The 2300 Arena in south Philadelphia has played host to a variety of events since its re-opening back in the spring.
It has been the site of boxing cards, mixed martial arts cards and even concerts. But on Saturday, Nov. 15, the venue will be returning to its roots when it hosts House of Hardcore VII.
The 2300 Arena may be the official name of the building, but it is commonly referred to as the “old ECW Arena.”
It earned that moniker when Extreme Championship Wrestling carved its niche in the world of professional wrestling and helped spark another boom period for the industry. The venue recognizes its hardcore wrestling history, as it houses its own Hardcore Hall of Fame.
This will be House of Hardcore’s maiden voyage into the famous venue, but for the head of House of Hardcore, Tommy Dreamer, he’s returning to the building that helped make him a star in the wrestling business.
“It’s kind of my homecoming,” Dreamer said during an interview with philly.com. “That’s where I always say Tommy Dreamer was born, in Philadelphia. My career started there. Just for the fact that I’m able to put on my own show with my own guys and going out there and showing what I feel professional wrestling should be is going to be a great night.”
Philadelphia wasn’t always so kind to the New York native. When his career began in the old ECW, he was seen as too pretty for the extreme product. He wasn’t hardcore enough for the Philadelphia fans’ liking.
But one night in the arena, Dreamer took part in a match against The Sandman where the loser would have to receive 10 lashes from a Singapore cane. Dreamer lost the match in controversial fashion, but was still willing to take the punishment.
With each painful lash from the cane, Dreamer earned another scar, but also earned more and more respect from the Philadelphia fans. From then on, they took him in as one of their own.
“Philly has been fun, man,” Dreamer said. “They always say that if you can make it in New York, that if you make there, you could make it anywhere. I think Philly is actually a lot harder to make it and when you’re taken in by the city like Philadelphia, you’re golden.”
Even years later, the Philadelphia fans pay their respect to the man dubbed “The Innovator of Violence.”
“I remember when I made my return to WWE as a complete surprise for the Slammys a couple of years ago, I just remember walking out for one second when I was behind the curtain I said, ‘Please let them remember, please let them remember,’ and then as soon as I stepped out and my music hit I remember seeing the people rise,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling and they were just going nuts for me, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
“It’s like seeing old friends and family,” he added. “Seriously, I grew up with all of these people. I’ve been wrestling since I was 18. I started there when I was 22 years old and they watched me grow up.”
The lessons he learned growing up in front of the Philadelphia fans are the same ones he passes down to his students at the House of Hardcore’s wrestling school today.
Based out of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the school itself is housed in the same building where the WWE and the old ECW used to run television tapings and is complete with two rings. According to Dreamer, the school has had as many as 30 students.
“It’s kind of giving back to the business and it’s helping people pursue their dreams,” he said.
While the previous six House of Hardcore shows have had students from the school sprinkled into the show, Dreamer does not want to push all of the up-and-comers in front of the tough Philadelphia crowd too soon and endure what he had to endure early in his ECW career. Only a select few will be able to showcase their talents on the card.
“Even though everyone knows professional wrestling is pre-determined, but it still has to be real in the ring and the fans, especially the fans in Philly, they will tell you whether you’re good or not, whether they accept you or not,” Dreamer said.
“I’m not like other organizations where I’m going to force people down people’s throats,” he added. “I want guys to be ready and just like me, once they accept you, you’re golden.”
Dreamer’s name and stature in the wrestling business allows his students to rub shoulders with stars that have years of experience and that have fans around the world.
The big names that will be in Philadelphia Nov. 15 are TNA Wrestling stars Austin Aries, Ethan Carter III, and The Wolves (Eddie Edwards and Davie Richards and former WWE stars Drew Galloway (Drew McIntyre) and Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins).
The main event will feature The Hardys (Matt and Jeff Hardy) going up against The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), who have made their name across the globe, including New Japan Pro Wrestling.
The card will also include Dreamer, who at the tender age of 43 will lace up his boots yet again to entertain the Philadelphia fans.
Fans can expect Dreamer and the others to put on a show worthy of the name House of Hardcore, but he insists that he will not try to re-create what was in the old ECW.
“When I first did it, everyone was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be another ECW reunion,’ and I’ve always been a man of my word, especially to the fans, and they’ve kind of seen that it’s not. It’s my vision of what pro wrestling should be,” Dreamer said.
“ECW was amazing. You cannot recapture that lightning in a bottle,” he added. “My goal is that I want to create new memories.”
“ECW was a lot about blood and violence and a lot of stuff like that. I don’t have the funds to medically blood test guys, right then and there, there’s not going to be any blood. There’s not going to be any crazy barbed wire and all of that stuff.”
Not having enough funds is a constant issue in the life of an independent wrestling promoter, and despite Dreamer’s name and stature, he is no different.
But House of Hardcore has not been a losing venture for the former champion. It’s been a profitable on so far and has promised himself that he wouldn’t stick around very long if it wasn’t.
“There are a lot of people that like to go out there and put themselves on the shows and it’s not successful or they want to play wrestler and promoter and you can’t do that,” he said. “You have to look at it like it’s straight up business and that you’re in it to make money. I’ve said from day one that the moment that I lost money I wouldn’t do it anymore and so far, this is now my seventh one.”
For more information House of Hardcore and its show Nov. 15, visit its website HERE.