If you are anything like me (an ardent fan of wrestling), you’re probably excited for the impending return of Mr Monday Night, The Whole F’N Show, Rob Van Dam. You’re probably counting down the days until he gets to point at himself and you get to chant his name. You’re probably trying to remember the difference between a Van Daminator and a Van Terminator.
However, there is a niggling voice in the head of every RVD fan. Sadly, it’s not Bill Alfonso’s petulant whine. It’s a pessimistic voice, it’s the devil on the shoulder, it’s the inevitable comedown after a rush of joy. The voice is whispering “Will WWE use him correctly?”
Although RVD is in his 40s, his work over the past few years has been impressive. He has been slowing down noticeably, but he’s arguably still a better wrestler than most on WWE’s payroll (lookin’ at you, Bo Dallas). He worked well against heavyweights in TNA, and he worked well against X-Division wrestlers in TNA, putting on solid matches against all opponents. So he can still go. That’s not a problem.
WWE has changed more than Rob Van Dam. His stoner gimmick is somewhat at odds (completely at odds) with the WWE’s PG family-friendly environment so that aspect of his personality will have to be dialled down. Some of his more extreme tendencies probably also won’t make it, due to WWE’s banning of chair shots to the head. What we’ll have on our hands is, essentially, RVD-lite.
So how will WWE use him? It’s likely he’ll be a face. The live crowd reaction at Payback to the announcement, combined with nostalgia of his past runs show that it would be pointless marketing him as anything other than a solid crowd favourite. Besides, he barely changes his gimmick to suit his face/heel allegiances anyway. The most probable role for him in WWE is an upper-mid card level. Think John Morrison, or Mr Kennedy, or Carlito. He will be perfect for feuding with younger talent such as Wade Barrett, Curtis Axel and maybe The Miz. He’s been in this role before, having multiple midcard title reigns.
Will he rise above that? Maybe. He’s younger than Chris Jericho (albeit only a month) and Jericho has been in high-profile feuds with Punk and Ziggler in the year and a half since he returned, so a world title push isn’t out of the question for Van Dam. Having Paul Heyman constantly in his corner could elevate him to that level. WWE could, of course, go a completely different route. He could be used simply as enhancement talent to push younger stars to the top level, which is a move that would anger many internet Van Dam diehards.
The return of RVD to WWE after four years’ absence is one of the most mouthwatering in recent memory, and the current roster depth suggests that he’ll be thrust into some equally mouthwatering matches. RVD vs Daniel Bryan could main event any venue in the world, and there are similarities between Van Dam and Seth Rollins that could make for a very entertaining, energetic match. Good god, imagine the selling.
Whichever way WWE choose to use him, RVD will Rolling Thunder and Five Star Frog Splash his way back into our lives, and WWE will be better as a result.
This column was written by William Hardie. You can follow Willam on Twitter @willdotcom and leave him feedback below. Thanks for reading.