WWE and ECW legend Rob Van Dam talked about his career through a mini-documentary on Impact Retrospective. He talked about how different today’s form of training for wrestling is compared to the brutal training he received from The Sheik and Sabu.
“I got trained really snug which is a friendly way to put it by the original Sheik,” Van Dam said. “Way different than other wrestlers have been trained. Especially the way wrestlers have been trained in the last twenty years because in ’89 when I first met The Sheik the whole outlook on wrestling was different. People believed in the whole fight aspect of what they were watching and wrestlers protected the business more. It was a closed door society. It wasn’t easy for people to just walk in the dressing room and get photos In fact, those same people would get beat up and thrown out of the dressing room because that was the way it was.
“When I was first allowed in the dressing room, Sheik and Sabu both already beat the fan out of me,” Van Dam continued. ‘They’d say, ‘You’re one of the boys. You’re not a fan. Don’t talk to anyone unless they talk to you. Definitely don’t ask anyone for a picture. If anyone talks to you, just shake their hand and introduce yourself and that’s it.’ It did affect the rest of my career because how can I still be excited when the Undertaker is changing next to me in the dressing room if I already didn’t care about that because I was broke of that. Nowadays, wrestlers are getting pictures with RVD in the dressing room because times are different.
“The Sheik trained us to beat the hell out of each other,” Van Dam admitted. “There was never ever one time in my schooling where he said, ‘This is how to hit somebody without injuring them. This is the right way to fall without getting hurt.’ There was none of that. It was about grabbing each other, squeezing each other, and pinning each other. We knew we had to work with each other to a certain degree in order to pull off what we wanted to accomplish and we were sensible, but The Sheik never one time said, ‘Hey, you’re hitting him too hard.'”
“It wasn’t like a traditional school where everyone would line up and take the same bump. Some guys like Al Snow and his partner Mike Kelly would say, ‘Whoa, ease up!’ And we were trying to be compatible with them and then Sheik would say, ‘Don’t listen to them. F*ck them!’ Then I would go to Japan and I wasn’t stiff enough. If I did something and didn’t kick the hell out of my opponents, [the crowd] wouldn’t’ react to it.”
“I got the sh*t beat out my so many times in Japan. I’m from a school where I never ever say that I’m hurt because if I can keep going and you don’t need to take me the hospital, then I’m not hurt. To me, hurt means you can’t work. That’s why I’ve wrestled with broken bones, concussions, torn ACLs, and I’m not saying that’s a good idea, that’s the way I came up. Still now after a match if someone afterwards someone says, ‘Oh, sorry. Did I catch you in the mouth with that’? I’m like, ‘Dude, get outta here. You didn’t catch me.’ But I enjoy the physicality of it. I enjoy showing off my moves but also my durability. I want people in the crowd to know they would get hurt if they were doing the same thing I was doing.’ Yes, I have hurt a lot of wrestlers back in the day.”