Q&A with Rob Van Dam: Part II
Here is the second half of the interview I conducted last week with former WWE star Rob Van Dam, who was calling from his Los Angeles home.
What are your thoughts on the drug testing in WWE?
From personal experience, being tested probably five or six times at least in the year, year-and-a-half that I was there and they were testing, it felt like it was very violating. For them to actually go inside my body and take my urine and then tell me if they’re OK with what I’m taking, it’s all very violating. At the same time, I do realize the goal behind it, hopefully, is to help people. And there are a lot of irresponsible wrestlers, there’s no doubt about that. I’m responsible myself; I can take care of myself. I’m an independent contractor, which means that I show up to work, I do my job, and then I leave. I’ll see you tomorrow – different place, same job. And that’s what I do. It’s a very onerous contract that they’ve amended several times since signing it. I signed the deal, then a little while later they said, “Oh, OK, by the way, now we’re going to add a dress code.” Then a little while later they said, “Oh, if you’re late, you’re going to get fined. Now we’re going to add this drug testing.” It’d be kind of like hiring a painter to paint your house and then every couple of days adding work for him and telling him it’s under the same deal. “Hey, by the way, we decided you’re going to paint my neighbor’s house, too.”
It does help people because, as I said, there’s some irresponsible guys there that don’t know how to take care of themselves. I do think that the drug screening does help people like that. I look at it like security at the airport. We’re not all going to blow up the airplanes, but because there’s a few bad apples, we all have to bend over and get the anal probe and have all of our private property searched. That got completely monotonous, but it’s a similar thing. Obviously, the wrestling lifestyle is very stressful and very taxing on the body. It’s unreasonable not to understand how some of the wrestlers could benefit from medicine such as pain pills, or even something to wake them up and give them energy. Testosterone is actually a highly accepted medicine that helps them recuperate, helps them heal, helps give them the drive. Not to mention, the older we get, our own testosterone level drops.
To try to be a professional athlete and work out when you’re not sleeping right, you’re traveling day to day, not to mention the bumps and bruises in the ring and you’re trying to eat right, it’s a very, very challenging job. And the list on that drug test is so long. There are even things that other people can take over the counter like ephedrine that the wrestlers aren’t allowed to take. I’m a strong believer in modern medicine. I think it has its use in society. I think it adds longevity to our life expectancy. Go back a couple hundred years, we used to live to be 30 years old before penicillin, so I’m very much into proper usage of medicine when it’s appropriate. Abuse, that’s something else. You shouldn’t have abusers and people that are on deathwatch living day to day like everybody else trying to carry on the job.
With Congress making their demands and looking into it, I don’t really know exactly what to expect out of that. .. I think it’s strange for them to mandate over something as vague and uncontrolled as pro wrestling, because it even changes from state to state whether it’s a sport or entertainment. Pro wrestling is as inside, behind-closed-doors and as protective a business as is there is next to the mafia, so for them to oversee it from the outside and actually put control on it, it’s strange to me. I think they’ve blurred the line between WWE and wrestling, too. They’ve blamed Vince for a lot of stuff that just has to do with wrestling in general. The truth is most wrestlers aren’t working at the top with WWE.
With so many wrestlers dying at a young age, what do you think the industry should do to address the situation?
I think it’s education. I think it’s about making smart decisions. And when we get into a business like this we look at our role models, we look at the older wrestlers and what they do. Back in ’89, ’90 when I got into wrestling, it was a party business. The wrestlers, for the most part, were drinking and doing drugs. I’d compare it more to a rock and roll tour than I would to a football organization. When it comes to the drug abuse they always want to compare it to other sports, but really it’s like the Barnum & Bailey Circus. There’s like 22 of those big tractor trailer trucks and they haul the show from town to town. It’s not like MMA where someone’s really trying to knock your head off, so you can relax a little bit and your comfort zone can get kind of wide. I think it’s in education and I think it’s in people representing the right image. Somebody like CM Punk, who stands up and says he’s completely sober. He doesn’t even take a drink of champagne in a toast because that’s just not him. He’s a man that’s completely full of integrity; you’ve got to respect that. He’s going to have a lot of wrestlers getting into the business that are going to look up to him and want to be like him. He’s unique, but if there were more wrestlers that were not abusive, then eventually I think we’d see a change.
You believe that marijuana should be legalized, correct?
Absolutely. And I think anybody that looks into the truth, if they’re not for legalizing it then they just don’t care about it. But anybody that says that there’s any logical reason that a plant that grows in the wild that zero people on the planet have overdosed from should be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the [Drug Enforcement Administration] with heroin and acid, and is one of the deadliest drugs with no medical benefits whatsoever – people knows that’s [nonsense]. I’m strongly for the legalization. I divide the argument into three categories: there’s recreational, there’s medicinal and there’s even material. You can make over 25,000 products with hemp, which doesn’t even have THC. It’s just a plant that they have outlawed by assimilating it with marijuana. Henry Ford made a car out of hemp fiber and it ran on hempseed oil. Nobody knows about that because DuPont buried it and said, “We can make a lot more money off destroying the planet and making plastics.” The more you look into it, the more you’ll learn that it was completely [nonsense]. Marijuana was outlawed in 1937 for causing violence and promiscuity, and if you smoked enough you would go insane. They’ve never gone back and said, “Oh, by the way, everybody, that was [nonsense].” Material, medicinal and recreational – the fact is it rates higher in effectiveness and safety than its competitors in all three categories.
I can see you’ve definitely done your homework on this subject.
I’ve done years of research. Yes, at one time, I might have just been a stoner. Now people like that actually offend me when they come up and go (doing an exaggerated “stoner” voice) “Hey, Rob, you ever stand on your head and try. … ” No, it’s not even about that. Those are the people who add to the stereotypes. That’s why people want to ban it – it sends a wrong message to kids. Well, kids shouldn’t [have sex], but I don’t think we should ban that. There are certain things that are for adults.
You were the WWE and ECW champion when you and Sabu were charged with drug possession in Ohio. You immediately dropped both titles and your push was derailed. If that incident hadn’t happened, do you think things would have turned out differently?
There was no way that I was going to be the longest-reigning world champion in WWE (laughs). Nobody thinks that. People like to say that the plans were dropped for ECW because of that night – heck no. Most people think that was just a transitional moment anyway. From my perspective, when people say that couldn’t have happened at a worse time, I always say it couldn’t have happened at a better time. You’re never going to hear me apologize for that. The fact is if I wasn’t the WWE and ECW world champion at the time, nobody would have cared. It wouldn’t have been all over the news. But because it was, it drew a lot of attention to a very important fact. Whenever celebrities, especially pro athletes, get in the news for marijuana, it helps change the climate of marijuana. People say, “Wait, you can be a world champion graceful athlete who can walk the ropes and do back-flips – and smoke cannabis? How can that be?”
Whatever happened with those charges?
I paid a $100 fine for possession of marijuana. However, since the WWE suspended me it ended up costing me like $30,000 or $40,000 easily. And you know what? I asked for more time off at the end of the 30 days. That was one of my favorite months of my contract. That’s how much I wanted out of there and how much I missed being home.
So you never had a feeling of, "Wow, I finally made it to this level and now this happens?"
The day that Sabu and I pulled into the Philly arena and had to tell Vince, and I knew how much I had disappointed him and dropped the ball on his immediate plans, I felt bad that day. I was feeling like I let some people down. But that’s the way emotion is. Emotion takes the place of logic, and until you work things out you’re a victim of it. Eventually, I could see the big picture, and that’s how it goes down in history and I’m OK with that.
Can you describe what it meant to you to win the WWE title from John Cena and what the atmosphere was like that night?
That night was definitely a one-night experience out of my entire career. Seventeen or 18 years of matches – nothing ever was like that night. The crowd was so one-sided and it was my crowd. It was that ECW hardcore crowd that knows my story. The crowd that saw me sweating and bleeding for the art, and then they saw me have to sacrifice that for money, and then they see me back there with them representing. And not only did they all get behind everything I stood for, but they were also against everything that Cena stood for – which was WWE and the big marketing machine that makes wrestling cheesy to the general public. It was awesome. Winning the world championship, like I said before, I never thought that would happen. But if it was going to happen, by doing it my way, by bringing ECW back so I could showcase my talent, that was definitely the night of my career.
I’ve always been curious about this: How do you feel about Shane McMahon using the Van Terminator?
You can’t patent a move. It’s challenging enough to come up with a move that nobody else does. … I try and do things that I would want to see done that I haven’t seen other people do. Most wrestlers obviously don’t think that way, and instead they steal somebody’s move as soon as they’ve gone on to the next company. It was actually Paul Heyman, my good friend, who showed Shane a video of me doing the Van Terminator and said, “Do you think you can do that?” I wasn’t happy that he did it, but I didn’t lose my cool, and I definitely see why he did it. We even talked about tagging and doing like a double Van Terminator one time, and I was like, “I don’t know, man, if I want to endorse Shane-O’s coast to coast.”
What kind of feedback have you been getting on RVD TV and what other projects do you have going on?
Feedback so far has been awesome with RVD TV. We added a forum for members only so they can leave messages, and just as I had hoped, people are finding themselves inspired and being able to use a lot of what they hear me say to motivate them or apply it to their own life to better themselves. That’s a strong inspiration behind not only RVD TV, but the exact path that I’m on right now. I wanted to get out of the ring because I felt like I’ve done back-flips and kicks lone enough for right now. And I know that inspires people and gives them good energy, but on a more direct level now it’s important for me to be able to inspire and motivate. I write my blogs on my MySpace every couple weeks and the feedback I get from that really gives me a lot of energy. Fans are like, “Wow, Rob, I knew you had all the moves but I had no idea you were so smart,” and “Wow, you really gave me a lot to think about.” That’s what I do. I try to get them to think and explore their own brain and get them to realize they’re one of a kind, too.
We’re all independent, and to me, that’s the strongest value of human life – your free will, your ability to be a person. A lot of people don’t spend any time trying to learn who that person is. They know the person that other people know. The people that know me don’t know the real me unless I show it to them, and I have to discover than in myself first in order to share it. That’s part of what’s behind all this. RVD TV is a reality show at robvandam.com. It’s for members, so not everybody can watch the episodes, but they can click on the previews page and get an idea of what we’re doing. I have my workouts on there; I have me in Los Angeles just doing things that I normally do – hanging out at Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd., checking out all my friends’ houses. My real life and me as a real person comes across – it doesn’t get any realer than that. There’s no filtering, and, fortunately, from the feedback I’m getting it’s all really appreciated. People that are already fans of mine get to see more than just the two-dimensional RVD that WWE put on television.
What I saw of RVD TV definitely looked less contrived than a lot of reality shows.
It’s 100 percent not contrived. I’m walking on Venice Beach and talking to the camera about how I get good energy from the ocean and the sun and the beautiful girls in bikinis, and all of a sudden this black guy goes, “Hey, RVD, you remember me?” And I look over at this guy who is selling DVDs on the side of the road with a keyboard, and he says, “Hey, man, I did City Guys with you.” I’m like, “El-Train?” I did an episode of this kids sitcom on NBC with this guy [actor Steven Daniel, who played Lionel “El-Train” Johnson] about eight-nine years ago. Something like that would be contrived and thrown together on any reality show, but I don’t do that. This is just real life. There will be a lot of celebrities in RVD TV. I’m thinking of putting a celebrity count week by week just to count who all has been on RVD TV. I just hang out with a lot of people who are famous or who are associated with the entertainment business.
One thing that I’m really proud of on there is called “Friends in High Places.” It’s a recurring episode. I will talk to friends of mine about a subject to inspire thought: gun control, marijuana prohibition, language censorship, God, relationships, whatever. This is part of my real life. I don’t know if intellectual is the right adjective to use for me or a lot of my real-life situations. It could be with a couple other meatheads or it could be with highly educated movie producers or whatever, but this is something I do a lot with people that I know. It’s legit, genuine talk to explore our true inner thoughts. It’s not society telling us what to think, it’s how we truly feel on a subject. There’s a lot of variety on there. Last week for an upcoming episode, Justin McCully, who is a good friend of mine and a mixed martial artist in UFC, had this idea. We went up to Big Bear, where Team Punishment is training Kendall Groves for his upcoming fight, and we pranked them. We pranked Team Punishment and we have it all on camera for RVD TV. It was hilarious. We got a night-vision camera and we’re outside the cabin stalking them, knocking on the windows. It was awesome.
So many wrestlers have written their autobiographies. Have you thought about writing yours?
Absolutely. I’m actually working on a pre-autobiography book. What I mean by that is that I have a lot of different writing projects. I have some comic books, some fiction, nonfiction. I’m going to do the autobiography, but first I’m going to do more of a storybook that has to do with stories from the road, and it’s a lot of fun. Of course, when that’s out there, then the autobiography will be in huge demand.
Before we wrap up, are there any other projects that you want to discuss?
Not at this time. I appreciate you just letting everybody know to keep checking with robvandam.com for all the latest.