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Bernard Vandamme (english)
CAGEMATCH: Thank you for giving us from www.cagematch.de the chance to ask some questions.
BERNARD VANDAMME: you're welcome, as long as the questions are not too personal, because I need to keep some private info for later, when I write my biography :-)
CAGEMATCH: What first made you want to get into pro wrestling? Were you a wrestling fan growing up? When did you say, "That is what I want to do"? And what did your family/friends say about that?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I started to watch wrestling at the age of 5. I watched it with the whole family, it was british wrestling. Top stars then were Adrian Street, Bobby Barnes, and later also young Dave Finley. Then at the age of 6 I started judo, which was not bad as a preparation for wrestling.
CAGEMATCH: You were both trained in Europe and in America. What were the differences in training and style back in 1993 when you started wrestling? And where are the differences nowaday? Would a young Bernard Vandamme go (or have to go) to the USA to become as good as you are now?
BERNARD VANDAMME : I went to the USA because I really wanted to train with my idol, Adrian Street. he told me a lot about the bussiness, but the most important things you learn when you are actually in the ring. When I came back from the USA I was still very green. It wasn't after 5 years experience that I could consider myself as a "wrestler".
CAGEMATCH: When you wrestled in the USA, did you dream to become a star there, or was your goal to establish yourself in the european wrestling scene?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I did some independents there, in Alabama, Florida and TV taping for GLOBAL wrestling in texas. But soon I saw that wrestling in the USA is not like many people think. Yes, now WWE and TNA are doing fine, but the other feds have small shows for 200-300 people. Don't let the internet fool you and tell you any different. It's very rare that a show is sold out with 1000 people, very rare !!
CAGEMATCH: After your second stint in the USA, you started to wrestle for the wrestling promotion NEW CATCH in France. The main wrestlers there were Prince Zefy and Flesh Gordon. Could you please explain for the german wrestling fans, who are not aware of wrestling in France, how popular wrestling is in France?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I think that EUROSTARS (who was NEW CATCH in the nineties)is the only fed who has shows for crowds over 1000 people. 2003 they had over 100 shows, including smaller house shows.Flesh Gordon was the guy who had the TV show on Eurosport in the early 90ies. This was seen all over the continent, and was responsible for the huge succes tournaments in Austria and Germany. Tournament finals in Bremen had over 10.000 people !! Nowadays in germany a promoter is happy when he has 400...
CAGEMATCH: Wrestling is not as popular in Germany as it was like ten years ago in TV or like 20 years ago with the CWA who held 30 or 60 days tournament and drew big crowds. Is this trend similar in France or in Belgium or is it as popular as ever?
BERNARD VANDAMME: The difference with France, is that CWA only had shows in 3 cities, and stayed there for a few weeks. In France there's only one show in each city, and we tour all over the country. Also in Portugal or Macedonia we toured and never did more than one show in each city.
CAGEMATCH: You wrestled nearly everywhere in Europe, from Portugal to Slovenia, from Poland to Netherlands, Belgium to Austria and of course in Germany. But I have never read or heard that you wrestled in a country where wrestling is very popular: United Kingdom. Did I miss something here or why did you never wrestle in such a wrestlingwise important country?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I have been contacted by british promoters, and maybe I will go there one day. There is no special reason why I haven't been there.
CAGEMATCH: In 2002 you spent two weeks wrestling on the paradise island Reunion in the Indian Ocean. What an experience was that for you? Was this the most exotic place for you to wrestle?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I was in Reunion in 2002, 2003 and now january 2004 I spent another two weeks there. Each year the shows becomes bigger and bigger... Even when we have a show at 10 o clock in the morning on weekdays, we had a crowd of 3000 people. Shows on the evening had double. Later this year I'll be in Guadeloupe and Martinique (Carribeans), Guyana (South America) and negociatings are being made for Marocco and Cameroun, but I'm not sure if I will participate in all tours.
CAGEMATCH: Besides competing in wrestling, you started a second career as a TV star. You were a WCW commentator for the Pay Per Views on CANAL+, you had a role in the french TV Show Fort Boyard, an own CD and several documentations about you ran in belgium TV. Do you see yourself as a celebrity in Belgium and is acting, as in Fort Boyard, something you see yourself do after you stopped competing in the ring?
BERNARD VANDAMME : These tv shows sure gave me a push in France and Belgium. With my face on national TV, twice a week for two years, my fanmail grew :-) I remember after a great TV episode we have, on monday morning my mailbox crashed with 8000 e-mails. Luckily it now went down to aproximatly 400 per week.
CAGEMATCH: Over the years, you had a lot of extravagant outfits in the ring. Is there one outfit you liked most?
BERNARD VANDAMME: The most flashy ones were in my debut years. The make up, feathers and bright colors made sure people saw me. but when I started FORT BOYARD, I had to keep that look in the ring. I think costumes and looks are very important in wrestling. Too bad nowadays I see so many guys in the ring who don't even have wrestling boots. If you take the sport serious, you don't wrestle in adidas shoes and jeans, sorry.
CAGEMATCH: You speak seven languages including English, French, Russian and German. Is it easy for you to learn new languages or is it like a hobby for you and you force yourself into learning a new language because you need it in the world of wrestling?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I love to meet the cultures of the countries that I visit, and not everybody speaks english. I love languages, and if you don't understand the native language of where you wrestle, you miss lots of things.
CAGEMATCH: Do you have any other hobbies?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I love monkeys a lot !! Too bad with my busy life, I can't own any monkeys, because they need lots of attention. When I retire, I will look for my own little jungle and collect some primates. On my page you find some pictures of me with some nice babies :-)
CAGEMATCH: What are your plans for the future?
BERNARD VANDAMME: I hope to keep my European title some longer, and face some of the finest athletes on this continent. I'm also planning some new TV concepts, because the belgian fans have been keep in the dark too long.
CAGEMATCH: Is there anything you want to say to your German fans?
BERNARD VANDAMME: EUROSTARS will have some shows in Germany too this year. Come to see us, and you decide if you like the difference with other promotions. For me, EUROSTARS brings the elite pro's together, and creates top quality shows. tell me what you think.
CAGEMATCH: Thanks a lot for your time and answering our questions! We wish you all the best for your future! For more information on Bernard Vandamme, you can check out his website www.bernardvandamme.com
Sports Entertainment: WWF changed into WWE, but I don't see why any european promoters now suddenly also start using the word "entertainment". This is Europe here, and with US imitations you'll end up nowhere.
Wrestling is fake: is it? I always thought football was fake. I often see players fall, and pretend they're hurt, but one minute later they are jumping around again :-) and when we see a slow motion replay, we see that he hasn't even been kicked by the other player, that he just pretended. So, will sport reporters now finally start to ask this questions to football players too ??
Adrian Street: He was born a decade to early. He was too modern for his time. He sure brought a new rage into pro wrestling. Even though he never was in WWF or WCW, he was a role model for many other wrestlers. He was the man !!!
Prince Zefy: As far as I know, the only african wrestler who left the continent and became a big star in Europe or USA. Africa has a big wrestling scene, thousands of wrestlers, but when Zefy comes back, the receive him as a God.
Flesh Gorden: Without a doubt the most professional wrestler the continent had ever. He prefered to stay in Europe, and concentrate on shows and tv tapings in France. French fans saw this superstar weekly on tv for many many years, he really made wrestling big in France, and for a while in Germany and Austria too. Too bad CWA fucked up.
Michael Kovac: I don't think I ever faced an so equally matched oppenent in my life... We fought many matches, he beat me, I beat him... We fought some many draws. Surely the best there is !! He gave me some hard times, but I'm greatful. We teamed for the 2003 EUROSTARS tag team championships, too bad we lost the finals...
Music: I made some music video's and even cd's, but this was all as promotion for the sport. I think I did pretty well. I'm sure that I sing better, than Michael Jackson can wrestle :-)
Family: At this moment I have no time for creating a family. I don't know if I will ever be ready for that.
Opponent you´d like to wrestle and never have: In the early nineties that would have been Jushin Liger or King Kong Bundy. Now, I'm happy that after a match I'm still able to walk.
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