Rob Van Dam on Why Total Nonstop Action is Different from WWE, His Unusual-Looking Tights, and Why He Supports Marijuana Use
Rob Van Dam (center) lays into an opponent during a match for Total Nonstop Action.
Courtesy of TNA
Rob Van Dam loves catching some air. The 6-foot, 238-pound professional wrestler (who performs for Total Nonstop Action ) has a tendency to bust out with high-flying acrobatic moves during matches, causing much excitement in the crowds of wrestling fans that watch him.
Some of his most spectacular maneuvers include the "Five-Star Frog Splash," where he soars from the top turnbuckle of a wrestling ring and lands on his supine opponent, and the "Van Daminator," which involves a leaping kick that propels a metal folding chair into another dude's face.
On October 14, you can expect to see him flying all over the ring when TNA, the chief competitor to World Wrestling Entertainment in the world of suplexes and body slams, stages Bound for Glory (its biggest event of the year) at the Grand Canyon University Arena. Tickets for the event, which will be broadcast on pay-per-view, went on sale this morning and Jackalope Ranch had an opportunity to speak with Van Dam about his sky-high moves, how TNA is different from the WWE, and why he supports marijuana usage.
How is TNA different from other wrestling companies, like the WWE? In Total Nonstop Action, individual wrestlers have a lot more freedom to artistically express themselves versus WWE. When we have our matches, they are known to be more athletic, more competitive in nature, and that's what wrestling fans really appreciate. And the fact there's more of a focus on wrestling in Total Nonstop Action over the other major company on TV. Whereas WWE has been known to feature more of the 400-pound giants that aren't necessarily going to [perform] quite as impressively. TNA focuses more on the wrestler's abilities and skills and gives them a chance to shine out there in front of the fans.
Are there other differences? It's also more of an up-close-and-personal experience where wrestlers are more accessible and there's a lot of times spent on meeting the fans. And Bound For Glory will be no different and we'll be there on October 14 with a big meet-and-greet. The day before that is also something called "TNA Fan InterAction," which all the top stars will be there as well. People can meet and talk to their wrestlers and get their photos taken with 'em.
What's it like being a professional wrestler and performing on nationwide TV? We're all in the ring to show off. That's what being in the spotlight is all about. You have your skills and you're there to show a bunch of people who paid to see them what you got.
Your big move is the "Five-Star Frog Splash," where you leap from the top turnbuckle and land on your opponent. How much does it hurt when you land? Any time that you want to drop from 10 feet and then land on your ribs you're going to feel it (laughs). All you can do is be conditioned for it by training and being a pro wrestler and being able to take all those moves. Depending on when in the match a do the move also matters, as I feel it less at the beginning of a match when I'm fresh than at the end. It's all about calculating and hitting it at the right time. Obviously, it's nothing I can't handle.
You've wrestled for more than 20 years now. How long will you continue to perform? I don't know, I get asked that a lot. I've been wrestling for a long time and right now I'm in a unique position of balance where I have more experience than most other wrestlers that are still competing but I'm still peaking physically. I'm still able to do every move I've ever did when I was 18- or 25-years-old and I'm still making money. So right now wouldn't be the time to leave. Looking down the road, however, it's hard to say. I don't plan on being Ric Flair's age and hitting the Rolling Thunder.
Or being Hulk Hogan's age and hawking Rent-A-Center television? Yes (laughs). All the respect in the world for those guys and they obviously love the business to stay in it that long. I have a lot of interests outside of the business and a lot of projects that take my time and my energy. So, really, we'll see what life brings me, but I know I'll be in TNA at least for a while, so the question of me jumping over to wrestle on [WWE] Raw or something, I can tell you that's not going to happen.
What's been the pinnacle moment of your career thus far? I would say my crowing moment was when I won the ECW championship and WWE championship from John Cena at One Night Stand in 2006. It wasn't just because I was crowned world champion, but it was because I did it my way. I stuck to my guns, I stayed hardcore when I was told that hardcore [wrestling] wouldn't fit with WWE.
Rob Van Dam performs a Rolling Thunder on an opponent.
Courtesy of TNA
Fans have been comparing WWE's Ryback to you because of your similar taste in wrestling tights. What do you think about that? Well, the truth is that Ryback reached out to me and asked for permission to use the same airbrush artist that I use, Joe Holland in Savannah, Georgia. The guy's been making me the same outfits since like 1995 and he doesn't do a lot work for wrestlers. And I'm all for anyone that can make more business off of things they do for me. Ryback has my blessing [and] I'm flattered that he's a fan of mine. He's been very respectful in reaching out to me. I haven't met the guy but have nothing but respect for him.
Why have you worn such distinctive gear covered with snakes, tigers, yin-yangs or whatever? One of my many, many ways that I stand out. Everything about me is different, in and out of the ring. I'm a nonconformist, like a duck-billed platypus. Way back in 1992-93, I was wrestling for All Japan and it was my boss [Shohei] "Giant" Baba that told me he wanted me to start wearing bright colors. I think he wanted me to look like the Rockers or something because I just had a real generic black singlet. And when I met Joe Holland, I had an idea for him to paint on a little silhouette on my outfit of me doing a flying kick. And that was the first one. From there it just got more elaborate. And each time he tries to outdo himself.
You're a noted fan of marijuana and a big supporter of medicalization. Do you smoke out regularly? Um, that's more of a personal question than a direct question that my character talks about. It's not so much part of the show as just [something] connecting me to that culture. A lot of my fans are in that culture and when I'm not wrestling I'm a strong advocate for ending the marijuana prohibition. Not to mention I also help educate people about medicinal marijuana programs. Since you brought it up, I'd love to tell everybody that it's impossible to overdose from marijuana. Everyone's brainwashed into thinking it's a harmful drug but its not. It's the most resourceful plant that we have on the entire planet. Medicinally, recreationally, materially...it could basically replace so many huge conglomerate and big corporate businesses, which is the reason why its outlawed.
TNA's Bound for Glory and FanInteraction takes place on Sunday, October 14, at GCU Arena. Admission is $10-$150 for the pay-per-view, $99 for the meet-and-greet.
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