Rob Van Dam recalls using a Belgian accent when he first adopted his ring name.
RVD fell in love with wrestling in the late 1980s and quickly knew that's what he wanted to do with his life. The latest episode of WWE Icons chronicles the Hall of Famer's life and career and shows footage of him performing under his real last name (Szatkowski) during his earliest matches. It wasn't until 1991 when promoter Ron Slinker suggested that he start telling people he was Jean-Claude Van Damme's cousin.
"When I'm down in Florida in '91 and '92, Ron Slinker is running the Tampa Sportatorium," Van Dam explained. "Ron Slinker said that he thought I looked like this actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was very over. Ron Slinker told me to tell people that I was his cousin. He wanted me to sound like I had a Belgian accent. I was just like, '[in accent] I'm very excited to see these people. All of you people, your love for me.' I was embarrassed and shy and I just did my best, but it stuck."
Jean-Claude Van Damme had a string of memorable films in the late 80s and early 90s including Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Death Warrant, and Double Impact, among others.
RVD would go on to have a historic career, namely in ECW and WWE. He was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Vince McMahon spoke about his relationship with and memories of Van Dam during the docu-special. His comments can be found here.
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