Rob Van Dam On Skipping WWE Tribute To The Troops & Vince McMahon's Reaction

As is well documented, Rob Van Dam had heat with Vince McMahon for his refusal to travel with the WWE roster for the 2005 Tribute to the Troops in Bagram, Afghanistan. While the likes of Jim Ross and Bruce Prichard have spoken extensively about the incident, and how it strained the relationship between RVD and McMahon, RVD himself has now provided his first-hand account of his conversations with McMahon, and his actual reasoning to sit out the holiday season TV special.

"It wasn't like there was half an altercation or anything like that," RVD recalled. "It's just that, the wrestlers were going to be going overseas to visit the troops, and I didn't want to go. It wasn't political or anything — I was like, 'Dude, I'm so burned out from traveling.' I had been working four or five days a week, every week, except international trips where it was seven days a week. 

"We had ten days off coming for Christmas — and I was counting the days, you know? Right when we started getting close to it, there was a meeting [about Tribute to the Troops]. It was going to be voluntary, but we were going to go say 'Hi' to the troops, you know? I was like, 'Miss me on that one, bro.' And then Johnny [Laurinitis] says, 'You know they say it's voluntary, but you know they expect you to go, right?'"

Why RVD Felt Offended After Conversation With Vince McMahon

Once RVD reiterated his desire to skip the tour, John Laurinitis informed Vince McMahon of the same, which led to McMahon confronting one of his top stars. "Vince was like, 'Rob, I understand that you don't want to go visit the troops.' I was like, 'Thank you for understanding.' He goes, 'I think you're gonna see this is one of the best experiences of your lifetime.'"

As McMahon further tried to convince RVD, the latter admittedly "started getting offended" at the lack of control over his personal decisions. RVD added that McMahon urged him to speak to some of his peers in the back before making a final decision. "I was stewing about it, and other wrestlers were coming up to me and saying, 'Rob, I respect you for saying no. I don't want to go either, but I can't say no, I'm not RVD!'"

Those conversations with his peers started to anger RVD, who maintains that the Christmas break was a legitimate reason for him to skip the tour and that his decision had nothing to do with his rebellious nature, or his unwillingness "to be a puppet." 

As the days went by, McMahon had yet to truly accept RVD's decision, prompting "The Whole F'N Show" to seek a meeting with McMahon after a television taping.

'I need to show him that he doesn't have control over me'

To his annoyance, RVD was made to wait for nearly two hours, only to never be granted the meeting with Vince McMahon. "I was just sitting there, in my head, getting myself hotter, and I think that's why they left me out there [in the waiting room] for longer," RVD recalled. "Every time someone came out, like Michael Hayes, I'd be like, 'Is Vince ready yet?' In my mind, I was thinking, 'I need to show him that he doesn't have control over me.'

"I had myself worked up into this state of mind where I was gonna go in there and tell Vince, 'Pick a hand.' I figured there was no way I was going to get fired for it. He might respect me for it, I don't know. If I do get fired for it, I rather get fired than have you win, and you against my own will, drag me to a warzone in the desert."

In hindsight, RVD is glad the meeting never happened. "They — meaning the office or the universe — saved me from what could have been not a very good episode."

Ultimately, the location for that year's Tribute to the Troops was moved to a place that "wasn't as secure," per RVD, and therefore led to Laurinitis telling RVD that "voluntary really does mean voluntary now." More importantly, RVD would get to spend his Christmas holiday at his California home.