Rob Van Dam returned to WWE programming the night after WrestleMania 30 to embark on his latest run with the company. Less than five months later, RVD has finished up his obligations with WWE, and he and his fans enjoyed very few highlights from his recent stint.
Van Dam, much like Chris Jericho, has elected to work part-time schedules with WWE, in which they appear regularly on television and pay-per-view events for several months, and then take a lengthy sabbatical. Both competitors, now in their early 40s, have seemingly nothing left to prove in the business, but still elicit a strong reaction from the WWE Universe, and posses the in-ring skills to produce a quality match.
The same issue has plagued both superstars, though, as WWE has struggled to keep them fresh and credible, while simultaneously using them to put over younger competitors. Jericho returned to WWE almost exclusively to work a program with Bray Wyatt, with Wyatt ultimately prevailing and getting momentum from the interaction.
While that storyline has drawn mixed reviews, the reaction to RVD’s latest stint has been much more negative. Van Dam seemingly had no real purpose, shifting back-and-forth between opponents, but never engaging in a sustained rivalry.
Upon his return, Van Dam entered a tournament to crown a new Intercontinental Champion, and RVD ultimately lost to Bad News Barrett in the finals on Raw.
At the Extreme Rules event in May, RVD participated in a triple threat match with Cesaro and Jack Swagger, two men who had just broken up as a team and probably should’ve had their own singles match. Cesaro prevailed in that match, and Van Dam’s inclusion felt like he was thrown into the feud without much consideration.
Van Dam then continued his previous storyline with Barrett, and the two clashed at Payback, again for the Intercontinental Championship. The result was the same, though, with Barrett scoring a victory to retain his title.
Later that month, Van Dam was one of participants in the traditional Money In the Bank ladder match. RVD was never a serious contender to prevail in the match, though, and played a complimentary role as Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose starred in the contest.
Van Dam likely would’ve played a similar role at the Battleground pay-per-view in July, as he was slated to compete in a battle royal to crown a new Intercontinental Champion. An injury kept him out of action, though, and The Miz prevailed as the new champion.
At SummerSlam, the WWE’s second-biggest event of the year, Van Dam didn’t even make the final card, as he competed and defeated Cesaro on the pre-show.
Throughout his latest run, Van Dam still elicited a great reaction from the fans, and he produced a number of solid matches, as expected. Now 43, he may not be the in-ring performer he once was, but clearly Van Dam can still compete with some of the top stars in the industry.
Van Dam’s stint proved uneventful because the WWE creative team showed no creativity with RVD’s character or storylines. As a legendary figure from ECW, Van Dam should’ve engaged in a notable angle with former ECW owner Paul Heyman. Heyman is having one of the most prominent years of any manager in the history of the business, and WWE should’ve capitalized on that by linking Van Dam with Heyman.
Last week, Van Dam concluded his schedule with a pair of matches against Rollins. After RVD scored a count out victory on Main Event, the two squared off in a rematch on Smackdown. As expected, Rollins prevailed in that bout via pinfall, but the win really didn’t seem like a significant step in the progression of Rollin’s career.
The primary purpose of Van Dam’s return was to help give momentum and credibility to the younger superstars who ultimately defeated him. For that to happen, though, RVD needed to have some momentum of his own. By trotting Van Dam out to compete with no real purpose and with no character development, WWE failed to maximize the impact of his return.
Let’s hope WWE learns from this mistake and produces a better ending for Jericho.