Rob Van Dam and AJ Styles. Two of the most revered names in professional wrestling once shared the same space in TNA Wrestling. Rob Van Dam was brought in and skyrocketed to the top of the main event picture. AJ Styles has been the go to guy and arguably the face of TNA Wrestling since its inception. Two successes with two different directions. In part 1 of Missing the Mark, we will look at the first of these two talents, The Whole F’N Show himself, Rob Van Dam.
ROB VAN DAM
In this moment in time, Rob Van Dam is currently back on the WWE roster and challenging for their World Heavyweight Championship this coming Sunday. Upon his return to the WWE, he has been met with praise for his immense fan reactions and the fact that he continually displays how much he has not lost in his storied career, but how much he has possibly gained. This is the same performer from the golden age ECW and the same performer from TNA wrestling not too long ago. So, what happened? Why is it that a man of Rob Van Dam’s caliber can be a high level attraction in one promotion while an afterthought in the other?
Rob Van Dam’s debut in TNA saw him go over “The Icon” Sting during the beginning stages of the Immortal Era. Though getting the surprise win, this match was the first strike in TNA’s backwards booking of The Whole F’N Show. After the win, Sting attacked him and shifted the focus back to Hogan, killing the energy of his debut. Fast forward and Rob Van Dam becomes the TNA World Champion but due to storyline injury, the title is vacated (Van Dam had limited dates on his contract which explained the storyline injury). Upon his return, he was thrown into feuds with Immortal, ECW originals and also received chances to battle for the world title again but in failing efforts. Relegated to the X-Division and winning the X-Division Championship, he loses the title to Kenny King and is gone from TNA Wrestling, only to reappear in the WWE. Those TNA faithful know the story of Rob Van Dam’s time in TNA Wrestling so this is a basic rundown for time’s sake.
Because of backstage happenings with the newly arrived Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, Rob Van Dam was not used properly, even as champion. During this time, TNA management did not appreciate the star power in their hands. Rather, they focused on getting recognized talent in the hopes of TNA gaining more traction. A dangerous direction which leads to a couple of scenarios with the first being the inevitable “we have nothing for you” scenario. So a talent is thrown into questionable matches and situations in order for dates to be used and to fill in the card. The second being the “okay, this didn’t work out, so let’s focus on someone else” scenario. While the first scenario just shuffles the deck around and a talent is thrown all over the place, the second scenario is the killer.
What this scenario does is completely ignores a performers talent and contributions. He can be removed from TV in order to give others more time. He can be used sparingly at live events or even just a face in the background when a backstage segment is filmed. Though Rob Van Dam may not have necessarily fallen into scenario two, it certainly felt that way at times. The decision to part ways was the right decision as Rob Van Dam, though still putting on spectacular performances, can’t go on forever. Why become the Rob Van Dam that was when he can still perform and be the Rob Van Dam that is? Strapping the TNA title on Rob Van Dam is one thing, but giving him the opportunities needed to flourish in TNA Wrestling is a completely different story.
Speaking of opportunities, and say what you will, but the WWE appreciates name value/ recognition when it comes to established talent. It is only when the talent themselves don’t take advantage of the opportunities given does the WWE take things back a bit. Rob Van Dam is a top level talent with still so much to offer. He is taking advantage of the opportunities given to him by the WWE and his WWE fanbase. On a business end, the WWE understands his history and appeal, so they are able to book him on the right spots on Raw and/ or SmackDown! with the right talent. Rob Van Dam, the entertainer, gains the inspiration and commands his abilities to give the fans what they paid to see of him. He is simply being used properly, which produces a happier worker which then produces rewards on both sides.
This should be a lesson for not only TNA, but for any promotion that has the honor of receiving the services of established talent who are not too egotistical in their ways. Prepare properly, set a game plan and use the weapons provided to you at the right moments. They will be more affective and bear fruit in the long run. TNA missed the mark on Rob Van Dam but the WWE picked it up and hit their mark. This is way Rob Van Dam is continually successful in the WWE.
In part 2, we will look at AJ Styles and analyze how TNA Wrestling could have missed their mark with The Phenomenal One. Is a WWE run possible for Styles?
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