You know why wrestling’s the best? It isn’t the flashy costumes, the cool nicknames, or the amazing feats of athleticism.
It’s the ability to refer to yourself in the third person.
The Rock does it, the Hulkster does it, but I’d argue that nobody does it better than Rob Van Dam. I got a chance to hang out with Impact Wrestling’s “Whole F’n Show” (or as he’d refer to himself, “RVD”) backstage at a special invitation-only event held at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. While there we discussed what sets him apart from other high flyers, why he joined Impact Wrestling, and the possible return of Jeff Hardy.
Gordon Holmes: I know you’re a bit of a comic fan. Did you get a chance to wander out and see some of the sights?
Rob Van Dam: Yeah, I walked the whole floor yesterday, this is I think my 8th or 9th year coming here. I’m a big comic fan and I’m always hunting and finding things. Not so this year, there’s nothing I want that I don’t already have.
Holmes: I caught the match between you and Jerry Lynn a few weeks ago at “Destination X.” You two brought the house down. What were your thoughts on the match?
Van Dam: I liked the match. It’s always a good match. My favorite match of my career was RVD vs. Jerry Lynn, for the reasons of the competitive spirit that comes out, the limits that we push each other to, and the chemistry that I don’t have with anyone else in the industry. I haven’t wrestled him since 2001, but we picked up right where we left off.
Holmes: I talked to Hulk Hogan a few days ago, he’s here promoting “Saints Row the Third.” He agreed that you and Lynn had a hell of a match. What does it mean to receive that kind of praise from someone with a background like Hulk Hogan?
Van Dam: It means a lot. I don’t even know if Hulk knows what a fan I am of his. But of course, I’m from a generation that grew up on Hulkamania, so he should know that. There’s only one Hulk. He might be the most recognizable person on the whole planet. I’m not even going to just limit it to athletes. He’s reached a phenomenal spot that I don’t think anybody else will. He’s also the reason that I came to TNA. I hadn’t planned on it even after talking to Dixie (Carter), Vince Russo, (Eric) Bischoff, and (Jason) Hervey. They wanted me to be excited and it wasn’t happening. I said, “When they’re serious, Hulk Hogan will call me.” And when he did I said, “Alright, let’s start talking.” By the way, RVD is also in “Saints Row.” I don’t think anybody knows that yet.
Holmes: What character are you playing?
Van Dam: I commentated during the wrestling. I don’t even know what my character’s name is, but I was reading the script, and ad-libbing and adding a lot to it. The game seems like it’s a lot of fun. One of the lines is, “Oh my God! He’s got a chainsaw!” It’s crazy.
Holmes: Are you a gamer at all?
Van Dam: Not at all. I appreciate games; I used to play them when I was young. But, I don’t spend any time on them.
Holmes: There are hundreds guys that can do flips and high-flying maneuvers. What is it about you that stands out?
Van Dam: Well, for one, I’m the real deal. I am a bad ass. I am a tough guy, I’m not pretending to be. I went through martial arts. I went through kick boxing. I went through tough man competitions before I ever went to wrestling school. So, the confidence I have isn’t a part of a character. It’s me knowing that when I’m in that ring I feel safe giving my body up. And my style is a combination of martial arts and acrobatics. And, I had an old-school pro wrestling teacher, the original Sheik. That’s what’s missing in so many of the wrestlers these days. They have no link to the old school, they don’t understand the actual roots and the basics of what wrestling is and what it’s about. Some of them may have been trained by somebody who got trained by someone who trained themself. They may be good enough to get into the business, but the agents and the people watching know they’re missing something.
Holmes: As you said, you were trained by the original Sheik. He was a wild man. What did he say the first time he saw you hop up onto the top rope and deliver a split-legged moonsault?
Van Dam: He said, “Show me a headlock.” He didn’t want me getting on the top rope. Every time the guy I’m working out with, if his shoulders are on the mat? Cover him. Cover him. Cover him! That’s what Sheik was all about. Grab him, headlock, hammerlock.
Holmes: “Bound for Glory” is going to be held in my hometown and a place you have a lot of history with, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Is coming back to the home of the original ECW special to you?
Van Dam: It totally is, cause I know I’ll feel some deep love from all the fans in Philly. They appreciate what I’ve done for the business. They appreciate what I do outside of the ring. And they’re really hardcore fans in Philly, so they know the difference. They may boo the guys that get cheered in other towns because that’s what they’re all about. They’re the most judgmental crowd on the planet. They watch you, they study you and wait for you to slip or your timing to be off so they can say “You (expletive deleted) up! You (expletive deleted) up!” That’s a lot of pressure when you’re out there.
Holmes: Yeah, but we mean that in the nicest possible way.
Van Dam: (Laughs) Hey man, the Philly fans’ standards are way up. It made me rise to the expectation. So, to be the number one guy was really flattering. I couldn’t have been the “Whole F’n Show” without those peoples’ guidance.
Holmes: We haven’t seen Jeff Hardy in a while. Do you think he’ll be able to turn it around and make a comeback?
Van Dam: Yeah, I think so. I haven’t heard anything on the inside, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard from him soon.
Holmes: If I’m someone who hasn’t seen Impact Wrestling, what’s the best way to get me on board?
Van Dam: There’s another show out there on your television other than that crap that you have to watch every week. I still get asked every week, “RVD, what happened? You quit wrestling?” I’m like, “You get Spike? Thursday nights at nine!” There’s a lot of potential, it’s going in the right direction, ratings are going up. We have more freedom as wrestlers to express ourselves. We’ve got Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam. This is where everybody wants to be. Everyone’s trying to come here. But it’s not that easy to get in now that the “Whole F’n Show” is here.
Watch ‘Impact Wrestling‘ on Spike TV, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.