Wrestler of the Day – April 9: Rob Van Dam

WRESTLER! OF THE! DAY! It’s Rob Van Dam.

 

Van Dam got started around 1990 and had some interesting matches and opponents before he got famous. We’ll start with a match in the USWA on July 6, 1991.

Rob Zakowski vs. Samu

Rob looks like Shane Douglas here in regular trunks with long hair. That’s not the Samu you’re thinking of either. Instead of a fat Samoan, it’s a homicidal, genocidal death defying guy from Michigan better known as Sabu. Rob hits a quick dropkick and an armdrag into the ropes. Back in and another dropkick puts Samu down and a suplex gets two. Samu comes back with a knee to the chest and a front chancery to slow things down. Rob comes back with a backslide for two and some rapid fire kicks to the chest drop Samu. He goes up top but Samu’s partner (Judge Dredd) shoves him down, allowing Samu to get an easy pin.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t much but Rob was brand new and still trying to figure out his way around the ring. He would get much better very soon when he found a style that worked for him and could incorporate more high flying into his offense. Sabu was pretty much his usual self here minus the tables.

Another match in WCW would be against a man named Scotty Flamingo on February 13, 1993. Flamingo is more famous as another bird: Raven.

Scotty Flamingo vs. Robbie V

Rob has most of his signature look down now. Scotty grabs a headlock to start but Rob comes back with a spinning kick to the face. A headlock takes Flamingo to the mat before Rob jumps to the top rope (in the middle of the ring instead of the corner) and comes off with a spinning cross body. Flamingo takes him back down and stomps away, followed by a dropkick for two. We hit the chinlock on Rob but he’s quickly on his feet with another spinning kick. A powerslam sets up the split legged moonsault for the pin on Flamingo and a big upset.

Soon after this, Rob would be part of a TV Title tournament. I’m not sure when this was but the tournament was over before April.

TV Title Tournament Second Round: Vinnie Vegas vs. Robby V

Vegas is more famous as Diesel. He shoves Robby around to start but Rob immediately nips up. A hard slam puts V down again and some kicks to the ribs have him in even more trouble. Vegas throws him to the floor with ease but V comes back with a nice series of kicks and a cross body for two. Vinnie calmly chokes him down for two but V fights back with more kicks and a right hand. More choking has V in trouble so he fires off even more kicks for another comeback. Vegas gets tired of all these kicks and ends Robby with Snake Eyes for the pin.

Rating: C. I liked this WAY more than I thought I would. There was a nice chemistry going here with Van Dam’s kicks working really well against a monster like Vegas. This is a match I’d like to see again once they have more experience and know what they’re doing better than they did here as it could be very entertaining.

A few years in Japan went by and it was time for Rob to go where he would shine the brightest: ECW. Here’s his debut match from January 5, 1996.

Axl Rotten vs. Rob Van Dam

They circle each other to start and Axl gives him a nice round of applause. More circling ensues and a lockup goes nowhere at all. Rotten gives in to temptation and makes it a brawl like you knew he would but Rob comes back with a springboard cross body for two and it’s another standoff. The shoulders in the corner give Van Dam control and a rolling chop to the ribs gets two. Rotten grabs something like a t-bone suplex but misses a top rope elbow. Van Dam kicks him in the face and what would become the Five Star gets two. A standing moonsault gets the same and the split legged moonsault is enough to pin Axl.

Rating: D+. This was a bit better than I was expecting but at the same time Rotten just wasn’t very good. He was there because he could brawl but he wasn’t much of a technical master. As Jim Cornette put it, “And then you have the Rottens and oh boy were they.” Van Dam had a style that was going to get over with ECW and it worked in time.

Van Dam would hook up with Sabu and get a Tag Team Title shot at Cyberslam 1997.

Tag Titles: Eliminators vs. Rob Van Dam/Sabu

Eliminators are Perry Saturn and John Kronus who you shouldn’t know. This is a ladders/tables match which means they’re legal. You win by pinfall or submission and the Eliminators have the titles. Saturn talks about how awesome ECW is and how they’re going to Raw on Monday, which is true. This is on a Saturday (I think) and the ECW Invasion (not the Alliance one but a one night one) happened on Raw while the WWF guys were on a European tour.

This is a rematch apparently but Joey doesn’t tell us when the original match was from. The losers have to shake the hands of the winners. Van Dam and Sabu are heels here. Apparently the challengers have almost won the titles from this team before so this is an established feud. Saturn vs. Van Dam to start us off here. They hit the mat to start as there are tags here to make it seem like this is a regular match with rules for awhile.

They slug it out for a bit and a dropkick gets two for Van Dam. Sabu comes in but there was no tag so it doesn’t count. Off to Kronus who was good but not great. He gets Sabu now so this should be a bit faster paced. Saturn gets a modified Rock Bottom for two and Sabu works on the knee a bit. Half crab goes on so Saturn kicks Sabu in the head. I love using that as a counter. It’s so basic. Got a problem? KICK HIM IN THE FACE!

Sabu and Van Dam do some stuff that the Guns would later do in TNA but would do it a bit better and faster. A forearm by Kronus takes him and RVD out to the floor. Saturn and Van Dam fight for a ladder so the partners kick both of them, sending everyone to the floor. Kronus dives on RVD while Sabu and Saturn go into the crowd. Now the other pairing goes to the outside also as it’s a total brawl.

Saturn and Sabu are up by the….well by everything really as there was a lot put in one small area at these shows. Sabu gets a chair shot to Saturn back in the ring and the Triple Jump Moonsault hits Saturn as well. It’s ladder time and Van Dam hits a moonsault off the second rung of it, as in the second from the ground as the ladder was laid at an angle against the rope.

To the shock of no one, everything breaks down even though we’re still sticking with the corners. Nice to see them pretend that this has rules for awhile. Kronus hits a handspring elbow into the corner into Van Dam into the ladder. A ladder shot misses the challengers so they botch another attempt at it as the Eliminators keep control. This is threatening to get very sloppy rather quickly.

Kronus THROWS the ladder at Van Dam and it smacks him in the head. FREAKING OW MAN! Another ladder comes in so Van Dam puts Saturn in the surfboard. You know, because that’s what you want to see in a tables and ladders match right? Submission wrestling! Arabian Facebuster with the ladder gets two on Saturn. Saturn avoids a double clothesline (read as he runs through it) and hits one of his own but no tag.

Slingshot leg drop gets no count for Sabu and it’s off to Kronus. Double kick to Sabu as the tagging has finally died off. Total mess now with nothing at all as far as coherence. Sabu gets a big dive off the top rope into the front row to half kill Saturn. Van Dam adds a moonsault press off the guardrail to Kronus as Sabu and Saturn are back in the ring now.

Saturn hits a splash from the top of the ladder to Van Dam for no cover as Sabu is fighting again. Kronus and Sabu go to the floor as ladders are set up in the ring. With Saturn put on the ladder which is draped on the middle rope, RVD tries the split legged moonsault and botches it worse than Morrison ever dreamed of. Sabu hits the leg lariat to both guys including one that would be called Poetry in Motion when the Hardys used it later. The challengers get rammed together and a pair of Total Eliminations (Saturn with a leg sweep, Kronus with a spin kick to the face) to RVD ends this. Total mess in the second half.

Rating: D+. This got twenty minutes. Let that sink in a bit. They gave Sabu and Kronus twenty minutes. This was decent but the botches and the constant changing of the tag requirements (every company does this. Either have them or don’t) and the length it really got dragged down. The Eliminators had FAR better matches but this wasn’t one of them. Too long and way too sloppy.

One of Van Dam’s most interesting angles was thinking about jumping to the WWF as Mr. Monday Night when the companies were co-promoting. He would appear on Raw on May 12, 1997 against someone we’ll see more of later.

Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy

Most people don’t know who Van Dam is here but even fewer know who Hardy is. Jeff is also billed from Virginia which seems to confuse the Fink. Before the match Jerry Lawler introduces Van Dam as being from ECW and how awful it is, save for Van Dam. Rob doesn’t like ECW either and wants to be in the WWF.

Jeff would be 19 here and we get an ECW chant to get things going. A monkey flip puts Hardy down and a bad looking lifting Pedigree plants him. Van Dam hits a spinwheel kick to the face to knock Hardy to the floor, setting up a nice flip dive. Back in and a spinning leg drop draws a YOU SOLD OUT chant. The Five Star connects but Rob doesn’t cover. Instead he hits the split legged moonsault for an easy pin on Hardy. Total squash and Rob looked very flashy. Jeff’s selling was solid as well.

After being a decent but not great guy in ECW, Van Dam would start picking up gold when he and Sabu won the ECW Tag Team Titles in 1998. Here’s their defense in a match I just don’t get at what is considered ECW’s best show ever, Heat Wave 1998.

Tag Titles: Hayabusa/Shinzaki vs. Rob Van Dam/Sabu

This is considered one of the gold standards of ECW so let’s see if it’s as good as I’ve been told that it is. The fans are into the Walk theme music for RVD and that’s an understatement. Van Dam is also the TV Champion. It’s amazing that he held it more or less until the company ended minus six months. The announcer butchers Shinzaki’s name to an extent that even I roll my eyes at it.

They say Sabu is from Bombay, Michigan and that never gets old. There’s no storyline here as they’ve just brought the guys in for a one off match. Ok then. Hayabusa and Van Dam start us off. We get a stall for a good while before we actually start. It’s an old Memphis tactic that I’ve always hated. They do a sloppy rollup/leg lock spot. Not a great starting point.

We get a you f’d up chant off blown spot number two. We’re MAYBE two minutes into this by the way. Off a kick to the face (think Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise) Hayabusa misses Rob’s head by about 6 inches yet Van Dam sells it anyway. There’s been WAY too much walking around and doing nothing here. In what’s likely Shinzaki’s biggest move, he does a praying rope walk around the top rope like Taker but he goes around a corner.

Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. Van Dam is just holding onto him walking for about 8 seconds and has a free arm and two free feet, and we’re supposed to believe he’s just going to go quietly? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? When Taker does it it’s about 2 seconds on the ropes and nothing more. Not only is this sloppy, but it’s not making much sense.

And Sabu hasn’t even been in until now. He comes in for a cover. That makes sense. Nothing says high impact and cool looking offense like a chinlock! I think Hayabusa stole his attire from Hannibal from WCW/NWO Revenge. SUE HIM IMMEDIATELY!

Sabu shows some intelligence as he dropkicks the knee and then WORKS ON THE LEG! I’m stunned actually. After a LONG time of mat work etc we get to the high flying stuff that this is supposed to be about. Hayabusa is moving out there. We’re in the crowd now in case you were wondering. We’re out of the crowd now in case you were wondering.

Shinzaki and Sabu are in the ring while the other two are down on the floor. Van Dam puts Shinzaki in a bow and arrow so Sabu can hit him in the ribs with a chair. Again, WHY DO YOU NEED THE CHAIR??? The match was just starting to get good and we bring in a pointless chair because Sabu can’t work more than 5 minutes without a weapon. If you want to know what drives me the craziest about ECW, it’s THAT.

Sabu goes out, the chairs are taken out, and the match is instantly going up in value. Hayabusa going insane off the ropes is fun to watch. Why do we need chairs and weapons? Sabu hits a decent jumping hurricanrana. That wasn’t bad at all. See, if he tries, he could do some decent NON WEAPON RELATED stuff. Shinzaki hits what we would call a Pele kick on Van Dam. Hayabusa hits a 450 splash and this isn’t terrible.

Sabu hooks a Boston Crab so Van Dam can go up for a leg drop. It turns out to be an leg drop on his head but whatever. This has lost anything resembling flow or actual tag wrestling and is just a mess anymore. If that’s the case, what was the point of the tagging thing earlier? We have a table and I more or less give up now. Shinzaki hits a WEIRD looking leg twist on Van Dam. It was cool looking if nothing else.

More chair use as Van Dam jumped from one side of the ring to another for kind of a Van Daminator. Sabu hurts his hand doing something. They break the table. Not break through it but just break it. So we get two more! Oh and a chair which is slammed over Hayabusa’s head. A Van Daminator takes down Shinzaki.

In the big spot of the match, both Japanese guys are on one table and the champions go up top and crash through both guys. That ends it. Seriously? It should be noted that in every replay, the champions use weapons and the challengers never do. That should tell you a few things.

Rating: D+. The first half of this was pretty good. It wasn’t great at all but I didn’t expect it to be. After about ten minutes though it’s your standard ECW tag match: weapons, ridiculous spots with zero transitions, and a complete lack of anything resembling tagging. Also, the first half is made to look pointless as they tagged then but they don’t in the second half. BE CONSISTENT BLAST IT! It’s watchable I guess, but it’s nothing I’m going to remember in about a day or so. This is the best tag match ECW ever had? That explains a lot.

Rob would pick up the TV Title around this time and hold if for 700 days. Here’s a title defense from Guilty As Charged 1999.

TV Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm

Dawn Marie isn’t human. She can’t be. Storm gets in a great line: he’s not the whole F’ing show but he’s the best part of it. Now Paul make sure you pay attention to the reaction that Van Dam gets, because you won’t be hearing anything like it in the main event. We get a LONG feeling out process that actually isn’t boring at all. I’ve always liked the way Storm threw punches for some reason. Storm gets the half crab which doesn’t mean anything yet.

Fonzie and Dawn (Tammy Lynn Bytch at the time but not a lot of people would get that name) go at it on the floor which lets Van Dam take over. SWEET superkick by Storm. Has to be the second best guy at that ever. I love the crowds here: SHE’S A CRACK WHORE! SHOW YOUR TITS! We’re in the crowd now and in probably one of the five sickest bumps I’ve ever seen, Van Dam gets a reverse DDT onto the floor. No protection at all and he just slams into it.

Storm is WAY underrated in the ring. This has been solid stuff so far, but I’d like more in ring stuff. Storm is a Canadian bad boy apparently. Van Dam more or less cuts a promo in the middle of the match. That’s just awesome. Ah there we go. We’re back in the ring. I don’t mind the insane stuff as long as it winds up being about wrestling. Van Dam goes for the Van Daminator (why can’t he go for coffee or lunch instead?) but Storm jumps away. WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA!!!

It connects the second time and Storm is out cold. Oh ok he was faking. The referee takes a SWEET looking Van Daminator. After Fonzie interferes, a Van Daminator from the top gets two. The quick taunts from Van Dam are what set him apart I think. Like I’ve said before, the playing to the crowd is a signature of the all time greats like Austin, Rock, Sting, Hogan and Flair. In a very surprising finish, we get a wrestling sequence and Van Dam gets the CLEAN pin with a nice German suplex. I greatly approve.

Rating: B. Good stuff here but the overbooking and interference hurt it a bit. This was one of those matches where both guys could definitely bring it and they did here. The ending worked very well too as Van Dam beat him with his own game. What more can you ask for? Solid stuff.

Van Dam’s biggest rival in ECW was Jerry Lynn, who challenged him for the TV Title on several occasions. Here’s one such match from Hardcore Heaven 1999.

TV Title: Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam

Crowd is WAY behind Van Dam here. No time limit here after what happened at Living Dangerously. Hear those cheers Paul? They’re the ones drowning out the music. I think they’re chanting “Heyman push this freaking man you freaking idiot!” Lynn is another guy I like more every time I see him so this should be solid. They do a decent mat wrestling sequence to start but not as good as last time.

NICE there as Lynn goes for a counter he used at Living Dangerously and RVD gets out of the way of it this time. THAT is psychology people. They’re doing a start and stop thing here where they do a sequence and then walk around for awhile. The action is good but it’s like pausing it and watching a match in pieces which isn’t good. Good night wrestle already! Yeah they’re wrestling, but only in pieces.

We’ve had maybe 2 and a half minutes of action out of five minutes gone by. Sweet springboard dropkick from Lynn. See what I mean by when they actually do stuff it’s good? Fonzie is yelling about how this is what the 19.95 the fans paid for is all about. Creative line if nothing else. Van Daminator misses. And Lynn might be hurt so we can kill more time.

Something tells me this had about 20 minutes planned rather than the 27 it wound up getting due to the amount of stalling here. Lynn does the corner rollup that Booker T used for a long time. I think this is the match that aired on the debut of ECW on TNN. On the floor we get a Van Daminator with Lynn making sure to hold the chair up so it hits. Hey look: more stalling!

Did Larry Zbyszko book this or something? Half of this has been on the floor too. Lynn hits a sunset powerbomb through a table which more or less explodes. Ok stalling after big spots at least makes sense. Fonzie has a chair pelted at him and down he goes. They botch the heck out of something and the fans let them know about it.

Lynn hits a Van Daminator for two. Van Dam hits Starship Pain minus the twisting. There’s your five star but Lynn rolls him up for two. Van Dam hits his third Van Daminator out of about 7 tried. Another Five Star ends it. Good but not great. They high five after the match which is always a good sign.

Rating: B. This is a good match, but not a classic like everyone says it is. There are some major holes in it, with the main one being the standing around. The Van Daminators got OLD fast. We get it. You can kick someone holding a chair. We’ll ignore how stupid the move is (hey he handed me a chair. I wonder what I should do with it.) for now. The drama is there but it’s not epic. Solid though. Just far too much brawling and stalling for my taste, but it’s entertaining which is the main idea. Would have been way better with five to seven less minutes. Good match, but there was no shock or anything like that to make it great.

Van Dam would break his ankle in early 2000 and have to forfeit the title because he was on the shelf for a few months. His first match back was against Jerry Lynn at Hardcore Heaven 2000.

Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn

This is Van Dam’s return match and his BEST FRIEND Scotty Anton is at ringside. I’m sure nothing bad can happen there. DANG Van Dam is over, and yet he wouldn’t get the world title until he beat Cena in 2006. Brilliant Heyman, brilliant. Van Dam is so over it’s scary. Let’s get it on! I’ve always wanted to say that, so I said it out loud and then I typed it.

We start with a wrestling sequence and then we stall for a bit. We do another nice sequence with little contact being made but ending with a standoff and a standing ovation. The best part about it was that in their first match it ended with Lynn hitting a legdrop. In the second it ended with the legdrop missing a Van Dam kicking him. Here both of those missed and they continued the sequence.

That gets this match major points as that’s incredibly intricate thinking in there. Van Dam poses and stalls again so Lynn just pops him. I like that as we’re physical now. Where’s Olivia Newton-John when I need her? Now the fans like Jerry. Sure why not. Van Dam goes to some of his old favorites and Lynn is in trouble. Van Dam beats him down again and so he poses for a third time in about five minutes.

Apparently Lynn has been out for like five months or so also. This is one of if not his first matches back. In a strange moment, Fonzie just walks into the ring and puts a chair down before leaving. Lynn does what only Dreamer has done that I remember and counters the Van Daminator by just throwing the chair at Rob. That was awesome. Cyrus wants Fonzie to be flogged.

The spots here are pretty cool, but they’re just kind of preplanned. Of course they are, but they’re not supposed to look like they are. Ah ok Lynn has been back for about a month now. There have been a lot of counters and such in this and it’s been cool, but I’d like some more contact. Ah there we go as Lynn bulldogs Van Dam through the table. The problem was that he went through it at the same time so it hurt them both about equally.

Lynn hits a front flip onto Anton so we’re down to only three people being involved in the match. Fonzie interferes for the fourth time as it’s just stupid at this point. Van Daminator hits with Lynn sitting on the top rope. RVD hits the Five Star onto a chair onto Lynn and Cyrus leaves the broadcast place. Here are Corino and Victory as Lynn is a part of the Network…ok no he’s not. Rhyno Gores Lynn for no apparent reason. There’s a powerbomb for RVD.

Cyrus takes a Van Daminator, causing Joey to need new pants. Fonzie takes a chair shot to FINALLY make it 1-1. And of course Anton shoves Anton off the top. Let’s see: Corino, Victory, Fonzie, Anton, Cyrus, and Rhyno. Hey only six people interfered in this. Cradle Piledriver gets two but a Cradle Piledriver on the chair ends it. If this was a year ago, this would have changed ECW. Now it means nothing.

Rating: B. Solid stuff here, but GOOD FREAKING NIGHT DO YOU THINK THEY HAD ENOUGH RUN INS HERE??? Anton and Fonzie are the only two that mean a thing here or make enough sense. This is a much better match if you have only them running in but it’s still overbooked to heck and back.

The company would go out of business less than a year later with Van Dam sitting out the end due to not being paid other than one appearnace at their last PPV. Rob would show up the night the Alliance formed in the WWF before challenging Jeff Hardy for the Hardcore Title at InVasion.

Hardcore Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy

Why all the TNA on TNA violence? RVD’s outfit is tiger print of all things tonight. He looks like Tony the Tiger in spandex. This should be fun. Hardy isn’t a huge deal yet but he’s in the midcard. Van Dam is WAY over. Crowd is red hot for this as it was more or less the second featured match on the card. Hardy goes for his run the rail spot and Van Dam makes the stop by jumping up on it to stop him. Nice.

Into the crowd now. This is totally sloppy and totally a mess but since it’s a hardcore match, it’s working rather well actually. The crowd is helping it a lot also. Van Dam takes a bow which is a very nice touch. With Van Dam on the apron, Hardy slingshots over the ropes into a powerbomb to the floor. Sweet looking spot and it’s ladder time. This had to happen. In another sick spot, Hardy is on the top of the ladder, and I mean the big one, and is pushed off and crashes to the floor.

This was what gave us the “How do you learn to fall off a 20ft ladder” soundbyte. In another, say it with me, sick spot, Van Dam is crouched but jumps into the air for a Van Daminator that looked GREAT. It knocked Hardy through the hole into the stage to the floor. We’ve reached the part where it’s just them beating the living crap out of each other and the fan are flat out eating it up.

The belt is in the ring as Hardy gets a nice German Suplex. Jeff is bleeding a bit. Swanton misses. With Jeff down, Van Dam puts the belt on Hardy’s chest and hits the 5 Star for the pin. Fun match.

Rating: B+. This is a great example of a match where you have to consider what was going on out there. This wasn’t meant to be a mat clinic or anything. This was about high impact, high intensity over the top spots and that’s what the fans got. This was fun as all goodness and the crowd loved it. Great match.

Van Dam would trade the title with Hardy and others for awhile, before getting it back for a defense against Undertaker on November 21, 2001.

Hardcore Title: Undertaker vs. Rob Van Dam

Van Dam is defending and he fires off strikes in the corner to start. Taker comes back with right hands in the corner as well but Van Dam clotheslines him to the floor. Van Dam dives at Taker but gets caught and rammed into the post. They go up to the stage and Taker misses a boot so that his leg gets caught in part of the set. Van Dam climbs up said set and dives off with a cross body for a very delayed two.

Rob knocks Taker over to the edge of the stage but Taker knocks him back for the sake of avoiding death. Taker pounds away and slams Van Dam into the set again. The Last Ride is loaded up but Booker runs out to break it up. Booker and Van Dam pound Taker down and they head back inside. Taker fights back but Booker takes him down again. Booker goes up but gets crotched and superplexed. Van Dam comes in out of nowhere and hits the Five Star while Taker is down to retain.

Rating: D. This show is AWFUL. The matches have no thought or effort into them at all and it’s sucking the little life they had left out of the building. Weren’t Booker and Van Dam having issues recently? Well apparently they patched things up off camera because they’re fine now. Nothing to see here and it’s very clear that no one cared at all.

After losing the title to Undertaker in December, Van Dam would challenge William Regal for the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania 18.

Intercontinental Title: Rob Van Dam vs. William Regal

Regal is defending and this is during his Power of the Punch period. Van Dam kicks him down to start before pounding away at the champion’s head. The fans are all behind RVD here as Regal quickly loads up the brass knuckles. RVD is ready for it though and kicks the knuckles away. A nice jumping kick to the face takes Regal down again but a quick Five Star attempt misses.

The champion takes it to the mat for a bit before a quick suplex gets two. Regal puts on a quick chinlock but Van Dam flips out of it, only to hit knees with Rolling Thunder. A nice butterfly powerbomb gets two for Regal but Rob rolls him up before the Regal Stretch can go on. Van Dam monkey flips Regal down but Regal blocks the stepover kick into a half nelson suplex. Nicely done. Rob rolls to the floor and Regal follows, where he finds the brass knuckles. The referee takes them away back inside, but Regal pulls out a second pair. Not that it matters though as RVD kicks him down and hits the Five Star to win the title.

Rating: B-. Nice opener here with some solid strikes from Van Dam and even nicer counters by Regal. It’s also a good feeling moment for the fans which should put them in a good mood for the rest of the show. That’s what a good opener is supposed to do and it worked fine here. That’s the first of Van Dam’s six IC Titles over his career.

Rob wouldn’t hold the title long and Chris Benoit would eventually get his hands on it, taking it over to Smackdown in the process. Van Dam wanted to bring it back to Raw and got a chance at Summerslam 2002.

Intercontinental Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit

Benoit is defending and a Smackdown guy in this brand vs. brand match. Van Dam hits some quick kicks to send Benoit to the outside but Benoit takes him down back inside. Van Dam spins away from a kick in the corner and hits a spinning cross body out of the corner for two. Benoit ducks another kick and hits a great release German suplex to take over. An elbow to the face gets two more for Benoit and it’s time to work on the back.

Benoit gets another near fall off a backbreaker and a snap suplex gets the same. Off to an armbar as Benoit wants the shoulder now. Rob gets some quick twos off rollups but Benoit runs him over with another elbow to the face. Benoit runs into a boot in the corner but the split legged moonsault hits knees. The Swan Dive misses but Benoit rolls away from the Five Star as well.

Now the Crossface goes on for a good while but Van Dam makes the ropes. The challenger goes up but Benoit shoves him off the top and shoulder first into the barricade. Back in and Benoit hits a shoulder breaker (see that people? It’s called psychology. LEARN IT!) for two as the fans are distracted by something. Benoit wisely puts on a rest hold until their attention is back again.

They trade cross arm chokes with Benoit taking over again. Van Dam kicks his leg out but misses Rolling Thunder, allowing Benoit to put on the Crossface again. Rob elbows out but gets rolled up for two. Benoit goes back to the arm and sends him shoulder first into the post. A northern lights suplex onto the arm has Van Dam….looking confused and two more don’t really change that.

Back to the Crossface and Van Dam looks more annoyed than anything else. Rob (with his hair down for maybe the only time I ever remember) makes the rope and puts a Crossface on Benoit for a few seconds. A jumping kick to the face puts Benoit down for two and now Rolling Thunder connects.

Van Dam hits a shoulder to the ribs but injures the shoulder again (thanks for selling Rob). Not that it matters though as he kicks Benoit in the face for two. Rob gets crotched on the top but counters a belly to back superplex into a cross body to put both guys down. Van Dam pops up and hits the Five Star for the pin and the title. Extra points for Rob doing the finger point from the mat when he’s announced as the new champion.

Rating: B. This bad shoulder selling is getting on my nerves. Benoit had RVD in one of the best submissions ever three different times and Van Dam looked like he had a five year old child on his leg. The rest of the match however was very solid with Rob hanging in there with Benoit who was his usual awesome self.

Van Dam would eventually team up with Kane and win the Tag Team Titles. Kane would lose his mask to HHH and turn on Van Dam, setting up a feud. Here’s the blowoff match inside a cage from September 8, 2003 on Raw.

Kane vs. Rob Van Dam

Kane was recently unmasked and therefore turned heel (granted it’s Kane so who knows why he turned) on his tag partner RVD, setting up this cage match. Instead of THIS taking place on PPV though, we got Shane McMahon vs. Kane because Kane electrocuted Shane’s testicles with jumper cables last week. Kane jumps Rob as soon as he gets in and immediately starts pounding away.

Van Dam gets sent into the cage but comes back with a kick and a flip attack out of the corner. Kane rams him right back into the cage again and crushes Van Dam’s head against the cage with a boot. A side slam puts Rob down for no cover so Kane rams him into the cage again. Van Dam tries a comeback but his stepover kick is countered into a powerslam for no cover again.

Kane loads up a powerbomb but Van Dam punches out of it. Not that it matters much though as Kane clotheslines him down and goes back up top. That goes badly for him as well though as Rob crotches him and crushes him against the cage with a cross body. Somewhere along the way Rob got cut over his eye. The jumping kick from the top rope puts Kane down again and Rolling Thunder hits for no cover. Rob tries to leave but has to kick Kane off the ropes.

Since Van Dam isn’t that bright at times, he tries the Five Star but only hits the mat. Kane loads him up in a powerbomb position but drops Van Dam face first into the cage. Van Dam gets thrown into the cage a few times and after pointing at himself, Kane loads him up for a third ram. Rob gets tossed….and the cage breaks, allowing him to fall to the floor for the win. Well that was unexpected.

Actually it’s so unexpected that before I can rate it, Bischoff comes out and says you have to go over the cage and not out of it to win, so we need to keep going. After a break Kane continues to pound away while talking trash. Apparently during the break Kane slammed the cage on Van Dam’s head to put him in this much trouble. Rob tries to climb and Kane just lets him so RVD kicks him in the face. Van Dam tries to climb up but Kane climbs onto the top rope with him and a kind of chokeslam off said top rope is enough for the pin.

Rating: C-. The match was ok but at the end of the day, unless you’re a wrestling encyclopedia, you’re not likely going to have an idea why this match is happening. JR and King mentioned Kane’s rage, but I don’t think they mentioned the two of them even being partners until a few weeks ago. Also the match itself was pretty one sided for the most part and I’m not sure why it was in a cage in the first place.

We’re going to jump ahead again as 2004 was spent doing nothing in the midcard on Smackdown before a knee injury sidelined Van Dam for nearly all of 2005. He would come back to be on the ECW roster when the brand was relaunched in 2006. Rob would also win the Money in the Bank match at Wrestlemania 22, setting up the title match with John Cena at One Night Stand 2006.

Raw World Title: John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam

After an extended entrance from RVD, it’s time for the moment that this show is remembered for. Cena’s entrance is a sight to behold as you will never, ever see more heat on one guy no matter how long you live. There’s the famous “If Cena Wins We Riot” sign but the thing here is: they really will riot.

The start of the song gets just booing but when he steps through the curtain it’s on. You see nothing but middle fingers as he comes down the aisle and Cena holds the title up like a boxer would and just soaks it in. The big match intros make it even worse. They throw his hat and shirt back, which says a lot actually. Then they do it again. Make it three times. Would you believe four? The thing to remember: there are only 2,500 people here. Watch this match and you would seriously think it was a 15,000 seat arena. It’s that bad.

There’s the bell and Cena is shaken up. There’s the FU already. The chant to Cena, not the move. Toilet paper comes in and this is insane. They lock it up a few times and Cena shoves him into the corner as the fans say you can’t wrestle. This is Extreme Rules which I forgot to mention. Perfectplex gets two. Every single move Cena makes is being booed even louder and it seems to be legit getting to him. Can’t say I blame him but it’s weird to see from Cena.

RVD kicks him to the floor and is nothing less than divine here. They butt heads in the ring and slug it out. Powerslam gets two for the champ and a clothesline sends him to the floor. The fans chant “same old stuff” but in a bit more colorful way. Cena goes up top and drops a forearm from the top and sends Van Dam into the table. Now the fans think he’s overrated. RVD gets a moonsault press off the steps to take over out of nowhere.

Cena reverses an Irish Whip and down goes the cameraman. Out into the crowd which I give Cena legit credit for doing as I’d be scared of being stabbed or something. Cena gets draped over the railing and Van Dam hits that spinning legdrop to take both guys down. Back to the ring now but Rob gets a baseball slide and a slingshot guillotine legdrop for no cover. Skateboard chair shot in the corner gets a close two.

Rolling Thunder lands on the chair but a delay in the cover means only two. Split legged moonsault (take notes Morrison) eats knees (take better notes) and Cena gets a DDT on the chair which no one sells like Van Dam. The fans remind him that he can’t wrestle. I wonder if Vince gave the guys a similar speech when they changed the company name. With a chair wedged between the ropes, Cena gets a slingshot to send RVD’s head into it for a close two.

Cena shows he has a massive set and does You Can’t See Me and the Five Knuckle Shuffle which is about as evil as you can get in ECW. FU is countered and a double leg spin kick takes Cena down. Cena cranks it up but a charge eats boot. The kick off the top is just ducked and Van Dam crashes. Crowd chants YOU STILL SUCK. RVD tries to sit Cena on the top rope (the rope itself, not the corner) but drops him to the floor. Dropkick sends Cena into the railing and it’s table time.

Table is set up in the corner by Van Dam but he turns around into the STFU. There’s a rope after a long crawl but does he really have to break it in an extreme rules match? The referee gets in Cena’s face so Cena drills him with a clothesline and crotches Rob on the top. Superplex but there’s no referee.

Cena brings in the steps and DRILLS Van Dam with them as I guess he’s a heel now as far as this match goes. A Smackdown referee comes in to count two and it’s FU time. RVD grabs the ropes so Cena sends him over the top instead. Out of NOWHERE a guy in a helmet and trenchcoat pops up to spear Cena through the table.

The helmet comes off and it’s Edge. Crowd: THANK YOU EDGE! THANK YOU EDGE! THANK YOU EDGE! This is the guy that tried to kill Tommy Dreamer earlier remember. Van Dam is like ok (Joey: Do it Rob, we’ll take it!”) and the Five Star hits as Heyman comes out to count the pin. This actually counted because Heyman was a WWE big shot or something like that. More or less he was the ECW GM.

Rating: B+. This is more for the crowd than the match for once. No question about it: this is required viewing to show what is meant by having the crowd make a match better than it should be. The people made RVD Cena’s equal and that was a big leap for him at this point. There was no other option for the ending, if nothing else for fear of the WWE guys’ safety. Good match, absolutely amazing visual.

We’re going to jump ahead nearly four years now. Van Dam would lose the title three weeks later due to getting caught with weed and be shunted down the card. He would stay on the ECW roster but lose the ECW Title on the 4th of July due to Heyman turning heel and screwing him out of the title.

After feuding with Heyman and then the New Breed for a few months, Van Dam would have a final feud with Randy Orton, culminating in Orton putting him out so Van Dam could tend to his very sick wife. Van Dam would tour Europe for a few years but we’ll skip over those as this is already going to be over twenty matches long. Rob would show up in TNA as a surprise in early 2010 and win the World Title in a surprise on April 29, 2010. Former champion AJ Styles would get a rematch at Sacrifice.

TNA World Title: Rob Van Dam vs. AJ Styles

LOT of time for this. The show has just been lackluster so far so this could help it a lot. Apparently Larry Zbyszko has been training these two as we stall A LOT. Three minutes in and no actual contact yet. We have a headlock! We get an AJ sucks chant to FINALLY get him some heel heat. And now MORE talking and waiting around. Is wrestling illegal in TNA?

Finally we get some extended contact and it lasts all of 30 seconds. Flair gets thrown out and we make it about anything other than the match and wrestling for a few more minutes. The bell rang like 7 minutes ago and they MIGHT have had a minute of contact. Flair does commentary. AJ hits a nice over the top swanton dive. Nice one indeed. I think the issue here is no one believes AJ is going to win.

In a painful looking spot, RVD jumps to the top with his back to the ring and gets shoved off the ropes where he slams head first into the ramp. Flair implies sexual relations with Dixie. Not a bad idea if I do say so myself. Flair is talking about AJ the most which is what he’s supposed to do. Nicely done.

Flair talks about what it’s like in the mindset of being the world champion and says if he was somewhere and an NBA All-Star was there it didn’t matter because he was Ric Flair. True story: when the NBA was locked out back in like 98, my Dad and cousin were in Atlantic City where some NBA guys were having an exhibition there. My cousin saw Flair there.

Said he couldn’t have looked better and couldn’t have been nicer. I got an autograph out of it. Also said he was built like a tank. That’s not something that comes off well on TV but apparently he looks incredible in person. To be fair though, he’s usually next to some of the best conditioned people on the planet so he kind of blends in. This is your standard back and forth main event match and it’s working pretty well.

Can’t ask for much more than a back and forth world title match between two guys of this caliber. AJ busts out a torture rack of all things. Given Flair’s wars with Luger, that’s rather amusing. Also it should be noted that he used it after countering Rolling Thunder with a knee to the back. THAT is thinking in a match. Flair gets fed up when AJ keeps messing up and goes to the ring but here’s Jay Lethal for the stop.

We keep the camera on them for a minute or so as Lethal puts the Figure Four on Flair. There’s a minute and a half I’ll never get back. Tenay thinks we should focus on what’s in the ring. What a concept! AJ has a suplerplex reversed and takes the Five Star for RVD to retain.

Rating: B-. Not bad, but nothing great. It’s certainly decent and probably the best match of the night. This just lacked any sort of drama though and it didn’t work well at all to me. It was solid though and AJ performed well. Van Dam as champion is fine I guess, but I’m at a loss as to who he fights now. I mean seriously, WHO is there? Angle?

One of Van Dam’s first challengers was Abyss, who injured him on Impact with the spiked board called Janice. This caused Rob to be stripped of the title, setting up a Monster’s Ball rematch at Bound For Glory 2010.

We recap RVD vs. Abyss which is a bit early on the card I’d think for it. I can’t imagine this is where THEY are revealed. That’s just way too early for it I’d think but who knows? The idea here is RVD isn’t at 100% but he wants revenge no matter what.

Rob Van Dam vs. Abyss

Monster’s Ball here which means anything goes. And remember this is his last match EVER! He brings Janice and Bob, which are the names of Dixie Carter’s parents in what I’d assume is a rib, and puts them on the announce table. Abyss says RVD is done and THEY are coming. And remember this is once a century. You know, like EVERY OTHER DATE.

RVD of course kicks the heck out of him to start to a HUGE RVD chant. Van Dam is in a t-shirt here for some reason. There’s a barbed wire table at ringside. Total dominance so far by Van Dam who is on fire. He gets taken down by an elbow of all things. Given the shirt I’d bet on RVD going into barbed wire.

Chokeslam is countered and of course Abyss eats barbed wire. This would be more effective if we hadn’t seen it just three days ago with bigger stars. And of course he’s up again just a few seconds later, dodging a splash that send RVD into the wire. Abyss busts out a regular table as we talk about THEY.

Trash can to the head of Van Dam as Abyss tries to make a barbed wire platform between the railing and the ring. Oh never mind it’s just a regular table. Abyss winds up on it and RVD hits Rolling Thunder onto it. Cool spot. Too many dead spots here though as we hit a spot and then stop to look for more stuff to use in the next one.

RVD sets up Coast to Coast but gets shoved off and RVD winds up in barbed wire. Sick looking bump. The match more or less stops as the referee is thinking about stopping it. Instead we throw him back into the ring and Abyss gets…nothing. Ok then. Instead we get the Hogan ear taunt.

Van Dam comes back and sends him into the barbed wire board in the corner. Now it’s Abyss in trouble. RVD goes for the Five Star but Abyss moves and RVD has a tummy ache. And now It’s time for Janice. Well of course it is. RVD counters though and gets a pair of shots with Janice to the gut of Abyss and the Five Star. Abyss is bleeding from the mouth.

Rating: B-. Fun hardcore match with everyone beating the tar out of each other. Ok so maybe saying everyone for two people is a stretch but you get the concept. This worked fine for what it was with lots of weapons being used and all that jazz. They’re dragging this angle out for all it’s worth and more though so points for that….I think. Fun match.

Van Dam would spend the next few months feuding with Immortal before chasing the World Title for a bit. He entered the Bound For Glory Series and took the lead until Jerry Lynn cost him a match. This led to the two facing each other in a Full Metal Mayhem match at BFG 2011.

Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam

Technical stuff to start but they’ve probably got a lot of time. There are only 8 minutes on this card and I can’t imagine that Hogan vs. Sting will break ten minutes. Rob takes over early and tries Rolling Thunder but Lynn pops up with a kick to the face. Tornado DDT is countered but the suplex is as well. The psychology here is solid and we hit a stalemate. They try a cross body over the top and that doesn’t work right, drawing half boos/half silence from the crowd.

We’re on the floor now and Van Dam tries a moonsault off the apron but misses and might have hurt his knee. Lynn brings in a ladder but Rob sends him in and gets a chair. He takes too long though and Jerry hits a baseball slide to send it into the face of Van Dam. Van Dam gets a spinning cross body onto Lynn onto the chair for two. The surfboard dropkick with the chair in the corner gets no cover. Rob does however get a ladder so the crowd is pleased.

The fans chant ECW and the ladder is splashed with Lynn under it for two. The fans never stay silent for long in this city. It’s something I wish you could hear in more cities too. Rob does a springboard moonsault over Lynn which appeared to be intentional. No idea what the point of that was other than to have Lynn hit him with the chair to take over. Lynn misses a senton backsplash onto the ladder and Van Dam takes over again.

Van Daminator misses so Lynn pelts the chair at him. Lynn gets a German for tow and Lynn is down more from it than Rob is. Lynn gets suplexed onto a ladder which is a lot more effective, so I guess American > Germany. Lionsault onto the ladder gets two for Rob. Rob tries one of his rolling moves but Jerry jumps off the middle rope and they collide at the same time. Lynn goes to the floor to get another ladder and I have the same question as Tazz: how many ladders do you need?

The second ladder is put up against the railing and Lynn tries a sunset bomb, resulting in Rob’s head slamming into the railing. FREAKING OW MAN!!! Lynn has a big bump under his eye. Van Daminator gets two. Rob sets up the Van Terminator with a ladder over Lynn’s face and it’s enough for the pin at 13:16. So Lynn can get up from a Van Daminator after two seconds but he can’t move after about 30 seconds of sitting in the corner?

Rating: B. Good match but it’s going to be overrated because it’s Lynn vs. Van Dam. This was more about the weapons and the violence than the whole psychology which was the standard of their old matches. The fans were of course into it because these guys used to be huge in ECW like 10 years ago. It was entertaining though and that’s the point of these matches.

The next year was even more uneventful for RVD as he didn’t do much of note, save for a shot at the World Title Sacrifice. With less than a week before the biggest show of the year, Van Dam didn’t have a match. He was allowed to pick his opponent and decided to challenge for the X-Division Title at Bound For Glory 2012.

X-Division Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Zema Ion

Ion is defending. Rob came out on Impact when Ion was running his mouth and Van Dam said Hogan said he could have any match he wanted at this show. Zema has been injuring a lot of people lately. Rob takes over to start and knocks Ion to the floor but Ion moves before Rob can dive. Back in and Ion takes out Rob’s leg followed by a corkscrew kick out of the corner for two.

The champ goes up again and gets crotched, followed by a kick to take him down again. Out of nowhere Ion hits a jumping tornado DDT for two and then two more. Rob goes up but gets shoved into the barricade like he’s had done to him a few dozen times over the years. Ion hits a flip dive to keep Van Dam down while also barely avoiding breaking a rib on the barricade.

Back in and a missile dropkick gets two for Ion. As usual with Ion, his in ring stuff isn’t bad but the promos and persona getting there don’t do him much good. Off to an abdominal stretch which is pretty quickly broken. Van Dam makes a very fast comeback, takes Ion down, hits Rolling Thunder and the Five Star and wins the title at 8:00.

Rating: C. I can’t complain about Van Dam winning the title at all as this gives the title some credibility that it hasn’t had in a new champion in awhile. Also this gives the fans something to pop for early on which is the right idea. The match itself was nothing you wouldn’t see on Impact, but the right ending helps.

The title reign wouldn’t be bad but didn’t really do much as he didn’t get to defend the belt all that often. Rob would come back to WWE over the summer of 2013 and be used as the veteran who could still make people look good. Here’s an attempt at that against World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio at Night of Champions 2013.

World Heavyweight Title: Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio

Alberto is defending, Rob is the hometown boy (close enough) and Ricardo is here after being banned from ringside on Smackdown. Del Rio quickly takes him down but Rob comes right back with a kick to the face. A loud spinwheel kick in the corner has the champion staggered and a monkey flip gets two. Del Rio hits a dropkick of all things but misses a charge and falls to the floor. A slingshot moonsault puts Alberto down and Rob drapes him across the barricade for the spin kick to the back.

Del Rio blocks a suplex back in and brings Rob to the apron before knocking him out to the floor. The champion’s suicide dive takes Van Dam down and Del Rio sends him into the barricade. We hit the chinlock before Rob rolls him up for two. A snap suplex puts Rob right back down and Del Rio does the finger point. Del Rio kicks him in the back of the head for two and it’s back to the chinlock. An enziguri sends Del Rio to the floor but Alberto misses a dive and crashes on the outside.

Back in and a kick to the face gets two for Rob and the middle rope thrust kick gets the same. A top rope kick to the face sets up Rolling Thunder but Alberto rolls away and hits the Backstabber for two. Rob breaks up the reverse superplex and the cannonball off the top gets two. They slug it out with Del Rio getting two off a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Rob kicks his way out of the armbreaker and gets two off a rollup.

The split legged moonsault gets the same but Alberto comes back with a Codebreaker on the arm. Del Rio’s low superkick gets two but Rob kicks him off the ropes. The Five Star hits knees and there’s the armbreaker but Rob gets to a rope….and Del Rio holds on through the five count for the DQ at 14:28.

Rating: C+. The match was fine but the ending crippled anything it could have been. Alberto just isn’t interesting as a champion whatsoever but he’s been in every PPV Smackdown Title match this year. I don’t know who we’re waiting on to take the title from him but this wasn’t the right ending for this match.

Rob Van Dam is a guy who has been around for a long time and has stayed solid for almost his entire career. I find his ECW stuff overrated but now that he’s toned down the high flying a bit he’s far easier to watch. The fact that he’s been around going on 25 years makes him all the more impressive. He stays in good shape too and takes breaks when he needs to, making it easier to cheer for him when he comes back. The guy is talented and probably the best ECW guy of all time, assuming you don’t consider Foley and Austin to be on that list.

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