Current Impact performer and former ECW and WWE legend, Rob Van Dam opened up on his extreme career in wrestling through a mini documentary on Impact Retrospective. RVD spoke about the vast differences between today’s wrestling training and his violent and brutally physical training with The Sheik and Sabu.
“I got trained really snug which is a friendly way to put it by the original Sheik,” Van Dam said. “Way different than other wrestlers have been trained. Especially the way wrestlers have been trained in the last twenty years because in ’89 when I first met The Sheik the whole outlook on wrestling was different. People believed in the whole fight aspect of what they were watching and wrestlers protected the business more. It was a closed door society. It wasn’t easy for people to just walk in the dressing room and get photos In fact, those same people would get beat up and thrown out of the dressing room because that was the way it was.
“When I was first allowed in the dressing room, Sheik and Sabu both already beat the fan out of me,” Van Dam continued. ‘They’d say, ‘You’re one of the boys. You’re not a fan. Don’t talk to anyone unless they talk to you. Definitely don’t ask anyone for a picture. If anyone talks to you, just shake their hand and introduce yourself and that’s it.’ It did affect the rest of my career because how can I still be excited when the Undertaker is changing next to me in the dressing room if I already didn’t care about that because I was broke of that. Nowadays, wrestlers are getting pictures with RVD in the dressing room because times are different.
“The Sheik trained us to beat the hell out of each other,” Van Dam admitted. “There was never ever one time in my schooling where he said, ‘This is how to hit somebody without injuring them. This is the right way to fall without getting hurt.’ There was none of that. It was about grabbing each other, squeezing each other, and pinning each other. We knew we had to work with each other to a certain degree in order to pull off what we wanted to accomplish and we were sensible, but The Sheik never one time said, ‘Hey, you’re hitting him too hard.'”
‘The Whole F’N Show’ recalled how other wrestlers from different training backgrounds would be rudely awakened to RVD’s style when they stepped in the ring with him. Additionally, Van Dam expressed how he tried to learn to be more careful but a safer style would not pull good fan reactions.
“It wasn’t like a traditional school where everyone would line up and take the same bump. Some guys like Al Snow and his partner Mike Kelly would say, ‘Whoa, ease up!’ And we were trying to be compatible with them and then Sheik would say, ‘Don’t listen to them. F*ck them!’ Then I would go to Japan and I wasn’t stiff enough. If I did something and didn’t kick the hell out of my opponents, [the crowd] wouldn’t’ react to it.”
Van Dam also mentioned how he wrestled with injuries for most of his career but did not let them affect his work. Van Dam admitted that his training prepared him to take punishment without having to take time off of work.
“I got the sh*t beat out my so many times in Japan. I’m from a school where I never ever say that I’m hurt because if I can keep going and you don’t need to take me the hospital, then I’m not hurt. To me, hurt means you can’t work. That’s why I’ve wrestled with broken bones, concussions, torn ACLs, and I’m not saying that’s a good idea, that’s the way I came up. Still now after a match if someone afterwards someone says, ‘Oh, sorry. Did I catch you in the mouth with that’? I’m like, ‘Dude, get outta here. You didn’t catch me.’ But I enjoy the physicality of it. I enjoy showing off my moves but also my durability. I want people in the crowd to know they would get hurt if they were doing the same thing I was doing.’ Yes, I have hurt a lot of wrestlers back in the day.
Continuing to paint the picture of his stinging training, Van Dam mentioned a story where his training partner and fellow ECW performer Sabu insisted that Van Dam try a dangerous move on him without any sort of safety measures.
“When I was learning with Sabu before my first match, I was telling him, ‘I want to be able to do a jumping back kick out of the corner and turn it into a flying back kick. How do I do it without knocking someone out because I know how to really kick. Is there a way you could show me? Should I just aim for your shoulder?’ And he’s like, ‘No, just do it on me and try not to hurt me. If you break my jaw, we’ll wait a few weeks and try again and pull back from there.’ I jumped off and boom, I break his jaw. He’s eating though a straw for weeks and sure enough as soon as his jaw healed up he said, ‘Alright, let’s try it again. This time, lets try and pull back a bit.’ That’s the way I was trained.”
Rob Van Dam is currently signed with Impact Wrestling. Van Dam lost to Moose this past weekend at Impact Slammiversary.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Impact Wrestling with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.