Our next grappler comes at the request of Korey at Let’s Talk Wrestling. Here is Rob Van Dam – “The Whole F’n Show”, “Mr. Pay-Per-View”, “Mr. Monday Night”, RVD fans certainly have a wealth of nicknames to choose from!
Van Dam is a fine candidate for recognition, for he was one one of the most technically-gifted athletes I can remember from my time as a fan. His skills in karate, Tae Kwan Do, Aikido, Kendo and kick-boxing legitimise him as far more than a sports entertainer – indeed, legend has it that, on starting out in 1990, his ring-name was given to him on the basis that his talents could test the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Praise indeed.
But the required entertainment was there in bucket-loads, too. As well as being so well-equipped on the fighting side of things, RVD oozed charisma to the extent that, once established, it was virtually impossible for him to be placed in a villainous role; the crowd were so devotedly behind him, they’d cheer him and boo the good guy. It seemed his cool, laid-back demeanour was impossible to dislike. Evidenced in 1997, when, two years into his tenure at ECW, the ambitious Van Dam ‘invaded’ the WWF’s Monday Night Raw programme, hence earning the titular moniker. The fans loved him, but sadly the curious ‘invasion’ was short-lived, and he went back to Philadelphia.
But he’d be back. When the WWF were bringing in new blood under the guise of a WCW/ECW invasion in 2001 – the WWF had in fact bought out the two rival promotions earlier in the year – Federation fans were cheering Van Dam as he took it to their men with his bewitching blend of technical and smash-mouth hardcore wrestling. It was quite extraordinary to me at the time. While the Invasion angle was largely a misfire in the extreme, Van Dam came out of it looking very strong indeed.
Once in the WWF limelight, his popularity would soar to its highest heights and he would go on to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2002. Van Dam at this point has been named ‘No.1 Wrestler in the World’ by a Pro Wrestling Illustrated poll. This seems, therefore, like this should have been RVD’s time, but, for whatever reason, Triple H kept his mitts on the strap, kicking off a period not-so-fondly remembered as ‘The Reign of Terror’.
It could be argued, though, that Van Dam never really needed a big championship. He was still huge, and his popularity never really seemed to wane – certainly not in the time that I was following the product – meaning he was always at the top of the bill even when not gunning for gold. He did eventually win the now-WWE Championship in 2006 – this strikes me as a little late, but nevertheless it’s sweet that he finally got to the top. Though he left in 2007, he returned to WWE briefly in 2013, showing no sign of slowing down and taking down Cesaro at SummerSlam.
These days, Van Dam is semi-retired, but that in itself means that any day now he could be back and bolting around the ring, quick as a hiccup, or flying off the top rope with his Frog Splash. Regardless, the legacy is already there; perhaps the most iconic ECW up-and-comer of all, a star in WWE – of all the nicknames acquired over his twenty-five year career, I’d think The Whole F’n Show not in the slightest unjust.