Q&A with Robert Roode
This is the third of five interviews I conducted with TNA talent backstage at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., before the Impact taping on March 28:
Were you a wrestling fan growing up, and if so, who were some of the people that you were influenced by?
Yeah, I was a wrestling fan growing up. Probably around the age of 7 or 8 I started watching wrestling. Growing up in Canada, the wrestling that I got to see was all WWF stuff, watching guys like Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” and guys of that nature. I was a hockey player growing up, and, of course, living in Canada, I always wanted to be a professional hockey player. In the back of my mind I knew that someday I always wanted to try professional wrestling.
Probably around the age of 18 or 19, I got to a certain level in hockey and I knew I really wasn’t going to go any farther, and I really wanted to get into professional wrestling. Fortunately for me, I was friends with Val Venis. So before he actually signed with the WWE, I started doing a little bit of training with him, and from there it slowly but surely took off. He basically broke me in and taught me a little bit of stuff. From there, his partner at the time who was in Puerto Rico, “Glamour Boy” Shane Sewell, who is also Canadian, took over my training. And the rest is history.
You actually had some WWE dark matches early in your career. What did you take from that experience?
It was a real eye-opener. Really, my first match was in June 1998, and I did my first dark match in probably the fall of ’98. So, I didn’t have very many matches under my belt at the time. I was just in the right place at the right time and it was a real eye-opener, but it was a great experience. It made me learn different things about the business and see the stars that you see on TV, how they handle themselves professionally backstage and how they prepare for matches and so on. I had probably – between ’98 and the time I came to TNA in 2004 – close to a dozen dark matches or TV matches with WWE.
Who came up with the Robert Roode character, and how much input do you have in the direction of the character?
Coming off of the Team Canada split, the whole Robert Roode character coming from Wall Street and the money and stuff was really Vince Russo’s idea, and Dutch Mantel kind of ran with it and made it his own. As far as my input goes, the good thing about TNA and the creative team here is that they like to listen to the talent’s input. It’s kind of a team effort.
You seem to have good chemistry with Traci Brooks, especially when you’re on opposite sides. To say your character treats her character poorly would be an understatement. Is it difficult to be as nasty to her on camera as you are?
That’s the best thing about being in professional wrestling for me, because the person you see on TV every week is completely different than the guy you see at the grocery store or getting gas. Traci and I are both Canadian and we go back before TNA. We’ve known each other for many years. What happens in the ring and on TV stays on TV and we just kind of laugh about it. She’s real professional. She’s a very good valet and a very good on-screen talent. I had a lot of fun working with her. The whole angle with her and “Showtime” Eric Young was one of the most enjoyable angles I’ve ever done.
You mentioned that the guy fans see on TV is different than the guy they see at the grocery store. There was a time in this business when heels were actually shot at and stabbed. The character you play is not a “cool heel” and doesn’t really have any redeeming qualities. Do you ever get an over-the-top negative reaction when you’re out in public from people who have trouble separating what they see on TV from who you are?
It’s never gotten to the extreme where people throw things at me in public or come up and say anything mean to me. But the people that come up for autographs are a little bit timid around me. When we do fan interaction stuff, people are very polite and kind of shy even to get an autograph because I think they take the persona they see on TV and translate that into real life. That’s good in a way because I’m an old-school guy when it comes to the business.
I don’t want to be a cool heel. I want the Robert Roode character to be hated, and I think that’s what makes the Robert Roode character unique right now in professional wrestling. All over the business, whether it’s here, WWE or wherever it is, you’re always going to have the heels that get cheered. If I had it my way, and the majority of the time it is the case, I don’t have any cheers and people really do hate me. So that makes me feel like I’m doing my job.
What has it been like for you to work with a guy as respected and accomplished as Booker T.?
It’s been great. We’ve been working together now pretty much since he’s come to the company. It’s been pretty close to five months now heading into Lockdown. It’s been a great experience for me. I’ve learned so much from him. I grew up watching him in Harlem Heat and seen what he’s accomplished in his career in WCW, and even recently in the WWE. It’s an honor for me to be able to get in the ring with him.
I think the story that we’ve gotten to with Sharmell and myself has really taken off and it’s almost got a dramatic feel to it. It’s a little different than what you normally see on wrestling shows. It’s almost like a real life situation and I think people are really interested in it. He’s probably one of the top professional guys inside and outside of the ring. I’m learning not only how to handle myself in the ring with him, but also learning how to handle myself outside of the ring as businessman. I’m real fortunate to be able to work with him.
People who have been watching TNA for a few years have seen you gradually climb the ladder from Team Canada to where you are now. It seems like you are right on the cusp of main events. What do you need to do to get to that next level?
Just keep working and doing the best I can. Whatever the creative team throws at me, just try to make it the best and make my segment the best on the show. Keep creating that heel heat that I have. And as long as I keep working with great babyfaces and great workers like Booker T. and Christian and keep myself in that upper echelon of guys, I think it’ll get me there. I just have to be patient, and I think in the end it’s going to pay off.
The next TNA Q&A will be with Kevin Nash.