WWE Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam spent the majority of his career flying high. In more ways than one.
With legendary status in both WWE and ECW, Van Dam's astonishing career was not only groundbreaking, it influenced a generation of stars that followed him. Marching to the beat of his own drum, this aerial artist helped change the game in ways that very few performers ever have.
RVD began his stellar career in the early '90s after being trained by The Original Sheik. He would form a lifelong friendship with Sheik's nephew Sabu. The pair would go on to have not only an amazing feud but a legendary tag team as well. Managed by former ECW referee Bill Alfonso, the pair were not just a dominant duo but two of the most popular and high-profile stars in Extreme Championship Wrestling.
It was at this time that RVD began his rise as an underground hero. He had appeared for WCW (briefly as Robbie V) and been involved in the ECW invasion angle on WWE programming. But it was around 1997-98, The Whole F***in' Show became an enigmatic icon.
When ECW finally landed a national television deal with TNN, Van Dam became the highlight of the show. Even when the program featured some really hokey storylines or terrible matches, fans would make sure to stick around for an RVD segment.
His shiny showmanship and flashy flair set him apart. RVD was able to punctuate his moves with just that extra bit of lightning that really stood apart. He always knew how to get a reaction from the crowd.
Van Dam was so over with that hardcore fan base that he became the face of the franchise, even though he was never a world champion there. He elevated his TV title to the point where it was considered on par with the big belt.
When he finally arrived in WWE, Rob Van Dam had achieved nearly god-like status with professional wrestling fans all over the world
Van Dam would springboard to new heights after going to work for Vince McMahon, where he held numerous titles and became a household name. It was also where he had his biggest professional downfall when he was stripped of the WWE Championship following an arrest for marijuana possession.
Everyone knows his story with WWE. Whether it was teaming with Kane or having blowout matches with the likes of people like Jeff Hardy, Van Dam commanded respect due to his athletic prowess and aerial ability. But he was loved for much more than that.
Van Dam represented a crazy, cocky, cool persona that younger fans could relate to. From his professed love of ganja, an appearance in High Times magazine, and his super chill demeanor in interviews, he just came off as the most laid-back dude you've ever met. In a world where everyone is screaming and frothing at the mouth, RVD displayed cool confidence that was extremely rare.
When Van Dam would tell you he was the best or that he was the whole show, you believed him. When he pointed his thumbs at himself, the entire WWE Universe did it right along with him. When he came out triumphant in a big match, he was cheered just a little bit louder than most of the other performers.
That may be because Rob Van Dam was incredibly genuine. The guy you see on camera isn't far removed from the real guy underneath it all. RVD had the confidence to merely be himself, and the audience embraced that. It made them feel like he was more of a friend than someone you saw on WWE TV. He was more like the kind of guy you would have a beer (or possibly some other form of refreshment) with.
This trait is very rare for a wrestler, or a performer of any genre, for that matter. But RVD had that 'it' factor. His ability to always remain true to his real-life personality resonated with the fans and they respected him for that.
That's why Rob Van Dam is a Hall of Famer on so many levels. Because he stayed true to the game and his own persona at the same time. He changed wrestling without changing himself.
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