Saturday January 30th will be a big night for fans of Rob Van Dam. At Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Kurt Russelmania he steps into the ring for his first independent appearance in North America since leaving WWE in 2007. The show is part of WrestleReunion 4 in Los Angeles, which will also feature RVD signing autographs.

Rob Van Dam gets the crowd going during his pre-PPV match against Rene Dupre at SummerSlam at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in 2004. Photo by Stan Behal, Toronto Sun

“The truth is, they met my price. Usually when people contact me about my price domestically I don’t even give it to them because I am very expensive and I have run wrestling shows, I know what they have in mind. The kind of money I take for an appearance fee is more than they are even planning on bringing in,” Van Dam told SLAM! Wrestling. “This is a really big show. It is in Los Angeles which is really easy for me because I don’t have to fly it is a 30-minute drive. I was contacted and it went down just like any other booking from a third party. I am not out there on that circuit so I don’t have a fee to give to people, I have ‘diva demands’ which may offend some people. I got all of my money up front so I am smiling no matter what happens this weekend. I think it is going to be a great show.”

Fans planning on attending are already buzzing about the match, a triple-threat bout against Roderick Strong and Chris Hero. RVD admits he is not familiar with either opponent but has high expectations.

“I am glad that other people are familiar with them, that there is a little buzz. I have a friend who is a wrestling fan that is excited about the match. That tells me that the promoter hopefully has good judgment in putting me in the ring with somebody of decent caliber. That aside, everything else is good. You bring what you bring to the table, I bring mine and we mix it up, that is what wrestling is about. The bad part about doing independent shows is that a lot of times promoters will bring you in and have you wrestle either themselves or some local young kid they are trying to push who doesn’t know what they are doing. Then your job is completely different than what I have been doing for the last 15 years. I don’t want to step back, and this won’t be one. It is going to be a huge show with all these top wrestlers and I am glad to be a part of it. I already know of I am going have a kick-ass match.”

PWG’s Excalibur is thrilled to have RVD on the show.

“Having Rob Van Dam be a part of Kurt Russellmania is a huge honor for us, and also a little gratifying as well,” he told SLAM! Wrestling. “Yes, it might be easy to get in touch with Rob Van Dam and ask him to appear on your show, but he is very particular about what he attaches his name to, so by having him appear on our show at WrestleReunion 4 really speaks to the reputation we’ve established in six plus years of business, and the identity of having the world’s finest professional wrestling.”

Van Dam shares the card with Jushin “Thunder” Liger and The Great Muta, two other wrestlers that fans can not wait to see live.

“Originally I heard some rumors that I might be wrestling Liger. I’m not sure what kind of condition he is in as I haven’t seen him in years do anything. On paper it sounds like a really good match. I kind of marked out a little bit that they were able to throw together something that sounded appealing that I hadn’t done before. That was just hearsay. I didn’t ask the promoter to book me against anyone or the type of match, that is not my style. I am fine not knowing anything until I walk up to the ring and see it.”

Van Dam is ecstatic to have a wrestling event of this caliber in his current hometown. Los Angeles is often overlooked, he says.

Rob Van Dam and Sabu talk about Ed “The Sheik” Farhat at the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, on Saturday, March 31, 2007 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

“I always felt like wrestling doesn’t come out here often enough. WWE only comes out to the Staples Centre twice a year. ECW came out here one time and we had a huge crowd. A lot of the west coasters feel like we are neglected. I think it is mostly that the wrestling company offices are on the east coast. I expect that WrestleReunion is going to find a resource here that is not tapped enough. As long as they know about the show they are going to come out with passion and will bring all their energy. It is going to be a good thing, I am looking forward to it.”

Meeting the fans who adore him is something Van Dam especially enjoys. The fact that he is still so over with fans despite having only appeared twice in WWE since 2007 speaks volumes.

“It is all about energy and people giving their love. It would be different if people were coming up saying, ‘RVD, I’ve always wanted to tell you you’re a dick!’ That is not what I get though. I get people saying, ‘Man you are the best ever, please come back I miss you!’ That is a lot of enthusiasm and energy. I get recognized like a legend every day when I leave my house and that is payback for all my hard work. I appreciate the fact that I impacted them so much that they remembered me and hold me in such high regard. At this show I will be in my environment, and all the fans that are stoked to meet me, I am stoked to meet them too,” he said.

“I am a little bit out of perspective as to why the fans appreciate me, you would have to ask them. I would be interested to hear their perspective. One thing that I know for sure is that I am different from everyone else not just in the ring, but out of the ring. That makes me a non-conformist and that makes me stand out. A lot of the fans appreciated that about me, whether I stood out because I had cool moves, because I stand up for myself and don’t let them push me around, or from sticking to my guns and speaking so freely and uncensored. I don’t hold back. I have a lot of qualities going for me that fans picked up on, and that doesn’t go away. When a fan tells me, ‘I grew up watching you,’ they aren’t kidding. I have been wrestling 20 years so anyone in their 20s and 30s did grow up watching me and I am glad that I was able to impact them in such a way. I still can’t see myself the way I was impacted by superstars when I was young, but I know that for some people I do hold that position.”

Also a great part of events like WrestleReunion is seeing the other wrestlers.

E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub! A victorious Sandman, Sabu, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer at WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

“I am looking forward to seeing Stan Hansen — the stiffest partner I have ever had. DDP, Scotty 2 Hotty, Bret Hart, Sunny, Chavo Guerrero Sr. There is going to be a lot of wrestlers and there are also some guys I am looking forward to meeting like Dan Severn. I am not sure who will be there at the same time I am but hopefully I will get to say hi to everybody. It is all circumstantial depending on who I see. You remember the times you had and what that person means to you. Someone like 2 Cold Scorpio walks up and we will have a big hug and laugh at just seeing each other because the last time may have been in Germany, and the time before in Japan. You meet people that are like your family and you run into each other all over the world. Others you will meet and do the obligatory handshake and be thinking, ‘Wow, I never really cared for this guy,’ and big ‘Good to see you too,’ with the fake obligatory, ‘How you doin’?’ that I learned to master up in WWE. It is a bunch of cool people at WrestleReunion, they are not all my best friends or people I would have over at my house but there are a bunch of good people, and of course RVD is going to be the best.”

Van Dam is enjoying life away from the grind of the WWE. He frequently goes on international tours with his wife, Sonja who he is happy to report was successful in her battle with colon cancer.

“She is doing excellent, officially in remission. The cancer is gone, she has no more of it in her body. She has to go for regular checkups to keep on top of her health to make sure it doesn’t return. She has really turned it into a positive. She is part of the patient advisory board at City of Hope now helping the conditions of other patients and helping the hospital grow.”

An important thing to the Van Dam’s now is using Sonja’s story to help others.

“We feel really good about it. One of the first things she said when we got our diagnosis was, ‘We have to let everybody else know.’ We had been trying to chase down the source of some of the symptoms and went to so many doctors visits and they couldn’t find anything because they don’t look for that cancer in someone like her. A typical colon cancer patient is an overweight male in their 50s. For so many reasons they didn’t even consider it. When we found out about the tumor we realized you can’t just listen to the doctors, you have to listen to someone else you trust. If we had someone that we really respected, a role model, that we were listening to and smartened us up a little earlier it would have been position because we couldn’t have been any less prepared.”

Now that his wife is cancer free and he has had a chance to recover from being burnt out from the WWE schedule, RVD isn’t as adamant about returning to a national stage. He has been a buzz on the Internet about the possibility of going to TNA, to the point where WWE locked him out of his profile because they thought he had signed with the company. He hasn’t agreed to anything yet.

“I have some interest right now. For the longest time, I have been saying no thanks, and recently it turned into a maybe. Now with the spotlight on TNA with Hogan being there, as much as people were talking about it before people are talking about it three times as much now. There is a lot of optimism in the air, maybe something will work out.”