Iselin man goes around the world with The Amazing Race
WOODBRIDGE – Rob Strauss had the time of his life — and can’t really talk about it. Yet. A contestant on this season’s “The Amazing Race,” Strauss can say the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
It is hard for this charismatic, outgoing 30-year-old to keep from spilling any secrets from the popular television reality show, which will premiere its 25th season at 8 p.m. Friday on CBS. Strauss is excited. Often not afraid to break any rules or stretch the limits, the professional wrestler knows he must control his enthusiasm.
“This was like nothing else I have ever experienced in my life and like nothing I will ever experience again,” said Strauss, who grew up in the Iselin section of the township.
Behind the scenes
“The Amazing Race” is comprised of 11 couples of all kinds who share in the adventure of traversing numerous countries and completing various adventures and tasks. The couples can be spouses, friends, siblings, parent-child or dating. Strauss shared his Amazing Race experience with his girlfriend, Brooke Adams, 29, who resides in Houston, Texas. Like Strauss, Adams is a professional wrestler on the Impact Wrestling circuit. For that reason, Strauss and Adams team name is “The Wrestlers.”
Contestants apply to be on the show, and are chosen by producers. The couple was attracted to show because it appealed to their sense of adventure and the fact that they like to travel. They hoped their wrestling background would help in the selection process.
“We are one of the ‘highlighted’ couples on the show,” he said. “Everybody has a ‘thing.’ They like to have couples who have a bit of notoriety. We are the professional wrestling dating couple.”
Other “hightlighted couples” include Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who survived a shark attack and lost an arm as a teenager and her husband, Adam Dirks, and married couple, Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan, who met while tribemates on the reality show “Survivor.” The Race also has couples who are real-estate agents, dentists, scientists and firefighters.
Knowing the show gives each team and member an angle, Strauss thinks his will be a stereotypical “Jersey” vibe.
“There is always a gimmick. Yea, I think we will be known as the trashtalkers on the show,” he said. “We are funny though. Really funny. There are rivalries, but you get super close with the other teams. Sometimes teams stick together. Sometimes not. There are teams we still keep in touch with.”
Despite the stresses of the experience, Strauss can say he and Adams are “still together.”
“It’s hard. You have to focus on working together as a team and staying positive,” he said. “There is tension. It’s usually about little things. We work together great and didn’t let those things get the best of us. I say everyone is gonna like us. Even with our trashtalking we are funny and likable.”
A unique nonstop experience around the world
According to Strauss, the Race is “nonstop.” This season was extra exciting as the show was celebrating its 25th season and 300th episode. It began with a kickoff in Times Square on May 31 and continued through the month of June.
“There is no downtime. It goes so fast,” he said. “Much more is filmed that can possible be shown. They film for over a month and air it over 12 weeks. Each of the 12 episodes shows a uniquely different experience every week.”
As Strauss explained, as each episode is shown another team is eliminated. New to this season is something called “The Save.” The team that finishes first in the premiere episode will be awarded “The Save,” which they can use to rescue themselves if they come in last on a leg and face elimination.
“There is a week when a team gets another chance, but no one knows when that week may come,” he said. “You do not have a clue.”
Hosted and produced by Phil Keoghan, the reality show has won multiple Emmy Awards. Teams this season will travel more than 26,000 miles through eight countries and 20 cities. For the first time, the Race will visit St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Valletta, Malta, where teams rappel 200 feet into a Blue Grotto sea cave, and the Shetland Islands, Scotland, where they will test their sheep-herding skills.“Let’s just say I am not an animal lover,” Strauss said. “But I did it.”
Strauss admits he was not a “regular watcher” of the show. Nor is he or Adams good at following directions. But, in their favor was their familiarity with traveling and their fitness.
“Of course, I had heard of it and seen a few episodes here and there,” he said. “I was familiar with the premise, but the experience wasn’t what I expected it to be. We are very physically fit, but it is very physically challenging. You do what you have to do to survive. You live out of your backpack. Wash clothes in a sink. No high maintenance living here. While racing you don’t eat. You can go hours and not stop and eat. Sometimes no sleep or rest. That was the hardest for Brooke. It’s very physical — very mental. There is no way to prepare because you do not know what will be thrown at you. One wrong turn or a bad taxi ride and it can be over. The Race is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.”
A dream come true
A former physical education teacher at Woodbridge High School, Strauss left education as a profession when he signed a contract with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. A professional wrestler since the age of 16, Strauss said this career has been a dream come true.
“I get to travel all over the world and wrestle,” Strauss said. “It’s all I ever wanted to do. I got to work with Hulk Hogan and Sting (the wrestler). I am on the road three to four days a week. We are somewhere different every weekend. I have been a fan of wrestling since I was four and now I am living my dream.”
Currently, both Strauss and Adams can be seen weekly on Spike TV’s “Impact Wrestling.” Known as “Robbie E,” Strauss is half of the tag team “The Bro Mans” with Jesse Godderz, of “Big Brother” fame. On Impact Wrestling, the only time that Strauss and Adams will not be televised, though they will still wrestle, will be during the run of “The Amazing Race,” Strauss said.When asked what happens to those who are voted off “The Amazing Race,” Strauss said they get a free vacation for the duration of the show’s filming.
“There is a remote island that they go to,” said Strauss with a smile. “I don’t know what the island is like.”