For almost 30 years, Rob Van Dam has entertained the wrestling world with his great in-ring abilities and high-risk aerial maneuvers. During his tenure with ECW he held the World Television Championship a record 700 days. He quickly earned a slew of nicknames, including “Mr. Pay-Per-View,” “Mr. Monday Night” and “The Whole Fucking Show,” due to his in-ring performances and the ability to consistently put on what would be the match of the night. Boasting further accomplishments, like being the number one ranked wrestler in the world in 2002 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated and being voted most popular in 2001 and 2002, Van Dam has an amazing career dating back to the late ’80s.
And the superstar doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
A few weeks ago at Ronin Pro Wrestling’s event, I caught up with RVD, and we talked about the highlights of his career and what the future has in store.
Tuff Gnarl: You first appeared on WWE in 1987–at 17 years old–not as a wrestler but as part of a bit with Ted DiBiase where you kissed his feet. How did you end up getting involved in the segment and was that the kick-start for your journey to become a professional wrestler?
Rob Van Dam: Actually I was just a random kid in the audience. It was completely impromptu. At 17, I was just so excited to be in the ring that I threw away my negotiating abilities and kissed his feet at the first offer. It’s funny, because I knew from watching the shows on TV that I could get 500 bucks easily. Either way, it ended up being my first pay from WWE and it was pretty awesome.
Not many people know this, but you had a really brief stint with WCW that started and finished with very little fanfare and exposure. What went wrong with that situation?
At that point I was still young and green and my perspective of the world was different. I was fortunate to get the job thanks to Bill Watts right around the time I was 21. I had an upcoming trip booked to go wrestle for All Japan that was already signed. They told me I was good to go ahead and do the trip so I did. While I was gone, Bill was let go and Ole Anderson took over, so there goes RVD’s push and that ends my WCW stint. I feel like that echoes throughout my career–that whenever it was time for me to move on, whether it was wanted or not, I did it as clean as possible.
It’s very understandable to leave when you’re not welcome, but luckily you found a home shortly after at ECW. During your time there you were the World Television Champion for a record 700 days. What was the most memorable match during that reign and, in hindsight, do you wish it would have turned into a push for the World Heavyweight belt?
I was never upset about anything. My goal was simple: To show off and see how far it would get me. A lot of guys take themselves too seriously, as well as the business. My accomplishments have been a combination of my goals as well as the company’s agenda finding common ground. Ether way, I had an awesome run that included some of my most memorable matches with Jerry Lynn, but I enjoyed wrestling anybody and everybody. Whether they came in from Mexico, Japan or WWE. It didn’t matter. My goal was always putting on the best match on the card and that’s what gained me the credibility to back up the nickname, “The Whole Fucking Show.”
You were there for the buyout of ECW, which spawned the Invasion storyline in WWE when they acquired it. What was the mindset going into WWE, as it would no longer be controlled by Paul Heyman, but rather, Vince McMahon?
When I finally went to WWE, it was the right time for me. I actually didn’t know I would be representing ECW until the day I got to Atlanta right after I signed. Tommy Dreamer walked up to me and tossed me a t-shirt and said, “Looks like we’re reppin’ ECW again.” I was really excited because WWE had been known for erasing wrestlers’ back stories and reinventing them, and I had no real interest in that happening, so it was definitely comforting that I could continue building on the legacy I had already started. When it comes down to it, I was able to represent the extreme style on the grand stage, so it was totally worth it.
You have had great success in WWE, ECW and TNA. Which one gave you the best experience of the three?
WWE is the top of the mountain in the pro wrestling world. They have the biggest global exposure and the biggest stage. ECW was absolutely the most fun I’ve had. At ECW, I was still putting together my career and I was able to live the lifestyle I wanted and work through those conditions–but I couldn’t go back to it. TNA had the least demanding schedule to deal with, so I enjoyed the ability to have more time to do what I wanted.
You come from a martial arts background and incorporated that into your persona to the point where you got the Van Dam part of your nickname based on the comparisons to the actor. What was the history behind it?
When I started out, I was actually doing kickboxing matches. I would wrestle at kickboxing shows and, later on, I would have kickboxing matches at wrestling shows. It was more of a “work” kickboxing match though. That was all under the original Sheik. We would have kickboxing matches that would get heated up until eventually the gloves would come off and we would go grappling to the ground. I did it a lot when I was still very green in wrestling, but it’s always been a part of my thing. Even when I’m out of the ring, I use martial arts because it’s just me being me. When I go to the urinal, I’ll high kick to flush the toilet. That’s just my martial arts training taking control of my every day life.
You are known as an innovator when it comes to aerial acrobatics. What was the preparation and mindset the first time you went flying in the ring?
I never wanted to be a guy to steal someone else’s moves or do slight modifications and call it my own. Before I even had my first match, I was coming up with moves that hadn’t been seen before. I did my split leg moonsault one of the first times I ever stepped in the ring, just to see if it would work. No one had seen anything like it before. My mindset was to perfect moves that I would want to see done if I was a fan that bought a ticket to be entertained by wrestlers. The only real pressure from the moves was what I put on myself to make sure I landed it right. I’ve always tried to think outside the box and that was what set me up to be an innovator in that aspect.
Recently, you have been doing brief runs in the WWE with long breaks in between. Do you prefer that over one long contract that’s consistent?
I love my current schedule. Many times I’ve said, “Too bad wrestling doesn’t have seasons,” because it’s a long year when you are always on the road; it leaves no real time to have a life outside of the job. I’m one of the lucky few, along with Chris Jericho, that reached a level where we can come and go as we please with short-term agreements and proper coordination with the WWE. It allows for a better balance for me, and when it’s time to go, I’m ready to go.
You’ve worked with a lot of the newer faces of WWE and some of the NXT talent. Who would you say is the next “Mr. Pay-Per-View?”
Cesaro, hands down. He is the best wrestler in that locker room beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Hogan. Macho Man. The Rock. All are big names in wrestling’s history. At the age of 43, how does it feel being the only Triple Crown winner in both ECW and WWE history?
We are all trying to make our mark in this world. People call me a legend. That simply means I have accomplished enough to impact their memories and their lives. There are some wrestlers that after a few weeks of being off the shows are completely forgotten. No one forgets me. I could be gone five years, ten years… it doesn’t matter. Fans would still approach me. I could still come out and get a pop. To me, that’s the reward: fan appreciation. The records I hold, those are all the accomplishments that add notches to the belt.
You’re definitely not lying because I can admit marking out when you came back. I also saw that we share something in common: stand-up comedy. I’ve been performing for a little while now and you have as well. What made you jump into doing stand-up from a wrestling background, and what kind of response did you get?
I’ve actually performed stand-up about 25 to 30 times at this point. It’s still something I do. I have always had good sets, luckily. Never been booed. It’s funny, I would get approached by other comedians asking if they could write for me or if I wanted to bounce jokes with them and my response was always “Fuck off.” Just like anything, the more I do it, the better I get at it. I’m not looking to get booked; it’s more of an artistic expression. I’m not going to replace wrestling with stand-up, but it’s absolutely something I enjoy.
This is the end of the interview where I open it completely to you to say whatever you’d like, plug or promote, etc. The spotlight is yours. Any words of wisdom from RVD?
Well, wisdom for kids… your attitude will almost always dictate your altitude in life. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Check me out on TweetSecret. I am the producer, cameraman, director and editor. It’s videos straight from me to the fans. More info can also be found at RobVanDam.com.
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