WWE Network Reviews: WWE Icons – Rob Van Dam

A new WWE Icons documentary premiered on Sunday on Peacock/WWE Network. It is a documentary about WWE Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam and it has a run time of 1 hour, 18 minutes.

The WWE Icons documentary begins with Rob Van Dam speaking about growing up in Battle Creek, Michigan. He is the youngest of three siblings and was described by his sister as someone who liked the spotlight. As a student, he was viewed as academically smart by his teacher but would ease out due to the demand for conformity. His sister describes Rob as a person who did not like organized things or being told what to do. Rob would be first introduced to professional wrestling by a friend and remembers being hooked after seeing The Iron Shiek attacking Corporal Kirchner. He remembers a vignette for Ted Dibiase where someone had to kiss his feet at a house show in Battle Creek which Ted DiBiase offered $100 to anyone who would kiss his sweaty feet. Ted would pick the young Rob who would subsequently kiss The Million Dollar Man’s feet for the $100.

When Rob was a junior in high school, he knew he was going to be a pro wrestler so he dedicated himself to health and fitness by doing stretching and weightlifting. He even was part of his high school wrestling team, but did not stick with it too long. While in high school, Rob remembers seeing a house with what looked to be a wrestling ring. He would approach the owner of the house who turned out to be kickboxer Kit Lykins. Lykins would make a deal in which Rob would train to do kickboxing and in turn use the ring for wrestling afterward. Kit says he was impressed by Rob’s ability to learn kickboxing which would show in Van Dam’s first fight which he won quickly. While doing kickboxing, Rob worked at a grocery store bagging groceries which he met a powerlifter Tom Bennett who trained at The Original Sheik’s wrestling school. Rob remembers The Shiek’s wrestling training main objective, not about bumps or taking falls but protecting the business. After his training, between 1991 to 1992, Rob would have a few matches in Michigan before going to Florida. There he met Rob Slinker who told him he looked like actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and said to pretend he was his cousin.

In 1991, Rob would go down to Jamaica for a wrestling show which he was introduced to marijuana for the first time. Surprisingly, Rob would admit he did not enjoy it and remembers feeling paranoid. However, he would turn to smoke marijuana because he noticed athletes being in good shape due to its usage. Rob’s big break would come at the opportunity to wrestle at All Japan Pro Wrestling. While in Japan, he would get over with the fans as Dory Funk Jr described him as someone tougher than he looked. Rob remembers Giant Baba saying he had a job whenever he wants to which made it easier for him to move around. RVD would then go to WCW where he wrestled for five months. While he was offered a contract by WCW, Rob would not sign it after not feeling happy there. Van Dam wrestles for a short time at National Wrestling Conference where he tried to do things that would help stand out such as his unique designed outfits and in-ring style.

At 25, Van Dam would be brought into upstart promotion, Extreme Championship Wrestling, after keeping in contact with Sabu. Paul says he saw Rob’s matches in Japan and knew they needed him. RVD would make his debut against Axl Rotten which saw him earn the respect of the diehard ECW crowd. RVD says his matches with Sabu were among his favorites with Dreamer saying the Battle Creek native’s run was supposed to be a short deal with the promotion that turned into a career. In 1997, ECW would announce their first-ever PPV “Barely Legal” which saw Rob Van Dam being left off the card. This would piss off Van Dam as he wanted to be showcased on the first-ever PPV and felt like his ego knew he was one of the best. Heyman explained that RVD was not booked on the PPV because they were not sure how long Van Dam would be with the company. RVD would later be added to the “Barely Legal” PPV, substituting for Chris Candido to face Lance Storm in the opening match. After his victory, RVD would cut a promo about not being a second-line wrestler and being worth more money in ECW and elsewhere. Afterward, RVD would jump ship from company to company and then making appearances on WWE for a short period. Vince McMahon reveals that he was subsidizing ECW to an extent, which allowed them to borrow their superstars. Vince says he had his eye on RVD and wanted to bring him in due to his unique in-ring style.

Van Dam would mention being booed by ECW fans for being viewed as a WWE superstar and vice versa. In 1998, RVD would challenge and defeat Bam Bam Bigelow to win the ECW Television Championship. Van Dam said it was an important match and a big moment for him since he did not know how pivotal it would be for his career. Rob Van Dam would hold the title for two years until a broken ankle forced him to relinquish the ECW Television Championship and he missed five months. Unfortunately, ECW would begin to deteriorate financially by the time Van Dam returned and then finally file for bankruptcy in April of 2001. Rob would reflect on his time in ECW, saying it was the most fun place to work and still is in his heart.

With ECW and WCW folding and wanting to perform on TV, Rob would go on to join WWE in 2001. He would make his debut representing ECW as part of the Invasion storyline. Rob would say that he did not like ECW being brought in as heels with the Alliance, but that did not stop the fans from cheering Mr. Monday Night. At the Invasion 2001 PPV, Rob would defeat Jeff Hardy to win the WWE Hardcore Championship in a memorable match. Gaining momentum, Heyman recalls a moment being pulled aside by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin who said Rob Van Dam was the hottest superstar in the company. However, Brian Gerwitz would speak about the division on RVD for those backstage especially when it came to his passion. RVD said that while he was happy being over, he felt like there were people in his ear who were trying to change him. However, Rob would stay true to himself as he felt like that mindset helped bring him to the dance. Rob would add that the best wrestlers in WWE are like clay who can be molded in what they wanted. Heyman says that Rob not being in the main event Wrestlemania, the centerpiece of Smackdown or Raw or WWE Champion was not due to what he had to offer. Gerwitz would add that RVD was someone who would not compromise himself to advance up and was comfortable being who he was. Dreamer believed backstage politics held him back and that management did not see the power of the Rob Van Dam brand.

RVD would then talk about the creation of the ECW One Night Stand PPV which began after he asked Vince McMahon about the idea. Vince believed it was a good idea that saw a reunion of ECW Legends. Unfortunately, Rob would not be able to perform on the PPV due to his knee injury. In 2006, Rob would make his return and then go on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 22. In May of 2006, WWE would announce the relaunch of ECW as a third brand. A rejuvenated Rob Van Dam would cash in his Money in the Bank contract at ECW One Night Stand 2006. Emotions were high with the ECW fans that Dreamer revealed there was a fear for John Cena’s safety because of the threat of a riot (“If Cena wins, we riot.”). RVD would win go on to defeat John Cena to win the WWE Championship which he called a “crowning moment.”

Two weeks later, he would be awarded the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, a title he never won during his ECW tenure. Unfortunately, RVD’s title reign would be cut short when he was pulled over for speeding on his way to Philadelphia. With Sabu in the car, both men would be arrested for possession of marijuana. With news of his arrest spreading all over media outlets, Rob would lose both of his championships, followed by a 30-day suspension. Heyman says while they knew Rob was a stoner, his suspension was bad timing. After coming back from the suspension, ECW would start going down, leading to them becoming just another WWE brand.

In June 2007, Rob’s contract would be up for renewal. At that time, he felt like his spirit was felt weak and needed a break. Taking a leap of faith, Rob would not renew his contract. For the next few years, RVD would wrestle internationally before going to TNA in 2010. After that stint, he would return to WWE in 2013 which he says was fun. However, a year later, he would return once more but this time, it was not a good run.

In 2016, Rob would go through a dark period in his life after getting divorced. Viewing his divorce as a failure, Rob would suffer more heartbreak with the passing of his dog and then his father. During this period, Rob would turn to drinking because he felt like his life was ending with what was going on. However, he felt like a different person after tearing his life and rebuilding it back again. Rob would then meet now-fiance Katie Forbes who he instantly felt connected to because of her energy.

RVD says he enjoys doing things outside of the ring such as developing his CBD brand, pursuing acting, and stand-up comedy. In 2021, Rob would be announced as an inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. Vince says it was a privilege to have Rob in there with Heyman saying he cannot imagine the Hall of Fame without Rob Van Dam, calling him ECW’s Bruno Sammartino. During the Hall of Fame backstage, we see a funny moment where Rob gives Vince a pack of rolling papers. RVD ends by saying whenever people hear his name he hopes it touches a happy part of their brain as his peers speak highly of his career. The documentary ends with RVD says it’s fair to say he’s been true of himself and is one of a kind.

Aneil’s Take: When I saw the announcement of the WWE Icons documentary series, Rob Van Dam was the one superstar I looked forward to the most. Being in middle school, Rob Van Dam was always a favorite of my friends and mine. Whether it was his badass theme song, cool airbrushed singlet, his high-flying style mixed with his educated feet, Rob Van Dam was so fun to watch.

While I missed his ECW run, whenever I heard about E-C-Dub, the first superstar that comes to mind is Rob Van Dam. For me, my fondest memory of him was the dream team of him and Rey Mysterio as the Smackdown Tag Team Champions.

The documentary was great, especially answering questions that I always wonder about such as how he got into marijuana, and why was he was never the WWE Champion at the height of his popularity. I guess the one thing I do wonder is what his WWE Championship run would be like if he wasn’t pulled over and then charged with marijuana possession. However, looking back at Rob Van Dam, I believe he is a superstar you could transpose through any generation and would still be a fan favorite.

To end as RVD said, whenever I hear his name, it always touches a happy part of my brain!