There had been a few rumors floating around the forums and dirt-sheets since the Hall of Fame presentation in which a certain veteran was spotted. In a shrewd move by the McMahon’s the rumors became fact, and the vignette confirming the return of Mr Monday Night aired during Payback last night.
Rob Van Dam has always been a favourite of the WWE Universe since his debut during the Invasion storyline back in 2001. His reputation and unorthodox style gained him a healthy respect amongst the fans, so much so that even his pay per view debut against Jeff Hardy at Invasion had the fans chanting his name throughout the match, one in which he was cast as the heel. In fact, RVD was so over with the WWE fans that creative needed to alter his attitude from an ECW wrestler against the WWE, to and ECW wrestler just wanting to be in the ring, regardless of his opponent. This was never more apparent than the ending of the Invasion storyline when Mr McMahon himself teased that RVD had joined the WWE locker-room and would swing things in favour of his brand at the winner-takes-all match of Survivor Series.
Rob Van Dam was also a superstar who left the flagship shows with a legitimate win over John Cena to claim the World Heavyweight Championship, one which he traded for the ECW title when drafted to the ill-fated resurrection of the hardcore organisation.
RVD left World Wrestling Entertainment under strained circumstances and in a host of interviews later on expressed his criticism of the company which (to this wrestling fan) was mainly justified. A semi-successful run in TNA almost appeared to seal the rest of his career away from WWE, but as the old saying goes, you can never say never.
So, with RVD scheduled to return at next month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, how successful should he be this time around? The answer is very, considering he is booked correctly and works the right opponents. It’s no secret that the WWE is lacking any real babyfaces that the fans can get behind, the exception of course being John Cena. RVD will almost certainly debut as a face because that is what the fans will demand. Where Cena has the younger fans and women firmly in his corner, it’s a given that the target audience will be firmly behind WWE’s newest acquisition. Unorthodox style, ECW legend, charisma flowing from every orifice, Rob Van Dam has everything the company needs to rival John Cena for top dog status. The McMahon’s knew this, this is why he’s now back on the WWE payroll. You need only look at the current list of faces to see just how much potential RVD will have heading in to his next WWE run.
Okay, so RVD is probably not going to shift as much merch as the current king of the mountain, but having a title-winning victory against the WWE champion at ECW One Night Stand will certainly shift momentum in his favor. Expect the WWE Universe to out-cheer their current champion during his tenure.
The Apex Predator is far from being the Apex Predator he once was. As a face Orton is stale and has not featured in any main event rivalries for some time. The third generation star thrived during his run as the WWE’s biggest heal a few years ago, you need only look at his work before forming Legacy with Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase. RAW was a much more engaging programme when Orton was out of control. Fans had no idea what he was going to do next which kept the product fresh. The fact that he was also genuinely hated by 90% of the WWE Universe was testament to just how successful a heel he was and can be. Now, the vicious, calculating madman has gone from destroying opponents to becoming peacemaker (Team Hell No) in a switch that the man himself looks uncomfortable delivering. After the expected turn at Payback did not materialise, Randy Orton could find himself becoming an enhancement jobber unless he can inject some interest in to his current character or forcing a heel turn in the near future.
Bryan is arguably the hottest property in WWE right now, which is why I am surprised Orton did not turn against him and catapult his heel status through the roof. Bryan has begun to show an aggression in his style that hasn’t been seen since his Ring of Honor days, but to truly challenge for top honors he will have to dispatch some top opponents to secure his credibility. With Ryback’s loss at Payback I expect a drop from the big man to middle-upper card. This could push both himself and Bryan if a rivalry was initiated and launch them both toward main event status in the future.
Sheamus has turned in to a fun-loving Irishman whose attempts at comedy are rewarded with tumbleweed drifting across the middle of the ring. I liken him to a schoolyard bully, one who laughs and jokes with his friends before punching your lights out and taking your lunch money. The intense, angry Sheamus that debuted what felt like an age ago was far more entertaining and believable, and catapulted the Celtic Warrior to the main event for some time. Unless WWE finds a way to evolve the character I can’t see the Great White challenging for any major honors ahead of Daniel Bryan or CM Punk. Currently, he’s wandering beside Randy Orton and The Miz in WWE purgatory.
Okay, so I accept that Miz has been doing the promotional duties, making WWE movies etc, but the reality is that as a face he just sucks. He’s nowhere near as interesting as The Miz of 2011. No-one could enrage a crowd quicker than the Championship holding superstar, but since his title loss Miz has taken a steady decline down the card. Creative pushed him to the moon to set up the title run but left him with little more than a talk show and flipped logo in the aftermath of his glory. Upon his return to the ring he has floated around the mid-card, wrestling matches that have not enhanced his ability and left him struggling for any opponent that pushes him upward. Like Daniel Bryan, The Miz will need to work with some top quality opposition over the coming months to enhance his character and push him back to the main event.
On writing this, I am reading between the lines and expecting Punk to turn face at some stage. Punk is like Cena and sitting on top of the WWE. He has worked extremely hard to reach the lofty height from which he resides, and will succeed as either a face or heel in the company. No-one is more entertaining either on the mic or in the ring, and I would hope that creative stall on a turn for now and initiate a feud with RVD. If handled correctly this could be a marquee event over the summer.
Rob Van Dam’s return to the WWE can be as successful as all parties make it. With a proven record, fan support and all-round skills he should be competing at the top of the card for as long as he wants. Throw in to the mix one Paul Heyman and creative could have an engaging show throughout the summer. The only downfall could potentially be the requirements of his contract. Not a fan of the schedule, RVD could be on a similar contract to that of Brock Lesnar, but only time will tell.
One thing is for sure, though. WWE is going to become more interesting now that RVD has landed.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Is anyone left out? Let’s discuss it further!