In the first of our two-part interview with NWA World Heavyweight Champion Rob Conway, SLAM! Wrestling covered Conway’s winning the NWA Title, his title defenses, and on what the future may hold for him and the NWA. Now in this second part, Conway discusses his time in WWE, how he became a member of La Résistance, wrestling Ric Flair, and how it helped to prepare him to later become the NWA standard bearer.
For wrestling fans, especially those in Canada, Rob Conway may best be remembered for his tenure as part of the group La Résistance. Conway joined the group on August 18, 2003 when he debuted in the WWE; however that wasn’t the original plan.
“Initially, I had gone up and I was supposed to debut the week before,” Conway recalled for SLAM! Wrestling.
“I had long curly blonde hair and I used to wear white trunks with pink trim. One of the writers said, ‘This guy wears pink trunks. We should put him with Stevie Richards and have Victoria be his friend.’ My first night I was going to wrestle Tommy Dreamer and that was up to six or seven o’clock that day. They later came to me and told me they had decided they weren’t going to have me debut that night, which crushed me. I was told I was debuting on the TV and wouldn’t be on the road. I just had my dream taken away from me, but they told me they were going to bring me back next week and they thought they might have something better.”
When Conway came back the following week, John Laurinaitis, the head of WWE talent relations at the time, sat him down in a chair right by the beautician who was backstage and told her to cut all his hair off. Conway was shocked, but he allowed his hair to be cut off.
“They gave me an air force uniform, told me to go out and sit in the front row,” Conway explained.
“So that’s how I debuted. I came in, joined La Résistance, and laid out the Dudley Boyz. There wasn’t a lot of planning. That’s pretty much how it went. I had a cell phone in my pocket for if they decided they didn’t want me debuting while the show was going on. I even went in the front door with a ticket and had them seat me and everything.”
What many people may not realize is that it was Sylvain Grenier’s idea for Conway to join La Résistance, which consisted of René Dupre and Grenier.
“Actually it was a blessing because René was an @$#%[email protected]#,” Grenier told SLAM! Wrestling. “It was my idea to bring the army guy that he was playing at the time into La Résistance to go against the Dudley Boyz; they were always three. It worked really well. Thank God because René left to Smackdown and me and Rob had a great, great two years together. We were champions for two years and main evented in Australia and all over in Europe and I learned a lot from Rob. Thank God, because René was not helpful. He was not fun to travel with. It’s sad, but Rob made me love wrestling again.”
For Conway the highlight while he was a member of La Résistance was winning the world tag titles in Montreal — Grenier’s hometown.
“It was the one place in the world that we got cheered no matter what we did because we had their flag and represented them all over the world,” reminisced Conway.
Other highlights from this period in his career included the opportunity to team with Grenier against the Rockers, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels, and a match against Eugene and Ric Flair.
However, one of the big La Résistance moments Conway didn’t get the opportunity to be a part of was when the group wrestled in France; yet, from what Grenier and Dupre told him about the experience, it’s a country he would love the chance to wrestle in.
When he looks back on his time as a member of La Résistance one of the things that stands out in Conway’s mind is that outside of Québec, he and Grenier tended to get contradictory reactions and that was even the case in the rest of Canada.
“It was almost confusing because when we would go to Calgary, or Edmonton, or Toronto it would be a mixture,” Conway elucidated. “Some people would kind of cheer for us and some people would kind of boo us, but in the U.S. and all over the rest of the world we would be hated. Yet, there it was confusing for the audience because we did the same thing we always did because we were just representing Québec. There were a lot of people from Québec who had migrated to the rest of Canada who would cheer for us. We never got the same reaction in the rest of Canada; negative in the United States or positive in Québec. It was odd.”
As Grenier recalled the shift in having La Résistance represent Québec came about due to how big the Internet was starting to become in 2004 and 2005, and the public becoming aware that no members of the group were actually from France.
“So that’s why when I came back from my neck injury I said to Stephanie McMahon, ‘What about coming out with a French Canadian flag?’ and she’s like, ‘Yeah, no problem,'” explained Grenier. “So we did a little something on TV — I can’t even remember what it was — and Michael Cole put it over. That was it. We moved to Québec and now everyone from Montreal could appreciate La Résistance. You can do everything on TV. I don’t think the people cared if he was French or not. When we were there we won the championship, everybody loved it, and everybody loved Rob.”
Conway was in fact very aware that there were people in Québec who wanted to form their own country and that when La Résistance was carrying the fleur-de-lys to the ring it definitely was striking a nerve.
“We weren’t just representing Québec initially; La Résistance was saying that we didn’t think the United States should go into other countries and stick their nose into everybody’s business,” said Conway. “That was the initial message when we were more a French team. We moved closer to the United States so that’s how we became associated with Québec all of a sudden, but some people were kind of believing what we were saying, that’s kind of right, why are we doing that, and that maybe we should look after our own before we go help anyone else.”
Perhaps the most surprising revelation from when he was a member of La Résistance was that he never did learn to speak French. As Conway explained, while Sylvain Grenier and René Dupre both spoke French, they each spoke a different style of French, which made it confusing to try and learn from either one of them. Adding to the confusion was that one of Conway’s partners thought they spoke a more proper style of French compared to the other one.
Conway welcomes the chance to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against either of his former La Résistance partners.
“They were both good quality wrestlers,” stated Conway. “Sylvain and I wrestled against each other quite a bit more than René and I did. I have watched some of Sylvain’s matches recently and he’s one of the best wrestlers in the world. He learned from the get go. The biggest challenge I would have with him is he’s not the same guy when we wrestled together. He’s a lot better and he’s real big and really strong. Pound-for-pound he’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”
Dupre was very complimentary of Conway.
“It was great having Conway there because he was very experienced and a hell of a wrestler,” Dupre said. “It was great because we both had the same bodybuilding lifestyle, so we got along great, and we respected each other’s professionalism. I heard some rumblings that we are supposed to work somewhere down the line for the championship. We could do some great business together methinks.”
While Grenier expressed that he was very happy to hear how well Conway is doing, he did feel that Conway might be reluctant to defend the title against him.
“At this time I don’t think Rob would because now he knows I’ve passed him. Ten years ago it was different, but now I’m younger, stronger, faster, and Rob knows that. So if he cares about that title he won’t call me,” claimed Grenier.
Outside of his time with La Résistance, Conway got to have segments with many of the legends he grew up watching. “I had go toe-to-toe on the microphone with Dusty Rhodes, did a few shots at Harley Race, and in the ring with Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Arn Anderson,” reminisced Conway. “I took the claw from Kevin Von Erich, and Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka splashed me off the top. Although, I didn’t end up on the good end of any of that it was very memorable and a dream come true for me to be in the ring with those guys.”
Another special WWE moment came when he challenged Ric Flair in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the Intercontinental Title.
“That was awesome,” Conway exclaimed. “I’m from Indiana. My parents were sitting in the front row. I was on a hot streak at the time, I hadn’t lost in like seven months and I got to challenge Ric Flair for the Intercontinental Championship, which would have been the biggest title I had wrestled for up to that point as a singles wrestler. Right there at the end I was in the figure four and Flair reached up and grabbed the ropes, and there you go, he’s still the champion, and afterwards he and Triple H start fighting and spilled into the front row in mama and dad’s laps.”
Conway’s latter portion of his time with the WWE was marked by a lengthy losing streak, which he felt could be summed up best by the fact that the WWE is in the business of producing entertainment programs.
“The head writer for RAW had been gone to make a movie and, when he came back, the success I had while he was gone wasn’t his idea, and wasn’t something he got behind,” said Conway. “So in turn the character was kind of put on the backburner and I became a guy they used as sort of the type who can have good matches with anybody. So I was used to fill a space for the guys he was writing for. That’s the entertainment business. You have your ups and downs.”
Yet one of the more valuable aspects from his time with the WWE was that during his time with the company and working for Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), Conway had the opportunity to wrestle just about every type of style there was, which has been very useful experience to drawn on now that he is the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
“I’ve wrestled guys like Rey Mysterio, Tajiri, Chris Benoit, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, and Mark Henry,” stated Conway.
“So I’ve been able to pick up a quite a bit from a lot of different guys. When I was in OVW it was Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson, Fit Finlay, and Dr. Tom Prichard, all those guys would come down and train with us. I probably wrestled William Regal a hundred times, who is a great technical wrestler. On any given night you just have to brush up on your skills. A lot of times when I know who I’ve got to wrestle I go and check out videos, if I have enough time, because I want to know what they can do and what they do well.”
In the end though Conway has come to realize that he can only do what he can do.
“I very rarely do anything off the top rope,” Conway stated.
“I’m more of a ground chain wrestler, wrestling holds. If I have to punch and kick, that’s fine too. Chemistry, sometimes people have to adapt to me, because I do what I do and they do what they do, and usually between the two of us we go out there and put on a great match. Ultimately, I think people like to see a hard-hitting, physical match. Over the years I’ve adapted more to that style.”
With regards to whether or not he would ever want to return to the WWE one day Conway felt that it would have to be quite a while down the road.
“I enjoyed most of my time there and most of my house, my cars, and other things I was able to purchase I owe to most of my time spent there, but now with the NWA, with them having a relationship with other countries, and New Japan, it’s really so much more fun,” stated Conway.
“I really enjoy travelling for the professional wrestling I grew up on. Sports Entertainment has its place, and it’s good, and we all enjoy watching the television program each Monday night. I think my time as a professional wrestler is with the NWA, and I think down the road if I become a trainer or an agent, if it’s not with the NWA, I could see myself going to the WWE. I’m really happy doing what I’m doing now, and they’re happy with me, and it’s a lot of fun. Never say never in the wrestling business though.”
— with files from Patric Laprade
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