Rob Van Dam confirms upcoming WWE Hall of Fame induction: “I’m honored”
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
The rumors are true: ECW icon Rob Van Dam is going into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2021 class of inductees.
Word began to spread last week of his inclusion in this year's HOF event – streaming April 6 on Peacock – and RVD’s former boss, Paul Heyman, basically confirmed it via social media Friday.
Now, with this OFFICIAL confirmation (ahem, Paul), Van Dam can finally speak openly about what it means for him to enter the WWE Hall of Fame.
"It’s a pretty awesome feeling. Just like you probably would imagine, it feels like I’m being acknowledged and appreciated for my body of work. It feels very good. I’m honored," he said this week during an interview. "[Fans have] been calling me future Hall of Famer for years, and I always just shrug and say, ‘All right, man. As long as you think so.’ But glad to be among the chosen few this year.
"I’m glad for me and for all the fans. I feel like them being behind me and wanting to see this happen is a win for them as well."
Prior to Rob’s career-changing run in ECW, the wrestler spent some of his younger years working for All Japan Pro Wrestling, and coincidentally, the person who delivered the Hall of Fame news to him this year was someone he was close with while there: WWE’s Head of Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis.
"I’ve known him since '93 because I used to wrestle with him in Japan. From ’93 to ’97, I spent many, many long hours on long bus rides, sitting in cold arenas in the winter, hot in the summer and ferry boat rides. We did a lot of traveling around Japan that time. You get to know somebody a little better when you're stuck with them all the time like that. So I’m proud to call Johnny a friend, and it was really cool to get the call from him."
The 2021 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony will have more wrestlers being honored than usual due to last year’s ceremony being postponed because of the pandemic.
This makes the following list of people going in next month all that more impressive:
- The nWo
- John "Bradshaw" Layfield
- The British Bulldog
- Jushin "Thunder" Liger
- The Bella Twins
- Molly Holly
- Eric Bischoff
- The Great Khali
When asked about entering the Hall of Fame alongside so many other huge names, Rob remained as humble as you’d expect.
He did note, however, that one of the wrestlers going in with him helped shift his mindset at a young age to change what he was doing in the ring and help him grow to become the wrestler we saw on WWE TV.
"I think that the whole list is a bunch of characters. We all represent images that people can translate into their minds, fill in all the blanks, and then figure out that they know each of us," RVD explained.
"Having said that, I think about when I was getting into wrestling watching Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger wrestling against Brian Pillman, for one. They just opened up my mind to a whole new kind of wrestling because I wasn’t seeing that with the limited amount of wrestling that I had been exposed to that early on. They really helped me think outside the box of what could really be done with some athleticism."
While Rob had a successful career in WWE, the promotion he’ll forever be tied to is ECW. Van Dam joined Extreme Championship Wrestling in the summer of 1996 and quickly began to win the crowd over with his athleticism/martial arts kicks. His first glimpse of the promotion, though, came while channel surfing on TV (you know, that thing we used to do before DVR).
"I saw ECW, and I was so drawn to the car-crash appeal of it," Van Dam said. "Everything I was seeing, it was almost like, ‘Wait. How is that pro wrestling if what I’ve been doing is pro wrestling?‘ Because I was wrestling in Georgia, the Carolinas, which was such a different style back then."
"Paul [Heyman] had the foresight to see this whole counter-culture revolutionary style," he continued. "He was able to help us discover in ourselves our strengths. He was able to help us stay away from our weaknesses."
"Paul is a very, very important man in our industry for bringing it forward and moving it to the aggressive position that it went, too. Now it’s even somewhere different, but it’s still a byproduct of ECW. The whole adding more adult-themed angles and storylines, stuff that’s cool even if you’re not a kid, all of that. I put that all on Paul."
One of the things RVD will be remembered for most in ECW was his 700-day reign as the World Television Champion.
This run included successful title defenses against notable ECW stars such as Jerry Lynn, Lance Storm, Rhyno, Sabu and others. Unfortunately, an injury forced him to vacate the belt, and he never held it again.
"That was the most fun that I’ve had, especially as an artist, in my career," Rob said of his time with the TV title. "I’m not saying every fan preferred my match the best, but it felt like it. It sure felt like it from the reaction of the crowd.
"At that time in my career, I was getting a lot of attention. It was a good time to be RVD. Especially after everybody knew that I had open offers from the other companies. I could go this way or that way, or I could stay. Up until that point, it was just common sense that when you got an offer, you went because it was going to be a better offer for a better life. But I didn’t see it that way, and we ended up utilizing my position, that spotlight, to help ECW grow even more and also, of course, add a lot of depth to what I was doing at that time."
Eventually, however, the Monday Night Wars came to an end in April 2001, once WWE purchased its competition in WCW. Not long after, ECW folded due to financial issues and WWE purchased their assets as well.
This gave RVD no choice but to join the company he had been fighting against and sign on the dotted line in the summer of 2001.
"If I wanted to continue my career as a TV Superstar in the business of pro wrestling, it was time for me to go to WWE, because everything else was closed up or bought, and when I made that decision, I thought that maybe I was giving up my … not my whole path but, prospectively, the history of everything I had done. I thought they might change my name to something. Who knows? They’ve been known to do this. Give me a character. I didn’t know. But at the time, I was ready to deal with that."
Instead of being given a new name, though, Van Dam learned he would be playing off his past and banding together with other ECW stars as part of WWE’s infamous Invasion angle.
"The first day that I’m at a WWE show in Atlanta, I saw Tommy Dreamer. I’m like, ‘Tommy, what are you doing here?!?’ I had no idea, no idea. Tommy threw me an ECW shirt and said, ‘Hey, we’re representing.’ I was like, ‘WHAT?!’ I didn’t know. That was so inspiring for me to know that we’re representing our heart, and now I’m adding depth to the last several years of my efforts."
This eventually led to Rob Van Dam becoming a WWE mainstay with Hardcore, Intercontinental and Tag Team title wins throughout various parts of his WWE career.
Then, in 2005, RVD made a suggestion to Vince McMahon that would change the course of his career and lead to his first WWE title win inside the last place he — or anyone else for that matter — expected: the Hammerstein Ballroom for an ECW reunion show.
"That was my crowning moment, obviously, and not just because I had reached the No. 1 spot with the WWE Championship. There was so much more to it than that," Rob said. "Because that moment, that night, all of it, was me sticking to my guns.
"I went to Vince with the idea of bringing ECW back for a PPV. Because I said, ‘You’ve got so many guys on your roster right now that are former ECW alumni, and we all loved the ECW style. We could go one night, ECW-style, tribute to ECW. That would be so awesome.’ Well, that became One Night Stand, which became One Night Stand two. So knowing that, I was fighting for what I believed in.
"Everyone in that crowd at that live show in Manhattan at the Ball Center were so 100 percent behind me, my beliefs, everything that I stood for. Winning that night really felt like a victory, not just for me but for all the hard-core fans. It really did. It felt like everyone that had been supportive back in the day of ECW, that continued to support the ECW alumni, everyone that really preferred and missed that style, they were all rewarded that night."
With a Hall of Fame career to his name, a dream life at home and nothing left to prove on the surface, it’s hard to predict whether Rob Van Dam will ever have one final run in WWE.
When asked about the potential of this happening, the 50-year-old still-active wrestler made it clear that fans shouldn’t hold their breath while waiting for him to make a full-time return to the road (should WWE’s live event schedule resume in a post-pandemic world).
However, he did say this regarding the possibility of a comeback of some sort: "There is definitely some pros and cons to the thought. I enjoy showing off in the ring. I enjoy very much getting that love and energy from the crowd, looking around seeing the RVD signs. That’s a high for sure, and RVD is all about highs."
Ryan Satin is a WWE analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously appeared on FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he broke countless news stories as editor-in-chief.