Athletes get interviewed day in and day out, but for some reason when it comes to TV / online host Chris Van Vliet, they just open up in ways they never do with other reporters. The 4-time Emmy Winner has used his personality to his advantage and garnered millions of views online for his interviews with some of the biggest WWE stars (like The Rock) to athletes like Steve Nash.
We spoke to Chris about chatting with some of the world’s biggest names, The Rock giving him the finger and his bold sports predictions of 2021…
What first inspired you to get into sports, interviewing and the WWE?
I have been playing sports since I was able to walk! It started with baseball and of course, since I was born in Canada, hockey. Throughout elementary and high school, I played on any team I could. Volleyball, basketball, track and field, cross country and wrestling. A lot of the lessons I learned playing organized sports growing up have helped strengthen my character.
As far as interviewing goes, I have always been a naturally curious person and I love finding out what makes people tick. That curiously lead me into broadcasting and as a lifelong WWE and wrestling fan, when I would interview wrestlers I would always get excited to ask questions that I genuinely wanted to know the answer to.
2. Who have been some of your favorite interviews athlete-wise?
As a kid growing up in Canada, it was an honor to interview Steve Nash who is an absolute legend. And since baseball was the first sport that I played, imagine my shock when Don Mattingly showed up unannounced during the middle of a story I was doing about the Miami Marlins. That was so cool! I’ve also been fortunate to interview a ton of my wrestling idols like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash and Mick Foley.
3. Any shocking things someone in the sports world has revealed to you during an interview before?
One time when I was interviewing Olympic gold medalist and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, he told me a story about Vince McMahon getting so mad at him that he challenged him to a real-life fight in his office. This was a story that Kurt had never told publicly before and I couldn’t believe that I was hearing it for the first time.
I also did a television segment where I took batting practice with Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas. He told me that if I could hit a homerun out of Marlins Park, that I would take his spot in the lineup that night. Even though he was probably joking, I took that challenge very seriously and was literally swinging for the fences. Needless to say, he kept his spot in the lineup.
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4. After speaking with so many athletes, what is something you find each of them have in common?
Successful people always seem to have the same common traits that are part of their DNA and make them wired for greatness. Every time I interview an athlete, I am blown away by their attention to detail and how incredibly driven they are. When you’re playing at the highest level, being 1% better than other players is a huge difference and all of that happens off the field. Their countless hours watching tape, studying playbooks, working out and practicing all pays dividends on game day. I think that’s a lesson we can all apply to our own lives: that you make your habits and then your habits make you.
5. Have you ever been NOT a fan of someone, and then after meeting them you became a fan?
Being a lifelong wrestling fan, I have always looked up to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson so before my first interview with him I was really worried because of that whole thing about never meeting your heroes. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to live up the high standard that I built up for him. Well let me tell you, if your hero is Dwayne Johnson, you should absolutely meet him! Not only is he funny and kind and oozing with charisma, he also had this incredible star quality about him where he makes you feel special in that moment. So whatever level of love and respect I had for The Rock multiplied by ten after that and it continues to grow every time I have the pleasure of sitting down with him for an interview.
6. While athletes are always in good shape, what about you? How do you keep fit to keep up with the stunts and things you do for your show?
I’m not a coffee drinker, so a morning workout is how I get that jolt of energy. I am usually in the gym 5 or 6 days a week with a few hikes or runs thrown in for good measure. When it comes to food, pizza is my kryptonite so this is my way to counterbalance that haha.
7. Sports are back in 2021! Who are some of your favorite teams?
Yes! Sports are finally back! Growing up in Toronto, I was a fan of the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs and I became a Raptors fan when they joined the NBA in 1995. I always loved watching football but didn’t have an allegiance to any team until I got hired as the entertainment reporter for WOIO, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland. I quickly realized that on Sundays in the fall it wasn’t a question of if you were watching the Browns game, it was a matter of where you were watching it. It is woven into the fabric of life there and it was hard not to fall in love with the orange and brown, no matter how many games they lost.
8. Any bold predictions for the rest of 2021?
As a Cleveland Browns fan, my bold prediction for 2021 is that the Browns will get their first playoff victory in 26 years. It definitely hasn’t been easy being a Browns fan and we’ve suffered through some really rough seasons (0-16 anybody?). But with Baker Mayfield at QB and some great playmakers around him on both offense and defense, I can finally tell people I’m a Browns fan without the immediate response being, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that”. So you know what, I’m actually going to take that one step further and an EXTRA BOLD prediction. Are you ready? The Cleveland Browns are going to be Super Bowl Champs!
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat.