit of irony, if that is the proper word, I pretty much set a five-year plan for myself and the company. If I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I would never just give up on House of Hardcore, but I wouldn’t do as many shows and I wouldn’t pursue it the way I wanted to. I’ve had so many doors close on me. We came real close to a huge national television deal a while back, and it just fell apart. You have a lot of people say hey, I can help you here or help you there, and it just doesn’t happen. Then when it actually happened, I signed the contract on the fifth anniversary of my first ever show.”
That’s awesome. You know, a national television deal would be great, but with the way people consume media now, Twitch is the platform of the future.
Dreamer: “Yes. When I was on the Fight Network, that’s an app. It was more of a Canadian thing, and they were really, really cool. When I was with FloSlam, you had to subscribe. This is everything I wanted because you don’t have to pay for it. It’s the new way to watch television. Social media has changed the way we watch television.
I debated every day about cancelling my cable because I watch everything on Netflix or on my phone. Twitch is available on your phone, on your tablet, and on your TV. You just subscribe to the House of Hardcore channel. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get it for free. If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you still get it for free but you’re going to watch a couple of commercials in between, which is fine by me.”
In addition to the live events, what else are you going to have on the channel?
Dreamer: “We’re debuting weekly content almost like a television show. I still don’t have the dollars to compete with WWE. With this Twitch deal that I have, my budget has already gone up not only for the shows, but hiring an editor and doing a lot of stuff to upgrade my product. All of the weekly content will be garnered toward the shows. It’s going to be a different view of how to watch professional wrestling.
I’m not going to be showing weekly matches. It’s cool, too, because with Twitch, I don’t have a format. With how their system works, I could put a two-minute TV show or a 24-hour TV show. It’s whatever I want to do, and I love that.”
It’s kind of like ECW and how they changed what a pro wrestling TV show could be.
Dreamer: “Yeah, but we did have time constraints and you have to hit your commercial time spots. I can plug in my own commercials and do whatever I like. It’s really exciting. If we hit and we hit how I’m hoping we hit, this will change the landscape of professional wrestling. It will change my life and wrestling fans’ lives. I’ve banked everything on this. These shows, as always, are loaded with surprises. The 18th will have a lot of surprises, and then moving forward, I’m actually designing a title. We’re going to start garnering for the first Twitch Television Champion, which will start toward my next show at the Arena and then culminate during WrestleMania weekend.
Fans can now follow along so I don’t get into a situation where guys leave. When the Hardyz signed with WWE, you know, technically they didn’t have to appear, but thankfully, WWE allowed them to appear. Now I’m signing guys to contracts where I’m running shows here, here and here. I’ve already given them dates, and if WWE signs them tomorrow, they’ll be obligated to fulfill those dates. Storylines won’t be affected and that’s really, really important for me, as well as for the fans.
If you’re watching The Walking Dead and Negan gets a show on CBS, and they’re like you can’t be on that show anymore, think how disappointed the fans would be. Now I have the opportunity so that never, ever happens.”
For House of Hardcore’s most recent Philly show, you advertised zero matches and still sold out. How does that happen?
Dreamer: “It’s the popularity of the brand, the popularity of me delivering on my word always to the fans. I thought that was really, really cool. They stood by me and they had an amazing show. My show on the 17th in Long Island, tickets are doing very, very well. After this, I have December 2nd in Wisconsin, and tickets are doing well. It’s just delivering a really good product. It’s really the team that I pick. The men and women on my team always deliver. My credit is my longstanding relationship with the fans where I’m going to do everything I possibly can to deliver. The fans have repaid me with their trust and I’m never going to break that trust.”
What is the backstage vibe during House of Hardcore shows?
Dreamer: “I’ll tell you something that a lot of people didn’t get to see. At the last show, we were sitting at a table and talking tag team wrestling. At that table was myself, Bully Ray, Spirit Squad, Ricky Morton, Joey Mercury, some of the younger talent and some of the talent that a lot of people heard of. It was probably about 11 guys and one of the most intense conversations and roundtable discussions I’ve ever heard about pro wrestling. No one was arguing. It was generations of tag team wrestlers, and guys like Matt Striker, Dan Barry, talking the psychology of tag team wrestling. Anyone that was able to sit there, and it was open to everybody because it happened organically, they went to school. It reminded me so much of when I was younger and I’m sitting there with Paul Heyman, Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Raven and we’re all talking about stuff.
I’ve always had that at my shows. At the show you said you took your family to, Christian was in the back watching the monitor and talking to guys. I had Matt and Jeff Hardy watching matches. I offer everyone, hey man, critique, watch, do whatever you want. It’s knowledge you can not get anywhere. If I do great, pat me on the back. If I mess up, tell me how to make it better.”
Can we talk about Austin Aries making his return to House of Hardcore?
Dreamer: “Absolutely. The beauty of this business is the more people that leave, means the more people that get to come back. His departure from WWE was kind of a shock to everybody. He hasn’t really done anything since then. I’m going to hand him a live microphone and he has a lot to get off his chest live on Twitch. I don’t know what the hell he’s going to say. I’m probably going to have to put a public disclaimer (laughs) because they reflect him and only him. I’m giving him that forum. I remember when Steve Austin left WCW and was fired and was pissed off. He wanted to express that and Paul said good, here’s a microphone, tell me about it.”
You’ve said before that if you ever crowned a House of Hardcore Champion, it would be Sami Callihan. Will he still work House of Hardcore shows now that he just debuted for Impact Wrestling?
Dreamer: “Yes. He actually has more dates with me. I don’t know his contract status with TNA, but I know that he’s been announced for New Japan as well. I’ve known that for a while. Whenever I set up the House of Hardcore shows, Sami is one of the guys who get the first call. We’ve talked about him not taking many bookings in 2018 and working for promotions that he has always worked with, and House of Hardcore being one of them. He’s going to be working for New Japan a lot more, which I’m very, very happy about.”
Let’s talk about your best friend Bully Ray. Did he break the news to you about his retirement before everybody else?
Dreamer: “Yeah, it’s another reason why he wasn’t booked on the shows. I see Bubba at least once a week because we’re both trainers at Team 3D Academy up in Connecticut. He hasn’t been right in his head for a while. I kind of feel responsible because I’ve given him a lot of those concussions as well as scars on his head.
I would be a hypocrite to tell people not to do things because of what I’ve done and what I continue to do to myself. But as a guy who owns a company and cares about the wellbeing of my wrestlers, I’m going to take the stance that WWE started. There will be no chairshots to the head in my company. If we can learn anything from science and the NFL, it’s probably the one really, really good thing they’ve done with monitoring guys when they’ve had their bell rung. I’m good friends with Chris Nowinski and he’s trying to make the athletes’ workplace better.
The older you get, it seems to be that concussions and their side effects are having a lasting effect. Bubba will be an asset to me in the back and I’m okay with that.”
Does that stuff worry you? Do you ever think about all the headshots you’ve taken?
Dreamer: “Yes, I’ve probably had more concussions than most. Chris has told me your brain is a muscle and you have to work it out. Not so much TV, keep on reading, sleep, stuff like that and I’ve done that. Sometimes I’m reminded, hey, you just asked that question. Concussions just affect people differently. It’s weird, you know, you look at some boxers – Sugar Ray articulates well, he speaks well and he’s had a lot of blows to the head. Then other boxers who didn’t last as long as he did, and they’re punch drunk. It’s an amazing science that we’re finally harping on, and we should be.”