Close your eyes and think back to 1998...Asbury Park New Jersey...3900 fans in attendance, several thousand others listening to the voice of Joey Styles.
We're enjoying Living Dangerously and are blown away mid-way through the evening by a nearly 23 minute match for the ECW Television Championship between Champion Rob Van Dam and his stiffest test to date, Jerry Lynn. The match features spot after spot, the now rare "fish out of water" quick pinfall series and risks from both guys, who combined to steal the show and set up the best one on one feud the company would see from that point on in Paul Heyman's promotion.
In 1999, I was an enormous fan of RVD, had a RobVanDam.com official shirt, drove to Birmingham to see Guilty as Charged. In short, I was a straight up mark. This was just around the time I joined the wrestling business on the independent level and before I knew not to be...well...such a mark.
What I find myself asking is why Rob Van Dam for Wade Barrett? Why Rob Van Dam in 2014 in anything other than a spectacle of a six-man or eight-man tag where he can hit three spots, get over, and powder? Why Rob Van Dam in 2014 in anything other than a guest role in the Royal Rumble or a mentoring role on camera? Maybe I'm alone, but RVD's day has passed and it's rather amazing to watch WWE behave like WCW when the wheels began to fall off. Have they learned nothing?
WWE doesn't have the exodus problem because the options are extremely limited for the hopeful lucrative independent contractors that are professional wrestlers. However, they may have a FAN exodus problem, which accompanied the talent migration in WCW's closing stanzas. Now that the legwork is out of the way, let's get to the crux of the matter.
In 2014, what's the purpose of relying on the past and the name of Rob Van Dam rather than nurturing the closest thing they've got to the Whole F'n Show of 1998? It's that spot, the RVD spot, that should be in the hands of Adrian Neville. The NXT Champion still has work to do, learning transitions and certainly confidence and execution on the microphone, but here's the thing, RVD ALSO still has plenty of work to do on the microphone, where he's never been good and at this point says his name and that's about it.
Neville still needs to learn the transitions that tell a story, but maybe he's destined to be a spot guy. It has certainly worked out for quite a few workers in the past, but one thing everyone needs to understand is NXT is not a place where talent needs to linger for years and years, particularly guys who take risks of the fashion of the Red Arrow. Roman Reigns still needs major work on his transition game, but he seems to be doing just fine. If Rob Van Dam weren't on RAW, how big a deal would it make? If Adrian Neville were on RAW (hell, maybe even make RVD his mentor on camera), even if it didn't move the needle for a while, what harm would be done and wouldn't the potential benefits outweigh the negative consequences?
Is it possible that Adrian Neville is the next Evan Bourne? Absolutely, though if he stayed healthy, that wouldn't be all bad. But this fact is absolutely incontrovertible: A wrestler's body only has a certain number of bumps in it. Every shot could be the last. Adrian Neville is young enough and polished enough with his high spots to take on the RVD spot, with the bonus of a greatly decreased financial cost to WWE, and while he doesn't need to be around a title picture for awhile, there's no question he could hack it and begin to excel on the midcard within six months if given a chance to do so.
If I didn't know better, I'd think we were watching WCW 2000 with the way Rob Van Dam has been used. If you aren't going to give Ziggler the spot, which clearly isn't in the offing right now, answer me this, why not Adrian Neville as Rob Van Dam in 2014, because if you think about it relative to wrestling...
2014 Adrian Neville...is Rob Van Dam in 1996.
Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend and don't forget why you have tomorrow off...