DUE TO COVID-19, SOME ORDERS MAY BE DELAYED 2-5 DAYS X CLOSE

Fueled By death cast



Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 175 - ERICK ROWAN

ERICK ROWAN - JOSEPH RUUD

"I never said I want to be in WWE. I said, I want to make a living doing what I do. And I have tons of goals right now, with stuff I wasn't able to do in WWE, but one goal at a time." - Joseph Ruud, former WWE star Erick Rowan

 

 

WATCH THIS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO CLIP

 

ABOUT ERICK ROWAN/JOSEPH RUUD:

Joseph Ruud has been entertaining crowds for years in the ring, most recently as WWE superstar Erick Rowan. He joins the podcast to talk about what's next and what fuels his passion for wrestling.

TRANSCRIPT:

Jeff:
Man, I can't thank you enough for taking time and talking with me today. I kind of want to start off like I've been on the last handful of episodes, because we're in this strange world right now. I just want to ask at the top here, how are you doing? Are you okay? Are you healthy? We're all quarantined at home, are you going crazy inside?

Erick Rowan:
Everyone's going a little crazy inside, aren't they? No, no, I'm good. It's most time I've had spend with my family in a long time. Got two kids and a step kid and it's great to be home with them. I went for a walk the other day with the dog and usually my ankles are hurting and they felt great. My body has never felt better either. Maybe it's the make shift gyms and all that stuff, fortunate.

Jeff:
Yeah. I hear that too. As much as it's crazy that we all can't travel. We all are really practicing social distancing, being safe, staying inside and all of that. We're lucky, I've done the same thing, my wife and I have been trying to get out and walk around a lot. I've been saying this, I think this is out of every single living thing in the world during this terrible quarantine, this terrible COVID-19 pandemic that we're dealing with, I think dogs are making out the best.

Erick Rowan:
Lots of attention.

Jeff:
Lots of attention. Like you said you were walking your dog... Every time that we go out, my wife and I go out on walks, we see all the dogs and they're the happiest in the world. So I mean, at least the dogs are happy.

Erick Rowan:
That's true.

Jeff:
So I want to talk about obviously wrestling, because it's a big part of your life and all of our lives. It's so amazing and I want to start off not in the present but way back. Because I'm always curious when someone like yourself who's been a professional for so long... I'm always curious when that hits you, were you a kid and watching wrestling and thinking I want to do this someday or was it later in life that you fell into it? Was there a watershed moment in your life where wrestling became the goal?

Erick Rowan:
Well, it's funny because you hear these days, "It's wrestling, it's all I've ever wanted to do when I was a little kid." I remember as a kid, my parents would go watch the old wrestling pay-per-views. But I think I was a kid so I'd watching the pay-per-view and it would be like pay-per-view or the other thing that used to be closed circuit television.

Jeff:
Yeah.

Erick Rowan:
That's what it was. So I remember getting wrestling toys, me and the other kids would play, my cousins and stuff. And then my parents would all watch and every now and then we'd go, who would lose interest, go watch something else. So I remember it was in my life when I was little. I stopped watching it, then in high school I got back into it. I graduated 2000 so I started watching it again like '98, '99. Went to college, football. Was watching it, got a bad respiratory virus in 2001, 2002 and when I had that, my virus going on, my buddy and me would always get all the pay-per-views and watch them. I have Taco John's, a pound of tater tots. Good deals. Especially for college income.

Erick Rowan:
So I started to love it, but I couldn't wrestle or play football because I was having this respiratory issue. So then we started going to a couple of wrestling events that were local and I met a guy named Eddie Sharkey. I watched the show and I said, "I can do that." And quit college most of my mother's chagrin.

Erick Rowan:
In '02 I started to train to be a pro wrestler. First match in '03 on the independent circuits. Stayed in one spot, Minnesota is where I'm from. So I wrestled in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin. Stayed in one little area, never really getting any better but thinking I was. In '07 I did... It was in Harley Races Camp. First time I ever spent money to actually prove as a wrestler. Got me to live out in Japan for three months from that camp.

Jeff:
So cool.

Erick Rowan:
After introduction, I went to Pro Wrestling NOAH, did a couple of tours, I learned a lot from there. I came back home, worked a full time job. I was a prison guard, I did County security. All while chasing a dream of wrestling and I never gave it up. And then in 2010, I was given an opportunity to go to FCW for a try out with Dr. Tom Prichard and they liked me enough to call me in. I had been there until I received the call yesterday. But almost 10 years, which is good.

Jeff:
Yeah, okay. So that's a lot to unpack, I want to go back and ask real quick. When you played football, what position did you play?

Erick Rowan:
High school? Defensive end. I slowed down a lot and then I was defensive tackle, freshman in college with a D two school, the University of Minnesota Morris. I call it the loosening at school in division II history, into our own 77 from when all was said and done. But when I was there we didn't win a game. The close we came by was a one touchdown. It was interesting time in my life, that's for sure. I don't remember a whole lot of it, I wasn't the best student, I remember that.

Jeff:
So before you got sick, you were saying, was football the goal? Were you looking like, "I would like to try to go pro that way?"

Erick Rowan:
I never thought about that. I always take everything I do one step at a time. I never tried just to reach for the skies since then I wanted less. It started out I was playing football in high school and I was started out in junior in high school and I weighed like 195 pounds, and I said I want to start next year. So then took that one goal and the whole summer I spent working out for the first time in the gym. I went from 195 to 245. It's funny how you remember numbers when you're actually trying to attain goals. And I gained all that weight, muscle mass and running and training really hard and the next year I started. So then once I started that I said, "Okay, I'd like to go to college and play football." And then once I made it to college, I busted ass in the gym really hard and went from 245 to 275. And I was like, "You know what, I'm a freshman going on a D II school, I want to start." So I was able to start as a freshman.

Erick Rowan:
So I always had goals for myself and then I was hit really hard with the respiratory virus that took me out my second year of college football. Grades took a tumble, just a depression kicked in. I'd walk upstairs and I couldn't breathe, we couldn't figure out what's wrong with me. It took a good year to figure out that I had a respiratory synovial virus, which is mostly an instance. It was a really weird thing that affected me. I had asthma when I was kid but it never affected me but then all of a sudden it just hit me like a ton of rocks. Partly based probably on the diet at the time I said, "I want to get bigger, because I want to be better for next year." And I didn't know anything about diet, so I ballooned up from 275 to 320 and it was mad crazy amount of body fat. It was really horrible for my health. And then when I found wrestling in my life, I made a goal that I want to train to be a wrestler.

Erick Rowan:
What do you do when you train to be a wrestler? Well, I'm going to learn how to have a diet. And I'm going to get a dietician and I'm going to cut weight. And over the course of two or three years from '02 when I started training to '05 I cut so much weight. I said, "No I want to gain weight." I got down to 245 from 320. My body fat just completely went down and so I just met all these little goals, one step at a time. I never said I want to be in WWE. I said, I want to make a living doing what I do. And I have tons of goals right now, with stuff I wasn't able to do in WWE, but one goal at a time.

Jeff:
That's a great way to live and that's just great advice for anything that you're going to pursue but that's just great advice for life in general. You mentioned in 2002 you met Eddie Sharkey, who's considered a champion maker of a trainer. Did you know who he was? Did you go up to him and introduce yourself? What was that meeting like?

Erick Rowan:
So when I first met him it was by accident because he promotes himself. So have a poster and said was Terry Fox/Eddie Sharkey trainer of champions, and it was there at school. So I said hello to Terry Fox because Sharkey wasn't in the building at the time. So that's how I got training with them and then Eddie would be in the garage and he'd have a newspaper and he would, "Good job." Just tell stories. I remember once I had a match and I asked him, "How'd I do?" He was, "You were great, you were great." But yet he was having a cigar in the back. He never even watched the match. But that's just Eddie.

Jeff:
That's funny. So take me back to that moment. You're starting to train to be a wrestler. You're thinking about it, that's your main goals like, "Okay, I want to see if can make a living on this and become a professional wrestler." You've obviously watched it as a kid you enjoyed it like I do, as a fan but now you're in it. In that initial training sessions and those initial first few matches, what was the most surprising thing to you becoming... Being in the ring as opposed to being on the outside of the ring watching it?

Erick Rowan:
I mean guys make it look easy I guess. And it's not, you got to put all the pieces together and it can take somebody... They can pick it up like that or it can take years to pick up. But you never stop learning in something like this. And that's what I embrace that right away I think. It takes a while, unless you're just naturally gifted. But yeah, it humbles you really quick.

Jeff:
Well, throughout your career you became one of those guys. I can 100% say that, that every time that you would enter the ring, you made it look like it was easy. And that's a Testament to the work that you put in. It's something that I love about the sport, because there's so many facets to it that the casual observer, just as you said sees guys in the ring and go, "I could do that." And it's just there are so many things that you guys are keeping in your head and everything going on, even behind the scenes it's awesome. And I'm always curious from out of the wrestler perspective to how much input you have as a wrestler as opposed to... When you said you came back from Japan, you started working with FCW and then which became NXT and then eventually WWE and all that stuff. Your first name and your first ring name was Thor of Marius. The coolest fricking name in the world, is that your idea or was that given to you?

Erick Rowan:
Actually that was my great grandfather's name. Like my name is Joseph Ruud. And his name was Thorus Ruud, his middle name was Marius. So as common knowledge to my family, I said I'm going to be Thor of Marius this sounds like a big giant viking. Which basically that's what I'm.

Jeff:
I know you're Norwegian descent, this was your grandfather you said?

Erick Rowan:
Yes. I saw pictures, he was a very little man but he came from Norway to work in the railroad. He was a hard worker, but he was very small man.

Jeff:
And I was going to ask, so your grandfather was the first generation to come over to America?

Erick Rowan:
My great grandfather.

Jeff:
Great-grandfather. Got you, got you. That's so cool. Viking in your veins, I'm telling you, it's awesome. We fast forward a little bit and I believe 2011 is when you started wrestling with the WWE in the Wyatt Family, right?

Erick Rowan:
Yep. January is when I started in FCW.

Jeff:
Right. And then you switch over to a different ring name Eric Rowan, where does that come from?

Erick Rowan:
A list of names. And the list of names was how to spell Eric and how to spell Rowan now that [inaudible 00:13:26] Eric. They basically gave me one choice.

Jeff:
Which again, I'm always curious about... On this very podcast, a couple of seasons back I had a Ted DiBiase with the billion dollar man on the show. And it was very interesting to hear the same kind of thing. There are instances that you guys really get to put your creative input in there and really get to do things. And then there's other things like you said, where it's like, "Here's a list of Eric's, pick one." Like kind of thing. And that's what makes the magic of wrestling so endearing and so entertaining, really. Because of all of these pieces going into it. So can we talk about that initial WWE with the Wyatt Family? I mean, your character was one of the coolest. For lack of a better adjective, slimiest heels around. With the sheep mask and everything else. Again, were these ideas given to you or did you have any creative input in that initial?

Erick Rowan:
So it was funny because I was doing a biking gimmick similar to the biking experience guys, the war enders. And I'd have a big fur, I had a range of pelts I bought with the majora, big theatrics [inaudible 00:14:46] really over the top biking. And then I was told, "All right, that's not going to work." All right, I get it. I get it. I mean, why would that even be close to who I was as a person? No. Okay. But then a Dusty Rhodes, whatever promo class. And then I remember doing different promos with Luke Harper and Bray and I would just try to fit in with their group in different ways. One day wore pajamas, I would have different masks. Bray had went and bought all.

Erick Rowan:
like a pig's mask, clear mask so you can see through. So I cut the bottom off and then just more of the top pass and just tried different things. The sheet mask was one of them and we were just told, "no, no, no." And then fast forward, and they said, "Okay, it's a night of a taping of NXP taping." Then I'm like, "Okay, you're going to work all over gray and we're going to have you go off there. What do you have to wear?" And at the time I had trunks with the Viking stuff on. I mean, a pair of jeans but you already have another guy that's wearing jeans and that was in perfect condition. And then I remembered I was in a reality show in Norway called [Alt Norie 00:16:11] .

Erick Rowan:
I did that prior to coming to WWE. It was basically amazing race, but in a country that you ever got it from that. But had never lived in or never been to. So we could challenges, you could see all of the country learn about the culture and at the end of the show, if you win it, you get to meet your family and get like a cash prize. So when I was doing that show, I had a... They gave me a green, one Z farm outfit. And it was a long sleeve, it barely fit me but I threw it in my trunk. I was at TV that day and I said, "Well, I mean I got this." And I showed the thing and they were like, "Yeah, yeah." So I cut the sleeves off and then there was the form of the ones Z outfit. And then you fast forward to, when we filmed the next to go onto the main roster, in my trunk I just happened to bring the Latin mask.

Erick Rowan:
They were like, "We probably won't use that." We filmed shots with me wearing it, they loved it and then it just evolved and became part of me for a while.

Jeff:
That's such a cool story because it did become this iconic thing. So many wrestlers throughout the years have their gimmick or have the little piece of their costume that from a far you can see it coming in through the smoke and you're like, "That's it." Like you could see that Lamb mask just coming from a million miles away to culminate with and I wanted to get your perspective on this. Hearing the origin story of it like, "I've got this, can this work?" And it works. To fast forwarding to WrestleMania 30 and you and the Wyatt Family bringing out all of those kids in lamb masks. That must've been such a surreal moment to see.

Erick Rowan:
Yeah. You just reminded me of it, I completely just passed my mind. So yes, that was a surreal thing.

Jeff:
Going all the way back to like a rubber dig through your trunk, being like, "Well, what do I have to wear." To seeing an entire choir of kids it's... I love the pageantry of it, it's just amazing. And speaking of, that was during your whole feud with John Cena and all of that, which then you flipped over during your career. And I always love asking this question because I think I know the answer, but what do you prefer? Do you prefer the heel role or do you prefer the hero?

Erick Rowan:
I prefer the heel, but that's because that's so far this from myself, that's entirely possible. So talk to anybody that knows me, try to get them to say something bad about me, it's just not going to happen. So that's probably why I like to do that the most, because that's the farthest from who I am. So if I can get people to believe in the sleazeballs, slimeball and the jerk, hey, that's what wrestling is.

Jeff:
Of course. And you know what? As much as the heroes of wrestling are amazing to watch, like The Rock or Cena or whatever. It's the heels that make it, you want to either hate the villain or root for the villain. Even you talk to half the actors in Hollywood, they always answer the same thing like, "I want the villain role because it's the juicier role, it's the one that you get to have more fun with, because not all of us are that evil obviously." It's fun. Well, you portrayed it awesome and you could tell that even though you're up there and you're not being yourself, you could tell that you're having a good time doing it. You did enjoy embodying that character, right?

Erick Rowan:
Wrestling and whatever you do in it, you can always... It could be a bad thing you have to do that day but just to be out there and to do it and have fun doing it, that's what makes it worth it. Just that feeling of being out there and doing it.

Jeff:
I can't even imagine the feeling, because I wanted to bring up another moment from your career that just sticks out in my mind. And it's another WrestleMania 32. You guys, The Y Family has been through the ringers. You've broken up, you come back together and you are in an arena breaking attendance records facing off yourself against the return of the Rock. And again, looking back at 2002 you go to a match, you meet Sharkey you stack on that one goal of like, "I'm going to train and see if I can do it." To get to that moment. Do you ever have that moment in the ring in an instance like that. Where it hits you like, "My God, I'm here" or is it, do you not have time to think that?

Erick Rowan:
The comedy is of from an excuse as to why is the surest match in WrestleMania and wrestling history. And that's because I was new to the business. My first singles match at WrestleMania and I'm in there's a 100,000 people, I'm looking around and I'm distracted, I'm not ready. I didn't even hear the bell ring and then all of a sudden I'm like, "Whoa." So that's my big excuse, I can say I just wasn't ready. Well, yeah. It was an experience, that's for sure.

Jeff:
I mean, that's what I'm saying is... I'm not saying that that moment is a defining moment in your career, but what I'm saying is, I can't put myself mentally in a moment like that. To be at a pinnacle of that pageantry and in front of all of those people, I'd be the same way. I'd be like, "What is happening?" It just seemed like... And it was amazing to watch anyways. It was such a cool moment for everyone involved not just you and The Rock but just that entire thing was just great. Which brings me to really the theme of this show. I say it a lot that we as human beings, we're all fueled by one thing. We're fueled by the finish line and we're going to die one day and we want to do our best to leave the world a little different before we do.

Jeff:
And you really do enjoy what you do as a wrestler and it shows. You put so much of yourself into it, what fuels you to keep doing it? What fuels you through all of these years to keep going out there and doing your best and giving it your all?

Erick Rowan:
As everyone say with what we do, we do it because putting smiles on people's faces is number one. And whether that be anything I do in life is, if somebody is watching it and it affects the way somebody feels, that's cool. And that makes me feel good as a person to be able to leave that mark. At least a smile for a second on one person or "Hey, that guy was upset, but I gave him that the fuel to be here." I'm upset about something, so let me take my aggression out on this fictional character. That's cool to me that I can evoke emotion that is an outlet to somebody. So instead of somebody screaming at somebody else out of the car and yelling at a car indirectly because they're having a bad day, they can scream at me through the TV or at live show they can scream at me, and that's their release and that's their fun.

Erick Rowan:
So I could say that's one of the reasons. But another reason is I have kids and as much as I have goals in my life, I want them to see that you may not always be going up. You're going to have peaks and valleys in your life. And you always want to just keep striving for what you want to do. Don't give up just because somebody says, "Hey, you're not good enough." Or "Hey, you can't do this right now." Keep going for what you want to do, and the sky's the limit. Because if you put your mind to something, you're going to accomplish it. Never say never with anything

Jeff:
That is such great advice. And that is what fuels us all for sure. And that really brings me to today, you're such a positive guy and I know that as we're recording this, just yesterday yourself and a lot of people have gotten released from the WWE. But like you said, you've got goals that are in front of you and I know this isn't the end of the road. How are you feeling? How are you dealing with this? Are you just immediately like, "Here are my goals, here I go." Kind of thing?

Erick Rowan:
I mean, with everybody we're in a weird, strange Twilight zone, outer limits type world right now. With the Corona virus situation, social distancing. This virus is affecting everybody. So I can be shocked and upset but what's that going to do? The situation is the same, life as we know it is a little different right now. Is it still possible to attain goals during this time? Yes. Are they the exact goals that you want them to be? No. It's going to be unexpected things popping up in there and you just embrace it. And you go every day, one step at a time like everybody else. I have a lot of friends in the music industry, I have a lot of friends that work service industry and they're all being hit right now, really hard. And there's nowhere for these people to go to work right now.

Erick Rowan:
Nothing's open within those industries and everything's taking a big hit right now, so I don't think it's fair to point and be upset about any situation because there's no point in doing that. That's just negative energy and you don't need to feed a negative situation with more negativity. That's just not good for anybody. You need to stay positive, put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

Jeff:
That's such great advice. I got to ask, have you always been a positive guy?

Erick Rowan:
Not always. I've had some very negative stages in my life. I think it just goes through life experiences and the older you get, the wiser you get. But yeah, I was just raised right. My mama taught me right.

Jeff:
That's a good mama right there. I feel a heck of a lot better and a hell of a lot of more inspired just talking to you, man. I can't thank you enough for taking time and talking with me and so all of our listeners can hear your story. Like I said, I know this it's just a little pause and the whole world is on pause and when it comes back off of pause, we're going to be seeing you everywhere again.

Erick Rowan:
That Ice coffee is pretty damn addicting, I can tell you that it's really good.

Jeff:
Yeah. How much coffee do you drink a day?

Erick Rowan:
So, because my buddy, he lives about 40 minutes away and he has a full gym I use. And We don't even see each other, I drive past and South on a pole barn out in the country. I drive back there, so I always bring a pre-workout with me. And then those coffees, I have one of those. So at least I'll do a K-cup in the morning and then the ice coffee in the evening. That's good stuff, man.

Jeff:
Awesome. Awesome. That's great to hear.

Erick Rowan:
And that hood is bad ass because well, partly because I'm a big Zakk Wylde.

Jeff:
I was like, "I know you like Zakk and I know he's got a giant beard and the guy in the hood, he's got a giant beard and it's also Zakk's friend." So I got to send that to you.

Erick Rowan:
Yeah, that's awesome man.

Jeff:
Awesome. Awesome. Well, again man, thank you so much. I'm really glad that you're doing well.

Erick Rowan:
Well, for sure man. And thank you for chatting.

Jeff:
Awesome.