I have criticized professional wrestling companies, particularly Impact Wrestling, for their morbid fascination in trying to resurrect ECW, for trying to recreate something that was so unique and so fundamentally a product of its time that it just doesn’t work anymore.
I mean, I dedicated one of these columns to it earlier in the year.
My frustration with it grew, especially after Rob Van Dam and Rhino, managed by Konnan, were added to the World tag team title match at Bound for Glory because they pinned The North on an episode of Impact. Yet in that match and in the weeks since, it has become increasingly apparent that the company is going in a slightly different direction with their ECW nostalgia act and I’m surprisingly intrigued by it.
Rob Van Dam’s heel turn at Bound for Glory felt like a ‘MOMENT’ for the sake of having a moment, rather than an obvious booking direction. Still, I found myself intrigued by it because it indicated that the promotion was not simply going to go with the ‘look at these old guys who were great 15-20 years ago’ routine with Van Dam.
His subsequent promos, done in the pool with his girlfriend Katie Forbes, smacked of a man with a monumental chip on his shoulder. A man who felt that he had taken the entire industry on his back by introducing new offense, an offense that everyone now loves because it has been popularized by the likes of the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. It was as though he felt like a forgotten man.
They were almost a cross between pure arrogance, with Van Dam trying to make out that he didn’t care about wrestling because he’d got money, he could do what we wanted and he had a young girlfriend to spend ‘time’ with, and also jealousy and bitterness that others were making more money on the back of things that he felt he had invented and initially showcased to the entire world during his glory years.
While those promos were, in their own way, good and doing a decent job of adding intrigue to this “new Van Dam”, his in-ring promo on last week’s episode was pretty good. Ok, he mumbles a bit and he’s never going to be a home run promo guy but his points were clear; at 48 he only saw wrestling as a way to make money, because he had “his girlfriend and her girlfriend to take care of.”
The arrogance and the reinforcement of Van Dam feeling like his moves and his innovation have been stolen was good, but his response to Tommy Dreamer confronting him was the highlight because it finally served as a counter to the ECW nostalgia act popularised by both Impact and countless other promotions.
He hit Dreamer with the “you’re living in the past” line and he then made the point that he was being held back by Dreamer because every time they’re all booked for shows, everyone expects them to play the hits and recreate their personas and characters from the past. There was no room for improvement, there was no room to move forward. It was a case of, ‘Oh look, there’s Rob Van Dam, I can’t wait for him to hit the rolling thunder and the frog splash’.
While the promo was by no means ground-breaking, or even overly memorable, it was the first time one of the ECW veterans has come down to do something and my interest has moved beyond a childlike excitement because of the past. I was interested to hear what Van Dam had to say and while he was clearly the heel, there was some degree of sense to what he was saying. That can only make him more interesting moving forward.
Although I would ultimately prefer to see the younger guys with high ceilings pushed to the forefront, I have always understood why Impact wants to use the likes of Dreamer, Rhino and Van Dam. But, I have always felt that if they want to use guys like that, they have to give you a genuine reason to care. There has to be a reason why these guys want to keep wrestling and working despite being past their best. Impact has done that now with Van Dam. They have given some degree of meaning to his feud with Rhino and while I don’t expect the matches to be particularly good at all, at least I will go into them with some degree of interest. Will this ‘new Van Dam’ wrestle in a different way?
It might not be a big deal, but Impact has finally given me a reason to care about Rob Van Dam and that’s something I’m grateful for.
The Week in Review
- It was great to see Brian Cage in a singles match that wasn’t involving a title again. I know that sounds weird, but I felt as though he had lost a lot of his buzz while injured and the best way for him to recapture some of that is by working with the likes of Michael Elgin and Eddie Edwards.
- I will be very interested to see how the match between Ace Austin and Trey Miguel goes down at Hard to Kill. They are clearly trying to add some juice to it and it’s a big opportunity and a big spotlight for two guys the promotion is clearly very high on.
- ODB being back was interesting and while her performance was better than expected, I’m not too sure how I feel about her beating Taya or her being added to the match at the PPV.
- Most people will have hated it, but I enjoyed the Petey Williams/Johnny Swinger/Joey Ryan stuff. It’s leaning into the Swinger gimmick is absolutely the right way and it’s entertaining.
- Next week we’ve got Tessa Blanchard vs Madman Fulton, Sami Callihan vs Ken Shamrock, Rhyno vs RVD and a Tag Team Open to crown the new top contenders.
- Good on Larry D for getting a contract with the company, dude’s a hard worker and a solid hand.
"Dammit @legendoflarryd, you need a bigger stage to play on…you need to be an IMPACT Wrestling star."
What a moment at #NoSurrender as @ScottDAmore offers Larry D a contract! pic.twitter.com/c6s053Pv1f
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) December 8, 2019
- Has anyone signed Shane Taylor up yet? If not, you know what to do Don and Scott.
- There will be no column next week but over the festive period I will be doing my Impact awards for 2019 and my promotion wishlist for 2020.
Well, until next time…