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Rob Van Dam’s new documentary didn’t capture what it set out to, but he embraces the brutal honesty. 

By Justin Barrasso
February 20, 2019

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

New Rob Van Dam doc takes a deeper look at the man behind the character

Rob Van Dam’s new documentary, “Headstrong”, offers a fascinating look at Van Dam as a person and performer.

The original premise of the hour-long documentary was to reveal an inside look at a week of Van Dam’s comedy shows, but that soon turned into a vehicle for the aspiring comedian to share his thoughts on pro wrestling, concussions, and a look into his soul.

“At first, we were going to make a documentary of seven days of comedy shows,” said Van Dam. “But I couldn’t have predicted that, on day one, I would still have concussion symptoms from a wrestling match I’d had days earlier. I just thought it would go away and I wouldn’t tell anyone, because I normally wouldn’t, but it became something that I had to share.”

The film digs so deep that it allows viewers a chance to get to know a personal side of RVD, who is as thoughtful as he is funny.

“I’m known for being overly honest, and I’m proud that my movie represents that genuineness,” said the 48-year-old Van Dam. “I don’t mind talking about things other people wouldn’t, because I stick to my own values.”

Now available on iTunes, as well as Google Play and Amazon, “Headstrong” provides a look at Van Dam behind the curtain.

Infused with a plethora of stories about pro wrestling, Van Dam’s comedy is affected by his in-ring work as he suffers a concussion during an indie show right before his tour.

The concussion caused Van Dam to suffer from blurred vision during the documentary, and he openly discussed the reality of brain injuries in wrestling.

“There were times I had to close one eye so I wouldn’t see double during the documentary,” said Van Dam. “But I took pride in how hard I could take a hit. That was my mentality.

“I came into the business at 185 pounds when I met the original Sheik, and I had to prove to him I was tough enough for his school. It is a fighting art, and it was important to me, as a performer and artist, to show the boys in the back that they couldn’t survive the toughness of a match with RVD.”

Van Dam did not consider or concern himself with the possibility that WWE will not approve of the documentary.

“I’ve never even thought about that, and I won’t,” said Van Dam. “It is what it is. We are living tomorrow’s history, so it’s really important to me that I get it right. I don’t want anyone else giving their spin on me, it should come from me. Like Popeye said, ‘I am what I am.’”

The documentary also explores Van Dam’s spiritual vibration (“The higher I get my frequency, the better person I can be,” said Van Dam. “And I always want to be at my best.”) and reveals that he has pledged to donate his brain and spine to study after his death, all while showcasing his witty sense of humor.

“Comedy stimulates my brain in a way that wrestling doesn’t,” said Van Dam. “I always wanted to write comedy and perform. Steven Wright and Bob Hope are two of my favorites. I enjoy the thinking aspects of comedy. That really gets my juices flowing.”

“Headstrong” is a chance for Van Dam to speak directly to his audience, and he is hopeful that it will serve as inspiration for those watching.

“A lot of people see RVD as a symbol, but people only know a part of me,” said Van Dam. “I have always been grateful that the universe has guided me to where I am, and I get to share it here.

“Beyond a doubt, people are going to get to know me way more than they ever thought they would. You’re going inside my house and my head, learning about how I see life.”

Joey Ryan Reflects on His ‘All In’ Moment

Joey Ryan stole the show at All In without even wrestling a match.

Following the Hangman Page-Joey Janela encounter, which saw both men, especially Janela, sacrifice their bodies for the good of the match, Ryan arrived to exact revenge on Page, who attempted to kill him earlier that year on the “Being The Elite” Youtube show.

Taking a page from the iconic entrances of The Undertaker, who is sometimes led to the ring in darkness by druids, Ryan was led to the ring by penis druids—and relished every moment of it.

“Well, 10,000 people were chanting ‘Rest in Penis,’” said Ryan. “That tells me it couldn’t have gone any better.

“It was a really cool moment, and that was all storyline from ‘Being The Elite.’ Hangman and I still haven’t had a real match against each other. It was all emotional investment in what we did on the storytelling side.”

Ryan, who would make a perfect addition to the new All Elite Wrestling promotion, is running shows this upcoming Wednesday and Thursday for his Bar Wrestling promotion in California.

His two-night trios tag team tournament—“Three’s Company,” as he is calling it—will feature some of the best wrestlers in California and throughout the world.

“We’re running LA on Wednesday and Baldwin Park on Thursday, and we wanted to put more people on the show and still have a tight six-match card, so I decided to theme it with a tournament,” explained Ryan. “A trios tournament hasn’t been done too much in the states, and we put together some really creative teams.”

In addition to Ryan, the 12-team, single-elimination trios tournament will include, just to name a few, D’Lo Brown, Jungle Boy, Scarlett Bordeaux, Willie Mack, Brian Cage, PJ Brown, and Eli Drake. Night one will feature six trios matches, and night two will be the semi-finals and finals, with the finals presented as a three-team match.

SCU’s Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky will also be in the trios tourney. They are already signed with All Elite Wrestling, and were in the ring as The Elite’s Cody and Brandi Rhodes, the Young Bucks, and Hangman Page all made a surprise appearance at a Bar Wrestling show in January, igniting speculation that history will repeat itself at Ryan’s upcoming shows.

“They’re traveling around, making surprise appearances to help spread the word about All Elite Wrestling,” said Ryan. “Their first surprise appearance was with me at my promotion, and I had SCU there, too. It worked out that everyone was in California, and it was really cool to have them kick off their surprise appearances with my show.”

As for AEW, there is little doubt that Ryan could be a star for the new promotion if given the chance.

“I’m currently under a Lucha Underground contract, so I can’t negotiate with any other promotion,” said Ryan. “When I’m a free agent, I’ll definitely listen to all offers.”

An integral part of why Ryan’s work is so compelling is that he is enjoying himself between the ropes and refuses to take himself too seriously.

Ryan has an upcoming match, one sure to set the internet aflame, on March 14 in Las Vegas for Quintessential Pro Wrestling when he takes on an internet sensation, and talented wrestler, in Priscilla Kelly.

“That promotion is open to all styles,” said Ryan. “They have Tom Lawlor vs. Josh Barnett booked for the main event, which is the complete opposite of myself against Priscilla. I think the match will be memorable. Being the style of wrestler she is and being the style of wrestler I am, I think we’re going to come up with some creative stuff.”

Another project that appears to be appointment viewing is Ryan’s new documentary, “This Is Wrestling: The Joey Ryan Story”, which will have an exclusive screener this May during Starrcast II in Vegas.

“Some producers from the show Bar Rescue followed me around for about a year, documenting my independent wrestling travels,” said Ryan. “That will be out this year, and there will be a screening during ’Mania weekend and at Starrcast in Vegas. It really captures a lot, and I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Tye Dillinger announces he has requested his release from WWE

Tye Dillinger tweeted at midnight this morning that he had requested his release from WWE.

Despite a solid run in NXT, Dillinger never found his spot on the main roster. He is talented and will have little trouble finding a new home, which will most likely be All Elite Wrestling.

For Dillinger, a crucial part of the situation is when WWE decides to grant his release (assuming it does).

If granted today, for example, Dillinger would have enough time to sit out the mandatory 90-day non-compete period following a release and still work AEW’s “Double or Nothing” show on May 25. But if the official release happens next week, then that would make him ineligible for the event.

The Dillinger character had no purpose in WWE, but the 38-year-old is gambling on himself to prove that he can be a success in this business by branching out on his own.

Kris Statlander ready to break barriers

Kris Statlander may claim to be from another galaxy, but she fits in perfect when she steps into the ring.

The 23-year-old native of Long Island is one of the brightest young stars on the indie scene. Statlander calls herself the “Galaxy’s Greatest Alien”, which offers far more meaning than a randomly assigned wrestling gimmick.

“I’m not really an alien, but I never fit in anywhere,” said Statlander. “I was alienated from everything, so it’s an extension of me. Once people would finally get to know me, they’d be curious to learn more. That’s just like space and the galaxy—there is so much to explore.”

Statlander will help headline Women’s Wrestling Revolution’s “Widowmaker” show on Saturday at the NYWC Sportatorium on Long Island. Broadcast live on IWTV.LIVE, Statlander is thrilled for the opportunity to face former WWE women’s icon Victoria, who now wrestles as Lisa Marie Varon.

“I want to prove myself in every match,” said Statlander, who trained to become a stunt double before getting her start in wrestling as a valet and getting in the ring in 2016. “I want every time I step into the ring to be amazing and memorable.

Statlander will spend Sunday at Beyond Wrestling’s “Destination: Uncharted Territory”, which is a one-night-only tournament featuring eight of the best independent wrestlers to determine the new number one contender for Orange Cassidy’s Independent Wrestling championship.

Statlander will work against a talented field that includes Jordynne Grace, Josh Briggs, Willow Nightingale, Wheeler YUTA, Solo Darling, Chris Dickenson, and David Starr.

“I want to break the barrier between a woman’s wrestler and a man’s wrestler, and just be a wrestler,” said Statlander. “My style is very diverse, and I work super aggressively. That’s what helped me stand out.

“The eight of us are going to have some crazy matches. There is so much room for possibility, and that really excites me.”

Statlander is on the precipice of a bright career, and she is ready to embrace the ride.

“I’ll go wherever wrestling wants to take me,” said Statlander. “Let’s see where this can go. My biggest goal is to break that barrier between men’s and women’s wrestling, and my goal is to break that wall.”

WWE update from NYTC

WWE action figures were on display this past weekend at the New York Toy Convention.

Funko POP!, The Loyal Subjects, Alpha Group, Wicked Cool Toys, and TOMY all showed off new WWE products, while action figure heavyweight Mattel unveiled some of its upcoming figures for 2019.

Mattel will produce 73 WWE action figures throughout 2019, and Sports Illustrated learned that the next line of “Ultimate Edition” figures will include “The Hitman” Bret Hart and Shinsuke Nakamura.

Tweet of the Week

Forget Fastlane. If given the opportunity, Kofi Kingston winning the WWE title over Daniel Bryan would be the single-most memorable part of WrestleMania 35.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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