Robert Alexander "Rob" Szatowski (December 18, 1970), better known by his ring name Rob Van Dam (RVD), is an American professional wrestler and actor, who is currently wrestling on the independent circuit. He is best known for his runs with Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Szatkowski has held twenty-eight championships in various promotions during his career, and is a three-time World Champion: a one-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion, one-time WWE Champion, and one-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, and the only man to hold the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and WWE Championship simultaneously, and Van Dam is the first (and only) man to hold the ECW, WWE, and TNA World Heavyweight titles in his career. He was also the winner of WWE's Money in the Bank ladder match in 2006.
Szatkowski made his first appearance on WWF television in 1987 in a skit with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. At the time, DiBiase was selecting plants from the audience and offering to pay them to perform degrading acts and offered the teenage Szatkowski $100 to enter the ring and kiss his foot, which he did. This early appearance was later included as a bonus feature on WWE's Before They Were Superstars DVD.
Professional wrestling career
Early years (1990–1995)
Szatkowski debuted in 1990 after being trained by The Sheik, wrestling his first match against Dango Nguyen in Toledo, Ohio. The name Rob Van Dam was given to Rob in 1991 by Ron Slinker, a promoter in Florida. He wrestled in many independent promotions across Michigan, including the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) and South Atlantic Pro Wrestling (SAPW). In SAPW, he won his first wrestling title, the SAPW Tag Team Championship, in July 1992 with Chaz Rocco. He signed with World Championship Wrestling in late 1992 and was dubbed Robbie V by Ron Slinker upon his arrival since Bill Watts didn't like the name Rob Van Dam. His WCW run was uneventful and largely unnoticed. He also wrestled in several independent promotions across America, and in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he challenged for the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship on several occasions.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1996–2001)
In January 1996 Van Dam signed with promoter Paul Heyman's Philadelphia-based promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), defeating Axl Rotten in his debut match at House Party. Van Dam's mannerisms were those of a stoner, and he became a face due to his laid-back attitude and unorthodox style. On March 30, he faced 2 Cold Scorpio in a match for the ECW Television Championship. The match ended in a draw with 2 Cold Scorpio retaining the title.
Van Dam gained attention following a series of matches with long-time rival Sabu, which began with a match at Hostile City Showdown, won by Sabu. After the match, Van Dam declined to show proper respect for his opponent, leading to a rematch at A Matter of Respect, which was won by Van Dam. Per the pre-match stipulation, Sabu then offered Van Dam a handshake, but was again ignored. Instead, Van Dam left the ring and turned heel under the management of Bill Alfonso. At Hardcore Heaven, Van Dam faced his rival Sabu once again, in a match to prove who was the better man. Sabu won the match. The two faced each other yet again in a stretcher match at The Doctor is In. Van Dam lost the match after missing a Plancha to the outside, hitting the railing and falling onto the stretcher.
Teaming with Sabu (1996–1998)
Van Dam and Sabu next feuded with The Eliminators, John Kronus and Perry Saturn. On November 1, the two teams fought to a draw. Van Dam then feuded with Taz, to whom he lost at Holiday Hell via knockout. Sabu and Van Dam continued to feud with The Eliminators for the ECW Tag Team Championship into 1997. At Crossing the Line Again and Cyberslam, the teams faced off for the ECW Tag Team Championship in a pair of matches, both of which were won by The Eliminators. At CyberSlam, the two teams faced each other for the title in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, in which The Eliminators again retained their title.
At ECW's first pay-per-view event Barely Legal, Van Dam defeated Lance Storm as a last-minute replacement for the injured Chris Candido. Immediately following the match, Van Dam expressed his distaste for being chosen as a back-up for "some guy who couldn't even lace his boots". Van Dam delivered a speech directed towards Paul Heyman, and not being originally booked on the show was a point of contention between Van Dam and Heyman for a time.
In May 1997, ECW "invaded" the World Wrestling Federation's Monday Night Raw television show, drawing the ire of color commentator Jerry Lawler. Lawler then promised he would show up at an ECW show in order to gain revenge, and when he did show up, he had ECW mainstays Van Dam (who turned heel) and Sabu with him. Van Dam cut promos about how he was too good for ECW and deserved to be in one of the "Big Two" (WWF or WCW) on one of their Monday Night programs (Monday Night Raw or Monday Nitro), while Jerry Lawler dubbed Van Dam "Mr. Monday Night" on an episode of Raw. Despite his arrogance and "betrayal" of ECW, over time Van Dam became applauded by fans recognizing his athleticism and unique maneuvers.
Van Dam continued to team up with Sabu upon his return to ECW on June 13. Tazz's manager Bill Alfonso betrayed Tazz and joined Sabu and Van Dam. Van Dam started a new rivalry with Tommy Dreamer, who wanted to gain revenge on Van Dam for his betrayal of ECW. On June 21, Van Dam and Sabu earned a victory over Dreamer and The Sandman. Van Dam and Sabu emerged victorious against Dreamer and Sandman again at Orgy of Violence. At Heat Wave, Van Dam, Sabu, and WWF's Jerry "The King" Lawler fought Dreamer, Sandman, and Rick Rude to a no contest. Van Dam and Dreamer faced each other in a hardcore match at Born to Be Wired, won by Van Dam after he performed a leg drop on Dreamer with a trashcan. At As Good as it Gets, the team of Van Dam and Alfonso lost to Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty in a mixed tag team match. Van Dam and Sabu became partners while Dreamer teamed up with Tazz. At Fright Fight, Van Dam lost to Dreamer in a flag match. At Ultimate Jeopardy, Van Dam and Sabu faced Dreamer and Tazz, a match won by Tazz and Dreamer after Dreamer pinned Van Dam. At November to Remember, Van Dam faced Dreamer in another flag match, which went to a no contest. At Better Than Ever, Van Dam and Sabu faced Dreamer and Tazz in a rematch. This time, Van Dam pinned Dreamer to give the victory to his team and to settle their rivalry. Van Dam's final encounter with Dreamer came on December 26, when Dreamer teamed up with Tazz, Al Snow, and Sandman to take on Van Dam, Sabu, Doug Furnas, and Phil Lafon. Van Dam's team lost the match.
In 1998, Van Dam turned face and started a feud with Triple Threat (Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Chris Candido). At House Party, Van Dam defeated Bam Bam Bigelow. At Hostile City Showdown, Van Dam and Sabu defeated Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney by disqualification. The two went on to win a fatal four way elimination tag team match later that night. At CyberSlam, Van Dam and Sabu fell to Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow.
Van Dam's popularity increased when he got his first taste of ECW gold, on April 4 when he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow to win the ECW World Television Championship. Van Dam retained the belt in his first title defense on April 10 against Doug Furnas. Sabu also expressed interest in Van Dam's championship, leading to a title match between the two at Wrestlepalooza. Van Dam retained the title as the match ended in a time limit draw.
At A Matter of Respect, Van Dam and Sabu were forced to face each other in a tag team match as they both teamed up with ECW Tag Team Champions. Van Dam teamed with the one half of the champions, Lance Storm, while Sabu teamed with the other half, Chris Candido. Van Dam and Sabu reconciled and instead took out Storm and Candido making it a no contest. Van Dam and Sabu started a feud with Storm and Candido in the next month for the tag team title. On June 27, Van Dam and Sabu beat Storm and Candido to win the ECW Tag Team Championship, which made Van Dam a double champion. On October 24, Sabu and Van Dam lost the title to the Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray and D-Von) after interference from Triple Threat. Van Dam sought revenge and at November to Remember, Van Dam and Sabu teamed with Taz to defeat Triple Threat. On December 13, Van Dam and Sabu won the ECW Tag Team Championship for a second time by beating the Dudley Boyz in Japan at a Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) show.
World Television Champion (1998–2001)Van Dam remained the Television champion for the rest of 1998, and he started 1999 by making successful title defenses against the likes of Spike Dudley, Lance Storm at Guilty as Charged, Balls Mahoney, and 2 Cold Scorpio at CyberSlam.
Van Dam and Sabu were scheduled to make a title defense on April 17, but Sabu was suspended by ECW before the match occurred. Instead, Van Dam faced D-Von Dudley in a singles match and as a result of losing the match, Van Dam also lost the Tag Team Title to the Dudleyz. After losing the Tag Team titles, Van Dam focused on defending the Television title. He entered into a rivalry with Jerry Lynn against whom he defended the Television title at Hardcore Heaven in a "no time limit" match. Van Dam retained the title, and the match was deemed so good that Paul Heyman aired it on ECW's debut on TNN in place of a shoot promo about TNN that he was planning, but was not allowed to air. Van Dam continued to defend the ECW Television Championship for the remainder of the year.
Van Dam began a feud with Rhino in the beginning of 2000. RVD successfully defended the ECW Television Championship against Rhino on January 7. RVD got a big victory during a title defense against Sabu at Guilty as Charged. Van Dam was scheduled to perform in a "champion vs. champion" pay-per-view main event against ECW Champion Mike Awesome. This match potentially could have been the most lucrative pay-per-view main event in company history, and Heyman was depending on this mega-match to bring an influx of badly-needed cash, but the match never occurred because Van Dam suffered a broken ankle during a successful title defense against Rhino on January 29. The injury also forced Van Dam to vacate the ECW Television Championship.
He returned to ECW at Hardcore Heaven and faced long-time rival Jerry Lynn. Van Dam was supported by his real-life friend Scotty Anton who eventually turned on him when Van Dam was going to perform a Five-Star Frog Splash on Lynn. Anton pushed him from the top rope, which helped Lynn win the match. Van Dam feuded with Anton and took his revenge at Heat Wave by defeating Anton after a Van Terminator. Van Dam then attempted to exact revenge on Rhino for forcing him into injury. He got many opportunities to win the ECW Television Championship back from Rhino, but Rhino's allies usually attacked Van Dam, causing disqualifications and allowing Rhino to retain the title. At Anarchy Rulz, Van Dam faced Rhino for the ECW Television Championship but was screwed when a heel referee made a fast count during a pinfall attempt made by Rhino.
Van Dam was not advertised and did not show for a large number of ECW events due to the large sum of money owed to him. He appeared at ECW's final pay-per-view event Guilty as Charged, where he defeated Jerry Lynn. This was Van Dam's last appearance in ECW, as ECW only held two more shows after the pay-per-view.
World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment (2001–2007)
The Invasion (2001)
Several months after the closure of ECW, Van Dam was signed to a short term contract by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Along with fellow ECW alumnus Tommy Dreamer, Van Dam returned to WWF television on the July 9, 2001 episode of Raw in Atlanta, Georgia as a heel, and attacking WWF wrestlers Kane and Chris Jericho. Later that night, five wrestlers from WWF and five wrestlers from WCW were to take on ten ECW wrestlers, including Van Dam. However, the match never took place as instead the WCW wrestlers aligned themselves with the ECW wrestlers.
Despite being a heel, Van Dam was popular with the WWF fans, who were aware of his reputation in ECW. After defeating Jeff Hardy for the WWF Hardcore Championship at Invasion, Van Dam became one of the most over members of the Alliance and even challenged Alliance leader Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship including a triple threat match at No Mercy. Van Dam lost the Hardcore title to Hardy on the August 13 edition of Raw, but regained the title from Hardy at SummerSlam. At Survivor Series on November 18, Van Dam and four other Alliance members faced five WWF wrestlers in a Winner Take All match. Team WWF won, and the members of the Alliance were fired; however, as he held the Hardcore Championship, Van Dam was able to retain his job. After that Van Dam turned face.
Unifying championships (2001–2002)
Van Dam, who was now officially a face, lost the Hardcore Championship to The Undertaker (who had turned heel immediately after The Invasion) at Vengeance. Van Dam then entered into a rivalry with William Regal over Regal's Intercontinental title. On the February 25 edition of Raw, Van Dam defeated Lance Storm and Big Show in a triple threat match to become the #1 contender to the Intercontinental title. At WrestleMania X8, RVD faced Regal for the Intercontinental title and won the match after he hit Regal with a Five-Star Frog Splash.
When the WWF was divided into two "brands", Raw and SmackDown! in 2002, Van Dam was drafted to the Raw brand as the fourth pick. After he defended his title successfully against Booker T, Eddie Guerrero returned to the WWF and attacked Van Dam. He started a feud with Eddie Guerrero over the Intercontinental title. At Backlash, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental Title to Guerrero. At Insurrextion, Van Dam and Guerrero had a rematch for the Intercontinental Title. Guerrero was disqualified after hitting the referee with the Intercontinental title; as a result, Van Dam won the match but not the title because a title cannot change hands by disqualification. At Judgment Day, Van Dam failed to win the Intercontinental Title in another rematch. Another short feud was with the Undertaker in 2002. One night after Judgment Day RVD defeated Undertaker in a surprising upset on Monday Night Raw for the Undisputed Title. Unfortunately, Ric Flair who was running raw at the time deemed that the Undertaker's foot was on the ropes which the ref didn't see when he counted three. Flair then went on to restart the match in which the Undertaker pinned RVD to recapture the WWE undisputed title and RVD's win was washed from all records. On the May 27 edition of Raw, Van Dam defeated Eddie Guerrero in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Title.
After facing each other in the final round of the King of the Ring tournament, Van Dam and Brock Lesnar began feuding with each other. Van Dam defended his Intercontinental Title against Lesnar twice and retained his title both times by disqualification. On July 21, 2002, Van Dam unified the WWE European Championship into the WWE Intercontinental Championship after he defeated European Champion Jeff Hardy in a title unification ladder match. As a result, the European title was abandoned. On the July 29 edition of Raw, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental title to Chris Benoit.
At SummerSlam, Van Dam won his third WWE Intercontinental Championship by defeating Benoit in a rematch for the title. As Benoit brought the title to SmackDown when he switched brands shortly after winning it, RVD brought the Intercontinental Title back to Raw. On the August 26 edition of Raw, Van Dam also unified the WWE Hardcore Championship into the WWE Intercontinental Championship by defeating Hardcore Champion Tommy Dreamer in a hardcore title unification match. As a result, the WWE Hardcore Championship was abandoned. On the September 9 edition of Raw, Van Dam became the number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy, and Big Show in a fatal four-way elimination match.
Van Dam started feuding with the World Heavyweight Champion Triple H. On the September 16 edition of Raw, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental title to Chris Jericho after interference by Triple H. At Unforgiven, Van Dam faced Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. Due to Ric Flair's interference, Van Dam lost the match. At No Mercy, Van Dam got his revenge on Flair by defeating him. At Survivor Series, Van Dam participated in the first-ever Elimination Chamber match for Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship, but it was won by Shawn Michaels.
Teaming and feuding with Kane (2002–2003)Van Dam appeared on the World Heavyweight Championship scene and also formed a tag team with Kane in October 2002. Van Dam defeated Jericho and Booker T in a Triple Threat match to become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. On the November 25 edition of Raw, Van Dam faced Michaels for the World Heavyweight Championship. Michaels was disqualified after Triple H hit RVD with a Pedigree. On the December 2 edition of Raw, Van Dam lost to Triple H in a #1 contender's match with World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels acting as the special guest referee.
In 2003, Rob Van Dam continued to team up with Kane. RVD participated in the Royal Rumble, and was one of the final five participants before being tossed out by his tag team partner Kane. The two faced Lance Storm and William Regal at No Way Out for the World Tag Team Championship but failed to win the title when Kane mistakenly chokeslammed RVD. On the March 31 edition of Raw, Van Dam and Kane defeated World Tag Team Champions Lance Storm and Chief Morley and The Dudley Boyz in a 3-way elimination tag team match to win the World Tag Team Championship. At Backlash, Van Dam and Kane retained the titles against The Dudley Boyz with Morley as the special guest referee. At Insurrextion, Van Dam and Kane defended the World Tag Team title successfully against La Résistance, before losing the title to La Résistance at Bad Blood.
After Kane was forced to take his mask off when he lost to Triple H, he turned heel, and the team with RVD dissolved. The two then started feuding with each other. On the August 18 edition of Raw, Van Dam faced the Intercontinental Champion Christian for the title, but Kane interfered in the match and knocked Van Dam out after hitting him with a chair. Kane then took Van Dam to the backstage where he was restrained and was about to be set on fire. Kane changed his mind at the last minute, however, and said that he wasn't going to do what "they" want. Their rivalry led to a No Holds Barred match at SummerSlam, which Kane won. On the September 8 edition of Raw, the rivalry ended when Rob Van Dam defeated Kane, when Kane threw RVD through the Steel by mistake in a steel cage match.Eric Bischoff came out and restarted the match, saying RVD didn't escape through the door or climb out Bischoff ordered the referees to put Rob Van Dam's body back inside the cage Kane eventually hit a chokeslam from the side of the cage to pick up the victory.
In September 2003, Van Dam started feuding with both Christian and Chris Jericho over Christian's Intercontinental Title. On the September 15 edition of Raw, Van Dam faced Jericho in a number one contender's match for the title. The match ended in a double disqualification when Intercontinental Champion Christian interfered and hit both men with the title belt. At Unforgiven in a triple threat match between Jericho, Christian, and Van Dam, Christian retained his title. Van Dam, however, defeated Christian in a ladder match on the September 29 edition of Raw to win the Intercontinental Championship for a fourth time.
Various feuds (2003–2004)
Van Dam entered into a rivalry with Chris Jericho in October 2003, and the two faced each other in several tag team matches. On the October 27 edition of Raw, Van Dam lost the Intercontinental title to Jericho. Van Dam reached the ropes when the challenger had him in the Walls of Jericho but Eric Bischoff distracted the referee while Jericho dragged the champion back into the middle of the ring. Van Dam submitted and Jericho became the new champion. Austin came out and immediately ordered Jericho to face Van Dam in a rematch inside the Steel Cage for the title. Van Dam won the rematch and his fifth Intercontinental Championship.
At Survivor Series, Van Dam was pinned by Randy Orton during his traditional elimination match. As a result, Orton and Van Dam started feuding with each other over Van Dam's Intercontinental title. Van Dam lost the Intercontinental title to Orton at Armageddon after interference from Ric Flair. Van Dam went on to feud with both Orton and Evolution. On the January 12, 2004 edition of Raw, Van Dam faced Orton in a rematch for the Intercontinental title but lost the match.
Van Dam formed a tag team with Booker T. The two teamed for the first time on the January 19 edition of Raw when they defeated Christian and Matt Hardy to qualify for a battle royal where the winner of the battle royal would get the #30 spot in the 2004 Royal Rumble match. On the February 16 edition of Raw, Booker T and Van Dam defeated Evolution members Ric Flair and Batista to win the World Tag Team Championship. At WrestleMania XX, Booker and Van Dam defended the World Tag Team Championship in a fatal four-way elimination tag team match against the Dudley Boyz, La Résistance, and the team of Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade. On the March 22 edition of Raw, Booker T and Van Dam lost the World Tag Team Championship back to Evolution.
On March 22, Van Dam was drafted from Raw to SmackDown!. He made his SmackDown! debut on March 25 defeating Charlie Haas. Van Dam and Rey Mysterio began a feud with the Dudley Boyz, defeating them at Judgment Day. In June, Van Dam left the tag team division and began a pursuit for the United States Championship. At The Great American Bash, John Cena defended the title against RVD, Booker T, and René Duprée in a fatal four-way match and retained his championship. On the July 1 edition of SmackDown!, Van Dam and Duprée lost to Booker in a number one contender's triple threat match. Four weeks later, Van Dam participated in an 8-way elimination match for the vacant US Championship, and was the last man to be eliminated by eventual winner Booker.
Van Dam began teaming up with Mysterio again in the summer and feuded with René Duprée and Kenzo Suzuki. At No Mercy, Van Dam and Mysterio failed to win the Tag Team Championship from Dupree and Suzuki. On the December 9 edition of SmackDown!, Van Dam and Mysterio defeated Duprée and Suzuki to win the WWE Tag Team Championship, and retained the title in a rematch at Armageddon. In January 2005, Van Dam suffered a knee injury. To explain his absence, the Basham Brothers (Doug and Danny) defeated Mysterio and Van Dam for the Tag Team Championship, in a fatal four-way elimination tag team match on the January 13 edition of SmackDown!, "injuring" Van Dam in the process. On January 27, Van Dam underwent reconstructive knee surgery under Dr. James Andrews to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus.
Reviving ECW (2005–2007)
While recuperating, Van Dam made an appearance at the ECW reunion pay-per-view ECW One Night Stand. Accompanied by his former manager Bill Alfonso and sporting a knee brace, Van Dam delivered a worked shoot promo, standing up for ECW and criticizing the way he had been booked in WWE, until he was attacked by Rhyno. He was saved by Sabu, who defeated Rhyno in an impromptu match. Despite his injury, Van Dam got physically involved in the match, hitting Rhyno with a chairshot and giving him a Chair Surf. Van Dam, while still healing, was drafted back to the Raw brand in the 2005 Draft Lottery. He was introduced to Raw by Carlito, who insulted Van Dam before attacking him and assaulting his knee. Van Dam made his return to the ring over six months later at the Royal Rumble. He gained revenge on Carlito by eliminating him, but was in turn inadvertently eliminated by Rey Mysterio. On the February 6 episode of Raw, Van Dam defeated Carlito in the first round of the 2006 Road to WrestleMania Tournament.
Later, Van Dam defeated Trevor Murdoch to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match. Van Dam went on to win the match, thus earning himself a guaranteed shot at either the WWE Championship or World Heavyweight Championship at any time within the subsequent year. Following the ladder match, Shelton Benjamin challenged Van Dam to put his Money in the Bank opportunity on the line in a match. Van Dam countered by requesting a match for Benjamin's Intercontinental Championship. One week later, both Van Dam and Benjamin picked mystery opponents for one another, with the loser placing their respective prize on the line in a bout at Backlash on April 30. Benjamin lost to the returning Charlie Haas, while Van Dam was defeated by all five members of the Spirit Squad. As a result, both the Intercontinental Championship and the Money in the Bank title shot were contested at Backlash. Van Dam went on to win both prizes, before dropping the Intercontinental title back to Benjamin on the May 15 edition of Raw.On May 29, Van Dam was selected by Paul Heyman to be drafted from Raw to WWE's new ECW brand. At One Night Stand, Van Dam defeated Cena to win the WWE Championship, his first ever World Title. After two referees were knocked out, Edge appeared from the crowd to attack Cena, spearing him through a table. Van Dam then hit a Five Star Frog Splash and the pinfall was counted by Paul Heyman, who suddenly ran down the aisle. On the following episode of Raw, Vince McMahon confirmed that the title change was official, due to the match being held under "extreme rules". For the past few weeks, Heyman had hinted that the WWE Championship would be "rechristened" the ECW World Heavyweight Championship when Van Dam won. On the debut of ECW on Sci Fi, Van Dam was awarded the reinstated ECW World Heavyweight Championship by Heyman. Van Dam, however, decided to defend the WWE Championship separately and simultaneously, joking that "this one spins". Thus, Van Dam became the first wrestler in history to hold both the WWE Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the only one to hold them at the same time. Van Dam retained the WWE title when he faced Edge at Vengeance. On the July 3 episode of Raw, Van Dam lost the WWE Championship to Edge in a triple threat match that also featured John Cena. The next night, on the July 4 episode of ECW, he lost the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to The Big Show after Heyman turned on him. Later on WWE.com, Heyman suspended Van Dam for 30 days without giving a reason; (in reality, WWE suspended Van Dam for 30 days as a result of his recent drug possession arrest).
He returned to television on August 8, attacking both Sabu and Kurt Angle during a match. His return to the ring came a week later, in a losing effort to Sabu in a ladder match for number one contendership to the ECW World Championship. Van Dam slowly worked his way back into the championship picture. In October, Van Dam defeated The Big Show in a non-title match to regain the number one contendership. Having the option to pick a date, Van Dam announced the title match would occur at December to Dismember. Heyman, however, had the option of picking the match type and announced that the main event would be a six-man Extreme Elimination Chamber match. At the event, Van Dam was the third participant eliminated. Later in December, Van Dam once again earned the number one contendership to the ECW World Championship, but this time by a fan poll. Van Dam got three matches against ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley, coming up short each time.
Rob Van Dam later joined the ECW Originals along with Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman. The ECW Originals began a feud with the New Breed (Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von, and Matt Striker). The two teams faced off at WrestleMania 23 in a match which the ECW Originals won. After Vince McMahon won the ECW World Championship at Backlash, RVD and the other ECW Originals made statements on WWE.com about McMahon killing ECW. The ECW Originals all competed in a four way dance to decide who would take on McMahon the next week on ECW in a title match, which Van Dam won after a five-star frog splash on Sandman. Van Dam, however, had to face McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Umaga in a 3 on 1 handicap match, which Van Dam was unable to win.
Van Dam received a concussion during a match with Randy Orton. Orton further attacked Van Dam after the match due to the comments Van Dam made on WWE.com about the lack of respect Orton displayed towards Shawn Michaels, who also suffered a concussion at the hands of Orton. Van Dam once again faced Orton at One Night Stand, this time in a Stretcher match. Although it looked as if Orton was going to win again, Van Dam gave him a roundhouse kick to the head and was able to push the stretcher across the line for the win. Despite winning the match, Orton continued to attack Van Dam, ending with an elevated DDT off the barricade and onto the concrete floor. After the match, he left WWE due to a family issue as his wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
Independent circuit (2007–2010)
The day after Van Dam's WWE contract expired, he was in the United Kingdom on a promotional tour and to record scenes for the wrestling documentary, Bloodstained Memoirs. He also took part in interviews for the BBC.
On December 10, 2007, Van Dam made a special appearance on the Raw 15th Anniversary, to accept a challenge made by Santino Marella and defeated him in a squash match lasting less than a minute with a Five–Star Frog Splash.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Van Dam stated that while WWE would be the first choice and that he would definitely talk to them, he would definitely consider Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) if he returned full-time to pro wrestling. He also spoke his thoughts regarding his choice between both companies.
Van Dam wrestled for the first time on the independent circuit since his departure from WWE by competing for Associação Portuguesa de Wrestling (APW) in February 2008. He then also appeared for Nu-Wrestling Evolution (NWE) throughout countries such as Spain. During his stint in NWE, Van Dam also trained with The Ultimate Warrior for his wrestling return. On August 14, 2008 he won a triple threat match at the Inoki Genome Federation in Japan after defeating Kendo Kashin and Necro Butcher.
On March 9, 2009, it was announced that RVD would be competing in American Wrestling Rampage (AWR) on their European Tour, during which he won the promotion's No Limits Wrestling (NLW) World Heavyweight Championship in a three way bout versus Sabu and former champion Shawn Maxer. He lost the title to René Duprée after three successful defences. In November he regained the title, renamed the AWR World Heavyweight Championship at this point, from Duprée on November 29 winning two decisions in a Two Out Of Three Falls match.
On September 11, 2009 in the World Stars of Wrestling (WSW) European Championship events in Portimão, Portugal, RVD won the WSW World Championship, by defeating Joe E. Legend. On the following night he defended his newly won title against Lance Cade.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2010-2013)
TNA World Heavyweight Champion and EV 2.0 (2010)On March 8, 2010, Van Dam made his debut for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) at the promotion's Monday night edition of Impact!, defeating Sting. Then just seconds after his debut victory Sting attacked him with his signature baseball bat. RVD got his revenge on Sting the following week by attacking him during his entrance. On the March 22 edition of Impact! RVD teamed with Jeff Hardy in a tag team match, where they defeated Beer Money, Inc. (Robert Roode and James Storm). The following week the two of them teamed with Eric Young and defeated The Band of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx-Pac in a six man tag team steel cage match. On the April 5 edition of Impact! both Van Dam and Hardy were introduced as members of Team Hogan for the annual Lethal Lockdown match, where they would face Team Flair. At Lockdown Team Hogan (Van Dam, Abyss, Jeff Jarrett and Jeff Hardy) defeated Team Flair (Sting, Desmond Wolfe, Robert Roode and James Storm). The night after Lockdown on the April 19, 2010 edition of Impact! he first defeated Jeff Hardy in a number one contender's match and then, in the main event of the evening, A.J. Styles to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. After succeeding in his first televised title defense against Desmond Wolfe, Styles attacked Van Dam, announcing the invocation of the rematch clause for Sacrifice. At Sacrifice Van Dam defeated Styles in a rematch. The following month at Slammiversary VIII Van Dam retained his title against Sting in a rematch of his TNA debut. At Victory Road Van Dam defeated Abyss, Jeff Hardy and Mr. Anderson in a four–way match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. On the following edition of Impact! Van Dam aligned himself with fellow ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Stevie Richards, Rhino, Brother Devon, Pat Kenney, Al Snow and Mick Foley, who saved him from a beating at the hands of Abyss. The following week, TNA president Dixie Carter agreed to give the ECW alumni their own reunion pay–per–view event, Hardcore Justice. At the event on August 8 Van Dam defeated former tag team partner and rival Sabu in a non-title Hardcore Rules match, after his originally planned match with Jerry Lynn was scrapped due to Lynn suffering a back injury. After successfully defending the championship against Abyss in a Stairway to Janice match on the following edition of Impact!, Van Dam and the other former ECW wrestlers were assaulted by Abyss and Fourtune members A.J. Styles, Kazarian, Robert Roode, James Storm, Douglas Williams and Matt Morgan. In the attack Van Dam suffered multiple serious storyline injuries at the hands of Abyss including the need for stitches, spinal trauma and possible acute brain damage, which would force him to vacate the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on August 10 at the taping of the August 19 edition of Impact!. In reality, Van Dam was running out of dates per year on his contract and was therefore taken off television.
Van Dam returned via telephone interview on the September 16 episode of Impact! and announced that he would return to the Impact! Zone the following week, against his doctor's orders. Van Dam returned the following week, confronting Abyss and demanding a match against him at Bound for Glory, which Eric Bischoff agreed to give him. At Bound for Glory Van Dam defeated Abyss in a Monster's Ball match. At the end of the event it was revealed that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff had sent Abyss after Van Dam in order to get the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on their own representative, Jeff Hardy. Van Dam confronted the group, later named Immortal, after Hardy had won the World Heavyweight Championship, only to get hit with the title belt. On the October 21 episode of Impact! Bischoff claimed that someone from EV 2.0 had been calling him, trying to get to be a part of Immortal, which led to Van Dam getting paranoid about his stablemates, first accusing Raven of being the traitor. Later, he and Sabu were defeated in a tag team match by Beer Money, Inc., after Sabu accidentally hit him with a chair. After the match Van Dam and Sabu began shoving each other and had to be separated from each other by the rest of EV 2.0. After two more weeks of dissension between Van Dam and the rest of EV 2.0, Tommy Dreamer challenged him to a match at Turning Point. At the pay–per–view Van Dam defeated Dreamer and afterwards made peace with him. On the following episode of Impact! Rhino turned heel by attacking Van Dam and Dreamer, revealing himself as the traitor Van Dam had been looking for. At Final Resolution Van Dam defeated Rhino in a First Blood match.
Championship pursuits (2011–2012)
On January 4, 2011, Van Dam travelled to Japan with other TNA wrestlers to take part New Japan Pro Wrestling's (NJPW) fifth annual Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Toru Yano in a hardcore match. At Genesis Van Dam was defeated by Immortal's surprise opponent, the debuting Matt Hardy, when refereeJackson James missed Van Dam's foot under the ropes, thus failing to earn a shot at his brother Jeff's World Heavyweight Championship. During the main event Van Dam prevented Matt from interfering in Jeff's match with Mr. Anderson, which led to Jeff losing the title. The following month at Against All Odds Van Dam defeated Matt Hardy in a rematch. On the following episode of Impact!, Van Dam finally received his shot at Jeff Hardy and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but was unable to regain the title. On March 13 at Victory Road, Van Dam wrestled Mr. Anderson to a double countout in a World Heavyweight Championship number one contender's match. On April 17 at Lockdown, Van Dam failed in his attempt to regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Sting in a three–way steel cage match, which also included Anderson. The following month at Sacrifice, Van Dam again failed to regain the title, this time in a singles match with Sting.
Van Dam represented TNA at Mexican promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración's (AAA) Triplemanía XIX pay-per-view on June 18, 2011. In the main event of the show, Van Dam was defeated by Dr. Wagner, Jr. in a match to determine the first ever AAA Latin American Champion. At Destination X on July 10, Van Dam defeated longtime rival Jerry Lynn in a singles match. On August 7 at Hardcore Justice, Van Dam, at the time ranked number two in the Bound for Glory Series, faced Crimson, ranked number one, in a tournament match. Van Dam lost the match via disqualification, when Jerry Lynn entered the ring, costing him not only the match, but also several places in the tournament's standings. Lynn cost Van Dam another Bound for Glory Series match against A.J. Styles in similar fashion on the August 18 Impact Wrestling. Lynn turned on Van Dam on the September 1 Impact Wrestling, costing him his match with Gunner and, in the process, eliminating him from the finals of the Bound for Glory Series. The following week Lynn explained his turn by claiming that he was tired of being in Van Dam's shadow. Van Dam defeated Lynn in a Full Metal Mayhem match at Bound for Glory.
On the October 27 episode of Impact Wrestling, Van Dam defeated Christopher Daniels by disqualification after Daniels hit him with a toolbox. Two weeks later, Van Dam prevented Daniels from using a screwdriver to illegally defeat A.J. Styles in a singles match which would cost Daniels the match. At Turning Point, Van Dam defeated Daniels in a No Disqualification match. In retaliation, Daniels cost him his match for the TNA Television Championship against Robbie E on the December 1 episode of Impact Wrestling. Van Dam defeated Daniels at Final Resolution on December 11 again to end their feud.
After wrestling to a double countout on the January 5, 2012, edition of Impact Wrestling, Gunner made a failed attempt to piledrive Van Dam into the concrete floor after Van Dam back body dropped him onto it. Three days later at Genesis, Van Dam was defeated by Gunner and was afterwards stretchered backstage, after taking a DDT onto the concrete floor. After a near three month absence Van Dam resumed working live events in late March. Van Dam returned to Impact Wrestlingon April 12, being revealed as the fifth member of Garett Bischoff's team at Lockdown At the pay-per-view, Team Garett defeated a team led by Eric Bischoff. On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy and Mr. Anderson in a three-way match to become the number one contender to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Van Dam received his title opportunity in a ladder match on May 13 at Sacrifice, but was defeated by the defending champion, Bobby Roode. At Slammiversary on June 10, Van Dam was defeated by Mr. Anderson in a three-way number one contender's match, also involving Jeff Hardy. Later that week on Impact Wrestling, Van Dam entered the 2012 Bound for Glory Series. He wrestled his final match in the tournament on the September 6 Impact Wrestling, losing to Bully Ray, thus finishing fifth and narrowly missing the semifinals of the tournament. On the October 4 episode of Impact Wrestling, Van Dam unsuccessfully challenged Samoa Joe for the TNA Television Championship.
Return to WWE (2013–2014)
Van Dam was spotted at the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and said that he was there to support Mick Foley. On June 16, it was announced during a vignette at WWE's Payback pay-per-view event that Van Dam, who last appeared for WWE as a surprise entrant in the 2009 30-man Royal Rumble match, would be returning at Money in the Bank July 14, 2013. At Money in the Bank, Van Dam competed, in the Money in the Bank ladder match for the WWE Championship against Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and Christian. The match was won by Orton, however, Van Dam later on Raw went on to face the World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio in singles action. During the main event of the August 2 episode of Smackdown, Van Dam faced Christian and Randy Orton in a triple threat to determine Del Rio's title match opponent at SummerSlam. The match was won by Christian who put Van Dam down before eventually pinning Orton to win the match. On the August 12 episode of Raw, Van Dam won a twenty-man battle royal, by last eliminating Mark Henry to become the number one contender to the United States Championship. After the match, Van Dam and Henry were confronted by The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins), before the returning Big Show came to their aid. Four days later on SmackDown, Van Dam, Henry, and Show defeated the Shield in a six-man tag team match, with Van Dam pinning Ambrose for the win. Van Dam received his title shot on August 18, during the SummerSlam pre-show, where he defeated Ambrose via disqualification after Roman Reigns speared Van Dam, not winning the title as a result.
Van Dam then aligned himself with Alberto Del Rio's former ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez the following night on Raw, to feud with Del Rio. The following week on Raw, Van Dam, with Rodriguez in his corner, defeated Del Rio in a non-title match to earn a shot at his World Heavyweight Championship. The title match took place on September 15 at Night of Champions, where Van Dam won the match via disqualification, but did not win the title. Van Dam received another shot at the World Heavyweight Championship in a Hardcore match at Battleground, but was defeated by Del Rio. The following night it was announced that Van Dam had taken some time off. RVD returned to Raw on April 7, 2014, minus Rodriguez, defeating Damien Sandow. The following week on Raw Van Dam entered in Intercontinental Championship tournament, but lost in the final round to Bad News Barrett. At Extreme Rules Van Dam faced Cesaro and Jack Swagger in a Triple Threat Elimination match, which was won by Cesaro after pinning Van Dam last, who had pinned Swagger first. On the May 19 Raw Van Dam won a Beat the Clock challenge match by defeating Alberto Del Rio in the fastest time, to become the number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship at Payback, although he lost to Barrett at the event. At Money in the Bank Van Dam took part in the Money in the Bank Ladder match for the briefcase but the match was won by Seth Rollins. On July 1 edition of Main Event Van Dam was announced as a participant in a battle royal at Battleground for the vacant Intercontinental Championship, but he suffered an injury and was unable to compete. Van Dam returned to the ring on the August 4 edition of Raw where he was scheduled to compete against Seth Rollins in a Beat the Clock challenge match, but was switched with Heath Slater by the order of The Authority. Van Dam finished his current run with WWE at the August 26 Smackdown tapings, where he faced Seth Rollins in a losing effort.
Van Dam has appeared on numerous television shows and in films. In 1995, he was in Superfights as "The Mercenary", and in 1997 he appeared in Bloodmoon as "Dutch Scholtz". On October 23, 1999, he appeared in City Guys, in the episode "El-Trainmania IV" as himself. In 2000 he appeared in 18 Wheels of Justice, on August 2 as "Robert Laramie", and in The X-Files on May 7 as "Burt's opponent" in the episode "Outside Chance". He also appeared on V.I.P. in the episode "Survi-Val" as "Major Ving Talbot" that year. On July 26, 2001, he appeared as himself on Spy TV, and again later that year he appeared as himself in Ultimate Revenge on December 2. In 2002, he starred in two films, Black Mask 2: City of Masks as "Claw", and made a cameo appearance in The Backyard as himself. In 2005, the Rob Van Dam: One Of A Kind DVD was released. He also appeared on Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling in 2008 teaching finishing moves to the celebrities.
He recently finished working alongside fellow professional wrestler Dave Batista in an upcoming movie titled Wrong Side of Town.
- 2010: Wrong Side of Town - as Bobby Kalinowsky
- 2009: Bloodstained Memoirs - as Himself
- 2009: Sketch Of Life - as Himself
- 2008: Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling - as Himself (1 episode, Train with Pro's)
- 2005: One Of A Kind - as Himself
- 2002: The Backyard - as Himself (cameo)
- 2002: Black Mask 2: City Of Masks - as The Claw
- 2001: Ultimate Revenge - as Himself (2 episodes)
- 2001: Spy TV - as Various (1 episode)
- 2000: V.I.P] - as Mjr Talbot (1 episode, Survival)
- 2000: The X-Files - as Burts opponent (1 episode, Fight Club)
- 2000: 18 Wheels Of Justice - as Robert Laramie (1 episode, Outside Chance)
- 1999: City Guys - as Himself (1 episode, El Trainmania IV)
- 1997: Blood Moon - as Dutch
- 1995: Superfights - as a Mercenary
Van Dam officially announced on his website's blog that he is in the process of creating an online show entitled RVD-TV. On this show, he will give his fans a glimpse at what his life is like outside of the wrestling business. A preview for this upcoming series can now be found on the homepage of his website. Some of Van Dam's friends will appear on the show, such as Samoa Joe, Chris Mordetzky and Sabu. The show will be filmed at his home in California where he has been spending most of his time since temporarily retiring. Van Dam is expected to announce some of his other future projects through the show, such as his upcoming DVD.
Van Dam started up RVD Radio on October 8, 2008 with the help of Brett Cohen, a producer for BlogTalkRadio. The first episode was an hour long but now it's a two hour weekly radio show at www.blogtalkradio.com/rvdradio. Guests include Sonya Van Dam, Sabu, Dr.Shawn Stasiak, Bret Hart, Chris Masters, BTR Producer Nikki Starr, Bill Alfonso, Officer X, Kid Kash, Bruce Jingles, Justin McCully, Paul London and Hulk Hogan.
Szatkowski is married to Sonya, who is an aspiring make-up artist. During his wrestling career, Sonya often traveled on the road with Rob and appeared at ringside during events in which Rob took part. On April 23, 2008, Szatkowski revealed that his wife is suffering from colon cancer.
Szatkowski is a trained kickboxer and martial artist. In 1990, he placed second in the Kalamazoo Heavyweight Toughman Contest. Szatkowski is also an outspoken advocate of vitamins and bodybuilding supplements and attributes this to his mother's influence. Szatkowski participated in amateur wrestling while in high school. He is the inventor of the Van Dam Lift, a weightlifting technique that involves performing a split (which he took up in his early teens) between two benches and lifting a dumbbell from the floor to the waist. The lift was approved by the International All-Around Weightlifting Association in 1998, and Szatkowski holds the current record, 166.5 lb (76 kg). Growing up in Battle Creek, Michigan, Szatkowski studied martial arts at two local dojos. He received instruction in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Kendo, and Kickboxing.
Szatkowski was featured in an article in the March 1999 issue of High Times. His signature symbol is the Taijitu which is commonly associated with Taoism ; in an interview for WWE's "Invasion" DVD, he said he uses this symbol because it represents "the use of good or evil." Van Dam used to own a comic book shop called "5 Star Comics". He, along with several other wrestlers, often showed up at the store to sign autographs.
On July 3, 2006, The Ironton Tribune reported that Szatkowski and Terry Brunk (one of his colleagues known as Sabu) had been arrested on the previous evening on U.S. Route 52 in Hanging Rock, Ohio. Szatkowski had been stopped for speeding by an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper, who discovered that he was in possession of 18 grams of marijuana and five Vicodin pills, while Brunk was in possession of drug paraphernalia and nine tablets of Testolactone. Both Szatkowski and Brunk were released after posting bail, and were scheduled to appear in Ironton Municipal Court on July 6, 2006. On July 6, 2006, The Ironton Tribune reported that the court date for Szatkowski and Brunk was in limbo, as their attorneys had asked for and were granted continuances.
According to the WWE's wellness policy, a drug-related arrest can lead to that talent's immediate dismissal from the company. WWE Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis released a statement on WWE.com reporting that Szatkowski and Brunk were still eligible to compete on the Raw and ECW tapings in the following days while an investigation conducted by WWE was being undertaken. This resulted in Szatkowski dropping the WWE Championship at the live Raw one night and the ECW Championship the next night at the ECW taping. Van Dam was subsequently suspended without pay for 30 days, and an on-air segment on ECW was scripted to relay this suspension to the fans. On August 31, 2006, Szatkowski and Brunk appeared in court. Szatkowski pled guilty to possessing marijuana and was fined $140, while Brunk was fined $1,000.
Appearence in TNA iMPACT! for iPhone
RVD appears as a main character in the iPhone game iMPACT!, and his theme is "The whole F'N show" with his finisher being the Five-Star Frog Splash. If the player chooses Desmond Wolfe as their character for the Heavyweight Career, Rob Van Dam is the person Desmond has a feud with, when in other cases, it would be Wolfe himself whom the player feuds with. RVD is an all-around choice, and makes a formidable friend OR foe.
- Finishing moves
- 450 Splash - AJPW
- Five-Star Frog Splash (High-angle frog splash, sometimes while turning in mid-air)
- Hollywood Star Press (ECW) / Split-Legged Moonsault (WWF/E & WCW) - innovated
- Van Daminator (Spinning wheel kick to a steel chair held in front of the opponent's face)
- Van Terminator/Chair Surf/Van Dam Time (Corner-to-corner missile dropkick, usually with a chair positioned on the opponent's face)
- Signature moves
- Air Van Dam (Senton Bomb), sometimes to the outside
- Bridging northern lights suplex
- Diving splash
- Double underhook falling facebuster
- Modified Leg-feed Enzuigiri
- Moonsault, sometimes while springboarding or sometimes preceded by a cartwheel
- Multiple kick variations:
- Chair Surf (Running dropkick, driving a steel chair into the face of a seated opponent in the corner of the ring)
- Diving Super
- Springboard Spinning Savate - Sometimes done while opponent is hung on the top rope between the legs
- Modified Spinning Heel
- Windmill Kick (Van Dam catches the opponent's kicking leg and performs a step-over wheel)
- Multiple leg drop variations:
- Rolling Thunder transitioned into either a monkey flip, a somersault senton, or a vertical splash
- Running crossbody, sometimes done while facing away from opponent
- Steamroller Slam (Rolling fireman's carry slam)
- Springboard into either a clothesline, a leg lariat, or a moonsault
- Two turnbuckle thrusts followed by a back handspring and finished wither with a monkey flip or a final running turnbuckle thrust
- "Mr. Monday Night"
- "Mr. PPV"
- "Mr. Thursday Night"
- "The Whole F'N Show"
- "Mr. Money In The Bank"
- "The Whole Dam Show"
- "Señor Lunes Noche"
- Tag teams and stables
- Theme music
Championships and accomplishments
- Extreme Championship Wrestling
- Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- WWE Championship (1 time)
- ECW World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WWF/E Intercontinental Championship (6 time)
- WWF/E Hardcore Championship (4 time)
- WWE European Championship (1 time)
- World Tag Team Championship (2 time) - with Kane (1), Booker T (1)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Rey Mysterio
- 16th Triple Crown Champion
- 8th WWE Grand Slam Champion
- Pacific Coast Wrestling
- PCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)