Almost Showtime for Mr. Monday Night
After 12 months away rehabbing a knee injury, Rob Van Dam will be returning to the ring at the Royal Rumble on Jan. 29. To commemorate his highly-anticipated return, "Mr. Monday Night" recently took part in a photo shoot to be featured in an upcoming issue of RAW Magazine. WWE.com caught up with RVD after the shoot to get his thoughts on his injury and impending return.
WWE.com: Back at ECW One Night Stand, the fans saw you speaking from the heart. Is that the RVD that will be returning? Will you be less laid back, or will it be the same RVD fans are used to?
RVD: I'm expecting the side of me that was revealed at ECW One Night Stand to be a more dominant part of the RVD you'll see. It's not necessarily a new RVD, just one that has been dormant for a while. Nobody has seen the 2006 RVD before anyway, so I'm planning on being more outspoken. From what I understand, the fans want to hear what I have to say. I'm very opinionated, and while I don't often talk about things I can't change, you give me power anytime you hand me the microphone.
WWE.com: Will the 2006 version of RVD still be a risk-taking high-flyer, or will the injury cause you to ground your style more?
RVD: You know, I was talking to some of the guys about the video they played on RAW promoting my return. I heard that the fans were excited, and someone said that the fans are going to expect to see the RVD doing all those flips and high kicks. That's exactly what I'm going to give them. My knee is in great shape, and I'm not going to hold back.
WWE.com: Do you have any apprehension about getting back in the ring?
RVD: Not at all, I'm 100 percent mentally and physically ready to go. 2006 is a new stage in my career; I've been out for 12 months, but I'm a year older and a year wiser. I've been gone long enough so that it's almost like a re-entry for me, a new beginning with a new perspective. I have all the confidence I've ever had, and I'm ready to excite the fans once again.
WWE.com: Can you refresh the fans on exactly what your injury was?
RVD: I suffered a torn ACL and torn meniscus in my left knee. It was bothering me for a while, and during my last match (last Jan. 13 on SmackDown) the torn meniscus actually folded into my kneecap. I wasn't able to fully extend or bend my leg because of it, and needed surgery to repair the injury. I broke my left ankle when I was in ECW, and when you talk to chiropractors, they always like to tell you that later injuries can be caused by everything being out of line because of an old injury.
WWE.com: What was your rehab like?
RVD: Rehab went awesome. It was challenging to say the least at first, and my first day in physical therapy I was in tears. I went from routinely squatting 12 reps of 405 pounds every week to not being able to even contract my quadriceps and make a muscle. It was disheartening to say the least, but I adopted a positive attitude that I used to excel through therapy. Now, I'm doing such advanced stuff that other patients watch in amazement and ask if I'm training for the Olympics or something.
WWE.com: What was the hardest part of your rehab?
RVD: Definitely the acceptance of what I had to go through. A week before my surgery, I was okay. My knee had bothered me for a long time, but it would be good one day, bad the next. Still, I was able to do my squats and stretches, and outside of it hurting a lot, I always seemed to get back to where I was okay in the ring. So when I first started physical therapy, I learned what a huge step back I had taken; not from the injury itself, but from knowing that it would take an indefinite amount of time for me to be able to do basic movements again. Luckily, my wife had been through the same rehab facility, and that motivated me and helped me get through it.
WWE.com: How do you feel about the Royal Rumble Match itself being your first match in over a year?
RVD: Well, it's me and 29 other guys. One would think that it would be harder to stand out, but I don't expect that to be a problem. I expect that when I come out, I'll have an enormous amount of fan support, and regardless of whomever else is in the ring, everyone's going to be looking at RVD.
WWE.com: The last time you were on television, Carlito attacked you after you had been drafted to RAW. Is he going to be one of your immediate targets, or do you have other goals in mind?
RVD: He's definitely got to be first on the agenda. He attacked me and spit apple in my face; that's the last time anyone saw me and they're not going to forget that. I hear it every day from the fans, and they always ask me if I'm going to bust Carlito's ass when I get back. So, I'll take care of that first and then set my sights on other goals.
WWE.com: What else have you been doing over the last year?
RVD: Well, WWE has been sending me out on various promotional tours, and I've done a lot of media days to promote live events in various towns. I've been to England and Australia, and I was in Chicago to promote WrestleMania 22. It's been busy, but still a bit of a break from the normal travel schedule. I also have appeared at a lot of conventions, like comic conventions, gaming conventions, things like that. And of course, I've spent a lot of time at my comic book store out in Los Angeles.
WWE.com: You also made an appearance recently at the Road to WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour in Nyack, NY. What was that like?
RVD: It was awesome. We had a great turnout and the fans really seemed to enjoy it. I love doing fan meet and greets like that. How can you not be flattered that someone waits in line for hours just to meet you and get your autograph? I don't understand how some celebrities can just blow the fans off. I stayed almost 2 hours later than I was scheduled to be there, and it was awesome to have so many people come out to see me even though I've been away for a year. It means a lot to me that I've made an impact in the fans' eyes that makes them want to come out.
WWE.com: So it's safe to say that you enjoy getting to meet the fans and doing these appearances?
RVD: Of course. I'm always flattered when someone goes through the trouble of taking time out of their day to come see me. Maybe I'm still a fan at heart or whatever, but it's nothing but pure positive energy for me. The people who put on these events are always surprised at how many people come out, but I love it. Any time I get the opportunity to meet the fans and sign autographs, I'll do it. I love it sometimes even more than the wrestling part of my job. It's very rewarding to me, almost like an instant reward as opposed to looking back later in life and realizing that I affected somebody. If I can make somebody's day by shaking their hand or signing an autograph, then that's a great reward for me.
WWE.com: This past November, you lost a close friend in Eddie Guerrero. How have you been dealing with that loss, and how has it affected you?
RVD: Well, it affected me quite a bit. I'm still hurt by the loss and I still think about him every day. But, I took some personal steps to make sure I didn't follow the same pattern as Eddie. I heard that if Eddie had gotten a heart scan and an EKG, this could have been prevented. So, I went out and got all of those tests done on myself, everything I could possibly think of to make sure that I was healthy. I've been in this business along time, and with Eddie's passing and me being injured, I needed to find out how I was for my own peace of mind. Thankfully, I found out that I'm in excellent physical condition, I have a young, healthy heart, and I'm doing fine. I guess that's one positive thing that has come out of this, and like I said, I needed to know this for my own peace of mind. I've actually learned that the past can catch up with you even after years of sobriety or not smoking or whatever, and that was a surprise to me.
WWE.com: Anything else you'd like to say to the fans?
RVD: I'll just say that as much as everyone has enjoyed my matches in the past, I'm coming back with even more effort to make the fans happy. I'm going to do my best to stay on top of the movement of sports-entertainment into the future. If this is going to be sports-entertainment, then you damn well better go out and entertain the fans. I feel like I'm going into a different stage of my career, so I'm going to approach it differently. I think the end result will satisfy the fans, and that will satisfy me. Just wait and see.
Look for RVD on the cover of the Feb. 2006 issue of RAW Magazine, on sale everywhere Feb. 7.