The WWE Hall of Fame is about to get a one-of-a-kind inductee with the addition of Rob Van Dam. RVD is the latest inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. He’ll take his place in sports-entertainment history during the 2021 Induction Ceremony, streaming Tuesday, April 6 on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else.
One of the most innovative grapplers to ever step foot in the squared circle, Van Dam first broke out in Extreme Championship Wrestling in the mid-1990s. His cool, calm, and laid-back demeanour was the complete opposite of the competitor he became once the bell rang. Employing a mix of devastating martial arts kicks and breathtaking aerial attacks, RVD quickly became one of ECW’s most popular stars and one of its most decorated champions. After a brief stint in WWE, Van Dam captured the ECW World Television Championship and held onto it for an astonishing 699 days. RVD was also a two-time ECW Tag Team Champion alongside notorious risk-taker Sabu.
When ECW closed in 2001, Van Dam joined his fellow ECW alumni in invading WWE and quickly endeared himself to the WWE Universe and brought the fight to Superstars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Kurt Angle. RVD won the Intercontinental Championship from William Regal at his first WrestleMania, then went on to unify the championship with the European and Hardcore Titles. In addition to his prowess as a singles competitor, Van Dam was also a successful tag team wrestler, capturing titles in beloved pairings with Kane, Booker T and Rey Mysterio.
But Van Dam’s biggest success as a WWE Superstar would come in 2006. That year, he won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 22, earning himself a world championship opportunity at any point in the next year. Van Dam opted to cash in his contract on his terms, challenging WWE Champion John Cena for the title on his home turf, at ECW One Night Stand. In front of a raucous New York City crowd, Van Dam emerged from a wild brawl as the new WWE Champion. As ECW returned that summer, Van Dam also earned another title that had eluded him, as he was named the first ECW Champion of the reborn brand.
Following a six-year hiatus, RVD returned to WWE in 2013 to square off with a new generation of Superstars, including Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Sheamus and Roman Reigns. Now, in 2021, he returns to take his rightful place among sports entertainment’s greatest stars.
Don’t miss Rob Van Dam join the WWE Hall of Fame during the 2021 Induction Ceremony, streaming Tuesday, April 6 on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else. The ceremony will feature the Class of 2020, featuring The nWo, The Bella Twins, JBL, British Bulldog and Jushin “Thunder’ Liger, as well as the Class of 2021, which includes RVD, Kane, The Great Khali, Molly Holly and Eric Bischoff.
Sabu and Paul Heyman have been teasing it for a few days now but WWE just confirmed it, Rob Van Dam will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The ECW Original has been an innovator all his career, with moves that were defying gravity and logic but he was delivering with an incredible easiness. He has won 21 Championships and is one of the only two wrestlers in history to have held the WWE, ECW, and TNA World championships, alongside Bobby Lashley. Robert Alexander Szatkowski was given the name Van Dam just after he made his wrestling debut in 1990. Ron Slinker, a promoter in Florida, called him so because of his martial arts experience and his resemblance to actor Jean-Claude Van Damme.
He wrestled in many independent promotions across Michigan, then America and in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he challenged for the World Junior Heavyweight Championship on several occasions. In WWE in 1992, he wrestled as an enhancement talent against The Mountie under the ring name Matt Burn. He signed with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1992 and was dubbed Robbie V. He made his WCW debut on the January 23, 1993 episode of Saturday Night as a fan favourite, defeating enhancement talent Pat Rose. He left a few months later and came back to the US indie promotions and AJPW.
In the summer of 1996, Van Dam signed with promoter Paul Heyman’s Philadelphia-based promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), defeating Axl Rotten in his debut match at House Party. Van Dam’s mannerisms were those of a stoner, and he became a face due to his laid-back attitude and unorthodox style. On March 30, he faced 2 Cold Scorpio in a match for the World Television Championship. The match ended in a draw with 2 Cold Scorpio retaining the title. Van Dam gained attention following a series of matches with long-time rival Sabu who would later become his tag team partner. The two formed what was to become one of the most successful tag teams in ECW history.
In May 1997, ECW “invaded” the World Wrestling Federation’s (WWF) Monday Night RAW, drawing the ire of colour commentator Jerry Lawler. Lawler then promised he would show up at an ECW show in order to gain revenge, and when he did show up, he had ECW mainstays Van Dam (who turned heel) and Sabu with him. Van Dam made speeches about how he was too good for ECW and deserved to be in one of the “Big Two” (WWF or WCW) on one of their Monday Night programs (Monday Night Raw or Monday Nitro). Lawler began to call Van Dam Mr. Monday Night on an episode of RAW which became a moniker that would stay with Van Dam, changing to suit the day of the week of whichever program was being broadcast. Despite his arrogance and “betrayal” of ECW, over time Van Dam became applauded by fans recognizing his athleticism and unique manoeuvres.
Van Dam then started a new rivalry with Tommy Dreamer, who wanted to gain revenge on Van Dam for his betrayal of ECW. On June 21, Van Dam and Sabu earned a victory over Dreamer and The Sandman but the feud would last till the end of the year. In 1998, Van Dam’s popularity increased when he got his first taste of ECW gold, on April 4 when he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow to win the World Television Championship. Van Dam retained the belt in his first title defence on April 10 against Doug Furnas. Sabu also expressed interest in Van Dam’s championship, leading to a title match between the two at Wrestlepalooza. Van Dam retained the title as the match ended in a time limit draw.
On June 29, 1998, Van Dam and Sabu beat Storm and Candido to win the World Tag Team Championship, which made Van Dam a double champion. On October 24, Sabu and Van Dam lost the title to the Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray and D-Von). On December 13, Van Dam and Sabu won the World Tag Team Championship for a second time by beating the Dudley Boyz in Japan at a Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling ECW/FMW Supershow. Van Dam remained the World Television Champion for the rest of 1998, and he started 1999 by making successful title defences against the likes of Spike Dudley, Lance Storm, Jerry Lynn, Balls Mahoney, and 2 Cold Scorpio.
Van Dam and Sabu were scheduled to make a title defence on April 17, but Sabu was suspended by ECW before the match occurred. Instead, Van Dam faced D-Von Dudley in a singles match and as a result of losing the match, Van Dam also lost the Tag Team Title to the Dudleyz. After losing the Tag Team titles, Van Dam focused on defending the Television title. He began a feud with Rhino at the beginning of 2000. RVD successfully defended the ECW World Television Championship against Rhino on January 7. RVD got a victory during a title defence against Sabu at Guilty as Charged which was Sabu’s last match in the promotion.
He would later receive many opportunities to win the World Television Championship back from Rhino, but Rhino’s allies usually attacked Van Dam, causing disqualifications and allowing Rhino to retain the title. At Anarchy Rulz, Van Dam faced Rhino for the World Television Championship but was screwed when a heel referee made a fast count during a pinfall attempt made by Rhino. Van Dam was not advertised and did not show for a large number of ECW events due to the large sum of money owed to him. He appeared at ECW’s final pay-per-view event Guilty as Charged, where he defeated Jerry Lynn. This was Van Dam’s last appearance in ECW, as ECW only held two more shows after the pay-per-view.
Several months after the closure of ECW, Van Dam was signed to a short-term contract by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Along with fellow ECW alumnus Tommy Dreamer, Van Dam returned to WWF television on the July 9, 2001, episode of RAW in Atlanta as a heel, attacking WWF wrestlers Kane and Chris Jericho. Despite being a heel, Van Dam was popular with the WWF fans, who were aware of his reputation in ECW. After defeating Jeff Hardy for the WWF Hardcore Championship at Invasion, Van Dam lost the Hardcore title to Hardy on the August 13 episode of RAW but regained it at SummerSlam in a ladder match. During this time, Van Dam had defeated wrestlers such as Kane, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, The Rock and even Alliance leader Stone Cold Steve Austin in singles and tag team matches.
He then entered into a rivalry with William Regal over Regal’s Intercontinental Championship. At WrestleMania X8, Van Dam faced Regal for the Intercontinental Championship and won the match after he hit Regal with a Five-Star Frog Splash. When the WWF was divided into two “brands”, RAW and SmackDown! in 2002, Van Dam was drafted to the RAW brand and started a feud with Eddie Guerrero over the Intercontinental title. At Backlash, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental Championship to Guerrero. On the May 27 episode of RAW, Van Dam defeated Guerrero in a ladder match for his second Intercontinental Championship.
Van Dam then defended his Intercontinental Championship against Lesnar twice and retained his title both times by disqualification. On the July 22 episode of RAW, Van Dam unified the WWE European Championship into the WWE Intercontinental Championship after he defeated Jeff Hardy in a title unification ladder match. On the July 29 episode of Raw, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental Championship to Chris Benoit. At SummerSlam, Van Dam won his third WWE Intercontinental Championship by defeating Benoit in a rematch for the title. On the August 26 episode of Raw, Van Dam also unified the WWE Hardcore Championship into the WWE Intercontinental Championship by defeating Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer in a hardcore title unification match.
Van Dam later started feuding with the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H and Ric Flair. He also formed a tag team with Kane. On March 31, 2003, on RAW, Van Dam and Kane defeated World Tag Team Champions Lance Storm and Chief Morley and The Dudley Boyz in a 3-way elimination tag team match. They retained at Backlash and Insurrextion, before losing the titles to La Résistance at Bad Blood. After Kane was forced to take his mask off when he lost a World Heavyweight Championship match to Triple H, the team dissolved and started feuding with each other.
From 2003 to 2007, Van Dam notably won the Intercontinental Championship for the fourth and fifth time. He feuded with Chris Jericho or Randy Orton, teamed up with Rey Mysterio or Renée Duprée. He would team up with Booker T and together defeat Evolution members Ric Flair and Batista to win the World Tag Team Championship. After a knee injury, Van Dam made his return to the ring at the Royal Rumble 2006. He feuded with Carlito and won the Money In The Bank match at WrestleMania. On May 29, Van Dam was selected by Paul Heyman to be drafted to WWE’s new ECW brand. At ECW One Night Stand, Van Dam cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship. He would then become the fifteenth WWE Triple Crown Champion. He would lose the WWE belt to Edge and the ECW one to Big Show. Rob Van Dam later joined the ECW Originals along with Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman. The ECW Originals began a feud with the New Breed (Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von, and Matt Striker). The two teams faced off at WrestleMania 23 in a match which the ECW Originals won. After a feud with Randy Orton, Van Dam left WWE due to being burnt out and needing time away.
After his time with WWE, Van Dam has wrestled all over the world, became a star on TNA/Impact Wrestling. He would come back to WWE in 2013-2014, feuding with Christian, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Cesaro or Alberto Del Rio. He would then come back to the indies and Impact Wrestling. As of today, Rob Van Dam has not retired and remains an “example” for all the moves he created and the influence he has been for generations of wrestling high-flyers. His absolutely unusual way of wrestling has made him someone undeniable in this business, definitely one of a kind.
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