Rob Van Dam Recalls Thinking The Post 9/11 SmackDown Was “A Terrible Idea”

Rob Van Dam posing on the turnbuckle

Rob Van Dam has recalled his reservations at participating in WWE’s post 9/11 SmackDown show, believing it was a “terrible idea.”

On September 13th 2001, WWE held SmackDown at the Compaq Center in Houston, Texas. The episode had been due to be taped on September 11th, but was broadcast live two days later as a tribute to those impacted by the attacks in New York.

The show marked the first large-scale public gathering to take place after the attacks.

One man who was at that taping was WWE Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam. The former World Champion recently spoke exclusively to Kenny McIntosh for issue 14 of Inside The Ropes magazine where he initially described his reaction to finding out about the attacks while he was on the road following an episode of Monday Night Raw.

“Mike Awesome and myself were travelling together. We woke up in San Antonio on 9/11—I had a hookup with a really nice Marriott hotel, they had great food. Mike woke me up in the morning and said, “Rob turn on the TV, we are under attack!” I’m trying to figure out what’s going on and then saw the second tower going down. We knew it was crazy, but we didn’t comprehend how much the world had just been changed.

We thought we were still going to have to wrestle that night—we didn’t know. This was in New York City and we’re in Texas. We drove to Houston, and then of course, we got stranded there for several days. I would rather have been stuck in San Antonio, because I had the hookup with the nice king sized suite and all that stuff. But we didn’t know, we were just on hold. When we finally did go forward, it wasn’t a lot of notice.”

Continuing on, Van Dam said that he felt that running the SmackDown show on September 13th was a “terrible idea.” The ECW legend reasoning that by hosting the show, WWE were creating another target for terrorists to potentially aim at.

“I think WWE was anxious to get on with it. I remember thinking that it was a horrible idea. These terrorists really want to strike America in its heart, what better way than a stadium full of people on live TV watching pro-wrestling, which is as American as it gets? I was thinking it’s quite likely that we are not going to be the safest out in front of people. I thought that, and also, when we flew home. Teddy Long was the first one to fly home, I thought he was crazy. I couldn’t believe that he did it.

We drove out of there, a lot of people did, and for the longest time, it was something that went through your mind and every time you get on an aeroplane, you think, “Man, I’m not sure if it’s going to land where I want it to or not.”

RVD also opened up about the paranoia that surrounded now only those within WWE, but within the United States at the time.

“I’ve told this story several times, but I remember Lance Storm telling us that he would kiss his kids goodbye every day when he would leave the house, and not know if he was going to make it home or not. We would eyeball anyone who had a towel on their head, or whatever, it was just paranoia hyped, and not a comfortable feeling at all. We take it for granted how comfortable stuff is when the problems are on the other sides of the world, and we are able to ignore it in our little bubble here.”

Rob Van Dam signed with WWE in the summer of 2001 after a highly acclaimed run with ECW. Van Dam went on to become one of the most popular Superstars in the company winning pretty much every title that there was to win.

Mr Monday Night was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2021.

To read the full interview with Rob Van Dam you can order Issue 14 of Inside The Ropes Magazine here or take out a monthly subscription to get great wrestling interviews, features, and a whole lot more delivered to your door. Alternatively, Inside The Ropes Magazine is also available as a download.