History hasn’t always been kind to the brave-hearted. General George S. Custer. Boromir, son of Denethor II. Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding. All of them took a final stand, and none of them were successful in their attempts. Tommy Dreamer is on the verge of his own final stand at this Sunday’s WWE Extreme Rules, and he’s hoping to buck the trend.

Tommy Dreamer. © 2009 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

At the pay-per-view, which is comprised entirely of gimmick matches, Dreamer will compete in a triple threat match for the ECW Championship against Jack Swagger and current champion Christian. Dreamer’s contract with the company has expired — he’s signed a one-day extension to compete at the show — and he has vowed that if he doesn’t win the title, he will not resign. SLAM! Wrestling had a chance to talk with the hardcore icon just days before his potential final match.

“I wanted to prove that I’ve still got it,” Dreamer said about his motivation behind the self-imposed stipulation. “I love ECW, I love WWE, and I want to keep on doing what I’m doing. But I don’t want to be one of those guys who just hangs around. I’ve been champion before, and I want to prove that I can be champion again.”

He compared his thinking to that of NFL quarterback Brett Favre who, in 2008, asked for his release from the Green Bay Packers rather than return as a backup. “He said that he still loved the game, and that (the decision) wasn’t about money,” Dreamer said. “He just wanted to prove that he could still do it.” About the fact that Favre fizzled with the Jets after obtaining his release, Dreamer noted wryly, “I hope that isn’t the case with me.”

Of course, there are other factors that will affect Dreamer’s destiny, namely his opponents Swagger and Christian, who has lost his last name Cage. Naming them as two opponents he loves to wrestle, Dreamer has nothing but praise about both men.

“I’ve been friends with Christian since I started in WWE in 2001. I think he’s one of the most underrated, greatest performers that WWE will ever have. Being in the ring with him, (it’s) being there with a friend, having a great time, having a great match. He’s great.”

“Jack Swagger has an amazing future ahead of him,” predicted Dreamer. “He’s a legit All-American in amateur wrestling. He’s got height, a good body, and, “he joked, “somewhat good looks. The door is wide open for him. He could potentially be a main-eventer at Wrestlemania someday.”

The chance to compete against up-and-coming young lions like Swagger is a big reason that Dreamer is happy to be on the ECW brand. Since its inception, it has been the place where many a young superstar have cut their TV teeth. While some fans may dismiss it as the minor leagues, Dreamer doesn’t see the focus on young talent as a negative.

“It actually reminds me somewhat of the original ECW in that it’s a great place for guys to break their ground in wrestling. That’s what the original ECW was — guys wrestled for us and then they moved on to other things. You look at the people who came up (in WWE) after their time in the new ECW. Guys like CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, The Miz. There’s a lot of guys whose careers got started or got kickstarted in this ECW. I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with Swagger and be the guy who he starts out with. I’m happy to be able to give back to the business that way.”

That kind of attitude and respect for the business has personified Dreamer’s career, both in the original ECW and in the current incarnation. It’s an attitude and a work ethic that can’t help but come out in his persona, and something that, over the years, fans have come to appreciate.

“I think the fans see that I’ve never forgotten where I came from,” he surmised. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for my whole life, ever since I was nine years old. You see some athletes in basketball and baseball who hold out for more money or complain about this or that. They forget that we get paid to do something we love.”

Tommy Dreamer in action. Will the last time be on Sunday? © 2009 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“I think about back in the day when I was offered crazy amounts of money to leave ECW and go to WCW. Even though, financially I wasn’t (making as much) in ECW, I didn’t go. (Because) I was never a fan of their product — I’d watch Nitro but I didn’t like what I saw. And they just wanted to take me away for the sake of hurting ECW. I think the fans can see that (I would not do that), and they appreciate that. It’s actually a mutual respect,” he stressed. “The fans always know that I’m a man of my word — going back to the old ECW where we never lied to our audience. I’m not lying to them (about this being potentially his last match) now, either.

Indeed, Dreamer clarified that his situation on Sunday is not like most wrestling retirement angles, that are quickly forgotten about. “I guess if I was like my mentor Terry Funk, I would have retired a million times,” he joked. “But this isn’t an angle for me, this is the real deal. My contract legitimately was up, and I really signed a one-day extension and that’s it. If I lose, then I’m gone. I’ve read some rumours that said that I would come back as General Manager or that I would move to Raw or Smackdown. But like I said on (the company’s website) WWE Universe: No. If I lose, I’m gone. You will not see me on WWE programming again.”

And if that is indeed the outcome, the “Innovator of Violence” said he would have no regrets with any aspect of his career, as he’s “had a great run.” And to that, he credits his fans.

“They’ve always been there for me,” he said gratefully. “We here call the fans the ‘WWE Universe’ … but I call them my family.”