Four Questions With Former TNA world heavyweight champion BOBBY ROODE
FSM: You trained for about a year with Sean Morley (WWE’s Val Venis) and Shane Sewell up in Peterborough, Ontario. How far in, during the course of that year, did you feel comfortable with the basic elements of pro wrestling?
Bobby Roode: I actually trained with Sean earlier on – we lived about 10 minutes from one another in Ontario. He was travelling the world, from Puerto Rico to Japan to Mexico, and he’d just signed with WWE around 1996-97. When I stepped in the ring to train with him, he began teaching me the basics; I’d enjoyed watching wrestling as a kid, but just being in that ring with Sean, I knew this was something I definitely wanted to do. So it didn’t take me too long to feel comfortable with what I was doing, and what I had ahead of me. Sean was a great teacher with a world of experience.
Shane came along about six months into my training, and it was just a continuation of Sean’s training. Both made it easy to understand, and it wasn’t particularly hard outside of just putting in the work and focusing on the repetition of basics.
Fundamentally, what was the hardest element for you to master?
Definitely promos. Promos took me some time to get the hang of, and that’s probably true for most wrestlers. The physical stuff I took to gradually, but much more quickly than speaking on a mic in front of a crowd. I would get better at it much later in front of bigger crowds, and repetition makes you comfortable, but that to me was harder than learning to take bumps and work an actual match.
You’ve made it far in the business without the benefit of working in a developmental territory or an in-house training centre, such as WWE has now. When ex-WWE guys have passed through TNA, have you seen a difference in their style?
You know, I really don’t notice or pay attention to any differences. There’s no such thing as a perfect wrestler, so there’s no real “right way” to perform. When I learned, it was at a school, and then I went on the road, and that was how I honed my craft. Eric (Young) and I would drive all over Canada and the U.S, work in front of different crowds and different opponents, and that’s how we learned. It’s definitely different from an in-house training facility, because the scene’s different every time out.
Working with different guys in different places reinforces the basics, especially when you’re starting out. You have common knowledge of the basics of wrestling with somebody you’ve probably never worked with before, and working with different opponents teaches you to be adaptable. Adaptation is the key for any wrestler, because if you’re going to make it, you have to be able to work with different opponents.
So, I don’t necessarily notice differences in style with guys, because to some similar degree, we all know the basics, and we just look to adapt our style with the guys we’re working with.
Is there a piece of advice you received early on that still rings true today?
That’s a really good question. I learnt a lot, of course, but the one piece of advice that I hold on to most is “never stop learning”.
You can never stop learning in the wrestling business. I started out in wrestling in the late-1990s, and look at how much the business has evolved since then. As time passes, you find yourself having to learn a lot more with new opponents, new styles, new tastes. There’s always something new to learn.
When younger guys come into the business, they’re not just younger, but quicker, and the older you get, the more you need to adapt what you do in order to suit their style. A veteran has to be able to work with anyone, and get the most out of them. It goes back to what I said about adaptability, that it’s the key to longevity, to making it in wrestling. It’s not just the boys you work with, but also the fans you have to consider, because they always want more out of you and out of the show.
For that, you have to think of new and creative ways of giving it them, and that’s a learning process in itself.