First impressions are vital in many walks of life. A good first impression could establish a relationship or secure a job offering. The same applies in professional wrestling. A performer is responsible for resonating positively with fans. Rob Van Dam faced that challenge when competing in a WWE ring in front of thousands in attendance for the very first time.
The InVasion pay-per-view marked the culmination of the hostile takeover on WWE (then WWF). WCW and ECW joined forces and called themselves “The Alliance” in their quest to seize control of WWE. Team WCW and ECW went head-to-head with Team WWE for supremacy. A total of 10 matches took place on the card, 11 if you include the pre-show, but none better than WWE’s Jeff Hardy vs. ECW’s Rob Van Dam.
Case study: InVasion 2001, WWE’s Jeff Hardy vs. ECW’s Rob Van Dam (Hardcore Championship match)
The bell sounds as soon as Jeff Hardy slides into the ring and attacks Rob Van Dam. Both men counter each other’s offense leading to a stand-off. RVD turns his back to Hardy to face the crowd and Hardy capitalizes and dropkicks RVD. Hardy dropkicks RVD a second time causing RVD to land face first into the bottom turnbuckle. Hardy covers RVD to create the first pinfall attempt of the matchup, but RVD powers out for a two count. Hardy counters RVD’s monkey flip with a rollup. RVD kicks out at two. Hardy connects on an inverted atomic drop. RVD ducks a flying crossbody from Hardy and hits a standing moonsault on Hardy. RVD goes for his first cover on Hardy, but Hardy lifts his left shoulder at the count of two.
Analysis: Rob Van Dam blindsided Matt Hardy backstage with a steel chair moments before his match with Jeff Hardy. It made perfect sense for Jeff Hardy to sprint to the ring and not waste any time punishing RVD for assaulting his brother. Good psychology shown by Jeff Hardy. RVD acknowledges a loud R-V-D chant from the crowd which is appropriate of him since he portrays a self-absorbed heel. The action is fast paced as expected given the performers’ style of offense and the type of match.
RVD plants Hardy with a lifting double underhook facebuster and follows it up with a Rolling Thunder. RVD covers Hardy and only earns a two count. Hardy counters an Irish whip attempt from RVD and instead sends RVD into the corner. RVD, however, leaps to the top turnbuckle and lands on his feet to avoid slamming into the turnbuckle back first. Hardy pushes RVD off the top turnbuckle forcing RVD to lose his balance and bounce off the barricade.
Analysis: The lifting double underhook facebuster instantly reminded me of Kharma after watching this match again just recently. It’s rare to see RVD pull off that move these days so it was cool to see him perform that here.
Hardy drops RVD with a baseball slide. Hardy leaves the ring and walks on the barricade to attempt his signature diving clothesline. RVD, though, shoves Hardy off the barricade and into the crowd. RVD stands on the barricade and performs a moonsault onto Hardy. RVD hangs Hardy from the barricade and lands a spinning apron kick on Hardy. RVD goes for a cover, but Hardy kicks out at two. RVD throws Hardy back into the ring. As RVD climbs on the apron, Hardy drives his left shoulder into RVD’s abdomen. Hardy slams RVD to the concrete floor with a sunset flip powerbomb.
Analysis: The crowd is enjoying every minute of this match. Hardy and RVD are working tirelessly in order to produce a quality match that fans can appreciate it. An outstanding effort from both men.
Hardy drags a ladder from underneath the ring and sets it outside the ring. As Hardy climbs to the top of the ladder, RVD recovers and rolls back into the ring to avoid an aerial attack from Hardy. RVD shakes the ladder and Hardy crashes directly onto the ramp below. RVD brings a steel chair into play and walks towards Hardy. As RVD approaches Hardy, Hardy shoves the ladder into RVD’s face. Hardy reaches for the steel chair and delivers a chair shot on RVD’s spine. Hardy limps up the ramp as he chases RVD. Hardy prepares to swing the chair across RVD’s face when a kneeled RVD pleads with Hardy for mercy. Hardy, however, does not oblige. Hardy swings the chair, but RVD suddenly performs a Van Daminator causing the chair to smash into Hardy’s face. Hardy falls into a pit atop the staging area.
Analysis: RVD begging with Hardy is a cowardly heel trait. It’s nice to see RVD remind viewers of his role by displaying heel tendencies throughout the course of the match. Hardy did a good job of selling the fall off the ladder by limping on several occasions. Hardy took two nasty spills less than two minutes apart from each other. Hardy is a warrior who personifies the true meaning of “hardcore.”
RVD throws Hardy out of the pit and hits a spinning leg drop on Hardy. RVD covers Hardy for a two count. RVD pulls Hardy’s hair and tosses him back into the ring. RVD tosses the steel chair inside the ring as well. With Hardy positioned in the corner, RVD connects on a running Van Terminator. RVD drags Hardy out of the corner and attempts a split-legged moonsault off the top turnbuckle. Hardy raises his knees to prevent RVD from landing successfully. Hardy plants RVD with a DDT and hooks RVD’s right leg for a cover. RVD raises his right shoulder off the canvas before the count of three. Hardy goes for a second cover, but RVD again manages to kick out. Hardy grabs the Hardcore title and places it in the center of the ring. Hardy suplexes RVD and earns only a two count after covering RVD. Hardy climbs the turnbuckle but misses on a Swanton Bomb attempt when RVD rolls out of the way. RVD slams the Hardcore title on Hardy’s chest and nails a Five Star Frog Splash on Hardy. RVD pins Hardy and becomes the new Hardcore champion.
Analysis: Although the finish to this match lacked the edge-of-your-seat nearfalls, it was still an enjoyable conclusion considering it was a successful and impressive WWE in-ring debut for Rob Van Dam. The beloved Jeff Hardy who normally would receive the majority of the fanfare took a backseat to Rob Van Dam in an effort to highlight Rob Van Dam’s talents. RVD performed several of his signature spots and showed the effectiveness of his finishing maneuver by capturing the win after hitting the Five Star Frog Splash only once. Both men had never wrestled each other so the match had a fresh feel to it in more ways than one. Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam delivered a standout performance worth taking time to watch.
Additional comments: Rob Van Dam’s immense popularity became very apparent on this night. In fact, he eclipsed Jeff Hardy’s fandom which is unthinkable when you take into account Hardy’s likeability. It’s hard not to fall in love with Rob Van Dam’s innovative offense which is one of the reasons the crowd cheered him despite his allegiance to The Alliance. Fans who followed his career dating back to his ECW days voiced their support and rightfully so. Rob Van Dam proved he belonged on the WWE stage and earned instant approval from the live crowd.
Verdict: A spectacular showcase match intended to introduce RVD to the WWE audience.
Final rating: **** (out of five)
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