So the DVD was released months ago. No one’s bothered to review it, and I figured I might as well.
With the WWE tapping their voluminous video library, it’s more than a little peculiar that they picked Rob Van Dam as one of their people to highlight with a DVD package, while mega-stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting and Randy Savage languish without even a hint of a set on the horizon. Sure, RVD is popular, but considering the WWE’s squandering of him since he arrived, the choice of him over some other high profile stars seems odd. But I won’t complain, cause I like the little stoner, and I jones for ECW stuff on a daily basis. So, with that, we plunge into it.
Little word of warning; I’m not a move-by-move kind of guy. If you want that, there’s plenty of guys on this site who’re willing to give you that. I’m here to tell you what’s on the disc, why it’s there, and if it’s worth pressing play … or eject.
Firstly, rather than featuring a 2 hour documentary on the life and career of RVD, as the Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero DVD’s have, pressing the “play” option at the main menu more acts as a “play all” feature; you get a short intro from Josh Matthews, then it’s into the matches. Any insight into RVD as a person comes from a few pre-match intros, a lot like the set-up of the Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley DVD’s where they were interviewed and asked their thoughts on the match or whatnot. If you’re looking to get to know RVD, look elsewhere; if you’re just interested in matches, you’ve come to the right place.
Match #1: Robbie V vs. Scotty Flamingo
Why it’s on here: Beats the hell out of me. Had to showcase some of his WCW material, I guess. And since he was there for a very short period of time, the available choices are limited.
What to expect from it: It’s one of his early matches in his career, so not a whole lot. It’s also from WCW Saturday Night, so don’t expect one of his trademark ECW marathon matches; if it’s 10 minutes, it’s a miracle. Viewing of this is necessitated only for two things: 1) to see the genesis of RVD and how he’s evolved into what he is now, and 2) to see Scott Levy (aka Raven) done up in his Scotty Flamingo gimmick. You’ll almost piss yourself laughing at the sight. Other then that, not much here.
The watchability: Good for a one-shot. It’s what Scott Keith would call “perfectly acceptable wrestling”; nothing outstanding to make you say to your buddies “You gotta see this match!”, but nothing grotesque enough to make you fling the disc across the room either.
Match #2: Rob Van Dam vs. Axl Rotten
Why it’s on here: It’s RVD’s ECW debut. So, historical purposes, duh.
What to expect from it: The ever-popular Wacky Mismatching Of Styles match! If you don’t know who he is, Axl Rotten was the “brother” of Ian Rotten, and they were a pair of overweight London punks called The Bad Breed. They had all the scientific skill of Chris Masters on a handful of Xanax; a total brawler all the way, and not of the Mick
Foley-I-can-disguise-my-lack-of-scientific-ability brawling, but the other kind. The bad kind. RVD manages to stitch together a little something out of it, but certainly no silk purse from this sow’s ear.
The watchability: Surprisingly, it’s not horrible. Don’t expect Steamboat/Flair here, and don’t expect something you’ll carry fond memories of, but nothing that’ll make you ralph up your corn flakes.
Match #3: Rob Van Dam vs. Sabu
Why it’s on here: RVD’s “respect” feud with Sabu culminated with this match, and the match has a very unique aspect to it: the ropes break not two minutes in, and yet Sabu & RVD continue the match, because the fans had been there for hours on end waiting for it. RVD’s feud with Sabu helped turn RVD into a star in ECW, and really … it’s RVD vs. Sabu … it’s a super-spot-fest. Like it wouldn’t be on here.
What to expect from it: See the above sentence. SUPER SPOT FEST. And done without the aid of functioning ropes, too. Quite the entertaining match, and the drama behind it (Sabu had a neck injury courtesy of an RVD top rope-fisherman’s buster in a previous match) works. Plus, there’s alternate commentary; if you hit “audio” on your remote, you go from Joey Styles to RVD and Paul Heyman waxing … well, they sound stoned is what it is, but it’s entertaining.
The watchability: High. WAY high. Just to see them make do because of the broken ropes puts this on the map. And its historical value is off the charts for ECW fans. It’ll introduce RVD noobs to a side you probably haven’t seen: RVD, The Heel.
Match #4: Rob Van Dam & Sabu vs. The Eliminators
Why it’s on here: Well, that depends. For ECW nuts, it’s a showcase of the awesome Sabu/RVD combo, against one of ECW’s most beloved and athletic tag teams, The Eliminators. For historical buffs … I got nothing. For fun, I guess.
What to expect from it: Chaos. It starts off as wrestling, and somewhere along the way, becomes a psychotic war of attrition, complete with tables, ladders and chairs. Not in a garbagey way … it makes sense in the context of the match.
The watchability: I went in kinda unsure … and came out impressed. And since watching it, it’s really grown on me. It’s a nice, chaotic, textbook ECW tag match that has four wild athletes letting it all hang out. For ECW fans, easy money as a repeat viewer. For people new to ECW, welcome to the club. We got t-shirts.
Match #5: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm
Why it’s on here: RVD’s PPV debut, which is also ECW’s PPV debut. The story behind it, though, is that RVD wasn’t originally on the card and, due to an injury to Chris Candido, RVD was “called off the bench” to open the show. This match helped launch a huge angle: the Jerry Lawler vs. ECW war.
What to expect from it: Dude, c’mon. RVD, Lance Storm. Expect something good. Its only downfall is its length; it’s not terribly long, and the match seems rushed for it. But good nonetheless.
The watchability: If for nothing else, the promo at the end, which was the catalyst for Lawler’s crusade against ECW a few months later, is a must-see. But the match itself is good. Not Jerry Lynn vs. RVD good, but good enough.
Match #6: Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy
Why it’s on here: This is RVD’s “unofficial” debut on Monday Night Raw. This was at the beginning of the Lawler/ECW angle, and the origin of his “Mr. Monday Night” nickname. It also gave the IWC a lot of rumor material, as at the time, both WCW and WWE were courting RVD, and he would be spotted backstage at both shows within the span of two weeks. Obviously, he strung ’em both along. Smart guy.
What to expect from it: RVD was looking crisp and wrestling a classic heel match. But Hardy was green. Green like fresh okra. Take his sloppy, drug-addled wrestling at the end of his WWE career, and then make him a rookie. There ya go.
The watchability: Eh. Interesting. Pretty much a squash, so don’t expect greatness. It’s on Raw, too, so take length into consideration. Jeff Hardy gets the piss beat out of, and back into, him. Lawler gushes over RVD like he’s the second coming (of some young 18-year old blonde… giggity-giggity-goo!). Worth seeing only once, unless you’re a total Hardy mark. If so, seek help.
Match #7: Rob Van Dam vs. Tommy Dreamer
Why it’s on here: This was the big blow-off for the Lawler/ECW feud. RVD and Sabu had joined up with Lawler to destroy ECW, and their number one target was ECW’s symbolic center, Tommy Dreamer. This was billed as a flag match, but the stipulation really just meant “winner gets to hang their flag in front of the crowd” (ECW for Dreamer, WWE for RVD). Plus, in the pre-match RVD bit, he explains where the “Whole Fuckin’ Show” nickname came from. Interesting stuff.
What to expect from it: You wouldn’t think Dreamer, a brawler all the way, and a gymnast like RVD would be able to do anything watchable. You’d be wrong. This is, quite surprisingly, an entertaining match. Overbooked, sure, but in a classic ECW way. It’s dramatic, but in a purely ECW way.
The watchability: This was, believe it or not, the match I wanted this DVD for. I had this inexplicable curiosity for this match, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. Easily one of my favorite RVD matches, just for the sheer uniqueness of it. Plus, it was the end of an awesome angle, and is the last of heel-RVD you’ll find on this DVD.
Match #8: Rob Van Dam vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Why it’s on here: If you don’t know, seriously, do some f*cking homework. This match started the longest title reign in a major professional wrestling company since Hulk Hogan’s 4 year run between 1984 and 1988. 23 straight months of defending the ECW Television Title, and it all began here … with what should have been a “softening up” of Bigelow for Sabu.
What to expect from it: A big man/little man match. RVD bumps like a nutter, and throws everything he has in softening up the humungous Bigelow for his friend … only to accidentally win. Clever booking by Heyman here.
The watchability: Not a terrible match, but not a great match. RVD’s crazy bumping and collecting of frequent flyer miles is your hook. Well, that and the launch of the 23-month title reign.
Match #9: Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn
Why it’s on here: I say again: if you don’t know, seriously, do some f*cking homework. If any match defines RVD’s TV Title reign, it’s this. If there is any match that showcases the athlete that RVD has bottled up in him with the ridiculous constraints of the WWE, look no further.
What to expect from it: Wild bumps. Reversals of reversals of counters of feints and so on. Two men, laying it all on the line in the quest for the ECW Television Championship. A match where RVD’s “flippity-floppity” tendencies actually serve a purpose.
The watchability: Off the f*cking charts. If ECW has a Flair/Steamboat wrestling classic in their canon, this is probably it. No, I take that back. It is it.
Match #10: Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn
Why it’s on here: A rematch, only with a few new dynamics. RVD hadn’t been seen in the promotion for months, and Lynn had won (and lost) the ECW World Champion since their last encounter … and, at the beginning of this event, turned heel and joined up with Network Representative Cyrus. It was the return of the conquering hero … and their last match in ECW. And, interestingly enough, ECW’s last televised match ever.
What to expect from it: It doesn’t taste like the other matches. Instead of a battle of respect or honor, this is a heel/face match. Lynn obviously doesn’t look used to wrestling heel, and it shows through the match.
The watchability: Not their best encounter, by any stretch of the imagination. Not horrible, mind you … their worst can still get three snowflakes … but still, this one will leave you wanting for their Living Dangerously match (the previous match), or their rematch of that two months later (which is on The Rise & Fall Of ECW).
Plus, you get this little segment about when he debuted the Van Daminator, the Van Terminator, and some of his injuries. It’s a Confidential throwaway piece. If you dig, there’s some easter eggs somewhere … a promo of Bill Alfonso, RVD and Sabu talking about a Japanese tag team coming in to challenge them at an event … RVD sneezes the guy’s name every time. Amusing. Anyway, I don’t remember where they are, and I don’t feel like looking. You don’t appreciate things as much if people hand ’em to ya, eh? Go and look yourself.
Let’s get the “extras” out of the way, because the disc is filled up mostly with that, and they’re all pretty lackluster.
Wow, a “Before They Were Superstars” segment. Meh. Skip.
A bit about RVD’s fascination with airbrushing and the artist who does it. Whoopie.
A mildly amusing piece with RVD and Eddie Guerrero comparing their frog splashes. It’ll get a few chuckles. Better then the segment in the “matches” section of the DVD where RVD talks about his frog splash without the witty counterpoint. Why two bits on his finisher were needed on one DVD is beyond me.
A video of RVD touring Jakks Pacific. Painful. Equally painful is the insipid “fantasy match-up” of RVD vs. Jimmy Snuka, which is accomplished by having other superstars talk about what would happen in said fantasy match-up. As lame as it sounds.
RVD goes over his favorite WrestleMania moments. Couldn’t they have cut this shit and put on MORE ECW?!? Ditto with an “Outside The Ropes” segment from an episode of Confidential (like a rapid-fire 10 questions segment with Coach), two RVD vignettes, an “InVasion promo” (which is not a promo at all, at all) and the making of the music video for his theme song. This is all useless filler garbage. The equivalent of listening to the commentary on a movie by the make-up designers, caterers and the foley artists.
And after all that, we finally get some more matches. Aren’t you glad I saved you the time and effort? It’s what I’m here for, folks. You can show your appreciation in continued readership, and donations of cash. Preferably cash.
Match #11: RVD vs. Jeff Hardy
Why it’s on here: This is their Hardcore Title encounter from the ill-fated InVasion pay-per-view, which was the big “launchpoint” (and death knell) for the WWE vs. Alliance storyline. Very few good things came from this period. This is one of those very few things.
What to expect from it: It’s RVD, wrestling with “hardcore” rules. Take a guess. Hanky Boy gets beaten stupid.
The watchability: Anything where Hanky Boy gets the shit kicked out of him is okay by me. But aside from that, it’s a decent little introduction to RVD for the WWE fans … and a thumb to their collective eyes, since the Hardcore Title was the only time the WWE would let RVD be RVD … and the title would be killed off in the Great Title Genocide Of 2002. But still a decent match.
Match #12: RVD vs. Chris Jericho
Why it’s on here: I have no fargin’ idea. Cause it’s less depressing then watching RVD get goat-f*cked by Brock Lesnar later in the evening?
What to expect from it: It’s a King Of The Ring semi-final match, so it’s not exactly long, which is kind of an annoyance. Plus, its total lack of context or value in RVD’s career (or to an RVD mark) really makes one puzzled why it’s on here, since nothing outstanding occurs in the match.
The watchability: Eh. Not bad. Not your typical RVD match. In the last three or four minutes, the near-falls and reversals hit hard and fast, and the crowd suddenly comes alive, which gives the match some zest. Watch it once, see if you like it, but I doubt this will make anyone’s list of must-watch matches on the DVD.
Match #13: RVD vs. Christian
Why it’s on here: One of RVD’s many Intercontinental Title victories. Other than that, no real reason.
What to expect from it: More then you’d think from a Raw match. A Raw LADDER match, too. There’s no commercial break to f*ck up the match, just clean, violent fun. And, as an aside, I’d like to say something to the WWE: I know you guys tape during the commercials. When something happens, you show it in a replay. So, hey, here’s an idea; on these DVD sets you keep putting out, why not include the footage from Raw/Smackdown matches during those commercial breaks so the fans can, you know, see the whole f*cking match? I can live with three minutes of silence on the microphone (considering the quality of JR and the King these days, more then three minutes of silence would be nice) if I get to see a match in its entirety. But these DVD sets with clipped matches sucks you right out of the moment when you know the videotape of the missing 4 minutes exists in the Titan vaults. Alright, rant over.
The watchability: A lot of people gripe that the ladder match is overdone, that all the good spots have been used up. To them I say “f*ck off”. Watching someone get hit with a ladder still hurts. What’s been overdone are the overblown spots, like everything that was done in TLC 1 and 2. A basic 1 on 1 ladder match can still be done well if the right people are in it. RVD and Christian were those right people. I got sucked into the drama with ease, and a couple of the spots made me wince in pain … but in a good way. It’s no Benoit/Jericho or Shawn/Razor … but in a day of people leaping off balconies and through 7 tables, this was a throwback to the more ground-based ladder matches, where two people had a wrestling match with a ladder in it. I wish they could all be this simple.
The final three matches, for no good reason other then to vex people like me who like their stuff in chronological order, are filed in the “Extras” portion of your DVD. Whatever.
Match #14: RVD vs. Balls Mahoney
Why it’s on here: Shits and giggles, I guess. It has no historical value, and was the questionable “main event” of a very questionable PPV. Perhaps to complete a “wacky mismatch of styles” quota.
What to expect from it: The second of two matches with Heyman & RVD doing extra commentary. Beyond that … some hardcore sloppiness. The match feels disjointed, with no real transition from spot to spot.
The watchability: Maybe once to see the match and once to hear the extra commentary. But it’s not a great match by any means. I question the sanity of putting it on there.
Match #15: RVD vs. Sabu
Why it’s on here: Because it’s RVD and Sabu. Because you need to see what they can do in a fully operational ring. Because their feud was some of their best work. Because … Jesus, do I need to spell it out for you? RVD! Sabu! Isn’t that enough?
What to expect from it: Imagine both guys at their best. Then think back to the other match on this set, with the broken ropes. Now, imagine what both guys could do with a perfectly functioning ring. Oh yeah. Awesome spots and a boatload of traditional ECW-style carnage. For the ECW noobs, this is a fantastic baptism. For us old hats, it’s a fond remembrance.
The watchability: Off the charts. If I had to list 3 matches that sell this DVD, this would be one of them (along with the first Lynn match and the Dreamer match), and it’d make a damn fine argument for #1 against the Lynn match. You will find yourself watching this again and again and again.
Match #16: RVD vs. Pat Rose
Why it’s on here: It’s RVD’s WCW debut, in what’s billed as the Underdog Challenge. That’s insider-talk for “two prelim or unknown guys flail about and send the crowd scurrying for the hot dog stands”. Historical value is its only value at all.
What to expect from it: As I said: two prelim guys, flailing about. RVD is green, and Pat Rose is a fat lump who makes Iron Mike Sharpe look like Bret Hart. You won’t be getting anything out of this that you wouldn’t get out of, say, your average 80’s WWF jobber squash on Superstars.
The watchability: For hopeless completists and neurotics only. If you lived under a rock, and this was your very first exposure to RVD, you’d have no reason to assume he’d become what he did based on this stinkburger.
I think there’s another easter egg or two, but they’re not important. If you want ’em, you find ’em.