ROB VAN DAM: ONE OF A KIND
WWE Home Video
Two-disc DVD set
This was weird. Matches were interspersed between clips of RVD talking about his career. Josh Mathews “hosted,” but I use the quote marks of sarcasm, because his “hosting” duties consisted of him intro’ing the feature, then closing it out. He got maybe two minutes of face time.
RVD had a cup of coffee in WCW, circa 1993, but then-WCW head Bill Watts didn’t care for the “Rob Van Dam” name, feeling it would confuse people since there was a fella named Jean-Claude Van Damme running around at the time. Thus, RVD briefly became “Robbie V.” Oh, sure. Watts doesn’t care if people got Robbie V mixed up with Luscious Johnny V, did he? No, he was too busy keeping guys from jumping off the top rope. A man has his priorities. Robbie was undefeated in WCW until losing a quarterfinal match to Vinnie Vegas in a tournament for the vacant WCW TV Title in 1993. Ironically, RVD would later go on to become the longest-reigning TV champion in American wrestling history from 1998 – 2000 in ECW.
RVD talked about training with Sabu at the feet of ‘Bu’s uncle, The Original Sheik. RVD put over Sabu big time as a rival, a partner, and a friend. RVD is quick to share the credit, as he also spoke highly of Bam Bam Bigelow and Jerry Lynn during the feature. That, folks, is the sign of a true pro and a class act.
What followed was a questionable recap of RVD’s history with Eric Bischoff. RVD claimed that he was entertaining an offer from Bisch to join WCW. The way I remember the story is thusly: Rumors flew when RVD was backstage at a Nitro in 1997. Bischoff publicly denied that RVD was signing with him, but since Bisch had also publicly denied that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were signing with WCW (when they already had), it just made it look even MORE likely that RVD was WCW-bound. Since ECW’s Paul Heyman had done such a masterful job of painting Bischoff and WCW as the enemy, it put mega heat on RVD. Whether RVD truly had an offer on the table from WCW or it was just another ingenious worked shoot from Heyman, I honestly don’t know. In any case, this snowballed into RVD’s brilliant “Mr. Monday Night” character, as a free agent whose services went to the highest bidder.
And what’s a new character without a new catchphrase? They showed RVD doing a unique dumbbell lift while his legs were spread across two chairs, Lita-style. RVD proclaimed himself the “Whole F’n Show,” and the nick stuck (though it later became the “Whole Dam Show” come his WWWFE run). What they left out, though, was that the nick was originally a swipe at Shawn Michaels. Get it? Shawn was the “Show-Stopper,” but RVD was…riiiiiiiiight.
They talked about how RVD broke his ankle during a match against Rhino, and in a literal near-“Recapitation,” RVD almost got an eyelid sheared off when a table break went badly (he and Sabu tidal-waved Bigelow through a table) and a piece of table broke off and slashed his peeper. No joke, those table breaks are scary. One of the worst in-ring ECW mishaps I read about was when Justin Credible did a table break and part of the table snapped off, flew into his mouth, and got lodged in his throat. Fortunately, they got it out before any damage was done, so I can joke about how it wasn’t the first time Justin choked in the ring with a clear conscience.
They touched on RVD’s official WWF signing in 2001. RVD talked about how he and the Hardcore Title were the perfect fit and said that he felt the reason they retired it was because no one could keep up with him. He’s right.
RVD put over his famous “five-star frog splash” finisher. His cred rating skyrocketed by pointing out that it was actually the most “unoriginal” move in his repertoire. But RVD went on to state that his version of the froggie was the industry’s best, pointing out that he fires off the move with unmatched maneuverability and precision. I’ve long stated that RVD’s version of the move is subpar compared to the Barrs, Eddies, and D-Los of the world, but still, it’s awful hard to argue against RVD on the points he raised.
In closing, RVD had a creative explanation for fans who feel that his WWE style is “toned down” from his ECW style. (Well, duh.) RVD basically said that he saves the right moves for the right times, so keep your eyes peeled (but not in a bad-table-break kinda way), because you never know when he’ll reopen the arsenal. Like I said, this was inspired, especially given the inherent challenge of getting RVD’s biggest fans to pay attention to things in the first place, if you catch my drift. (Hint: Roll, roll, puff, puff.)
1) Robby V pinned Scotty Flamingo at 3:18 [WCW Worldwide, 2/8/93]. This was another “Jessless” match, as due to an old royalty lawsuit, Jesse Ventura’s color commentary was scrubbed, leaving Tony Schiavone talking to himself in a manner most awkward. Life would later imitate art as Tony’s ex-colleague Chris Cruise, would relay the story that Tony’s wife once told him that he’d “better make six friends, because if he died tomorrow, there would be no pallbearers.” Anyway, Rob won the decent TV match with a botched SLM (split-leg moonsault). (David)
2) Rob Van Dam pinned Axl Rotten at 6:11 [ECW House Party 96: Farewell To The Enemy, 1/5/96]. This was an important show for ECW as they were sending off one of their most popular acts ever, The Public Enemy. Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge were saying goodbye to ECW (as well as half their reps and all of their heat) to go a-milking the cash cow that was WCW. TPE’s defection was a major loss for ECW, so it was no coincidence that their last ECW show (for the time, anyway), was also RVD’s first. RVD was exactly what the Bingo Hall needed when they needed it. This was probably Axl’s best career match, as he actually showed good charisma by mocking both RVD and Hulk Hogan. RVD finished off Axl with a good SLM. (David)
3) Sabu pinned RVD at 19:40 [ECW Hardcore Heaven, 6/22/96]. Cactus Jack could trade hardcore spots with Sabu, and Scorpio could match Sabu when it came to high-flying, but no one took it to Sabu with both highspots AND brawling like RVD did. In true ECW fashion, the ropes broke not two minutes into the match. The lads went into the crowd for longer than the usual “outside brawl” spot, presumably giving the ring monkeys time to fix the ropes. In an embarrassing spot, RVD threw a chair on top of Sabu, which ‘Bu flipped over into better position before the spot took place. By this time, the ropes had been fixed, but ECW announcer Joey Styles still sold them as broken to get over the match as more dangerous than usual, I guess. Original and creative, but it doesn’t hold up under real scrutiny. Kinda like much of ECW as a whole, really. In a move that was smoother than a “Naughty Asian Girl” jpeg, Sabu hit poetry-in-motion, followed by a monkey flip chaser. In another move that looked so perfect, it was immortalized on ECW highlight reels forevermore, Sabu triple-jumped into a flying DDT through the “table bridge” between the ring and the guardrail. Sabu followed that up by hitting another SICK flying DDT, but RVD sold it horribly, popping right up and hitting a Fisherman’s buster from the second rope. Sabu reversed a second F-buster attempt and put away RVD with an Atomic Arabian Facebuster. You know, that would be a great name for a rock band. This match was a lot of fun to watch. Strange as this sounds, even the missed spots contributed to the “entertaining train wreck” style of match. Like the guys really were throwing caution to the wind and putting stuff together on the fly (pun intended). Great example of an ECW-style match with a little something for everyone. Sabu did a stretcher job, which led to a future stretcher match between the guys. (Kerry)
4) ECW Tag champions The Eliminators beat RVD & Sabu to retain the title at 20:02 [ECW Crossing The Line Again, 2/1/97]. The Public Enemy was ECW’s most popular team, and The Dudley Boys were ECW’s most dominant team, but dammit, The Eliminators were my favorite ECW team. Perry Saturn and John Kronus were great brawlers who could do highspots with the best of ‘em, so a match-up against Robu was inevitable. Tag matches were never really ECW’s strong suit (way too many saves with actual tags few and far between), but still, if you dig highspots, this is a must-see. When all four went to the floor, Sabu triple-jumped onto Saturn in the crowd. Robu later hit a camel clutch/slidekick, a crab/legdrop, and rolling thunder. Kronus hot-tagged and each Elim hit a froggie, but Kronus was tidal-waved moments later. Kronus later hit a second-rope moonsault into a senton. As you can see, selling in an ECW tag match often left something to be desired, too. In a nice spot, Saturn legswept Sabu to foil a triple-jump. A table was involved. Details are sketchy. Saturn brought a ladder into the ring, but Sabu dropkicked him off it, and then Robu double-legdropped the ladder on top of the Elims. As Robu climbed the ladder, the Elims hit Total Elimination ON THE LADDER in the spot of the match. Just an awesome visual, and a surefire mark-out. RVD Vandaminated Saturn, but Kronus made the save. Finishing sequence saw Sabu accidentally triple-jump-moonsault RVD, setting up Saturn’s pin of RVD after one more Total Elimination for good measure. The hardware spots set up future “Tables & Ladders” matches between the teams, which was the granddaddy to TLC matches. This was just great, and my favorite match of the whole DVD. (Kerry)
5) RVD pinned Lance Storm at 10:11 [ECW Barely Legal PPV, 4/13/97]. This was ECW’s first PPV singles match (BL opened with Elims-Dudleys, and this followed). Lance hit a great standing leap onto the top rope for a back elbow spot. Joey kind of gave away the game by shrieking “upset” every time Lance got a two-count or just did an offensive move in general. They hit a nice face-first powerslam on a chair, but Lance took abuse from the crowd for some weak chairshots. RVD wound up winning with the Vandaminator. After the match, RVD again snubbed a handshake and did the definitive “Mr. Monday Night” promo, saying the only reason he agreed to replace the injured Chris Candido in the match was to up his market value “elsewhere.” RVD worked the crowd great, concluding with, “I love working Mondays.” Good match, great promo. (David)
6) RVD (w/ Jerry Lawler) squashed Jeff Hardy at 2:29 [WWF Raw, 5/12/97]. This was one of the best surprise angles of the Monday Night War, with the storyline that Lawler brought RVD to Raw to stick it to both ECW and the WWF. Even then, the crowd picked right up on RVD, with chants of “You sold out.” This was a good squash, featuring a still paying-his-dues Jeff Hardy. RVD won with the SLM, natch. A fun flashback of a match between two future WWWFE IC/Euro/Hardcore/Tag champions. (Waldo)
7) RVD (w/ Bill “Fonzie” Alfonso) NC Tommy Dreamer (w/ Beulah) in a flag match [ECW November 2 Remember 97, 11/30/97]. Feh. Other than RVD doing the world’s greatest sell of a piledriver, this stinker was very un-ECW, with a “feuding referee” backstory leading to a rare non-finish for an E-C-Dub match. Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon ran-in to attack Dreamer, followed by Stevie Richards making a surprise return with a Steviekick on TD. The heels left Dreamer laying under the WWF flag. (Chris)
8) RVD (w/ Fonzie) pinned Bam Bam Bigelow to win the ECW TV Title at approximately 14:40 (no opening bell) [ECW HCTV, 4/4/98]. This had all the markings of “just another throwaway TV match,” even going so far as to have Fonzie and RVD doing comedy shtick when RVD was on the outside. RVD and BBB did the best crowd brawl ever, culminating with two RVD highlight-caliber dives to the floor (including the famous hilo that was shown on the open of every ECW program for the rest of the promotion’s existence). In a nice spot, BBB elbowdropped through a table at ringside. BBB missed a moonsault and RVD got a nearfall with the FSFS. A SICK brainbuster got another nearfall, and after a ref bump, Sabu ran-in to help RVD hit the Vandaminator and pin BBB with a rollup. Yet another great brawling spotfest of a match, but the storytelling throughout this whole thing (thanks largely to Joey’s announcing) was simply out-freakin’-standing. This match was Heyman at his “mad scientist” best. The storyline was that BBB was set to defend the strap against Fonzie’s other charge, Sabu, at ECW’s next PPV (Wrestlepalooza), so Fonz tapped RVD to soften up Bam for ‘Bu. Since they didn’t “expect” RVD to win the belt, it threw Fonzie’s schemes into disarray. (Kerry)
9) ECW TV champion RVD (w/ Fonzie) pinned Jerry Lynn to retain the title at 21:18 [ECW Living Dangerously PPV, 3/21/99]. Like I said while reviewing a similar match on the ECW DVD, I never drank the RVD-JL kool-aid, but they did have chemistry together and the fans loved ‘em. This match was good enough, just not my cup of tea. (David)
10) RVD pinned JL (w/ Cyrus) again at 19:30 [ECW Guilty As Charged PPV, 1/7/01]. Rhino had just killed Sandman to win the ECW World Title, prompting Network manager Cyrus to do the open challenge bit. So RVD came out and faced their fellow Networker, JL. This was during the twilight of ECW with checks bouncing around like “Wet T-Shirt Night” at Hooters, so it was a legit surprise when RVD made a surprise return, if only for one match. Best part was when an overstimulated bald fan at ringside was trying to become part of the match. He helped RVD to his feet, and started begging JL to fight him. This ignited a chant of “Hit the bald guy.” I’ve gotta admit that caught me off-guard (I’d never seen this match before) and for a moment, I remembered just why ECW was so damn fun to watch. After a Cyrus distraction, RVD missed the FSFS for a JL nearfall. Joel Gertner ran-in and DDT’ed Cyrus, then helped RVD hit the Vanterminator for the pin. Not as smooth as other RVD-JL matches, but again, still good for what it was. This was the final true ECW PPV match. (The WWE’s upcoming “ECW One Night Stand” show doesn’t count.) Trivbit: RVD wrestled in both the first and last singles match in ECW PPV history. (David)
12) IC champ RVD pinned Chris Jericho in a non-title KOTR tourney semifinal match at 14:32 [WWE KOTR, 6/23/02]. Great psychology, and the fans rewarded the lads with an “ECW” chant. These two clicked well, doing stuff like double-arm superplexes, and great counters like RVD twisting the walls into a small package for a nearfall. Jericho missed the lionsault, RVD missed the SLM, then Jericho hit the lionsault on the second try. An awkward exchange on the ropes ended with Y2J getting crotched, leading to the FSFS for the clean pin. Stupid but true: When some reader feedback on the Torch site put down this match, Jericho posted a scathing retort on his own site in heel character. It was the talk of the net for a week. He had a point, as this was a good match. (David)
13) RVD beat Christian in a ladder match to win the IC Title at 13:42 [WWE Raw, 9/29/03]. The best ladder match in years ended when RVD grabbed the prize after hitting a FSFS off the ladder. Sadly, just like when this aired initially, they cut out the fans going berserk in a post-match celebration that lasted for several minutes. A must-see. (FRITZ)
14) ECW TV champion RVD (w/ Fonzie) pinned Balls Mahoney to retain the title at 19:39 [ECW Anarchy Rulz, 9/16/99]. I remember being bored out of my mind when this match originally aired, and it holds up about as well as I expected (i.e., not at all). RVD was okay and the crowd was into him (as was customary for the time), but Balls was hopeless. (Mike)
15) Sabu pinned RVD at 18:57 in a no-time-limit match [ECW Hostile City Showdown, 4/20/96]. Not as good as their previous match, but still well entertaining. RVD leapt over a chair, but Joey said he springboarded off it. The hell? Nearfalls aplenty, with the storyline that neither could put the other away. After a nice hanging DDT, Sabu hit the triple-jump moonsault for the pin. The grateful crowd gave a standing O, as Joey did a masterful job putting over that despite both working hurt, he suggested that it was the best match of either’s career up to that point…and he HAD a point. After the match, RVD “tainted” said match by refusing a handshake. Hell of a match in its own right, but more importantly, this was the beginning of the feud that would make RVD’s career. (Kerry)
16) Robbie V pinned Pat Rose in an “underdog challenge” at 5:53 [WCW Sat Night, 1/23/93]. This was Rob’s WCW TV debut. Pat eyeraked out of a reversed sleeperhold, proving that Poison was right, every Rose has its thorn. On PBP, Jim Ross talked up Rob’s “extensive martial arts” background, but this was thankfully before the words “educated feet” entered JR’s vocabulary. Rob won with a bad SLM. (David)
THE EXTRAS (DISC 2):
“Before They Were Superstars.” As a child, RVD was so hyperactive that he went around beating up dogs. What a douche. Then we met Mr. Szatkowski, RVD’s father. Rob Van Dad showed an unwitting wit second only to Chavo Classic when he said that his son had “one thing” going for him; “Determination, personality, ability, no fear.” It reminded me of Mick Foley’s famous “Loved One” indy film where he said “I’m coming for one thing and one thing only; Pride! Honor! Respect!” Years later, a teen RVD came out of the crowd to kiss Ted DiBiase’s feet in one of the classic “Million-Dollar Man” angles. The Original Sheik trained him to wrestle. They goofed up his history twice, though. RVD said he “went right to ECW” despite the fact that there are two of his WCW matches on this very DVD set. He also said that he “held the ECW Hardcore Title longer than anyone.” There was no “ECW Hardcore Title.” He meant the ECW TV Title.
“Airbrush Artist.” When RVD worked for All Japan, AJPW head Giant Baba had the idea of giving him colorful airbrushed tights to make him stand out. Like most of Baba’s ideas, it was a hit. These days, RVD’s buddy Joe Holland designs his many unique outfits. RVD’s favorite is the “metallic suit of armor,” while’s Joe’s favorite is the “bloody bones.” Very cool segment, though RVD is only the second-best-dressed wrestler ever. Rick Rude did the airbrushed thing first and better, but that’s just IMO.
“Frog Splash.” RVD and Eddie Guerrero each pled their case for having the best froggie. An obviously pre-rehab Eddie called his “the original.”
“RVD Tours Jakks Pacific.” This bit consisted entirely of RVD playing with himself. That is, he toured the toymaking facility and put over the efforts of the people who make all those kick-ass RVD action figures. Big emphasis on the toymakers’ attention to detail, right down to the aforementioned airbrushed outfits. It was seriously cool to see a wrestler mark out for his own merchandise. RVD came across as both thrilled and humbled upon meeting all his little plastic counterparts. Fun segment.
“Fantasy Matchup: RVD vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.” John Cena, Spike Dudley, Bill Demott, Jamie Noble, Sgt. Slaughter, and Jerry Lawler all chimed in with their opinions on both. They compared the Superfly splash to the FSFS, then contrasted Snuka’s “I love you” sign with RVD’s thumbs. The general consensus was that Snuka would have beaten RVD had they grappled. Out of everyone, only Sarge gave the nod to RVD. Then again, out of everyone, only Sarge had ever main-evented a Wrestlemania. Up yours, Snuka!
“Outside The Ropes.” Coach interviewed RVD in a funny Q&A bit.
“RVD Vignette 1” and “RVD Vignette 2.” This was an unintentional show of the difference between a good WWWFE vignette and a bad WWWFE vignette. They both showed the same clips of RVD getting his zen on by meditating and stretching in a serene setting. But while the first vignette was well done and actually put it over as yet another dimension to a unique-but-talented-as-hell performer, the second vignette seemed to play it for comedy to make RVD look like a goofy hippie among the manly men of wrestling.
“Behind The Scenes: Breaking Point Music Video.” The video shoot for BP’s music video for “One Of A Kind.” Poor RVD even has to job in a drag race on his own DVD. Oh, and they didn’t even show the full finished product, either.
“WWE Invasion Promo.” A brief backstage promo after RVD beat Jeff for the HC strap in his first WWWFE PPV match.
1. RVD over Sabu [ECW A Matter Of Respect, 5/11/96]. RVD said it was his ECW TV Title win over Bigelow that “made” him, but that’s balderdash. This match, the sequel to their then-classic HCS bout, saw RVD pin Sabu clean in the ECW Arena, which was all but unheard of at the time. It would be like Hulk Hogan getting cleanly pinned in Madison Square Garden. Or HHH getting cleanly pinned anywhere. Not only did RVD win the match, but this was his breakout angle, too. The match stip was that the loser had to give respect to the winner, which Sabu honored by uncharacteristically offering his hand and saying “Respect.” RVD retorted, “Not only do I not respect you, but you’re a piece of shit.” And just like that, the Sabu-RVD war went into overdrive.
2. RVD over Steve Austin [WWF Smackdown, 9/4/01]. This match was set up in one of my favorite TV angles ever, when RVD unwittingly walked in on an open challenge from his Alliance captain. Hell of a good, heated match, though it did reek of petty political assbaggery. Austin had the match won with the stunner, but got distracted by Kurt Angle’s pyro to set up RVD’s winning schoolboy. They played ANGLE’S music at the pin, too. Still though, the crowd EXPLODED for the win and if not for the aforementioned pettiness, this match would have been RVD’s WWF breakout.
I don’t know what the fuck this company is smoking. It’s not like they don’t have the formula down pat when it comes to DVD production. The excellent and wildly popular DVD releases for Chris Benoit Eddie Guerrero, and “Rise & Fall Of ECW” proved it. The mish-mash style with the matches interspersed among the feature isn’t new, as that’s what they did for their first well-received DVD, “From The Vault: Shawn Michaels.” But they dropped that format for a reason come Benoit/Eddie/ECW.
No, it all comes back to the stubborn shoot-yourself-in-the-foot mindset of today’s WWE, which is, “You’re over when we tell you you’re over.” I think it’s hilarious how they HEAR the cheers when fans warm up to a guy they’re going to push anyway (cough*Batista*cough), but they suddenly go deaf when fans erupt for RVD. Certain powers-that-be resent the fact that the fans mark out for RVD no matter how many times he tries to sabotage or bury Mr. Monday Night. (Hint: The first name of his ring name rhymes with “Cunter.”) God forbid we make money off the guy. It’s obvious to even the most shallow WWE apologist that they wanted this DVD to fail. It got almost NO hype/promotion on TV. Plus, it’s kind of a pain to navigate your way around, as it’s not neatly organized into feature/matches/extras like the aforementioned Benoit/Eddie/ECW videos, either.
Still though, there’s plenty of good stuff on these disks well worth your time. It’s kind of like a sandwich with the bread on the inside. What the hell, it’s all getting consumed in the long run anyway.
This Observer’s Thumb…………………………is up.
Last week: Just because my “R” key hasn’t been totally worn out yet, I reviewed 1994’s “Razor Ramon” Coliseum Video over in the Vault.
Also last week: Hours before Destination X, TNA has one last Impact to convince you to pay-per-their-view. Go see how they did in the DOI.
This week: Hours after Destination X, TNA runs with the momentum from their last PPV. Am I being sarcastic? Find out over in the DOI.
Also this week: “Wrestling’s Living Legend,” a Coliseum Video featuring Bruno Sammartino (who else?) is up and running in the Vault.
Next week: It’s the anniversary of a major date in wrestling history. To put things in perspective, the first-ever “Retro Recapitation” drops the blade on the past and the present.
In two weeks: Hours before the biggest show of the year, WM21 gets Precapped. Screw you, it’s an easy column.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).