The 1980s were a simpler time. A time of strange hairstyles and clothes, good music and, above all, high-testosterone action.
This decade gave us Rambo, Terminator, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, along with the legendary macho looks of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, the humor of Bruce Willis, the insanity of Mel Gibson and the fighting skills of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal.
The boom in home video also contributes to the popularization of the genre, which turns each new film into a significantly more accessible experience for the general public.
In turn, the advancement of technology stimulated the imagination of writers and directors, known and unknown, who decided that there was a lot of money to be made from insane stories with pumped-up actors or fighting skills (preferably both) to beat up, blow up and shoot everything alive.
Riding the crest of the wave are Schwarzenegger and Stallone with their off-the-cuff argument over who is the bigger action star. Behind them, however, breathe two other stars, masters of martial arts, who have had their own conflict with each other for many years.
By the mid-1990s, Sivan Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were at the height of fame with quite a few successful films, along with some failures. The two were without a doubt the most famous martial artists in Hollywood at the time, and this logically gave rise to public banter about who was better.
In many of his television appearances, Segal regularly challenged his co-star’s acting qualities as well as his potential as a fighter.
For example, in one of his interviews, the “Under Siege” star even expressed doubts that Van Damme was a karate and kickboxing champion before becoming an actor.
“I think it’s a matter of perspective whether [Ван Дам] was a champion somewhere,” Segal said in an interview from the early 1990s. “Look, I don’t want to pick on you. I wish the man the best, but there are a lot of people who think that’s not true.”
One of them is 11-time world kickboxing champion Don Wilson, who challenges the Belgian actor to sparring. However, Van Damme never accepted the thrown gauntlet.
That’s not to say he missed the comments of Segal, who often speaks with great confidence about himself and utter disrespect for other fellow actors like Michael J. White or Chuck Norris.
The aikido master is also known for his rather arrogant and unprofessional behavior towards the teams he works with, especially the stuntmen and stunt doubles.
There have been a number of on-set incidents over the years in which Segal has picked on or intentionally hurt crew members around him, including actor John Leguizamo, who was pushed into a wall during the filming of Emergency Decision after a harmless prank.
Michael Jay White, who starred in several films with Segal, also confirmed that the aikido master often hit the stuntmen during fight scenes and did not try to protect them at all.
At the same time, Segal likes to put himself out there and banter, especially with Van Damme, when he gets the chance.
The two never manage to end up in the same movie together, but they do come close to resolving their dispute at a party.
In 2008, Sylvester Stallone himself opened up about a moment when Van Damme and Segal spotted each other at a gathering at his mansion
“We were at a party at my house in Miami in 1997,” he said in an interview with British magazine FHM.
“Van Dam was sick of hearing how Segal could kick his ass, so he suggested they meet outside in my garden. Segal apologized and left. Only Van Dam, who was furious, followed him to a bar and challenged him again.”
According to Stallone, the fight never took place, but on the other hand, he is confident who would have prevailed.
“Van Dam was too strong and Segal didn’t want a fight,” adds the on-screen Rocky.