Rob Van Dam was one of the biggest stars in ECW when the renegade promotion was at its peak in the 1990s.
When that promotion finally closed its doors in 2001, many of its stars made the jump to WWE, including RVD himself. However, he was not exactly comfortable with the move in the beginning.
Speaking exclusively to Kenny McIntosh at Inside The Ropes’ ‘One of a Kind’ live show in 2022, Van Dam admitted that he thought he was “selling out” by joining the world’s biggest wrestling promotion.
This was not least because he felt that the company had stolen many of the elements that made ECW unique in the first place and then watered them down.
“It wasn’t easy to make that decision. But I think when you were asking that you were talking specifically about me joining the Alliance and stuff, and I had no idea that that was even going to happen.
“So, at that point in my career in 2001, I’ve been wrestling, you know, since my first matches in 1990, and I looked at WWE as selling out, you know.
“Like we were in ECW, we were insulted by the way they would copy our products, our specific things that we did on our show, but they would water them down, you know what I mean?
“Like, put mattresses, you know, for them to land on when they’re taking a bump off the stage. We didn’t do that, we had tables and cement, and that was part of what we were. We never heard of gimmicking a table or a chair so it falls apart, the fans would hand us the chairs, and they knew they were real.”
With both WCW and ECW both defunct by that time, Van Dam didn’t have much choice on what to do if he wanted to keep wrestling on TV.
“So, I really looked at it like it was selling out. But in 2001, if I wanted to continue being a professional wrestler on TV in the United States, there was no other option. So WWE had bought everybody up.
“Paul [Heyman] had been there for a while, and I knew that he really had to swallow some pride to go there. I kind of got over that enough to figure well, you know, he’s got to do what he’s got to do. Anybody does. And they were the only ones left.
“I thought at that point, that when I was ready, I had the offers waiting for me, there was an open door for me. And when I was ready, I called Paul and said I’m ready to talk to the guys in WWE. He said, ‘Okay, great.'”
Rob Van Dam met Jim Ross at a hotel because of his past reputation
When it came time to meet Jim Ross, who was in charge of talent at the time, RVD had to see him on neutral territory as he had left a bad impression with his brief time on WWE TV in 1997.
“I had to meet JR at the Marriott by the LAX because I had a reputation for being hard to get along with. That’s because when we did the Invasion angle in ’97, when I didn’t like what was going on, I split, and I pulled us all out of there. And that’s a different story, [different] answer to a different question.
“But because it happened I had to meet with JR, everything went well. I signed a contract and came in and it was like, the first night at WWE, I thought, ‘They’re gonna erase my history. **** call me, Robin Van Dam, I’m going to be a bird or something, or Robber Van Dam, like having a bank robber mask or something.'”
Thankfully for the star, he was not only able to keep his name, but was even still able to represent ECW as part of the 2001 storyline that saw WCW and ECW ‘invade’ WWE.
“Then I saw Tommy Dreamer. And I was like, ‘Tommy, what are you doing here?’ and he threw me an ECW shirt. I was like, ‘What?!’
“I couldn’t have been happier. Because I had no idea that they were even doing The Alliance and that I was part of it. And then to represent ECW and not bury my past, but add depth to it. I was all for it, so I was stoked.”
During the same interview, Van Dam opened up about the backstage politics he encountered after signing, with many people vying for “their guys” and no shortage of broken promises.
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