Many fans of wrestling and martial arts movies have wondered if there is any family connection between Rob Van Dam, the WWE legend, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, the action star. They share a similar last name, a passion for fighting, and a resemblance in appearance. However, the truth is that they are not related at all. Here is how they got their names and why they are not blood relatives.
Rob Van Dam: The Wrestler with a Movie Star Name
Rob Van Dam, whose real name is Robert Alexander Szatkowski, was born on December 18, 1970, in Battle Creek, Michigan. He started practicing martial arts at the age of ten and became a successful competitor in karate and kickboxing. He also developed an interest in professional wrestling and made his debut in 1990.
In 1991, he was given the ring name Rob Van Dam by Ron Slinker, a promoter in Florida, who thought he looked like Jean-Claude Van Damme and had a similar martial arts background. Rob Van Dam liked the name and decided to keep it as his stage name. He also adopted the initials RVD as his nickname and signature gesture.
Rob Van Dam became one of the most popular wrestlers in the industry, especially in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he was known as “Mr. Monday Night” and “The Whole F’n Show”. He won several titles, including the ECW World Television Championship, which he held for a record 700 days. He also worked for World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (WWF/WWE), where he won the WWE Championship, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the Money in the Bank ladder match. He later joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and Impact Wrestling, where he also won several championships.
Rob Van Dam is widely regarded as one of the best technical wrestlers of all time, with a unique style that combines martial arts kicks, aerial maneuvers, and hardcore elements. He is also known for his laid-back personality and his advocacy for cannabis legalization.
Jean-Claude Van Damme: The Movie Star with a Martial Arts Name
Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose real name is Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, was born on October 18, 1960, in Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Brussels, Belgium. He began studying martial arts at the age of eleven and became a proficient practitioner of Shotokan karate, kickboxing, and taekwondo. He also competed in several tournaments and won the European Professional Karate Association’s middleweight championship.
He moved to the United States in 1982 with the dream of becoming an actor. He initially worked as a bouncer, a waiter, a taxi driver, and an extra in various movies. He got his break when he impressed producer Menahem Golan with his martial arts skills and charisma. He was cast as the lead in Bloodsport (1988), a martial arts film based on the life of Frank Dux.
Bloodsport was a surprise hit and launched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career as an action star. He followed up with other successful films such as Cyborg (1989), Kickboxer (1989), Lionheart (1990), Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Sudden Death (1995), The Quest (1996), Maximum Risk (1996), Double Team (1997), Knock Off (1998), Legionnaire (1998), Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), Replicant (2001), In Hell (2003), Wake of Death (2004), JCVD (2008), The Expendables 2 (2012), Enemies Closer (2013), Pound of Flesh (2015), Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016), Kickboxer: Ret