The Shining Wizards podcast recently spoke with former ECW Superstar, WWE Champion and Current TNA Star Rob Van Dam . Here are some highlights:
Training with the Original Sheik: He was there almost always, in fact he didn't like us to train without his presence. Which we did once in a while, especially more once we reached a certain level, where we understood the basic fundamentals, and at a certain point his nephew Sabu could teach it and us was only like 3 or 4 of us. It was a real personal, family like atmosphere, some other guys would come and go, but they never stuck around, our training was so stiff. We just got taught how to manhandle each other, squeeze each other and try and pin each other. That was the way we got trained, it was a really stiff style. That's how we broke in. The Sheik was always besides the ring when he was there, once in a while he would get in the ring to really try and drive a point home. Usually the ring was outside, depending on the location, but I remember a lot of times it was in his backyard, and we would be working out in the ring and he would be in a chair soaking up some sun with some suntan oil all over him.
Having Second Thoughts on being a wrestler: I am sure there were, I don't remember them happening during training. There were a few points early in my career when I thought, jeez what am I doing? I should be in college preparing for something else. I don't have what it takes to make it. That certainly happened. I remember one time early on, in my career, it was 91, and I had my 21st Birthday at a wrestling show in Jamaica. And we wrestled at Coney Island amusement park in Kingston and we had like 3 shows there over 3 nights. It was an awesome deal and a great experience, for me to travel somewhere like that, just everything about being there. The island, the feel, the reggae music. I had second thoughts then, I wrestled this dude named Mark Starr , and I did something, cause I was green at the time. I don't know what it was, he just took it to me, and ended up PowerBombing me 3 times and pinning me. This was my first match after doing interviews for newspapers, and everything. I was pretty upset about it, and I had to check my gut later on that night, and fight down some thoughts of possible resentment, or regret. I had a scholarship to college. What the hell am I doing here? I don't fit in with these guys. I hate these guys. During training, training was stiff, your sides hurt from hitting the ropes when you start and you have bruises on them. Let alone hitting the mat, I always went home with headaches. At that point I don't remember ever doubting my choice. Not until I got into the actual business world of it.
On other wrestlers taking liberties on him when he first started: Oh sure, that's just part of the coming up. That's part of what you do. You're at a disadvantage, because you're just trying to do the right thing. It's not like it's an all out fight in the street where you just wanna like take the guys eye ball out and leave him laying there with a punch to the throat or something. You're trying to be respectful to him and the business. And you're trying to gauge the whole ratio between entertainment and the physicality that's going on. So when you're young and green like that it defiantly happens. It's not like an all out challenge, it's about using tools against you that you don't even know, they can use yourself against you at that point. Nothing comes to mind at the moment, but it happens. I remember one time in Japan, when I first started wrestling in Japan. I was young and green. I wore this happy coat like it was a karate gi. It was actually what Japanese wear when they get out of the bathtub, so they must have thought I was an idiot. I tied a black belt around it, and I had electric tape that I put around my ankles for some reason. For whatever reason, I thought I was getting support out of that. So they would kick the shit out of me. Kawada would make it a point of not reacting to when I was kicking him, and then he would kick the shit out of me and at first I really took offense to it, then it really fired me up. Made me want to give back, then I realized, that's what he wanted, that's what the match needed. Out of respect to him, you had to lay it in to him, or he can't react to it. He was at that level. That really helped me step up my game. It was years later, that I was stepping my game up too much for most Americans.
Using his Martial Arts Kicks in Wrestling: When I was training with Sabu, one time in the backyard. It was just Sabu and I, no Sheik. We were talking about a move. Which I still use today, in fact a form of that, is when I kicked Abyss and knocked his teeth out about a year ago. Sabu said you're a martial artist, you should be able to control anything. I said it would be cool to jump off the second rope and do a flying spinning back kick, but I don't really know how to do that without killing you. He said try, and I was like if I do it Bam, I can't imagine it not knocking your head off. Sabu said, just try, and if you knock my head off, then try and pull back next time. I said, that sounds crazy, and he said just do it. So I bounced off the ropes and I kicked him so hard, he had to eat through a straw for 2 weeks. I felt really bad, but sure enough, he was back and wanted to try that kick again.
Training With Sabu: I think that our like minded opinion of what was entertaining and what was exciting to see that helped us really get along at that stage. I was acrobatic, mostly from showing off on a diving board or trampoline. And at that point I was kickboxing, so I was able to show Sabu how to do some backflips and stuff. He had a crazy way of doing it, it looked wild. It worked for him, and he was teaching me, arm bars, arm drags, stuff I needed to add to my repertoire. And we both really liked the same wrestlers, when we watched TV. We were drawn towards the... (Continues on next page)