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Rob Van Dam : The 50th anniversary interview

publié le : 19/12/2020
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Avant d'être imitateur à plein temps et de faire de la scène son métier, Thibaud CHOPLIN était journaliste de catch. Passionné par ce sport-spectacle, il a noué des liens avec ROB VAN DAM, véritable star de la discipline, et des fédérations WWE, ECW et TNA. À l'occasion de son 50e anniversaire, RVD se livre sans état d'âme pour une interview vérité !

Interview en anglais, sous-titrée en français.


Thibaud CHOPLIN is the former journalist of France #1 prowrestling magazine "Planète Catch" and worked with ROB VAN DAM for almost 3 years. On December 18th, RVD turned 50 ! On that occasion, here's an exclusive interview ! (Audio interview in English with French subtitles, full transcript below)

RVD speaks candidly about his future :

  • If he would vote for The Rock as the Next POTUS

  • Going to AEW

  • The Undertaker's retirement

  • Stone Cold coming back

  • The Evolution of the business

  • Black Lives Matter

  • Concussions in prowrestling 

  • Cannabis... and more !

INTERVIEW ROB VAN DAM

50th Anniversary

by Thibaud Choplin


THIB 

Rob, you just turned 50. Happy birthday ! About two years ago you moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Despite the contexte of the coronavirus, are you going to a bar to celebrate ?

RVD 

When I'm in the mood, I do like to drink, you know,  and I did, and I mostly anytime I'm out. You know, I everybody knows me to places I go. I go to places where my friends work, so they are just happy to see me, so I'm drinking for free. And I'm pretty boring when I go out. I don't dance. I'm the guy that's just standing against the wall and the bar stool, drinking. Don't expect more than that !


THIB

If you had the opportunity for one last great run, where would it be ? Are you in talks with Chris Jericho to go to AEW ?


RVD

I'm not in talk with Chris Jericho or anyone in AEW. I'm all about the money. You know, people don't understand. Some fans are ignorants. They don't understand it's a business. Some people think that when I had the WWE belt and the ECW belt, I was in my prime, and they probably think that I wish I was still there. But now I make 20 to 30 times in one match what WWE was paying me in the lowest.

I could make that much more money in 1 match than in 20 matches. Why would you want work 30 matches to make the same money that you can work one match and make money? That's something fans can't understand cause they think we just love to be in the ring 24/7.


THIB

Ok Rob you just turned 50, you must be thinking about the end of your career. Would you love to end your career on a specific match where your career is on the line, like Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle did. Or do you prefer to quietly retire ?


RVD

I could see it going either way. I don't think I have a preference. You know, the one thing about having a retirement match that would be appearing with me if it was built up and it was a great payday. Otherwise, I don't give a fuck.


THIB 

Joe Biden has just been elected the New President of The United States. He's been elected on a fractured country... there is a huge crisis in America with the Covid and the racial tensions with the Black Lives Matter movement. What's your opinion on this ?


RVD :

I've always hated racism. So stupid, uh, in a figure aiming, and I've always hated that. I don't think anybody, uh, thinks any otherwise off me. But now I do feel a little bit more like, you know, everybodythat really makes some changes so that that can so that that can be athing of the past. I think it's in the schools, you know? I don't know if I really thought about it. that much before, But now I'm thinking, when we're kids, we learned from schools and I learned from my parents. But our parents, they learned from school, you know, 30, 40, 50 years ago. There their ideas and perspective is outdated. But its schools job, I think now to catch everybody up. And I hopethey'll start teaching all kids about the value of life, about the value of their lifes and about everybody else's, so that we can see people as people and equal.


THIB

It's coming even here in France and it's becoming a worldwide thing now...


RVD

You can watch a highlight reel of all be black people whether they're getting killed or shot or mistreated by the police. They showed a highlight reel on. I think it was on CNN and they must had 12 or 15 cases, like back to back some of that we haven't forgot about, youknow? Yeah, that's right. The cut shot. That guy but they didn't forget. They definitely didn't prevent. And so I understand the frustration. I didn't know there was a worldwide problem, but it makes sense, you know, because people are very flawed and to summarize. And they seem to think that, uh, way our talk. Right? Go. We're taught to be proud of ourselves. Stick up for ourselves. Don't let anybody you know say they bury the new so I can see like, OK,where is the line? Drawn between that and feeling like you're better than everyone else. It doesn't look like you. Yeah, you know what I mean? Yes, there's a line there along there needs to be pronounced because it stepped over.


THIB

Dwayne« The Rock » Johnson stood up against Donald Trump and was one of Joe Biden's support. Do you believe The Rock could be one day a Future President of the USA ?


RVD
Absolutely. I think if he wanted to do that, he would get so much support. And, uh, he gets so much respect anyway. And he's in a leadership position, you know ? He's on top of the world, and he does rub elbows with the most famous people that we ever hear about. He has a lot of support. I support him. I would vote for him, probably yeah...


THIB

You teamed 4 times with The Rock in December 2001, do you remember if The Rock had a desire to work with you because you were a new guy coming from ECW ?


RVD

Usually with things like that, you know, we show up and then we look at the card which was posted on the wall usually, and that that would be how we see what we're doing that day. Like you show up and then it's like: "Oh, I'm teaming up with Kevin Nash OK, that's weird!" And then after a while he said, "Hey, we're tag team!".  They keep playing together were teamed up. Like I said, we would realize that because sometimes I wasn't teaming with him, you know, like on other shows. "Hey you're teaming with Kane tonight!" You know, and that happened. Who's involved in making those decisions earlier in the day? I don't know. The Rock could have been one of the decision makers. I don't know. I mean, at the time at the time, none of us knew that he was gonna be the star is now, You know, even though he was already The Rock, nobody knew he was gonna be the world's highest paid actor.



THIB

Edge came back recently after a 9 year long hiatus, he didn't wrestle between 2011 and 2020. Do you believe Stone Cold Steve Austin, who retired in 2003, could comeback for one last match ?


RVD

It's definitely possible. If he wants to do it, I think he definitely could do it. You know what I mean? It's an environment that's controlled enough... I've seen guys that are in their seventies that are still wrestling sometimes, and it's not an issue, really. I don't know why he would want through. I mean, he's very successful. He's making so much money, and it seems like he's still on roll, like once a month or something. Anyway, I'm sure it's not that often, but even if  he's been away and hasn't wrestled in a while he's been on the show often enough to still have that value. And he always will have that value because he's an icon.


THIB

The Undertaker officially retired at the Survivor Series. But doesn't he deserve to leave in front of fans in a full stadium ?


RVD
Good question... I heard that Ric Flair wants another match... It's a kind of business that in order to even get your foot in the door, you know, you got to sweet eat breath it. It's gotta be more than anything else. You know, it's one of those kind of careers. Some guys love it, more than anything else.

It depends what in your life are your priorities. I've always been very vocal about that. I've always said even earlier in my career, after a while I was like, "Yeah, this is cool, you know? But if I had better opportunities of course I would consider it."

And that's like a sin in the dressing room, especially in the back of the day. You don't even say anything like that.

We used to give me shake. What the hell? You an actor or a wrestler? But I don't know everything. Taker, I think he loves being so there's alot of value because the fans still love seeing him. And I think he's getting paid a lot of money each time he puts the boots on so I could see in continuing. I am continuing for an indefinite amount of time. Continuing to retire and then come out of retirement.


THIB

You told that you had a concussion that kills visual impairments. Are you feeling better with this ?


RVD

 I'm feeling much better. This was blown out of proportion. If you think that you read a quote for me yet saying I can't go back that's bullshit. People think that they actually read from me the WWE said I couldn't go back there because of my visual impairment. That didn't come from me. It was quote out on the Internet and then everybody, everybody thinks that whatever they read is true on the Internet.

I feel like correcting people when they're wrong about me. Less than10% of the time people say things that are not true about me all the time. It's in articles, whether it's in magazines or on the Internet, and I usually don't feel like correcting that people. This was one time I didn't feel like correcting anybody.

Truth is that I I've never talked with WWE my concussion over doing.

I can wrestle. My eye-test is normal with reactionary time and visibility. But my eye sight is a littledifferent than it was before this particular match that I had in 2016 gave me double vision and now sometimes when I'm tired and I turned my head a certain way, I can trigger that double vision still. If you haven't seen my documentary Headstrong it covers all of this.

It covers the whole conversation because we had cameras rolling when I was doing a stand up comedy tour, and, we had cameras for that.

ButI had double vision, and we had to start talking about concussion because it wasn't going away. That became a much bigger part of my life : going to neurologist CAT scan. MRI's, vision therapy.

The movie Headstrong ended up being much bigger, really good. And it's important because I'm trying to keep the conversation about concussions going so we can learn more.


THIB

How can you explain that some very talented wrestlers never break through the glass ceiling and they never become huge stars? Guys like Cesaro or Dolph Ziggler, that are in the WWE for so many years, how can they not feel some kind of frustration ?


RVD

It's all about it for selling tickets. I've always looked at it this way. If people aren't buying tickets to watch you and support you specifically, then you're just a spot on the card. You just a spot, a spot killer. I never was that guy. Maybe when I started out. But a lot of people that are just good hands, you know, they feel like they have more coming to them because they paid a lot of dues. But sometimes they're not as marketable. Cesaro, I think he's one ofthe best guys there and Dolph Ziggler is very good.

I have to think that their push or lack of push, have a lot to do with some specific people feel about them personally, and that's always a nissue in the WWE. The guys that make the actual decisions often seem to have different opinions than a lot of the fans people, about what's worth money and what should be pushed or showcased.


THIB

What advice could you give to a young wrestler who could feel frustrated to work on the indy scene and never will get his dream which is to be signed by the WWE ?


RVD

Ithink the best somebody could do is to lower their expectations. I've seen so many guys frustrated, always comparing themselves to other wrestlers. People compare themselves so much. How about just looking at it like, OK, this is my life !

This is my path. Wherever my path takes me, I'm going to be there, and I will make the most of it.

I don't think anybody should get into any profession saying to themselves that the chances are really great that they're going to be a superstar.

Anything, you know? Okay, if you're stand up comedian, comedy, anything. If you want to be a superstar, that means you're among the very, very small percentage that really stand up. It doesn't mean you can't do it, you know, go for it !

But to assume that all of that is just coming to you, to have that entitlement to think you deserve to be in the top spot because you think you better than this person and this person... And I just think that's the wrong way about about going around about your life, you know what I mean?

And that's my advice : you can have your own make make your own path, make the best of it.

And don't hate other people because their craft is where you want to be. You know that. Yeah, that's one way to do it. You know, hold other people down so that you can stay up above. But that's not the way Ido it.


THIB 

You've crossed the ages and seen the evolution of the business. What about the in ring work ?


RVD 

Yeah,totally. Now the styles changed so much that, you know, people can do stuff that I couldn't have done on Bam Bam Bigelow.

I had to get my stuff did. It used to be about protecting the business. That was the number one rule. Always. So I had to get my stuff and be quick enough to flip or spin around the guy. And now,nowadays, this is not about protecting business. You know, these guys do moves, and when they doing moves. I mean, it's like they're doing. I can't tell who's doing the move on who. It looks like the guys help the other guy, so much. The guy just wrapped his own legs around the guy, and they are helping each other. I don't get it. It's just, you know, I could have done the destroyer –I hate the Destroyer ! - with Bam Bam Bigelow ! Who's doing the move ?

The guys jumping and they are also taking the bump. A lot of that has changed. But I guess evolution is important.


THIB

You're known as a longtime babyface, but last year at Bound for Glory 2019 you turned heel. Do you enjoy being a heel ?

RVD 

It was not the first time I was a heel. WhenI was brought to WWE in 2001 I was a heel. And when we brought ECW back in 2006, the whole company was a heel. We did run ins in Monday Night Raw we get booed. They gave us our own show. Even when I came in to ECW, I was wrestling against Sabu. So being a heel was not my first time but I am obviously known as a long term babyface and I don't think my character is that much different being a heel, I just show a little different side. 


THIB 

A question for my wife's travel blog www.vlogtrotter.com You traveled all around all around the world. What is your favorite country and do you like to visit some countries when when you are on vacation or you prefer staying in the States ?


RVD 

Well, you know, traveling is a lot of work, and it's, uh it could be a real pain in the ass. So, uh, you know, I don't do a lot of it when I'm not getting paid to do it. But, I do enjoy when I'm in other countries experiencing them. When I have time to checkout a little bit, it's pretty cool, I guess. What makes your pops out in my mind, no one's gonna be really surprised. Probably the number one guess, But, you know, I really enjoyed the town of Amsterdam. A lot of my experience there, you know, was back then, being there and be able to smoke legally. But now I can smoke legally anywhere you know, it's legal here where I live,in California and in Nevada. Yeah, so? So it's not just that, but I really like the town like the vibration of the people and their three thinking. But I like the canals, the buildings, the history. So I'm gonna go with I go with Amsterdam, I hope to get there soon, it's been a while !


THIB

What about ecology and the environmental crisis? Is it a subject on which you're sensitive? What can the human beings do to limit the damage that we do on this Earth?


RVD

Oh ,God. That's always been the case. And the argument, you know, with the cannabis plant, it can replace like up to 80% of everything. You know, people know you can make shitting clothes out of hemp, but you can make not just wood you can make plastics and steel substitute. You can use it's fuel, you know, seed oil. And Ford made a car out ahead that ran on seed oil. He wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves and have grow our own hamp has stills in my backyard, and I'll be able to takecare of ourselves. The people that rule the world don't want that. You know, the oil companies don't want you to use, alcohol and tobacco don't want you to utilize cannabis. You know the pharmaceuticals industry they don't want you to use cannabis because it could embrace almost everything with them. But there's like there's over 100 different properties in the cannabis plant and it's illegal, study it still. But as it's getting more legalized, people are looking at the plant more and more. We're learning more about it. I started my own CBD company and my motivation was to - just like with the movie Headstrong - I want to find a way to help with brain damage and and not just from concussions.


A lot of my friends commited suicide, and it seems to be from depression and concussions. That's the pathology. And so my motivation always will be to find that neurological formula. And once I do get that and always, we want to make it better. You know, with the more information that comes in there saying, CBG can actually regenerate dead brain tissue and then we get a formula that can help with this sort of thing.

That's also, you know, where all the studies air going. I mean, the more we learn about the plan, someday you're gonna be able to use cannabis. It's almost any need that you have and not get the side effects that you don't want. Because we can know how it works. Now, on our end of cannabinoid system inside of us, and so something will be able to formulate. Someday we'll be able to get formulas. We'll say : "You know what? I want to feel good. I want to stay up study. I don't wantto be tired. I want my judgment span to be focused, not distracted. Idon't want to get the munchies. I don't want to giggles."  Somedaywe'll be able check a bunch of boxes on end of people actually, with these cannabinoids together, and give us something that will help alot of people.


THIB

You were talking about brain damage and your friends who committed suicide. And I was thinking about Chris Benoit, who's brain was like a 70 year old, Alzheimer patient. That's what they said.


RVD

True. And then you know, the argument of people some say, "how could he( Chris Benoit) have rented cars and flown and had his lifestyle?" But it's inconsistent.It's like a protein. It builds up on your brain like scar tissue. You scar, but it's on your brain, and then the information can't get through it. So you start having a hard time. Uh, and everybody's different. Here's the thing. Most of my friends from my generation tell me that they do have long term brain damage. Some of them say they see floaters in this guy sometimes transit to get headaches, light sense, game sort of dancing span. Myself, although I've had hundreds of concussions, I've always said that I never had any lasting effects until I got this one concussion in November 2016 which is on my movie Headstrong. It wasn't even hard hit to the head. It was just like a rolling like a weird kind of arm drag. And when I got off, I had double vision. This has happened hundreds of times. I usually just shake my head. It goes away. This one didn't go away for this one didn't go away for months. It was so strange. But I learned so much, so much that I didn't even mean alone. But that that's what makes my movieHeadstrong.

But there's a big difference between long term and custom damage and CTE which is a degenerative disease were brain is wasting away. It's really, really bad to have that. People don't know that there's a different. People are usually term too loosely. Now you know, wrestlers state they have CTE. They just have long term concussion damage, which is really different. When you have CTE, it's really bad because you don't even remember your name.


THIB

What about all the unprotected chairshots to the head ? Why did some wrestlers took so many risks for their health?


RVD

All is in my movie Headstrong. I don't know if you can watch my movies because you're in France. You will see, I have to have all of that, like everything. We're talking about it in my movie. It's on Amazon, it's also on the fight network. You see me getting all these chairshots, very emotional movie, you know, just like documentaries should be like people have told me. It's like watching it like to be on a rollercoaster, because I take you right through my dips on my you know, and my extensions anyway, yeah, you see, some of the chair shots that you remember watching me take over the years way, have one scene where it just shows like amontage. Crack, crack, crack.... Well, and if it's actually a lot ofpeople crying this part because the music has a lot to do with it.But also I'm getting my brain scan and it keeps flashing back and forth between between me and the doctor's office with this thing on my head. I'm really proud all the way it turned out. But you have also you know, this is worth mentioning. I was doing an interview the other day and the guy made me realize how obviously everybody tries to be RVD nowadays.


THIB

If you had to do it your career all over again, would you take on as many risks? What would you change if it had to be done again?


RVD

I would have been a lot more careful driving. I would have paid attention to the speed limit more and I wouldn't have had my weed all spread out all over the dashboard and I wouldn't, being smoking in the car without having some good airfresh in there ! I would have been more careful. And, at the beginning of my career I would have been more open minded, you know,  part of being in that competitive spirit... You know, back in the day, was arrogance that was part of it, you know, like, I couldn't open up my heart to a lot of the other guys in the room because I was thinking like: "Fuck that guy! And that guy! They wanted to take my spot... I want to rather knock that guy out there!"  Now I look at it like that was so immature. It was necessary at the moment I guess.


THIB 

Looking back at your career, what are you the most proud of ? What did RVD bring to the table?


RVD 

You know, I used to be the only one doing flips and now everybody's doing it, so. I know, that I can take credit, not just me, about changing the style back in the day.

You know, when I got in, wrestlers were 270 pounds and they would party a lot more. They drink a lot, you know. And now wrestlers are like 175 pounds everybody's really athletic. You have to be a legitimate athlete now. The guy that was interviewing me said because I have helped change the style to make it, you know, more legitimate, athletically and also that I've helped educate everybody I cannabis. A lot of the wrestlers are now smoking instead of doing dangerous pills and drugs. I think it's the current guys generation is gonna live longer, have a higher life expectancies than mine. A lot of my peers already died off, and the guy said, how I feel about maybe being responsible for this generation, living longer. That's pretty awesome to look at it like that. I can make myself a trophy for that one !


THIB

When you're in ring days are over, if you had the opportunity to become a trainer in NXT or a commentator or whatever, would you want to still work in the business ?


RVD

I am an opportunist, you know, but I really don't think that it's likely. I don't have a passion for any of what you mentioned. But if everything just fell into place... who knows?

And if it was the right choice to make at the time. I would say don't bet or anything like that right now. Right now, it  really looks like RVD CBD is going to take over more and more of my time. There's so many different deals and contracts that are being materialized, between the distribution, manufacturing like there's so many people I'm dealing with right now. It really looks like this is going to continue to keep me busier and busier and be here. And, you know, one of the best part is like the reviews that I get from people. They love the product and they're just saying, "Thank you so much. You help the quality of my life!" And that's amazing. You know, I made my CBD pain cream different than everybody else's and it's paying off because people tell me they haven't been able to get results from anything. They tried mine and now the pain is gone and that hits me straight in the heart. That's almost as good as me getting a check. Very rewarding ! 


THIB

Thank you so much Rob, always a pleasure to talk to you !

RVD

Thank Thib, nice to talk to you again !"


More info on rvdcbd.com


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