WWE has confirmed that former WWE and ECW Champion Rob Van Dam will be inducted into its Hall of Fame this year.
The news was first reported last week by Fightful Select with Van Dam joining Molly Holly, Eric Bischoff, The Great Khali, and Kane as part of the Class of 2021 along with the 2020 class. The news was made official on Monday with Van Dam speaking to FOX Sports’ Ryan Satin.
Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski), 50, came into the industry under the guidance of The Sheik (Ed Farhat) and his nephew Sabu (Terry Brunk).
Most fans in the U.S. would have first been exposed to Van Dam while wrestling as “Robbie V” during the Bill Watts era of WCW.
His career will always be entwined with ECW as he rose to become its top babyface and most remembered for his ECW Television title reign from April 1998 until an ankle injury forced him to vacate the title in April 2000.
Van Dam was a key piece of ECW’s final years with the idea of eventually building towards Van Dam winning the ECW Championship and promoting the company around him. They never got to that point as ECW was under incredible financial restraints throughout 2000, which included Van Dam and others falling behind in pay. Van Dam missed shows during this time because of the pay issues but returned for Guilty as Charged in January 2001, which was the company’s final pay-per-view.
Van Dam appeared in WWE months later for the famous angle with ECW reforming and aligning with WCW on a July 2001 edition of Raw is War to save the Invasion angle, which was circling the drain. While drawing a fantastic number for the Invasion pay-per-view, the concept is considered one of the grand misfires from a creative standpoint in WWE history.
The Michigan native thrived during that summer of 2001 where he felt like a major babyface the audience was demanding to see elevated. There was a set of tapings in Toronto in September that year and I vividly recall being in the arena before the show even went on the air and a large “RVD” chant circulated throughout the Air Canada Centre. That same night he pinned Steve Austin in a non-title match, and it felt like Van Dam would crack the top mix, but they didn’t fully go with it.
By 2006, he had risen to the level of a main event star and it was his peak period in WWE. After winning the WWE Championship from John Cena at the second One Night Stand pay-per-view in one of the most heated main events in company history, Van Dam found himself holding both WWE & ECW Championships. Then, it all came to a halt after Szatkowski and Sabu (Brunk) were pulled over with drugs and drug paraphernalia found in the car. Van Dam would plead guilty to speeding and possession of hashish, however, he did produce a valid prescription for the Vicodin pills he had with him. It was a major blow to Van Dam at the peak of his WWE career, the titles were immediately taken off him and he was suspended.
Van Dam’s first tenure with the company ended in June 2007 after his contract expired. He worked for TNA during the company’s experiment of running on Monday nights against Raw and stayed until 2013 before returning to WWE. His most recent run was with IMPACT Wrestling that ended last September.