Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #42 – Rob Van Dam

Mr. Money in the Bank. Mr. Monday Night. The Whole F’n Show. Mr. Pay-Per-View. All of these names could only apply to one man – Rob Van Dam.

42. ROB VAN DAM

Real NameRobert Szatkowski
HometownBattle Creek, Michigan
AliasesRobbie V; Rob Szatkowski
Debut1990
Titles HeldWWE Championship; ECW Championship;
WWE Intercontinental (6x); ASW North American; ECW World Tag Team (2x – with Sabu); ECW World Television; WWE European; WWE Tag Team (with Rey Mysterio); WWF Hardcore (4x); WWE World Tag Team (2x – 1 with Kane, 1 with Booker T); SAPW Tag Team (with Chaz Rocco); IWF Television
Other AccomplishmentsMr. Money in the Bank 2006; trained kickboxer and martial artist; invented and holds record of the Van Dam Lift in weightlifting; longest reigning ECW Television champion; Final WWE European champion; Final WWF Hardcore champion; Fifteenth man to achieve WWE Triple Crown status (holding WWE World, Tag Team, and Intercontinental titles; Sixth man to achieve WWE Grand Slam status (holding WWE World, Tag Team, Intercontinental, and European titles)

Not many professional wrestlers make their debut at a WWE show, but Rob Van Dam did. When he was only a teenager, he was pulled from the crowd to accept a challenge from the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase – if he would kiss DiBiase’s feet, he would receive one hundred dollars. Van Dam did and got the money.

At the age of 18 Van Dam began training with the legendary Sheik, joining the ranks of other legendary wrestlers like Sabu, Raven, Scott Steiner, and Greg Valentine.

In 1990, Van Dam made his in-ring debut under his given name. He began competing on the independent circuit and soon earned a place on the USWA roster as he replaced Chris Candido.

His next stop after leaving the USWA was South Atlantic Pro Wrestling. It was here in July of 1992 that he won his first title – the SAPW Tag Team belts with partner Chaz Rocco. He also feuded with Rikki Nelson over the SAPW Light Heavyweight title. Also about this time he began using his familiar Rob Van Dam name.

From there he headed to WCW and under went another name change. Now he was Robbie V, who debuted by battling Scotty Flamingo (better known as Raven).

Unfortunately, Van Dam’s timing was bad. Not long after his debut, Bill Watts was given control of the WCW book. Needless to say, Van Dam’s wrestling style didn’t appeal at all to the old-school minded Watts. In addition, Watts soon banned moves off the top rope. A frustrated Van Dam left the company in 1993.

Van Dam’s next stop was Japan, where he competed for All-Japan Pro Wrestling. While there, he was a constant threat to Dan Kroffat (WWF’s Phil LaFon) and his AJPW World Junior Heavyweight title.

While Van Dam continued competing on the US indy scene as well, 1996 saw his silver screen debut in a film called “Superfights.” He also appeared in “Bloodmoon.”

Also in 1996, Van Dam signed a deal with Extreme Championship Wrestling. He debuted at House Party and defeated Axl Rotten. The crowd fell in love with Van Dam’s move set and mannerisms and Van Dam’s popularity began to skyrocket.

1996 also saw the beginning of one of Van Dam’s most legendary feuds. At Hostile City Showdown, Van Dam lost a match to Sabu and refused to shake hands with him after the match. The follow-up, at a Matter of Respect, again saw Van Dam refuse a handshake (Van Dam evened the score with a victory that night). Van Dam also soon turned full-on heel and began working with manager Bill Alfonso.

Even as the feud with Sabu continued to simmer, Van Dam soon had other problems on his mind as he defeated Doug Furnas at the Natural Born Killaz show. After the match Furnas refused a handshake and punched Van Dam instead. Soon Furnas brought longtime partner Kroffat into the mix and Van Dam needed a partner of his own. He turned to longtime foe Sabu.

After disposing of Furnas and Kroffat, the Eliminators (Perry Saturn and John Kronus) were next in line. The feud carried on into 1997 as Sabu and Van Dam were continually unsuccessful in getting the tag team titles away from the Eliminators.

Van Dam, in true Van Dam form, was also stirring up trouble on another front. While the feud with the Eliminators was going on, Van Dam also began feuding with Taz. That feud ended at 1996’s Holiday Hell, when Taz knocked Van Dam out to settle things decisively.

April of 1997 saw problems begin boiling backstage between Van Dam and Paul Heyman. At Barely Legal, Lance Storm was scheduled to face Chris Candido, who was sidelined with an injury. Van Dam came out instead and defeated Storm, then grabbed a microphone and bashed Heyman for only bringing him out as a backup.

May of 1997 saw ECW invade the WWF’s Monday Night Raw program. Van Dam earned his first victory by defeating an unknown named Jeff Hardy on May 12.

WWF commentator Jerry Lawler was outraged. He constantly berated ECW as a second-rate promotion and vowed to show up in ECW himself.

Lawler had backup when he arrived – RVD and Sabu. Van Dam and Sabu soon found themselves involved as well in Lawler’s feud with Tommy Dreamer.

Even after Lawler’s departure, the Van Dam-Dreamer feud continued to boil in ECW. In December of 1997, Van Dam, Sabu, Furnas, and LaFon faced Dreamer, the Sandman, Taz, and Al Snow in their final battle. Dreamer’s team won the match.

1998 saw Van Dam begin to have problems with Shane Douglas’s Triple Threat. The problems only intensified in April, when Van Dam defeated Bam Bam Bigelow to win the ECW Television title.

The title contributed to problems as Sabu soon became interested in winning the belt. Van Dam and Sabu faced each other at Wrestlepalooza, which went to a time limit draw.

At the 1998 Matter of Respect, Van Dam and Sabu were forced to team with the tag team champions in a match which saw Van Dam and Storm take on Sabu and Chris Candido. Van Dam and Storm reunited and obliterated the champions, ending the match in a no contest.

June 27th saw Van Dam and Sabu finally win the tag team titles. They held them until October 24 when the Dudley Boyz (with help from the Triple Threat) took the belts away.

Van Dam and Sabu would not be denied, however. At the time, ECW had a working relationship with Japan’s FMW promotion. At a December FMW show, Sabu and Van Dam defeated the Dudleys and regained the titles.

April 17th of 1999 was supposed to feature a title rematch between Van Dam and Sabu and the Dudleys. However, shortly before the match, Sabu was suspended by ECW. That resulted in a singles match between Van Dam and D-Von Dudley. When D-Von won the match, he also brought the tag team belts back to Dudleyville.

With Sabu gone, Van Dam’s attention was focused squarely on the Television title. During the remainder of 1999, Van Dam engaged in a classic series of matches against Jerry Lynn. Although Lynn was never able to win the belt, his popularity grew because of how well he and Van Dam meshed in the ring.

As 2000 began, Van Dam found himself feuding with Steve Corino’s monster Rhino with a champion vs. champion match against Mike Awesome on the horizon. Plans went awry on January 29, when Van Dam broke his ankle during a title defense against Rhino. Although he finished the match, Van Dam was forced to surrender the title due to his injury, which ended his nearly two year long reign.

Van Dam returned in May at the Hardcore Heaven show where he once again faced Jerry Lynn. The match ended with Lynn finally getting a win over Van Dam (with a bit of help from Scotty Anton (WCW’s Scotty Riggs)). Van Dam would get revenge on Anton at Heat Wave.

With his business with Anton settled, Van Dam resumed his chase for the Television title. Although he had plenty of opportunities to win it back from Rhino, Rhino always seemed to have friends right there to help him retain.

Shortly after October’s Hardcore Heaven, Van Dam stopped making regular appearances for ECW. Paul Heyman owed Van Dam a great deal of money and Van Dam refused to appear until he was paid.

Van Dam’s final ECW appearance came in January of 2001 at Guilty As Charged. In the main event, Van Dam defeated Jerry Lynn to end ECW’s final PPV.

In July of 2001, Van Dam made his WWF debut as he and Dreamer signaled the return of ECW. Van Dam remained firmly in the Alliance throughout the Invasion. After the Alliance’s loss at Survivor Series, Van Dam was safe as he held the Hardcore title (all Alliance members other than title holders were fired, according to the storyline).

After the Invasion, Van Dam lost the Hardcore title to the Undertaker and entered the chase for William Regal’s Intercontinental title. Van Dam finally captured the belt at Wrestlemania XVIII and was drafted to Raw shortly thereafter in the first Draft Lottery.

Van Dam spent the spring feuding with Eddie Guerrero over the Intercontinental title, but turned his attention to Brock Lesnar in the summer. July 21 also marked a high water mark for Van Dam as he defeated Jeff Hardy to unify the Intercontinental and European titles.

After losing the title to Chris Benoit, Van Dam regained the belt at Summerslam and quickly defeated Tommy Dreamer to also unify the Intercontinental and Hardcore titles. Van Dam lost the belt in August to Chris Jericho (with Triple H’s help), but had other things on his mind – namely, Triple H’s World title.

Even after Triple H lost the title to Shawn Michaels, Van Dam continued to dog both their heels.

Things changed, however, going into 2003. Van Dam had begun teaming with Kane in October, and the duo won the World Tag Team titles on March 31.

The two entered a feud with La Resistance (Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier) that ran until Bad Blood, when La Resistance captured the belts. Afterward, Kane and Van Dam split with Kane telling Van Dam he’d never liked him. Needless to say, the former tag team partners began feuding which ended after Kane defeated Van Dam in a steel cage on September 8.

Van Dam then focused on the Intercontinental title and began feuding with the two men who were already fighting over the belt – Chris Jericho and Christian. On the September 27th Raw, Van Dam defeated Christian in a ladder match to regain the title.

His reign would only last a month. On October 23rd, Jericho regained the belt after Eric Bischoff distracted the referee during a Van Dam title defense. Steve Austin ordered an immediate rematch, and Van Dam took the belt right back.

His next feud was with Randy Orton and Evolution. Orton captured the title at Armageddon and Van Dam also lost the rematch.

In January, Van Dam and Booker T began teaming together. The team paid off in February, when they defeated Evolution members Ric Flair and Batista to win the World Tag Team titles. Evolution regained the belts on March 22.

That very night, Van Dam’s Raw run ended as he was drafted to Smackdown and his focus shifted to the United States title after a short run with Rey Mysterio battling the Dudley Boyz. Van Dam would never with the United States belt.

In 2004, Van Dam and Rey resumed their partnership. December saw the two defeating Kenzo Suzuki and Renee Dupree to win the tag team titles. The reign was cut short by a knee injury to Van Dam. To move the titles, he and Rey were defeated by the Basham Brothers, who focused on Van Dam’s knee.

Van Dam spent the rest of 2005 on the shelf with his knee injury. He appeared at ECW’s One Night Stand PPV where he appeared with Bill Alfonso and was attacked by Rhyno. The two were saved by Sabu, who then went into an unadvertised match against Rhyno.

Also, Van Dam was drafted back to Raw in the Draft Lottery. He then appeared in Carlito’s Cabana, where Carlito introduced him to Raw by assaulting him.

Van Dam returned at the 2006 Royal Rumble, where he was the person who eliminated Carlito. Unfortunately, he was also accidentally eliminated by Rey Mysterio.

At Wrestlemania, Van Dam won the Money in the Bank match, which assured him of a guaranteed title shot. May saw Van Dam inform John Cena that he would be cashing in his title shot at One Night Stand.

At One Night Stand, Van Dam defeated Cena to become the WWE champion. In addition, shortly before the show another draft had been held – this one for the new ECW startup. Van Dam was one of Heyman’s first choices.

On the debut episode of ECW on Sci-Fi, Heyman also awarded Van Dam the ECW World Heavyweight title.

Again, this would be a short reign. Not long afterward, Van Dam and Sabu were arrested for possession during a traffic stop. Van Dam lost the WWE title to Edge on July 3rd, and lost the ECW title to the Big Show the next night before beginning a thirty day suspension.

Van Dam allied himself with the ECW Originals when he returned and feuded with the New Breed. However, although he again received title shots, he was never able to regain the ECW title. After a match with Randy Orton at the 2007 One Night Stand, Van Dam was stretchered out after suffering a storyline concussion. In reality, Van Dam left the WWE shortly after that match.

To date, Van Dam has only made one appearance with WWE since that show. At the fifteenth anniversary episode of Raw, Van Dam defeated Santino Marella in less than a minute with the Five Star Frog Splash.

For nearly twenty years, Van Dam has demonstrated his superior athletic ability in the ring. He has created jaw-dropping new moves like the Van Daminator and Van Terminator. He won over the jaded fans in Philadelphia and became one of ECW’s biggest stars.

While Van Dam is not currently wrestling, he is still remembered fondly by wrestling fans. He blended the high-flying style with hardcore brawling in a unique combination that helped him stand apart from the rest of the pack in competition, and which has also earned him his place on this list of the top 100 wrestlers of the modern era.

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