Former #1 wrestler in the world, Rob Van Dam stopped by TVT, along with badass lady wrestlers, Tessa Blanchard and Katie Forbes. While the trio all came in to represent Impact Wrestling, RVD’s wrestling career spans three decades, all the way back to the good old days of WWE superstardom.
RVD reflected on the glory days of WWE, when he was wrestling in arenas filled with 40,000 fans, all chanting his name. Van Dam drew inspiration from legendary old school wrestlers like “Leaping Lanny” (Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s brother) Andre the Giant, and Hillbilly Jim. “I always tried to think of moves no one had ever seen before.”
Tessa Blanchard has wrestling in her blood – she’s the daughter of the legendary Tully Blanchard, who was part of “The Four Horsemen.” Her step-dad and grandfather were also involved in wrestling. Tessa said she never dreamt of becoming a pro-wrestler, and was much more interested in musical theater than sports. Tessa recalls going to see her dad get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and then it truly hit home, how much wrestling has been a part of her life. She started wrestling six years ago at the age of 18, and has been killing it with Impact since 2018.
When asked about some of her craziest moments in the ring, Tessa recalled a time when she was “hurt on purpose” when fighting another female wrestler. This served as the perfect segue to discuss all the times RVD has been hurt in the ring.
Van Dam recalled his earliest memory of “getting stretched” as a young, cocky kickboxer in Tampa, Florida. A UFW (Ultimate Force Wrestling) Fighter named Jumbo Baretta” (who weighed about 400lbs) instigated RVD into giving him a kick to “show him what he had.” This led to Jumbo grabbing RVD’s leg, and sitting down on it, while he twisted it all the way. “I was rubber-bodied when I left,” Van Dam laughed.
Shapiro asked RVD how things have changed in professional wrestling over the course of several decades: “It used to be a ‘protect the business’ mentality, just like the mafia. Now, things have changed because of lawsuits.”
RVD shocked TVT fans when he threw out a figure of “500” as the number of concussions he’s had throughout his wrestling career. In fact, he’s had so many concussions, he can distinguish between a variety of different types (depending on the location of the hit): “They usually last a few seconds, and I shake it off. Sometimes, it’s the rest of the night, sometimes it feels like slow motion or that sound is cut off.”
During one concussion in 2016, after getting hit in the back of the head by Pentagon Jr, RVD found himself seeing double. To this day, he can still experience this double-vision effect if he tilts his head a certain way.
Shapiro asked if Van Dam is concerned about CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), based on the research that’s been conducted on NFL players. RVD gave an immediate “yes” to concerns about CTE, which has inspired him to pursue a new venture into CBD (cannabis) products as a form of treatment.
“A lot of my friends (in the wrestling world) have killed themselves. Some died from an opiate overdose, or after getting a concussion and then committing suicide,” Van Dam shared. Sadly, he’s known at least 12-15 people who’ve committed suicide due to changes in their brain functioning. One of those people was his good friend, Mike Awesome.
“Headstrong” is Van Dam’s documentary, on Amazon, about the long-term physical effects that professional wrestling can have on the human body. “None of us really understood there could be long-term damage. I used to be proud to show my fans how much I could endure, it felt like part of the job. It’s only been in the last ten years that we’ve really understood what’s happening (with CTE),” Van Dam explained.
RVD has developed a line of CBD products which serve as a “neuroprotectant” and can treat the symptoms associated with CTE. While Van Dam does not have a CTE diagnosis, he’s passionate that the products may “protect him in the future” and also be useful for his peers in the wrestling world.
And the future looks bright, since RVD is continuing to build his legacy with Impact Wrestling. When comparing Impact to his days in WWE, Van Dam describes Impact as a “different, much more acrobatic style.” Tessa is already a legend in her own right, since she even takes on guys in the ring. (Hell yeah, looks like Impact has this whole gender equality thing down!)
Check out the one and only Mr. Rob Van Dam on IG: @therealRVD or @rvdcbd.