Author's Note: This is the next part of the "The State of..." series. This is purely my opinion, and does not necessarily reflect that of Cageside Seats, its authors, or readers.
When you think of notable wrestling promotions in history, one that immediately comes to mind is Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). During the 1990s, it was probably the most notorious promotion in existence due to the level of violence, explicit language, and sexual content portrayed on its programming. The wrestling itself wasn't always the best (save for a classic here and there), but it was always entertaining.
When you think of some of the names of ECW personalities, you think of folks like Joey Styles, Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Tazz, Sabu, and a host of other names. However, one man on the ECW roster can be singled out as one of the most entertaining, dynamic, and risk-taking personalities that ECW ever had on its roster.
On ECW, his moniker was "The Whole Damn Show", and he proved worthy of it time and again. He was responsible for some of the craziest matches in ECW history, despite not being the best wrestler the world had ever seen. Although he was no Terry Funk, Sabu, or Tommy Dreamer, he was undeniably hardcore and made for excellent television when he performed at his best.
Even when ECW was purchased by Vince McMahon, Rob Van Dam's penchant for putting on entertaining matches continued with these two classic ladder matches with Jeff Hardy:
These weren't the most technical matches by any means, but they made for good television. In fact, from 2001 to 2007, Rob Van Dam was one of the most entertaining wrestlers on the WWE roster, even winning the WWE Championship from John Cena at One Night Stand 2006 and earning the revived ECW Championship soon after.
However, Rob Van Dam's vices out of the ring caught up to him when, alongside Sabu, he was arrested for drug possession. As a result, Van Dam lost both the WWE and ECW titles in consecutive nights. Soon after, he left WWE to care for his ailing wife.
After his wife started to recover from her cancer diagnosis, RVD wrestled for multiple independent promotions until signing and debuting with TNA in 2010. This is the point where his performances started to go downhill. Ultimately, his TNA run was entirely forgettable, so much so that casual fans would often ask him why he stopped wrestling.
He returned home to WWE in July 2013 at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, and looked just like "The Whole Damn Show" again. In addition, he probably had a couple of his best matches during his 2013 run with names like Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, and Alberto Del Rio. He was entertaining to watch during this period, and when he left after the Battleground PPV, plenty of fans were actually looking forward to his return.
When that happened on the Raw after WrestleMania XXX, we were expecting the Rob Van Dam we were treated to in 2013. However, our excitement quickly turned to disappointment when it quickly became evident he was a shadow of his former self. He had gained weight, was working sloppy (already an issue), and generally looked like he was just going through the motions.
That brings us to today.
Simply put, Rob Van Dam doesn't seem to care anymore, and that was evidenced multiple times this past week, including a disastrous interview on Main Event with a bad match later on in the show, as well as his matches during Payback and Raw.
So the question is: What went wrong?
Well, as I said before, he had noticeably gained weight and he's clearly not as durable as he once was. That could be attributed to his age (43), of course, but how did his abilities deteriorate so much between Battleground and WrestleMania XXX?
I'll leave that up to you Cagesiders.
Here's a question: How could Rob Van Dam improve?
Improved conditioning and a renewed passion might do the trick.
Rob Van Dam has the ability to improve himself so his current run doesn't flop any harder than it already has. However, if he does not do so quickly, then not only will this run be a miserable failure, but the discussion could very quickly turn to how he's ruining his legacy.
Can "The Whole Damn Show" fix his own damn problems?