Friday, 31 December 2004

RVD's Future in the WWE

With the news that both Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg could be departing the WWE after Wrestlemania XX this Sunday, one name has kind of disappeared from the scene, even though he could also be on his way from Titan Towers very soon.


At the time of writing, Rob Van Dam's contract with the WWE is scheduled to end in July, and up until now, there has apparently been no attempt on either side to discuss a possible extension.

What hasn't helped the situation is that in recent radio and Internet interviews, Van Dam has been quite critical of the current creative situation on the Raw brand. This is something that is not normally associated with him. He is known as a team-player, has been for a number of years now, ever since the incident backstage at Raw in 1997 when he refused to job to the Road Dogg.

RVD is a bona fide wrestling superstar. His style is like no other. He is regarded by many as the greatest ECW wrestler never to have held their version of the World title. He was the longest reigning ECW Television Champion. His matches against Jerry Lynn are the stuff of legend.

And his WWE career has, for the most part, been just as good. He reign as Hard-core Champion restored some much needed prestige to the title. His reigns as Intercontinental Champion have provided some of the best WWE matches in recent years, especially his outings against Eddie Guerrero and Randy Orton. And it's only the apparent machinations of a certain World Champion that have stopped him from breaking the glass ceiling and from winning the big belt itself.

And this may be the reason why contract talks haven't even begun. RVD is one of the most popular wrestlers in recent WWE history. Even when he wrestled as a villain during the height of the InVasion three years ago, he was cheered wildly by the fans. He was certainly one of the few members of the Alliance that came out of that story line with any semblance of credit. But you have to wonder, just how many more times can RVD hold the Intercontinental or Tag-Team titles without wondering what the hell is going on in his career.

One of the problems may be that the WWE version if RVD is these days far removed from the ECW version of RVD. Take this as an example - a friend of mine who just happens to be a professional wrestler himself said to me, when I said that I was a fan of RVD, that his work was rotten. Then, he had the chance to view some of RVD's old ECW matches. A few weeks later as we sat watching Raw, he said to me that RVD was half the man he was in ECW.

Think back to his early days in the WWE. RVD was placed in the Hard-core division, and had some cracking matches against the likes of Jeff Hardy, Steve Austin, Test, and Kurt Angle. But a problem surfaced here. Whenever he unleashed his trademark Van Daminator, which involved him kicking a steel chair into his opponent's face, the recipient of the move often left the arena with a few stitches in his face. This earned Van Dam a lot of criticism, which included some harsh words from Kurt Angle's wife.

When the Hard-core division was abolished, RVD's act was toned down. As hard-core wrestling became passé, out of fashion, a great deal of his act went as well. He was still able to do a great deal of things other wrestlers couldn't do, but it wasn't the same. But again, if the Hard-core division had remained, how long could he have remained in it without people thinking that he was growing stale?

The problem may be that whenever the WWE gets their hands on a top wrestler from another promotion, they will always want to change things. One just has to look at the recent WWE careers of Spanky, Paul London and Bill Goldberg to see this. Although the WWE probably view RVD very highly, they obviously don't see him as a future World Heavyweight Champion.

In recent months, RVD's performances on Raw and pay-per-view have, for me, been somewhat lacking. It's as if he's just been going through the motions, like he's just doing his job, cashing his cheques, and going home. His performances have been entertaining, but the thing is, they're lacking that certain "X" factor. Something seems to be missing, and it's something I can't quite put my finger on.

If he were to renew his contract, one possible solution would be a jump to the Smackdown brand. This would certainly give him many new and different opponents to test his skill against. While Guerrero and Angle are old adversaries, he hasn't wrestled them in such a long time that matches against these two would seem much fresher than those he's getting now. And, of course, his style would be well suited to many of the brands smaller wrestler.

While he is a little too heavy for the Cruiserweight division, matches against Tajiri, Ultimo Dragon, Chavo Guerrero and Rey Mysterio would certainly get the fans interested.

But if no agreement is reached by July, what would RVD do? Japan would come calling, that's a cert, and I'm sure he'd be very welcome by a number of organisations over there. But RVD could definitely make a killing on the American independent circuit.

For a start, there's TNA. The Jarretts would love having someone of RVD's quality working for them on a regular basis. He would fit perfectly in the X division, and I'm sure many die-hard fans would love to see him go up against A.J. Styles before challenging for the World title. Then there's Ring of Honor. Leaving aside their current problems, getting someone like RVD on their books would certainly be a boon for the promotion. Of course, there's also the possibility that he could work for both promotions at the same time.

Although he has accomplished a great deal in his career, there's still a great deal that RVD can do with his career. He's still quite young, and as the old saying goes, still has the world at his feet. Whether he stays with WWE or leaves when his contract runs out, he needs to do something, before he becomes the forgotten man of the Raw brand, continually portrayed as one half of many hybrid tag-teams.