As one of the most physically gifted athletes to ever grace a wrestling ring, even at 43 years old, WWE Superstar Rob Van Dam is still thrilling fans.
While it is unclear if Van Dam will be involved in the Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match during the pay-per-view on Sunday, June 29, there is no questioning the talent he has showcased over the course of his career when put in the hardcore element.
Adding the ECW legend would make for a much more intriguing battle for the briefcase.
Whatever bout Van Dam ends up booked in on the show, the fans who have come to love his unpredictable style will not be disappointed by his effort. The veteran always wants to steal the show, and he often does.
Featured columnists Donald Wood, Mike Chiari and Brandon Galvin sat down for an exclusive interview with Van Dam and talked about WWE Money in the Bank PPV, Paul Heyman, ECW, Hulk Hogan, his contract with the company and so much more.
Here is the interview with WWE Superstar Rob Van Dam.
Donald Wood: WWE is coming back to Philadelphia on Sunday, June 22, for a show at the Wells Fargo Center. As a wrestler who spent plenty of time thrilling the fans in Philadelphia with both ECW and WWE, what does it mean to you coming back to the city at this point in your career?
Rob Van Dam: Well, Philly’s always one of those cities that I like to return to, you know? It’s one of my homes for sure as far as my career goes and my wrestling history. In ECW, I cut my teeth and that’s all Philadelphia, so I look forward to it. This time we discussed which shows they wanted to put RVD on and I said the Philadelphia show, for sure. They love me there.
Mike Chiari: Since returning to WWE for your latest stint you've had the opportunity to work with some of the company's fastest rising stars, specifically Cesaro and Bad News Barrett. As a veteran performer do you take pride in helping some of these younger stars get over and reach their fullest potential?
Rob Van Dam: Yes and no. I place no focus on that. If somebody is willing to take some advice, then I have some, and that’s just life in general. A lot of people don’t want to hear anything. These guys, and everybody at WWE right now, is so good that the standard of the pro wrestler compared to maybe 10 years ago: night and day difference. I came back last year and I was so impressed. Guys that come up now through NXT, a lot of them, maybe most of them, seem to be growing up in the business and with only four or five years’ experience. They’re already 10-12 year veterans. I’m more happy, with the caliber rising, that I can still get in there with my style and ability and still be relevant with the new age of wrestlers coming up just like it was back then.
So, are they getting a rub from wrestling with me? Probably so, but these guys, I don’t feel like they need me. These guys have a great future and are heading to the top with or without wrestling Rob Van Dam, they just might have a few more bruises after wrestling me.
Brandon Galvin: Many fans relate Money in the Bank to being the summer version of the Royal Rumble. Since you've competed in many Money in the Bank and Royal Rumble matches, which do you find more exciting to participate in?
Rob Van Dam: The battle royals are usually among my least favorite matches. Of course the Royal Rumble is a very anticipated and popular pay-per view and it’s very important in setting up what happens that year with WWE, but for my personal participation, I like to keep the spotlight on me more.
Single matches, I feel, have always been the ones where I can shine more. Three-way, four-way, you have to split your attention with some other guys, and it can be totally great, but when you get into a battle royal with 20 or 30 other guys, it’s just so different from what your agenda is when it’s one on one competition. My preference is from the perspective of the guy putting the boots on, but really, if it works, it’s good. If the fans love it, I love it.
Donald Wood: The Money in the Bank pay-per-view is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, in Boston and on the WWE Network. As the winner of the 2006 edition of the match, you know first hand how a victory in the ladder match can change your career. How do you approach this event now that you're a little older and a little wiser?
Rob Van Dam: The experience that I have goes with not only knowing what it takes to pull off a match like that, but also experience in knowing myself and knowing what I can do and how far out there my comfort zone is. I love a match like Money in the Bank, I love a hardcore match, and that’s what the Money in the Bank ladder matches are. Throw the rule book out and let out your imagination. Usually, you have to be among the tougher [Superstars] to enjoy a match like that because you are going to be hit with steel and cement and there’s most likely going to be some blood—even though they want to stop it with the current policies with the WWE, some people might get busted open. I wish they would bring the hardcore title back, that would make me happy.
Mike Chiari: You obviously have a long history with Paul Heyman dating back to ECW, and you've once again had an opportunity to work with him during your feud with Cesaro. If a situation were to arise at some point that would allow you to join forces with Heyman again is that something you might be interested in?
Rob Van Dam: Possibly, you know, there’s a lot of factors to consider. Of course, whenever I’m working with him to any degree, I have to consider the possibility that some writers may be thinking of that idea just like you are. I would be open to considering anything, but I really do enjoy being a fan favorite, someone that gets the positive energy from the fans and all the love from those who are wrestling fans: guys my age, kids, women, whatever. I like that I have that appeal, and I like the love. That would be something, even within the parameters of entertainment, switching to bad guy, that those guys would put up with. All the negative energy that would occur if I were to switch. That would be something that has value to me, but besides that, of course I’d love to work with Paul.
Brandon Galvin: You've always been one of the most exciting and unique wrestlers in and out of the ring, which makes it difficult for fans to ever boo you. However, have you ever thought about playing the role of a villain again or do you think your in-ring style would make it too difficult for fans to turn on you?
Rob Van Dam: I don’t know. I actually started as a bad guy in the original ECW, back in ’96, because I was wrestling Sabu, who all the fans loved and treated like a god. With the thumbs pointing at myself, that was done in an arrogant manner to draw heat from the crowd and they seemed to love it, they seemed to love my moves.
I don’t know if my style makes it hard to get fans to not appreciate me, but I do think that the traditional hero is something that is old fashioned in somewhere like the Deep South. I remember wrestling in Georgia, and as a good guy—to get the audience behind me—you just walk out and clap your hands, you get the fans to clap with you and you smile. When I first went up to Philadelphia, if I tried that stuff up there, they would boo me out the door. So that kind of anti-hero or that more adult approach has taken over.
The Attitude Era, ECW, everything together has come to make wrestling not so old fashioned, which I could say was cheesy by my standards and had to evolve, so now the fans tend to be drawn more toward what they find entertaining, which is subjective.
Donald Wood: When you returned to the WWE, there were a lot of reports about your contract with the company. While it appears you won't be going for the major titles in the company as a part-time wrestler—at least right now—you have much more free time to explore other ventures outside the ring. Has it been difficult trying to adapt to the new style of part-time wrestling with the WWE?
Rob Van Dam: I have never been one of the guys that goes crazy at home. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. I need the balance. WWE knows I walked away from them in 2006, [that] I stayed away for six or seven years [and] that I’m capable of that without question. The other wrestlers, they have a few days off and they go nuts.
I remember, even when I was injured, I had my knee surgery and was home for 12 months, but I wasn’t just sitting around, I had a lot of conventions and things, but I would get phone calls from some of my friends from wrestling saying, ‘Rob I know you’re going crazy at home, but you’ll be back on the road in no time,’ and that’s when I realized how different they are from me. I love my time at home. I need that balance. That’s why I left before, and that’s why this schedule is what works perfect for me, so I don’t have to adjust to the busy times.
We just did 17 matches in 23 days in my last run when we went to Europe and I did NXT in Florida as well as Raw and Smackdown. That kind of time for me is when I count the days until I get a break, always have, and some of the other guys have nothing waiting for them at the apartment anyways. They’re young and they’re looking to show people what they've got, I’ll let them have it. I’m happy with my position and the way WWE is treating me right now.
Mike Chiari: You've faced most of the top stars in the business over the past two decades, but who is someone who you either haven't wrestled at all or have only wrestled sparingly that you'd like to work an extended program against in WWE?
Rob Van Dam: Hulk Hogan. Bring Hulk Hogan back, I want to work with him.
I don’t really worry about those things. When people ask me about guys I don’t say yes or no, but I go where the money is. Any chance I have to be a main event at a pay-per view, like main eventing WrestleMania, is that important to me? At this point, it’s something that would be really nice.
Brandon Galvin: Not many fans know about your roles outside the ring as an actor. One of my personal favorites was when you appeared on City Guys in the late 90's. With the success of WWE Studios, would you be interested in appearing another film?
Rob Van Dam: Yeah, totally. I actually have several projects back in LA that are on the table. Some of them are movie projects, some of them documentaries, some TV shows. And to me, for that stuff to happen is like letting out 50 balloons in the air and seeing which ones make it back down.
I regularly sign letters of interest with people who have given me offers and, nine out of 10 times, the projects don’t see the light of day. Sometimes they do. When they do, it usually takes a lot of years before they come to fruition. I like to be on the creative side of that also, helping create the story and produce it.
As much as I like the entertainment business, I hate doing auditions. I don’t do them. So when you don’t do auditions, you’re not going to get a lot of parts. I did plenty of auditions, but I’m at a point now where my time is limited, and I don’t enjoy doing auditions, so now I take parts when they’re handed to me. So there are a lot less projects for me, but I love to do them.
As one of the most recognizable stars in wrestling history, Van Dam has stuck to his beliefs through stints with every major company in the industry. He has once again returned to WWE, and he is proving that he still has what it takes to be one of the best in-ring workers in the business.
For many fans, though, Van Dam could be doing so much more. Just as Chris Jericho returned to engage in several meaningless feuds built to put over fresh talent, Van Dam has been assigned the same role. Instead of randomly losing to the stars in need of a rub, RVD should be involved in a marquee storyline.
Van Dam doesn’t need to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship again, but a long-term battle against a wrestler who really needs the momentum would make both stars look strong. While RVD would eventually have to lose the feud, the proper booking would keep him in the upper echelon.
At the very least, the WWE Universe deserves to see RVD in a ladder match at the very least. It’s only right that Mr. Pay-Per-View gets a chance to shine at the company’s next special event.
Don’t forget to check out WWE’s Money in the Bank on Sunday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
*All quotes obtained first hand.
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