Rob Van Dam left the WWE in 2007, despite getting the push of his life as the dual WWE and ECW Champion. He was at the peak of his run which began six years earlier, and could have made the ECW legend into one of the biggest stars in WWE history.
He returned again in 2013 for a run that lasted two years but ultimately left fans of the Rob Van Dam disappointed. He never achieved the potential he should have in either runs, both by his own fault and by people disliking him backstage. There were many reasons why RVD didn’t spend 20-years in the WWE main event, which will be noted in this article.
As a former ECW wrestler, he was not taken seriously at first and had to build up his credibility backstage with the likes of Vince McMahon. Over time, he managed to get himself over as one of the most popular wrestlers in the company and became a WWE Champion in 2006 by beating John Cena at ECW One-Night Stand 2006.
However, a year later he would be gone from the company and his run would leave a lasting impression on fans asking “what could have been?”. Despite being a two time world champion in WWE, Rob Van Dam should have achieved so much more and could have been one of the biggest stars in the company.
Despite his Hall of Fame induction in 2021, questions are still being asked of the way in which RVD left the WWE.
So why did Rob Van Dam leave WWE? We’ll look at the situation surrounding his departures in both 2007 and 2014 and look at whether or not Rob Van Dam will return to WWE in the future.
Why Did Rob Van Dam Leave WWE?
Rob Van Dam left WWE in 2007 due to being burnt out, having recent had the WWE Championship taken from him due to situations outside wrestling. He had worked his entire career to become a world champion in the biggest company in the world and it finally vindicated him for innovating his own style of wrestling and inspiring countless generations of future wrestlers.
He had cashed in his Money in the Bank contract – being the second ever winner of the ladder match – on John Cena in a match at One-Night Stand 2006. After interference from Edge, Paul Heyman counted to three as RVD pinned John Cena to win his first, and so far only, WWE Championship in WWE.
He was elated. Rob Van Dam was finally on top of the world in WWE. He had previously been chosen to become the World Heavyweight Champion in 2002, but Triple H’s backstage influence took that title reign away from him before it began. This win meant he was finally recognized as being one of the best in the world, and was even awarded with the newly-returning ECW Championship, for the WWE reboot of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
However, his title reign would not last long, at all. Less than a month after winning the title, he lost it on Monday Night Raw to Edge, and two days later dropped the ECW Championship to The Big Show. This showed a dramatic fall from grace for RVD and was clearly a large part of him leaving WWE in 2007.
He lost the belt due to WWE management being unhappy with himself and fellow ECW original Sabu being arrested whilst travelling from a WWE show. The pair were pulled over and arrested for drug possession, although they were never convicted or sent to jail for these crimes.
However, WWE had a no-tolerance policy and suspended both men after having Rob Van Dam drop his championships in unceremonious fashion.
He wrestled for the company for a further year, but the arrest and subsequent championship losses hit him hard. Rob Van Dam revealed in an interview with “Cafe De Rene” Rene Dupree’s podcast, that he never felt comfortable in the company and was always happy to not be fired rather than to achieve anything, which contributed to him wanting to be released by the WWE.
“For some reason, I was never really comfortable in WWE. People are like, every time someone gets fired now, which I mean is pretty crazy now how often they’ve been doing that, but the world is always shocked, like, ‘Oh my God.’“
“Even when I was champion, I never felt untouchable. They humbled me so much. They would give you plans, ‘We’re going to do this’ and psyche. After so much of that, it humbled me to where I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not fired. That’s cool.’”
Rob Van Dam left WWE in 2007 due to being “burnt out” and revealed he would only wrestle again for the pay check.
In a 2008 interview with The Pain Clinic he spoke about his WWE departure and how he was so burnt out that he lost his passion for wrestling and would only be treating it like a job in the future and follow the money, which he did when signing for TNA in 2010.
He also spoke about Floyd Mayweather being paid $20 million for his match with Big Show at WrestleMania 24 and getting bumped from WrestleMania for “The Miller Light Girls”, saying “As burned out as I have been by wrestling, just knowing what you told makes me even more burned out at the moment,”
He was released by WWE in June 2007 after a Stretcher Match loss to Randy Orton at One Night Stand 2007.He would return later that year for a one-off match against Santino Marella at Raw 15th Anniversary, but would not wrestle full time again for WWE until 2013.
He also admitted, in an interview with the Baltimore Sun that he was burnt out by the end of his WWE run, especially when he was stripped of his hard-earned WWE Championship and ECW Championships due to being caught with marijuana alongside Sabu.
His 30 days suspension began after he lost the titles to Edge and The Big Show, respectively, and he was never trusted as a top wrestler in the company after that ever again.
RVD also noted that he asked for more time off after his suspension was over, he was so burnt out of working for the company. It would not be long after that he would be released from his contract and kicked out of the company, leaving a vacuum of star power that would be even more exacerbated thanks to the death of Chris Benoit in 2007 and the departure of Kurt Angle in 2006.
“From my perspective, when people say that couldn’t have happened at a worse time, I always say it couldn’t have happened at a better time. You’re never going to hear me apologize for that.
“I paid a $100 fine for possession of marijuana. However, since the WWE suspended me, it ended up costing me like $30,000 or $40,000 easily.
And you know what? I asked for more time off at the end of the 30 days. That was one of my favorite months of my contract. That’s how much I wanted out of there and how much I missed being home.“
“[These days] I can’t imagine going back to the same schedule that I did before.
Can’t imagine. Like, I would have to lose just about everything else out of the equation in my life, and then at that point, we do what he got to do, you know what I mean? That’s not in my best interests or my radar to go back to what I did before. No. No no, no, no, no. NO.”
Rob Van Dam left WWE in 2014 due to the way he was being booked and not treated as a credible threat to the main event, as well as the gruesome full time schedule in WWE being as bad as it was that had him burned out in 2007.He returned to WWE after 6 years away at Money in the Bank 2013 and was heavily advertised as a big star finally making his way back to the company.
He drew many eyes to the event – being one of the last big stars of the Attitude Era – and was immediately inserted in the thoroughly entertaining Money in the Bank ladder match.He lost the match (which was won by Randy Orton) but was presented as an immediately threat, even defeating Chris Jericho on Monday Night Raw immediately upon his return.
He had championship matches against World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio and United States Champion Dean Ambrose on Pay Per View, but failed to win title gold. He was treated as a big deal until he decided to take a break from WWE after Battleground 2013.
He returned to the WWE in 2014, just missing out on appearing at WrestleMania 30.
However, he was treated as “just another wrestler” upon his return and was not featured in as many big money pay per view matches. He challenged Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship at Battleground 2014 but failed, once again, to taste championship gold, something which would elude him completely during his return run from 2013 to 2014.
After being relegated to midcard status, he decided to call it a day with his WWE run in August 2014, losing to Seth Rollins on Smackdown before being released from his contract. Since that day, he has not wrestled again for WWE but remains active on the independent scene. He did not leave to retire, but because he was not used well enough in the WWE and the busy schedule was not helping his aging body.
Will RVD Return To WWE?
Rob Van Dam returned to WWE in 2021 to be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame. They honoured his multi-decade long career and acknowledged his innovative style that inspired numerous wrestlers over the decades following his debut.
However, he is not retired from the ring. He currently wrestles regularly for Pro-Wrestling NOAH in Japan and is still putting on some of his best work inside the ring despite his advancing age. Despite this, he has spoken about returning to the WWE and would be happy for one last run in the company.
Speaking to Steve Fall of NBC Sports, Rob Van Dam revealed that he did not know what direction WWE are currently planned to go in, but if they wanted him to return to the company to fight the next generation of stars then “I’m around” to bring his years of experience to the company.
“That would be awesome, yeah. You know what, I kinda feel like if they wanted me there, then I would be there. They would make it so that I would want to be there.
Without having any, just being on the fence and not feeling hungry or either way, just whatever happens, like RVD is, I kinda feel like that. I don’t know what they wanna do, what their plan is, what their agenda is for all their talent now.
Seems like they want more normal-looking people that normal-looking people can relate to, maybe, but I really don’t even know. It’s whatever, but I’m around,”Rob Van Dam on a potential WWE return
Rob Van Dam Debuted In AEW In 2023
On August 2nd, 2023, Rob Van Dam debuted on AEW Dynamite. FTW Champion Jack Perry challenged Jerry Lynn (RVD’s rival from ECW) to a match, even though Lynn had been retired for many years. Instead, he revealed the debuted Rob Van Dam would take on Jack Perry the following week, in a match that fans were wary about seeing.
Rob Van Dam hadn’t wrestled in a major promotion for nearly a decade, so fans weren’t sure how well he would do in a match against a young, dynamic talent like Jack Perry. However, as soon as “Walk” by Pantera (his ECW entrance music) blasted through the arena, fans knew that the RVD they knew and loved was back.
He did well against Jack Perry. Rob Van Dam dominated in his AEW debut, hitting all of his famous spots and getting the better of his younger opponent. Jack Perry picked up the victory in the end by cheating – he hit Rob Van Dam in the balls, threw him head-first into a chair and rolled up him, while grabbing his tights – to retain his FTW Championship and hand RVD a loss on his debut.
However, Rob Van Dam impressed in his AEW debut, 16-years after being let go by the WWE. This has seemingly closed the door on a return to WWE for the former ECW and WWE Champion, although RVD himself has talked about potentially coming back to the company in recent months.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.